Two years ago one of the first signs that the Covid-19 pandemic might be a bigger deal than many originally thought it to be was the stunning cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness became March Sadness very quickly. In 2021 the tournament returned, albeit with all the requisite virus-related protocols that we now know were pretty much useless. And now, though The Sickness is still an issue, most of us have decided to move forward, live our lives, and do our best without meaningless virtue signaling that does very little to protect anyone from anything. As far as I know that means March Madness will get underway tomorrow with all the pomp & circumstance it deserves. Technically the action is already underway with play-in games, or what the powers-that-be refer to as the First Four. I don’t pay any attention to those games, so for our purposes they’ll simply be overlooked.
After years of hoping WordPress would create some sort of brackets plug-in to no avail I finally stumbled upon a way to visually represent my entire bracket here. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. A few things should be noted. First, this is my one & only bracket. I do not create multiple “Sheets of Integrity” (shout out to my guys Mike & Mike). I don’t enter into a bunch of contests trying to make big bucks off of this deal, mostly because I’m not that good of a prognosticator (if you follow our Pigskin Picks of Profundity during football season you’re well aware of that). I did throw $10 into one thing my nephew is doing, but I have low expectations. At any rate, this is really just a way for me to have some fun & make the games a bit more interesting, especially since neither my alma mater Marshall Thundering Herd or home team West Virginia Mountaineers are playing in the postseason. Also, as you’ll see, I really controlled myself when it comes to picking upsets. There’s alot of chalk in these choices. I know there’ll be a few shockers, but I have no idea what they will be so mostly I err on the side of caution and stay rather conservative in my predictions. The truth is that I don’t follow basketball nearly as close as I do football, so I am even more out of my depth than usual. That’s fine with me. I’ll still be glued to my television for the next few days, and if you are here I am guessing you will be too.
The Baylor Bears are the defending National Champions (they beat Gonzaga for the title a year ago in case you forgot), and I think they have as good a chance to repeat as any champion we’ve seen in awhile. I’ve got Virginia Tech upsetting Texas and San Francisco beating Murray St. in Round 1, with the regional final coming down to Baylor & Kentucky. If that comes to pass it could be a hell of a game, but I think the Bears get the job done and return to the Final Four.
I have to give Gonzaga credit. When a basketball team from a school in Spokane, WA that no one had ever heard of burst onto the scene in 1999 by making it to the Elite 8 I don’t think anyone thought much of it. Just another Cinderella, right?? There’s one or two every year. But here we are, more than two decades later, and the Bulldogs have become not only a tournament mainstay but a consistent Top 10 team. Do they play the same level of competition as programs in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, etc.?? Maybe not, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve appeared in two Final Fours in the past five years, falling short in the title game both times. Can they go that far again?? Most of the talking heads will say yes, but I disagree. New Mexico St. over Connecticut is my choice for the annual 5/12 upset, but that’s the only surprise I foresee in the first round. Actually, it’s chalk all the way thru except for that game, which would set up an epic Gonzaga-Duke regional final and a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog kind of guy, but who could’ve predicted just a few years ago that the Blue Devils would ever be the underdogs in this matchup?!?!?!?? I realize that Duke isn’t the same level of great they might’ve been a decade ago, but they have hovered near the Top 5 most of the season. Perhaps I’m being sucked into the emotional vortex of this being Coach K’s swan song, but I think in this particular circumstance his team has the depth & athleticism to win a squeaker.
I like the Miami Hurricanes to score a mild first round upset, and feel good about predicting the Iowa St. Cyclones to overcome the odds a few times, making it all the way to the Elite 8. They are my Cinderella and I’m pushing all my chips into the center of the table on them…kind of. Ultimately I foresee the Kansas Jayhawks emerging from the region and going to the Final Four.
Sadly, this is as crazy as it gets for me. I am predicting two big upsets in the first round: Michigan over Colorado St. & Loyola (Chicago) over Ohio St. It’s always fun to see Sister Jean & Loyola’s Gryffindor scarves, right?? Sister Jean is 102 years old, so this might be her last hurrah. I hope her guys give her one final thrill. Unfortunately I don’t believe it’ll be a long ride, with the dream ending in Round 2. With mostly chalk prevailing I think it comes down to Arizona & Villanova, with the West Coast Wildcats punching their ticket to the Final Four.
I am predicting Baylor vs. Duke and Arizona vs. Kansas in the semis. As cool as it would be to see Coach K ride off into the sunset with a sixth National Championship I think he’s going to have to settle for one last Final Four appearance. Baylor is just too strong & athletic. I’m not sure it will even be that close. I also don’t believe Kansas is quite as elite as they typically have been, and think Arizona will expose their weaknesses. So will anyone East of the Mississippi be interested in watching two West Coast teams battle for the championship?? I hope so…¦it could be a very entertaining contest. At the end of the day though I believe Baylor will cut down the nets, becoming the first back-to-back champs since the 2006 & 2007 Florida Gators.
Welcome back to The Sammys!! If you missed out on Part 1 please check it out then join us right back here. Give a rousing ovation to our host, renowned comedian Dave Chappelle!!
After some thought-provoking comedy from our host it’s time for our next award, and making his debut on our stage is a driver in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. He has won only one race in 119 starts in the course of six years, but he’s only 28 years old and we feel like his future is bright. It was that single win in October 2021 that made him marginally famous, albeit not for the reason he likely preferred. Y’all know what to do as we proudly introduce Brandon Brown!! Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:
The Thrill of Victory Award
Brady Wins Another Super Bowl
On February 7, 2021 Tom Brady’s decision to leave New England after two decades paid off, as he led his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to a convincing 31-9 victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Brady earned his seventh Lombardi Trophy and was the game’s MVP for the fifth time.
The Tide Rolls…Again
On January 11, 2021 the Alabama Crimson Tide won their sixth National Championship in twelve years by administering a 52-24 beatdown to the Ohio St. Buckeyes, who shouldn’t have been in the playoff in the first place.
After COVID forced the cancellation of March Madness in 2020 the tournament returned a year later, with Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor, & UCLA ending up in the Final Four. The Baylor Bears beat the previously undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs on April 5, 2021 to earn their first ever National Championship.
Helio’s 4th Indy 500
COVID also affected the Indianapolis 500 in 2020, causing it to be delayed until August. I missed it because I completely forgot about it being rescheduled. Thankfully the Indy 500 returned to its familiar Memorial Day Weekend spot in 2021, with dynamic 46 year old Brazilian Helio Castroneves following in the footsteps of legends AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., & Rick Mears by capturing his fourth Borg-Warner Trophy.
Milwaukee Wins NBA Title
In July 2021 (because the season was delayed slightly & reduced by ten games) the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games (4-2) to win their first NBA title since Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) had led them to a championship in 1971. “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo was named Finals MVP, fulfilling the potential so many had seen in him throughout his nine year career.
Braves Win Another World Series
Selective memory is funny. I really thought the Braves had won several World Series back in the 1990’s when I truly despised them. However, it turns out that in five appearances they only won once in that time span (they’d won the Series two previous times decades before I was born). That made their 2021 victory more palatable, and it also helped that they defeated the Houston Astros, who I still consider cheaters that should’ve been stripped of the championship they “won” in 2017. To be honest I didn’t watch much of this Series, which the Braves won in six games, 4-2.
and the Sammy goes to…..
Milwaukee Bucks. It was just nice to have a Finals that didn’t include the LA Lakers, Golden St. Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat. Lebron James was nowhere to be found. It was a fresh matchup involving teams that aren’t usually around at the end. The Bucks hadn’t won a title in fifty years, so kudos to them.
To present our next award we are happy to welcome a young lady who has been enjoying her freedom the past few months. She may never recapture the success or popularity that she enjoyed two decades ago, but seems to be in a good place in her life. She’s a pretty decent follow on Instagram and we sincerely hope her loneliness is no longer killing her. Get on your feet for Grammy Award winning pop princess Britney Spears!! And the nominees are:
Favorite Podcast or Viral Videos
Broken Skull Sessions w/ “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has segued nicely from opening up a can o’ whoopass in the wrestling ring to a variety of entertainment projects that keep him in the pop culture consciousness. While I don’t particularly care for his Broken Skull Challenge on CMT or Straight Up Steve Austin on USA Network, I do like his Broken Skull Sessions, which is just a conversation between Austin and another wrestling legend or current star. I you’re a wrestling fan it’s not a bad way to spend 60-90 minutes of your evening.
Bartender Skyy John is still slinging drinks online. Sometimes his creations are kind of wacky, and lately he’s altered his format a bit, but I still must give him a shoutout. If he eliminates the stupid music that’s all the sudden become a thing and gets back to entertaining us with his infectious personality while preparing those crazy concoctions that’d be nice.
Oral Sessions w/ Renee Paquette
Formerly known as Renee Young in WWE, Paquette has moved on but hasn’t totally escaped pro wrestling. That’s probably not going to happen since she’s married to AEW star Jon Moxley (aka Dean Ambrose) and the couple welcomed a baby girl just a few months ago. Oral Sessions differs from Austin’s show in that occasionally Paquette will interview someone outside of the wrestling realm, usually an MMA fighter, although she had her mother on once as well.
Men with the Pot
Calm down, it’s not what it sounds like…it is a cooking show, but can’t be compared to anything you’ll see on Food Network. These are simple, brief, minimalist videos made by two Polish dudes in Ireland. They’re usually about 5-10 minutes in length and show some tasty vittles being cooked out in the wild, almost like a virtual camping trip. Unlike most food-centric programs that focus on the personality of the host (I’m looking at you Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, & Bobby Flay) Men with the Pot doesn’t even show us who’s cooking. Perhaps we’ll see a hand or a leg, but otherwise there is no talking, no music, and no other sounds besides veggies being chopped, meat sizzling in an iron skillet, the gentle flow of a babbling brook, and the lovely chirping of birds. Oh, and the food always looks amazing!!
Another cooking show that’s also rather austere & oddly soothing. The two hosts are lovely Egyptian-American sisters who would most certainly thrive as phone sex operators if this gig ever falls thru. The videos are usually a minute or less, meaning you’ll need to hunt down the recipe if you actually want to make the dish yourself. That being said, I don’t know about y’all, but as much as I enjoy watching other people cook on television or online I rarely attempt to actually cook the food they make. I don’t know why I enjoy such programs, but I do.
and the Sammy goes
Men with the Pot. I’m going to contradict myself. With Tipsy Bartender it’s all about the host and his extroversion. However, sometimes the direct opposite is a nice change of pace. Have you ever listened to ambient music to fall asleep?? Thunderstorms. A crackling fireplace. Gentle rain. Men with the Pot is exactly like that, only with food. Its charm is the lack of a host…no one talking or laughing or yelling or drawing attention to themselves. The food is the focus, and it’s mesmerizing.
To present our next award we thought “what the hell” and decided to utilize NASCAR driver Brandon Brown for a second time. Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:
The Agony of Defeat Award
I don’t generally pay attention to gymnastics, and I assume I’m not alone. It’s something we notice every four years when The Olympics come around. If you were to ask me who the best gymnast of all time is I’d throw out names like Mary Lou Retton (total WV bias) & Nadia Comaneci (because I’m old), but this past summer talking heads really tried to sell the idea that the title should belong to 24 year old Simone Biles. I guess recency bias is a real thing. But something odd happened on the way to immortality…saying she “felt the weight of the world” on her shoulders (which is sort of the whole point of Olympic competition), Biles withdrew from the team finals, individual all-around finals, and almost all the individual event finals that she’d qualified for, although she did end up winning a bronze medal in the balance beam competition. Team USA won the team silver, which likely would have been a gold medal had Biles led the group like she was supposed to do. Every talking head & soccer Mom jumped to the defense of Simone Biles and discussion of mental health issues came to the forefront (the only good thing to come out of the situation), but the only thing I could think was how I had never seen a world class athlete fold like a cheap suit on such a grand stage. Quite frankly it was embarrassing. We’ve all heard the phrase “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”, and Simone Biles couldn’t so she did. She quit on her team & her country. I wish the young lady well in her future. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but sadly her legacy is forever tarnished.
The Cleveland Guardians of the Galaxy
The PC Police continue to destroy American culture piece by piece, and in 2021 it was MLB’s Cleveland Indians turn to be cancelled. The franchise announced that they’d be abandoning the Indians nickname and become the Cleveland Guardians, which is about as stupid of a choice as they could have possibly made.
He may be a good football coach, but to call Urban Meyer enigmatic would be kind. He’s well-travelled, which is a nice way of saying he’s an unreliable job hopper who bolts at the first sign of trouble. However, his departure from the Jacksonville Jaguars before the end of his first season at the helm was not Meyer’s choice. In October video of the coach being a bit too cozy with a woman other than his wife in a Columbus, OH restaurant went viral. To make matters worse, the Jags had just lost a game in Cincinnati, but Meyer didn’t go back to Jacksonville with the team, which is why he was in Columbus. Then in December accusations of mistreatment of players emerged, most notably former kicker Josh Lambo saying that Meyer literally kicked him in the leg. That was the final straw and the team decided to cut its losses. Will Urban Meyer land on his feet?? Probably. Some college team will give him another chance eventually, or he’ll land a TV gig.
147th Kentucky Derby
In 2020 the Kentucky Derby was another sporting event impacted by COVID, as it was delayed from its usual spot on the calendar in early May until September, and even then there were no fans in the stands, which was weird. 2021 saw a return to relative normalcy (Churchill Downs allowed 60% capacity). Unfortunately the outcome was marred by controversy, as winner Medina Spirit tested positive for an illegal substance after the race. An investigation is still ongoing (why such a process takes more than eight months is baffling) and sadly the horse died in December.
The “2020” Summer Olympics in Tokyo were delayed until 2021 (I’ll give you three guesses as to why and the first two don’t count), and the event was made even less interesting than usual by the fact that no spectators were allowed at the venues. I don’t think I watched one second of The Olympics, and I don’t feel bad about that.
NIL & The Transfer Portal
In case you’ve been curious, NIL stands for “name, image, & likeness”. Last summer the NCAA instituted new rules that allow collegiate athletes to be paid thru marketing deals in which they can now take advantage of whatever level of fame they have achieved. The transfer portal was actually created in 2018, but didn’t cause much of a buzz until 2021 when additional rules went into effect allowing any athlete to transfer without having to sit out a year. For now they’re allowed to transfer once, but I expect that to be tweaked in the future. Essentially this is collegiate free agency, with the additional carrot of getting paid being dangled just to make things interesting. And while I believe that these rules were created with the best of intentions what we are now seeing are unintended, chaotic consequences, like Oklahoma’s freshman QB Caleb Williams entering the portal despite having supplanted a presumed Heisman candidate under center and leading his team to an 11-2 record. There are so many tentacles to this thing that recruiting has been rendered moot. It doesn’t matter what team lands a kid out of high school because that player can ditch his team for a better deal, whether that means more playing time, a higher profile program, or a better marketing deal. College sports are farm clubs for the NFL, NBA, & (to a lesser extent) MLB now. That’s probably been true for awhile, but they aren’t even pretending to hide it anymore.
MLB All Star Game
Thanks to ESPN and other sports media the worlds of sports & politics collide more & more these days. The 2021 All-Star Game was scheduled to be played in Atlanta, but then Georgia had to go & pass an election integrity law requiring voter ID and other measures to ensure fair elections. Integrity & fairness are abhorrent ideas to liberals, so heads exploded. Somehow this turned into MLB moving the All Star Game to Denver. I didn’t watch, I don’t know who won, and I don’t care.
We all know it’s been a rough decade for Tiger Woods. His personal life got messy and various ailments derailed his legendary golf career. At one time it seemed like a lock that he’d shatter Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major titles (U.S. Open, The Masters, British Open, PGA Championship). When everything imploded for Tiger in 2009 he had won 14 majors in twelve years. He had begun to make a bit of a comeback, culminating in winning his fifth Masters in 2019 at age 43. That victory provided a glimpse of the old Tiger and made us believe that maybe…just maybe…he still had an opportunity to catch The Golden Bear. Unfortunately, on February 23, 2021 Tiger rolled his vehicle near Los Angeles and suffered significant injuries to both of his legs. Even Woods himself admits now that his days as a full-timer on the PGA Tour are over and, though he’ll likely still play in as many majors as possible, his pursuit of Nicklaus will probably fall short.
and the Sammy goes to…..
NIL & The Transfer Portal. The guise of “student-athletes” has been laughable for a long time, but it was still fun to pretend that these young people were amateurs. That’s finished now, atleast when it comes to football & basketball. High school quarterback Quinn Ewers matriculated to Ohio St. and was so highly touted that he signed a $1.4 million NIL deal. He got into one game with the Buckeyes…two snaps in garbage time…and was beaten out for the starting gig by redshirt freshman CJ Stroud, who was a Heisman finalist. So Ewers took his ball & went home to play for Texas, where he’ll probably be the starter next season. But don’t worry, cause he’s sitting on a million Gs after accomplishing literally NOTHING. Does anyone see an issue with that?? NFL legend Deion Sanders is now the head coach at 1-AA/FCS Jackson St., and Coach Prime made waves by recruiting five-star cornerback Travis Hunter. To the surprise of almost everybody Hunter chose Jackson St. over Florida St., Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and others. Rumors have swirled that he also has a $1.5 million NIL deal on the table, although that is unconfirmed. Does anyone actually think the young man will stay more than a year at Jackson St.?? I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t enter the portal a year from now and end up at one of the elite schools that recruited him in the first place. It’s crazy. It’s a free-for-all. And I don’t think any of it is good for collegiate athletics.
To present our next award The Sammys are turning to a trio of actors known primarily for their television work, specifically in daytime dramas. Two gentlemen left their longtime roles on ABC’s General Hospital after Disney (perhaps the world’s most evil corporation, ironically) imposed silly vaccine mandates and they refused to bow to the pressure. They are joined by a beautiful young lady whose departure from General Hospital in 2020 was not her choice. She has since become one of my favorite follows on Instagram, especially after her family adopted a beautiful pug puppy that reminds me so much of my dearly departed Rocco. You may know them as Jasper Jacks, Jason Morgan, & Lulu Falconeri, but we’re pretty excited to give it up for Ingo Rademacher, Steve Burton, & Emme Rylan!! And the nominees are:
Coming 2 America
The long overdue sequel to the 1998 classic starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, & James Earl Jones finds Prince Akeem of Zamunda returning to New York City to find the son he never knew he produced. Hilarity ensues…kind of. I didn’t hate it, but it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor. Is nostalgia a good enough reason to create…anything?? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question to ponder. At any rate, Murphy isn’t as funny as he might have been three decades ago, but I’ll take Eddie Murphy at half speed over most of the people kids believe are funny nowadays.
The Addams Family 2
The Addams Family has spawned TV shows, cartoons, movies, and just about everything else you can imagine. In 2019 they returned to the big screen in computer animated form, and this is the sequel to that film. It’s mildly entertaining but mostly forgettable. My perspective is biased by the fact that, right around the time this movie hit theaters, our local community theater produced a high quality stage production of The Addams Family Musical that had been nominated for a Tony Award in 2010. The musical I saw (twice) was far superior to this movie.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The third installment of Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise dives into something called The Multiverse. I’m not a comic book nerd so I can’t give you a detailed explanation, but I’ll just say it’s pretty trippy. I have never seen any of the MCU movies other than the Spider-Man flicks, all three of which I have enjoyed immensely. At this point I am sure most everyone has either seen the movie or read spoilers, but I won’t go there. Suffice to say that it is well-written with fine performances, has a lot of action, and isn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours. It is exactly what good popcorn cinema should be.
I’m a sucker for a good biopic, and I understand why some would think Kurt Warner’s story is interesting enough to be made into a movie. That being said, despite the fact that Warner is an NFL Hall-of-Famer, two-time League MVP, and one time Super Bowl MVP, my initial reaction to hearing about the film was “They made a movie…about Kurt Warner??”. That’s a good thing though because I set the bar low and didn’t have any kind of grand expectations, making it that much easier for the finished product to exceed them, which it did. American Underdog isn’t going to be remembered in the same conversation with the greatest sports movies or even the best biopics, but it’s entertaining enough.
As much of a sports nut as I am tennis has never frosted my cupcake. I know just enough about the game & its personalities to carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation, but that’s about it. However, you’d have to have been living under a rock the past couple of decades not to have heard of Venus & Serena Williams, who have become two of the best players of all time. The movie isn’t about them though…not really. Their father, Richard, is the ultimate helicopter parent, but he is portrayed in such a way that we don’t hate him. He dreams up a life plan for his girls when they are just babies, and he’s hellbent & determined to follow thru. He wants them to be professional tennis players and is willing to make sacrifices to make that happen. We’ve seen similar stories, but usually the parents are depicted as self-centered & borderline abusive. Richard Williams isn’t either of those things really…he’s just doggedly single-minded and sort of crazy, but in a sympathetic, non-threatening way. Is the film an accurate portrayal of Richard?? Who knows?? It is a really good movie though, and if Will Smith doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor it will be a crime.
Tom & Jerry
If you are of a certain age and grew up watching Tom & Jerry cartoons you’ll enjoy it well enough, but that’s as far as I can go. The technology is cool, putting the titular twosome in real world places & backgrounds that are not animated. The issue I have is that Tom D. Cat and Jerome A. Mouse are supporting characters in their own movie. The plot revolves around a down-on-her-luck 20-something who deceives her way into a job at a swanky hotel just as it is preparing to host a lavish celebrity wedding. The whole thing could’ve been a lighthearted rom-com without any critters and not changed all that much. But their cat & mouse game (I could NOT help myself) does drive the story to the point that the wedding is destroyed (literally), so I suppose that’s the idea. At the end of the day though there is way too much humanity for an alleged animated film.
In the Heights
Lin-Manuel Miranda could retire as the dude who gave us Hamilton and that would be enough, but he’s back with what can best be described as a love letter to the Latino community, specifically Washington Heights in New York City’s Upper Manhattan. The music is lively & fun, and the performances are fantastic. I am sure those from a similar background that identify closely with the story love the movie more than me, and I mean that respectfully. I enjoyed it and liked the music, but understand completely that I am not the target audience. Miranda set the bar impossibly high with Hamilton, and while In the Heights tries mightily, it falls short of the mark.
and the Sammy goes to…..
King Richard. I’m not really a huge Will Smith fan. His filmography is hit & miss for me, but when he hits he knocks it out of the ballpark. I think it helps that I’m not really into tennis, know very little about the lives of The Williams Sisters, & had no preconceived notions about Richard Williams. That being said, I found Smith’s performance enthralling and the tale itself fascinating. Rotten Tomatoes has it rated 91% fresh, and I have to agree.
It’s time or another break, but we’ll be back soon with the exciting climax of the 2021 Sammys!!
After last weekend’s craziness the playoff committee released their rankings as follows: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St., Notre Dame, & Ohio St.. That’s the Top 7 and no one else really matters. Barring any upsets in the conference title games (a huge IF if there ever was one) the essential questions are these: a) how far will the loser of the SEC Championship fall?? & b) can Oklahoma St. leapfrog Cincinnati if they win the Big 12 title?? Notre Dame is screwed because they’re sitting at home while these other teams are still playing. They need Cincinnati AND Oklahoma St. to lose, and even then the 4th playoff spot could go to Ohio St.. At any rate, our marathon of picks during Rivalry Week turned out slightly better for me (6-3) than Zach (2-7), and the lineup is even more packed this weekend. Unfortunately I have plans Friday & Saturday so I probably won’t be watching much of the action. I should be able to keep up with the scores frequently though.
My Season: 43-43
Zach’s Season: 32-54
Western Kentucky at UTSA (-2.5)
The first time these teams met on October 9 in Bowling Green, KY the Roadrunners won a high scoring shootout, so the rematch has the potential to be a lot of fun. I’m pretty pissed that my Marshall Thundering Herd isn’t playing in this one, but they blew their chance in spectacular fashion. Texas-San Antonio has the home field and that’s enough for me. Conversely, Zach feels like momentum favors the Hilltoppers and he thinks they’ll eek out a close win.
My Pick: UTSA
Z’s Pick: Western Kentucky
PAC 12 (Las Vegas, NV)
Utah (-3) vs. Oregon
I am intrigued. When these teams met on November 20 in Salt Lake City the Utes scored a huge 38-7 victory and ended Oregon’s playoff aspirations. Will the Ducks face a similar fate on a neutral field?? I don’t think so. It’ll be much closer this time, and I think the underdogs have what it takes to pull off the mild Friday night upset. Zach, on the other hand, believes Utah is firing on all cylinders right now and has a better team with superior athletes. He agrees that it’ll be closer than the first contest between these two, but thinks the favorites will win again.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Utah
Big 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oklahoma State (-7) vs. Baylor
On October 2 the Bears went into Stillwater and were defeated 24-14, but this game is being played at Jerry World, aka The Palace in Dallas, so there is no home field advantage. The Cowboys could earn a playoff spot if Cincinnati loses, and a convincing win could make the debate interesting even if Cincy wins. I don’t expect anything to be drastically different than the first meeting, and with (potentially) so much at stake I believe we’re looking at another solid OK St. triumph. Zach is impressed by State’s defense and likes their offensive line, but foresees a tight ballgame that could be decided by a late or overtime field goal.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Utah State at San Diego State (-3.5)
I don’t know who makes the schedule, but c’mon man!! I should be able to hunker down in my warm bed late at night and watch a fun west coast battle, but instead we’re getting a 3pm EST kickoff. Anyway, these teams have not previously met this season, which is a rarity in conference title games. The 9-3 Aggies face a tough task going into hostile territory against the 11-1 Aztecs, who are riding a four game win streak. I don’t expect anything too crazy and believe the home team will win comfortably. Zach likes Utah St.’s ground game but feels like San Diego St.’s defense will come alive in the second half to secure a win.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: San Diego State
Houston at Cincinnati (-11)
The Bearcats are causing me a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog guy. Always have been, always will be. That being said, I am just not sure Cincinnati belongs in the playoff. They deserve kudos for going thru their schedule undefeated, but are they truly on the level of any Power 5 opponent they’d face in the semifinal?? I have serious doubts. My feelings about this game are further complicated by the presence of current Cougars & former WVU Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. We expected big things from him in the Mountain State, and he was a fairly decent 51-38 in seven seasons at the helm. However, Holgorsen clearly wasn’t happy here and jumped at the chance to take the Houston job. Both of these teams will be members of the Big 12 in the near future, so the rivalry will continue to grow. This particular contest isn’t hard to pick for me because the points are just too much. Cincy will probably win, but it won’t be a double digit victory. Zach doesn’t think Cincinnati belongs in the playoff but doesn’t believe the committee will deny them if they win this game. However, he foresees Holgorsen having his team ready to pull off the upset. If that happens no one will be happier than the CFP committee.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Houston
MAC (Detroit, MI)
Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-5.5)
I used to be a big fan of MACtion. Their random Tuesday or Wednesday night games were a treat. To be honest though, it’s been a few years since I’ve paid any attention to the conference. I vaguely recall when the Huskies went 12-2 in 2012 and lost to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in Heisman voting in 2013 behind Alabama QB AJ McCarron & winner Jameis Winston, the quarterback at Florida St. As far as this game, the Golden Flashes are 7-5 and led a rather weak field in the MAC West, while NIU is a solid but unspectacular 8-4 and were beaten by three TDs in their last game. When these teams met just a few weeks ago Kent won a 52-47 shootout, although NIU scored 20 fourth quarter points as their spirited comeback fell short. I suppose there’s a chance it could be a sneakily entertaining contest, but I’m leaning toward Kent winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach likes NIU to pound the rock and score the upset.
My Pick: Kent State
Z’s Pick: Northern Illinois
Appalachian State (-3.5) at Louisiana
This is my sleeper pick for best game of the week. On October 12 the Mountaineers traveled to Lafayette and suffered a 41-13 loss, so I’m a bit surprised by the odds. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t tasted defeat since losing the season opener at Texas, but it seems like they’re not getting much respect. Perhaps the impending departure of head coach Billy Napier to the Florida Gators is a factor. Otherwise, do the oddsmakers have some inside info, or are they simply making assumptions?? I don’t know. Given the current circumstances and taking what we know at face value I have to lean toward the home team scoring a mild “upset”. Zach predicts special teams will play an important role in an App. St. victory.
My Pick: Louisiana
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
SEC (Atlanta, GA)
Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama
As a certain former President might say, this game is YUUUGGGEEE. Not only will an SEC Champion be crowned, but there are major playoff implications. If Georgia wins they’re in, but it is entirely possible that they could lose yet not fall out of the Top 4. And what about ‘Bama?? Obviously they’d be in with a victory, but what happens if they lose?? Will the committee twist themselves in knots trying to justify only dropping the Tide to #4?? The simplest outcome is also the most likely…the Bulldogs win & cover and remain #1, while Alabama drops to #5 and is denied another National Championship opportunity. That’s what I’m hoping to see. As much as Zach respects Nick Saban he just doesn’t think this Alabama team measures up to their predecessors. He thinks Georgia has the best defense in the country and the offense is pretty good too. He’s predicting a big Bulldogs victory.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
ACC (Charlotte, NC)
Pitt vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)
Good Lord, could there be a more underwhelming matchup?? The ACC really needs Clemson & Florida St. to figure things out because the rest of the conference is a snoozefest. Credit where it is due though, as the 10-2 Panthers have won four straight, while the Demon Deacons lost two of their final four games but still finished 10-2. The game is theoretically being played at a neutral site, but Wake will enjoy a quasi-home field advantage since their campus is only an hour away. That’s enough for me to predict a mundane & unremarkable victory for the favorites. Zach likes Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and believes he will have a great day picking apart Wake’s defense.
My Pick: Wake Forest
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Big Ten (Indianapolis, IN)
Michigan (-9) vs. Iowa
I’m not a mental health expert, but I know that folks with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs followed by extraordinary lows. I also understand that it is sometimes difficult for athletes to sustain a high level of intensity. Therefore, my question is what do the 11-1 Wolverines have left in the tank after their magnificent beatdown of Ohio St.?? This game isn’t at The Big House against their archrivals, but they are playing for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a playoff berth that could lead to their first National Championship since 1997. Theoretically that should be ample motivation, right?? The 10-2 Hawkeyes fell off the radar after two consecutive October losses, yet here they are on a four game winning streak. Closer examination reveals that they won those four games by an average of less than 5 points against teams that are collectively 19-29. In other words their schedule was frontloaded, and they didn’t face Michigan or Ohio St.. Iowa’s most impressive victory was a home game against Penn St., a 7-5 team that lost four out of six games in the second half of the season. I don’t think there’s any way Michigan loses this game. However, I can see a dropoff in energy leading to the final margin of victory being a touchdown or less. Zach is also concerned about an emotional letdown for his beloved Wolverines, as well as the enormous pressure they face in restoring the program to its former glory. He points out that Iowa has won 5 out of the last 7 matchups between the two schools. Having said all of that, he isn’t picking against Michigan again (although it did work a week ago).
I don’t want to go off on a rant, but…what’s the deal with all the roughing the passer calls in the NFL this year?? It’s ridiculous!! The defense barely touches a quarterback and flags fly. A few years ago no one knew exactly what a catch was anymore, but thankfully that craziness calmed down after a couple of seasons (replay helps). Sadly I don’t believe this protecting the QB thing will go away. How long will it be before sacks are illegal and all quarterbacks are wearing a different color jersey designating them as untouchable?? That may sound radical & far fetched, but trust me…it’s coming. At any rate, I thought for sure that my season lead was going to disappear because I got off to a horrible start last weekend. Unfortunately for Zach he managed to not only match my ineptitude (3-5) but exceed it (2-6). I am really trying to avoid focusing on the same handful of teams each week, so we’re back to our regular five game lineup and probably overlooking some of the better matchups on the schedule.
My Season: 31-36
Zach’s Season: 29-38
North Carolina at Pitt (-6.5)
A lot of things can change in the course of a couple of weeks. Not long ago the Tar Heels looked like a team not living up to lofty expectations, while the Panthers were moving up the polls and their quarterback was suddenly being viewed as a top notch NFL prospect. I suppose QB Kenny Pickett is still in that conversation, but his team was upset by the Miami Hurricanes on Halloween Weekend, and no one really noticed that they trounced Duke last Saturday. Pitt is still 7-2 and leading their division, but could they be looking ahead to a very important game against Virginia that’ll decide who plays in the ACC title game?? Conversely, Carolina took Wake Forest to OT on Saturday and knocked the Demon Deacons off their undefeated pedestal. It just feels to me like North Carolina is finally reaching the potential many thought they had, while Pitt may have already peaked. Zach thinks both offenses can score but likes Pitt’s defense a little more. However, he is uncomfortable with the points and thinks it will be a close game.
My Pick: North Carolina
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Mississippi State at Auburn (-5.5)
The 5-4 Bulldogs followed an upset of Kentucky with a loss to Arkansas, which is kind of how their season has gone. Meanwhile, 6-3 Auburn had very quietly snuck into the Top 20 until losing to Texas A&M last weekend. The Vibes are telling me the Tigers may be looking ahead a little bit, salivating at the chance to deal Alabama’s playoff dreams a death blow in the Iron Bowl. That’s why I’m picking the underdogs. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive battle but believes the home team will get the job done.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Z’s Pick: Auburn
Oklahoma (-5.5) at Baylor
First place in the Big 12 might have been at stake if the Bears hadn’t gotten upset by TCU. Can they rebound and play spoiler?? Have the Sooners finally found their rhythm?? That seems like a strange question to ask about an undefeated Top 5 team, but Oklahoma has been overrated all season and definitely isn’t worthy of a playoff berth. I think the home field is huge and feel like an upset is brewing. Zach thinks it’ll be close, but ultimately Oklahoma will pull a rabbit out of the hat as they’ve done all season.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Texas A&M (-2.5) at Ole Miss
My father thinks there is a real possibility that our hometown boy Jimbo Fisher could bolt College Station and be the new head coach at LSU next year. I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell that’ll happen. However, there’s no denying that A&M isn’t paying him all that money to win 9 or 10 games and finish second in the division to Alabama. This almost feels like a must-win for Jimbo. Conversely, the 7-2 Rebels would be delighted with ten wins, a January Bowl game, and seeing QB Matt Corral chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft next spring. I think Corral will show off in this game, put up numbers, and keep his team close. But at the end of the day Fisher will lead his Aggies to a thrilling victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-10.5)
Can the Jags keep the ball rolling after a low scoring upset of the Buffalo Bills last week?? Will the Colts feed off the momentum of their high scoring win over the NY Jets?? Obviously the oddsmakers don’t put much stock in Jacksonville’s one & only victory, and Indy does have the home field. But I really don’t like the points. I won’t predict an outright upset (I’ve got to see more before I believe in the Jaguars), but don’t think anyone is winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach has no faith that Jacksonville can win two games in a row. He thinks Indianapolis will keep the ball on the ground and grind out enough points to cover the sizable odds.
It wasn’t my intention to do bonus picks again so soon, but both the college & NFL schedules are chockful of intriguing matchups and I just can’t resist. Last week was a rough one for yours truly, as I could only muster a record of 1-4, while Zach fared a little better at 2-3. Obviously neither of us have a bright future in the prognostication arts, but we’ll have fun trying.
My Season: 22-24
Z’s Season: 16-31
California at USC (-15.5)
The Bears come into this game 4-3, but it must be noted that two of those losses were by 5 points or less, and they’ve split the last two games in overtime. Meanwhile, the Trojans have an identical 4-3 record but are riding a three game winning streak. This is a Thursday night contest, and while it is a home game for Southern Cal the 2 TD+ spread seems a bit much. I think it’ll be closer and Zach agrees.
My Pick: California
Z’s Pick: California
Michigan (-24) at Michigan St.
A year ago the Spartans escaped with a thrilling last second victory after a touchdown on a fumbled punt. But that team was undefeated and would go on to play in the national playoff semifinal. In 2016 the tables have been turned. The Wolverines are undefeated and ranked #2 in the country while State has lost five straight to stand at 2-5. I am not quite sure what has happened in East Lansing outside of the normal ebb & flow of players graduating & new ones stepping up take those spots, but obviously things have taken a bad turn. Conversely, Jim Harbaugh has coached his alma mater back to relevancy much quicker than I anticipated, although few are really shocked that they have been successful. I’d be surprised if the favorites lost, but I’d be almost as surprised if Sparty didn’t show some pride in defending their home field. Zach is a big Michigan fan but he agrees.
My Pick: Michigan St.
Z’s Pick: Michigan St.
Baylor (-3) at Texas
I thought that it’d be Baylor having a rough year given their…eventful…offseason, while Texas would show some life with Charlie Strong’s job on the line. However the opposite has happened thus far. The Bears are 6-0 and have barely been tested. The Longhorns are 3-4 and probably already have a list of candidates to replace Strong. I’d LOVE to pick the upset…but I just can’t pull the trigger, even with the game being played in Austin. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Washington (-10) at Utah
The Huskies are a very quiet 7-0, ranked 4th in the polls, & look like a solid playoff team unless they stumble down the stretch. Could that misstep come against the 7-1 Utes in Salt Lake City?? I think it is possible. At the very least I am uncomfortable with a double digit point spread. Zach has no issues with the spread. He thinks it’ll be close for three quarters but Washington will take over in the end.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: Washington
Nebraska at Wisconsin (-8.5)
This is the prime time game on ESPN Saturday night. The Huskers have rather quietly amassed a perfect 7-0 record, while the Badgers have lost twice…to Michigan & Ohio St….nothing to be ashamed about. Wisconsin gets the home field bump, which is understandable. But are the points too much?? I think they might be. Zach thinks Nebraska is overrated and he likes Wisconsin’s defense.
My Pick: Nebraska
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Clemson (-4.5) at Florida St.
Before the season began this game looked like it could decide a playoff spot. Unfortunately the Seminoles have dropped a couple of games and are unlikely to re-enter the playoff conversation. However the Tigers, despite a few close shaves, remain undefeated and very much in the playoff hunt. As much as I’d love to stick with my pre-season choice and pick Clemson The Vibes are reminding me that this game is in Tallahassee, that Florida St. is still a very good team, & that Clemson has been on the cusp of losing a couple of times and their luck can’t run on forever. Zach believes the Seminoles will put up a good fight but Clemson will be too much in the 4th quarter.
My Pick: Florida St.
Z’s Pick: Clemson
Kansas City (-2.5) at Indianapolis
The Chiefs were one of my pre-season Super Bowl picks, but thus far they are an underwhelming 4-2 and trailing both the Raiders & Broncos in the AFC West. The Colts aren’t much better. At 3-4 they still have a chance to win their division as I predicted only because the Texans aren’t very good. It is interesting that Indy is a home underdog. If the folks in Vegas aren’t going to respect them why should I?? Zach likes the Chiefs to outcoach the opponent and snag a victory.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Oakland at Tampa Bay (-1.5)
The Raiders have been fairly impressive in what seems to be the culmination of a decade long rebuild, leading their division at 5-2. The Bucs have been…alright. They are 3-3 and occasionally show flashes of…something. Whatever it is they aren’t there yet and Oakland is ahead of their progress by a country mile. Zach notes that Tampa has suffered some key injuries and thinks the Raiders will be a playoff team.
My Pick: Oakland
Z’s Pick: Oakland
Arizona at Carolina (-2.5)
Many pundits thought the Cards were a Super Bowl favorite this season, but so far they’ve looked rather mediocre. The Panthers have been even worse, following in the footsteps of other Super Bowl losers of the past by stinking up the joint the following year. I have no idea what the problem is, but it is irrefutable that a problem exists. Carolina is probably already out of playoff contention, but Arizona can still recover and win their division. This looks like a tossup on paper, but I’m gonna go with the visiting underdogs. Zach agrees. He likes the Cardinals’ defense to lead them to victory.
The college football schedule is so unappealing this week that ESPN’s College Gameday is headed to Harrisonburg, VA, the site of a 1-AA game pitting James Madison against Richmond. Nevertheless, not only did I find enough games to choose from, but y’all are getting bonus picks to make up for last week’s shortfall. You’re welcome. Speaking of last week, I went 3-1, while Zach was 1-3. Michigan wasn’t going to cover the 8 ½ points even if they hadn’t lost to Michigan State outright on what is sure to become a legendary last second play. LSU won by 7 points…not 7 ½…which was bad for both Zach and me. Conversely, the hated Patriots beat the Colts by only 7 points…not 7 ½…which was good for me (but not Zach). I don’t know how the oddsmakers come up with point spreads, but it is impressive just how accurate they often are. Anyway, for the season thus far I am 24-13, while Zach is 16-21. Like I said, we’re picking some extra games this week, so enjoy, and don’t hesitate to leave feedback and tell your friends about these picks and other content one can find here. We’re always looking for ways to expand The Manoverse and all are welcome.
Pitt (-7) at Syracuse This just in…Pitt still sucks to those of us living in West Virginia, although I do miss The Backyard Brawl. I haven’t kept up with these two programs much since they joined the ACC, mostly because they had become irrelevant years before that. But surprisingly enough the Panthers have actually snuck into the rankings with a record of 5-1. I don’t think they are anywhere close to recapturing the glory days of Tony Dorsett & Dan Marino, but I’ll give credit where credit is due. Meanwhile, the Orangemen still seem to be adrift in the wilderness that they’ve been wandering for most of the past fifteen years. I don’t know enough about either team to offer astute analysis, so I’ll just go with my heart, which is figuratively emblazoned with the slogan Eat Shit Pitt. Old habits die hard. On the flip side, Zach is young enough to not be jaded by decades of Panther hate and he likes their potent ground game.
My Pick: Syracuse Z’s Pick: Pitt
Kansas at Oklahoma St. (-33.5) I chose this game simply because of the large point spread. Few doubt the Cowboys will win, but the question is by how much?? Again, it is amazing just how precise the folks in Vegas can oftentimes be, so I don’t doubt the final margin of victory will be somewhere in the 30-35 point range. I’ve won & lost picks over the years by as little as a half point, so that’s probably the kind of situation we have here. Oklahoma St. has only beaten one team by more than 30 points, while the Jayhawks have only lost twice by 30+, so I’ll go out on a limb and say that the favorites will win by four TDs and not cover the spread. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Kansas Z’s Pick: Kansas
Iowa St. at Baylor (-37) Here we have another point spread game, this one involving one of the top teams in the nation. The Bears have been machine-esque in dismantling opponents by an average of 39 points/game. Conversely, the Cyclones are 2-4, although they’ve only been defeated by 30+ points once. At this point Baylor isn’t going to take anyone by surprise and have to expect that they’ll take each foe’s best shot. How good is Iowa St.’s best shot?? It won’t be good enough to win, but it’ll be within five TDs. Zach disagrees. He likens this to a David & Goliath kind of thing except without God involved. He believes Baylor might score 80 points and thinks they are the best team in the country.
My Pick: Iowa St. Z’s Pick: Baylor
Utah at USC (-3.5) The marquee college matchup this week is once again in the Pac 12. Fortunately for interested viewers on the east coast it’ll be a 7:30pm game which makes it easier to stay awake. I totally overestimated the Trojans in my pre-season rankings. Instead of being in the national title conversation they are riding a two game losing streak and playing under an interim coach after former head coach Steve Sarkisian was revealed to be a lush & consequently fired. Conversely, the Utes are on a roll at 6-0 and are firmly in the playoff hunt. However, both seasons could turn on a dime in this game. I really don’t understand why Southern Cal is favored. Sure they have the home field, but it is utterly disrespectful & dismissive for an undefeated Top 5 team to be underdogs to a 3-3 team in the midst of turmoil. Do the oddsmakers once again know something we don’t?? Why is it so darn difficult for folks (including me) to accept that Utah may be a legitimate contender?? I’ve got to assume that the points are meaningful and that USC will be motivated to prove something to those who have jumped off the bandwagon, so I’ll ride that crazy wave. Zach isn’t buying what the oddsmakers are selling and believes Utah might win by 5 TDs.
My Pick: USC Z’s Pick: Utah
Minnesota (-2.5) at Detroit The Lions are only 1-5?? Yikes. In my NFL Preview I predicted that the Vikings would be better than Detroit and might even sneak into the playoffs. So far so good. Detroit has been mostly competitive but couldn’t get into the winner’s circle until last week, and even then it was in overtime & controversial. These two teams met a few weeks ago in Minnesota with the home team scoring a 10 point victory. It is unusual that Detroit isn’t getting the customary three point home field bump, but there is probably a good reason for that. I might regret it, but I’ll go with the flow and stay true to my pre-season prognostications. Conversely, Zach is predicting an upset.
My Pick: Minnesota Z’s Pick: Detroit
Philadelphia at Carolina (-3) In 2014 I picked the Panthers to go 10-6 and make the playoffs. Instead they were 7-8-1 (although oddly enough they did make the playoffs). This year I said they’d go 8-8, so of course thus far they are undefeated. QB Cam Newton is an absolute beast. Meanwhile, the 3-3 Eagles may have actually figured out the right formula. Or not. No one really knows. Chip Kelly’s name is already being thrown around for collegiate openings at South Carolina and Southern Cal, and despite denials I tend to believe in the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” philosophy. Anyway, there’s really no compelling reason to go against the experts so I won’t. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Carolina Z’s Pick: Carolina
Baltimore at Arizona (-7.5) No one is shocked that the Cardinals are 4-2 and leading the NFC West. But if you would have told me that the Ravens would start the season 1-5 and be AFC North cellar dwellers (worse than the 2-4 Cleveland Browns) I would have said that’s crazy talk. I did say that I expected them to “take a step back” from 2014’s 10-6 outcome, but I never imagined they’d be this inept. I think they’ll get things straightened out at some point, but not this week. Arizona should cruise to an easy win. Zach agrees.
5-0 baby!! I’m almost positive I’ve never done that before.
I have to be honest. I was really really down last weekend. My WV Mountaineers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory due to the poor decision making of their drunken head coach, and my undefeated Marshall Thundering Herd were being totally disrespected by the talking heads. I was so bummed after the WVU loss that I just turned my TV off and went to sleep at 7:30pm. The last time I went to bed that early I was in trouble with my parents. I had pretty much made up my mind to break up with sports altogether. After church Sunday I didn’t watch a minute of the NFL on Redzone, and I didn’t even watch my beloved Steelers defeat the hated Ravens on Sunday Night Football. I was prepared to end these picks as well. You see, I am a firm believer in a kind of male menstrual cycle, and as I emailed my friend The Owl Sunday evening, I was “in a very dark place” and felt “as if I could mow thru a crowded room with a machete and laugh like a giddy child.” Thankfully when the gloom overtakes me I know that if I just disengage for a day or two factory settings will be restored and I regain my emotional equilibrium. Not that I’d ever actually hurt anyone anyway. I am far too delicate for prison. I am much more likely, to paraphrase a line from the 2004 rom-com Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, to tear someone to pieces with vicious rhetoric.
At any rate, I couldn’t abandon these picks, especially after my brilliant prognosticatory ability led me to a perfect record. I can’t let down my nephew Zach or the citizens of The Manoverse. While I was going 5-0 Zach was going 3-2, so for the season I am 30-25 and he is 28-27. There are several great college games this week that…theoretically…should add clarity to this 4 team playoff deal. Or maybe it’ll just become a bigger mess than it already is. For God’s sake I am actually starting to miss the BCS.
Baylor at Oklahoma (-5.5) The Big 12 doesn’t have a title game (or 12 teams), but the regular season conference champion might have a decent shot at being one of the chosen four playoff teams. The Sooners are probably on the outside looking in at a three team race between TCU, Baylor, & Kansas St., but they can certainly play the role of spoiler. This is a must win for the Bears and I am a little surprised that they aren’t favored even though they are the visiting team. Oklahoma’s two losses…to the aforementioned TCU & Kansas St…were by a total of 5 points. I’d be surprised if this game is much different, but I’ll roll the dice. Zach doesn’t think Oklahoma has a chance and predicts the game will be over by halftime with Baylor winning by atleast 4 TDs.
My Pick = Oklahoma Z’s Pick = Baylor
Notre Dame at Arizona St. (-2.5) The Sun Devils would need a lot of things to go right for them to make the playoff, but an appearance in the Pac 12 title game certainly seems feasible. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see the Irish jump back into the national championship picture if their only loss is to an overrated Florida St. team that they clearly outplayed on a call that was dubious to say the least. Unfortunately for Notre Dame I think they receive the death blow in this game and will be eliminated from playoff contention. Zach notes that Notre Dame is “good at beating small conference schools”, which I think may be a big ol’ flip of the bird to the Pac 12.
My Pick = Arizona St. Z’s Pick = Notre Dame
Kansas St. at TCU (-5.5) This essentially is a de facto Big 12 championship contest. The winner would almost certainly leap into atleast being on the cusp of the playoff. I have watched both teams play this season, and in my opinion it all comes down to coaching. Kansas St.’s Bill Snyder won’t be outcoached the way that West Virginia’s head lush was last weekend. Zach believes that Horned Frogs’ QB Trevone Boykin will win the game with his legs.
My Pick = Kansas St. Z’s Pick = TCU
Ohio St. at Michigan St. (-3.5) The Buckeyes are too far down on the totem pole to snag a playoff spot, but they can be spoilers while also securing a spot in the Big Ten (which has 12 teams) title game. Meanwhile, the Spartans are in a dog fight for one of those four playoff spots. A win in this game would certainly help, while a loss would likely be the knockout punch. This is one upset that no one seems to be predicting, so I suppose I will be a trailblazer. Zach has a robust disdain for Ohio St. (no one knows why) and is going with Michigan St. all the way.
My Pick = Ohio St. Z’s Pick = Michigan St.
Alabama (-6.5) at LSU
Can the Bayou Bengals do it again?? A couple of weeks ago Zach & I correctly predicted the LSU upset of then #3 Ole Miss. LSU is coming into this game well rested after a bye week. The Tide are also coming off a bye, so neither team has the advantage there. ‘Bama just hasn’t seemed to be firing on all cylinders this season yet they are a Top 5 team as usual and have won the last three meetings in this series rather handily. I think the momentum shifts back to the underdogs in 2014 and the game will be decided…one way or another…by 3 points or less. Zach concurs.
Well, last week wasn’t exactly a banner round in the prognostication arts here at The Manofesto. I went 2-5, while Zach was 1-6. The point spread really bit us in the behind, with neither Penn St. nor Nebraska being able to cover the points despite winning their games, and Miami (FL) & Michigan living up to the low expectations of the oddsmakers in spite of our spirited support. Enough said about that debacle. For the season it looks like this:
Your Humble Potentate of Profundity = 23-22
Zach = 19-26
This week gets off to an early start with two big Thursday night college games which is why you are reading this a couple of days earlier than usual. I can actually get myself moving when motivated.
There are some who don’t believe in Baylor, who say that they haven’t played anyone good. Fair enough. Their schedule is backloaded, with Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, & Oklahoma still to go after this game, and certainly their out-of-conference opponents weren’t impressive, so I understand the reluctance to embrace the Bears as a legitimate powerhouse. However, having watched them play a couple of times on TV I tend to lean toward the thought that Baylor is the real deal. The question is are they good enough to destroy Oklahoma like they’ve done everyone else?? The Sooners have been solid, beating everyone except archrival Texas. To be honest if this game were being played in Norman, OK I’d take the underdogs in a heartbeat. Then again if the game were in Norman I doubt Baylor would be favored by more than two TDs. I think one of two things will happen. Either Oklahoma will win and “expose” Baylor, making all the talking heads who’ve expressed doubt about them real proud of themselves. Or Baylor will earn a hard fought victory and gain some measure of respect. One thing that I do not think will occur is Baylor covering 14.5 points. Zach disagrees and thinks Baylor wins this one big.
This is it. This is Oregon’s big chance to prove that they…not Florida State…deserve the opportunity to lose to Alabama in the national title game. This will be a Thursday night prime time game on ESPN with almost the entire college football world watching (or atleast flipping back & forth between this and the Oklahoma-Baylor game on Fox Sports 1). Stanford has flown somewhat under the radar thus far, but they are 7-1 and ranked 6th in the polls. The Ducks are getting a lot of respect from the oddsmakers. One doesn’t see Top 10 teams being double digit home underdogs very often. Not only is a spot in the national title game on the line for Oregon, but with a victory Stanford could secure a spot in the conference championship game and have an opportunity to get to The Rose Bowl. Oregon has been mowing people down with almost as much effectiveness as Baylor, but something tells me this one won’t be quite that easy. I won’t go so far as to predict an outright upset, but I think this is going to be far closer than most are expecting. Zach calls this one of the toughest games he’s picked but is going with the boys in Vegas and taking the Ducks.
In my pre-season Top 25 I had BYU at #25 and left Wisconsin out. That prediction could still come to fruition if the Cougars win out and the Badgers lose this game. Wisconsin ranks 10th in the nation in rushing and has one of the NCAA’s best running backs in Melvin Gordon. And of course they always have a tremendous offensive line. BYU has a rather effective rushing attack themselves. This is going to be an old fashioned ground & pound game, with the lines essentially deciding the contest. I think BYU will hang tough for 3+ quarters, but at the end of the day Wisconsin will control time of possession and get a solid 10 point victory. Zach thinks this’ll be an easy Badger win.
LSU at Alabama (-12)
I must explain something about myself. I am an underdog kind of guy. Plus I can’t stand the idiotic BCS (no matter how many times it does seem to work out in the end). Therefore I am the contrarian who is always hoping & praying for an upset that’ll send the whole process into chaos. On top of all that I…like many others…am getting just a bit bored with Alabama’s dominance. So I have been looking forward to this game simply because outside of Texas A&M back in September I felt like the Bayou Bengals were the only team with even a prayer of upsetting the Tide. Oh I suppose maybe Missouri or South Carolina might have a puncher’s chance in the SEC title game, but in reality the only thing standing between ‘Bama and yet another appearance in the national championship game are the LSU Tigers. So…will the upset occur?? Well, I’d feel a lot better about LSU’s chances if the game were being played in Baton Rouge. And I’d certainly like it a whole lot better if they didn’t have two losses on their record. Truthfully I wouldn’t dare put money on an upset, but I am intrigued by the point spread. A year ago ‘Bama went into hostile territory and came away with a 4 point victory. Two years ago LSU went into Tuscaloosa and won a 9-6 snoozefest. My vibe is that we are in for something like that…maybe a 17-10 or 28-17 kind of game. I don’t think Alabama will lose, but I don’t think they’re going to cover the points. Zach thinks this will be a low scoring brawl between two well coached teams. He’s picking the Tide to roll to a two touchdown victory.
Cincinnati (-1.5) at Baltimore
It says a lot about the Bengals that they are favored in a game away from home, even if it is by the slightest of margins. The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens are 3-5 and actually behind the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Central. If they are going to make any kind of run at a playoff spot this feels like a must win. I am anything but a Ravens fan but my vibe is that they will realize the urgency and take advantage of the home field. Zach is a fellow Steelers fan and is letting his longstanding disdain for Baltimore cloud his judgment. He’s picking the Bengals even if it would likely put the final nail in Pittsburgh’s coffin.