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.
Our first edition of W&M in 2022 is football heavy as usual, but that’ll change in the not-too-distant future. For now it is time to bid farewell to goal posts & penalty flags and say so long to QB sacks & onside kicks. Enjoy.
Kudos to the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. As a Steelers fan I wasn’t about to cheer for the Cincinnati Bengals, and I’m beginning to get a little uncomfortable with the sports media’s blatant attempts to position Cincy QB Joe Burrow as Tom Brady 2.0. The kid seems a bit too big for his britches (shout out to my late Grandma P.), so perhaps it’s best he was brought down a peg or two. Also, after wasting over a decade with the hapless Detroit Lions one can’t help but be happy for Rams’ QB Matthew Stafford (I bet Calvin Johnson wishes he would’ve gotten an opportunity to play football somewhere other than Detroit). The game itself was rather prosaic, although thankfully it wasn’t a blowout. I have no opinion about any of the commercials because I had company who is literally unable to STOP TALKING for longer than ten seconds at a time (it’s exhausting). I’m not going to crown the halftime show featuring nearly every old school rapper that hasn’t been shot yet as “the best EVER”, but it was sufficiently entertaining. That kind of music was never my jam back in the 90s, but if it was yours then you probably enjoyed the show way more than me.
After an atrocious 1-7 record for each of us in the final week of the season, our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with yours truly scoring the season victory at 57-69, while Zach was 49-77 on the year. Although I wish we were more skilled prognosticators, as always it was so much fun doing these picks with my nephew, an annual tradition I’ve come to really appreciate.
In the wake of an ultra exciting weekend of playoff football a few weeks ago fans were calling the Chiefs-Bills clash that KC won in overtime one of the best football games they’d ever seen while lamenting the lame NFL OT rules that essentially allow a coin toss to decide the outcome. I don’t necessarily disagree with those sentiments, but I also have an alternative view. If I were in charge of the NFL overtime would follow the general idea of the current college football OT rules (more on that below), but let’s focus on defense. Y’all remember defense right?? We used to believe that “defense wins championships”, but that no longer seems to be true. Buffalo was up by three points in that game with thirteen seconds remaining. 13 seconds!! Yet they allowed Kansas City to get into field goal range with just a couple of long passes, which gave the home team an opportunity to execute the game tying field goal. While it is undeniably fun to watch great skill players & elite QBs throw haymaker after haymaker like what transpired between the Buffalo Bills & Kansas City Chiefs, let’s not get it twisted. The “Bills Mafia” can blame stupid overtime rules all they want, but the fact is that all their team had to do was stop the opposition from going 44 yards in 13 seconds and they failed.
Congratulations to newly minted MLB Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz, who will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer. Big Papi won three World Series with the Boston Red Sox, was a ten time All-Star, and had a .286 career batting average with 541 home runs in 20 seasons. Sadly, Ortiz’s moment was overshadowed a bit by hand-wringing over Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens not being selected in their final year on the ballot. I find it interesting that so many will passionately defend known defrauders of the game like Bonds & Clemens, yet they’re perfectly fine with Curt Schilling being excluded from the Hall of Fame. Schilling’s alleged mediocrity…6 time All-Star, 3 time World Series Champion, 3000+ strikeouts…is a weak excuse since we all know the real reason the powers-that-be don’t like him is because of his very candid political opinions.
Y’all, I didn’t even keep track of college football’s bowl season while it was happening, but I did go back & check the numbers. Zach edged me by a couple of games in our Bowl-a-Palooza picks, going 18-19 while I was 16-21. Five bowl games were canceled altogether, while two games were played with altered matchups so those results were tossed aside. Between COVID, the transfer portal, star players opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, & the coaching carousel, bowl season didn’t seem like very much fun this year. When the playoff is expanded something is going to need to be done to make the other games matter for fans and apparently players & coaches.
Okay, so let’s talk overtime. The current college football OT rules allow each offense to have the ball starting on their opponent’s 25 yard line, meaning they’re essentially in field goal range already. No matter what Offense A does Offense B gets the ball (also on the opponent’s 25 yard line). The wildcard is what does Offense A do with the ball?? At worst they’ll have an opportunity to kick a 41 yard field goal (unless they turn the ball over). That’s not a chip shot, but it’s more than makable in most circumstances. At best they’ll score a touchdown & put the pressure on the opposing team’s offense. Now here’s where it gets weird. If both teams trade matching scores and there is a second overtime, any TD must be followed up with a 2 point conversion instead of an extra point. Then, if we make it to a third OT, the teams just alternate 2 point plays (that start on the three yard line), which is basically a football variation of penalty kicks in soccer. I despise the two point conversion rule for overtime. In contrast, the NFL does have a kickoff (after a coin toss, with the winner of that always choosing to receive…obviously), and if Offense A scores a touchdown the game is over. If they score a FG or don’t score at all Offense B gets an opportunity. If Offense B matches what Offense A did then it becomes sudden death, and if the teams are still tied at the end of 10 minutes the game ends in a tie. My proposal would be a hybrid of the two differing systems, and would ideally be implemented on both levels…college & pro. Give Offense A the ball on the 50 yard line. I’m not usually a proponent of minimizing special teams, but in this case I believe it works best. The offense isn’t already in field goal range and has some work to do, while the defense has a legit opportunity to do their job. No matter what happens Offense B will get a chance to possess the football. Unlike the current college system I would have a time clock, but, as opposed to current NFL rules, I’d bump the extra period back up to 15 minutes (I don’t like ties but can live with the theoretical yet unlikely possibility that it could happen). No team would ever be forced to attempt a two point conversion unless they choose to do so.
I would be remiss not to mention the retirement of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Thankfully it wasn’t a surprise, and it was time. I don’t know if all the blame belongs with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, or if Big Ben just didn’t have an arm anymore, but the offense had become painful to watch. I enjoy an occasional screen pass, and realize “bubble screens” specifically have become part of football, but I just don’t believe throwing the ball five yards or less downfield constantly is productive, especially when defenses are expecting it. To be clear, I am aware that the Steelers’ offensive line was abysmal this past season & needs a major overhaul. I’m not completely sold on the receiving corps either: Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, & JuJu Schuster aren’t nearly as great as they believe themselves to be. Aside from those issues though, an aging quarterback with zero mobility & a weakening arm simply doesn’t bode well, especially when the AFC boasts young guns who can move like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, & Joe Burrow. Roethlisberger was never fast, but he always had tremendous escapability that allowed him to scramble & extend plays. That escapability had noticeably diminished, and when combined with a poor offensive line & questionable play calls the Steelers offense was doomed. So, as the Steelers & all the fans prepare to move forward, right now I want to give one last shoutout to Ben Roethlisberger. It has been a joy to watch you, from the moment I gathered with co-workers at a local sports bar on that spring day 18 years ago & watched my Steelers draft you with the eleventh pick, thru two Super Bowl victories, all the way to a bitterly decisive playoff defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs last month. More importantly, it has been delightful to see you evolve from an impetuous young man into a mature & responsible husband, father, leader, & adult. People still like to bring up the past & criticize you for mistakes made 15 years ago, but I’d tell those people to clean their own house first. None of us are perfect, and you’ve gone thru your battles very publicly. From a football perspective I wish you’d have gotten atleast a couple more opportunities in the Super Bowl, but so many factors play into that. You got us two Lombardis & provided many other great memories. I don’t know if coaching or ownership or anything football related is in your future, but as a fan I sincerely hope to have you as part of the Steelers organization in some capacity down the road.
We have officially entered unchartered waters my friends. With the NFL expanding their schedule naturally ours has grown as well, meaning we will have picked more games than ever before. If only we were better at this whole thing 😬. We’re doing bonus picks again because…well, why not?? It’s our last hurrah, so we may as well end with a bang, right?? Also, after going 5-2 a week ago I am six games below .500 and want to give myself a mathematical chance to break even. Will that happen?? I’m not holding my breath, but never say never. In addition to that, with a perfect 8-0 record this week, and if I were to go 0-8, Zach (3-4 a week ago) could theoretically earn a tie for the season lead. That is even more unlikely, but hey, we’re having fun. The NFL playoff picture is mostly clear, but a couple of berths remain up for grabs, as well as various seeding scenarios, so almost all of these games matter on some level.
My Season: 56-62
Zach’s Season: 48-70
Dallas (-7) at Philadelphia
Okay, so this is one game that doesn’t technically matter. The Cowboys already clinched the NFC South and can’t catch Green Bay for the top seed, while the Eagles are locked into a wildcard spot. But it’s a cool rivalry. Back at the end of September Dallas won the first matchup pretty easily, and one could logically expect a similar outcome. However, Philly now has the home field, and with nothing to lose or gain it’ll be interesting to see which superstar players on both sides sit this one out. The Cowboys have already lost WR Michael Gallup to injury (again), and I have a hunch they might play it safe with RB Zeke Elliott & QB Dak Prescott. That’d be enough to swing momentum to the home team. Zach isn’t impressed with Dallas’ offense and thinks Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts is good enough to lead his club to an upset victory.
My Pick: Philadelphia
Z’s Pick: Philadelphia
Buffalo (-17) at NY Jets
The first time they met in mid-November the Bills barely broke a sweat while winning easily. I don’t expect anything different this time, especially with the AFC East crown at stake. That being said, the points are a concern, especially with the Jets being at home. Could we see a scenario in which Buffalo is up by a couple of TDs in the 4th quarter and plays it safe by pulling their starters?? I think that is a very real possibility. Zach believes the favorites win the game but he doesn’t like the points.
My Pick: NY Jets
Z’s Pick: NY Jets
New England (-6.5) at Miami
Belichick isn’t sitting anyone or calling off the dogs late in the game. He’s just not built like that. Also, remember that the Dolphins went into Foxboro way back in the season opener and won by one point. That won’t happen again. Zach concurs.
My Pick: New England
Z’s Pick: New England
San Francisco at LA Rams (-5.5)
The Niners need to win and/or see New Orleans lose to secure a wildcard berth. The Rams need to win and/or Arizona to lose to win the NFC West. ‘Frisco won at home by three TDs back in mid-November, but they could be playing this one without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who injured the thumb on his throwing hand right before Christmas. Rookie Trey Lance was 16/23 with 249 passing yards, 31 rushing yards, two TDs, and one interception in a 23-7 victory last weekend, but that was against the Houston Texans. The Rams have a far superior defense and the home field, so whether it is Lance or Jimmy G at less than 100% under center for the 49ers I don’t think it’ll make much difference. Zach agrees.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Cincinnati at Cleveland (-3)
Round 2 of the Battle of Ohio is mostly inconsequential. The Browns will be watching the playoffs on TV as I predicted, while the Bengals already won the AFC North as I predicted. Cincy could move up a spot or down a spot in seeding depending on the outcome, but that’s the extent of the impact. It’s entirely possible that they’ll sit players like QB Joe Burrow and/or WR Jamarr Chase, although that is unlikely. Would it matter though?? When these teams met in Cincinnati back in early November the Browns won by three TDs, but they have proceeded to lose three straight games and QB Baker Mayfield is injured. I believe it’ll be four losses in a row and the Bengals will move on to the playoffs with positive momentum. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
New Orleans (-4.5) at Atlanta
It’s a must-win for the Saints. They make the playoffs if they win this game and the Rams defeat the 49ers, which isn’t far-fetched at all. The Falcons occasionally show signs of life, but will end up with a losing record for the fourth year in a row. That being said, it must be noted that these two teams played in N’awleans the first week of November and the Falcons emerged victorious. Anything is possible, but I think the favorites gain a season split and sneak into the postseason. Zach likes the Saints defense to lead them to victory.
My Pick: New Orleans
Z’s Pick: New Orleans
Seattle at Arizona (-6.5)
A year ago this would’ve been a marquee matchup, but the Seahawks come into the final week 6-10 and in last place in their division. It’ll be their first losing season in a decade. Conversely, the Cards are on the verge of their first division title since 2015 IF the Rams lose their game, which I don’t think will happen. They’ll be in the playoffs though. Barring any unforeseen circumstances (you may have heard of a lil thing called COVID) I expect the home team to cruise to an easy win. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Arizona
LA Chargers (-3) at Las Vegas
This is the Sunday night game, and probably the best matchup of the week. The Chargers aren’t going to win the division like I thought they would, but the future looks bright. Win & they are in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Raiders have faced a fair amount of upheaval this season yet still have an opportunity to earn a playoff spot. Win & they are in, or they could sneak thru the back door if the Steelers & Colts both lose. These teams met in Los Angeles on the first Monday night in October, with the Bolts winning by two TDs. I think it’ll be much tighter this time around, but my money is on the visitors being victorious in a squeaker. Zach believes the Chargers offense is way too good for the Raiders to overcome.
I have to tell y’all…I am glad Christmas is behind us. I desperately tried finding the holiday spirit this year, and admittedly there were a few high points. Alas, I found myself alone & miserable on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Fortunately I do have plans on New Year’s Eve, so I got that going for me, which is nice. Anyway, there’s still football as well, right?? If only we weren’t Steelers fans 😬👀🤦🏻♂️. This isn’t the right time for that rant though, so I’ll spare you. I was 3-2 last week and expanded my season lead slightly over Zach, who was 1-4. Since I’m a sporting kind of chap and really trying to end 2021 in a good mood we’re going to do some bonus picks. All of these games have playoff implications, and I will do my best to make sense of out of the various scenarios. Happy New Year Manoverse!! I’d like to dole out some sort of sage & motivational encouragement, but given the circumstances of the past couple of years the best I can do is “Buckle up lil troopers!!”.
My Season: 51-60
Zach’s Season: 45-66
Kansas City (-5) at Cincinnati
The Chiefs have won the AFC West but need a victory to retain the top playoff seed, which is the only one that receives a bye. The Bengals’ seat atop the AFC North is somewhat tenuous, although they’re pretty much in the driver’s seat by virtue of tiebreakers. KC has won eight games in a row after so many people were ready to jump off the bandwagon, while Cincy is riding a two game winning streak & look to be peaking at the perfect time. We will learn a lot from this one. If the Bengals win, or even if they keep it close, it will reinforce the fact that they are a legit playoff threat. However, if the visiting favorites open up a can o’ whoopass like they did on my Steelers last week it could mean everyone else is in serious trouble. I think we’ll see something in between…a solid KC win that falls short of total domination. Zach has zero confidence in the Bengals, opining that most of the Chiefs team could be sidelined in “health & safety protocols” and they’d still win by double digits.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Miami at Tennessee (-3.5)
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the hottest team in the NFL right now outside of Kansas City is the Miami Dolphins. They’re not going to win the AFC East, but after seven consecutive victories they are in the thick of the wildcard chase, which is mind boggling. Conversely, the Titans have lost three of their last five games, yet still find themselves battling for the #1 seed in the AFC. They also have to keep winning though because they haven’t clinched the division title. I’m usually a big momentum guy, and part of me thinks I might regret the pick, but despite recent events I still feel like Tennessee is the better team. Zach really likes Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores and thinks he’ll lead his club to another win.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Miami
Las Vegas at Indianapolis (-7.5)
Vegas has won two in a row and find themselves in the wildcard discussion. Indy still has an opportunity to win the AFC South. Jonathan Taylor is the best running back in the NFL at the moment, but Colts’ QB Carson Wentz is on the COVID list, meaning he might not be playing on Sunday, and that pretty much ends the discussion since no one is going to have much faith in rookie Sam Ehlinger. I have to assume the Raiders will dedicate the game to John Madden, which will provide extra motivation. Zach was uncomfortable with the points anyway.
My Pick: Las Vegas
Z’s Pick: Las Vegas
LA Rams (-3.5) at Baltimore
The Rams have won four in a row and are in a battle royale for the top seed in the NFC. They could also clinch a division title. The Ravens are in a scrum themselves…a hotly contested race for the AFC North crown. They’ve lost four straight games, with three of those coming at a total deficit of four points. If they don’t win the division, and especially if they miss the playoffs altogether, there will be a lot of “what might’ve been” talk in Baltimore. These look like two teams heading in the opposite direction, and I’ve got to think the hotter ball club will prevail. Zach feels like the Ravens have spiraled out of control, due in large part to The Sickness, and believes the Rams’ defense is a difference maker.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Denver at LA Chargers (-5.5)
I really thought the Chargers would be great this season, but they’ve lost three out of the last five games and need some help to secure a wildcard berth. The Broncos have lost three out of four heading into this week and won’t be playing in the postseason, but they could significantly alter the playoff landscape with an upset or two. They’d certainly kill the Chargers’ hopes with a win. Will that happen?? If the game were being played in the mile high confines of Denver I might be tempted to pick the underdogs, but I’ll be surprised if the Chargers don’t defend their home turf, especially with so much potentially on the line. Zach concurs.
My Pick: LA Chargers
Z’s Pick: LA Chargers
Arizona at Dallas (-5.5)
Could it be an NFC Championship preview?? Perhaps. The Cards come into this one not only battling for a division title but also in play for the NFC’s top seed, even after three consecutive losses. Conversely, the Cowboys have won four straight and easily clinched their division, but they too want that #1 seed and the bye that comes with it. Momentum is clearly with the home team, but The Vibes are telling me that the underdogs will put it all together and defy the odds. Zach thinks Arizona is overrated while Dallas is playing well at the right time.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Dallas
Minnesota at Green Bay (-6.5)
Aaron Rodgers makes it look so damn easy, doesn’t he?? Is he really that good…or should we give more credit to his receivers, offensive line, & coaches?? The answer is probably all of the above. I don’t know what the issues were last offseason that had Rodgers’ knickers in a twist, and have no idea what the future holds for him or The Pack, but at this moment in time they’ve won four in a row, comfortably took the division, and lead the race for the top seed in the NFC. The Vikes?? Well, they’re just average. It’d be a real stunner if they win and mildly surprising if they stay within ten points. This is the Sunday Night Football game, and I kind of feel sorry for NBC. I’m sure people will tune in at the beginning, but there might be a lot of channel flipping by halftime. Zach agrees.
Alright, we’re (mostly) done slumming it with subpar teams & meaningless games. Last week I was 3-2, while Zach was 2-3, which is certainly an improvement for me. With just a few weeks to go in the season we will attempt to focus on consequential games with playoff implications, while trying not to be repetitive. That’s probably easier said than done, but it is the goal. Merry Christmas Manoverse. The last couple of years hasn’t been easy for most of us, but from where I sit the view is atleast brighter & more positive than it was 365 days ago, so we got that going for us, which is nice. I hope y’all get everything that was on your wish list. More importantly though, let’s not ever forget what CHRISTmas is supposed to be about.
My Season: 48-58
Zach’s Season: 44-62
LA Rams (-3) at Minnesota
Who will win the NFC West?? The Rams & Cards split their two matchups, so these few remaining games are huge. Both are likely to make the playoffs, but obviously winning the division is better than being a wildcard. The Vikings haven’t been mathematically eliminated from wildcard contention, and I’m sure spoiling the party for their opponents adds motivation. It’s definitely a must win for the underdogs, but almost as important for the visitors. I just don’t believe that Minnesota will be able to run on Los Angeles’ defense the way they shredded my Steelers a couple weeks ago. It’ll probably be competitive, but the favorites will pull away in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach believes in RB Dalvin Cook, and with their playoff lives on the line thinks the home team has what it takes to remain in the hunt.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
NY Giants at Philadelphia (-10)
This is our dud for the week. The only way these teams are getting near the playoffs is if they buy a ticket. However, it’s a division rivalry involving two notoriously feisty fanbases, so perhaps it will be a fun game. Giants’ starting QB Daniel Jones is out for the remainder of the season with a neck injury, but is that really a difference maker?? It’s a vibe thing for me and the points seem to be a bit much, so I’m picking the “upset”. Zach concurs.
My Pick: NY Giants
Z’s Pick: NY Giants
Denver at Las Vegas (-1.5)
In my season preview I predicted both teams would have losing records, but at the moment both are 7-7 and still in mathematical wildcard contention, though admittedly it’s a tough road. I feel like the Raiders are a slightly better team overall, plus they have the home field. Zach agrees and feels like momentum is with Vegas.
My Pick: Las Vegas
Z’s Pick: Las Vegas
Baltimore at Cincinnati (-2.5)
Steelers fans like us will be keenly interested in the result of this one. I acknowledge that it’s going to be an uphill climb for my guys in Black n’ Gold to sneak into the playoffs, but on the other hand they also have a legit opportunity to win the AFC North. The victor of this game will be in first place no matter what happens elsewhere, and since I predicted that Cincy would win the division, and because they have the home field, well…I have to go with the Bungles. Conversely, Zach thinks Coach John Harbaugh has probably learned from recent mistakes and feels as though, in a close game, better decisions will be made to secure the victory.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
Washington at Dallas (-10.5)
The Cowboys won in DC a couple of weeks ago, but it was close. They will take the division crown easily and have their eye on being the top seed in the NFC, which is a really tight race amongst some very good teams. I suppose the Redskins aren’t mathematically eliminated yet, but this is undoubtedly a must win. It’s Sunday Night Football the day after Christmas, meaning no more competition from Ralphie Parker, Clark Griswold, George Bailey, Ebenezer Scrooge, or any iteration of Santa Claus. It is also one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL, so you can pretty much toss the records aside. I’m going to venture out on a limb and say the home team wins but won’t cover the points. Zach concurs.
Didn’t I tell y’all there’s still a lot of football to be played?? In the space of one week Zach (5-0) almost erased my (0-5) season lead. The NFL is rarely boring & rather unpredictable, and it’s that last part that makes our task challenging (for me anyway). At any rate, this weekend Saturday games begin, which will help fill the void left by college football (although bowl season starts on Friday). Between all of the gridiron action and Christmas related activities I suppose this time of year isn’t so bad…atleast as long as 60 degree snow free days continue here in West Virginia.
My Season: 45-56
Zach’s Season: 42-59
New England at Indianapolis (-2.5)
The Patriots are like a serial killer in a slasher film that just won’t die. I’ve seen too many sequels and just want it to be over already. Unfortunately that’s not happening, as Satan’s favorite football team is 9-4 and vying to be the top seed in the AFC. The Colts aren’t too shabby themselves, although at 7-6 they’re two games out of first in their division and in the middle of the crowded scrum battling for a wildcard berth. Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but with the home field and a healthy dose of Jonathan Taylor ramming the rock down the throats of the opposing defense I believe Indy can get the job done. Zach is happy for his little brother (my younger nephew) because he is a Colts fan and is making the trip to Indy to take in the game. Zach would love to see the home team get the running game going and pull off the upset, but he doesn’t think that scenario is likely.
My Pick: Indianapolis
Z’s Pick: New England
Atlanta at San Francisco (-8.5)
The 6-7 Falcons are the textbook definition of mediocre. I think it’d be difficult for the average football fan outside the state of Georgia to name three of their players, and it doesn’t matter anyway since they play in the same division as Tom Brady & the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Niners are also 6-7, and I think it’s fair to say that they’ve underachieved. Both teams are still alive in the playoff hunt, but the question is can either of them go on a winning streak to end their season?? In that regard I believe ‘Frisco is the better bet, and I think they’ll win this game. Can they cover the points?? I can’t say I’m all that confident about it, but I am willing to roll the dice. Zach can’t too excited for this one, but he believes the visitors might be able to stay close.
My Pick: San Francisco
Z’s Pick: Atlanta
NY Jets at Miami (-8.5)
I remember when this was a cool matchup. Dan Marino & Ken O’Brien tossing bombs. Dick Enberg & Merlin Olsen calling the action. Playoff spots on the line. It’s a shame that neither team has been able to get their stuff together for so many years. I thought the Dolphins might take a step forward this season in QB Tua Tagovailoa’s second year, but at 6-7 they seem to be treading water. The Jets feel even more hopeless despite getting QB Zach Wilson with the second overall pick. At 3-10 they are on pace to draft that high again next spring. I’d love to see a callback to the old days with a high scoring shootout decided in overtime, even if the game itself is largely meaningless. Will that happen?? I’m not holding my breath. It’ll probably be a mundane & uneventful affair, with the home team getting the victory but not covering the points. Conversely, Zach has faith that Miami is better than the Jets, atleast enough to cover.
My Pick: NY Jets
Z’s Pick: Miami
Houston at Jacksonville (-3)
Hey, we may as well get all of the mediocrity out of the way now so we can focus on the important games down the stretch, right?? Everyone knows by now that the Texans season has been torpedoed by drama surrounding QB Deshaun Watson, who’ll be playing elsewhere next year (probably after serving some sort of NFL suspension, which seems redundant given present circumstances), and losing defensive end JJ Watt & receiver DeAndre Hopkins. At 2-11 the team is a freakin’ mess. Meanwhile, the Jags share the same abysmal record and just canned head coach Urban Meyer. The loser of this game takes the lead in the race for the #1 overall choice in the NFL Draft. I suppose it’s possible it could end up being entertaining despite all the ineptitude, but then again maybe not. Anyway, atleast the home team has their quarterback, so I give them a slight edge. Conversely, Zach thinks Houston has enough talent to score a victory.
My Pick: Jacksonville
Z’s Pick: Houston
New Orleans at Tampa Bay (-10.5)
This is the Sunday night game because, well, Tom Brady. I’ll be watching Christmas movies or reading a book, but I’m sure Al Michaels & Chris Collinsworth will have their knee pads on, slobbering all over TB12’s junk. The 10-3 Bucs have wrapped up the division but are aiming to be the NFC’s top seed. Conversely, the 6-7 Saints are finding life post-Brees to be a bit prickly. The combined quarterback forces of Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, & Trevor Siemian haven’t been the answer, and since the top QBs will likely be gone by the time they choose around the 12/13/14 spot in the first round I’m guessing they’ll sign a free agent or make a big trade. Aaron Rodgers?? Russell Wilson?? Jimmy G.?? The aforementioned Watson?? Who knows. As for this game, I hate it, but it’s unlikely that Tampa loses. Will they cover?? Sadly, they probably will. Zach concurs.
Annnndddd we’re back!!!! After a COVID-induced hiatus a year ago we have returned to make mostly uninformed & generally random picks of bowl games involving a bunch of teams about which neither of us know all that much. I read a quote years ago something akin to “golf & sex are the only things one can enjoy without being very good”, but I would include picking football games as well. As noted a couple of years ago, I have evolved from being one of those cranky old dudes ranting about too many bowl games to rather enjoying obscure & totally inconsequential weekday afternoon gridiron battles. These picks are separate from our weekly Picks of Profundity, no point spreads are used, & we don’t pretend like we have any clue what we’re talking about for the most part. I’ll leave it to The Manoverse to find the dates, times, & specific locations of these games. Most of them will be on the ESPN “family of networks”, though there are exceptions. As always I discourage wagering of any kind. I have broken down the games into three tiers: Bronze are the games that I have very little interest in and may or may not watch, Silver are games for which I have a modest level of enthusiasm and will probably try to check out, and Gold are the Must See contests. Sadly there are way too many in the first group and far too few in the last, but the cool thing about Bowl Season is that there are always surprises…games that’ll be tied in the fourth quarter and you suddenly find yourself invested for no apparent reason. I love that, and I appreciate the fact that we have once again been able to enjoy such compelling yet ultimately meaningless entertainment in 2021. I hope The Manoverse is staying safe & warm, enjoying the holiday season, and appreciating every second of this amazing life.
Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo
How cool is it that these college kids get to travel to The Bahamas for free?? That alone is worth the blood, sweat, & tears of playing football. It’s an experience they’ll truly appreciate two or three decades from now. I’m not sure how many fans can afford to make the trek, but hey…life isn’t perfect, right?? The Blue Raiders represent C-USA and are 6-6, while the Rockets are out of the MAC and come into this game 7-5.
My Pick: Toledo
Z’s Pick: Toledo
South Carolina State vs. Jackson State
This is a game specifically for “historically black” colleges, which seems like kind of an outdated concept in the 21st Century, but whatever. The SC St. Bulldogs are 6-5, while the Jackson St. Tigers (from Mississippi in case you are curious) are 11-1 and coached by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. On paper it really looks like kind of a mismatch. Zach feels like momentum is on the Tigers’ side.
My Pick: Jackson State
Z’s Pick: Jackson State
New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State vs. UTEP
The 9-3 Bulldogs faced some pretty stiff competition in the Mountain West and went toe to toe with the Oregon Ducks, while the Miners were 7-5 out of C-USA. I don’t think this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.
My Pick: Fresno State
Z’s Pick: Fresno State
BYU vs. UAB
I had high hopes for the Cougars, and they did go 10-2. September victories over Arizona St. & Utah seem especially impressive. Unfortunately, playing as an independent and having no direct access to conference bowl affiliations means you end up playing the 8-4 Blazers on a Saturday afternoon in Shreveport a week before Christmas. Perhaps I’m selling this game short, but I don’t believe it will be all that competitive. Zach likes the game to be a little closer but ultimately believes BYU will get the victory.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan
This is the old GMAC Bowl, aka Dollar General Bowl, aka GoDaddy Bowl. Y’all know I despise corporate bowl names. Anyway, the 7-5 Flames dipped significantly from their 10-1 season a year ago, which saw them finish in the Top 20. Meanwhile, the 7-5 Eagles out of the MAC are appearing in their fourth bowl game since 2016 (they are 0-3 in previous efforts). I don’t foresee this being close or interesting at all. Zach agrees, opining that Liberty might win by 40 points.
My Pick: Liberty
Z’s Pick: Liberty
SMU vs. Virginia
It’s like people in Boston were whining “Hey…there’s a bowl game at Yankee Stadium!! We want one too!!”, and someone somewhere acquiesced. Honestly though…is playing football in Boston at the end of December a reward for these players?? I’d much rather go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. At any rate, the Mustangs are out of the AAC and currently sit at 8-4, while the ACC’s Cavaliers are 6-6. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has already announced his departure after the game, having been at the helm in Charlottesville for six years. He’s only 55 years old so one has to assume he’ll have a final act somewhere, but for now his exit provides a motivational storyline. Zach predicts both offenses will put up big numbers, with SMU ultimately prevailing.
My Pick: Virginia
Z’s Pick: SMU
Washington State vs. Miami (FL)
ESPN dominates bowl coverage, but the Sun Bowl remains on CBS, which is kind of refreshing. It is one of the oldest bowl games, having first been played way back in 1935. The 7-5 Hurricanes underachieved tremendously in three seasons under head coach Manny Diaz, who has already been shown the door. The 7-5 Cougars faced coaching turmoil themselves back in October when their head coach & several assistants were fired for refusing to kneel & bow to Nazi-esque vaccine mandates, which means there is no way in hell I can cheer for a school that engages in that kind of foolishness. Zach is rolling the dice on State.
My Pick: Miami (FL)
Z’s Pick: Washington State
Boise State vs. Central Michigan
It was an off year for the 7-5 Broncos, who were competitive against UCF & Oklahoma St. and actually beat BYU, but nevertheless failed to live up to previously set lofty standards. Conversely, the 8-4 Chippewas out of the MAC continue to bounce back from the nadir of a 1-11 season in 2018. I don’t know why, but I feel like this game could exceed expectations. Conversely, Zach predicts an easy Boise win.
My Pick: Central Michigan
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Tulsa vs. Old Dominion
The Golden Hurricanes out of the AAC are 6-6, as are C-USA’s Monarchs. This is one of those 2:30pm Monday afternoon kickoffs that theoretically no one will be watching, but who knows…perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suppose I’ll pick Old Dominion in a coin flip. Zach notes that Tulsa suffered several close losses and is probably a better team than the record shows.
My Pick: Old Dominion
Z’s Pick: Tulsa
Kent State vs. Wyoming
Potatoes may not be the sexiest vegetable, but I can dig a game named after spuds instead of some mortgage broker. The 7-6 Golden Flashes lost the MAC title game, while the 6-6 Cowboys started strong but went 2-6 in the back end of their Mountain West schedule. I’m guessing the folks in Vegas would favor Kent, but I’ve got to go with the upset. Zach foresees a dominant defensive effort leading to a convincing Wyoming win.
My Pick: Wyoming
Z’s Pick: Wyoming
Frisco Football Classic
North Texas vs. Miami (OH)
Once upon a time there was something called the Redbox Bowl, which was cancelled in 2020 because of The Sickness then scrapped again this year. Actually it wasn’t a new game, having formerly been known as the Emerald Bowl & Fight Hunger Bowl, amongst other things. At any rate, the NCAA was left with too many bowl eligible teams for the available slots, so they literally created this game last week. I’m not even kidding. Making things even weirder is the fact that there is already a Frisco Bowl, so I’m not sure how this little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb is being awarded a second post-season matchup, but whatever…we’ll just go with it. Both teams are 6-6, and it is essentially a home game for the Mean Green since their campus is a half hour down the road. Credit to the RedHawks for making the trek, but it’s gonna be a tough day for them. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to snag the victory.
My Pick: North Texas
Z’s Pick: Miami (OH)
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. Missouri
To clarify, the Armed Forces Bowl is played in Fort Worth, TX, while the Military Bowl is contested in Annapolis, MD. I take no issue with the redundancy since our folks in uniform deserve all the kudos they get & more. The 8-4 Black Knights are going for their fourth season of 9+ wins in the past five years, while the SEC’s Tigers are 6-6 and probably wishing they wouldn’t have left the Big 12 a decade ago. I can’t go against our soldiers, although I realize it’ll be an uphill climb. Zach loves Army’s triple option and believes Missouri’s defense will have a difficult time stopping it.
My Pick: Army
Z’s Pick: Army
Hawaii vs. Memphis
Is it fair that the 6-7 Rainbow Warriors get a home game during bowl season, or that they’re playing in the postseason despite a losing record?? Probably not, but I assume the 6-6 Tigers won’t complain about a free trip to paradise. The home team is 2-1 in the past four years in this game, and I don’t think Memphis is remarkable enough to overcome the advantages their opponents will enjoy. Zach predicts a close game with Memphis winning with a late field goal.
My Pick: Hawaii
Z’s Pick: Memphis
Ball State vs. Georgia State
I know I’ve taught y’all this before, but it’s been a couple of years, so…a camellia is the state flower of Alabama, which is why this game is contested in the state’s capital of Montgomery. The 6-6 Cardinals represent the MAC as well as talk show legend David Letterman’s alma mater. The 7-5 Panthers are out of the Sun Belt and have only been playing football since 2008. I might be undervaluing this game a bit, and I’m hoping it’s a Christmas Day surprise that’ll tear me away from Ralphie’s pursuit of the elusive BB gun for a couple of hours. Zach likes Georgia St. to score a late 4th quarter win.
My Pick: Georgia State
Z’s Pick: Georgia State
Quick Lane Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Nevada
Quick Lane is exactly what you’d imagine it to be…a auto store where you can get your vehicle inspected, have the oil changed, & get your tires rotated. The game was previously known as the Motor City Bowl & Little Caesar’s Bowl and is still played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. It may not be The Bahamas or sunny Florida, but perhaps it’s a step up from Boise, ID, home of the Potato Bowl. Atleast the venue has a roof so weather won’t be an issue. Anyway, the 7-5 Broncos out of the MAC only have to travel a couple of hours from Kalamazoo, while the 8-4 Wolfpack obviously have a much more significant trek. I don’t know how much of a difference that kind of thing makes in bowl games, but it’s got to mean something, right?? Conversely, Zach thinks Nevada wins big and the game will essentially be over by halftime.
My Pick: Western Michigan
Z’s Pick: Nevada
Boston College vs. East Carolina
The 6-6 Eagles have always bored me, as far back as the 80’s when they played in the Big East and faced my WV Mountaineers annually. There were those few years when they had QB Doug Flutie, but other than that a BC game is similar to watching paint dry. The 7-5 Pirates have cool purple uniforms, but kind of get lost in the shuffle since no one gives a damn about the AAC. Kickoff is 2:30pm on a Monday, but it’s two days after Christmas so maybe there won’t be any better options on TV since all the holiday films will be over. Honestly just thinking about this game makes me want to lay down and go to sleep. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: East Carolina
Z’s Pick: East Carolina
First Responder Bowl
Air Force vs. Louisville
Okay, so honoring first responders with a bowl game is cool. The matchup?? Ehhhh. The Falcons are 9-3 with competitive losses to San Diego St. & Utah St. and a win over Boise St., while the 6-6 Cardinals have dropped off considerably since QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 before heading to the NFL. Fingers crossed that this will be a great game, but I’m not assuming anything. Zach is optimistic that it will be close & exciting and likes Air Force to win.
My Pick: Air Force
Z’s Pick: Air Force
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
This is the game I wanted WVU to play in, but that didn’t happen. The 6-6 Red Raiders are playing for an interim coach since they fired their head coach in October, while the 7-5 Bulldogs beat Kentucky & Auburn this year but faced an uphill climb in the SEC. I suppose I’m a little bitter about the ‘Eers’ exclusion because this is probably going to be more fun than I’m giving it credit for. Zach thinks depth might be an issue for Tech and likes State to win fairly easily.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Z’s Pick: Mississippi State
Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois
The Cure Bowl is so named to promote awareness & research of breast cancer, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Chanticleers are 10-2 (the second straight year they’ve won 10 games) but didn’t even win their division, which says a lot about the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskies are the 9-4 MAC Champions. This is a 6pm Friday kickoff, and I’ll be watching. We both expect a high scoring shootout and like Coastal to secure victory late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina
Boca Raton Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
My Marshall Thundering Herd might’ve been playing in this game if they’d made it to the C-USA title game, but kudos to the 8-5 Hilltoppers for doing that instead. The 10-3 Mountaineers lost the Sun Belt title game but won 9+ games for the seventh consecutive season. This one kicks off at 11am on Saturday a week before Christmas, and I’m glad because I have plans that night. I feel like this is one of those times when everyone will be expecting a shootout but instead we’ll be treated to a hard hitting defensive struggle, probably decided by a late field goal. Zach thinks the Mountaineers are more experienced in big games.
My Pick: Appalachian State
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
Oregon State vs. Utah State
This game has the potential to be sneaky good. It is the inaugural contest and will be played on the home field of the NFL’s Rams & Chargers. The 7-5 Beavers almost slid in the back door of the PAC 12 title game, but a loss to their in-state rivals doomed those chances. Meanwhile, the 10-3 Aggies are the surprising Mountain West Champions. It’s a 7:30pm kickoff on 12/18 so unfortunately I will miss it. Ah well…c’est la vie. I’d like to think it’ll be a close & exciting contest, but it could just as easily be a blowout. I have no idea what to expect. Zach likes Utah St.‘s running attack behind a stout offensive line.
My Pick: Utah State
Z’s Pick: Utah State
New Orleans Bowl
Marshall vs. Louisiana
This is what the 7-5 Herd gets for not making it to their conference title game. It is essentially a home game for the 12-1 Ragin’ Cajuns, winners of the Sun Belt. Marshall will be joining that conference in the not-so-distant future, so we’ll see plenty of rematches. It’s another game on the crowded 12/18 schedule, but kickoff isn’t until 9:15pm so I’ll actually get to see most of the action, which is cool. I can’t pretend to be unbiased, but to be honest the only thing that gives me hope is the fact that Louisiana will be playing for an interim coach making me somewhat hopeful for an upset. Zach thinks my alma mater comes into this game disappointed with the ending of the regular season and believes that hangover will lead to a Louisiana blowout.
My Pick: Marshall
Z’s Pick: Louisiana
UTSA vs. San Diego State
Earlier I referred to Frisco, TX as a “little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb”. To put that in context, the population of Frisco is 177k, making it about triple the size of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston. Everything is bigger in Texas. The 12-1 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners won the C-USA title, while the 11-2 Aztecs were beaten soundly in the Mountain West Championship Game. It’s nearly a five hour haul from San Antonio to Frisco, but UTSA should still enjoy a notable home field-esque kind of advantage. Kickoff is at 7:30pm EST on the Tuesday before Christmas, so it’ll be an evening of channel flipping between Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Scrooge, & football. That’s a fun night in my world. I hope it’s a competitive game, but with battles against Utah & Boise St. (both games that they won) under their belt, it feels like SD St. is probably the superior squad. Conversely, Zach likes UTSA’s offense a little better and thinks they’ll get the job done.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: Texas-San Antonio
Florida vs. Central Florida
I’ve explained this is previous years, but it’s a cool story. This game is named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. “The Last of the Buccaneers” allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century, amassing a huge fortune by taking prizes & ransoming hostages, and died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind an enormous and as-yet undiscovered treasure. That tale alone makes this a badass bowl game no matter who is playing in it. The 6-6 Gators had high hopes but encountered choppy waters this season, ending with firing their coach last month. 8-4 UCF’s “uncrowned national championship” from a few years back is about as spurious as the story of Jose Gaspar, but head coach Gus Malzahn (who previously had tremendous success at Auburn) has kept them in the conversation as one of the best Group of Five programs and will soon lead them into the Big 12. This would be a huge win for the Knights, an opportunity to defeat an in-state “rival” that’ll always receive more respect whether they deserve it or not. Zach isn’t sure the Gators will be into this one mentally as much as their opponents.
My Pick: Central Florida
Z’s Pick: Central Florida
Houston vs. Auburn
Rarely will I be all that complimentary toward former WVU Mountaineers’ head coach Dana Holgorsen, but credit where it is due…he has the 11-2 Cougars headed in the right direction in his third season at the helm. They’ll be a problem in the Big 12 soon enough. Conversely, the 6-6 Tigers didn’t fare as well in head coach Bryan Harsin’s first season as they would have liked, but there’s no reason to think they can’t be good again in the near future. Kickoff is at Noon on a Tuesday, which is unfortunate because this matchup probably deserves better. I think the talent disparity between a mid-level SEC program and the AAC will be apparent, and it helps that Auburn is playing only two hours away from home, so they’ll have a lot of fans in the stands. Zach thinks Houston is solid but not spectacular, while Auburn is inconsistent. He likes Auburn’s defense to be the difference maker.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: Auburn
North Carolina State vs. UCLA
It looks good on paper, but will it be as interesting in reality?? The Wolfpack went 9-3 with wins over Clemson, Florida St., and in-state rival UNC, while the 8-4 Bruins would like to have a redo on a couple of early season stumbles. This is a prime time game during that week between Christmas & New Year’s when no one really knows where they are, what day it is, or what exactly is going on. I think UCLA probably has a deeper bench, so they’ll pull away in the 4th quarter. It’s a tossup for Zach but he feels like NC St. has dealt with a tougher schedule and that experience will pay off.
My Pick: UCLA
Z’s Pick: North Carolina State
Kansas State vs. LSU
Ed Orgeron won’t be on the sidelines for the 6-6 Bayou Bengals, who’ll be led by an interim coach before Brian Kelly takes the reins. In comparison the 7-5 Wildcats are rather stable, which is a difference maker in my eyes. Zach feels like all the upheaval might actually provide motivation for LSU.
My Pick: Kansas State
Z’s Pick: LSU
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
West Virginia vs. Minnesota
As a Mountaineer fan this is kind of a letdown. A mediocre Big Ten opponent & a 10:15pm EST kickoff on a Tuesday night isn’t much to get excited about. This game was formerly known as the Copper Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, Cactus Bowl, & Cheez-It Bowl, but now bears the name of a Chicago based mortgage company, which is indicative of everything wrong with collegiate sports. The last time WVU played in it about five years ago they snagged a thrilling win over Arizona St., but I was in the hospital and fast asleep before the action heated up. Perhaps I can manage to stay awake this time. Zach thinks Minnesota will run the ball easily against the WV defense and win big.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
They’ve been playing a bowl game at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it except the time in 2012 when WV got embarrassed by Syracuse. In a college football world that had an ounce of sense this matchup would be an annual rivalry between two East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools, but in reality they play in different conferences and haven’t met on the football field since 2013. The 6-6 Hokies fired their head coach last month so they’ll be led by an interim coach, while Maryland is also 6-6 having lost 4 games in the second half of the season. I feel like it should be a much more compelling game than it is, but the 2pm Wednesday kickoff sort of characterizes the general interest level most will likely have for it. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Maryland
Z’s Pick: Maryland
Iowa State vs. Clemson
Okay, stick with me here. Once upon a time the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix was known as the Cheez-It Bowl, but sponsorships changed as they often do. This game, emanating from Orlando, FL, used to be the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, & Camping World Bowl. Anyway, we all know that it’s been an odd season for the 9-3 Tigers. Let’s be honest, that’s a record so many teams would give anything to have, but for a program that’s used to going undefeated & being in the playoff it is a disappointing year. The 7-5 Cyclones had higher expectations as well, but the Big 12 ended up being pretty competitive. This could be the sleeper game of the entire postseason, and with a 5:45pm Wednesday evening kickoff it is situated perfectly to provide ample entertainment value. I have a lot of faith in Dabo Swinney and believe his team will end their campaign on a high note. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Clemson
Oklahoma vs. Oregon
They could called this the What Might’ve Been Bowl or the Dashed Hopes Bowl, as both teams were in the playoff conversation right up until the end. The Sooners are 10-2, but head coach Lincoln Riley has already bolted for USC. Similarly, the Ducks finished 10-3 and also lost their coach Mario Cristobal, who has returned to his hometown & alma mater Miami Hurricanes. I’m not familiar enough with the inner workings of a college football team to know exactly what kind of chaos such upheaval causes, but it has to be unsettling. Nevertheless, I am expecting a fun game with lots of big plays & offense, and I think Oregon will win by a touchdown. Zach, on the other hand, thinks Oregon is overrated and their defense lacking. He likes Oklahoma, under the temporary guidance of former head coach Bob Stoops, to win easily.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
I’ve never tasted Dukes, although I’ve heard it’s good. I’m a lifelong Miracle Whip guy. This is the Charlotte based game formerly known as the Continental Tire Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, & Belk Bowl, and seems tailor made for a Battle of the Carolinas. The Gamecocks were 6-6 against a rather challenging schedule, while the 6-6 Tar Heels failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations. This will be the swan song for UNC quarterback Sam Howell, who is likely to be a first round NFL Draft pick. I am expecting a close game decided by a late turnover or special teams play, and I give the edge to Mack Brown’s guys. Zach thinks there is a possibility that Howell won’t even play on the game, but still believes UNC can get the job done.
My Pick: North Carolina
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Tennessee
I have to think that both teams will come into the game with a chip on their shoulder seeking to gain attention & build momentum for next year. The 8-4 Boilermakers get lost in the shuffle of a stacked Big Ten, while the 7-5 Volunteers continue trying to get back to enjoying the kind of success they had during the Peyton Manning era 25 years ago. This is damn near a home game for the Vols, as Knoxville is less than three hours from Nashville. That’s enough for me to pick Tennessee to win comfortably. Conversely, Zach believes Purdue’s defense will shine and lead the team to victory.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Perspective is a word that pops into my mind. I wonder how differently these teams might be viewing the same opportunity. The 10-2 Spartans won eight games before losing two of their last four, all while watching in-state rival Michigan (who they beat at the end of October) win the Big Ten and end up in the College Football Playoff. Conversely, the 11-2 Panthers just won the ACC title & quarterback Kenny Pickett was a Heisman finalist. This feels like a consolation prize for State and the culmination of an immensely successful comeback for Pitt. Zach doesn’t have much faith in State’s defense and thinks Pickett will put up big numbers in victory, while I believe Sparty has something to prove.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
I expected so much more from both teams. The 8-4 Badgers simply faced too much supremely talented opposition in the Big Ten, losing 3 out of 4 to begin the season. The 8-4 Sun Devils had similar problems in the PAC 12. This is a 10:30pm EST kickoff on New Year’s Eve Eve, which is a tough proposition. I suppose I could stay up for it then snooze most of the next day in preparation for the festivities. Anyway, it feels like a pretty even matchup that’ll end up being a hard hitting, low scoring defensive struggle decided by penalties & turnovers, and in that scenario I can’t go against my guy Herm Edwards. Conversely, Zach thinks Wisconsin’s ground game makes the difference.
My Pick: Arizona State
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Now that LSU has put all those Jimbo Fisher rumors to rest he can concentrate on coaching the team that’s actually paying him to do so. It’s probably unfair to call an 8-4 season disappointing, but when someone is making bank like Fisher the fact is that anything less than a playoff berth isn’t good enough. Conversely, though they lost the ACC title, no one in Winston-Salem is going to complain about 10-3 & a New Year’s Eve bowl game for the Demon Deacons, a team that’s only won 9 or more games in a season twice before now. I think Wake will give a great effort, but the talent disparity will show itself in the second half. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Arkansas vs. Penn State
Originally known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, it feels like this is a game that’s been around longer than it’s 1986 debut. The 8-4 Razorbacks started strong before losing three straight October games, while the 7-5 Nittany Lions did pretty much the same thing. If it were possible I might be tempted to predict that both teams could lose this one, but someone’s got to come out on top. I’m going to venture out on a limb and say that this will be one of those games where something screwy or controversial occurs…a penalty, turnover, blocked kick…that decides the outcome and becomes the subject of much debate on all the sports talk shows. Zach likes Penn St.’s defense to be a difference maker.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Penn State
Kentucky vs. Iowa
Congrats to the Wildcats on a stellar season. Kentucky has always been a basketball school, but after going 9-3 with wins over LSU & Florida they’ve got the attention of football fans everywhere. Conversely, the 10-3 Hawkeyes are probably a bit disappointed after dropping two consecutive contests in October that torpedoed their playoff hopes then getting obliterated by Michigan in the Big Ten Championship. I feel like most “experts” would say Iowa is the more talented team, but it seems like Kentucky has come up big when it really counted this year. Conversely, Zach predicts Iowa will win a close game.
My Pick: Kentucky
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Baylor vs. Ole Miss
11-2 Baylor won the Big 12 title, but an inexplicable November loss at TCU cost them a playoff berth. The 10-2 Rebels have quarterback Matt Corral, whose Heisman invite got lost in the mail, something he’ll feel better about when his name is called very early in next spring’s NFL Draft. This game has the potential to be great, but I think the Bears have more athletes across the board at more positions, and they will assert their dominance in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach really likes Corral and thinks Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffen might have a few tricks up his sleeve.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State
I really thought the 11-1 Irish would be a playoff team, but that October loss to Cincinnati was a killer. The 11-2 Cowboys had a legit playoff shot as well, but Baylor was just too tough in the Big 12 title game. I’m probably selling this game short…it should be a Gold Tier level matchup, but it just seems like both teams underachieved. I think State will have more big plays and snag a 5-10 point victory, while Zach believes Notre Dame will be motivated & inspired to win a close one.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Notre Dame
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati
I admit that it is unfair to not have a playoff semifinal in the Gold Tier. Having said that, I have been clear about my opinion of the Bearcats. They deserve all the kudos for going undefeated. The fact that they went into South Bend and beat Notre Dame cannot be overlooked. However, the rest of their schedule being opponents like Temple, Tulsa, & South Florida shouldn’t be glossed over either. The NCAA needs to consider separating the Power 5 and the Group of 5 into different divisions, each with its own National Championship. The 12-1 Crimson Tide just beat Georgia by 17 points to win the SEC Championship…what do you think they’re going to do to Cincinnati?? I would love to be wrong, but I think ‘Bama will win this game by four TD’s, and that’s after Saban calls off the dogs in the second half, which is why I can’t get too excited about it. Zach has a bit more respect for Cincy, but still thinks they lose by 10 points.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Ohio State vs. Utah
I don’t care if the Buckeyes lost two games…they should be in the playoff. I get it. I know the committee couldn’t put them in with two losses ahead of undefeated Cincinnati. It would’ve been the ballsy move, but a PR nightmare. It didn’t help that Michigan absolutely trucked their archrivals by two touchdowns. Still, I believe if Ohio St. played Cincy five times they’d win atleast four games quite easily. It is what it is though, and the consolation prize for fans is pretty great because 10-3 Utah might be the hottest team in the country. Two of their three losses came in September, and they’re riding a six game win streak that includes annihilating Oregon to win the PAC 12 Championship. Honestly, I think the Utes would beat the snot out of Cincinnati too. At any rate, this should be a fantastic game, but I think Ohio St. might be too fast & athletic for Utah to overcome. Zach hates Ohio St. so obviously he’s picking against them 😂.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Utah
(2) Michigan vs. (3) Georgia
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Alabama does, but I did not expect them to beat Georgia by 17 points in the SEC title game. Having said that, it is a testament to the 12-1 Bulldogs and the immense respect they’ve earned that they’re still amongst the Final Four. The 12-1 Wolverines only have a late October loss to in-state rival Michigan St. as a blemish on their record, but it seemed to have awakened them because they’ve been on fire ever since. I’m not sure even the most passionate Michigan fans would’ve considered them a playoff contender a month ago. This is The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object and has Game of the Year written all over it. As far as predictions, one can’t help but allow a little wishful thinking into the process. Would you rather see an Alabama-Georgia rematch or an Alabama-Michigan wet dream for all the marbles?? I know which one I prefer. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. Zach knows Georgia’s defense is extremely tough, but he thinks his Wolverines have what it takes to push the game into overtime and get a victory.
My Pick: Michigan
Z’s Pick: Michigan
Alabama/Cincinnati vs. Michigan/Georgia
So we are both predicting and/or wishing for an Alabama-Michigan National Championship Game. When Jim Harbaugh got the job in Ann Arbor in 2015 I said he’d have them in title contention in three years. It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but here we are. I think ‘Bama will beat Cincinnati easily to get to this point, while it’ll be much more difficult for the Wolverines to overcome Georgia. How will that affect the Championship Game?? I don’t know. There are just so many variables that can make a difference and alter the entire landscape in the space of a month. Given what we know at this moment in time I will predict a very close, very exciting, rather historic Michigan upset to win the title…their first since 1997, back when the National Championship was “mythical”, a quaint notion nowadays. Zach thinks Michigan has what it takes to compete, but in a Saban vs. Harbaugh coaching duel he simply has more faith in Saban.
Zach (5-5) bested me (2-8) in last week’s picks of the conference championship games, making a dent in my season lead in the process. I’m below .500 again, although there’s still plenty of football left to be played. We are finished with college football except for the bowl games, which we’ll deal with separately and won’t count as part of these picks. It’s all NFL all the time here for the next month, and I’m going to try not to be redundant in discussing the same teams over & over…but I can’t make any promises.
My Season: 45-51
Zach’s Season: 37-59
Las Vegas at Kansas City (-9.5)
It seems like just yesterday everyone was wondering what was wrong with KC, while Vegas was a team on the rise. But now everything is returning back to normal…or is it?? The oddsmakers sure seem to like the Chiefs, which is understandable since they have won five straight games. However, the Raiders are only two games out and certainly find themselves in the thick of the wildcard race. Arrowhead does provide a significant home field advantage, but the points are just too much for my taste. The Chiefs won’t win by more than a touchdown. Conversely, Zach sees two teams heading in opposite directions and thinks KC won’t have any issues covering.
My Pick: Las Vegas
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Baltimore at Cleveland (-2.5)
The AFC North is playing out pretty much as I expected, which is good because that means our Steelers still have a postseason opportunity in front of them. I know the Browns have the home field, but I’m still a little surprised they are favored. That doesn’t say as much about any legit love the powers-that-be have for them as much as it shows a lack of respect for the Ravens. Zach doesn’t have any faith in the home team’s defense or their ability to stop QB Lamar Jackson.
My Pick: Cleveland
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
Dallas (-4) at Washington
These teams meet twice in the next three weeks. It’d be great if the Redskins would sweep, but I’m not counting on that. However, I believe they might pull off the upset at home. Zach foresees a fun & competitive game that’ll be close into the 4th quarter, but he thinks the visitors have what it takes to get the victory.
My Pick: Washington
Z’s Pick: Dallas
Chicago at Green Bay (-12.5)
The Bears are 4-8, but after missing the past two games with a rib injury rookie QB Justin Fields is back under center this week. Green Bay is 9-3 and has the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in their favor. This is the Sunday night game on NBC and I fully expect the Packers to win, but by how much?? I feel as if it’ll be more like 10-ish points. Zach, on the other hand, believes Green Bay might pull off a four TD beatdown.
My Pick: Chicago
Z’s Pick: Green Bay
LA Rams at Arizona (-3)
The first time these teams met in early October the Cardinals scored an impressive 17 point victory. This time they are at home and playing on Monday Night Football. Will the results be any different?? I don’t think so. Zach has a lot more faith in the new look Rams defense and thinks they’ll do enough to slow down Cards’ QB Kyler Murray.
After last weekend’s craziness the playoff committee released their rankings as follows: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St., Notre Dame, & Ohio St.. That’s the Top 7 and no one else really matters. Barring any upsets in the conference title games (a huge IF if there ever was one) the essential questions are these: a) how far will the loser of the SEC Championship fall?? & b) can Oklahoma St. leapfrog Cincinnati if they win the Big 12 title?? Notre Dame is screwed because they’re sitting at home while these other teams are still playing. They need Cincinnati AND Oklahoma St. to lose, and even then the 4th playoff spot could go to Ohio St.. At any rate, our marathon of picks during Rivalry Week turned out slightly better for me (6-3) than Zach (2-7), and the lineup is even more packed this weekend. Unfortunately I have plans Friday & Saturday so I probably won’t be watching much of the action. I should be able to keep up with the scores frequently though.
My Season: 43-43
Zach’s Season: 32-54
Western Kentucky at UTSA (-2.5)
The first time these teams met on October 9 in Bowling Green, KY the Roadrunners won a high scoring shootout, so the rematch has the potential to be a lot of fun. I’m pretty pissed that my Marshall Thundering Herd isn’t playing in this one, but they blew their chance in spectacular fashion. Texas-San Antonio has the home field and that’s enough for me. Conversely, Zach feels like momentum favors the Hilltoppers and he thinks they’ll eek out a close win.
My Pick: UTSA
Z’s Pick: Western Kentucky
PAC 12 (Las Vegas, NV)
Utah (-3) vs. Oregon
I am intrigued. When these teams met on November 20 in Salt Lake City the Utes scored a huge 38-7 victory and ended Oregon’s playoff aspirations. Will the Ducks face a similar fate on a neutral field?? I don’t think so. It’ll be much closer this time, and I think the underdogs have what it takes to pull off the mild Friday night upset. Zach, on the other hand, believes Utah is firing on all cylinders right now and has a better team with superior athletes. He agrees that it’ll be closer than the first contest between these two, but thinks the favorites will win again.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Utah
Big 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oklahoma State (-7) vs. Baylor
On October 2 the Bears went into Stillwater and were defeated 24-14, but this game is being played at Jerry World, aka The Palace in Dallas, so there is no home field advantage. The Cowboys could earn a playoff spot if Cincinnati loses, and a convincing win could make the debate interesting even if Cincy wins. I don’t expect anything to be drastically different than the first meeting, and with (potentially) so much at stake I believe we’re looking at another solid OK St. triumph. Zach is impressed by State’s defense and likes their offensive line, but foresees a tight ballgame that could be decided by a late or overtime field goal.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Utah State at San Diego State (-3.5)
I don’t know who makes the schedule, but c’mon man!! I should be able to hunker down in my warm bed late at night and watch a fun west coast battle, but instead we’re getting a 3pm EST kickoff. Anyway, these teams have not previously met this season, which is a rarity in conference title games. The 9-3 Aggies face a tough task going into hostile territory against the 11-1 Aztecs, who are riding a four game win streak. I don’t expect anything too crazy and believe the home team will win comfortably. Zach likes Utah St.’s ground game but feels like San Diego St.’s defense will come alive in the second half to secure a win.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: San Diego State
Houston at Cincinnati (-11)
The Bearcats are causing me a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog guy. Always have been, always will be. That being said, I am just not sure Cincinnati belongs in the playoff. They deserve kudos for going thru their schedule undefeated, but are they truly on the level of any Power 5 opponent they’d face in the semifinal?? I have serious doubts. My feelings about this game are further complicated by the presence of current Cougars & former WVU Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. We expected big things from him in the Mountain State, and he was a fairly decent 51-38 in seven seasons at the helm. However, Holgorsen clearly wasn’t happy here and jumped at the chance to take the Houston job. Both of these teams will be members of the Big 12 in the near future, so the rivalry will continue to grow. This particular contest isn’t hard to pick for me because the points are just too much. Cincy will probably win, but it won’t be a double digit victory. Zach doesn’t think Cincinnati belongs in the playoff but doesn’t believe the committee will deny them if they win this game. However, he foresees Holgorsen having his team ready to pull off the upset. If that happens no one will be happier than the CFP committee.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Houston
MAC (Detroit, MI)
Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-5.5)
I used to be a big fan of MACtion. Their random Tuesday or Wednesday night games were a treat. To be honest though, it’s been a few years since I’ve paid any attention to the conference. I vaguely recall when the Huskies went 12-2 in 2012 and lost to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in Heisman voting in 2013 behind Alabama QB AJ McCarron & winner Jameis Winston, the quarterback at Florida St. As far as this game, the Golden Flashes are 7-5 and led a rather weak field in the MAC West, while NIU is a solid but unspectacular 8-4 and were beaten by three TDs in their last game. When these teams met just a few weeks ago Kent won a 52-47 shootout, although NIU scored 20 fourth quarter points as their spirited comeback fell short. I suppose there’s a chance it could be a sneakily entertaining contest, but I’m leaning toward Kent winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach likes NIU to pound the rock and score the upset.
My Pick: Kent State
Z’s Pick: Northern Illinois
Appalachian State (-3.5) at Louisiana
This is my sleeper pick for best game of the week. On October 12 the Mountaineers traveled to Lafayette and suffered a 41-13 loss, so I’m a bit surprised by the odds. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t tasted defeat since losing the season opener at Texas, but it seems like they’re not getting much respect. Perhaps the impending departure of head coach Billy Napier to the Florida Gators is a factor. Otherwise, do the oddsmakers have some inside info, or are they simply making assumptions?? I don’t know. Given the current circumstances and taking what we know at face value I have to lean toward the home team scoring a mild “upset”. Zach predicts special teams will play an important role in an App. St. victory.
My Pick: Louisiana
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
SEC (Atlanta, GA)
Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama
As a certain former President might say, this game is YUUUGGGEEE. Not only will an SEC Champion be crowned, but there are major playoff implications. If Georgia wins they’re in, but it is entirely possible that they could lose yet not fall out of the Top 4. And what about ‘Bama?? Obviously they’d be in with a victory, but what happens if they lose?? Will the committee twist themselves in knots trying to justify only dropping the Tide to #4?? The simplest outcome is also the most likely…the Bulldogs win & cover and remain #1, while Alabama drops to #5 and is denied another National Championship opportunity. That’s what I’m hoping to see. As much as Zach respects Nick Saban he just doesn’t think this Alabama team measures up to their predecessors. He thinks Georgia has the best defense in the country and the offense is pretty good too. He’s predicting a big Bulldogs victory.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
ACC (Charlotte, NC)
Pitt vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)
Good Lord, could there be a more underwhelming matchup?? The ACC really needs Clemson & Florida St. to figure things out because the rest of the conference is a snoozefest. Credit where it is due though, as the 10-2 Panthers have won four straight, while the Demon Deacons lost two of their final four games but still finished 10-2. The game is theoretically being played at a neutral site, but Wake will enjoy a quasi-home field advantage since their campus is only an hour away. That’s enough for me to predict a mundane & unremarkable victory for the favorites. Zach likes Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and believes he will have a great day picking apart Wake’s defense.
My Pick: Wake Forest
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Big Ten (Indianapolis, IN)
Michigan (-9) vs. Iowa
I’m not a mental health expert, but I know that folks with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs followed by extraordinary lows. I also understand that it is sometimes difficult for athletes to sustain a high level of intensity. Therefore, my question is what do the 11-1 Wolverines have left in the tank after their magnificent beatdown of Ohio St.?? This game isn’t at The Big House against their archrivals, but they are playing for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a playoff berth that could lead to their first National Championship since 1997. Theoretically that should be ample motivation, right?? The 10-2 Hawkeyes fell off the radar after two consecutive October losses, yet here they are on a four game winning streak. Closer examination reveals that they won those four games by an average of less than 5 points against teams that are collectively 19-29. In other words their schedule was frontloaded, and they didn’t face Michigan or Ohio St.. Iowa’s most impressive victory was a home game against Penn St., a 7-5 team that lost four out of six games in the second half of the season. I don’t think there’s any way Michigan loses this game. However, I can see a dropoff in energy leading to the final margin of victory being a touchdown or less. Zach is also concerned about an emotional letdown for his beloved Wolverines, as well as the enormous pressure they face in restoring the program to its former glory. He points out that Iowa has won 5 out of the last 7 matchups between the two schools. Having said all of that, he isn’t picking against Michigan again (although it did work a week ago).