2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 17

Well folks, we’ve reached the end of the road…kind of. The NFL still has the playoffs & there are a few more college bowl games remaining (including the national championship), but the final week of the NFL regular season means the last round of picks for us. Last week was a really good one for me (5-0), although Zach (4-1) did pretty darn well too. He’s not going to catch me for the season, but it looks like he’ll finish well above .500, which is atleast 14 games better than a season ago. I finished 2018 five games below .500 and will be solidly above this year, so perhaps we are finally getting the hang of this. Or not. Who knows?? Who cares?? We have fun doing it which is all that really matters. There was no Thursday night game and will be no Monday nighter, meaning all the action takes place on Sunday. So grab a beverage, fix yourself a plate full of whatever Christmas goodies remain, & settle in for a fun day with RedZone.

My Season:     59-40

Zach’s Season:       52-47

 

 

 

 

 

Cleveland (-3)              at                Cincinnati

It’s the Battle of Ohio!! The Bungles have wrapped up the #1 overall pick in next spring’s draft and are preparing to make Heisman Trophy winning QB Joe Burrow’s life miserable (but atleast he’ll be rich). Meanwhile, the Browns came into this season full of piss & vinegar. There were people that actually thought they’d win the AFC North. Alas, the Factory of Sadness is alive & well. QB Baker Mayfield has looked good at times, but something just isn’t clicking. Enigmatic receiver Odell Beckham Jr. apparently wants out of Cleveland already, which has to be some sort of record. Head coach Freddie Kitchens is in way over his head. On paper this looks like a mismatch; Cleveland is talented but underachieving, while Cincy is just a big ol’ mess. Having said that, The Vibes are telling me the home team will defend their turf and put an hilarious exclamation point on yet another pathetic Browns season. Conversely, Zach likes the Browns ground game to lead them to a double digit win.

My Pick:     Cincinnati

Z’s Pick:     Cleveland

 

 

 

Oakland                       at                Denver (-3.5)

The Raiders still have an outside shot to make the playoffs. I’m not going to bother explaining it a) because I don’t even understand it myself & b) it’s not going to happen. Still, kudos to them for continued improvement. Next season the Las Vegas Raiders will make their debut, and that’s when the fun will really begin. The Broncos are going thru some growing pains as well and seem to be treading water. The Joe Flacco Era seems to be over, and going forward Denver will need to decide if Drew Lock is the long term answer at quarterback. This has been a great divisional rivalry over the years and I don’t think it’ll matter that both teams are going to be watching the post-season on TV. I’m picking the home favorites for no real reason, and Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Denver

Z’s Pick:     Denver

 

 

 

Chicago                       at                Minnesota (-1)

Which Trubisky will show up for the Bears?? Who are the Vikings going to grab off the street to play running back?? These will be the burning questions of the day. Minnesota has already locked up a playoff berth, while Chicago just wants to finish a very disappointing season at .500. I don’t foresee a high scoring game, and in a defensive battle in which field position, turnovers, & time of possession will be key factors I think I still trust the Bears defense a little more. Zach thinks Vikings’ QB Kirk Cousins will have a big day and lead his team to victory.

My Pick:     Chicago

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

Tennessee (-3.5)                  at                Houston

This is a huge game…especially for us Steelers fans. Yeah yeah…we know, Pittsburgh has to beat Baltimore, which will be no easy task even if they are resting most of their starters. But the Texans MUST defeat Tennessee!! The problem is that Houston is locked into their playoff spot and may very well rest most of their starters just like the Ravens. I’m not even going to try to be objective. My hope is that…even with a team of backups…the Texans find a way to make us all remember why the Dolphins gave up on QB Ryan Tannehill and why he entered this season as a second stringer in Tennessee. Would I be willing to put money on that happening?? Ehhh…let’s not get crazy. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

 

San Francisco (-3.5)           at                Seattle

Who will be the top seed in the NFC?? San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans, & Seattle are all still jockeying for position. The loser of this game will be knocked down a peg, while the winner will almost certainly earn a first round bye. It feels to me like the 49ers may have already peaked, while the Seahawks are just now hitting their stride. ‘Frisco will win a Super Bowl with Jimmy G under center someday, but it’s not going to be this season. The Seattle home field is just too much and I think they’ll handle business rather comfortably. Zach thinks it’ll be close but believes the suddenly unretired Marshawn Lynch could make the difference for the home team.

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Seattle

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 18

Well sports fans, we’ve reached the end of the road. Another season of picks will soon be in the books. I know the non-sports types out in The Manoverse will be happy about that, and rest assured that there is plenty of content on the drawing table for 2019, provided that I can stay motivated and not give in to my more apathetic tendencies. For those of us that love football there are still a few college bowl games and the NFL playoffs on the horizon. Zach (4-1) smoked me (1-4) last week, which means that it is still mathematically possible (though not likely) for him to win the season crown, while I’ve got some work to do to finish the year above water. I briefly pondered doing a big season ending blowout where we would pick every game on the schedule, but decided against it, though you’re still getting bonus picks. There are no Thursday or Monday night games, meaning that everything is happening on Sunday afternoon except the Sunday night game on NBC. So RedZone will be even more fun to watch than usual. The playoff situation in both conferences is mostly settled, though there are a couple of berths to decide as well as some seeding to resolve. Happy New Year friends. Thanks for reading what we have to say here, and as always don’t ever hesitate to leave comments. I look forward to more fun in 2019.

My Season:     51-56

Z’s Season:     47-61

 

 

 

 

Chicago              at                Minnesota (-5)

If the Bears beat the Vikings and the Rams lose to the 49ers, Chicago would be the NFC #2 seed based on their victory over Los Angeles a few weeks ago. However, if the Rams win (or tie) the Bears are the #3 seed regardless of the outcome of this game. With a win the Vikings could be the #5 seed if the Seattle Seahawks lose or the #6 seed if Seattle wins. Minnesota could even make the playoffs if they lose this game…if the Philadelphia Eagles also lose (or tie). I feel like Chicago has been the more consistent team this season, but with their backs against the wall & the home field I’m riding with the Vikings this week. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

LA Chargers (-6.5)               at                Denver

Will the Chargers be the AFC West champs and the #1 seed…or a wildcard #5 seed?? To win the division they need the KC Chiefs to lose (or tie). The Broncos are 6-9, and head coach Vance Joseph might get fired this week regardless of the outcome, although I have to assume an upset victory could help his cause. Denver has the home field, and they did beat the Chargers back in November…but I just don’t think that’s going to happen again. Zach thinks the Broncos are clearly a better team at home, and he’s a little uncomfortable with the points.

My Pick:     LA Chargers

Z’s Pick:     Denver

 

 

Philadelphia (-6.5)                at                Washington

The media has to be pulling for Philly because let’s face it…another improbable playoff run with Nick Foles under center would be a cool story. However, the Eagles have to win and hope Chicago beats Minnesota. I suppose that’s not too far-fetched, and I’d like to see it happen. Can the Redskins play spoiler?? It’s possible, but I’m going to say no. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

Jacksonville                at                Houston (-7)

The Texans could be the #1 seed in the AFC if they win this game and the Chiefs, Chargers, & Patriots all lose, but the odds are against all of that happening. If only New England loses (or ties) then Houston could be the #2 seed. They might end up as the #3 seed with a loss and a tie in the Indianapolis-Tennessee game…an unlikely scenario…or if they win and all of that other stuff doesn’t happen (much more probable). If Houston loses and Colts/Titans doesn’t end in a tie they’ll fall to the #6 seed. Meanwhile, the 5-10 Jags are left to wonder where it all went so wrong this season and can begin the process of evaluating free agent quarterbacks and who they might be able to snag with their first round draft pick. We both feel like Houston should win by a comfortable margin.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

Oakland                       at                Kansas City (-13.5)

The Chiefs can win the AFC West and secure the #1 seed with a victory or if they tie and the Chargers lose (or tie). I think there are some other possibilities, but it probably doesn’t matter because if KC can’t beat the 4-11 Raiders at Arrowhead they’re in big trouble anyway. Zach doesn’t like the points at all and believes Andy Reid tends to choke in big games.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

 

Cleveland                              at                Baltimore (-6)

There will be no bigger Browns fans on Sunday than Zach & myself. What it boils down to is this: if the Ravens win they are the AFC North champs and depending on what happens with a couple of other teams could be the #2, #3, or #4 seed, eliminating my Steelers in the process. If Cleveland wins Baltimore is eliminated from the playoffs and the Steelers are in. A year ago I would have already been in a mood of quiet resignation, but I think there’s a chance that the Browns could actually pull this off. Zach believes in Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield to do just enough to lead his team to victory in a low scoring defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Cleveland

Z’s Pick:     Cleveland

 

 

 

Indianapolis (-2)                  at      Tennessee

This is the Sunday night game on NBC, and it should be really fun. Atleast these two teams will have the advantage of knowing exactly where they stand before kickoff. The Colts have to win to get into the playoffs, and they’d either be the #3, #4, or #6 seed, depending on other outcomes. It’s a must-win for the Titans as well, and they could land anywhere from the #2 to the #6 seed in the AFC. After a rough start Indy has won 8 out of their last 9, and I have heard a couple of talking heads state that they’re the team no one wants to face in the playoffs. Tennessee is riding a four game winning streak but QB Marcus Mariota has been battling injuries. Regardless of Mariota’s status I trust Colts’ QB Andrew Luck much more, and I think he’ll find a way to lead his team to a hard fought victory. Zach foresees a high scoring affair, with Indy coming out on top.

My Pick:     Indianapolis

Z’s Pick:     Indianapolis

 

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 17

Time flies when you’re having fun. Isn’t that the common expression?? I can hardly believe that we’re near the end of another football season. It seems like just yesterday the warm summer breeze of August was blowing as we began this journey, and now the cold winds of the holidays are making cozy blankets & hot mugs of cocoa the accessories of choice as we watch another year come to a close. I am pondering a slam bang finish to our entertaining little project next week, but for now we move forward after a week in which Zach (3-2) bested me (1-4) and point spreads were a key difference. He probably doesn’t have much of a chance to catch me for the season crown, but a strong finish is always nice, and I’m just trying to get back above .500.

My Season:        50-52

Z’s Season:        43-60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cincinnati                    at      Cleveland (-8.5)

In my season preview I predicted that for the Browns “winning more games than they’ve won in total over the past couple of seasons would be cause for optimism. If that actually happens then it could mean a last place finish for the Bengals”. As we near the conclusion of the season Cleveland has already won the six games I said they would and they’re currently a half game above Cincinnati in the standings. So basically my prediction comes down to this game, and it just so happens to be in Cleveland. Zach likes the way the Browns have been playing and believes they will win the game…but he isn’t comfortable with the points and doesn’t think they’ll cover.

My Pick:     Cleveland

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

 

 

Green Bay (-3.5)                   at      NY Jets

In that same season preview I gave the Packers eight wins, and said they “are leaning on their reputation but in reality aren’t that good”. As it turns out they’re even worse than I thought. The Jets have also been even worse than I imagined they would be since I predicted they’d get to seven wins. Neither team seems to have any momentum and both seem to be limping to the finish line, so I’m not sure where to go with this one. New York has the home field, so I’ll lean in that direction. Zach thinks both teams are bad but still believes the Jets are worse.

My Pick:     NY Jets

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

 

 

 

 

Houston             at      Philadelphia (-2)

Could history be repeating itself?? Will backup QB Nick Foles spell an injured Carson Wentz, get his team on a run, & lead them back to The Super Bowl?? Ehhh…probably not. I suppose they could still get into the playoffs, but this game is probably a must win, and the Texans have won 10 out of their last 11 games. I am somewhat surprised that Philly…even with the home field…is favored. That seems more than a little disrespectful to Houston, and I’m not buying it. Zach is all in on Foles and is predicting another Philly upset.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

Kansas City (-2.5)      at      Seattle

I was way off in my assessment of the Seahawks. I opined that “Seattle’s Legion of Boom has been relegated to the dust bin of history and their once imposing defense looks totally decimated” before predicting that they’d win only five games. They are currently 8-6 and could clinch a wildcard with a home victory against the celebrated Chiefs, who need to keep winning to secure a division title or else they’ll be one of the best wildcard teams in recent memory. Both teams have plenty of motivation and something to play for…I just think KC is the better team. Zach thinks the home field for Seattle is an advantage that the Chiefs won’t overcome.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Seattle

 

 

 

Denver (-2.5)      at      Oakland

There have already been rumors that Broncos head coach Vance Joseph is about to lose his job. They are 6-8, which is atleast better than the 2-14 I penciled in for them a few months ago, but I suppose when combined with a 5-11 finish a year ago one can understand a lack of patience from the front office. The Raiders are a few games worse than their opponents, but we all know that Gruden will get a pass for a couple of years before the powers-that-be start to get restless. Once this season is finished their focus will quickly turn to the team’s impending move to Las Vegas as well as the three first round draft picks they’ll have this spring. So, while both teams are suffering thru an horrendous season I think it’s fair to say that they are on opposite ends of the hope spectrum. The stark contrast in future outlook might be enough to make a difference. Conversely, Zach foresees Denver scoring an easy victory.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Denver

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.

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 2

I’m going to do something that, to my recollection, I’ve never done since beginning these picks six years ago. Last week both Zach & I picked UCLA to beat Texas A&M, which they did. However, the point spread was 3 and the Bruins won by only one point on a last second touchdown after completing a four TD 4th quarter comeback. It was such an epic, thrilling victory that I’m going to give both of us the win as well. Hey…my game, my rules. So what that means is that in the opening week of the season I was 4-1, while Zach was 3-2. Florida St. let me down, as they were manhandled by Alabama, while Zach should’ve had more faith in his Michigan Wolverines. This week the NFL adds a layer of intrigue to our little contest, and y’all know what that means…bonus picks!! Enjoy the games, and a special shout out to my Texas peeps recovering from Hurricane Harvey & Florida friends preparing for Hurricane Irma. We’re praying for you and know that you’ll be okay in the long run.

 

 

 

 

Pitt                       at                Penn State (-21.5)

The Nittany Lions were #2 in my pre-season rankings, and did nothing to dissuade me from that assessment in their season opening beatdown of Akron. Conversely, the Panthers had a rough second half and had to go to overtime to beat Youngstown St. Despite it being an in-state rivalry I don’t think this will be much of a game. Penn St. RB Saquon Barkley might run for 200 yards & 4 TDs unless they sit him the entire second half. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

Nebraska           at      Oregon (-13.5)
The Cornhuskers only beat Arkansas St. by 7 points last week, which isn’t a good sign. Meanwhile, the Ducks kicked the snot out of Southern Utah, just as they should have. Was last season’s 4-8 atrocity just an anomaly for what has been a successful Oregon program in the past decade?? It’s too early to say for sure, but there is that distinct possibility. I tend to believe that Oregon is better than they showed in 2016, but won’t rely on last week’s victory as any kind of accurate barometer. I also think last week may have served as a wakeup call for Nebraska. This feels like it will be a competitive & entertaining game. I’m not sure who will win, but whoever comes out on top will likely do so by less than double digits. Zach is a little nervous about the spread but likes Oregon’s high powered offense.

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Auburn               at      Clemson (-5.5)

Oooohhhh this is a good one, and it’s probably flying a little under the radar. Auburn easily defeated Georgia Southern last week, which tells us nothing. Defending national champions Clemson beat up on Kent St., and that doesn’t mean anything either. So now that both teams have the kinks worked out it’s time to play a real game. In my pre-season rankings I predicted that Clemson would “taste bitter defeat at the hands of archrival Florida St., and will probably be upset in atleast one other game.” That Florida St. thing is looking a lot more doubtful now, but I think Auburn could very well be the “one other game”. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe Clemson will have any problems and thinks they’ll win by two TDs.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Oklahoma                    at      Ohio State (-7.5)

This is being advertised as the centerpiece game of the schedule for Week 2, but I’m not so sure. The Buckeyes got off to a slow start before defeating Indiana a week ago, while Oklahoma easily beat UTEP. I sincerely believe Ohio St. is the superior team, and despite having Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield at quarterback I can’t get past the idea that Sooners’ head coach Lincoln Riley is new to all of this. Especially since the game is being played at The Horseshoe in Columbus I don’t think it’ll even be all that close. Zach has an irrational hatred for Ohio St. and thinks they are overrated.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

Kansas City       at      New England (-9)

The NFL is back and this is the big Thursday night opener. Everyone is so in love with the Patriots that it’d be hilarious if they screwed the pooch right out of the gate. The Chiefs are coming off of a successful 12-4 season, but I think they’ll fall back just a bit this year and be in a dog fight for a playoff spot. New England, in contrast to the sickening adulation heaped on them by the talking heads, won’t go undefeated, but they’ll probably win this game. However, can they cover the spread?? I think it is quite possible that the game is a little closer than nine points. Zach is sticking with the party line and predicting a 10 point Pats victory.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

Oakland             at      Tennessee (-2.5)

Both of these teams are early favorites to win their respective divisions, with good reason…they are clubs on the rise behind the leadership of young & talented quarterbacks. I like Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr, though Carr is probably further ahead in his development. Both running games should be solid, and there are ample weapons for each signal caller to throw the ball to, with Tennessee’s offensive line being just a little more talented. The difference in this game will likely be defense, with Oakland’s pass rushing tandem of Khalil Mack & Bruce Irvin being a real headache for opposing offenses, while Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo leads the charge surrounded by a lot of unproven talent. The Titans get the slight home field bump here, but, while I think they’ll be a playoff team, I’m not buying that they’ll win this game. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

Seattle                at                Green Bay (-3.5)

This is an NFC title caliber matchup in Week 1. It’s going to be odd seeing RB Eddie Lacy in a Seahawks’ uniform and lining up against his former team, but I think he’ll do well. As a matter of fact, I have no doubt that both offenses will put on a show, so defense will be the deciding factor. On paper that advantage goes to Seattle. Zach thinks that the home field is a huge advantage for Green Bay and is looking for QB Aaron Rodgers to have a big day.

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

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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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