The 2018 Sammy Awards – Part III

Greetings Manoverse, and welcome to the exciting conclusion of the 2018 Sammy Awards. If you haven’t already done so, please go back and check out parts 1 & 2, then we’ll meet back here.

 

 

 

All caught up?? Awesome. Please welcome back the host of our show, British comedian & talk show host Michael McIntyre!!

 

 

 

 

After some side-splitting comedy from our host it’s time to present our next award. It is a privilege for this show to reunite what ESPN never should have separated. For nearly two decades they made early morning weekday hours fun & informative for sports fans everywhere, and along the way they picked up five Sammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award a year ago. They’re still on TV & radio, but the magic is gone, so it is wonderful to have them together again on our stage. Please welcome author, vociferous New York Jets fan, & the host of ESPN’s Get Up, Mike Greenberg, and former NFL defensive lineman & host of ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Mike Golic!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Sports Story

 

The Tide Rolls Again

The 2017-18 Alabama Crimson Tide went 11-1 in the regular season and failed to even make it to the SEC title game…but it didn’t matter. The powers-that-be handed them a spot in the College Football Playoff anyway, and the Tide rolled to their 17th National Championship, their fifth in nine years with head coach Nick Saban at the helm.

 

Dr. Larry Nassar

Dr. Nassar was a physician at Michigan State University and for about 15 years served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. During that time he sexually abused over 200 young people, and after being sent to prison in 2017 for child pornography in 2018 he was convicted of sexual assault to minors, so he’ll be spending the rest of his life in jail and one can assume eternity in Hell.

 

Philly Wins The Super Bowl

The 2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles went 13-3 in the regular season, easily winning their division. They proceeded to cruise thru the playoffs and clash with the dastardly New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for all you non-Romans out there). What makes the story interesting is that starting quarterback Carson Wentz was lost to a torn ACL late in the season, so the Eagles ended their regular season and faced the playoffs with journeyman backup QB Nick Foles under center. Fortunately for Philly fans Foles was up to the task, and he even caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

 

The Olympics

There was a Winter Olympics in South Korea last February. Did anyone notice?? Does anyone remember a single solitary thing that happened?? I didn’t think so.

 

The Madness of a 16 Over a 1

Villanova beat Michigan to win the NCAA basketball tournament (aka March Madness), but that wasn’t the most interesting part of the event. Two other things stood out. Probably the most enduring image of the tournament is the 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, with their Gryffindor-esque scarves & 98 year old nun Sister Jean cheering them on, making it to the Final Four. But before that history was made in the first round when the 16th seed UMBC Retrievers upset the #1 seed Virginia Cavaliers…the first time a 16 has ever beat a 1.

 

Tiger Woods

Once upon a time Tiger Woods was not only the best golfer in the world, he was probably the top athlete overall. Of course we all know that health problems & personal issues knocked him off that perch nearly ten years ago, and it’s been a long road back. At one time it was a foregone conclusion that Woods would surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships, but in the past several years most began to question whether he would ever win another major…or even a tournament. However, in 2018 Woods began to somewhat resemble his old self on the course, winning the Tour Championship in September, placing sixth at the British Open, & finishing as the runner up at the PGA Championship.

 

Ovechkin Wins The Cup

Alex Ovechkin has been considered one of the best hockey players in the world since debuting with the Washington Capitals more than a decade ago. However, his talent had not translated into post-season success, with the Caps being ousted early year after year. That all changed in 2018, as Ovechkin led his team to their first Stanley Cup.

 

The Warriors Beat Lebron…Again

The Golden State Warriors have faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals for four straight seasons. In 2015 & 2017 the Warriors won pretty easily. In 2016 Lebron James willed the Cavaliers to a Game 7 victory. What would happen in 2018?? Well…a sweep for Golden St. It wasn’t pretty, and really not that interesting.

 

France Wins The World Cup

Look, I realize that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. I know we Americans march to the beat of a different drummer. I have tried to develop an interest in soccer, but I just can’t do it. At any rate, Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup, and France defeated Croatia in the final. The United States failed to even qualify for the tournament, so any infinitesimal interest some of us might have had pretty much died before the event even began.

 

LA-Bron

After another crushing defeat in the NBA Finals it became clear that Lebron James wouldn’t be spending the last few years of his basketball career wasting away in Cleveland. The fact that he ever returned in the first place is a miracle because it is obvious that James’ relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wasn’t great, and that Gilbert doesn’t really have the means or the alacrity to put together a championship caliber team. Thankfully James’ didn’t make the same mistakes he made back when he initially ditched the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010. There was no “Decision” on TV. Whether it is the glitz & glamor of Hollywood, the history of Showtime, Kareem, Magic, Kobe, et al, planning ahead for a future after basketball, or the allure of working with team President Magic Johnson, it came as no surprise when Lebron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers. After a shaky start the Lakers are in playoff contention, although they probably can’t be considered legit title contenders at the moment.

 

Urban Meyer

2018 was quite the roller coaster ride for Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer. He was suspended for the first three games of the season after mishandling domestic violence allegations against a former assistant coach. The team fared well without him and looked like solid playoff contenders, but an October loss to Purdue doomed the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes. Meyer announced that he’d retire following the team’s bowl game due to a cyst on his brain that he’s been battling for years. From what I understand the cyst is not life threatening and isn’t usually a big deal for those that have them, but Meyer’s situation seems to be a bit more than a minor annoyance. He ended his career (for now) with a big Rose Bowl victory, and since he’s only 54 years old who knows what the future may hold for him.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

The Philadelphia Eagles. It’d be tempting to give Philly the award simply for beating the hated Patriots in the Super Bowl, but the fact that they did it with a backup quarterback (who was named Super Bowl MVP) and used a fun little trick play called The Philly Special to secure the victory just made the story even cooler. Can history repeat itself this year?? Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Before we hand out the final award of the evening it is our pleasure to welcome one of the most talented singers in the world. His wheelhouse is old jazz standards made popular by crooners like Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, Dean Martin, & others, but he has produced some lovely original pop tunes and is a must listen during the Christmas season. To sing a medley of his hits & personal favorites please welcome Michael Bublè!!

 

 

Thank you Michael!! That was tremendous!!

 

 

To present our final award The Sammys are honored to welcome the oldest presenter in our brief history. At 96 years of age she is still making us laugh, as she has consistently done during a career that has spanned eight decades. She has starred in beloved television programs like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, & Mama’s Family, made frequent appearances on game shows like Match Game, The $25,000 Pyramid, & Password, and is a reliably funny guest on talk shows for many years. It is a sincere honor to welcome Betty White to the Sammy Awards. And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

North Korean Summit

Back in June President Trump traveled to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It was the first ever summit between leaders of the two nations. The two men discussed Korean denuclearization and signed an agreement meant to lead to lasting peace between their countries.

 

Another Royal Wedding

In May Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles & Princess Diana, married American actress Meghan Markle. I’ll give the Brits this much…they know how to make a spectacle out of just about anything.

 

Illegal Immigration, Border Security, & The Migrant Caravan

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”. So goes the poem that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It is true that the United States is a nation of immigrants. No one is disputing that. The issue is how & where such immigration takes place. There has to be a system. There have to be rules. There must be accountability. America is a melting pot, and when people come here we expect them to adhere to our laws, pay taxes, become productive members of society, and embrace our culture & way of life. You can’t just sneak in, live anonymously, & take take take take without contributing while breaking any rules you don’t feel like following. President Trump’s promise to build a “big beautiful wall” along the southern border was a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign, and now Democrats refuse to greenlight funding for the project. The majority of Americans are in favor of border security, but it sure seems like certain politicians in DC are putting their hatred of the President ahead of the will of the people, and for a very long time it has felt like those same bureaucrats have cared a lot more about folks from other countries…like the thousands in the “Migrant Caravan” that have been heading for the United States from Central America for several months…than they do about the Americans they allegedly represent.

 

Thai Cave Rescue

In June a team of teenage soccer players toured a cave in Thailand and became trapped when heavy rains flooded the cave, trapping the entire team inside. For more than two weeks the youngsters & their coach were in the cave while a massive rescue effort involving thousands of people took shape. The entire group was eventually rescued, although one diver…a former Thai Navy SEAL…died in the process.

 

Trump-Putin Meetings

Just a few weeks after his historic summit with Kim Jong-un President Trump went to Finland for a similar get-together with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I’m not sure what was accomplished except reigniting media accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

 

Justice Kavanaugh

When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his intention to retire at the end of July speculation immediately began about his possible replacement. After President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals it appeared that there would be the typical political posturing but a confirmation was assumed. However, what followed captured the attention of our entire nation for weeks. 52 year old professor & psychologist Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party almost four decades ago. Though her recollections are fuzzy, the story has more holes than Sonny Corleone on the causeway in The Godfather, & she appears to be about as credible as Milli Vanilli, the news media treated Blasey Ford like the star witness at a mafia trial. What should have been a slam dunk confirmation turned into an edge-of-your-seat drama, all based on specious allegations of what Kavanaugh may or may not have done when he was a kid forty years ago. I don’t believe for a second that Kavanaugh did anything to Dr. Minnie Mouse, but even if he made a pass at her or got a bit handsy, a) how come such allegations hadn’t become a thing as he was ascending the professional ladder, & b) should we really focus that much attention on something that a person did in high school?? At the end of the day the United States Senate decided that either they didn’t believe the accusations or that it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of life. Whatever their thought process may have been Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed and now sits on The Supreme Court.

 

Parkland High School & Pittsburgh Synagogue Shootings

On Valentine’s Day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, killing 17 students & staff members and injuring 17 others. The gunman was a 19 year old former student who had made numerous threats in the past, but everyone from local law enforcement to the FBI completely dropped the ball. In October a mass shooting occurred at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. 11 people were killed, 7 were injured, and the gunman was a 46 year old man who had posted anti-Semitic rants on social media.

 

Hurricanes Florence & Michael

Hurricane Florence was a Category 4 storm that hammered The Carolinas in September. Flooding was a bigger issue than high winds. 55 deaths occurred and the hurricane caused atleast $15 billion in damage. Hurricane Michael was a Category 4 storm that hit the Florida Panhandle in early October. More than 50 deaths resulted, and more than $4 billion in damage was reported in Florida & Georgia.

 

Mid-Term Elections

The 2018 mid-term elections saw the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and Republicans retain their majority in the Senate. Overall, considering the relentless pummeling President Trump has taken from the leftist media & Hollywood elite since the day he took office it is somewhat surprising that the Republicans fared as well as they did. The next couple of years should be loads of fun.

 

California Wildfires

The 2018 wildfire season is the deadliest & most destructive wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 8527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres. The fires caused more than $3.5 billion in damages and over 100 people died.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Justice Kavanaugh. I have said from Day 1 that the biggest reason I voted for Donald Trump was because I trusted him to make Supreme Court nominations more than Hillary Clinton. Nearly everything else a President does can be changed with the stroke of a pen by Congress or the next President, but the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment that can shape our country for decades. There are oftentimes arguments & battles over nominees, but I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything like what happened to Brett Kavanaugh. Only two people know what exactly happened at that party back in 1982…if anything happened at all. I didn’t find Christine Blasey Ford to be the least bit believable, and I am convinced that the whole debacle was a political hit job designed to destroy Trump’s nominee. However, IF something did happen to Ms. Ford and Kavanaugh was involved, then questions have to be asked. Why wasn’t this made public many years ago?? How had Kavanaugh gotten this far in his career if he is really such a scoundrel?? Should a middle-aged person be punished for being a creep when they were a teenager?? These are discussions worth having, because we need to decide acceptable parameters for destroying peoples’ lives. The Senate decided…for whatever reason…that, whether or not Brett Kavanaugh did something wrong forty years ago, he deserved an opportunity, based on his professional track record of success, to sit on the highest Court in the land, and now we prepare for the next skirmish.

 

 

 

 

 

evangelist Billy Graham…former President & First Lady George HW Bush & Barbara Bush…physicist Stephen Hawking…legendary sportscaster Keith Jackson… The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin…Hall of Fame pro wrestler Bruno Sammartino…comic book creator Stan Lee (Spider-Man, The X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man)…actress (Laverne & Shirley) and director (Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own) Penny Marshall… TV chef Anthony Bourdain… retired NBA coaches Jack McKinney (LA Lakers, Indiana Pacers) & Tex Winter (Chicago Bulls) and players Hal Greer (Philadelphia 76ers), Jo Jo White (Boston Celtics), Clifford Rozier (Golden St. Warriors), & Lonnie Shelton (NY Knicks)…TV host Robin Leach (Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous)…retired NFL players Jim Taylor (Green Bay Packers), Bennie Cunningham (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tommy McDonald (Philadelphia Eagles), Dwight Clark (San Francisco 49ers), Wes Hopkins (Philadelphia Eagles), Gabe Rivera (Pittsburgh Steelers), Billy Cannon (Houston Oilers), Bill Fralic (Atlanta Falcons), & Ron Johnson (Pittsburgh Steelers)…former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne…Pittsburgh, PA meteorologist Joe DeNardo & sportscaster Sam Nover….actors Burt Reynolds (Smokey & The Bandit, Hooper, The Longest Yard, The Cannonball Run), Jerry Van Dyke (Coach, My Mother the Car), John Mahoney (Frasier, Say Anything, Striking Distance), Harry Anderson (Night Court), Bill Daily (I Dream of Jeannie, The Bob Newhart Show), Donnelly Rhodes (Soap, Double Trouble), Louis Zorich (Mad About You), Frank Parker (Days of Our Lives), Mickey Jones (National Lampoon’s Vacation, Tin Cup, Home Improvement), David Ogden Stiers (MASH), Chuck McCann (mostly know for TV commercials), R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket), Verne Troyer (the Austin Powers series), Donald Moffett (The Right Stuff , The Bonfire of the Vanities, Trapped in Paradise), Herb Ellis (The Andy Griffith Show), Tab Hunter (Grease 2), Daniel Pilon (Dallas, Guiding Light), Robert Mandan (Soap, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Three’s a Crowd), Joseph Campanella (Days of Our Lives), & Ken Berry (Mayberry RFD, F-Troop, Mama’s Family) …authors Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities), William Goldman  (The Princess Bride, screenwriter of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men), Harlan Ellison (Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”), & Philip Roth (American Pastoral, Portnoy’s Complaint)…retired MLB umpire Doug Harvey…Hugh Wilson (creator of WKRP in Cincinnati)…infamous gangster Whitey Bulger…Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman…NFL player Edwin Jackson (Indianapolis Colts)…actresses Margot Kidder (Superman), Charlotte Rae (Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life), Peggie McCay (Days of Our Lives, The Andy Griffith Show), Connie Sawyer (When Harry Met Sally, Dumb & Dumber), Lari White (Cast Away), Nanette Fabray (One Day at a Time), Katherine MacGregor (Little House on the Prairie), Sondra Locke (The Outlaw Josey Wales, Sudden Impact)….former MLB general manager Kevin Towers (San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks)…cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey, Hi & Lois)…retired pro golfers Bruce Lietzke & Hubert Green…musicians/singers Michael White (Thompson Twins), Vic Damone, Dean Webb (The Dillards aka The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show), DJ Fontana, Vinnie Paul (Pantera), Daryle Singletary, Roy Clark (Hee Haw), Otis Rush, Matt “Guitar” Murphy (The Blues Brothers)…retired NFL coach Chuck Knox (Seattle Seahawks)…Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man)…former MLB players Willie McCovey San Francisco Giants), Ken Howell (LA Dodgers), Red Schoendienst (St. Louis Cardinals), Tony Bartirome (Pittsburgh Pirates), Tito Francona (Cleveland Indians), Bruce Kison (Pittsburgh Pirates), & Rusty Staub (NY Mets)…fashion designer Kate Spade…British distance runner Sir Roger Bannister (ran the first sub-4-minute mile)…disc jockey Adrian Cronauer (the inspiration for Good Morning Vietnam)…UNC Tar Heels basketball announcer Woody Durham…Pulitzer Prize winning political pundit Charles Krauthammer…professional sports franchise owners Tom Benson (New Orleans Saints & Pelicans), Paul Allen (Portland Trailblazers, Seattle Seahawks, also co-founder of Microsoft), Bob McNair (Houston Texans), Wayne Huizenga (Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers, & Miami Marlins, also the founder of Blockbuster Video), & Alex Spanos (Los Angeles Chargers)… former U.S. Senator & Governor of Georgia Zell Miller and U.S. Senator & former Presidential candidate John McCain… television producers Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser MD), John Conboy (Capitol, Guiding Light), & Paul Junger Witt (The Golden Girls, Soap, Benson, Empty Nest, Blossom)…retired pro wrestlers/managers Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, The Dynamite Kid, Big Van Vader, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Jones, Brickhouse Brown, Brian Christopher, Matt Cappotelli, Chris Champion, Jose Lothario, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, & Big Bully Busick…comedy club entrepreneur Mitzi Shore…Pulitzer Prize winning sportswriter Dave Anderson…talk radio host Art Bell…Oscar winning director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Man on the Moon)…retired college football coaches Earle Bruce (Ohio St.) & Billy Brewer (Ole Miss) and basketball coach/AD CM Newton (Kentucky)…political commentator Ed Schultz…NFL coach Tony Sparano (Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins)…Tony Award winning playwright & screenwriter Neil Simon…former Marshall Thundering Herd QB Michael Payton…brewery executive William Coors (grandson of company founder Adolph Coors)…renowned sportswriter Paul Zimmerman (Sports Illustrated, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football)… Audrey Geisel (widow of “Dr. Seuss” Theodore Geisel)…NASCAR Hall-of-Famer David Pearson… infamous brothel owner Dennis Hof (Las Vegas’ Bunny Ranch)… former WV Mountaineers assistant basketball coach Gary McPherson

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 8

I’m running a little behind this week and am thankful we didn’t pick any Thursday games. I have no excuse except pure laziness, which happens sometimes. I suppose with my Steelers on their bye week and my Mountaineers off as well after an embarrassing beatdown last weekend I’m just not all that excited about football at the moment, but I’ll get over it. Speaking of beatdowns, last week both myself (3-2) and Zach (2-3) continued our epic mediocrity, proving once again that, as much fun as it may be, we’re really not very good at this.

My Season:     19-22

Z’s Season:     17-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama   (-28.5)                  at                Tennessee

We don’t pick ‘Bama games very often because quite honestly they bore me. I’m over it. Dominance is only interesting for a team & its fan base…everyone else is rooting for them to lose. Zach & I both agree that nobody is beating Alabama (not yet anyway), but I am intrigued by the points. So far this season The Tide has won seven games by an average of 30.5 points per game. Of course Tennessee is a step up in competition from teams like Arkansas St. & Louisiana-Lafayette, but not as good as Ole Miss and Texas A&M, both of which were beaten easily by Alabama. The wildcard is the health of Tide starting QB Tua Tagovailoa, who left last week’s game with a knee injury. Having former starter Jalen Hurts as a backup means the team won’t be negatively impacted all that much, but the offense would be undeniably less dynamic. My vibe is that Tua will start but will get dinged up and come out of the game at some point, so I’m going to roll the dice and guess that ‘Bama’s victory will be by 21-28 points. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Tennessee

 

 

 

NC State                       at                Clemson (-17)

Mountaineer fans here in WV were denied an opportunity to see the Wolfpack in action due to Hurricane Florence, but they’ve steamrolled to a 5-0 record against mediocre competition, including my alma mater the Marshall Thundering Herd. Their first legit test comes in Death Valley against the 6-0 Tigers who are once again in the playoff conversation despite a bit of a quarterback brouhaha a few weeks ago. Once again I don’t expect an upset but am intrigued by the points. Clemson is winning games by an average of more than 27 points per game, although they have had a couple of close calls…a two point victory over A&M and beating Syracuse by just four points. It just depends on how one view NC St. Are they a legit Top 25 team…or are they pretenders propped up by a soft schedule?? I think I lean toward the latter. Zach doesn’t believe that Clemson is as good as everyone seems to think they are and feels like NC St. will give it a good go before losing a close game.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     NC State

 

 

 

Mississippi State                 at                LSU (-6.5)

I definitely did not expect the Bayou Bengals to be a playoff contender this season considering their 9-4 record a year ago and an 8-4 finish in 2016. However, despite a misstep at Florida a couple of weeks ago they still have an outside shot at getting there, especially if a big upset of Alabama occurs after the bye week. First things first though…the 4-2 Bulldogs could certainly be viewed as a trap game of LSU is looking ahead to ‘Bama. If this game were being played in Starkville I might be a little worried, but in the friendly environment of Baton Rouge I don’t think it’ll be all that close. Zach believes LSU is for real and will win big.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

Carolina                       at                Philadelphia (-4.5)

Defending Super Bowl champs traditionally have problems defending their crown, and the 3-3 Eagles sure haven’t looked like serious contenders thus far. At 3-2 the Panthers haven’t been too impressive either. Both teams are going to have an issue just winning their division and making the playoffs. I’m not sure what to think about this game, but I suppose I’ll lean in the direction of the home field. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

 

Cleveland                     at                Tampa Bay (-3)

Are we really picking a Browns/Bucs game?? Yes…yes we are. I like to spread the love cause I’m generous like that, and the truth is that the Browns actually have a pulse for the first time in a very long while. I don’t expect them to get near the playoffs or anything, but 5 or 6 wins seems possible, and that would be a significant improvement. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are 2-3 and just fired their defensive coordinator. Isn’t it odd how the team has gone in the crapper since Jameis Winston returned as the starting QB?? Tampa is getting the traditional home field bump, but I’m predicting a fairly easy Cleveland victory. Zach has very little faith in either team but is going with the upset.

My Pick:     Cleveland

Z’s Pick:     Cleveland

2018 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh got some attention from the sports media recently when he pontificated about the College Football Playoff eventually expanding from four to eight teams and ultimately ending up at sixteen. Obviously it isn’t a new debate and Harbaugh’s comments were simply convenient fodder on a slow news day. However, what always strikes me about the discussion is the fact that everyone talks about the idea of expanding to eight or sixteen teams, but no one ever mentions the solution that I prefer, which is a six team playoff. In this format the top two teams would get a bye, which incentivizes trying to snag one of those two spots versus merely sneaking into the playoff. All five “power” conference champions would qualify, making conference title games de facto playoff games and actually meaningful instead of the needless money grabs that they are right now. One wildcard would be chosen which would likely spark a few heated arguments. Most of the time one of the “power” conference runners-up would get the nod (like Alabama anytime they happen to falter), but when you occasionally have an undefeated contender from one of the “other” conferences…for example, the 2017 Central Florida Knights…then they could very easily slide into that spot.

 

Anyway, all of that is just a mildly interesting preamble for our true purpose today. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/22 vs. Stanford, 10/13 vs. Washington, 10/27 at Arizona

Former Florida International head coach & Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal takes over in Eugene after the Ducks have gone 20-18 the past three years following seven seasons of 10 or more victories. The PAC 12 is really competitive, and I don’t expect Oregon to be in the conference title mix, but a pre-Halloween clash at Arizona could be the deciding factor in getting to eight wins and securing a spot in the rankings.

 

 

24     LSU 

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/2 vs. Miami (FL), 9/15 at Auburn, 10/13 vs. Georgia, 11/3 vs. Alabama

I don’t think anyone is getting out of the SEC with less than two losses. They’re all going to spend the next few months beating each other up, playing a game of Last Man Standing. The non-conference season opener against Miami is a neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas, and it’ll set a tone right off the bat. The Bayou Bengals are probably going to have to upset Auburn or Georgia…perhaps both…to get to eight wins and slip into the bottom of the Top 25.

 

 

23     Michigan

Last Season:      8-5

Key Games:       9/1 at Notre Dame, 10/13 vs. Wisconsin, 10/20 at Michigan St., 11/3 vs. Penn St., 11/24 at Ohio St.

I’ve slowed my roll on enthusiasm for the Harbaugh Era in Ann Arbor after initially thinking that he might have the Wolverines back in the national title conversation within a few years. The truth is that the Big Ten is so tough that winning a conference title would be a major accomplishment. The schedule is vicious, including a season opening non-conference clash against the Irish in South Bend, a rivalry that had been on hiatus for a few years. Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson will start at QB, and he’ll need to spice up an offense that has really been holding the team back. 8 or 9 wins feels like the ceiling again, but if those victories include a couple of big upsets it should be enough to sneak into the rankings.

 

 

22     West Virginia

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Tennessee, 9/15 at NC St., 9/22 vs. Kansas St., 11/3 at Texas, 11/10 vs. TCU, 11/23 vs. Oklahoma

Mountaineers QB Will Grier will be a legit Heisman candidate and converted quarterback David Sills has become a solid receiver, so I am not at all concerned about the offense. It’s been a lack of defense that has held WVU back the past few seasons, but a couple of transfers will allegedly bolster that side of the ball this year. I don’t expect the ‘Eers to beat TCU or Oklahoma (though both opponents are visiting Morgantown), so I think games against K-State and Texas will be the difference between 7 or 8 wins versus 9 or 10 wins.

 

 

21     Penn State        

Last Season:      11-2

Key Games:       9/29 vs. Ohio St., 10/13 vs. Michigan St., 11/3 at Michigan, 11/10 vs. Wisconsin

Happy Valley might be somewhat less happy in 2018 since Saquon Barkley is now toting the rock for the NY Giants. That doesn’t mean that the Nittany Lions will fall completely off the map, but for me it does take them out of the conference title discussion. QB Trace McSorely will be a Heisman contender, and whether this team wins 9+ games or falls into mediocrity looks to be squarely on his shoulders.

 

 

20     Texas       

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/15 vs. USC, 9/22 vs. TCU, 10/6 vs. Oklahoma, 11/3 vs. West Virginia

We’ve been waiting for the Longhorns to get back to their former glory for nearly a decade. Head coach Mack Brown was forced into retirement in 2013, and Charlie Strong couldn’t get it done in his three years in Austin. Tom Herman’s inaugural season at the helm was a slight improvement, but still underwhelming. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that they’ll win more games this year than last, but an upset or two will be necessary to achieve that goal.

 

 

19     Florida State                       

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Virginia Tech, 10/6 at Miami (FL), 10/27 vs. Clemson, 11/10 at Notre Dame

The Seminoles’ season was torpedoed right out of the gate in 2017 when starting QB Deondre Francois suffered a tear of his patellar tendon and freshman James Blackman stepped in to fill the void. After the season head coach Jimbo Fisher bolted for Texas A&M (and a ten year $75 million contract), which took a lot of folks by surprise. Former South Florida & Oregon head coach Willie Taggart has taken the helm, which also came as a bit of a surprise. Francois & Blackman are both in the mix at quarterback, and redshirt freshman Bailey Hockman might get some reps as well. RB Cam Akers will be be a huge help to whomever is under center. The schedule is brutal, and I understand that this isn’t the 1990’s anymore. One shouldn’t assume that Florida St. will sit near the top of the college football mountain like they used to, especially in an increasingly deep & competitive ACC. However, I think eight wins is doable, and anything more would really thrill the folks in Tallahassee

 

 

18     Florida Atlantic

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/1 at Oklahoma, 9/21 at UCF

The talking heads love to fawn all over the glamor teams in the power conferences, but a) when two such teams play each other someone is going to lose, and b) there will be teams winning the “other” conferences. Owls’ head coach Lane Kiffin will undoubtedly move on to another high profile job in the future, but for now he’ll be focused on building on last year’s 11 win season. I don’t expect FAU to travel to Norman and beat the Sooners, but I am predicting an upset of Central Florida in Orlando a month into the season. Another 10+ win season should be recognized with a spot in the Top 25, which will help score a big payday for Kiffin…eventually.

 

 

17     Stanford

Last Season:      9-5

Key Games:       9/8 vs. USC, 9/22 at Oregon, 9/29 at Notre Dame, 11/3 at Washington

RB Bryce Love has to be considered the Heisman frontrunner early on, especially since he was the runner-up a year ago. That’s enough for me to consider Stanford a Top 25 team, but the PAC 12 is so loaded that it’s going to take an upset or two for them to get over the hump.

 

 

16     Oklahoma

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/6 vs. Texas, 10/20 at TCU, 11/23 at West Virginia

I am not buying any pre-season hype that puts the Sooners back in the playoff conversation or even has them in the Top 10. A team just doesn’t replace a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback that easily. It helps that former Texas A&M starter Kyler Murray will be stepping into that role though, and the defense will be counted on to win some close games. A Big 12 title isn’t out of the question, but I believe the road is going to be bumpier than it has been in recent years for Oklahoma.

 

 

15     Ohio State         

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       9/15 vs. TCU, 11/29 at Penn St., 11/10 at Michigan St., 11/24 vs. Michigan

No one can convince me that this Urban Meyer kerfuffle won’t cause a disturbance in The Force in Columbus. Whether the coach’s “paid leave” ends tomorrow or he is ultimately terminated damage has already been done, especially as it relates to a very tough early game against TCU. The talent level is indisputably elite on the field, although replacing JT Barrett at quarterback won’t be easy. The Big Ten is just too competitive to expect more than a couple of teams to still be standing in November, and this year I think it’ll be the Buckeyes who are left out in the cold.

 

 

14     Auburn              

Last Season:      10-4

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Washington, 9/15 vs. LSU, 11/10 at Georgia, 11/24 at Alabama

Auburn is in much the same situation as Ohio St. as far as probably being the 3rd  or 4th best team in a deep conference. QB Jarrett Stidham will be an early Heisman contender, but a neutral site season opener against Washington in Atlanta could put the kibosh on everything very quickly. I think the Tigers are looking at atleast three losses, but if they balance those out with an upset or two the season could still be rather successful.

 

 

13     Notre Dame     

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Michigan, 9/29 vs. Stanford, 10/6 at Virginia Tech, 11/10 vs. Florida St., 11/24 at USC

Brian Kelly probably saved his job last year with a 10 win season following a dismal 2016. The schedule is daunting to say the least, but if the Irish can get a couple of big upsets at home pollsters may be lenient.

 

 

12     South Florida

Last Season:      10-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Houston, 11/23 vs. UCF

A year ago I predicted a Top Ten finish for the Bulls in Charlie Strong’s first year at the helm in Tampa. Instead they finished somewhere around #21 in most polls, in part because of intrastate and AAC rival Central Florida, who went undefeated and snagged that Top Ten spot. UCF is still getting much of the “non-power” love from talking heads this pre-season, but I’m not buying it since Scott Frost bolted to coach at his alma mater Nebraska. Can USF steal the spotlight in 2018?? Can they win the AAC and maybe even go undefeated?? I think it’s possible.

 

 

11     Boise State                

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 at Oklahoma St.

The Broncos are once again defending Mountain West champions and ended last season on a high note by defeating Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. The issue was their early non-conference schedule, which accounted for two out of three losses. I don’t have Oklahoma St. in this Top 25 because they are replacing a quarterback as well as one of the nation’s best wide receivers, so I think it is possible that Boise could go into Stillwater in mid-September and score an upset. That combined with another conference title could have them hovering near the Top Ten by season’s end.

 

 

10     Southern Cal   

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/8 at Stanford, 9/15 at Texas, 9/29 at Arizona, 11/24 vs. Notre Dame

Sam Darnold is gone, off to a doomed future quarterbacking the NY Jets. With a true freshman probably stepping into that role it’ll be up to the Trojan defense to keep scores low and grind out some close victories. A non-conference tilt at Texas won’t be a picnic, and the rest of the schedule looks a bit intimidating as well, but The Voices are telling me to go big or go home on this one.

 

 

9       Michigan State 

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       10/13 at Penn St., 10/20 vs. Michigan, 11/10 vs., Ohio St.

The Spartans rebounded quite nicely a year ago from a miserable 2016 during which they only won three games. QB Brian Lewerke is said to have NFL potential along the lines of former Michigan St. signal callers Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer, Connor Cook,& Drew Stanton, which I’m sure is meant as a compliment. The Big Ten is going to be a grind, but both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes have to come to East Lansing, so an upset or two could really boost the chances of a Top Ten finish and an appearance in the conference title game.

 

 

8       Virginia Tech    

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 at Florida St., 10/6 vs. Notre Dame, 11/17 vs. Miami (FL)

Who said the ACC was a basketball conference?? Okay okay…I’m sure I’ve probably said that in the past, but this season the football side of things could be quite impressive, atleast at the top. The Hokies are always a tough opponent, and after a few lean years they got back to double digit victories last year. I don’t believe that they’ll win the conference title or be a serious playoff contender, but an upset or two could vault them into the Top Ten.

 

 

7       Georgia

Last Season:      13-2

Key Games:       10/13 at LSU, 11/10 vs. Auburn

The Bulldogs played for the National Championship last season and came very close to winning it all before an Alabama comeback that we all knew was coming. I don’t foresee another playoff appearance this year, but they are the clear favorites in their division and should get another crack at ‘Bama in the SEC title game.

 

 

6       Miami (FL)

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/2 vs. LSU, 10/6 vs. Florida St.

Break out the Turnover Chain!! I have my opinions about that particular “tradition”, but it was an undeniably unique motivational tool last season. I don’t think Florida St. will be an easy out this year, but that might not matter all that much since they play in the other ACC division. An appearance in the conference title game should be expected. The only questions are a) can they get past LSU in the neutral site season opener in Dallas, b) can they stand toe to toe with Clemson in the ACC Championship game, & c) will winning the conference title translate into a playoff berth??

 

 

5       Clemson  

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Florida St.

A lot of people are picking Clemson as the favorites to win it all, but as a certain ESPN personality is fond of saying…not so fast my friends. Yes, the Tigers are loaded. They have NFL talent throughout their roster, especially on the defense. Dabo Swinney is a legit great coach and unlike some of his peers he seems like a genuinely good dude. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they even have a chance to go undefeated. But…but…what if they go into Tallahassee at the end of October and get beat?? Look at the rest of their schedule. Might a one loss ACC Champion with victories on their resume against the likes of Furman, Georgia Southern, Wake Forest, & Syracuse get left on the outside looking in?? I not only believe it is possible…I think it might be probable.

 

 

4       Washington      

Last Season:      10-3 

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Auburn, 10/13 at Oregon, 11/3 vs. Stanford

Speaking of being left out, after a playoff appearance two years ago the Huskies fell short last season because of tough road losses to Arizona St. & Stanford. Trust me y’all, if you can stay awake ‘til about 1am on Saturday nights in the fall PAC 12 football is usually worth watching. Not only does Washington have the best defense in the conference, they also return QB Jake Browning & RB Myles Gaskin. I’m calling it right now…they will beat down Auburn in the non-conference neutral field season opener in Atlanta, which should put the rest of the country on notice that Washington is back and they are for real.

 

 

3       TCU 

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 vs. Ohio St., 9/22 at Texas, 10/20 vs. Oklahoma, 11/10 at West Virginia

Most “experts” are predicting a solid Top 25 season for the Horned Frogs, but I’m taking things a step further. I think they’ll upset Ohio St. in an early season non-conference “neutral site” game at The Palace in Dallas. I parenthesize that because let’s be honest…it isn’t exactly neutral since Dallas is only a half hour from TCU’s campus in Fort Worth. The Buckeyes have had too many distractions this summer and are ripe for the picking. That game is a major reason that I have Ohio St. ranked 15th and TCU in playoff position instead of the other way around. Other than that I look at the fact that Oklahoma has to come to Fort Worth, Texas is rising but not quite there yet, and my Mountaineers tend to screw the pooch in huge home games against top flight opponents. Everything seems to be breaking in TCU’s favor, and if they can take advantage there just might be a national championship opportunity waiting.

 

 

2       Alabama                               

Last Season:      13-1

Key Games:       11/3 at LSU, 11/24 vs. Auburn

Okay okay okay…I give. Uncle!! Uncle!! It has become abundantly clear to me that the playoff committee will twist themselves in knots to roll the Tide into the Final Four. It doesn’t matter if they have a loss or two. It doesn’t matter if they don’t win the SEC Championship. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if they don’t make it to the SEC title game. The powers-that-be rendered conference championship games totally meaningless the minute ‘Bama was awarded a playoff spot last season. They might remedy that someday, but under the current rules I assume Alabama would have to lose atleast three games to be left out of the playoff, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. An early November clash in Baton Rouge will probably be low scoring and a complete snoozefest which will be counterbalanced by an exciting Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa just a few weeks later. If…if…if ‘Bama were to drop both games they MIGHT get left out of the playoff…but maybe not. The biggest offseason news story has been the quarterback battle between last year’s starter Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa, who came into the second half of the National Championship Game in January and won the Tide another trophy. Both guys will probably see their fair share of action this season, and I don’t foresee it being an issue. Nick Saban will go with the hot hand and use his special brand of Jedi mind tricks to soothe egos.

 

 

1       Wisconsin        

Last Season:      13-1

Key Games:       10/13 at Michigan, 11/10 at Penn St.

Last season it was Wisconsin’s loss to Ohio St. in the Big Ten title game (combined with the Buckeyes’ inexplicable regular season loss at Iowa) that left a crack in the door that Alabama walked thru all the way to a national championship. Since the Badgers don’t have Michigan St. or Ohio St. on the schedule this year and open the season with games against Western Kentucky, New Mexico, and BYU I expect a fairly clear path to another conference title game…probably against Michigan St….and I don’t think they’ll blow another opportunity. I suppose it’s possible that they could find themselves in the same boat as Clemson, with people questioning their strength of schedule. The easy way to take care of that is to go undefeated. It won’t be easy with trips to The Big House and Happy Valley, but I’m predicting that they’ll get the job done.

Winning & Musing…Bye Bye Football!!

Well. It’s been over a week since the football season ended, so I suppose we should do our traditional wrap-up. For some reason this year doesn’t seem as…bleak…as the calendar typically feels immediately after football season. I’m not especially into The Olympics, but I guess it does alleviate the emptiness just a little. It helps that the college basketball season has been compelling even before March Madness, and there has been plenty of offseason news in other sports as well. And I might even try to get back into Nascar this year, so that’ll be fun. Anyway, let’s briefly revisit football one final time before we let it rest for a few months.

 

 

 

 

I get a real kick out of looking back at my NFL Preview, which was even more off base than usual. I correctly predicted just six of the twelve playoff teams. I got 4 of 6 right in the AFC, which isn’t awful, but only 2 of 6 in the NFC, which is terrible. My AFC title game was Steelers vs. Patriots, which was half right, while my NFC title game was Giants vs. Packers, and neither team even made the playoffs. There were a bunch of other insightful gems as well:

  • “the Bills are just treading water, with new head coach Sean McDermott being the latest guy that’ll lead the team nowhere before getting canned in a couple of years” Buffalo went 9-7 & made the playoffs. McDermott’s job looks pretty secure, especially if they can upgrade the quarterback situation.
  • “I think this is a year in which the future Vegas franchise establishes dominance while Kansas City takes a step backward” The future Vegas franchise being the Raiders, who went 6-10. And the Chiefs, though they won two less games than the previous season, still won the division.
  • “The Chiefs feel like they’re in a transitional phase, with first round pick Patrick Mahomes biding his time until QB Alex Smith goes away” Well, I guess I wasn’t totally wrong about the Chiefs. They traded Smith after the season and Mahomes will be their starting QB in 2018.
  • “I’m sure everyone in Pittsburgh would deny it, but the truth is that the AFC North isn’t their true competition. The fact is that the only thing on anyone’s mind is overcoming the Patriots and getting to the Super Bowl.” Unfortunately the Steelrs couldn’t overcome the stupid NFL rulebook or the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • “Tom Savage will probably begin the season as the starter, but I really like Deshaun Watson and think he’ll be one of the league’s best QBs in a couple of years” Watson did become the starter for the Houston Texans even quicker than I’d imagined and looks like he’ll be really good. Unfortunately he tore an ACL midway thru the season during practice.
  • Of the Jacksonville Jaguars I opined that “they’ve gone backward. Unlike most people I’m not that psyched about first round pick Leonard Fournette, and QB Blake Bortles inspires zero confidence.” I’m still not completely sold on Bortles, but he led his team to a division title and an appearance in the AFC Championship. And Fournette?? He rushed for over 1000 yards and had ten TDs.
  • My thoughts on the NFC East?? “This is a tough division, but New York has to be the heavy favorite.” The Giants finished dead last at 3-13 and have the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. The Cowboys & Redskins were mediocre. The Eagles ran away with the division and eventually won The Super Bowl.
  • Speaking of the Redskins, I said that “they feel like a team on the negative side of transformation until the likely departure of Cousins and the drafting of a new quarterback next year.” Well, Cousins will be leaving in free agency, and I suppose it’s still possible that Washington may draft a quarterback, but they really don’t need to since they traded for Alex Smith.
  • My thoughts about the Seattle Seahawks included the idea that “RB Eddie Lacy has moved to the northwest from Green Bay, and I expect him to be in shape & a significant contributor.” Lacy was the team’s fifth leading rusher and got lost in the shuffle when rookie Chris Carson emerged as the starter. Even after Carson suffered a season ending ankle injury free agent signee Mike Davis won the job, and Lacy’s football future is very much in doubt.
  • “The Vikings defense will be alright, but might have to be better than that” It was the best defense in the NFL.
  • “I’d like to see QB Drew Brees lead the Saints back to the playoffs as he winds down his brilliant career, but I don’t think it’s going to happen” The Saints did make the playoffs, but lost to Minnesota on one of the most improbable passing TDs you’ll ever see.
  • Of the Saints I opined that “it’ll probably be Mark Ingram & third round choice Alvin Kamara getting most of the work in the backfield by the mid-point of the season” Kamara did indeed emerge as a pretty good rookie RB, while Adrian Peterson was traded to the Arizona Cardinals just a month into the season.

 

 

I don’t care if their fans are obnoxious Neanderthals who literally eat horse manure. I don’t care if they burn down half the damn city of Philadelphia. I am just THRILLED that the Eagles beat the detestable New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. And…if I may quote my man Forrest Gump…that’s all I have to say about that.

 

 

Speaking of The Super Bowl…

The only commercial that made a dent in my memory is the one where Eli Manning & Odell Beckham did the dance from Dirty Dancing, and I don’t even recall what it was advertising. The halftime show was just fine. I like Justin Timberlake, and thought his Prince tribute in Minnesota was a nice touch. The best part of the post-game was alleged comedian & actor Kevin Hart getting denied access to the Lombardi Trophy and the victory stage by a huge bodyguard who looked like he belongs in a WWE ring. Fans of This Is Us were anxiously awaiting the end of the festivities so we could watch the show’s most highly anticipated episode, which did not disappoint. After that I ended my nearly six month divorce from Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show mainly because the cast of This Is Us were set to appear. That ended in disappointment when Fallon went political again during a sketch when he was doing his Bob Dylan impression, and then the This Is Us cast’s interview was less than  five minutes long and had to be “spoiler free” because the live audience hadn’t seen the show. It’ll be a very long time before Fallon gets another reprieve from me.

 

 

Going back to college football y’all might be interested to know that I finished our Bowl-a-Palooza with a record of 19-21, while Zach broke even at 20-20. I started off strong and it looked like I might run away with it, but I faded fast and Zach closed strong.

 

 

I thought the College Football Playoff committee screwed up by putting the Alabama Crimson Tide in the playoff at all. Sure, they ultimately won the national championship yet again, but not only didn’t they win their conference but they didn’t even make it to the SEC title game. If the committee isn’t going to have any respect for conference championships then perhaps we should eliminate those games and maybe even eradicate conferences altogether. I have such an idea percolating in my mind and may write about it this offseason if I get bored enough to really be missing football.

 

 

I’m not even going to analyze my pre-season Top 25. I don’t think any of my predictions were accurate. I know my final four was USC, Penn St., Oklahoma St., & Florida St. The Seminoles in particular had an abysmal year after losing their starting QB to injury. It was so bad that head coach Jimbo Fisher bolted for Texas A&M after the season.

 

 

Our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with me at 54-54, while Zach was 52-56. We went into the final week tied and I went 3-4 and Zach was a not-so-good 1-6. But Zach did improve his 2016 winning percentage, jumping from 37% to 48%. I’m already looking forward to next season.

 

 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 includes receivers Randy Moss & Terrell Owens, linebackers Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, & Robert Brazile (a player from the late 70’s/early 80’s), safety Brian Dawkins, guard Jerry Kramer (possibly the last of Lombardi’s Packers to be enshrined), & executive Bobby Beathard. I’m a bit surprised that Moss & Owens got voted in the same class. They’ve been dangling the carrot in front of TO for a couple of years, so I thought maybe they’d finally vote him in but make Moss wait. As a West Virginian and an alumnus of Marshall University I’m very happy for Moss. Perhaps I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but I always perceived Dawkins as pretty good but never thought of him as a Hall-of Famer. I suppose Lewis & Urlacher were no-brainers, although I’ve never hidden my disdain for Lewis. RB Edgerrin James, DBs John Lynch, Everson Walls, & Ty Law, offensive linemen Tony Boselli, Kevin Mawae, Joe Jacoby, Steve Hutchinson, & Alan Faneca, and WR Isaac Bruce all fell short. Of those I am most surprised that Boselli didn’t make it. I’ll be rooting for him, Faneca, & Jacoby in 2019, but that’ll be the first year of eligibility for tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed, & cornerback Champ Bailey so the vote could be interesting.

2017-18 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

Bowl season has arrived. It’s a month long college football smorgasbord, and just like any other buffet there are some really tasty vittles, a few offerings that you might be kind of curious about but are somewhat hesitant to sample, and some things that most everyone looks at with an expression of nauseous antipathy. There are two schools of thought when it comes to bowl games. Many of us feel like there are too many of them and are troubled by the idea of rewarding mediocrity. Others opine that even bad football games are good entertainment and have no issue with having as many meaningless post-season games as possible. Regardless of one’s outlook it is undeniable that the next few weeks will be fun. Some games will live up to high expectations, while others will be just as boring as anticipated. The best games are the ones that no one thinks will be at all remarkable, but then all the sudden you find yourself glued to the television watching the 4th quarter of an epic battle involving two teams you know nothing about and now you are strangely invested in the outcome. That’s why bowl season concurrently matters yet doesn’t matter. It’s very odd.

 

Picking these games is pretty much a crapshoot. There are just so many wildcards. Injuries. Coaching changes. Neutral sites. Last year I was 18-23 with these picks, while Zach was 21-20. The whole idea of a bowl game is to pit two unfamiliar opponents against one another, so I assume much goes into scouting & film study. For Zach & I there are many teams that we know virtually nothing about outside of their record, and since we have lives and aren’t paid to spend time doing research most of our picks are semi-educated guesses based on the general knowledge we have as fans. We don’t do point spreads for these picks, and no money is on the line. We’re just having fun, which is what football fans should do this time of year. As usual I have broken down the games into three tiers. Tier 1 are the games that hold very little interest for me. Two .500 teams from a bottom dweller conference playing in a bowl game on a weekday afternoon in December is kind of like watching an Adam Sandler movie…I have very low expectations and if the result is even mildly entertaining I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Tier 2 games come with somewhat higher hopes. I might not go out of my way to watch them, but if I happen to be home and flipping thru the channels I’ll probably check out such a game if it is on. Tier 3 are the games that I’m really looking forward to and have the potential to be tremendous fun.

 

 

 

Tier 1

 

New Orleans     

12/16 at 1pm.

Troy (10-2)                   vs.    North Texas (9-4)

I’ll give credit where it is due…these two teams have won their fair share of games and actually earned a post-season reward (unlike the plethora of bowl bound 6-6 teams). Having said that, they are teams that very few outside their respective fan bases pay any attention to, so it’s difficult to be excited about the matchup. I’m feeling generous, so allow me to suggest…free of charge…some ideas to the game’s organizers for a name with a bit more pizzazz: Bayou Bowl, Cajun Bowl, Creole Bowl, Lagniappe Bowl, Jazz Bowl, Crawfish Bowl, Beignet Bowl, Big Easy Bowl, Gumbo Bowl, Jambalaya Bowl. See, it’s not that hard. You’re welcome.

My Pick:     Troy

Zach’s Pick:        Troy

 

Cure (Orlando, FL)

12/16 at 2:30pm

Georgia State (6-5)    vs.   Western Kentucky (6-6)

Proceeds from the game go to breast cancer awareness, which is admittedly quite charitable. Still though, it’s a dull name for a game featuring two prosaic opponents.

My Pick:     Georgia St.

Zach’s Pick:        Western Kentucky

 

Camellia (Montgomery, AL)

12/16 at 8pm               

Middle Tennessee (6-6)     vs.    Arkansas State (7-4)

A camellia is a type of flower. Fans of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird might recognize it as the flower grown by mean old Mrs. Dubose that was destroyed by an angry Jem Finch. The game itself holds zero interest for me. Zach has actually watched an Arkansas St. game, so he knows more about what’s going on here than me.

My Pick:     Middle Tennessee

Zach’s Pick:        Arkansas St.

 

Boca Raton       

12/19 at 7pm     

Florida Atlantic (10-3)                   vs.    Akron (7-6)

I’m surprised FAU head coach Lane Kiffin hasn’t been mentioned as a serious candidate for one of the many jobs that have been open recently. Perhaps the football community feels like he needs another season of being humbled?? Anyway, I don’t expect this to be much of a game. Zach likes FAU’s offense to make it look easy.

My Pick:     FAU

Zach’s Pick:        FAU

 

Frisco (Frisco, TX)      

12/20 at 8pm               

Southern Methodist (7-5)   vs.   Louisiana Tech (6-6)

Point of clarification: this game does not take place in San Francisco, CA. Frisco, TX is a suburb of Dallas and has been amongst the fastest growing cities in America for over a decade. So essentially this is a home game for the SMU Mustangs, whose coach just left for Arkansas.

My Pick:     SMU

Zach’s Pick:        SMU

 

Pinstripe (New York City)

12/27 at 5:15pm          

Boston College          (7-5)           vs.              Iowa (7-5)

The draw here is that the game is contested at Yankee Stadium, which I guess is supposed to be cool. Unfortunately for players & fans it’ll also be cold, but I suppose spending Christmas in The Big Apple will be fun for all involved. Zach isn’t a fan of playing a football game in a baseball stadium.

My Pick:     Iowa

Zach’s Pick:        Iowa

 

Foster Farms (Santa Clara, CA)

12/27 at 8:30pm          

Arizona (7-5)               vs.              Purdue (6-6)

In the past this game was known as the Fight Hunger Bowl and the Emerald Bowl. Foster Farms is a California poultry company, which means that they really should call this the Turkey Bowl. The matchup involves middle-of-the-road teams from the Pac 12 & Big Ten, so I suppose one could think of it as a really mediocre version of a Rose Bowl.

My Pick:     Arizona

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona

 

Texas       

12/27 at 9pm

Texas (6-6)                  vs.              Missouri (7-5)

If it were up to me I’d call it the Lone Star Bowl, but no one asked for my opinion. These two teams are better than their record shows, but playing in a competitive conference and having a little bad luck tends to have a negative impact on the numbers. It might end up being a more entertaining game than I’m giving it credit for, which would be fine with me. Zach expects a relatively low scoring defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Texas

Zach’s Pick:        Missouri

 

Military (Annapolis, MD)

12/28 at 1:30pm          

Virginia (6-6)               vs.              Navy (6-6)

I like the idea of a bowl game to honor the military, but it’s probably a bit unfair to have the Midshipmen be playing a home game.

My Pick:     Navy

Zach’s Pick:        Navy

 

Belk (Charlotte, NC)

12/29 at 1pm               

Wake Forest (7-5)                vs.              Texas A&M (7-5)

I’m praying that fans show up to this game with bells that they ring throughout the entire contest. If you don’t know why I’ll point you in the right direction to find the answer. A&M recently fired head coach Kevin Sumlin and hired Jimbo Fisher away from Florida St. That news made quite the splash, but really has no bearing here except for the fact that the Aggies…I assume…will be led by an interim coach. Wake Forest fans should have an easy time traveling 80 miles to cheer their team, and it might be their best opportunity to get a victory over a (perceived) top tier SEC opponent. Zach thinks A&M will have the game in the bag by halftime.

My Pick:     Wake Forest

Zach’s Pick:        Texas A&M

 

Sun (El Paso, TX)

12/29 at 2pm               

NC State (8-4)             vs.              Arizona State (7-5)

The Sun Bowl is the third oldest bowl game and one of the few not telecast by Disney (ESPN/ABC). The Sun Devils will also be playing for an interim coach as former NFL head coach & ESPN commentator Herm Edwards prepares to take the reins in 2018.

My Pick:     NC St.

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona St.

 

Music City (Nashville, TN)

12/29 at 4:30pm         

Kentucky (7-5)            vs.              Northwestern (9-3)

Hey, what do you know…they can do something besides play basketball & race horses in Kentucky!! Unfortunately for fans in the Bluegrass State Northwestern has been an above average program for awhile. One thing is for sure…the Wildcats will win this game.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Zach’s Pick:        Northwestern

 

Arizona

12/29 at 5:30pm         

New Mexico State (6-6)                vs.              Utah State (6-6)

Part of me wants to suggest better names for this game like I did for the New Orleans Bowl, but sadly my creativity is zapped for the moment. All I know is that this is a second-rate game with subpar teams being played at 5:30pm on a Friday. Perhaps they could call it the Who Cares Bowl.

My Pick:     Utah St.

Zach’s Pick:        Utah St.

 

 

 

Tier 2

 

Las Vegas         

12/16 at 3:30pm

Boise State (10-3)      vs.    Oregon (7-5)

Okay NOW we’re getting somewhere!! I’m guessing the players won’t be permitted to roam free thru the plethora of casinos in Sin City, but I am confident that they’ll have plenty of fun. Boise has had the kind of season they usually have…ten wins & the Mountain West title. However, due to the success of Central Florida the Broncos aren’t playing on New Year’s Eve/Day like they’ve become accustomed to doing. The Ducks have fallen off a bit from the days when they were winning 10+ games and competing for the national championship, but were a few games better this year than last. Unfortunately head coach Willie Taggert has already bolted after just one season to take over at Florida St. Zach likes Boise’s defense to make the difference in a close game.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Zach’s Pick:        Boise St.

 

New Mexico       

12/16 at 3:30pm

Marshall (7-5)    vs.    Colorado State (7-5)

Marshall University is my alma mater so I freely admit my bias toward the Thundering Herd. It’s nice to have them back in the post-season after the debacle of 2016. I believe the Rams usually have a high octane offense that scores a lot of points, so this game might be pretty fun to watch. Zach has doubts about Marshall’s ability to win big games.

My Pick:     Marshall

Zach’s Pick:        Colorado St.

 

Gasparilla (St. Petersburg, FL)

12/21 at 8pm               

Temple (6-6)      vs.   Florida International (8-4)

This game was formerly known as the St. Petersburg Bowl and the Beef o’ Brady’s Bowl, so atleast we’re making progress with the name. Gasparilla was an 18th century Spanish pirate that may or may not have actually existed, but apparently he is infamous in the Tampa, FL area and in fact inspired the nickname of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That story alone makes it a much cooler game than the New Orleans, Boca Raton, & Texas Bowls.

My Pick:     FIU

Zach’s Pick:        FIU

 

Bahamas  

12/22 at 12:30pm       

Alabama-Birmingham (8-4)                  vs.    Ohio (8-4)

I’m 45 years old and the closest I’ve ever gotten or likely ever will get to the Bahamas is when I occasionally got snockered on rum back in college, so congrats to these teams for scoring one of the cooler post-season destinations. UAB’s football program has actually been shut down the past couple of years due to financial concerns, but public outcry persuaded the powers-that be to resurrect it, so this is a pretty neat story. I’m sure most fans will be rooting for a positive outcome. So are we.

My Pick:     UAB

Zach’s Pick:        UAB

 

Potato       

12/22 at 4pm (Boise, ID)

Wyoming (7-5)            vs.              Central Michigan (8-4)

The story here will be Cowboys’ quarterback Josh Allen, who is expected to be a first round pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. One would think that if he is that talented he’d be able to lead his team to victory in a bowl game, but Zach doesn’t think that’ll happen.

My Pick:     Wyoming

Zach’s Pick:        Central Michigan

 

Birmingham       

12/23 at Noon             

South Florida (9-2)              vs.              Texas Tech (6-6)

In my pre-season poll I ranked the Bulls 7th and thought they might have an opportunity to go undefeated. That didn’t happen and they aren’t a Top 10 team…but they could still finish in the Top 25 by defeating a team from a “power” conference. Zach never bought into the USF hype, but he thinks their defense can make a difference in this game.

My Pick:     USF

Zach’s Pick:        USF

 

Armed Forces (Fort Worth, TX)

12/23 at 3:30pm          

Army (9-3)          vs.   San Diego State (10-2)

Okay, so we have an Armed Forces Bowl AND a Military Bowl. Seems a bit redundant, but it could be worse. I love the military academies, but I think the Aztecs might have a little too much offense. Zach believes Army’s ground game can dominate time of possession and make the difference in a victory.

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Zach’s Pick:        Army

 

Dollar General (Mobile, AL)

12/23 at 7pm               

Appalachian State (8-4)     vs.   Toledo (11-2)

Atleast Dollar General is a step above former title sponsor Go Daddy.

My Pick:     Toledo

Zach’s Pick:        Toledo

 

 

Hawai’i      

Christmas Eve at 8:30pm

Fresno State (9-4)      vs.   Houston (7-4)

Right up there with The Bahamas as a desirable bowl location is the lovely island of Honolulu. Mele Kalikimaka indeed!!

My Pick:     Houston

Zach’s Pick:        Fresno St.

 

 

Heart of Dallas  

12/26 at 1:30pm

West Virginia (7-5)     vs.    Utah (6-6)

As with my Marshall Thundering Herd I am completely biased when it comes to the Mountaineers. If quarterback Will Greer is able to come back from injury in time to play in this game I think he’ll lead the ‘Eers to an exciting victory. Without Greer it’s going to be tough sledding. I choose to think positively. Zach’s outlook is a bit more pessimistic. He doesn’t believe Greer will be healthy enough to play, and he has no faith in WVU’s defense.

My Pick:     West Virginia

Zach’s Pick:        Utah

 

Quick Lane (Detroit, MI)

12/26 at 5:15pm

Duke (6-6)          vs.             Northern Illinois (8-4)

Every single year, whether it’s called the Motor City Bowl, Little Caesar’s Bowl, or now the Quick Lane Bowl I poke fun at the fact that, while other teams get to go to cool places like Hawaii, The Bahamas, or Las Vegas, there are two teams that are rewarded for allegedly successful seasons with a trip to Detroit. I’ve never been there to be honest though. Perhaps it is nicer than I think?? Feedback is always welcome.

My Pick:     Northern Illinois

Zach’s Pick:        Duke

 

 

Cactus (Phoenix, AZ)

12/26 at 10pm             

UCLA (6-6)         vs.             Kansas State (7-5)

WVU fans were kind of hoping for another trip out west to this game, especially with an opportunity to face Bruins’ quarterback Josh Rosen, who could be the #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Alas, K-State gets that chance. Zach points out that Rosen can be somewhat inconsistent, but thinks he’ll play well in what is basically an NFL audition.

My Pick:     UCLA

Zach’s Pick:        UCLA

 

 

Independence (Shreveport, LA)

12/27 at 1:30pm          

Florida State (6-6)      vs.    Southern Mississippi (8-4)

The Seminoles have been bowl eligible for 36 straight seasons, which I’m pretty sure is some sort of record. However, head coach Jimbo Fisher has already left for Texas A&M, and All-American defensive back Derwin James will not play in the bowl game to protect his NFL Draft status. Despite all of that I have to think that the Golden Eagles would count beating Florida St. in a bowl game amongst their biggest all-time victories. Zach believes the upheaval in Tallahassee may serve as motivation for the team.

My Pick:     Southern Miss

Zach’s Pick:        Florida St.

 

 

Holiday (San Diego, CA)

12/28 at 9pm               

Michigan State (         9-3)            vs.              Washington State (9-3)

The Holiday Bowl has become one of my favorites over the years. Not only has it stubbornly held onto its cool & festive name, but it’s a west coast game which means late night football here in the east. What can I say…I’m easily amused. The Spartans have rebounded nicely from an abysmal 9-3 season in 2016, but the Cougars have top NFL prospect Luke Falk at quarterback. Zach likes Michigan St.’s defense better than he likes Falk.

My Pick:     Washington St.

Zach’s Pick:        Michigan St.

 

 

Gator (Jacksonville, FL)

12/30 at Noon             

Louisville (8-4)            vs.              Mississippi State (8-4)

As has become tradition I refuse to call this game by its corporate name. The Gator Bowl was just dandy for nearly seven decades, and I see no reason to change. 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson had, in my opinion, a fairly quiet season under center for the Cardinals, but he still managed another invite to the Downtown Athletic Club and finished a distant third in this year’s voting. The Bulldogs will be playing for an interim coach after Dan Mullen bounced to Gainesville, FL to helm the Gators.

My Pick:     Louisville

Zach’s Pick:        Louisville

 

Liberty (Memphis, TN)

12/30 at 12:30pm                 

Iowa State (7-5)          vs.              Memphis (10-2)

This is where most Mountaineer fans here in West Virginia wanted their team to play since it would’ve been a fairly easy drive, but the Cyclones got the nod instead. The Tigers have won atleast eight games in four straight seasons, and this is really a home game for them. Zach has high expectations for this to be a really good game.

My Pick:     Memphis

Zach’s Pick:        Memphis

 

Outback (Tampa, FL)

New Year’s Day at Noon              

Michigan (8-4)             vs.              South Carolina (8-4)

For its first eight years this was called the Hall of Fame Bowl, but for the past couple of decades it’s taken on the name of its sponsor Outback Steakhouse. As I’ve made clear I am not a fan of such things, but in this case I can atleast imagine that the game is an homage to Crocodile Dundee or kangaroos & koalas. The Wolverines & Spartans have been participants more than any other teams, so if the matchup seems familiar there’s a reason for that. Surprisingly Zach is picking against his beloved Wolverines because he just doesn’t feel like their offense is good enough.

My Pick:     Michigan

Zach’s Pick:        South Carolina

 

Peach (Atlanta, GA)

New Year’s Day at 12:30pm                  

Auburn (10-3)             vs.              Central Florida (12-0)

I was very tempted to bump this game up to Tier 3. The Tigers were just a whisper away from making the playoff until losing the SEC title game. The Knights are undefeated but getting very little respect because they play in one of those “other” conferences. I’ve been wondering aloud for years why Central Florida hasn’t become more of a collegiate sports powerhouse since the school itself is the largest university in the United States. Perhaps in the next round of conference realignment (you know it’s going to happen) they’ll be invited into the inner sanctum. The question is, despite their spotless record, can UCF compete on a big stage against an athletically superior opponent?? Head coach Scott Frost is leaving for his alma mater Nebraska, where he was a great quarterback in the mid-90’s, but it is my understanding that he might coach UCF one last time in the bowl game. I’d love to pick UCF, and I hope it turns out to be a really fantastic game, but I’m just not sure that’s the way this is going to go. Like me Zach loves what UCF has accomplished but doesn’t think this is a good matchup for them.

My Pick:     Auburn

Zach’s Pick:        Auburn

 

Citrus (Orlando, FL)

New Year’s Day at 1pm                

Notre Dame (9-3)        vs.              LSU (9-3)

The Irish really turned things around this season, improving tremendously from a 4-8 record last year. But let’s not forget the 2016 turmoil for the Bayou Bengals when they were 8-4 but fired their coach just a third of the way thru. Both programs seem to be on more familiar solid ground nowadays, which means that this might be a better game than expected.

My Pick:     LSU

Zach’s Pick:        LSU

 

 

 

Tier 3

 

Camping World (Orlando, FL)

12/28 at 5:15pm

Oklahoma State (9-3)          vs.    Virginia Tech (9-3)

This game was formerly known as the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Micron PC Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, & Russell Athletic Bowl. It’s had as many corporate sponsors as the Kardashians have had pro athlete boy toys. Despite my hatred for bowls with such names I cannot deny that the matchup is terrific. In my pre-season poll I ranked the Hokies 18th and had the Cowboys in the playoff conversation at 3rd. OK St. fell far short of my expectations, while VA Tech isn’t too far from where I predicted. My Mountaineers were a common opponent, unfortunately losing to both teams. The Hokies began the season by beating WVU by a touchdown, while the Cowboys won a high scoring shootout over the ‘Eers. I’d take the over on this one…if I was a gambling man.

My Pick:     Oklahoma St.

Zach’s Pick:        Oklahoma St.

 

Alamo (San Antonio, TX)

Dec. 28 at 9pm

Stanford (9-4)              vs.              TCU (10-3)

While neither team was ever a serious playoff contender they both played in their conference title games, where they came up short. Stanford running back Bryce Love has burst onto the scene and finished second in the Heisman race, which deserves props. This game is on at the same time as the Holiday Bowl, so I foresee a fun night of channel flipping in my future. Maybe I should buy some batteries. Zach thinks Love will have a big game.

My Pick:     Stanford

Zach’s Pick:        Stanford

 

Cotton (Arlington, TX)

12/29 at 8:30pm

Ohio State (11-2)                  vs.              USC (11-2)

I am shamelessly old-fashioned, and when I was a kid New Year’s Day meant the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, & Fiesta bowls were on. Those were the five best bowls then, and that’s what they remain in my mind. But with the playoff and a bunch of other factors all bets are off and nothing is like it once was. Progress?? I don’t know. Anyway, it weirds me out that this game is being played three days earlier than what I perceive as normal, but I’m sure no one important gives a rat’s petoot about my opinion. Did Ohio St. get screwed out of a playoff spot?? Well, on one hand I find it troubling that conference titles mean nothing to the committee. By definition one of the “power” conference champs will always be left on the outside looking in, and this year two of them didn’t make it, which feels wrong. On the other hand, the Buckeyes didn’t do themselves any favors when they got beat down by 30 points at Iowa last month. The committee could have overlooked the early season loss to Oklahoma, but such a resounding defeat to a mediocre opponent apparently made a huge difference, and wins against Army & UNLV didn’t help. The powers-that-be in Columbus have to do better when putting together the schedule. The Trojans, despite winning the Pac 12 title, weren’t serious playoff contenders due to a 35 point loss at Notre Dame in October. However, they’re riding a five game winning streak and QB Sam Darnold could be a first round pick if he declares for the NFL Draft. I expect this to be a moderately high scoring game…something with both teams hovering around 28-35 point range…with turnovers and (sadly) officiating making a difference. Zach is just thrilled that Ohio St. didn’t make the playoff.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Zach’s Pick:        USC

 

Fiesta (Glendale, AZ)

12/30 at 4pm

Washington (10-2)     vs.              Penn State (10-2)

I bumped this game up to Tier 3 specifically because of the presence of Nittany Lions’ running back Saquon Barkley. At one point he was the clear leader for the Heisman Trophy, and I took it for granted that he’d atleast be invited to New York. However, the Heisman is a numbers award, and Barkley only topped 100 yards rushing in four games. I still believe he’s the best running back in college football, and I’ll be interested to see what he can do in the NFL behind a legit offensive line, but I understand why he fell out of favor with the talking heads. The Huskies are a pretty darn good team too, so this game could be a lot of fun. Zach isn’t nearly as enthusiastic as me because he feels like both teams have been vastly overrated.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Zach’s Pick:        Penn St.

 

Orange (Miami, FL)

12/30 at 8pm

Miami (10-2)                vs.              Wisconsin (12-1)

Both teams fell short in their conference title games, so this is essentially a consolation game for just missing the playoff. The Badgers haven’t gotten much respect all season, but with early season victories over Utah St., Florida Atlantic, & BYU (teams with a combined total record of 20-18) I understand why folks have been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Still, if they would have beaten Ohio St. for the Big Ten championship and finished undefeated they would have probably made the playoff. The ‘Canes finished the season by dropping two games, including the ACC championship. But before that they vaguely resembled The U of the 80’s & 90’s. Miami is flash & speed, Wisconsin is old fashioned smashmouth football…a definite clash of styles. Both of us think size will outlast speed.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Zach’s Pick:        Wisconsin

 

Rose (Pasadena, CA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 5 p.m.

Oklahoma          (12-1)         vs.              Georgia (12-1)

The first playoff semi features Heisman Trophy winning QB Baker Mayfield versus the SEC Champions. I’ve seen no shortage of people comparing Mayfield to former Heisman winner and NFL bust Johnny Manziel. However, as much as it pains me to say it since he does seem like kind of a prick, in my opinion Mayfield has a Bret Favre vibe. Keep in mind that Favre was a 2nd round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons before being traded to the Green Bay Packers, and you know the rest. Mayfield obviously has a higher profile than Favre did coming out of Southern Mississippi, but there are doubts about how his talent may fit into the NFL. At any rate, casual fans are probably more familiar with Oklahoma than Georgia because, despite spending some time at #1 this season, the Bulldogs have kind of flown under the radar a bit. I expect this game to be really enjoyable and very close, with turnovers & special teams making the difference. Zach believes in the old maxim that defense wins championships, and he thinks Georgia has a better defense.

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Zach’s Pick:        Georgia

 

Sugar (New Orleans, LA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 8:45 p.m.

Clemson (12-1)           vs.              Alabama (11-1)

In case you may have forgotten, this is a rematch of the past two national championship games. ‘Bama beat Clemson by five points a couple of years ago, and Clemson won with a last second touchdown a year ago. Does Alabama even deserve to be in this game?? It’s an interesting debate. I don’t like how the playoff committee has essentially rendered conference titles meaningless. The Tide didn’t lose the SEC championship game…they didn’t even play in it. But Ohio St,’s incomprehensible mid-season loss to Iowa was deemed to be a bigger faux pas than Alabama’s fairly close loss to Auburn. I don’t totally agree with the logic, but I understand it. I honestly thought that Clemson would decline just a little after QB Deshaun Watson moved on to the NFL, but the defending national champions have looked even more impressive this year. I’m not sure what happened at Syracuse back in mid-October, but that game was definitely an anomaly. I’m kind of tired of the Alabama hype myself, although I recognize that’s a fringe viewpoint. Conversely, I really like Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who seems like a genuinely good dude. Zach feels like ‘Bama has had some extra time to get healthy, and he just can’t go against Coach Saban.

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

 

 

National Championship (Atlanta GA)

January 8 at 8pm

My title game is Clemson vs. Oklahoma. Zach has Georgia vs. Alabama. ‘Bama has been there before (many times), and Saban’s experience in big games is the difference maker in Zach’s opinion. I also think coaching is a huge factor. I never thought Oklahoma would be so successful under first year head coach Lincoln Riley. The future is bright in Norman, OK if they can find a solid replacement at quarterback next season, but in this game I can’t overlook that this is Clemson’s third straight appearance and I think that experience is the deciding factor.

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 8

I’m on the ball this week, and we aren’t even picking any Thursday games. This is what happens when I get the proper amount of sleep. At any rate, I was looking back at my NFL Preview, where I stated that “in light of all the absurdity happening in the world these days it’s good to know that we can curl up on the couch watching football and forget about life for awhile” and also opined that “football is a uniter, not a divider”. Well…it seemed like an appropriate thought process at the time lol. As far as last week goes, I was 4-4 while Zach was 4-5. I still can’t figure out LSU or the Atlanta Falcons, and Zach fell prey to his dislike for Ohio St. In the next few weeks Heisman hype will be heating up, and in my opinion Penn St. RB Saquon Barkley has to be the favorite, though he’ll need to perform well against Michigan, Ohio St., & Michigan St. in the next few weeks. QBs Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) & Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma St.) will face each other on November 4th, and Ohio St. signal caller JT Barrett could potentially play his way into an invitation to New York. 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson looks unlikely to be a serious candidate this season. Okay, y’all came here for some picks, so let’s do it.

My Season:         23-19

Z’s Season:           23-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa State                    at      Texas Tech (-5.5)

The 4-2 Cyclones are riding a two game winning streak and are still in the Big 12 title conversation. It helps that they upset Oklahoma a few weeks ago. The 4-2 Red Raiders have lost 2 out of 3 after a hot start to the season and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against my WV Mountaineers last weekend. They’ve scored more than 40 points in every game but one, while Iowa St. is only slightly less prolific. If you are looking to…invest…in this game I would strongly suggest taking the over. I expect a high scoring track meet with little defensive impact, and The Vibes are telling me that the underdogs are going to overcome the odds. Conversely, although he believes they’ll be tested, Zach likes Tech to rebound from last week’s tough loss.

My Pick:     Iowa St.

Z’s Pick:     Texas Tech

 

 

Tennessee        at      Alabama (-34.5)

I consulted multiple sources to make sure that huge point spread was indeed accurate, and it is. I’m a bit stunned. Spreads like that aren’t unheard of in college football, but it usually involves a powerhouse going up against a significantly inferior 1-AA opponent, not two conference foes. Are the 3-3 Vols really THAT bad?? They were defeated 41-0 by Georgia a few weeks ago, but that is by far their worst loss. To be honest I’m kind of bored with Alabama. They’ve been so good for so long that there’s no drama. A bad season for them is one loss and losing in the national championship game. Sure it’s great for their fans, but outside of that state they are a team that everybody respects but no one really likes anymore. Anyway, I certainly don’t expect Tennessee to win the game (although stranger things have happened), but can they keep it closer than five TDs?? As a fan I sure hope so. Zach agrees, but for a different reason. He thinks ‘Bama coach Nick Saban will respectfully call off the dogs before the 34 point threshold is reached.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Tennessee

 

 

USC                     at      Notre Dame (-3.5)

With all the conference realignment that’s been a part of upheaval in college football the past decade several traditional rivalries have been lost. The Backyard Brawl (Pitt/WV), Oklahoma vs. Nebraska, Texas vs. Texas A&M, & The Border War (Kansas/Missouri) have all gone away, and that’s a shame. Another rivalry that fell by the wayside a few years ago was Notre Dame vs. Michigan, but fortunately the Irish have kept USC on the schedule and both teams currently reside just outside the Top Ten. The Trojans were my pre-season #1, but a loss at Washington St. last month has taken them out of playoff contention for now. Notre Dame is a very quiet 5-1, with only a tight loss to Georgia besmirching their record. The Irish are getting the customary home field bump, but I think Southern Cal is the better team. Zach agrees and likes the Trojans by a touchdown.

My Pick:     USC

Z’s Pick:     USC

 

 

NY Jets               at      Miami (-3.5)

A few months ago this seemed like a totally unappealing matchup. I predicted the Jets to go 3-13, while I had the Dolphins at a respectable 8-8 but still finishing well behind the Patriots in the AFC East. Now here we are in mid-October. The Jets have already won three games and Miami is tied with New England…one game behind Buffalo in the division. So this game is actually meaningful. Some may not remember, but these two franchises have played in some of the most thrilling games in NFL history. Back in the 80’s & 90’s Jets-Dolphins was Must-See TV. Perhaps, sensing that New England may in fact be more vulnerable than anyone knew, this rivalry will kick it up a notch. One can dream, right?? I’m hoping for a high scoring contest that spills into overtime. If that happens then the likelihood of a field goal deciding things is high, meaning that the points might be too much. Zach also thinks it’ll be a close game, but he likes Miami to get the job done.

My Pick:     NY Jets

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

Dallas (-6)           at      San Francisco

Maybe I’m just feeling nostalgic, because this also was a tremendous rivalry back in my youth. And while the Cowboys have consistently been good most of the time since then, the 49ers have had some rough patches, especially the past few years. Right now Dallas is struggling a bit at 2-3, and ‘Frisco is off to a terrible 0-6 start. To be fair though two of those games went into overtime and five losses have been by a total of 13 points, so they aren’t necessarily as horrible as it may seem. I have a feeling they’ll be choosing a quarterback with that Top 5 pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. Meanwhile, I’m not sure whether Cowboys’ running back Zeke Elliott will be playing or not. His legal battle with the NFL has dragged on longer than the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election. Armed with the information I have, The Vibes are telling me than an upset is in order. Zach disagrees and believes the Cowboys will win easily.

My Pick:     San Francisco

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 1

We’re baaaaaaccccckkkk. I sincerely hope The Manoverse considers that a good thing, although I know there are those that don’t particularly enjoy sports related topics. Be patient. Y’all know that The Manofesto is a cornucopia where we discuss all kinds of stuff, and I will do my best to not focus solely on football for the next five months. This will be my 6th season making these picks, while my nephew Zach joins me for the fifth time. I finished 2016 with a record of 54-49 (a 52% winning percentage), while Zach struggled a bit and finished at 38-65 (37%). As always Week 1 is all about college football since the NFL hasn’t began its season just yet. Fortunately, because of the College Football Playoff, teams are bulking up their schedules with better early season non-conference games, and we fans are the beneficiaries. There are a couple of monster matchups on the opening weekend, so it wasn’t difficult to choose which games to pick. Let me remind you that Zach & I do not have any money riding on these games and I do not encourage gambling, but if that is an activity that frosts your cupcake and you have the disposable income while still paying your bills & feeding your family then go right ahead and do what you enjoy. Just don’t put too much stock in what you read here…we’re not very good at this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYU           vs.    LSU (-12.5)

Hurricane Harvey has forced this “neutral site” game, originally to be played in Houston, TX, to the New Orleans Superdome, meaning that it’s not so neutral anymore. I don’t think it makes much of a difference though. The Cougars are coming off of a solid 8-4 season and have already played a game last weekend, beating 1-AA Portland St. in unimpressive fashion. Equaling 2016’s record might be the best BYU can aspire to. The Bayou Bengals also finished last year at 8-4 in a season in which they fired their longtime head coach. RB Leonard Fournette has moved on to the NFL, which isn’t necessarily disastrous for LSU because honestly, he rarely lived up to the hype in my opinion. They probably aren’t winning their conference or even their division, but the boys from Baton Rouge shouldn’t have any problems winning this game. Zach thinks it’ll be a blowout.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

California           at      North Carolina (-12.5)

I’d have to do research to know for sure (and that ain’t happening), but it seems like a rare occurrence that the Pac 12 and ACC meet up during the regular season. The Golden Bears were an atrocious 5-7 last year, while the Tar Heels were 8-5. QB Mitch Trubisky & WR Ryan Switzer have both left Chapel Hill behind for the NFL, and that concerns me a little, especially for the first game of the season. I’m not bold enough to predict an outright upset, but the points feel like a bit much to me. Zach doesn’t foresee a blowout, but believes Carolina will win by a comfortable enough margin.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     UNC

 

 

 

Texas A&M        at      UCLA (-3)

After losing starting QB Josh Rosen to a shoulder injury in 2016 the Bruins nosedived to a 4-8 record, but Rosen is back and I expect him to be a first round NFL Draft pick next spring. The Aggies started off strong last season but struggled in the second half, limping to an 8-5 finish. They are without the services of defensive end Myles Garrett, who was chosen #1 overall by the Cleveland Browns. UCLA gets just a slight home field bump from the oddsmakers, but I don’t believe it’ll be that close. Zach likes A&M well enough but can’t overlook the home field advantage.

My Pick:     UCLA

Z’s Pick:     UCLA

 

 

 

Michigan (-5)     vs.    Florida

Michigan might be getting more love and national title hype if a) they didn’t have to replace ¾ of last season’s starters, and b) they didn’t play in the same conference as Ohio St. & Penn St. I expect a slight dropoff for the Wolverines from last year’s 10-3 record, though I still consider them a Top 25 team. Florida plays in the SEC, which might not be as good as in year’s past, but it’s still a pretty tough road. The Gators were 9-4 in 2016 and would probably be more than satisfied to equal that mark this season. This is a neutral site game being played at The Palace in Dallas, which atleast will make it fun to watch on TV. I think the oddsmakers have nailed this one. It’ll be competitive, but Michigan will win by a touchdown. Zach is a huge Michigan fan, but is shocking the world by predicting an upset.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Florida State      vs.    Alabama (-7.5)

Wow, what a huge game on the opening weekend!! Kudos to both teams. Alabama has won four national championships since 2010 and lost last season’s title game to Clemson on a touchdown pass in the final seconds. The Seminoles haven’t won a national title since 2013 but are always in the conversation. The winner of this game will emerge as the undisputed #1 team in the land, although the loser will still have a decent chance to make the playoff. It’s another neutral site game, this time emanating from the brand spankin’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This is a battle of wits between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher. I am expecting a low scoring, smashmouth defensive struggle, with a couple of big plays making the difference. I’m not brave enough to predict the outright upset, but I do think the game will be decided by less than a touchdown. Zach loves Saban and thinks the Tide will roll by two TDs.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

2017 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

With the exception of the Thanksgiving-Christmas corridor this might be my favorite time of year. Anticipation is at its zenith and the possibilities are endless. Just looking at the schedules has me amped up, especially for two or three weekends when the lineup looks to be especially loaded. Whenever I begin this process I almost always get The Vibes, and the word that keeps popping into my head at the moment is parity. It is unlikely that any team gets thru their season unbeaten, and it’s entirely possible that a team with 2 or 3 losses sneaks into the playoff. Saturdays are going to be as glorious as usual this autumn, if only I can stay awake to watch the games. 16 of the 25 teams I have ranked here had 10 or more victories last season, and a few more won 9 games. Who will shockingly fall off the map?? Who will do a complete turnaround and climb out of the abyss of losing seasons into the Top 25?? Only time will tell, and what follows represents my best guess based solely on minimal research & decades as a dedicated fan, not any sort of insider knowledge. Perhaps we’ll look back in a few months and laugh at my foolishness, or maybe…just maybe…I will prove my worth as a bona fide guru. Who knows??

 

 

 

 

 

1          USC

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Stanford, 10/21 at Notre Dame, 11/18 vs. UCLA

Honestly, the schedule doesn’t look all that daunting for a top tier team, and with Heisman Trophy contender Sam Darnold behind center I don’t think we’ll see the Trojans go backward. Clay Helton is firmly entrenched as the head coach, providing consistency that the program has been lacking in recent years. If any big time powerhouse has a legit chance to go undefeated this is the one, and at the very least anything short of a playoff appearance will be a huge disappointment.

 

 

2          Penn State

Last Season:             11-3

Key Games:              10/21 vs. Michigan, 10/28 at Ohio St.

Last season’s Rose Bowl was probably the best post-season game other than the national championship. USC bested the Nittany Lions 52-49 on a last second field goal, and in many people’s minds it was a harbinger of fantastic things to come for both teams. The Sandusky/Paterno kerfuffle seems to be in the rear view mirror for Penn St., and while we could engage in endless sociopolitical commentary about all of that there is no doubt that moving past the fallout is good for the football program. There are two Heisman contenders in Happy Valley…QB Trace McSorely & RB Saquon Barkley…and, while I’m no expert, I have to believe that bodes well for the team’s chances of success. They’ll have to face the Buckeyes in Columbus, but Michigan will be a home game. If the Lions can split those two huge games I think they just might be national title contenders.

 

 

3          Oklahoma State

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              10/21 at Texas, 11/4 vs. Oklahoma

Surprise!! While the other team in Oklahoma usually gets all of the attention (and still will this year) the Cowboys have been pretty successful, racking up 10 or more wins in five of the past seven seasons. QB Mason Rudolph returns for his senior season, and it feels like he may be flying under the radar just like his team. That’s probably fine with the folks in Stillwater. Don’t be surprised if this is the team that comes out on the positive end of Bedlam, and I think they might even have an outside shot at perfection.

 

 

4          Florida State

Last Season:             10-3   

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Alabama, 9/16 vs. Miami (FL), 11/11 at Clemson

The season opener against Alabama will obviously set a tone for the season. That game is a neutral site contest in Atlanta and is the highlight of college football’s first weekend. A win would set the Seminoles on a course for a playoff appearance, but I don’t think a loss would be fatal. They’re still the favorites to win the ACC.

 

 

5          Ohio State

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Oklahoma, 10/28 vs. Penn St., 11/25 at Michigan

The Buckeyes still have JT Barrett behind center, and that gives them an immediate advantage. They did lose seven players to the NFL, but that’s nothing to an elite program. The second weekend of games will be highlighted by Ohio St. against Oklahoma, but it’s in Columbus and, while the talking heads will do their best to pump up the hype machine, I really don’t think it’ll be much of a contest. Penn St. will visit Columbus right before Halloween & a showdown in The Big House wraps up the regular season, and it is in one of these games that I expect Ohio St.’s playoff dreams to be dashed.

 

 

6          Alabama

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Florida St., 11/4 vs. LSU, 11/25 at Auburn

I’m a non-conformist so I rarely do what everybody else does…rank ‘Bama #1. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. They may win or they may lose the season opener against Florida St., but The Voices are telling me that the true waterloo for the Tide will come in November against an archrival…either LSU or Auburn. Maybe both. A one or two loss Alabama would almost certainly still be in the playoff conversation, but I think they’ll fall short of the goal.

 

 

7          South Florida

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/15 vs. Illinois, 11/4 vs. Houston

Charlie Strong wasn’t deemed good enough to get the job done for Texas, but he’s moved on and found himself in a good situation. The American Athletic Conference doesn’t get much respect, but someone’s going to win it and the Bulls seem to be receiving all the buzz despite a coaching change that would normally be cause for apprehension. They’ll need to go undefeated to rank this high, and I don’t believe that to be an unreasonable expectation.

 

 

8          Georgia

Last Season:             8-5

Key Games:              9/9 at Notre Dame, 9/30 at Tennessee, 10/28 vs. Florida

It’s season 2 for Kirby Smart as the head coach in Athens, and I think his team will be more successful than they were last year. Obviously the SEC is extremely competitive, but if the Bulldogs can win a couple of the noted key games a Top 10 finish isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Running back Nick Chubb passed up being a likely first round NFL Draft pick to return for his senior season, a huge positive. A Georgia-Alabama conference title game could be really fun.

 

 

9          Wisconsin

Last Season:             11-3

Key Games:              10/7 at Nebraska, 11/18 vs. Michigan

I’m a little nervous about this one because the Big Ten is so tough. Can they really land three teams in the Top 10? And if so, is this the right third team?? I’ve left Nebraska, Northwestern, & Iowa out of this Top 25 altogether, but they’re always dangerous opponents. I’m betting that the Badgers get by all of them, meaning that a mid-November clash with Michigan…in Wisconsin…might decide a spot in the conference title game.

 

 

10        Auburn

Last Season:             8-5

Key Games:              9/9 at Clemson, 10/14 at LSU, 11/11 vs. Georgia, 11/25 vs. Alabama

The Tigers have been a bit off the radar the past few years since winning the national championship in 2010 and losing the title game in 2013. They are 23-16 over the past three seasons. Not bad, but not remarkable either. Exceeding mediocrity will be a tall order this season. They’ll need to pull off upsets in a couple of the games I have noted, but doing so would surely make them a solid Top 10 team.

 

 

11        Oklahoma

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/9 at Ohio St., 10/14 vs. Texas, 11/4 at Oklahoma St.

QB Baker Mayfield will get a lot of Heisman hype early in the season, but I’m just a bit uneasy about the sudden departure of head coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners will have superior talent on the field as they always do, and all indications are that new coach Lincoln Riley is a bright young mind who probably would’ve been a head coach somewhere sooner rather than later anyway, but I just don’t foresee a team undergoing such a coaching change contending for a national championship, especially with a daunting early season battle on the road in Columbus, OH. There’s also the fact that the Big 12 is expected to be as competitive this season as it’s been in awhile. Oklahoma will be a good team, but I think they’ll be on the losing end of one or two games that most wouldn’t expect them to lose.

 

 

12        Washington

Last Season:             12-2

Key Games:              9/23 at Colorado, 10/28 vs. UCLA, 11/25 vs. Washington St.

The Huskies were a playoff team last season and QB Jake Browning returns for his junior year. That’s good enough for me to take this team seriously. Barring any surprising losses it feels like Washington should be the favorite in their division to get a shot at the Pac 12 title, but I think that’s the ceiling. Any unexpected stumbles along the way could cause a rapid tumble down the rankings.

 

 

13        Louisville

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/16 vs. Clemson, 10/21 at Florida St.

Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson returns under center, and while there’s no denying that he’s a dynamic player the fact is that he’s not going to sneak up on anyone this year. Even going back to last season it seems like opponents began to figure him out since the Cardinals lost three straight to end the year, including a beatdown in the Citrus Bowl at the hands of LSU. Having said all of that, I think a 9 win season is possible. Keep an eye on the games against Clemson & Florida State. I expect both to be losses, but if they’re competitive contests it’ll go a long way toward earning Louisville respect.

 

 

14        Clemson

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              11/11 vs. Florida St.

Replacing a starting quarterback might be just as daunting as rebooting things under a new head coach. I am a huge fan of Deshaun Watson, who is now plying his trade in the NFL with the Houston Texans, and I don’t believe he’ll be easily forgotten (he should’ve won the Heisman Trophy last year). I have no doubt that the defending national champions will just reload at most positions, and head coach Dabo Sweeney is the real deal, but I think the Tigers will taste bitter defeat at the hands of archrival Florida St., and will probably be upset in atleast one other game.

 

 

15        Michigan

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Florida, 10/21 at Penn St., 11/25 vs. Ohio St.

When Jim Harbaugh was hired as the Wolverines’ head coach back in 2015 I predicted that they’d be “legitimate national championship contenders within three years”. However, faced with the task of replacing about 75% of the starting rotations on both sides of the ball I think it might be wise to dial back expectations just a bit. They have Ohio St. at The Big House in Ann Arbor, but must travel to Happy Valley to face Penn St. Another 10 win season would be phenomenal in a stacked Big Ten…anything more than that is probably wishful thinking.

 

 

16        West Virginia

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/3 vs. Virginia Tech, 10/28 vs. Oklahoma St., 11/18 vs. Texas, 11/25 at Oklahoma

Expectations are high for the Mountaineers, atleast here in West Virginia. The long awaited debut of QB Will Grier, a transfer from Florida who had to sit out last season, is imminent, and he’ll have no shortage of weapons, including RBs Kennedy McCoy & Justin Crawford and WRs Juvon Durante & KaRaun White. The X factor is the defense, which must replace the entire front line and cornerback Rasul Douglas, who has moved on to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. The optimism probably doesn’t spread too far outside the Mountain State, but that’s alright…we’re used to everyone underestimating us in all walks of life. West Virginia MUST beat archrival Virginia Tech in the season opener, and then pull off atleast one upset in big games against celebrated conference rivals.

 

 

17        Boise St.

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              10/6 at BYU, 11/11 at Colorado St.

The Broncos are what they are. They’ll win 9 or 10 games, play for the conference title, and try to surprise everyone by upsetting a team from a “power” conference in a bowl game. But wait…Boise HASN’T played for the Mountain West championship or in a bowl game that people actually watch since 2014. Can they rebound this year?? I think so.

 

 

18        Virginia Tech

Last Season:             10-4

Key Games:              9/3 vs. West Virginia, 9/30 vs. Clemson, 11/4 at Miami (FL)

In his first season as the Hokies’ head coach Justin Fuente led his team to 10 wins and spot in the conference title game. Can that success be duplicated in 2017?? Maybe. The ACC isn’t a cakewalk by any stretch, and a neutral site season opener against my WV Mountaineers won’t be an automatic win. The difference in Tech’s season will be whether they win 7/8 games or 9/10 games. Either is possible.

 

 

19        Florida

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Michigan, 10/7 vs. LSU, 10/28 vs. Georgia, 11/25 vs. Florida St.

It wasn’t that long ago that almost every team would open the season with a couple of easy games against cupcake opponents, the result usually being a 65-10 snoozefest that accomplished nothing except filling the coffers of the overmatched losing team. However, with the advent of the four team playoff strength of schedule has become a point of emphasis. One wouldn’t think that teams from the heralded SEC would need to concern themselves with such matters, but it looks like they’re not taking any chances. The Gators begin their season at The Palace in Dallas against Michigan. The winner will probably be vaulted into the Top 10, the loser will have to battle back. Either way Florida will have a tough road after that first game, and they’ll need to upset a couple of conference opponents to finish as a ranked team.

 

 

20        Texas

Last Season:             5-7

Key Games:              9/16 at USC, 10/14 vs. Oklahoma, 10/21 vs. Oklahoma St.

Here’s what I find interesting. IF the South Florida Bulls do as well as most are predicting in Charlie Strong’s first year as head coach there, what does it say about his ability?? And IF the Longhorns bounce back from a long stretch of mediocrity as well, does credit have to be given to new head coach Tom Herman, or will it be because Strong recruited well and the suits in Austin pulled the plug on him too soon?? It’s a conversation I’ll be looking forward to throughout the season. I don’t think Texas is going to suddenly be a threat to win 10 games or compete for the Big 12 title, but if they can pull off an upset or two, play Southern Cal tough in the opener, and ultimately win 8 games I think this spot would be well earned.

 

 

21        Stanford

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/9 at USC, 9/23 vs. UCLA, 11/10 vs. Washington, 11/25 vs. Notre Dame

Contrary to what the folks in SEC territory would have us believe I happen to think that the Big Ten & Pac 12 are the toughest football conferences in America. Stanford always seems to be in the mix near the top, and I have no reason to foresee anything different this season. They’ll need to score a couple of big upsets, and the fact that 3 of the 4 key games I have noted are being played in Palo Alto should certainly help the cause. Look for an 8 or 9 win season and a ranking somewhere in the lower portion of the Top 25.

 

 

22        LSU

Last Season:             8-4

Key Games:              10/7 at Florida, 10/14 vs. Auburn, 11/4 at Alabama

Allow me to say something controversial. I think Leonard Fournette was an overrated college running back that will have a relatively short and very average NFL career. There…I said it!! At any rate, I don’t believe Fournette’s departure will have that much of an impact on the Bayou Bengals. Actually it may help not having him as a distraction. What doesn’t help is a schedule that includes trips to The Swamp and Tuscaloosa. 9 wins and a 3rd place finish in their division looks like the ceiling, and that’d be good enough to finish as a ranked team. Head coach Ed Orgeron is firmly entrenched as the head coach for now, but I have to believe that he’s on a short leash. He’ll get two seasons to prove his worth, and probably needs to win 8 or 9 games each year.

 

 

23        Miami (FL)

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/16 at Florida St., 11/4 vs. Virginia Tech, 11/11 vs. Notre Dame

Head coach Mark Richt acquitted himself quite nicely in his first season in Coral Gables, as the ‘Canes continue to hover on the fringes of their former glory. With the ACC raising the bar and being one of the better conferences I have a difficult time seeing them making any kind of significant leap in 2017. However, if they can win a couple of key games and beat all of the teams they’re supposed to defeat I don’t think equaling last year’s success is an unreasonable expectation.

 

 

24        UCLA

Last Season:             4-8    

Key Games:              9/23 at Stanford, 10/28 at Washington, 11/18 at USC

Despite recent comments that “football and school don’t go together” (a statement that might contain a kernel of truth but should never be verbalized) I like QB Josh Rosen. He’ll be a first round NFL draft pick next spring, and his importance became clear when the Bruins lost 4 out of their final 5 games when Rosen suffered a season ending shoulder injury last year. The Pac 12 is super tough, but I think UCLA flips the script and wins 8 games.

 

 

25          Notre Dame

Last Season:             4-8

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Georgia, 10/21 vs. USC, 11/11 at Miami (FL), 11/25 at Stanford

Surely the beloved Fighting Irish won’t finish with a losing record two years in a row?? If they could pull off one…or two…upsets sneaking into the rankings seems like a solid possibility. Conversely, another bad year might mean the end of the road for head coach Brian Kelly.

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2017 NFL Mock Draft

After doing my first ever mock draft(s) back in 2014 and then trying again the following season I took last year off. I was recovering from surgery and just had too much occupying my mind. But we’re back baby!! I’m doing something a little different this time, a decision that is contrary to what typically defines me as a fan. My fantasy football buddies know that I love to tinker. Wheelin’ & dealin’ is a huge part of the fun for me. However, in putting together this mock draft I’ve decided not to do any imaginary trades. The only trades reflected here are the ones that have already been made in reality. I expect that there will be some deals done during the actual draft, but eliminating such speculation here concurrently simplifies the process while challenging my inner nature. The pool of prospects is deep this time so we’re doing a three round mock. My methodology is a hybrid of what I believe is likely to happen mixed with my own take on what teams should actually do. As always I have no inside knowledge about salary cap issues, contract negotiations, & what players may or may not do or where they may go in the future. The NFL Draft is educated randomness, but I’ll be darned if it’s not a lot of fun.

 

 

 

Round 1

 

1       Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett – DE – Texas A&M

No one believes that there’s a quarterback in this draft worth the #1 overall pick, and the Browns are understandably a little gun shy given their poor quarterback track record in the past couple of decades. Ideally they’d trade out of this spot, but usually the only teams looking to move up this far are looking for a franchise signal caller, and that’s not going to happen. So Cleveland is likely to utilize the “best player available” strategy, and Garrett is the clear cut best player in the draft, a guy I’ve seen compared to recently retired Broncos LB/DE Demarcus Ware. If Garrett really is that good he’s certainly worth the top choice.

 

2       San Francisco 49ers

Reuben Foster – LB – Alabama

Don’t be surprised if ‘Frisco trades down out of this spot. I think it’s still too early for a quarterback, and even if they do draft one at some point it’s likely that Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley will be starting most of the 2017 season. Better to address other needs with this choice, and Foster is a safe pick.

 

3       Chicago Bears

Malik Hooker – S – Ohio St.

Jay Cutler isn’t going to be behind center in Chicago this season. That job will be held by Mike Glennon, formerly of the Buccaneers. He’s probably not a long term solution, but he is good enough for the Bears not to reach for a quarterback with this selection. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey has bolted for Philadelphia, but with Eddie Royal, free agent arrivals Kendall Wright & Markus Wheaton, and 2015 first round pick Kevin White (finally healthy after two different leg injuries) receiver isn’t a need. Hooker is an immediate upgrade at safety.

 

4       Jacksonville Jaguars

Jonathan Allen – DT – Alabama

Calais Campbell was signed away from the Cardinals in free agency, and I think this addition would make the Jags’ defensive line quite formidable.

 

5       Tennessee Titans (from LA Rams)

Corey Davis – WR – Western Michigan

Tennessee has this pick as a result of a trade wherein the Rams moved up to the #1 overall slot to pick QB Jared Goff in 2016. Quarterback Marcus Mariota doesn’t have a top notch receiver to throw to on the current roster, so Davis seems like a logical choice.

 

6       New York Jets

Haason Reddick – LB – Temple

The Jets have whiffed on quarterbacks Geno Smith and…probably…Christian Hackenburg & Bryce Petty, although the jury is still out on those two. Josh McNown is the likely starter in 2017. The question is…is that okay?? Might they still sign a free agent signal caller or make a trade?? Either way, they should be about as hesitant as the Browns to roll the dice this early on a quarterback. Signing Morris Claiborne away from the Cowboys probably negates the need to choose a cornerback in this spot.  Reddick has been steadily moving up most draft boards, and he fulfills a need.

 

7       Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams – WR – Clemson

It still seems odd to say that…the LA Chargers. Although younger fans might not be aware that the Chargers originated in the old AFL in 1960 in Los Angeles before relocating to San Diego a year later. At any rate, this could be an interesting spot to take a quarterback and let him learn for a year or two behind Philip Rivers, who is 35 years old and known to not be a big fan of the move to Los Angeles. However, I don’t think they’ll pull the trigger just yet. Free agent Russell Okung moves down from Seattle to plug a massive hole at tackle, so there’s no need to reach for that position. Instead, Williams gives Rivers another weapon to go along with receiver Keenan Allen, RB Melvin Gordon, and tight ends Antonio Gates & Hunter Henry.

 

8       Carolina Panthers

Dalvin Cook – RB – Florida St.

Free agent Julius Peppers bolted Green Bay for the warmer climate of Carolina, so that fulfills a need on the defensive line. Matt Khalil has left Minnesota to join his brother Ryan on Carolina’s offensive line, which takes care of that issue. Are the Panthers comfortable with 30 year old Jonathan Stewart leading the rushing attack, backed up by Fozzy Whitaker & Cameron Payne?? Well, if necessary I am sure they’d live with it…but it’s not necessary. Cook is probably the most well-rounded running back in the draft, and I think he gets the nod.

 

9       Cincinnati Bengals

Solomon Thomas – DE – Stanford

Many pundits have Thomas as the second best prospect in the draft, so if he’s available at this point the Bengals will sprint to the stage to make the pick. He has been compared to Rams’ end Aaron Donald, and if he lives up to that evaluation Cincinnati will be quite happy with the choice for the next decade.

 

10     Buffalo Bills

Marshon Lattimore – CB – Ohio St.

The Bills lost cornerback Stephon Gilmore in free agency, so why not replace him with this pick?? Lattimore might even be an upgrade.

 

11     New Orleans Saints

Ryan Ramczyk – OT – Wisconsin

The Saints might consider replacing receiver Brandin Cooks, who they traded to New England. I think they’ll do that…just not yet. It is entirely possible that the Saints try to trade down…or even trade up…because this is a tough spot. With Lattimore already off the board cornerback is a reach here. My philosophy?? When in doubt upgrade the offensive line.

 

12     Cleveland Browns

Deshaun Watson – QB – Clemson

The Browns improved the defense with the top pick, and now I think they have to grab a quarterback. None of the best prospects are ready to walk right onto an NFL field as a starter, but Cleveland is still rebuilding anyway so they can be patient. Of the choices that have been deemed first round worthy I like Watson the best. He’s a winner. From my limited fan perspective it seems like he’s got the intangibles that separate the wheat from the chaff at this level. If he’s a bust…well, it wouldn’t be Cleveland’s first rodeo, right?? But if he lives up to his potential the sky may be the limit.

 

13     Arizona Cardinals

Malik McDowell – DT – Michigan St.

This is another tough spot. Carson Palmer isn’t getting any younger and he’s battled injuries a lot, which have derailed the Cardinals’ momentum. They went from 13-3 in 2015 to just 7-8-1 last season. Defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson, & linebacker Kevin Minter all left via free agency, although linebacker Karlos Dansby returns to Arizona after wandering in the football desert of Ohio the past few seasons, and Jarvis Jones, a former first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, adds additional depth to that linebacker group. McDowell is a reach, but a replacement for Campbell is necessary. I think they can get a quarterback in the second round.

 

14     Philadelphia Eagles

Leonard Fournette – RB – LSU

Running back Wendell Smallwood from my West Virginia Mountaineers is on my dynasty league team, so this choice would sadden me a bit. However, my vibe is that Smallwood isn’t viewed as a top notch lead runner, while Fournette is a generational talent that some have compared to Adrian Peterson. Only his injury history has caused him to drop this far, otherwise he’d be a Top 5 pick.

 

15     Indianapolis Colts

Christian McCaffrey – RB – Stanford

No one would be more upset to see the Eagles take Fournette than the folks in Indy, where starting RB Frank Gore is 147 years old. They’ve done a lot to fix their defense in free agency, so I think offense is the priority here. I don’t believe there is a lineman worthy of this spot. That leaves McCaffrey, who I envision as a swiss army knife hybrid RB/WR who can be special in the right system. Hopefully head coach Chuck Pagano & offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will know how to maximize his skills.

 

16     Baltimore Ravens

Jamal Adams – S – LSU

The Ravens will sprint to the podium with this selection. Adams can partner with free agent acquisition Tony Jefferson to make a formidable combo in the defensive backfield.

 

17     Washington Redskins

Derek Barnett – DE – Tennessee

Ideally the Redskins would trade out of this slot. Aside from that possibility, I have to think that upgrading the defense is a priority.

 

18     Tennessee Titans

Zach Cunningham – LB – Vanderbilt

With their first choice in this round Tennessee added a potent weapon on offense, so I think this pick has to be defense. They’ve added some pieces in free agency, but more needs to be done. One would assume that since Cunningham played college ball right there in Nashville the Titans are likely familiar with his work.

 

19     Tampa Bay Buccaneers

O.J. Howard –TE – Alabama

The Bucs added receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency, and along with Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, & running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims they provide QB Jameis Winston with a pretty good arsenal. The one thing missing?? An elite tight end. So I think it is a reasonable upgrade that’d make the Bucs’ offense quite intimidating.

 

20     Denver Broncos

Forrest Lamp – G – Western Kentucky

The quarterback competition in Denver looks to be between Paxton Lynch & Trevor Siemian. They’ll both be disappointed if Howard is already off the board, because a good tight end is a QB’s best friend. So, where is the value here?? They could still choose a tight end, but I think it is more likely that they’ll reach for a solid offensive lineman to protect whichever young signal caller wins the job.

 

21     Detroit Lions

Jabrill Peppers – S – Michigan

There are still plenty of great defenders available, so this pick just depends on who the powers-that-be in the Motor City prefer. I like Peppers in this spot. No one knows quite where he fits in the NFL. He’s too small to play linebacker, so safety is probably the best option. Can he be the second coming of Troy Polamalu?? I think it’s possible.

 

22     Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton – DE – Michigan

The Dolphins are really building something with potential. This might be a good spot for a team to trade up to if they’re looking for a quarterback. If that doesn’t happen though Charlton could be a nice addition to the pass rush.

 

23     New York Giants

David Njoku – TE – Miami (FL)

The Giants have had an interesting off season, adding receiver Brandon Marshall to the offense and Geno Smith as the quarterback of the future. Okay, I’m kidding about that second part. Maybe. Who knows?? Anyway, since there isn’t good value at running back here (and I think Paul Perkins should be given a fair chance at succeeding) the focus might be on defense. Or will it?? The Giants have a solid history of good tight ends, from Mark Bavaro in the 80’s to Howard Cross in the 90’s to Jeremy Shockey a decade ago. Njoku would be a significant upgrade at the position and give an aging Eli Manning another weapon in the chase for a third Super Bowl ring.

 

24     Oakland Raiders

Marlon Humphrey – CB – Alabama

Will the Raiders sign running back Adrian Peterson?? And if they do, is that enough?? I’d hate to rely on a 32 year old tailback whose legs could abandon him at any minute. Can they trust DeAndre Washington with the job?? Those are all questions that don’t currently have an answer, and the point is moot anyway because I don’t think there’s another first round talent at running back. The Raiders will focus on improving an already stellar defense, and Humphrey should be a starter from Day 1. He’s the fourth Alabama alum off the board in this round, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

 

25     Houston Texans

Mitch Trubisky – QB – North Carolina

I was convinced that Tony Romo would be the quarterback for the Texans in 2017, but to the surprise of many that’s not happening, which is unfortunate because Houston is just a quarterback away from being a legit Super Bowl contender. I don’t know what they do for the immediate future, but with this pick they must think long term. Trubisky is a nice fit. It would have been advantageous for him to sit & learn for a year or two behind Romo…instead he might be warming the bench while Jay Cutler or Colin Kaepernick try to lead the team to The Promised Land.

 

26     Seattle Seahawks

Fabian Moreau – CB – UCLA

I like the fact that the Seahawks added former #2 overall pick Luke Joeckel to their offensive line and former Packer Eddie Lacy to a running back mix that also includes Thomas Rawls & CJ Prosise. Moreau is a piece that might actually re-legitimize the Legion of Boom.

 

27     Kansas City Chiefs

Caleb Brantley – DT – Florida

The Chiefs are the real deal, but they’re also in a really tough division. They lost defensive tackle Dontari Poe in free agency, so they’ll be looking for a replacement. Brantley might be somewhat of a reach, but he fills a need.

 

28     Dallas Cowboys

Obi Melifonwu – S – Connecticut

It seems like the Cowboys lost their entire defense in free agency. Defensive backs Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, & Brandon Carr all bolted Big D for greener pastures. Melifonwu impressed a lot of people at the combine, and he can probably step right into a starting role for a depleted Dallas defense.

 

29     Green Bay Packers

Alvin Kamara – RB – Tennessee

The Packers don’t really have many holes to fill, although I am not convinced that receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery is truly the answer in the backfield after the departure of Eddie Lacy. What about Christine Michael?? Ehhhh…I don’t know. Kamara is probably a reach at this point, but he might seize the job easily and make the choice look brilliant.

 

30     Pittsburgh Steelers

Raekwon McMillan – LB – Ohio St.

I know my Steelers well enough to know that, despite most fans wanting desperately for them to upgrade the secondary, they covet the linebacker position more than just about anything. With Jarvis Jones & Lawrence Timmons having moved on the position is a legit issue. Ryan Shazier is great and Bud Dupree has potential, but James Harrison can’t play forever and everyone else is unproven. Pittsburgh has had good luck drafting former Buckeyes, which gives McMillan the nod over a couple other possibilities.

 

31     Atlanta Falcons

Cordrea Tankersley – CB – Clemson

The Falcons’ defense got eaten alive by Tom Brady in the second half of the Super Bowl, so I have to believe that will be a point of emphasis going forward. Defensive tackle Dontari Poe defected to Atlanta from Kansas City in free agency, so that fills one huge need. There are a plethora of cornerbacks to choose from in this spot, but I’m going with Tankersley for no apparent reason.

 

32     New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)

John Ross – WR – Washington

This pick is obvious. The Saints traded away speedy wideout Brandin Cooks. They took an offensive tackle with the 11th pick. There are enough corners available they can be patient, especially if they also lure Malcolm Butler away from New England as expected. Ross is a solid replacement for Cooks.

 

 

 

 

 

Round 2

33     Cleveland Browns

TreDavious White – CB – LSU

In the first round the Browns got the best player in the draft in defensive end Myles Garrett and took their latest quarterback of the future. They need a corner to bookend with All-Pro Joe Haden, and White should fit the bill.

 

34     San Francisco 49ers

DeShone Kizer – QB – Notre Dame

The Niners added linebacker Reuben Foster in the first round. The top two field generals…Watson & Trubisky…are off the board, so ‘Frisco will roll the dice on Kizer to develop for a year or two while Brian Hoyer and/or Matt Barkley pretend to be pro quarterbacks.

 

35     Jacksonville Jaguars

Cam Robinson – OT – Alabama

The Jags made what is probably the safest choice in the draft with their first round selection of defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. Now they can solidify the offensive line with a massive addition.

 

36     Chicago Bears

Garett Bolles – OT – Utah

After signing Mike Glennon away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and also picking up Mark Sanchez…lol) the need for a quarterback is diminished in the short term, which is good since the value isn’t there in this spot. The secondary was addressed in the first round. Improving the offensive line is always a solid choice.

 

37     Los Angeles Rams

Chidobe Awuzie – CB – Colorado

The Rams didn’t have a first round pick and didn’t make any major free agency moves. Wade Phillips is the defensive coordinator now, and in the past he has worked wonders for teams like the Texans & Broncos. They really need to address the secondary.

 

38     Los Angeles Chargers

Dan Feeney – G- Indiana

The Chargers added a premier wideout in the first round. I think it is still a bit early to take the quarterback of the future since Rivers is likely going to be around for a couple of years. It is more likely, especially with the departure of guard DJ Fluker, that they address the offensive line, even after signing tackle Russell Okung away from Seattle.

 

39     New York Jets

Pat Mahomes – QB – Texas Tech

The Jets played it smart in the first round…but they just can’t help themselves. They’ll add to their collection of quarterbacks and pray that one of them actually develops into something resembling a competent pro.

 

40     Carolina Panthers

Charles Harris – DE – Missouri

Let’s be honest. Julius Peppers, at age 37, is a temporary fix. The Panthers need a young end that can be mentored by the veteran.

 

41     Cincinnati Bengals

Takkarist McKinley – LB – UCLA

The Bengals released linebacker Rey Maualuga and signed Kevin Minter away from Arizona. I think they’ll still look to solidify the position in the draft.

 

42     New Orleans Saints

Teez Tabor – CB – Florida

The Saints improved the offensive line and replenished the receiving corps in the first round. I think they go defense here, solidifying the secondary. They still might end up getting cornerback Malcolm Butler from the Patriots, but then again they might not. Either way adding some depth is never a bad thing.

 

43     Philadelphia Eagles

Jourdan Lewis – CB – Michigan

The Eagles have rebuilt their receiving corps this offseason with the additions of Torrey Smith & Alshon Jeffrey. They took a stud running back in the first round. Now it’s time to improve the secondary.

 

44     Buffalo Bills

Curtis Samuel – WR – Ohio St.

Other than Sammy Watkins the Bills have nothing impressive at receiver, and Watkins seems to have a hard time staying healthy. If they want any quarterback to succeed he’s got to have some weapons.

 

45     Arizona Cardinals

Davis Webb – QB – California

Any quarterback taken in this spot is a gamble. But with an injury prone & aging Carson Palmer backed up by Drew Stanton the situation warrants a roll of the dice. Webb has tremendous size, especially if he adds some muscle. Cal has produced guys like Aaron Rodgers, Steve Bartowski, Kyle Boller, & Jared Goff, so maybe Webb can evolve into a solid NFL quarterback.

 

46     Indianapolis Colts

Dion Dawkins – G – Temple

Indianapolis took Christian McCaffrey in the first round, and they did a lot to upgrade the defense in free agency. It seems like protecting quarterback Andrew Luck has been an issue every one of his five NFL seasons, so they’ll keep trying to improve.

 

47     Baltimore Ravens

Chris Godwin – WR – Penn St.

After solidifying the secondary in the first round and in free agency the Ravens have a couple of directions they can go in this spot. Steve Smith is retired and the jury is still out on 2015 first round pick Breshad Perriman, leaving only Mike Wallace as a reliable pass catcher, so I think Baltimore has to pull the trigger on a wideout.

 

48     Minnesota Vikings

Chris Wormley – DT – Michigan

The Vikings didn’t have a first round selection due to last year’s trade that brought them QB Sam Bradford from Philly. They’ve replaced the aging Adrian Peterson with running back Latavius Murray, formerly of the Raiders…a great move in my opinion. I think they’ll go defense here, choosing from among the best players available to add some depth.

 

49     Washington Redskins

Adoree’ Jackson – CB – USC

The Redskins lost two receivers…DeSean Jackson & Pierre Garcon…in free agency. Terrelle Pryor comes over from Cleveland to fill one of those spots, and Brian Quick, formerly of the Rams, takes care of the other. And of course they have last year’s top pick Josh Doctson, so the wideout spot is solid. They have a stable of young running backs and a good offensive line. The pass rush was enhanced in Round 1, so I think the back end gets some attention here, especially with DeAngelo Hall being 33 years old.

 

50     Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Budda Baker – S – Washington

The Bucs added a big tight end in the first round, so they can now turn their attention to defense. Baker adds to a secondary that already includes last year’s first round pick, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

 

51     Denver Broncos

Taylor Moton – OT – Western Michigan

We know the Broncos have a great defense, but no one is too sure what to expect from the offense. They added an offensive lineman in Round 1, but don’t be surprised if they double up on that area of need.

 

52     Cleveland Browns (from Tennessee Titans)

Pat Elflein – C – Ohio St.

Cleveland has this pick as a result of a trade the Titans made last year so they could go up and get tackle Jack Conklin (a move that worked out well for Tennessee). The Browns have already addressed needs at quarterback & corner, as well as taking the best defensive end in the draft with the top overall selection. They might end up using this pick as an asset to trade up, but that’s an unknown. I think this is a good spot to solidify an offensive line that already has a lot of talent. Center Alex Mack moved on to Atlanta last season after seven years with the Browns (netting an appearance in the Super Bowl…not a bad exchange on his part), so maybe they find a talented replacement in this spot.

 

53     Detroit Lions

Tim Williams – LB – Alabama

After addressing issues on both lines in free agency and adding the athletic Jabrill Peppers in the first round it seems like Detroit should be focusing on the linebacker position with this pick. Apparently Williams had some off the field issues at ‘Bama, but he’s being compared to Raiders’ (and former WVU) pass rusher Bruce Irvin, so we know a team will be willing to roll the dice. Putting a guy with a history of marijuana & firearms arrests in Detroit…what could possibly go wrong??

 

54     Miami Dolphins

Gareon Conley – CB – Ohio St.

I really like Miami’s offensive. However, despite a line that includes Ndamukong Suh & Cameron Wake and the presence of linebackers Kiko Alonso & Lawrence Timmons I still think the defense needs some work.

 

55     New York Giants

T.J. Watt – LB – Wisconsin

The G-Men added their next great tight end in Round 1, so now I think they’ll tinker with the defense a bit. If TJ is even half as good as his brother JJ this will be a steal.

 

56     Oakland Raiders

Joe Mixon – RB – Oklahoma

The Raiders added a cornerback in Round 1, so I feel like this might be a good spot for a curveball. I’m sure DeAndre Washington will be given every opportunity to win the starting job, and IF Adrian Peterson is brought in that adds some depth, but Mixon is rising up many draft boards and he’s just the kind of controversial player the Raiders have always taken a chance on. Wow…Peterson & Mixon in the same backfield?? Wrap your head around that.

 

57     Houston Texans

Dorian Johnson – G – Pitt

Whomever ends up being the quarterback will need a deep & talented offensive line in front of them. 

 

58     Seattle Seahawks

Larry Ogunjobi – DT – Charlotte

What do you get a team that has everything?? In this case I think beefing up the interior of the defensive line is a smart move.

 

59     Kansas City Chiefs

Jarrad Davis – LB – Florida

The Chiefs didn’t do a whole lot in free agency besides signing CJ Spiller to replace the departed Jammal Charles at running back. I feel like they need to add some depth to the pass rush, especially with Tamba Hali being 33 years old.

 

60     Dallas Cowboys

Kevin King – CB – Washington

Dallas has to continue rebuilding their defense. Period.

 

61     Green Bay Packers

Dalvin Tomlinson – DT – Alabama

The Pack replaced departed running back Eddie Lacy in the first round, so now they can turn their attention to the defense. Tomlinson would be the sixth ‘Bama player taken in the first 61 picks…about 10% of the draft thus far. I don’t know if that’s any kind of record, but it sure is impressive.

 

62     Pittsburgh Steelers

Carl Lawson – DE – Auburn

In the first round my Steelers replenished a depleted linebacker corps. They added a couple of nice complementary pieces in free agency, and I’m sure they’ll take the best player available here. That might just be Lawson, who has drawn comparisons to Dwight Freeney. He’s battled injuries at the collegiate level, so where he lands will be largely dependent on medical evaluations.

 

63     Atlanta Falcons

Josh Jones – S – North Carolina St.

In Round 1 the Falcons addressed secondary issues that cost them the Super Bowl. They might want to consider doubling up just to be sure.

 

64     New England Patriots

Roderick Johnson – OT – Florida St.

The Super Bowl champs finally get to make a selection, although I really don’t know how they could improve, especially after trading for receiver Brandin Cooks, signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore away from Buffalo, & getting defensive end Kony Ealy from Carolina. I suppose refining the offensive line to protect the ageless Tom Brady wouldn’t be a bad move.

 

 

 

Round 3

 

65     Cleveland Browns

Desmond King – S- Iowa

 

66     San Francisco 49ers

Duke Riley – LB – LSU

 

67     Chicago Bears

Sidney Jones – CB – Washington

 

68     Jacksonville Jaguars

Jake Butt – TE – Michigan

 

69     Los Angeles Rams

JuJu Schuster – WR – USC

 

70     New York Jets

Quincy Wilson – CB – Florida

 

71     Los Angeles Chargers

Brad Kaaya – QB – Miami (FL)

 

72     New England Patriots (from Carolina Panthers)

Montravius Adams – DT – Auburn

 

73     Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Orlosky – C – West Virginia

 

74     Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles)

Vincent Taylor – DT – Oklahoma St.

 

75     Buffalo Bills

Antonio Garcia – OT – Troy

 

76     New Orleans Saints

Nathan Peterman – QB – Pitt

 

77     Arizona Cardinals

Rasul Douglas – CB – West Virginia

 

78     Baltimore Ravens

Tarell Basham – DE – Ohio

 

79     Minnesota Vikings

Isaac Asiata – G – Utah

 

80     Indianapolis Colts

Marcus Williams – S – Utah

 

81     Washington Redskins

Eddie Jackson – S – Alabama

 

82     Denver Broncos

Evan Engram – TE – Mississippi

 

83     Tennessee Titans

Cooper Kupp – WR – Eastern Washington

 

84     Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Elijah Qualls – DT – Washington

 

85     Detroit Lions

Ahkello Witherspoon – CB – Colorado

 

86     Minnesota Vikings

Will Holden – OT – Vanderbilt

 

87     New York Giants

Jaleel Johnson – OT – Iowa

 

88     Oakland Raiders

Tyus Bowser – LB – Houston

 

89     Houston Texans

Ryan Anderson – LB – Alabama

 

90     Seattle Seahawks

Chad Wheeler – OT – USC

 

91     Kansas City Chiefs

Jalen Myrick – CB – Minnesota

 

92     Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Walker – DE – Florida St.

 

93     Green Bay Packers

Cameron Sutton – CB – Tennessee

 

94     Pittsburgh Steelers

Dede Westbrook – WR – Oklahoma

 

95     Atlanta Falcons

Carlos Watkins – DT – Clemson

 

96     New England Patriots

D’Onta Foreman – RB – Texas

 

*97    Miami Dolphins

Devonte Fields – DE – Louisville

 

*98    Carolina Panthers

Ryan Switzer – WR – North Carolina

 

*99    Philadelphia Eagles (from Baltimore Ravens)

Derek Rivers – DE – Youngstown St.

 

*100 Tennessee Titans (from LA Rams)

Danny Isidora – G – Miami (FL)

 

*101 Denver Broncos

Samaje Perine – RB – Oklahoma

 

*102 Seattle Seahawks

David Sharpe – OT – Florida

 

*103 New Orleans Saints (from Cleveland via New England)

Marlon Mack – RB – South Florida

 

*104 Kansas City Chiefs

Josh Dobbs – QB – Tennessee

 

*105  Pittsburgh Steelers

James Conner – RB – Pitt

 

*106 Seattle Seahawks

Brian Allen – CB – Utah     

 

*107 New York Jets

Isaiah Ford – WR – Virginia Tech

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 13

turkeyfootballHappy Thanksgiving Manoverse!! Not only do we get to enjoy tasty vittles like turkey, stuffing, yams, & pumpkin pie today, but we get a heaping helping of football during this long holiday weekend. It’s Rivalry Week in college football, so that’s what we are focusing on. Sadly, because of conference realignment, several old rivalries have gone by the wayside…Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, The Backyard Brawl (WVU vs. Pitt), The Border War (Missouri vs. Kansas). However, many remain and this year some of them actually mean something beyond bragging rights. Speaking of which, neither Zach nor myself can brag about last week’s picks, which resulted in me going 3-2 and him trailing at 2-3. I’m still befuddled by what has happened to the Green Bay Packers. At any rate, enjoy food, family, & football, and may God bless each & every one of y’all.

My Season:        34-37

Z’s Season:        26-45

 

 

 

 

 

LSU (-5)              at      Texas A&M

Another rivalry that has disappeared from the schedule is Texas vs. Texas A&M, which not only was played annually from 1915-2011, but was a centerpiece of the plotlsugiving for the 1982 classic musical comedy film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. However, I suppose that LSU is an acceptable substitute opponent for the Aggies. The Bayou Bengals are 6-4 in the midst of a roller coaster season, while A&M has fallen to 8-3 after getting thru the first six weeks of the season unscathed. Losing quarterback Trevor Knight to a shoulder injury hasn’t helped. I’d love to pick the upset because A&M does have the home field advantage, but I just don’t have much faith in their backup QB. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

Washington (-6)                   at      Washington St.

The Huskies are still technically on the outside looking in at the playoff, but for reasons that we’ll get to soon they have to feel pretty confident about their chances of washington2ultimately sneaking in. Winning this game in impressive fashion would certainly help. The 8-3 Cougars aren’t going to be an easy out on their home field, but given what’s at stake I’d be shocked to see Washington stumble. Zach isn’t sold on Washington’s playoff resume, but agrees they should win this game.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Auburn               at      Alabama (-17)

tideturkeyI wish I could get excited about The Iron Bowl. It has produced some lasting memories over the years. However, ‘Bama has been so dominant auburnturkeythis season that I just can’t fathom them losing this game on their home field. Not only that, but I’d be surprised if it is even close. Zach is an optimist, and though he doesn’t believe there will be an outright upset, he thinks it’ll actually be a watchable & competitive game. To be honest I hope he’s right.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

Michigan St.      at      Penn St. (-13)

Penn_State_logo111111The Nittany Lions have clawed their way back to relevance after…issues…that we shall not revisit. Due to upsetting Ohio St. about a month michstago Penn St. would actually sneak into the Big Ten title game with a victory. Meanwhile, the Spartans have had a terrible year. There’s really nothing else one can say. I’d be very surprised if Penn St. blows this opportunity, especially in the cozy confines of Happy Valley. Once again Zach isn’t predicting an upset but he’s a bit uncomfortable with the points.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Utah                    at      Colorado (-10.5)

Many people may have missed the fact that Colorado moved to the Pac 12 back in 2011. Now they have an opportunity to play in the conference title game (against theutah2 winner of Washington/Washington St.), but they must win this game or else they lose a tiebreaker against USC, who defeated the Buffaloes back in early October. Meanwhile, the Utes come into this game with nothing to gain or lose except pride & bowl position after a stunning loss to 4-7 Oregon last week. A few things are in play here. First of all, I’m not comfortable with the spread. Secondly, I think it is entirely possible that one team in this game is overrated while the other is underrated. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide which is which. Also, though I’m NOT a conspiracy theorist let’s face it…who would the powers-that-be rather have in the Pac 12 title game…Colorado or USC?? I think that answer is obvious. And finally, Utah’s loss last week isn’t a good think…for Colorado. Do they want to end their season with two losses?? I don’t think so. We’re on the same wavelength here, as Zach IS predicting the upset in this one.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

Florida                at      Florida St. (-6.5)

Florida_State_SeminolesThe Gators have already secured their spot in the SEC title game, where they will be beaten handily by Alabama. Conversely, the Seminoles florida gators imagearen’t getting anywhere near the ACC title game unless they buy tickets. However, of all these rivalry games this one is near the top of the list as far as records or even the home field being almost meaningless. I feel a disturbance in The Force here. One team has already achieved their goal, the other has nothing to lose. Zach likes the Gators’ defense to get the job done.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

Michigan            at      Ohio St. (-6.5)

Ohio_State_BuckeyesIt’s nice to have this game matter once again. Really cool. Now stick with me here…this might get confusing. If the Wolverines win they will play michigan-wolverines-fan-gearin the conference title game against either Nebraska or Wisconsin (Wisconsin holds that tiebreaker). If Ohio St. wins and Penn St. wins then neither the Wolverines nor the Buckeyes make it to the title game…it’ll be Penn St. vs. Nebraska or Wisconsin. If Ohio St. wins this game but Penn St. loses it’ll be the Buckeyes facing off against Nebraska or Wisconsin. And oh…by the way…all of these teams are still in the conversation for the playoff regardless of what happens here, although one would have to believe that the loser will be out of luck. I’ve said all along that Harbaugh was ahead of schedule, that I didn’t expect him to have Michigan in the national championship picture quite yet. This game is being played in Columbus, which is huge. I love the fact that they are sticking to the traditional noon kickoff despite it being undeniably the biggest game of the week and an obvious choice for the prime time spotlight. It’s the little things, right?? Predictably Zach is picking his favorite team. Heck, even Stevie Wonder could’ve seen that coming.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Michigan