Buckle your seatbelts folks…we’re trying something a little different this week. Instead of going head to head and picking the same games Zach & I will each be picking different games. It’s a format I originally pondered a few years ago and ultimately decided against for various reasons, but there are so many intriguing games on the schedule this feels like a good time to shake things up and cover as much ground as possible. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming next week. Enjoy.
My Season: 15-14
Zach’s Season: 17-12
Utah State at BYU(-24)
I ranked the Cougars 6th, and at 3-1 I believe they still have a chance to climb that high if they pull off a couple of upsets & get to 10 wins. The Aggies seem to be a force in the Mountain West with some regularity, but at 1-3 this might be an off year. The points are a bit much…especially for an in-state rivalry…but I have faith in the home team.
My Pick: BYU
Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina (-10)
They may have inexplicably lost two straight after the biggest victory in school history (at Notre Dame), but I’m thankful my Marshall Thundering Herd are now in the much more entertaining Sun Belt instead of the pedestrian C-USA. The 3-1 Eagles scored a win over Nebraska a few weeks ago, which is impressive no matter what kind of sad shape that legendary program is in. The Chanticleers might not have that sort of signature win this year, but they’ve won 11 games in each of the past two seasons. I like the home team to score alot of points and get an important triumph.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
San Diego State at Boise State (-6)
Unlike previous years no one seems to be talking about the Broncos. Perhaps that’s because they’ve just been average the past two seasons, and at 2-2 that might not change in 2022. The Aztecs are also 2-2, so somebody is waking up Sunday morning with a winning record while the other team…well…isn’t. It’s hard to go against the infamous blue turf, so I’m picking the home team.
My Pick: Boise St.
Tennessee at Indianapolis (-3)
Something has been off with the 1-2 Titans, who I thought would win their division comfortably. And now left tackle Taylor Lewan is gone for the season with a knee injury, which will make life that much harder for RB Derrick Henry, who’s already off to a slow start. The Colts could easily be 0-3, but have lucked into a 1-1-1 record. I normally have a lot of faith in the home field advantage, but The Vibes are telling me this is the week Tennessee wakes up and remembers that they’re supposed to be a playoff team.
My Pick: Tennessee
Jacksonville at Philadelphia (-6.5)
I told you the Jags could be headed in the right direction, and right now they sit atop their division. I don’t expect that to last, but their improvement is undeniable. Meanwhile, the Eagles are 3-0 and look like they could cruise to a division title. I’m hoping for an entertaining contest, but I believe Philly wins this one easily.
My Pick: Philadelphia
Kentucky at Ole Miss (-6.5)
Isn’t Kentucky supposed to be a basketball school?? I guess the 4-0 Wildcats didn’t get that memo, especially when you consider they were 10-3 a season ago. The Rebels are also 4-0 and could launch themselves into the Top 10 with a victory. Zach likes Kentucky’s defense to keep things close and they’re running attack to eat clock. He’s not sure who might come out on top, but feels like it’ll be closer than a touchdown either way.
Z’s Pick: Kentucky
Texas Tech at Kansas State (-7.5)
This might be the sleeper game of the weekend. Both teams are 3-1, with the Red Raiders coming off a thrill overtime win over Texas, while the Wildcats upset conference foe Oklahoma. Can both teams channel that momentum into another positive outcome, or will one fall prey to a giant letdown?? Zach isn’t comfortable with the points & foresees another close contest.
Z’s Pick: Texas Tech
North Carolina State at Clemson (-6.5)
In my preseason poll I predicted the Wolfpack would continue their winning ways and finish as a ranked team, while I had Clemson finishing outside the Top 10. Thus far both teams are unbeaten, but the Tigers had to go into overtime to defeat Wake Forest last week while NC St. hasn’t broken a sweat since the second half of their season opener when they took their foot off the gas pedal and scored a closer than it should’ve been victory. Zach opines that Clemson’s defense is terrible and NC St. is a sneaky good team, but in the end he thinks the home team will get the job done.
Z’s Pick: Clemson
New England at Green Bay (-10.5)
Is the tundra frozen yet?? Probably not…it’s only October. The divorce of the Packers & receiver Davante Adams hasn’t worked out well for anybody at this point. I thought The Pack would win their division with ease, but it’s been a dogfight. The Pats look like they’re being coached by Cleveland Browns Era Belichick instead of six time Super Bowl winner Belichick, which makes me happy. I’ll hate those bastards til my last breath. Zach still has faith in Belichick and believes they’ll grind it out well enough to atleast keep things interesting.
Z’s Pick: New England
Kansas City (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
It’s a battle of alleged legends…ageless Tom Brady vs. still in his prime Patrick Mahomes. Hurricane Ian has been reeking havoc on the Gulf Coast of Florida, but at the moment it doesn’t look like the game will be moved out of Tampa to a neutral site or to Monday night instead of Sunday night, both of which had been floated as possibilities. Zach doesn’t believe Brady will lose two in a row and predicts late game heroics by Tampa Tom will secure a win for the underdogs.
As has become our annual tradition I want to encourage any non-sports fans in The Manoverse to stick with me. These picks dominate the landscape each autumn, and it doesn’t help that I’ve not been as prolific for…well, awhile. I have lots of things in my head, but motivation has been a huge problem for various reasons. I’ll try to do better going forward. In football related matters you’ll notice that we’re light on college action and leaning more into the NFL, which is unusual for September. I expect that’ll change next week though.
My Season: 11-13
Zach’s Season: 14-10
Baylor at Iowa State (-2.5)
In my preseason poll I ranked Baylor 7th but noted that they’d need to be road warriors to get there, and now here we are. The Bears have beaten up two cupcakes and narrowly lost to BYU in overtime, while the Cyclones are 3-0 with a close win over in-state rival Iowa. This is probably going down to the wire with special teams & turnovers playing a key role in the outcome, and I’ve got to stick to my earlier thought process. I think Baylor gets a tight road victory. Zach foresees a defensive slug fest, and he likes State’s defense just a little better.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Iowa St.
Florida at Tennessee (-11)
I consulted multiple sources because I just couldn’t believe the points, but what you see is accurate. The Vols are 3-0 and ranked 11th, scoring two blowout wins against MAC competition & an impressive overtime road victory over the Pitt Panthers. Conversely, the 2-1 Gators appear to be riding a roller coaster, with a huge season opening upset of Utah, a loss to SEC rival Kentucky, and a tougher than it should’ve been escape against in-state challenger South Florida. Still, as impressive as Tennessee has been & as many questions as there may be about Florida, eleven points seems a bit much, even with the game being played in Knoxville. Zach thinks Florida had looked sluggish, but he agrees the points are too much.
My Pick: Florida
Z’s Pick: Florida
Buffalo (-4) at Miami
The Bills are firing on all cylinders right now, and are certainly one of the two or three best teams in the NFL. However, the Dolphins have been impressive as well. Receiver Tyreek Hill has breathed new life into Miami’s offense, and I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for awhile now that it’s way too soon to give up on QB Tua Tagovailoa. The home crowd is going to be jacked for this one, and it would be a major statement win for a Fins team that hasn’t played in the postseason since 2016. Not only is Zach also picking the upset, but he thinks this could be an AFC Championship preview.
My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami
Detroit at Minnesota (-6.5)
I told y’all that the Lions would be the surprise of the NFC North, and so far they’ve looked as good as a 1-1 team can. As a matter of fact, all four teams in the division…including the Vikings…are tied. This will be the beginning of the separation, when we differentiate the contenders from the pretenders. I don’t believe that either club will be playoff bound or even finish with a winning record, but I do think Detroit is the better team. Zach isn’t totally sure he knows the outcome, but he definitely thinks it’ll be closer than a touchdown.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Detroit
San Francisco (-1) at Denver
‘Frisco lost starting QB Trey Lance to a broken ankle, but, while that’d be a season killer for most teams, I don’t believe it makes all that much difference in this case. Lance may end up being a decent NFL quarterback, but I have my doubts and don’t think he was ready yet anyway. Jimmy Garoppolo might not be the next Joe Montana, but he’s capable enough to step right back into the starter role without the team missing a beat. The Niners should count their lucky stars they didn’t trade him. On the flip side the Broncos haven’t looked as impressive as I expected with Russell Wilson behind center. I feel like both teams are going to need their defenses to carry them, and to that end I foresee a low scoring contest decided by field goals, time of possession, field position, & penalties. Something like a 15-13 kind of game, with the visiting favorites escaping with a win. Zach likes the Jimmy G. story and thinks he’ll lead his team to victory.
So let’s talk about the new 12 team College Football Playoff. It will be implemented sometime between 2024 & 2026 and feature the six highest ranked conference champions & six at large teams. One can assume that all of the Power 5 conference champs (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, PAC 12, & Big 12) will almost always be in, as well as atleast one champ from the Other 5 conferences (AAC, C-USA, Mountain West, MAC, & Sun Belt). Occasionally a second of those other conference champions might snag a spot, but it is likely that most of the time the at large berths will be given to teams (most often conference runners up) in the Power 5 (and Notre Dame if they remain independent). The dynamics of the debate will change, but we’ll probably still argue about whether a spot should go to the MAC Champion or the 3rd place team in the Big Ten. The top four teams will receive a first round bye, and both the quarter & semi finals will incorporate existing bowl games. There’s a lot to unpack, but this isn’t the time because that’s not why you’re here.
My Season: 8-11
Zach’s Season: 11-8
Oklahoma (-11.5) at Nebraska
I’m old enough to remember the Big 8 Conference, which won 11 national titles in less than a half century. Six of those championships were won by the Sooners, four by the Cornhuskers. Oklahoma has mostly maintained a high level of success, although an imminent move to the SEC may change that. Conversely, Nebraska has gotten lost in the shuffle since joining the Big Ten over a decade ago, and now they just fired their head coach after an embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern. I’m not expecting this to be much of a contest, although the home team might put up a fight for awhile. Ultimately I believe it’ll be a blowout. Zach notes that Oklahoma doesn’t seem to be as good as they’ve been in the recent past, but agrees they should win this game easily.
My Pick: Oklahoma
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
BYU at Oregon (-3.5)
Typically I like to choose games involving different teams from week to week, but we’re going back to back with BYU because their schedule is really interesting. The Cougars got the overtime victory over Baylor last weekend, but things don’t get any easier. The Ducks have the home field and rebounded from getting crushed in the season opener at Georgia by beating up Eastern Washington. One of these teams will solidify their position in the Top 20, while the loser may fall from the rankings altogether for the time being. In my preseason poll I ranked BYU 6th & Oregon 22nd, but specifically stated that I didn’t expect BYU to beat Oregon on the road. Zach believes Oregon might be a bit overrated & thinks the underdogs can get the job done.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: BYU
Miami (FL) at Texas A&M (-5.5)
I am admittedly biased and still basking in the glow of my Marshall Thundering Herd going into South Bend and defeating Notre Dame in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. However, there was another huge upset that we shouldn’t overlook…Appalachian St. overcoming The 12th Man in College Station and making A&M boosters question if that ten year, $75 million contract they gave to Jimbo Fisher a few years ago was a good idea. As I mentioned in the preseason, “finishing third in the division simply isn’t good enough”, so his seat is pretty damn hot…to the point that this almost feels like a must win. Conversely, the ‘Canes have cruised in the first two games, but now they venture out of Florida and into the fire. Will the Aggies be pissed off and take out their frustrations on Miami?? Or will the visitors put another nail in Jimbo’s maroon coffin?? Nothing would surprise me, but I think A&M is the safe pick. Zach thinks last week’s debacle will motivate rather than demoralize the Aggies and likes then to get the job done.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Indianapolis(-4.5) at Jacksonville
The Colts came out of their season opener at Houston with a tie, but it sure feels more like a loss. Meanwhile, the Jags lost to Washington but likely saw a lot of positives to hang onto going forward. I don’t have big expectations for either team this season, but Indy probably wins this game if they control time of possession & Jonathan Taylor racks up anywhere close to the 161 yards rushing he had last week. Zach foresees a close game and thinks Jax will atleast cover the points or maybe win outright.
My Pick: Indianapolis
Z’s Pick: Jacksonville
Cincinnati (-8) at Dallas
Let’s be honest…the Bengals outplayed my Steelers, but they still lost. Cincy had more passing yards, more rushing yards, half as many penalty yards, three times as many first downs, and dominated time of possession, but lost because of five turnovers & Joe Burrow being sacked seven times. They allegedly fixed their offensive line in the offseason, but it sure didn’t seem like it last weekend. The Cowboys not only lost to Tampa, but QB Dak Prescott is out with an injured thumb. Dallas has the home field, and the points concern me a bit (I could see this being one of those 12-6 games where both offenses are completely impotent), but it’s a go big or go home moment for me, and I’ve got to lean toward the road favorites. Zach thinks Joe Burrow will rebound nicely and have a big game.
The NFL season kicks off Thursday night, so y’all are getting bonus picks!! Honestly…it has nothing to do with the fact that I was 2-3 last week and Zach extended his season lead by going 3-2. Nothing at all. Really. There are intriguing matchups in the college ranks as well, despite the fact that many teams are still in the non-conference portion of their schedule. We’ll talk more about the college playoff next week, but atleast in this moment we’re all the beneficiaries of programs chasing those scant four spots by beefing up their early season slate. Enjoy it while you still can.
My Season: 3-7
Zach’s Season: 7-3
Alabama (-20.5) at Texas
A decade ago this would’ve been a marquee matchup. The talking heads will still try to sell it as such, relying on the history & tradition of both programs. However, the truth is that Texas has only had one ten win season since ‘Bama beat them in the 2010 National Championship Game. The Longhorns are pinning all their hopes on freshman QB Quinn Ewers and will be making an idiotic move to the SEC in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, Nick Saban opined awhile back that last season…in which they were 13-2 & lost the national title to Georgia…was a rebuilding year for the Tide. So despite any creative PR tactics the fact is that anything else besides Texas getting their ass handed to them would be a surprise. Having said that, the points are kind of eye opening, given the fact this game is being played in Austin (Alabama’s first trip there in 100 years). Can the home team atleast keep it respectable?? Sadly I don’t believe they will. Zach observes that ‘Bama is consistently well coached, disciplined, & fundamentally solid, while Texas is merely mediocre. He thinks that may change when QB Arch Manning arrives on campus next year, but for now believes this will be an easy win for the visitors.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Houston at Texas Tech (-3)
The Cougars went into three overtimes before defeating the UTSA Roadrunners in the season opener. Conversely, the Red Raiders beat the snot out of Murray St. Houston is better than what we saw last weekend, while Tech will be facing legit competition for the first time, so I expect an entertaining contest, but I think the home favorites get a solid victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Texas Tech
Z’s Pick: Texas Tech
Iowa State at Iowa (-3.5)
With all the realignment hullabaloo one would think the powers-that-be could get these two in the same conference, but not thus far. The Cyclones beat up a glorified high school team to open the season (one reason why they’ll not be playoff contenders), while the Hawkeyes barely defeated South Dakota St. in an epic 7-3 battle that was either a masterpiece of defense or set the game of football back several decades. I didn’t see the game or any…highlights…so I cannot intelligently opine. At any rate, this is the first real test for both teams and I’m expecting good things. It’ll be on the Big Ten Network and I’ll certainly check it out. I think State will score the mild upset. Zach believes we’re in for a low scoring defensive battle that the home team will win.
My Pick: Iowa State
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Arizona State at Oklahoma State (-11.5)
I have lofty expectations for the Cowboys, but it’s a bit alarming that they allowed Central Michigan to score 44 points last weekend. Will their offense need to score nearly 60 points in every game?? Conversely, the Sun Devils’ defense allowed only a field goal in their nearly 40 point season opening win. I love my guy Herm Edwards, but it’s way too early to abandon my bold preseason predictions, so I’m going with the home favorites. Zach notes that OK St. consistently underperforms & doesn’t seem to live up to their potential, which is true. However, he likes the home field in this one and foresees a big blowout win for the Cowboys.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma State
USC (-9) at Stanford
Everybody is paying attention to the Trojans once again, and they got things started off right with a 66-14 beatdown of Rice. Stanford also won their prosaic season opener. And now, while some teams are pussyfooting around with clearly inferior opponents & others are trying to gain attention with aggressively scheduled non-conferences clashes, these teams are diving right into the conference scrum. Stanford has the home field, and I think that’s significant. Do I believe the home underdogs will win?? No. However, I foresee a closer than expected contest that Southern Cal wins by only a touchdown. Zach thinks USC will cover with a hard fought double digit victory.
My Pick: Stanford
Z’s Pick: USC
Baylor at BYU (-3)
The Bears beat someone unimportant by nearly 60 points in the season opener. Obviously they’re not serious about being a playoff contender. BYU could go undefeated and still get left out of the playoff conversation, but kudos to them for scheduling decent competition to open the season and getting a solid victory. This could be the game of the week, so if you’re not doing anything on Saturday night at 10pm tune into ESPN & check it out. These were two Top 10 teams in my preseason poll, so I have high expectations. The Cougars have the home field and I predict that’ll matter late in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach thinks it’ll be Baylor’s defense that’ll come up big late in the game to secure a win.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Buffalo (-2.5) at LA Rams
The Bills are a solid Super Bowl favorite, while very few seem to be giving the defending champion Rams as much respect as they probably deserve. They aren’t even favored at home. Could this be a Super Bowl preview?? Maybe…maybe not. Either way it’s a hell of a way to kick off the season, and I think it’ll be a close game. Things might go differently in February, but for now I believe the underdogs will defend their turf & prove their title run wasn’t a fluke. Zach agrees, opining that the Bills may be a bit overrated.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Kansas City (-4.5) at Arizona
It feels like both teams should be getting more love, but the fact that they compete in the two most stacked divisions in the NFL means they both have difficult paths to the Super Bowl. Have defenses figured Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes out after five seasons?? Perhaps, but the biggest reason people are doubting him right now is the departure of receiver Tyreek Hill. Can a pass catching corps of Mecole Hardman, former Steeler Juju Schuster, rookie Skyy Moore, & veteran tight end Travis Kelce pick up the slack & fill the void left by one of the most exciting players in the league?? The Cardinals are another team being disrespected on their home field, but there are reasonable doubts. Former Raven Hollywood Brown was a nice acquisition for the receiving corps, especially given the six game suspension of DeAndre Hopkins, but AJ Green is 34 years old & not the same receiver he used to be. Having said that, I’m more concerned with Arizona’s defense. JJ Watt has lost a step and Tyrann Matthieu signed with the Saints. I think this will be a shootout, but KC has a little too much firepower and will take over in the 4th quarter. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Las Vegas at LA Chargers (-3)
As previously mentioned, the AFC West is going to be a dogfight, and we might look back on this one a few months from now & realize it was more important than we realized. I’m a Derek Carr fan, and it’s going to be fun watching him throw passes to former Packer Davante Adams. Unfortunately I think Adams is going to face a lot of double coverage, so it’ll be up to the rest of a rather pedestrian receiving corps to step up, RB Josh Jacobs to fulfill his potential, & tight end Darren Waller to return to his Pro Bowl form of 2020 after a subpar, injury riddled season last year. Don’t sleep on their defense, which added former Cardinals’ pass rusher Chandler Jones. The Chargers fell into the abyss a few years ago but have slowly been rebuilding with the likes of QB Justin Herbert & linebacker Joey Bosa, and they’ve added former Raider & Bear Khalil Mack, who can still be a beast despite the fact he’s on the wrong side of 30. If the Chargers can avoid major injuries their defense will be a force and the team could surprise people. Having said that, I’m picking the mild upset this week. Zach agrees.
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.
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.
Greetings sports fans. We’re still talking about football, but there are a couple of other topics thrown into the mix as well. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are and cooler temperatures are giving way to the delightful warmth of spring.
Heavenly Father, bless Deshaun Watson, for he hath sinned. Now, I bet you think you know what I am referring to, but you’d probably be wrong. Don’t misunderstand…I am not looking past the allegations of sexual misconduct against Watson. However, a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, so I am left with the impression that he is simply a single, wealthy horndog who enjoys a good massage a bit too much and expects favors many young ladies are not willing to grant. I believe he acted inappropriately, but to my knowledge no one was raped. Deshaun Watson may be creepy, but he’s not a criminal, and since I wasn’t exactly a saint when I was a 20-something I simply hope the young man learned his lesson, has been humbled, and will be better going forward. That being said, I cannot overlook the fact that Watson, who understandably wanted away from the dumpster fire that is the Houston Texans, ended up approving a trade to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns!! This dude could’ve gotten a new start in Carolina, Atlanta, or New Orleans…and he chose Cleveland!! Has he never heard of Tim Couch?? Colt McCoy?? Brady Quinn?? Brandon Weeden?? Hell, I could list two dozen more quarterbacks whose career died in The Factory of Sadness. I’ve been a big fan of Deshaun Watson since his days at Clemson, and I was counting on him to lead my dynasty fantasy team for the next decade, but I can’t cheer for the QB of the Browns, so I traded him for multiple draft picks. Thanks for nothing you moron.
Baseball’s Opening Day has finally arrived. As a lifelong Pirates’ fan it is difficult for me to be as excited as some of y’all might be, but it is a cultural touchstone and an unofficial (late) welcome to spring, so I am happy to embrace the event in the spirit in which it is intended. Pirates games are soothing background noise while I read a book or mindlessly scroll on my phone, so atleast I have that going for me for the next six months, which is nice.
I might have more thoughts on the NFL Draft before April 28, but for now let me offer one strong opinion. If my Pittsburgh Steelers mortgage the future to move up & select a quarterback who is far from certain to be a generational talent then the powers-that-be are absolute fools. I don’t think any quarterback in this draft is worthy of a first round pick, and I’m not sure any of them will be that successful in the NFL. I would prefer to see the Steelers address numerous other issues and ride with free agent signee Mitch Trubisky for a season (or two). If that means a couple of losing seasons before rebounding into perennial playoff contention for another long stretch then I’m okay with it. They’ve done a surprisingly good job of improving the offensive line this offseason, and I feel like they’re a wide receiver & perhaps some defensive depth away from being way better than anyone expects, but that isn’t a good enough reason to reach for a rookie quarterback in the draft.
Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks for winning the NCAA Basketball National Championship. To be honest this year’s March Madness wasn’t all that memorable or compelling, although there were some decent games & exciting moments. The tournament felt kind of like cotton candy though…tastes sweet for a few fleeting seconds then melts away into nothingness. After all the hype about Gonzaga and upsets by underdogs like St. Peter’s & Miami (FL) the title game came down to Kansas & North Carolina…two blue-bloods despite the Tar Heels’ misleading #8 seed. As a fan there simply wasn’t anything to keep my attention outside of Coach K’s retirement. The title game being on TBS was weird, and not even One Shining Moment felt like Must See TV.
It looks like Tiger Woods, a little over a year after suffering career threatening injuries in a car accident, will play in The Masters. As a fan I am excited to see him in the field, although expectations are obviously minimized. No one expects him to contend or even make the cut. As a human being I am fascinated by his redemption & comeback story. The sins of Tiger Woods are well-documented, but I am certainly not inclined to throw stones. The fact is that Woods in The Masters is good for golf and good for sports. If only my man Phil Mickelson were playing in the tournament 🤦🏻♂️…but that’s a whole other story.
Speaking of basketball, it is my understanding that the NBA Playoffs will begin soon. I have no idea who the odds on favorites are or which teams may or may not be in the field. I believe I heard or read that the Los Angeles Lakers will miss the playoffs altogether, which makes me chuckle. Lebron James can pucker up & kiss my crippled fat ass *lol*.
I suppose I have to address the Tom Brady situation. God knows I’d rather not think about the dude, much less write about him. At any rate, first Adam Schefter broke the news that TB12 was retiring, then Brady’s Dad was like “not so fast”, then a few days later Brady did post a retirement announcement on Instagram, because I guess that’s how it’s done nowadays. But wait…there’s more!! Like Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert, Tom Brady spent 40 days in retirement before resurrecting his career. Much like Halloween‘s Michael Myers, the Clintons, and numerous rock bands who are my grandfather’s age, Brady just won’t go away. The only good to come out of this is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger won’t be forced into the background during the Hall of Fame festivities five years from now.
Two years ago one of the first signs that the Covid-19 pandemic might be a bigger deal than many originally thought it to be was the stunning cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness became March Sadness very quickly. In 2021 the tournament returned, albeit with all the requisite virus-related protocols that we now know were pretty much useless. And now, though The Sickness is still an issue, most of us have decided to move forward, live our lives, and do our best without meaningless virtue signaling that does very little to protect anyone from anything. As far as I know that means March Madness will get underway tomorrow with all the pomp & circumstance it deserves. Technically the action is already underway with play-in games, or what the powers-that-be refer to as the First Four. I don’t pay any attention to those games, so for our purposes they’ll simply be overlooked.
After years of hoping WordPress would create some sort of brackets plug-in to no avail I finally stumbled upon a way to visually represent my entire bracket here. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. A few things should be noted. First, this is my one & only bracket. I do not create multiple “Sheets of Integrity” (shout out to my guys Mike & Mike). I don’t enter into a bunch of contests trying to make big bucks off of this deal, mostly because I’m not that good of a prognosticator (if you follow our Pigskin Picks of Profundity during football season you’re well aware of that). I did throw $10 into one thing my nephew is doing, but I have low expectations. At any rate, this is really just a way for me to have some fun & make the games a bit more interesting, especially since neither my alma mater Marshall Thundering Herd or home team West Virginia Mountaineers are playing in the postseason. Also, as you’ll see, I really controlled myself when it comes to picking upsets. There’s alot of chalk in these choices. I know there’ll be a few shockers, but I have no idea what they will be so mostly I err on the side of caution and stay rather conservative in my predictions. The truth is that I don’t follow basketball nearly as close as I do football, so I am even more out of my depth than usual. That’s fine with me. I’ll still be glued to my television for the next few days, and if you are here I am guessing you will be too.
The Baylor Bears are the defending National Champions (they beat Gonzaga for the title a year ago in case you forgot), and I think they have as good a chance to repeat as any champion we’ve seen in awhile. I’ve got Virginia Tech upsetting Texas and San Francisco beating Murray St. in Round 1, with the regional final coming down to Baylor & Kentucky. If that comes to pass it could be a hell of a game, but I think the Bears get the job done and return to the Final Four.
I have to give Gonzaga credit. When a basketball team from a school in Spokane, WA that no one had ever heard of burst onto the scene in 1999 by making it to the Elite 8 I don’t think anyone thought much of it. Just another Cinderella, right?? There’s one or two every year. But here we are, more than two decades later, and the Bulldogs have become not only a tournament mainstay but a consistent Top 10 team. Do they play the same level of competition as programs in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, etc.?? Maybe not, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve appeared in two Final Fours in the past five years, falling short in the title game both times. Can they go that far again?? Most of the talking heads will say yes, but I disagree. New Mexico St. over Connecticut is my choice for the annual 5/12 upset, but that’s the only surprise I foresee in the first round. Actually, it’s chalk all the way thru except for that game, which would set up an epic Gonzaga-Duke regional final and a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog kind of guy, but who could’ve predicted just a few years ago that the Blue Devils would ever be the underdogs in this matchup?!?!?!?? I realize that Duke isn’t the same level of great they might’ve been a decade ago, but they have hovered near the Top 5 most of the season. Perhaps I’m being sucked into the emotional vortex of this being Coach K’s swan song, but I think in this particular circumstance his team has the depth & athleticism to win a squeaker.
I like the Miami Hurricanes to score a mild first round upset, and feel good about predicting the Iowa St. Cyclones to overcome the odds a few times, making it all the way to the Elite 8. They are my Cinderella and I’m pushing all my chips into the center of the table on them…kind of. Ultimately I foresee the Kansas Jayhawks emerging from the region and going to the Final Four.
Sadly, this is as crazy as it gets for me. I am predicting two big upsets in the first round: Michigan over Colorado St. & Loyola (Chicago) over Ohio St. It’s always fun to see Sister Jean & Loyola’s Gryffindor scarves, right?? Sister Jean is 102 years old, so this might be her last hurrah. I hope her guys give her one final thrill. Unfortunately I don’t believe it’ll be a long ride, with the dream ending in Round 2. With mostly chalk prevailing I think it comes down to Arizona & Villanova, with the West Coast Wildcats punching their ticket to the Final Four.
I am predicting Baylor vs. Duke and Arizona vs. Kansas in the semis. As cool as it would be to see Coach K ride off into the sunset with a sixth National Championship I think he’s going to have to settle for one last Final Four appearance. Baylor is just too strong & athletic. I’m not sure it will even be that close. I also don’t believe Kansas is quite as elite as they typically have been, and think Arizona will expose their weaknesses. So will anyone East of the Mississippi be interested in watching two West Coast teams battle for the championship?? I hope so…¦it could be a very entertaining contest. At the end of the day though I believe Baylor will cut down the nets, becoming the first back-to-back champs since the 2006 & 2007 Florida Gators.