Do you want the good news or the bad news?? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as it’s all about perspective. We were both a dismal 3-7 last week, meaning Zach maintains the season lead. It also means that I’ve fallen below .500, which doesn’t make me happy. We’re ending the college football portion of our programming with Championship Weekend, with some games occurring Friday night & some on Saturday. I am not sure how much football I’ll get to watch because this weekend begins a pretty full dance card for the entirety of December, but in contrast to being laid up in a medical facility for the Christmas season I can’t complain.
My Season: 41-43
Zach’s Season: 43-41
North Texas at Texas-San Antonio (-8.5)
With all due respect, I am glad my Marshall Thundering Herd escaped Conference USA, which is basically a starter pack league. That being said, I’m kind of digging this game because the teams involved have cool names. I suppose I am easily entertained. I cannot opine with any level of confidence except to say that the Roadrunners won the title a year ago & have the home field advantage. By the time this game ends on Friday night (it’s on the CBS Sports Network in case you’re interested) I expect that they will have defended their championship and overcome the Mean Green. Zach likes UTSA’s offense in a blowout that’ll be all but over by halftime.
My Pick: UTSA
Z’s Pick: UTSA
PAC 12 Championship
Utah vs. Southern California (-3)
It’s pretty simple for the Trojans…win & they’re in The Playoff. One would think that’d be plenty of motivation. However, don’t count out the 9-3 Utes. Granted, they backed into this game via a weird tiebreaker system despite the fact they lost to Oregon a few weeks ago, but we cannot overlook the fact that Utah actually defeated the Trojans in mid-October. That game was decided by a gutsy 2 point conversion in the final minute, and it should be noted that it was in Salt Lake City. Can they do it again on a neutral field?? I’m on the fence to be quite honest, but enjoy playoff controversy and generally lean toward the underdog, so I’m pulling for an upset, whether it’s a smart move or not. Zach predicts a shootout, but thinks USC quarterback & Heisman front runner Caleb Williams is a difference maker.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: USC
Toledo (-1.5) vs. Ohio
There was a brief period of time when I occasionally enjoyed some MACtion when they’d have midweek games on ESPN, but it’s been awhile. This is a neutral site game in Detroit, so there’s no home field advantage. The 7-5 Rockets have lost their last two games, while the 9-3 Bobcats have won seven straight. It’s a Noon kickoff Saturday on ESPN, which might hook some viewers tuned into Gameday, including me. Momentum is obviously leaning toward Ohio, while the oddsmakers like Toledo. When in doubt follow the money, right?? Zach has issues with the entire state of Ohio, but he’s picking the Bobcats in a coin flip.
My Pick: Toledo
Z’s Pick: Ohio
Sun Belt Championship
Coastal Carolina at Troy (-10.5)
It ticks me off that the Herd aren’t in this game. How in the hell does a team upset Notre Dame in South Bend, then lose to Bowling Green?? My guys were also beaten by the 10-2 Trojans, who come into this game as double digit favorites on a nine game winning streak. The Chanticleers are 9-2 themselves, but could be without the services of starting QB Grayson McCall, who has been suffering from an ankle injury. Coastal got trucked by James Madison last week without McCall, so the prognosis isn’t good if he’s out again. They dominated time of possession in that game with over 40 minutes, but punted nine times & had two turnovers. Zach believes Coastal will be fired up after last week’s stunning loss, and he foresees a rebound win.
My Pick: Troy
Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina
Mountain West Championship
Fresno State at Boise State (-3.5)
We haven’t talked much about the Broncos this year, but they’re 9-3 on a three game winning streak. The 8-4 Bulldogs started slow but have won seven games in a row. It’s a 4pm Saturday kickoff on Fox, and unfortunately I probably won’t get to see the 4th quarter. Will the contest be decided by then?? Probably not, but I like Boise to come out on top on the infamous blue turf. Zach thinks it’ll be a low scoring defensive struggle, with the home team getting a close victory.
My Pick: Boise St.
Z’s Pick: Boise St.
Central Florida at Tulane (-3)
The American is another conference that doesn’t hold their title game on a neutral field, which makes it feel like a second rate rematch. The 10-2 Green Wave lost to the 9-3 Knights just a few weeks ago. That game was also in New Orleans, so I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome this time. Zach is expecting another competitive contest, but also thinks the outcome will be the same.
My Pick: UCF
Z’s Pick: UCF
Big Ten Championship
Purdue vs. Michigan (-16.5)
I’m not sure what to think about this one. The undefeated Wolverines are clearly a better team and will secure a spot in The Playoff with a victory. Even with a loss…unless they are inexplicably blown out…I expect Michigan is in the Final Four, although that’s certainly not a guarantee. Having said that, Indianapolis is only an hour away from the 8-4 Boilermakers’ home base, so they might enjoy a slight “home field” advantage. Michigan put so much into defeating Ohio St. last week that this becomes a classic trap game. Throw in the questionable health of RB Blake Corum & a two TDs+ point spread, and all the sudden the picture becomes somewhat murky. Of course the Wolverines rushing attack looked just fine a week ago, with sophomore Donovan Edwards averaging over 9 yards/carry on his way to over 200 yards & two touchdowns. Still, the fact is that the favorites just need to win…they don’t need to win big. So what if they’re up 15-20 points in the fourth quarter & the defense is playing well?? Could they take their foot off the gas just enough for Purdue to cover?? That’s what I’m predicting. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Purdue
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Clemson (-7.5) vs. North Carolina
I knew it. When ranking Clemson 11th in my preseason poll I said “will they be back in the playoff picture this season…I don’t think so….the only shot Clemson has is to go undefeated in convincing fashion & lay a smackdown on Notre Dame in South Bend”. Instead, the Tigers lost by three TDs to the Irish, were narrowly defeated by in-state rival South Carolina last weekend, and sit 9th in the ranking, just about where I predicted. But…are the 9-3 Tar Heels worthy competition?? Charlotte is a truly neutral site & both teams are coming off losses, so essentially it comes down to coaching & talent. As much as I respect UNC coach Mack Brown I believe Dabo Swinney is better right now, and he has superior talent. Zach likes Carolina to keep it close & atleast cover in a high scoring shootout.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Big 12 Championship
Kansas State vs. Texas Christian (-2.5)
The unbeaten Horned Frogs have more riding on this game than perhaps any other team playing this weekend. If they win they’ll be in The Playoff, but I am not at all confident in their chances of being amongst the Final Four with a loss. Let’s face it…the powers-that-be are chomping at the bit for an excuse to insert Ohio St. or Alabama back into the mix. Meanwhile, with everyone’s attention focused on Fort Worth, TX, the 9-3 Wildcats have quietly put together a pretty solid season. I think this will be a hell of a game for awhile. Much like Michigan, TCU just has to win…they don’t need to blow away the competition. The difference is the points are negligible in this one. When the two teams met back in October TCU score a comfortable ten point victory. It might be a little tighter this time, but I expect a similar outcome. Zach agrees.
My Pick: TCU
Z’s Pick: TCU
LSU vs. Georgia (-17.5)
LSU is a confusing team. They began the season with a surprising loss to Florida St. in New Orleans, then won a few games before getting demolished by Tennessee at home. They beat Alabama, but finished the season losing to a Texas A&M team that couldn’t even achieve bowl eligibility. Conversely, the #1 Bulldogs have cruised thru an unblemished schedule, unless you want to hold an early October scrape against Missouri that wasn’t decided until late in the 4th quarter against them. They call this a “neutral” field, but I’m pretty sure most of the 75k people on hand in Atlanta will be leaning a certain way. However, a couple of things must be considered. First, Georgia has played in five SEC title games since 2017 and won only once. Secondly, they are going to The Playoff no matter what, it’s just a matter of seeding. All things considered, I believe the points are simply too much. I wouldn’t be shocked by an outright Bayou Bengals victory, but the more likely scenario is that LSU plays balls to the wall, Georgia rests most of their starters in the second half, and the favorites end up winning by less than ten points. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe it’ll be any different than most other games on Georgia’s schedule, and thinks they’ll win handily.
It’s been beautiful here in The Mountain State lately. 75 degree days. Lots of sunshine. Unfortunately that’s about to change, with temps in the 40s & several rainy days in the forecast thru Thanksgiving. I suppose some would call that football weather. Speaking of which, yours truly has regained the season lead after going 3-2 last week. Zach got roughed up a bit at 1-4. Can y’all believe we’re both still above .500?? To be honest doing these picks has been one of the saving graces of the season thus far. All my favorite teams…Marshall, WVU, the Steelers…have been disappointing. All five of my fantasy teams are terrible. Despite all of it though, I still enjoy curling up on Saturdays & watching ball games from Noon til after midnight, then spending seven hours on Sunday watching RedZone. It’s not the most exciting life, but trust me when I say that after all of the things I’ve gone thru those simple pleasures mean so damn much.
My Season: 36-28
Zach’s Season: 34-30
Central Florida at Tulane (-2)
In case y’all hadn’t noticed, the Green Wave are 8-1, have won 5 games in a row, sit atop the AAC, & are firmly ensconced in the Top 25. That being said, they can’t ease off the gas with Cincinnati & UCF hot on their heels. The Knights are hanging on in the polls themselves & have won their last two games. Everybody knows I tend to be a big home field guy, but I just don’t see UCF being all that intimidated. I think they march right into New Orleans and go home with a victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick: UCF
Z’s Pick: UCF
TCU at Texas (-7)
The undefeated Horned Frogs are in the playoff discussion, but they need to solidify their position by beating a big name program. Yes, I know…they defeated Oklahoma last month, but it’s not enough. If it comes down to unbeaten TCU or a one-loss SEC/Big Ten team for that final playoff spot I don’t trust the committee to do the right thing anyway, but any kind of loss will be the end of the road. Meanwhile, the Longhorns feel like they’re in a holding pattern until Arch Manning arrives on campus, but they do have a legit opportunity to sneak into the Big 12 title game, which would likely be a rematch with TCU. It’s a tall task for the visitors, and I know where the smart money is going, but sometimes I’m not very smart. Zach has concerns about TCU’s defense, but believes it’ll be closer than a touchdown no matter who wins.
My Pick: TCU
Z’s Pick: TCU
Washington at Oregon (-13.5)
Despite a season opening beatdown at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs the Ducks have fought back and can see a legit path to the playoff. The Huskies aren’t too shabby themselves, and probably believe they have a shot to play in the conference title game. There’s too much at stake for Oregon to lay an egg on their home turf, but can they cover the points?? Go big or go home, right?? I think the favorites are peaking at the right time & will score a huge win. Zach sees big things ahead for Oregon QB Bo Nix.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oregon
LA Chargers at San Francisco (-7)
The Niners pulled the trigger on an impactful trade for RB Christian McCaffrey, but still find themselves behind red hot Seattle in the NFC West. The Chargers are battling the KC Chiefs in their division, and last weekend found a way to win without receivers Keenan Allen & Mike Williams. Can they do it again if necessary?? Honestly, I feel like the Bolts are a better team, but with their injuries & the fact that ‘Frisco is really in a must-win situation in order to keep pace with the Seahawks, I’ve got to lean toward the home team. Zach doesn’t think their banged up receiving corps will hurt the Chargers as long as they utilize RB Austin Ekeler to bludgeon the 49ers defense.
My Pick: San Francisco
Z’s Pick: LA Chargers
Washington at Philadelphia (-11)
The Eagles are undefeated & have to be the overwhelming favorite to win the division. The Commanders are below .500 & playing on the road. The Philly crowd will almost certainly show up & show out for Monday Night Football, and I’d be stunned if their team disappointed them. The question is can they cover the points?? These teams played in Washington at the end of September, with the Eagles winning 24-8, and I believe we’ll see similar results this time. Zach thinks Philly has the right stuff to remain unbeaten, but feels like the points are too much & the visitors will stay respectably close.
Greetings football fans & citizens of The Manoverse. I’m running just a little behind schedule for no real reason, but it’s all good as long as we get this posted for the masses before kickoff. This is exactly why we rarely pick Wed./Thurs./Fri. games, because I know how I get sometimes. Anyway, before we can move forward we have to tie up loose ends from last week. I was 3-0 in the games I solely picked, while Zach was 1-2. In the four games we both picked Zach was 1-3 while I was 2-2. That means overall I was 5-2, Zach was 2-5, and the season lead has changed hands. It might not last long, so allow me this moment. There are several intriguing games on the college schedule this weekend, but many of them seem to involve teams we just dealt with, and I prefer to mix things up a little. Therefore we are leaning heavier toward the NFL. That’ll probably flip flop next go round.
My Season: 26-20
Zach’s Season: 24-22
UCLA at Oregon (-6)
The Ducks are on a five game win streak after dropping the season opener against defending national champs Georgia. The Bruins are undefeated. That means this is a matchup of two Top Ten teams seeking to remain in the playoff conversation. This is going to be a high scoring game (the over/under is 70.5), which could mean a few things: a) special teams might make the difference, b) turnovers are critical, & c) penalties will play a key role. I’m going to roll the dice on the home team being able to cover, but to be honest I wouldn’t be shocked if it was closer than that. Zach really believes in UCLA’s offense and thinks they’ll live up to expectations.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: UCLA
Kansas State at TCU (-4)
As a lifelong WVU fan I’d prefer to see my Mountaineers atop the Big 12 standings, but it’s atleast refreshing to see teams other than Oklahoma & Texas battling for the conference crown. The Horned Frogs are undefeated, while the Wildcats only have an inexplicable loss to Tulane blemishing their record. Both teams can put up points, so I believe the thing to watch for is which defense will step up in a big moment. TCU is coming off a huge overtime victory against Oklahoma St., and it’s difficult to reach those emotional highs two weeks in a row, so I’m picking the upset. Conversely, Zach likes the home team to keep their momentum going.
My Pick: Kansas State
Z’s Pick: TCU
NY Giants at Jacksonville (-3)
Thus far my preseason assessment of the Giants has been way off base. They’ve already won four more games than I predicted they’d win all season. My thoughts on the Jaguars have proven a bit more accurate, as they are certainly headed in the right direction & QB Trevor Lawrence has shown flashes of potential, but they’re unlikely to be a legit playoff threat. I like the home team this week, but it’ll probably be tighter than I’d prefer. I’ll probably be sweating a bit in the 4th quarter. Zach believes new Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll has successfully changed the culture in his first season, which makes a lot of sense when you look at his previous assistant coaching stops (Alabama, NE Patriots, Buffalo Bills).
My Pick: Jacksonville
Z’s Pick: NY Giants
NY Jets at Denver (-3)
Before the season began I predicted that we’d see clear improvement by the Jets, but they’d still finish at the bottom of a tight division. I’m not backing off of that just yet. I also said the Broncos would be a wildcard contender, but the AFC West isn’t shaking out at all the way I thought, although it’s still early. Is it possible that the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver could become one of the worst transactions in NFL history?? I’m not ready to go there at this point, but it’s fair to say that the deal hasn’t paid dividends for either team so far. The home field is a unique edge for Denver, but not insurmountable, so I’m going with the upset. Zach likes the Broncos defense, but doesn’t believe their offensive line is capable of protecting Wilson.
My Pick: NY Jets
Z’s Pick: NY Jets
Pittsburgh at Miami (-7)
Typically we don’t pick games involving our Steelers, but rules are made to be broken, right?? No one expects anything from Pittsburgh this season, but after upsetting “The GOAT” (not 🙄) last week with a depleted secondary, without sack monster TJ Watt, & a tandem effort by quarterbacks Kenny Pickett & Mitch Trubisky, it remains within the realm of possibility that this team could achieve unforeseen success in an inferior division. QB Tua Tagovailoa will be back for the Dolphins, and it’s certainly plausible that he & receiver Tyreek Hill could carve up the Steelers’ defense like Michael Myers in Haddonfield on All Hallows’ Eve, but I don’t believe that’s what will happen. I don’t know how, but I think the Black & Gold will march into south Florida and escape with a victory. Zach has faith in the Steelers’ defense despite all their injuries, and thinks they’ll get enough stops & turnovers to keep it closer than a touchdown and perhaps even lead the team to a huge win.
We’re trying something new again folks!! This week we’re each picking three separate games, and there are four games we’ll both pick. I hope that makes sense. The season contest is tight and there are a plethora of really interesting matchups, so why not shake things up a little bit, right??
My Season: 21-18
Zach’s Season: 22-17
Mississippi State (-7) at Kentucky
The Wildcats are on a two game losing skid, while the Bulldogs have won three in a row. Kentucky’s Will Levis, a potential Heisman candidate & possibly one of the top quarterbacks in next spring’s NFL Draft, missed last week’s game with a foot injury, and he may or may not be back this weekend. That puts me in an odd position, because with Levis I like the home team, but without him I agree with the oddsmakers. I’m a big believer in home field advantage, so I’m going to hedge my bets and hope that even without Levis the underdogs stay closer that a touchdown.
My Pick: Kentucky
Clemson (-3.5) at Florida State
A decade ago this was a marquee matchup, but the Seminoles have fallen on hard times. At 4-2 perhaps a turnaround is on the horizon, but they face a tall task. The Tigers are undefeated and in the playoff hunt. I don’t believe they’ll finish that high, but, as much as I’d love to pick the upset, I don’t think Clemson’s downfall will occur in Tallahassee.
My Pick: Clemson
Arizona (-3) at Seattle
The NFC West certainly reflects parity in the NFL, which is a nice way of saying that none of the teams in the division have separated themselves from the pack & look much more ordinary than most anticipated. I’m not at all surprised that the 2-3 Seahawks have struggled, but the Cards’ 2-3 start is a bit unexpected. I still believe Arizona is a better team, but Seattle enjoys one of the greatest home fields in the league, and QB Geno Smith has proven himself worthy thus far, so I’m pulling the trigger on an upset.
My Pick: Seattle
James Madison (-10.5) at Georgia Southern
The 5-0 Dukes are ranked in the Top 25 and undoubtedly would like to stay there. The Eagles have lost two in a row and find themselves cellar dwelling in the Sun Belt. This is a 4pm kickoff on ESPN+, and I don’t think many doubt the outcome. The big question is are the points too much?? Zach doesn’t think so. He foresees a huge, high scoring beatdown.
Zach’s Pick: James Madison
USC at Utah (-3.5)
The Trojans are ahead of schedule thus far, coming into this one unbeaten & ranked in the Top Ten. However, I predicted they’d lose atleast once and specifically mentioned this game and a late November battle with Notre Dame. That being said, I also expected the Utes to be better than 4-2 at this point. Specifically they are 0-2 against ranked teams. Zach thinks USC is actually underrated, and even though he respects Utah’s team speed he smells an upset brewing.
Zach’s Pick: USC
Dallas at Philadelphia (-5)
In the immortal words of the late, great Keith Jackson…whooooaaa Nellie!! NBC has themselves a ratings grabber. The Eagles are undefeated, while the Cowboys look like they have one of the better defenses to come down the pike in quite awhile. It doesn’t even matter that they’re starting an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan at quarterback. Philly has the home field, but it’s possible that Dallas QB Dak Prescott could return from the thumb injury that has kept him out of action the past month. In other words, there are a lot of variables to consider. Zach isn’t sure who’ll come out on top, but thinks the winning margin will be under five points.
Zach’s Pick: Dallas
Miami (FL) (-7.5) at Virginia Tech
I’m a sucker for these old Big East battles. Call it nostalgia I suppose. The 2-3 Hurricanes are struggling, but the 2-4 Hokies aren’t any better. I hope everyone is enjoying that ACC money while being an afterthought in college athletics. It’s one of those games that I wish both teams could lose, which obviously won’t happen. Even though my WV Mountaineers beat Tech in Blacksburg earlier this season I still think it’s a formidable home field, so I believe they’ll atleast keep things close. Zach thinks the home team will start hot but cool off on the second half, allowing Miami to pull away for the win.
My Pick: Virginia Tech
Z’s Pick: Miami (FL)
LSU at Florida (-2.5)
Even though both teams come into this game at 4-2 and only battling for pride & bowl positioning to a couple of late December games no one will watch it’s still a compelling matchup that ESPN will hype the hell out of to make it seem important. I suppose it does matter to a degree in recruiting, so there is that. The Swamp is a difficult place to play, and the Gators seem to be trending in the right direction after losing three straight in September. Zach believes LSU will be competitive for awhile, but The Swamp is just too big of an obstacle to overcome.
My Pick: Florida
Z’s Pick: Florida
Alabama (-7.5) at Tennessee
We have arrived at this week’s Greatest, Biggest, Most Monumental Game of All Time. The Vols aren’t getting much respect from the folks in Vegas, but perhaps that has more to do with their opponents than anything. ‘Bama is a proven commodity, with a track record of championships & steamrolling opponents…recent history that has actually occurred in this century. Conversely, Tennessee hasn’t won 10+ games in consecutive seasons since the late 90s. But…what about this year?? Not only is Neyland Stadium in Knoxville a daunting venue for visitors, but the home team is undefeated against a pretty solid schedule. The Tide is ranked #3, but struggled to beat Texas A&M last weekend without QB Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman winner who is dealing with an injured shoulder. If Young plays Alabama has a great chance at victory…if he sits again Tennessee should win comfortably. My vibe is that Young plays at less than 100%, leading his team in a valiant effort that falls short. Conversely, Zach thinks it’ll be Alabama’s defense that will lead them to an impressive victory.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Buffalo (-2.5) at Kansas City
The 4-1 Bills beat the hell out of our Steelers last weekend, but face a much more worthy opponent on Sunday. The 4-1 Chiefs are going to be good as long as Patrick Mahomes is leading the charge, so this game comes down to defense. Will it be a high scoring shootout, or can one of these defenses rise up and prove themselves?? After missing four games with an ankle injury will KC kicker Harrison Butker be active?? I foresee a high scoring game decided by special teams late in the 4th quarter, and The Vibes are telling me the home team will score a mild upset. Zach thinks Josh Allen is actually a better QB right now, and Kansas City can look a little sluggish at times. He thinks a last minute drive to win the game will be led by Allen.
Good news!! We’re both above .500!! After we each went 3-2 in our fun little experiment a week ago it’s back to business as usual. Your Godfather of Cyberspace turns 50 this week, but I don’t have anything too wild planned, and honestly I can’t think of a much better way to celebrate than watching hours & hours of awesome football action.
My Season: 18-16
Zach’s Season: 20-14
TCU (-6.5) at Kansas
I almost feel bad for the 5-0 Jayhawks. They’re having their best season in years yet find themselves underdogs at home simply because the 4-0 Horned Frogs beat the snot out of Oklahoma last week. I think that’ll be motivation for Kansas to win comfortably. Zach expects a shootout. He thinks TCU is probably the better team, but believes Kansas will atleast cover the points & may win outright.
My Pick: Kansas
Z’s Pick: Kansas
Tennessee (-2.5) at LSU
The Vols are 4-0, with wins over Pitt & Florida, while LSU is 4-1, with only a one point loss in their season opener as a blemish on their record. I really like Tennessee, but Death Valley is a tough place for visitors. If this game were in prime time (it should’ve been) I’d really be tempted to pick the underdogs simply because of the atmosphere, but I think the light of day makes it a little less intimidating. Zach views this as Tennessee’s offense vs. LSU’s defense, but, though he has observed improvement, doesn’t think the Bayou Bengals are quite thru taking their lumps just yet.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Tennessee
Texas (-7) vs. Oklahoma
The Red River Shootout feels like its being played with cap guns. The Sooners are reeling after two straight losses, while the Longhorns are having a roller coaster 3-2 season themselves. This is a neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas, and I’d really like to pick the upset. However, Oklahoma’s starting QB may or may not play, which is significant. They do have a backup quarterback named General Booty, which is hilarious but not really a factor. Zach thinks Texas is probably the better team, but believes Oklahoma will atleast keep it close.
My Pick: Texas
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Texas A&M at Alabama (-24)
Nick Saban & Jimbo Fisher grew up about a half hour away from one another here in northcentral West Virginia, although Saban is about 15 years older. I’m fascinated by this matchup mainly due to the heated words the two exchanged this past offseason and would love to hear what is said during the postgame handshake Saturday night. Unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be much of a contest, as the 3-2 Aggies haven’t found the right combination yet while the 5-0 Tide is rolling, as they tend to do more often than not. The only wild card is the points, and I believe Saban will be particularly invested in embarrassing his old buddy Jimbo. Zach is also looking forward to the postgame handshake, but the points are too scary for his taste. He thinks A&M will keep it respectable.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Cincinnati at Baltimore (-3)
Thankfully for our Steelers the AFC North has gotten off to a pretty bad start as a whole, with the winner of this game taking control of first place with just a 3-2 record. The Ravens lost a heartbreaker to Buffalo last weekend, while the Bengals are on a two game winning streak after losing a couple of close ones out of the gate. I feel like momentum has shifted toward the visitors for the moment, although I expect the division to be competitive throughout the season. Zach really likes Lamar Jackson and foresees him leading his team to a two TD victory.
Buckle your seatbelts folks…we’re trying something a little different this week. Instead of going head to head and picking the same games Zach & I will each be picking different games. It’s a format I originally pondered a few years ago and ultimately decided against for various reasons, but there are so many intriguing games on the schedule this feels like a good time to shake things up and cover as much ground as possible. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming next week. Enjoy.
My Season: 15-14
Zach’s Season: 17-12
Utah State at BYU(-24)
I ranked the Cougars 6th, and at 3-1 I believe they still have a chance to climb that high if they pull off a couple of upsets & get to 10 wins. The Aggies seem to be a force in the Mountain West with some regularity, but at 1-3 this might be an off year. The points are a bit much…especially for an in-state rivalry…but I have faith in the home team.
My Pick: BYU
Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina (-10)
They may have inexplicably lost two straight after the biggest victory in school history (at Notre Dame), but I’m thankful my Marshall Thundering Herd are now in the much more entertaining Sun Belt instead of the pedestrian C-USA. The 3-1 Eagles scored a win over Nebraska a few weeks ago, which is impressive no matter what kind of sad shape that legendary program is in. The Chanticleers might not have that sort of signature win this year, but they’ve won 11 games in each of the past two seasons. I like the home team to score alot of points and get an important triumph.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
San Diego State at Boise State (-6)
Unlike previous years no one seems to be talking about the Broncos. Perhaps that’s because they’ve just been average the past two seasons, and at 2-2 that might not change in 2022. The Aztecs are also 2-2, so somebody is waking up Sunday morning with a winning record while the other team…well…isn’t. It’s hard to go against the infamous blue turf, so I’m picking the home team.
My Pick: Boise St.
Tennessee at Indianapolis (-3)
Something has been off with the 1-2 Titans, who I thought would win their division comfortably. And now left tackle Taylor Lewan is gone for the season with a knee injury, which will make life that much harder for RB Derrick Henry, who’s already off to a slow start. The Colts could easily be 0-3, but have lucked into a 1-1-1 record. I normally have a lot of faith in the home field advantage, but The Vibes are telling me this is the week Tennessee wakes up and remembers that they’re supposed to be a playoff team.
My Pick: Tennessee
Jacksonville at Philadelphia (-6.5)
I told you the Jags could be headed in the right direction, and right now they sit atop their division. I don’t expect that to last, but their improvement is undeniable. Meanwhile, the Eagles are 3-0 and look like they could cruise to a division title. I’m hoping for an entertaining contest, but I believe Philly wins this one easily.
My Pick: Philadelphia
Kentucky at Ole Miss (-6.5)
Isn’t Kentucky supposed to be a basketball school?? I guess the 4-0 Wildcats didn’t get that memo, especially when you consider they were 10-3 a season ago. The Rebels are also 4-0 and could launch themselves into the Top 10 with a victory. Zach likes Kentucky’s defense to keep things close and they’re running attack to eat clock. He’s not sure who might come out on top, but feels like it’ll be closer than a touchdown either way.
Z’s Pick: Kentucky
Texas Tech at Kansas State (-7.5)
This might be the sleeper game of the weekend. Both teams are 3-1, with the Red Raiders coming off a thrill overtime win over Texas, while the Wildcats upset conference foe Oklahoma. Can both teams channel that momentum into another positive outcome, or will one fall prey to a giant letdown?? Zach isn’t comfortable with the points & foresees another close contest.
Z’s Pick: Texas Tech
North Carolina State at Clemson (-6.5)
In my preseason poll I predicted the Wolfpack would continue their winning ways and finish as a ranked team, while I had Clemson finishing outside the Top 10. Thus far both teams are unbeaten, but the Tigers had to go into overtime to defeat Wake Forest last week while NC St. hasn’t broken a sweat since the second half of their season opener when they took their foot off the gas pedal and scored a closer than it should’ve been victory. Zach opines that Clemson’s defense is terrible and NC St. is a sneaky good team, but in the end he thinks the home team will get the job done.
Z’s Pick: Clemson
New England at Green Bay (-10.5)
Is the tundra frozen yet?? Probably not…it’s only October. The divorce of the Packers & receiver Davante Adams hasn’t worked out well for anybody at this point. I thought The Pack would win their division with ease, but it’s been a dogfight. The Pats look like they’re being coached by Cleveland Browns Era Belichick instead of six time Super Bowl winner Belichick, which makes me happy. I’ll hate those bastards til my last breath. Zach still has faith in Belichick and believes they’ll grind it out well enough to atleast keep things interesting.
Z’s Pick: New England
Kansas City (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
It’s a battle of alleged legends…ageless Tom Brady vs. still in his prime Patrick Mahomes. Hurricane Ian has been reeking havoc on the Gulf Coast of Florida, but at the moment it doesn’t look like the game will be moved out of Tampa to a neutral site or to Monday night instead of Sunday night, both of which had been floated as possibilities. Zach doesn’t believe Brady will lose two in a row and predicts late game heroics by Tampa Tom will secure a win for the underdogs.
As has become our annual tradition I want to encourage any non-sports fans in The Manoverse to stick with me. These picks dominate the landscape each autumn, and it doesn’t help that I’ve not been as prolific for…well, awhile. I have lots of things in my head, but motivation has been a huge problem for various reasons. I’ll try to do better going forward. In football related matters you’ll notice that we’re light on college action and leaning more into the NFL, which is unusual for September. I expect that’ll change next week though.
My Season: 11-13
Zach’s Season: 14-10
Baylor at Iowa State (-2.5)
In my preseason poll I ranked Baylor 7th but noted that they’d need to be road warriors to get there, and now here we are. The Bears have beaten up two cupcakes and narrowly lost to BYU in overtime, while the Cyclones are 3-0 with a close win over in-state rival Iowa. This is probably going down to the wire with special teams & turnovers playing a key role in the outcome, and I’ve got to stick to my earlier thought process. I think Baylor gets a tight road victory. Zach foresees a defensive slug fest, and he likes State’s defense just a little better.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Iowa St.
Florida at Tennessee (-11)
I consulted multiple sources because I just couldn’t believe the points, but what you see is accurate. The Vols are 3-0 and ranked 11th, scoring two blowout wins against MAC competition & an impressive overtime road victory over the Pitt Panthers. Conversely, the 2-1 Gators appear to be riding a roller coaster, with a huge season opening upset of Utah, a loss to SEC rival Kentucky, and a tougher than it should’ve been escape against in-state challenger South Florida. Still, as impressive as Tennessee has been & as many questions as there may be about Florida, eleven points seems a bit much, even with the game being played in Knoxville. Zach thinks Florida had looked sluggish, but he agrees the points are too much.
My Pick: Florida
Z’s Pick: Florida
Buffalo (-4) at Miami
The Bills are firing on all cylinders right now, and are certainly one of the two or three best teams in the NFL. However, the Dolphins have been impressive as well. Receiver Tyreek Hill has breathed new life into Miami’s offense, and I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for awhile now that it’s way too soon to give up on QB Tua Tagovailoa. The home crowd is going to be jacked for this one, and it would be a major statement win for a Fins team that hasn’t played in the postseason since 2016. Not only is Zach also picking the upset, but he thinks this could be an AFC Championship preview.
My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami
Detroit at Minnesota (-6.5)
I told y’all that the Lions would be the surprise of the NFC North, and so far they’ve looked as good as a 1-1 team can. As a matter of fact, all four teams in the division…including the Vikings…are tied. This will be the beginning of the separation, when we differentiate the contenders from the pretenders. I don’t believe that either club will be playoff bound or even finish with a winning record, but I do think Detroit is the better team. Zach isn’t totally sure he knows the outcome, but he definitely thinks it’ll be closer than a touchdown.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Detroit
San Francisco (-1) at Denver
‘Frisco lost starting QB Trey Lance to a broken ankle, but, while that’d be a season killer for most teams, I don’t believe it makes all that much difference in this case. Lance may end up being a decent NFL quarterback, but I have my doubts and don’t think he was ready yet anyway. Jimmy Garoppolo might not be the next Joe Montana, but he’s capable enough to step right back into the starter role without the team missing a beat. The Niners should count their lucky stars they didn’t trade him. On the flip side the Broncos haven’t looked as impressive as I expected with Russell Wilson behind center. I feel like both teams are going to need their defenses to carry them, and to that end I foresee a low scoring contest decided by field goals, time of possession, field position, & penalties. Something like a 15-13 kind of game, with the visiting favorites escaping with a win. Zach likes the Jimmy G. story and thinks he’ll lead his team to victory.
The NFL season kicks off Thursday night, so y’all are getting bonus picks!! Honestly…it has nothing to do with the fact that I was 2-3 last week and Zach extended his season lead by going 3-2. Nothing at all. Really. There are intriguing matchups in the college ranks as well, despite the fact that many teams are still in the non-conference portion of their schedule. We’ll talk more about the college playoff next week, but atleast in this moment we’re all the beneficiaries of programs chasing those scant four spots by beefing up their early season slate. Enjoy it while you still can.
My Season: 3-7
Zach’s Season: 7-3
Alabama (-20.5) at Texas
A decade ago this would’ve been a marquee matchup. The talking heads will still try to sell it as such, relying on the history & tradition of both programs. However, the truth is that Texas has only had one ten win season since ‘Bama beat them in the 2010 National Championship Game. The Longhorns are pinning all their hopes on freshman QB Quinn Ewers and will be making an idiotic move to the SEC in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, Nick Saban opined awhile back that last season…in which they were 13-2 & lost the national title to Georgia…was a rebuilding year for the Tide. So despite any creative PR tactics the fact is that anything else besides Texas getting their ass handed to them would be a surprise. Having said that, the points are kind of eye opening, given the fact this game is being played in Austin (Alabama’s first trip there in 100 years). Can the home team atleast keep it respectable?? Sadly I don’t believe they will. Zach observes that ‘Bama is consistently well coached, disciplined, & fundamentally solid, while Texas is merely mediocre. He thinks that may change when QB Arch Manning arrives on campus next year, but for now believes this will be an easy win for the visitors.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Houston at Texas Tech (-3)
The Cougars went into three overtimes before defeating the UTSA Roadrunners in the season opener. Conversely, the Red Raiders beat the snot out of Murray St. Houston is better than what we saw last weekend, while Tech will be facing legit competition for the first time, so I expect an entertaining contest, but I think the home favorites get a solid victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Texas Tech
Z’s Pick: Texas Tech
Iowa State at Iowa (-3.5)
With all the realignment hullabaloo one would think the powers-that-be could get these two in the same conference, but not thus far. The Cyclones beat up a glorified high school team to open the season (one reason why they’ll not be playoff contenders), while the Hawkeyes barely defeated South Dakota St. in an epic 7-3 battle that was either a masterpiece of defense or set the game of football back several decades. I didn’t see the game or any…highlights…so I cannot intelligently opine. At any rate, this is the first real test for both teams and I’m expecting good things. It’ll be on the Big Ten Network and I’ll certainly check it out. I think State will score the mild upset. Zach believes we’re in for a low scoring defensive battle that the home team will win.
My Pick: Iowa State
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Arizona State at Oklahoma State (-11.5)
I have lofty expectations for the Cowboys, but it’s a bit alarming that they allowed Central Michigan to score 44 points last weekend. Will their offense need to score nearly 60 points in every game?? Conversely, the Sun Devils’ defense allowed only a field goal in their nearly 40 point season opening win. I love my guy Herm Edwards, but it’s way too early to abandon my bold preseason predictions, so I’m going with the home favorites. Zach notes that OK St. consistently underperforms & doesn’t seem to live up to their potential, which is true. However, he likes the home field in this one and foresees a big blowout win for the Cowboys.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma State
USC (-9) at Stanford
Everybody is paying attention to the Trojans once again, and they got things started off right with a 66-14 beatdown of Rice. Stanford also won their prosaic season opener. And now, while some teams are pussyfooting around with clearly inferior opponents & others are trying to gain attention with aggressively scheduled non-conferences clashes, these teams are diving right into the conference scrum. Stanford has the home field, and I think that’s significant. Do I believe the home underdogs will win?? No. However, I foresee a closer than expected contest that Southern Cal wins by only a touchdown. Zach thinks USC will cover with a hard fought double digit victory.
My Pick: Stanford
Z’s Pick: USC
Baylor at BYU (-3)
The Bears beat someone unimportant by nearly 60 points in the season opener. Obviously they’re not serious about being a playoff contender. BYU could go undefeated and still get left out of the playoff conversation, but kudos to them for scheduling decent competition to open the season and getting a solid victory. This could be the game of the week, so if you’re not doing anything on Saturday night at 10pm tune into ESPN & check it out. These were two Top 10 teams in my preseason poll, so I have high expectations. The Cougars have the home field and I predict that’ll matter late in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach thinks it’ll be Baylor’s defense that’ll come up big late in the game to secure a win.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Buffalo (-2.5) at LA Rams
The Bills are a solid Super Bowl favorite, while very few seem to be giving the defending champion Rams as much respect as they probably deserve. They aren’t even favored at home. Could this be a Super Bowl preview?? Maybe…maybe not. Either way it’s a hell of a way to kick off the season, and I think it’ll be a close game. Things might go differently in February, but for now I believe the underdogs will defend their turf & prove their title run wasn’t a fluke. Zach agrees, opining that the Bills may be a bit overrated.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Kansas City (-4.5) at Arizona
It feels like both teams should be getting more love, but the fact that they compete in the two most stacked divisions in the NFL means they both have difficult paths to the Super Bowl. Have defenses figured Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes out after five seasons?? Perhaps, but the biggest reason people are doubting him right now is the departure of receiver Tyreek Hill. Can a pass catching corps of Mecole Hardman, former Steeler Juju Schuster, rookie Skyy Moore, & veteran tight end Travis Kelce pick up the slack & fill the void left by one of the most exciting players in the league?? The Cardinals are another team being disrespected on their home field, but there are reasonable doubts. Former Raven Hollywood Brown was a nice acquisition for the receiving corps, especially given the six game suspension of DeAndre Hopkins, but AJ Green is 34 years old & not the same receiver he used to be. Having said that, I’m more concerned with Arizona’s defense. JJ Watt has lost a step and Tyrann Matthieu signed with the Saints. I think this will be a shootout, but KC has a little too much firepower and will take over in the 4th quarter. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Las Vegas at LA Chargers (-3)
As previously mentioned, the AFC West is going to be a dogfight, and we might look back on this one a few months from now & realize it was more important than we realized. I’m a Derek Carr fan, and it’s going to be fun watching him throw passes to former Packer Davante Adams. Unfortunately I think Adams is going to face a lot of double coverage, so it’ll be up to the rest of a rather pedestrian receiving corps to step up, RB Josh Jacobs to fulfill his potential, & tight end Darren Waller to return to his Pro Bowl form of 2020 after a subpar, injury riddled season last year. Don’t sleep on their defense, which added former Cardinals’ pass rusher Chandler Jones. The Chargers fell into the abyss a few years ago but have slowly been rebuilding with the likes of QB Justin Herbert & linebacker Joey Bosa, and they’ve added former Raider & Bear Khalil Mack, who can still be a beast despite the fact he’s on the wrong side of 30. If the Chargers can avoid major injuries their defense will be a force and the team could surprise people. Having said that, I’m picking the mild upset this week. Zach agrees.
As we head into a new football season I will admit to having mixed feelings. Things like conference realignment & NIL have exposed college athletics as the big business that it is, which has eroded much of its charm & virtue. Tradition means nothing when billions of dollars are at stake. That being said, for the next four months I’ll be spending most of my Saturdays vegged out in front of the TV from the time the pregame shows start at 9am until the final west coast games end around 1am, and I’ll love every second of it. I’m a pretty low key guy who is easily entertained, and there’s nothing better than autumn weekends & hours upon hours of gridiron action. So, as we have done for more than a decade now, let us take a peek into the ol’ crystal ball and see if we can predict with some degree of accuracy what may unfold between now & the end of the year. As always I discourage any kind of gambling based on what you read here. I’m not an expert and sometimes have no idea what I’m talking about, so enjoy my pontification in the spirit in which it is intended.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/15 vs. Penn St., 10/29 vs. Michigan St., 11/26 at Ohio St.
Jim Harbaugh allegedly flirted with some NFL teams this offseason but ultimately returned to Ann Arbor. I do not think that will affect the season, but I also don’t believe the Wolverines will be a playoff contender in 2022.
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 10/8 vs. Texas, 10/29 at Iowa St, 11/5 vs. Baylor, 11/19 vs. Oklahoma St.
The Sooners lost their head coach & multiple players, including two star quarterbacks. That’s alot to overcome, and I think we’ll see a slight drop under new head coach Brent Venables. This may or may not be their final season in the Big 12, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/10 at Texas Tech, 10/22 at Navy
Can Dana Holgorsen continue last year’s success and keep on winning?? The Cougars will be joining the Big 12 in a season or two, so it would behoove them not only to build momentum, but also take advantage of playing lesser competition while they still can. The September clash in Lubbock against the Red Raiders will provide an indication of how Houston stacks up against their future conference brethren, and it’s also a must win for this year.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Georgia, 9/17 vs. BYU, 11/19 vs. Utah
Head coach Mario Cristobal bolted to return to his alma mater Miami (FL), so former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is in charge now. That makes the season opener against the Bulldogs even more interesting. The PAC 12 eliminated divisions, so the top two teams will play in the conference title game, meaning the Ducks will need to be better than Utah or USC. They go head to head with the Utes in Eugene in mid-November.
21 North Carolina State
Last Season: 9-3
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Texas Tech, 10/27 vs. Virginia Tech, 11/25 at North Carolina
The ACC has become a muddled mess of mediocrity. Only one team is considered playoff worthy…the rest are jockeying for bowl position. Of course only half of the league are likely to find themselves in that hunt, so the question becomes which teams will rise?? 4 out of the past 5 seasons have had the Wolfpack winning eight or more games, and I think we’ll see more of that in 2022.
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/1 vs. West Virginia, 9/10 vs. Tennessee, 11/26 at Miami (FL)
Quarterback Kenny Pickett is now plying his trade with my Steelers, and such a key loss would normally be cause for concern. However, thanks to the transfer portal the Panthers will now have former Southern Cal QB Kaden Slovis under center. I don’t believe they’ll be quite as successful as a year ago, but 8 or 9 wins seems achievable. I’m really looking forward to the long awaited renewal of the Backyard Brawl to open the season.
19 Michigan State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 10/8 vs. Ohio St., 10/15 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 at Michigan, 11/26 at Penn St.
I’m never quite sure what to make of the Spartans. In the past six seasons they’ve been 3-9, 10-3, 7-6 (twice), 2-5 (in the Covid shortened year), and 11-2. The Big Ten is stacked, so it’s pretty easy to get lost in the shuffle. They’ll need to win atleast a couple of the key games noted above, which won’t be easy, and may go into Happy Valley at the end of November in a must win situation.
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/10 at Pitt, 10/24 vs. Florida, 10/15 vs. Alabama, 11/5 at Georgia
It’s time. I remember when the Vols were consistently one of the top teams in the SEC, but that hasn’t been the case since the late 90’s. Occasionally they’ll show signs of life with a 9 or 10 win season, but that has not happened in about five years. I have no evidence to support my optimism. I may look back at this prediction in shame. However, I believe they’ll pull off atleast one stunning upset this season.
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Cincinnati, 9/24 vs. Texas A&M, 10/1 vs. Alabama, 11/12 vs. LSU
Not every SEC team will finish ranked, but more of them will receive benefit of the doubt than programs from other conferences. Can the Razorbacks continue their momentum from last year, or will they fall back into the abyss they’d been in the four seasons before that?? They can get things off to a good start by beating last year’s favorite underdog story, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and hosting other key games on the schedule at home could prove beneficial.
Last Season: 6-7
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Florida St., 10/1 at Auburn, 10/8 vs. Tennessee, 10/15 at Florida, 11/5 vs. Alabama, 11/26 at Texas A&M
The Ed Orgeron Era is over in Baton Rouge, and former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has taken the reins. Keep in mind Kelly was not fired…he chose to make the move, and I assume he believes this team can be elite. Certainly it’s a tough road in the SEC, but we can’t overlook the fact that the Bayou Bengals won a national championship as recently as 2019. I don’t think it’ll take long to turn things around.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/10 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Michigan, 10/22 at Ohio St., 11/12 vs. Wisconsin
It seems like the Hawkeyes are always good. They’ve won 8+ games in seven of the past nine years, and that’s including the Covid shortened season of 2020. Unlike the PAC 12 the Big Ten has not abandoned its divisional setup, so Iowa doesn’t have to be better than Ohio St., Penn St., or Michigan to get into the conference title game. Eight wins & a Rose Bowl berth is certainly possible.
14 South Carolina
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Georgia, 10/22 vs. Texas A&M, 11/26 at Clemson
This is a big wildcard. Shane Beamer enters his second season in Columbia with a little more familiarity of the SEC, and I expect to see some maturation. They’ll need to score atleast one huge upset, but that’s not out of the question.
13 Southern California
Last Season: 4-8
Key Games: 10/15 at Utah, 11/19 vs. UCLA, 11/26 vs. Notre Dame
I toyed with placing the Trojans much higher, but decided to be conservative. Lincoln Riley’s defection from Oklahoma along with QB Caleb Williams and the transfer of former Pitt receiver Jordan Addison grabbed a lot of headlines in the past several months, and expectations are high. However, perhaps it’d be wise to pump the brakes just a bit. Games at Utah and against Notre Dame in L.A. won’t be easy, and I expect USC to lose atleast once…maybe twice. Fear not Trojan fans…Riley will have his team in the playoff discussion soon…but not quite yet.
12 Notre Dame
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/3 at Ohio St., 11/5 vs. Clemson, 11/26 at USC
Credit where it is due…the Irish don’t have an easy path. Oh sure, they play a couple of gimmes (one of which will be the season opener against my alma mater…Go Herd), but they’ll need to win atleast one & maybe two of the key games noted above to climb this close to the Top 10, and that’s not going to be a a walk in the park. I am impressed with new head coach Marcus Freeman thus far, but he’s going to have to prove his worth with some big victories.
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/15 at Florida St., 11/5 at Notre Dame, 11/19 vs. Miami (FL)
After winning two national championships in six traight playoff appearances the Tigers fell off just a bit last year. And by that I mean they still had ten victories but didn’t win the ACC title and finished 14th in the final rankings. It’s the hallmark of an elite program when that is considered disappointing. Will they be back in the playoff picture this season?? I don’t think so. No one respects the ACC anymore, and I won’t be surprised if two SEC teams & two Big Ten teams are in the playoff. The only shot Clemson has is to go undefeated in convincing fashion & lay a smackdown on Notre Dame in South Bend.
10 Texas A&M
Last Season: 8-4
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Miami (FL), 10/24 vs. Arkansas, 10/8 at Alabama, 11/5 vs. Florida, 11/26 vs. LSU
Head coach Jimbo Fisher talks a good game, but can his team get it done on the field?? When you sign a ten year contract worth $75 million finishing third in the division simply isn’t good enough. Fisher’s feud” with Nick Saban has been a highlight of this offseason, but what matters is what happens between the lines. I don’t expect A&M to defeat ‘Bama in Tuscaloosa, but anything less than ten wins will be a huge disappointment, and that seat might start to get pretty hot for my man Jimbo.
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/24 at Ohio St., 10/15 at Michigan St., 11/12 at Iowa
I’ve always been a big fan of Badger football. They’re not flashy, but they are fundamentally sound and win in the trenches. Having said that, the Big Ten is looking awfully difficult, and it is entirely possibly that Wisconsin could be a middle-of-the-pack program right now. All three of the key games I’ve noted are on the road, which is a daunting task. I’m going to venture way out on a limb though and predict they’ll pull off massive upsets in two of those games, paving the way for double digit victories & a Top 10 finish.
8 Penn State
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/17 at Auburn, 10/15 at Michigan, 10/29 vs. Ohio St., 11/26 vs. Michigan St.
Is it likely that two Big Ten teams outside the state of Ohio finish in the Top 10?? No. So I guess I’m hedging my bets. An out of conference battle at Auburn & a home game against Michigan St. are must wins for the Nittany Lions.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/10 at BYU, 9/24 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Oklahoma St., 11/5 at Oklahoma, 11/25 at Texas
The Bears won the Big 12 title and were victorious in the Sugar Bowl a season ago, and I believe it is entirely possible they’ll be just as good in 2022. However, they’ll need be road warriors to achieve that level of success. With Texas & Oklahoma ditching the Big 12 in the not-so-distant future there is a vacuum at the top of the conference, and Baylor has an opportunity to become the new standard bearer (pun unavoidable). Don’t miss their visit to Norman, OK in early November…I think it’ll be a really great game.
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/10 vs. Baylor, 10/15 vs. Arkansas
This is BYU’s final year as an Independent before joining the Big 12, and they’re ending their independence with a bang. It’s a hell of a schedule. I do not expect them to beat Notre Dame or Oregon on the road, but if they can upset Baylor & Arkansas, win all the games they’re supposed to win, and get to ten victories once again they might actually be in the playoff discussion. There’s no chance they’ll actually be invited to participate, but sometimes getting the respect of simply being mentioned is enough.
Last Season: 13-2
Key Games: 9/10 at Texas, 10/1 at Arkansas, 10/8 vs. Texas A&M, 10/15 at Tennessee, 11/5 at LSU, 11/26 vs. Auburn
Freakin’ Nick Saban actually had the nerve to say that 2021 was a rebuilding year for the Tide…a season that saw them win 13 games, beat the snot out of Georgia in the SEC title game, and inexplicably fall by two TDs in the National Championship Game. The sad part is he might be right. Still, the fact is that ‘Bama always receives every opponent’s best shot, and things happen in such a scenario. I don’t know which one it’ll be, but I have a feeling an opponent listed above will have everything fall into place just perfectly, and Alabama will have a rare off day. Will that be enough to derail their playoff aspirations?? God I hope so.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/3 at Florida, 10/15 vs. USC, 11/19 at Oregon
USC has gotten all the PAC 12 attention the past several months, but Utah might be the team to beat right now. We’ll learn a lot when the Utes venture into The Swamp, and playing the Trojans in the cozy confines of Salt Lake City could be quite beneficial. I expect the winner of the mid-November clash in Eugene, OR to take one spot in the conference title game.
3 Ohio State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Notre Dame, 10/8 at Michigan St., 10/29 at Penn St., 11/26 vs. Michigan
The Buckeyes have essentially become an NFL farm team. Quarterback CJ Stroud returns for his sophomore season after finishing 4th on the Heisman ballot last year. He’ll be considered a front runner for that award as long as his team is winning. I don’t believe the season opener against Notre Dame will be much of a challenge, and they have Michigan at The Horseshoe, so anything less than a playoff berth would be a huge disappointment.
2 Oklahoma State
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/1 at Baylor, 10/22 vs. Texas, 11/12 vs. Iowa St., 11/19 at Oklahoma
The “experts” all seem to slot the Cowboys about ten spots lower than this, so I’m really rolling the dice. The two biggest games on the schedule are both on the road, which makes the task that much harder. QB Spencer Sanders is a senior, which is good, but there was also some turnover in the coaching staff, which makes me nervous. It’s a “go big or go home” kind of thing really. Despite the fact that the TV folks (who really run the business of college sports, in case you didn’t know 😉) would undoubtedly love to see a playoff totally comprised of SEC & Big Ten teams (or USC if they can win the PAC 12), I think a Big 12 team will be in the mix, and given all of the offseason drama don’t believe it’ll be the Oklahoma Sooners. Keep an eye on the October 1st game at Baylor…the winner of that one might have an inside track to a playoff berth.
Last Season: 14-1
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Oregon, 10/29 vs. Florida, 11/5 vs. Tennessee
“To be The Man you’ve got to beat The Man”. That’s what wrasslin’ legend Ric Flair always said, and I think it’s good advice. The Bulldogs defeated Alabama to win the National Championship, and I don’t know of any reason to expect a decline. If Georgia comes out of the gate fast and beats Oregon badly then it’s on like Donkey Kong. Most people are likely expecting a rematch against The Tide in the SEC title game, and they’re probably right. I think Georgia wins that game, which will cost ‘Bama a playoff opportunity.
Annnndddd we’re back!!!! After a COVID-induced hiatus a year ago we have returned to make mostly uninformed & generally random picks of bowl games involving a bunch of teams about which neither of us know all that much. I read a quote years ago something akin to “golf & sex are the only things one can enjoy without being very good”, but I would include picking football games as well. As noted a couple of years ago, I have evolved from being one of those cranky old dudes ranting about too many bowl games to rather enjoying obscure & totally inconsequential weekday afternoon gridiron battles. These picks are separate from our weekly Picks of Profundity, no point spreads are used, & we don’t pretend like we have any clue what we’re talking about for the most part. I’ll leave it to The Manoverse to find the dates, times, & specific locations of these games. Most of them will be on the ESPN “family of networks”, though there are exceptions. As always I discourage wagering of any kind. I have broken down the games into three tiers: Bronze are the games that I have very little interest in and may or may not watch, Silver are games for which I have a modest level of enthusiasm and will probably try to check out, and Gold are the Must See contests. Sadly there are way too many in the first group and far too few in the last, but the cool thing about Bowl Season is that there are always surprises…games that’ll be tied in the fourth quarter and you suddenly find yourself invested for no apparent reason. I love that, and I appreciate the fact that we have once again been able to enjoy such compelling yet ultimately meaningless entertainment in 2021. I hope The Manoverse is staying safe & warm, enjoying the holiday season, and appreciating every second of this amazing life.
Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo
How cool is it that these college kids get to travel to The Bahamas for free?? That alone is worth the blood, sweat, & tears of playing football. It’s an experience they’ll truly appreciate two or three decades from now. I’m not sure how many fans can afford to make the trek, but hey…life isn’t perfect, right?? The Blue Raiders represent C-USA and are 6-6, while the Rockets are out of the MAC and come into this game 7-5.
My Pick: Toledo
Z’s Pick: Toledo
South Carolina State vs. Jackson State
This is a game specifically for “historically black” colleges, which seems like kind of an outdated concept in the 21st Century, but whatever. The SC St. Bulldogs are 6-5, while the Jackson St. Tigers (from Mississippi in case you are curious) are 11-1 and coached by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. On paper it really looks like kind of a mismatch. Zach feels like momentum is on the Tigers’ side.
My Pick: Jackson State
Z’s Pick: Jackson State
New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State vs. UTEP
The 9-3 Bulldogs faced some pretty stiff competition in the Mountain West and went toe to toe with the Oregon Ducks, while the Miners were 7-5 out of C-USA. I don’t think this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.
My Pick: Fresno State
Z’s Pick: Fresno State
BYU vs. UAB
I had high hopes for the Cougars, and they did go 10-2. September victories over Arizona St. & Utah seem especially impressive. Unfortunately, playing as an independent and having no direct access to conference bowl affiliations means you end up playing the 8-4 Blazers on a Saturday afternoon in Shreveport a week before Christmas. Perhaps I’m selling this game short, but I don’t believe it will be all that competitive. Zach likes the game to be a little closer but ultimately believes BYU will get the victory.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan
This is the old GMAC Bowl, aka Dollar General Bowl, aka GoDaddy Bowl. Y’all know I despise corporate bowl names. Anyway, the 7-5 Flames dipped significantly from their 10-1 season a year ago, which saw them finish in the Top 20. Meanwhile, the 7-5 Eagles out of the MAC are appearing in their fourth bowl game since 2016 (they are 0-3 in previous efforts). I don’t foresee this being close or interesting at all. Zach agrees, opining that Liberty might win by 40 points.
My Pick: Liberty
Z’s Pick: Liberty
SMU vs. Virginia
It’s like people in Boston were whining “Hey…there’s a bowl game at Yankee Stadium!! We want one too!!”, and someone somewhere acquiesced. Honestly though…is playing football in Boston at the end of December a reward for these players?? I’d much rather go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. At any rate, the Mustangs are out of the AAC and currently sit at 8-4, while the ACC’s Cavaliers are 6-6. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has already announced his departure after the game, having been at the helm in Charlottesville for six years. He’s only 55 years old so one has to assume he’ll have a final act somewhere, but for now his exit provides a motivational storyline. Zach predicts both offenses will put up big numbers, with SMU ultimately prevailing.
My Pick: Virginia
Z’s Pick: SMU
Washington State vs. Miami (FL)
ESPN dominates bowl coverage, but the Sun Bowl remains on CBS, which is kind of refreshing. It is one of the oldest bowl games, having first been played way back in 1935. The 7-5 Hurricanes underachieved tremendously in three seasons under head coach Manny Diaz, who has already been shown the door. The 7-5 Cougars faced coaching turmoil themselves back in October when their head coach & several assistants were fired for refusing to kneel & bow to Nazi-esque vaccine mandates, which means there is no way in hell I can cheer for a school that engages in that kind of foolishness. Zach is rolling the dice on State.
My Pick: Miami (FL)
Z’s Pick: Washington State
Boise State vs. Central Michigan
It was an off year for the 7-5 Broncos, who were competitive against UCF & Oklahoma St. and actually beat BYU, but nevertheless failed to live up to previously set lofty standards. Conversely, the 8-4 Chippewas out of the MAC continue to bounce back from the nadir of a 1-11 season in 2018. I don’t know why, but I feel like this game could exceed expectations. Conversely, Zach predicts an easy Boise win.
My Pick: Central Michigan
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Tulsa vs. Old Dominion
The Golden Hurricanes out of the AAC are 6-6, as are C-USA’s Monarchs. This is one of those 2:30pm Monday afternoon kickoffs that theoretically no one will be watching, but who knows…perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suppose I’ll pick Old Dominion in a coin flip. Zach notes that Tulsa suffered several close losses and is probably a better team than the record shows.
My Pick: Old Dominion
Z’s Pick: Tulsa
Kent State vs. Wyoming
Potatoes may not be the sexiest vegetable, but I can dig a game named after spuds instead of some mortgage broker. The 7-6 Golden Flashes lost the MAC title game, while the 6-6 Cowboys started strong but went 2-6 in the back end of their Mountain West schedule. I’m guessing the folks in Vegas would favor Kent, but I’ve got to go with the upset. Zach foresees a dominant defensive effort leading to a convincing Wyoming win.
My Pick: Wyoming
Z’s Pick: Wyoming
Frisco Football Classic
North Texas vs. Miami (OH)
Once upon a time there was something called the Redbox Bowl, which was cancelled in 2020 because of The Sickness then scrapped again this year. Actually it wasn’t a new game, having formerly been known as the Emerald Bowl & Fight Hunger Bowl, amongst other things. At any rate, the NCAA was left with too many bowl eligible teams for the available slots, so they literally created this game last week. I’m not even kidding. Making things even weirder is the fact that there is already a Frisco Bowl, so I’m not sure how this little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb is being awarded a second post-season matchup, but whatever…we’ll just go with it. Both teams are 6-6, and it is essentially a home game for the Mean Green since their campus is a half hour down the road. Credit to the RedHawks for making the trek, but it’s gonna be a tough day for them. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to snag the victory.
My Pick: North Texas
Z’s Pick: Miami (OH)
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. Missouri
To clarify, the Armed Forces Bowl is played in Fort Worth, TX, while the Military Bowl is contested in Annapolis, MD. I take no issue with the redundancy since our folks in uniform deserve all the kudos they get & more. The 8-4 Black Knights are going for their fourth season of 9+ wins in the past five years, while the SEC’s Tigers are 6-6 and probably wishing they wouldn’t have left the Big 12 a decade ago. I can’t go against our soldiers, although I realize it’ll be an uphill climb. Zach loves Army’s triple option and believes Missouri’s defense will have a difficult time stopping it.
My Pick: Army
Z’s Pick: Army
Hawaii vs. Memphis
Is it fair that the 6-7 Rainbow Warriors get a home game during bowl season, or that they’re playing in the postseason despite a losing record?? Probably not, but I assume the 6-6 Tigers won’t complain about a free trip to paradise. The home team is 2-1 in the past four years in this game, and I don’t think Memphis is remarkable enough to overcome the advantages their opponents will enjoy. Zach predicts a close game with Memphis winning with a late field goal.
My Pick: Hawaii
Z’s Pick: Memphis
Ball State vs. Georgia State
I know I’ve taught y’all this before, but it’s been a couple of years, so…a camellia is the state flower of Alabama, which is why this game is contested in the state’s capital of Montgomery. The 6-6 Cardinals represent the MAC as well as talk show legend David Letterman’s alma mater. The 7-5 Panthers are out of the Sun Belt and have only been playing football since 2008. I might be undervaluing this game a bit, and I’m hoping it’s a Christmas Day surprise that’ll tear me away from Ralphie’s pursuit of the elusive BB gun for a couple of hours. Zach likes Georgia St. to score a late 4th quarter win.
My Pick: Georgia State
Z’s Pick: Georgia State
Quick Lane Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Nevada
Quick Lane is exactly what you’d imagine it to be…a auto store where you can get your vehicle inspected, have the oil changed, & get your tires rotated. The game was previously known as the Motor City Bowl & Little Caesar’s Bowl and is still played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. It may not be The Bahamas or sunny Florida, but perhaps it’s a step up from Boise, ID, home of the Potato Bowl. Atleast the venue has a roof so weather won’t be an issue. Anyway, the 7-5 Broncos out of the MAC only have to travel a couple of hours from Kalamazoo, while the 8-4 Wolfpack obviously have a much more significant trek. I don’t know how much of a difference that kind of thing makes in bowl games, but it’s got to mean something, right?? Conversely, Zach thinks Nevada wins big and the game will essentially be over by halftime.
My Pick: Western Michigan
Z’s Pick: Nevada
Boston College vs. East Carolina
The 6-6 Eagles have always bored me, as far back as the 80’s when they played in the Big East and faced my WV Mountaineers annually. There were those few years when they had QB Doug Flutie, but other than that a BC game is similar to watching paint dry. The 7-5 Pirates have cool purple uniforms, but kind of get lost in the shuffle since no one gives a damn about the AAC. Kickoff is 2:30pm on a Monday, but it’s two days after Christmas so maybe there won’t be any better options on TV since all the holiday films will be over. Honestly just thinking about this game makes me want to lay down and go to sleep. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: East Carolina
Z’s Pick: East Carolina
First Responder Bowl
Air Force vs. Louisville
Okay, so honoring first responders with a bowl game is cool. The matchup?? Ehhhh. The Falcons are 9-3 with competitive losses to San Diego St. & Utah St. and a win over Boise St., while the 6-6 Cardinals have dropped off considerably since QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 before heading to the NFL. Fingers crossed that this will be a great game, but I’m not assuming anything. Zach is optimistic that it will be close & exciting and likes Air Force to win.
My Pick: Air Force
Z’s Pick: Air Force
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
This is the game I wanted WVU to play in, but that didn’t happen. The 6-6 Red Raiders are playing for an interim coach since they fired their head coach in October, while the 7-5 Bulldogs beat Kentucky & Auburn this year but faced an uphill climb in the SEC. I suppose I’m a little bitter about the ‘Eers’ exclusion because this is probably going to be more fun than I’m giving it credit for. Zach thinks depth might be an issue for Tech and likes State to win fairly easily.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Z’s Pick: Mississippi State
Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois
The Cure Bowl is so named to promote awareness & research of breast cancer, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Chanticleers are 10-2 (the second straight year they’ve won 10 games) but didn’t even win their division, which says a lot about the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskies are the 9-4 MAC Champions. This is a 6pm Friday kickoff, and I’ll be watching. We both expect a high scoring shootout and like Coastal to secure victory late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina
Boca Raton Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
My Marshall Thundering Herd might’ve been playing in this game if they’d made it to the C-USA title game, but kudos to the 8-5 Hilltoppers for doing that instead. The 10-3 Mountaineers lost the Sun Belt title game but won 9+ games for the seventh consecutive season. This one kicks off at 11am on Saturday a week before Christmas, and I’m glad because I have plans that night. I feel like this is one of those times when everyone will be expecting a shootout but instead we’ll be treated to a hard hitting defensive struggle, probably decided by a late field goal. Zach thinks the Mountaineers are more experienced in big games.
My Pick: Appalachian State
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
Oregon State vs. Utah State
This game has the potential to be sneaky good. It is the inaugural contest and will be played on the home field of the NFL’s Rams & Chargers. The 7-5 Beavers almost slid in the back door of the PAC 12 title game, but a loss to their in-state rivals doomed those chances. Meanwhile, the 10-3 Aggies are the surprising Mountain West Champions. It’s a 7:30pm kickoff on 12/18 so unfortunately I will miss it. Ah well…c’est la vie. I’d like to think it’ll be a close & exciting contest, but it could just as easily be a blowout. I have no idea what to expect. Zach likes Utah St.‘s running attack behind a stout offensive line.
My Pick: Utah State
Z’s Pick: Utah State
New Orleans Bowl
Marshall vs. Louisiana
This is what the 7-5 Herd gets for not making it to their conference title game. It is essentially a home game for the 12-1 Ragin’ Cajuns, winners of the Sun Belt. Marshall will be joining that conference in the not-so-distant future, so we’ll see plenty of rematches. It’s another game on the crowded 12/18 schedule, but kickoff isn’t until 9:15pm so I’ll actually get to see most of the action, which is cool. I can’t pretend to be unbiased, but to be honest the only thing that gives me hope is the fact that Louisiana will be playing for an interim coach making me somewhat hopeful for an upset. Zach thinks my alma mater comes into this game disappointed with the ending of the regular season and believes that hangover will lead to a Louisiana blowout.
My Pick: Marshall
Z’s Pick: Louisiana
UTSA vs. San Diego State
Earlier I referred to Frisco, TX as a “little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb”. To put that in context, the population of Frisco is 177k, making it about triple the size of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston. Everything is bigger in Texas. The 12-1 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners won the C-USA title, while the 11-2 Aztecs were beaten soundly in the Mountain West Championship Game. It’s nearly a five hour haul from San Antonio to Frisco, but UTSA should still enjoy a notable home field-esque kind of advantage. Kickoff is at 7:30pm EST on the Tuesday before Christmas, so it’ll be an evening of channel flipping between Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Scrooge, & football. That’s a fun night in my world. I hope it’s a competitive game, but with battles against Utah & Boise St. (both games that they won) under their belt, it feels like SD St. is probably the superior squad. Conversely, Zach likes UTSA’s offense a little better and thinks they’ll get the job done.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: Texas-San Antonio
Florida vs. Central Florida
I’ve explained this is previous years, but it’s a cool story. This game is named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. “The Last of the Buccaneers” allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century, amassing a huge fortune by taking prizes & ransoming hostages, and died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind an enormous and as-yet undiscovered treasure. That tale alone makes this a badass bowl game no matter who is playing in it. The 6-6 Gators had high hopes but encountered choppy waters this season, ending with firing their coach last month. 8-4 UCF’s “uncrowned national championship” from a few years back is about as spurious as the story of Jose Gaspar, but head coach Gus Malzahn (who previously had tremendous success at Auburn) has kept them in the conversation as one of the best Group of Five programs and will soon lead them into the Big 12. This would be a huge win for the Knights, an opportunity to defeat an in-state “rival” that’ll always receive more respect whether they deserve it or not. Zach isn’t sure the Gators will be into this one mentally as much as their opponents.
My Pick: Central Florida
Z’s Pick: Central Florida
Houston vs. Auburn
Rarely will I be all that complimentary toward former WVU Mountaineers’ head coach Dana Holgorsen, but credit where it is due…he has the 11-2 Cougars headed in the right direction in his third season at the helm. They’ll be a problem in the Big 12 soon enough. Conversely, the 6-6 Tigers didn’t fare as well in head coach Bryan Harsin’s first season as they would have liked, but there’s no reason to think they can’t be good again in the near future. Kickoff is at Noon on a Tuesday, which is unfortunate because this matchup probably deserves better. I think the talent disparity between a mid-level SEC program and the AAC will be apparent, and it helps that Auburn is playing only two hours away from home, so they’ll have a lot of fans in the stands. Zach thinks Houston is solid but not spectacular, while Auburn is inconsistent. He likes Auburn’s defense to be the difference maker.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: Auburn
North Carolina State vs. UCLA
It looks good on paper, but will it be as interesting in reality?? The Wolfpack went 9-3 with wins over Clemson, Florida St., and in-state rival UNC, while the 8-4 Bruins would like to have a redo on a couple of early season stumbles. This is a prime time game during that week between Christmas & New Year’s when no one really knows where they are, what day it is, or what exactly is going on. I think UCLA probably has a deeper bench, so they’ll pull away in the 4th quarter. It’s a tossup for Zach but he feels like NC St. has dealt with a tougher schedule and that experience will pay off.
My Pick: UCLA
Z’s Pick: North Carolina State
Kansas State vs. LSU
Ed Orgeron won’t be on the sidelines for the 6-6 Bayou Bengals, who’ll be led by an interim coach before Brian Kelly takes the reins. In comparison the 7-5 Wildcats are rather stable, which is a difference maker in my eyes. Zach feels like all the upheaval might actually provide motivation for LSU.
My Pick: Kansas State
Z’s Pick: LSU
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
West Virginia vs. Minnesota
As a Mountaineer fan this is kind of a letdown. A mediocre Big Ten opponent & a 10:15pm EST kickoff on a Tuesday night isn’t much to get excited about. This game was formerly known as the Copper Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, Cactus Bowl, & Cheez-It Bowl, but now bears the name of a Chicago based mortgage company, which is indicative of everything wrong with collegiate sports. The last time WVU played in it about five years ago they snagged a thrilling win over Arizona St., but I was in the hospital and fast asleep before the action heated up. Perhaps I can manage to stay awake this time. Zach thinks Minnesota will run the ball easily against the WV defense and win big.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
They’ve been playing a bowl game at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it except the time in 2012 when WV got embarrassed by Syracuse. In a college football world that had an ounce of sense this matchup would be an annual rivalry between two East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools, but in reality they play in different conferences and haven’t met on the football field since 2013. The 6-6 Hokies fired their head coach last month so they’ll be led by an interim coach, while Maryland is also 6-6 having lost 4 games in the second half of the season. I feel like it should be a much more compelling game than it is, but the 2pm Wednesday kickoff sort of characterizes the general interest level most will likely have for it. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Maryland
Z’s Pick: Maryland
Iowa State vs. Clemson
Okay, stick with me here. Once upon a time the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix was known as the Cheez-It Bowl, but sponsorships changed as they often do. This game, emanating from Orlando, FL, used to be the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, & Camping World Bowl. Anyway, we all know that it’s been an odd season for the 9-3 Tigers. Let’s be honest, that’s a record so many teams would give anything to have, but for a program that’s used to going undefeated & being in the playoff it is a disappointing year. The 7-5 Cyclones had higher expectations as well, but the Big 12 ended up being pretty competitive. This could be the sleeper game of the entire postseason, and with a 5:45pm Wednesday evening kickoff it is situated perfectly to provide ample entertainment value. I have a lot of faith in Dabo Swinney and believe his team will end their campaign on a high note. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Clemson
Oklahoma vs. Oregon
They could called this the What Might’ve Been Bowl or the Dashed Hopes Bowl, as both teams were in the playoff conversation right up until the end. The Sooners are 10-2, but head coach Lincoln Riley has already bolted for USC. Similarly, the Ducks finished 10-3 and also lost their coach Mario Cristobal, who has returned to his hometown & alma mater Miami Hurricanes. I’m not familiar enough with the inner workings of a college football team to know exactly what kind of chaos such upheaval causes, but it has to be unsettling. Nevertheless, I am expecting a fun game with lots of big plays & offense, and I think Oregon will win by a touchdown. Zach, on the other hand, thinks Oregon is overrated and their defense lacking. He likes Oklahoma, under the temporary guidance of former head coach Bob Stoops, to win easily.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
I’ve never tasted Dukes, although I’ve heard it’s good. I’m a lifelong Miracle Whip guy. This is the Charlotte based game formerly known as the Continental Tire Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, & Belk Bowl, and seems tailor made for a Battle of the Carolinas. The Gamecocks were 6-6 against a rather challenging schedule, while the 6-6 Tar Heels failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations. This will be the swan song for UNC quarterback Sam Howell, who is likely to be a first round NFL Draft pick. I am expecting a close game decided by a late turnover or special teams play, and I give the edge to Mack Brown’s guys. Zach thinks there is a possibility that Howell won’t even play on the game, but still believes UNC can get the job done.
My Pick: North Carolina
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Tennessee
I have to think that both teams will come into the game with a chip on their shoulder seeking to gain attention & build momentum for next year. The 8-4 Boilermakers get lost in the shuffle of a stacked Big Ten, while the 7-5 Volunteers continue trying to get back to enjoying the kind of success they had during the Peyton Manning era 25 years ago. This is damn near a home game for the Vols, as Knoxville is less than three hours from Nashville. That’s enough for me to pick Tennessee to win comfortably. Conversely, Zach believes Purdue’s defense will shine and lead the team to victory.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Perspective is a word that pops into my mind. I wonder how differently these teams might be viewing the same opportunity. The 10-2 Spartans won eight games before losing two of their last four, all while watching in-state rival Michigan (who they beat at the end of October) win the Big Ten and end up in the College Football Playoff. Conversely, the 11-2 Panthers just won the ACC title & quarterback Kenny Pickett was a Heisman finalist. This feels like a consolation prize for State and the culmination of an immensely successful comeback for Pitt. Zach doesn’t have much faith in State’s defense and thinks Pickett will put up big numbers in victory, while I believe Sparty has something to prove.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
I expected so much more from both teams. The 8-4 Badgers simply faced too much supremely talented opposition in the Big Ten, losing 3 out of 4 to begin the season. The 8-4 Sun Devils had similar problems in the PAC 12. This is a 10:30pm EST kickoff on New Year’s Eve Eve, which is a tough proposition. I suppose I could stay up for it then snooze most of the next day in preparation for the festivities. Anyway, it feels like a pretty even matchup that’ll end up being a hard hitting, low scoring defensive struggle decided by penalties & turnovers, and in that scenario I can’t go against my guy Herm Edwards. Conversely, Zach thinks Wisconsin’s ground game makes the difference.
My Pick: Arizona State
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Now that LSU has put all those Jimbo Fisher rumors to rest he can concentrate on coaching the team that’s actually paying him to do so. It’s probably unfair to call an 8-4 season disappointing, but when someone is making bank like Fisher the fact is that anything less than a playoff berth isn’t good enough. Conversely, though they lost the ACC title, no one in Winston-Salem is going to complain about 10-3 & a New Year’s Eve bowl game for the Demon Deacons, a team that’s only won 9 or more games in a season twice before now. I think Wake will give a great effort, but the talent disparity will show itself in the second half. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Arkansas vs. Penn State
Originally known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, it feels like this is a game that’s been around longer than it’s 1986 debut. The 8-4 Razorbacks started strong before losing three straight October games, while the 7-5 Nittany Lions did pretty much the same thing. If it were possible I might be tempted to predict that both teams could lose this one, but someone’s got to come out on top. I’m going to venture out on a limb and say that this will be one of those games where something screwy or controversial occurs…a penalty, turnover, blocked kick…that decides the outcome and becomes the subject of much debate on all the sports talk shows. Zach likes Penn St.’s defense to be a difference maker.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Penn State
Kentucky vs. Iowa
Congrats to the Wildcats on a stellar season. Kentucky has always been a basketball school, but after going 9-3 with wins over LSU & Florida they’ve got the attention of football fans everywhere. Conversely, the 10-3 Hawkeyes are probably a bit disappointed after dropping two consecutive contests in October that torpedoed their playoff hopes then getting obliterated by Michigan in the Big Ten Championship. I feel like most “experts” would say Iowa is the more talented team, but it seems like Kentucky has come up big when it really counted this year. Conversely, Zach predicts Iowa will win a close game.
My Pick: Kentucky
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Baylor vs. Ole Miss
11-2 Baylor won the Big 12 title, but an inexplicable November loss at TCU cost them a playoff berth. The 10-2 Rebels have quarterback Matt Corral, whose Heisman invite got lost in the mail, something he’ll feel better about when his name is called very early in next spring’s NFL Draft. This game has the potential to be great, but I think the Bears have more athletes across the board at more positions, and they will assert their dominance in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach really likes Corral and thinks Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffen might have a few tricks up his sleeve.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State
I really thought the 11-1 Irish would be a playoff team, but that October loss to Cincinnati was a killer. The 11-2 Cowboys had a legit playoff shot as well, but Baylor was just too tough in the Big 12 title game. I’m probably selling this game short…it should be a Gold Tier level matchup, but it just seems like both teams underachieved. I think State will have more big plays and snag a 5-10 point victory, while Zach believes Notre Dame will be motivated & inspired to win a close one.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Notre Dame
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati
I admit that it is unfair to not have a playoff semifinal in the Gold Tier. Having said that, I have been clear about my opinion of the Bearcats. They deserve all the kudos for going undefeated. The fact that they went into South Bend and beat Notre Dame cannot be overlooked. However, the rest of their schedule being opponents like Temple, Tulsa, & South Florida shouldn’t be glossed over either. The NCAA needs to consider separating the Power 5 and the Group of 5 into different divisions, each with its own National Championship. The 12-1 Crimson Tide just beat Georgia by 17 points to win the SEC Championship…what do you think they’re going to do to Cincinnati?? I would love to be wrong, but I think ‘Bama will win this game by four TD’s, and that’s after Saban calls off the dogs in the second half, which is why I can’t get too excited about it. Zach has a bit more respect for Cincy, but still thinks they lose by 10 points.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Ohio State vs. Utah
I don’t care if the Buckeyes lost two games…they should be in the playoff. I get it. I know the committee couldn’t put them in with two losses ahead of undefeated Cincinnati. It would’ve been the ballsy move, but a PR nightmare. It didn’t help that Michigan absolutely trucked their archrivals by two touchdowns. Still, I believe if Ohio St. played Cincy five times they’d win atleast four games quite easily. It is what it is though, and the consolation prize for fans is pretty great because 10-3 Utah might be the hottest team in the country. Two of their three losses came in September, and they’re riding a six game win streak that includes annihilating Oregon to win the PAC 12 Championship. Honestly, I think the Utes would beat the snot out of Cincinnati too. At any rate, this should be a fantastic game, but I think Ohio St. might be too fast & athletic for Utah to overcome. Zach hates Ohio St. so obviously he’s picking against them 😂.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Utah
(2) Michigan vs. (3) Georgia
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Alabama does, but I did not expect them to beat Georgia by 17 points in the SEC title game. Having said that, it is a testament to the 12-1 Bulldogs and the immense respect they’ve earned that they’re still amongst the Final Four. The 12-1 Wolverines only have a late October loss to in-state rival Michigan St. as a blemish on their record, but it seemed to have awakened them because they’ve been on fire ever since. I’m not sure even the most passionate Michigan fans would’ve considered them a playoff contender a month ago. This is The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object and has Game of the Year written all over it. As far as predictions, one can’t help but allow a little wishful thinking into the process. Would you rather see an Alabama-Georgia rematch or an Alabama-Michigan wet dream for all the marbles?? I know which one I prefer. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. Zach knows Georgia’s defense is extremely tough, but he thinks his Wolverines have what it takes to push the game into overtime and get a victory.
My Pick: Michigan
Z’s Pick: Michigan
Alabama/Cincinnati vs. Michigan/Georgia
So we are both predicting and/or wishing for an Alabama-Michigan National Championship Game. When Jim Harbaugh got the job in Ann Arbor in 2015 I said he’d have them in title contention in three years. It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but here we are. I think ‘Bama will beat Cincinnati easily to get to this point, while it’ll be much more difficult for the Wolverines to overcome Georgia. How will that affect the Championship Game?? I don’t know. There are just so many variables that can make a difference and alter the entire landscape in the space of a month. Given what we know at this moment in time I will predict a very close, very exciting, rather historic Michigan upset to win the title…their first since 1997, back when the National Championship was “mythical”, a quaint notion nowadays. Zach thinks Michigan has what it takes to compete, but in a Saban vs. Harbaugh coaching duel he simply has more faith in Saban.