2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 13 

Happy Thanksgiving Manoverse!! I will spare you a long preamble today because we are closing in on the crescendo of the college football portion of our season with a super-sized, heaping helping of picks, mostly rivalry games that are a huge part of what makes collegiate sports special, and all of which could potentially be great games. Last week I (3-2) edged Zach (1-4) to extend the season lead, but with six weeks to go things can change quickly so I’m not going to get too cocky. I send all my friends out there in cyberspace the warmest of wishes as you sit down to break bread & spend time with loved ones this week. Don’t ever take those opportunities for granted. 

My Season: 37-40

Zach’s Season: 30-47

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (-1.5)

They call this the Egg Bowl because the winner receives a golden egg trophy. The idea to present a trophy was hatched after a post-game brawl in 1926, although I don’t know if the concept was poached from somewhere or if they were just scrambling for anything to prevent future hard boiled feelings. The 9-2 Rebels lead the all-time series 63-45-6, but the 7-4 Bulldogs have won two of the last three meetings. It is essentially a pick ‘em game, and I think the home team will get the job done. Zach is anticipating a shootout and likes Rebels’ QB & future NFL first round pick Matt Corral to lead his team to victory. 

My Pick: Mississippi State

Z’s Pick: Ole Miss 

Boise State (-2.5) at San Diego State

I’m a little bit surprised by the odds. Not only are the 10-1 Aztecs at home, but they’ve won three games in a row and locked up a berth in the Mountain West Championship. The 7-4 Broncos have won four straight, but I just don’t understand why they’d be favored on the road against a Top 25 team. I’m not buying it, so I will pick the “upset”. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive struggle and likes the visitors to get the win. 

My Pick: San Diego State 

Z’s Pick: Boise State 

Georgia Southern at Appalachian St. (-24.5)

I am excited because my Marshall Thundering Herd will be moving from Conference USA to the Sun Belt in the near future, enabling them to renew old rivalries against these & other schools. When I was in college all three teams were powerhouses in what was then known as Division 1-AA and have played several fun games thru the years. Anyway, the heavily favored Mountaineers are 9-2 and riding a five game winning streak, while the 3-8 Eagles are already looking ahead to 2022 after hiring former USC head coach Clay Helton. App. St. will win, but by how much?? This is a rivalry game, so I have to assume Southern will play with some level of pride & determination, and they may catch the home team looking past them to the conference title game. Therefore I am predicting that the margin of victory will not exceed three TDs. Zach is a little nervous about the points and the fact that App. St. really has nothing to play for since they’re already locked into the conference title game. However, he is a riverboat gambler and thinks the home team can win big & cover. 

My Pick: Georgia Southern 

Z’s Pick: Appalachian State

Florida St. at Florida (-2)

Well, the Gators have already fired their coach, so there is that. At 5-6 they’ll need to win this game to become bowl eligible, which should provide ample motivation. Meanwhile, the rebuilding continues in Tallahassee, with the Seminoles also sitting at 5-6 and a victory away from bowl eligibility. This isn’t what we’re used to getting from this matchup, as both teams have typically been much more successful in the past. However, don’t underestimate the incentive of playing in a bowl game for two programs in what one might call a construction phase. The Swamp is notoriously hostile territory for opposing teams, but I’m going against conventional wisdom and picking the upset. Zach thinks it’ll be a close game but also thinks an upset could be on the horizon.

My Pick: Florida State 

Z’s Pick: Florida State 

Texas A&M (-6.5) at LSU

Aggies’ coach Jimbo Fisher may or may not be the future coach for the Bayou Bengals, but the storyline provides fascinating subtext heading into this game. At 8-3 A&M isn’t winning the conference, but they should land somewhere warm & fun for the post-season. Conversely, LSU is 5-6 and needs to win to get invited somewhere warm & fun themselves. We all know that head coach Ed Orgeron is gone after the season, but does his team have what it takes to extend his stay a little while longer?? I think maybe they do, especially with this game being played in Baton Rouge. Zach would like to see a happy ending for Orgeron (no…not that…get your mind out of the gutter), but at the end of the day he thinks A&M will do enough to win & cover. 

My Pick: LSU

Z’s Pick: Texas A&M

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (-4)

There is a real possibility that these teams could meet again in the Big 12 title game. Baylor has the tiebreaker over the Sooners, but the Cowboys defeated Baylor back in early October. So the Bears will be cheering for State to win and set up a rematch of the game they lost, while an Oklahoma victory would mean we get Bedlam Part 2 next week. I’d much rather see Baylor/OK St. for the conference championship, and I think we will. Conversely, Zach believes the Sooners have enough offensive firepower to score the low key upset. 

My Pick: Oklahoma State 

Z’s Pick: Oklahoma 

Oregon St. at Oregon (-7.5)

They refer to this as The Civil War, or atleast that’s what it used to be called. Because leftists ruin everything and there are a lot of those in the state of Oregon it was announced a year ago that they no longer wanted to use that terminology. Screw that. I’ll call it what I damn well please, and I’m not going to let a bunch of tree hugging assclowns water down a 127 year old rivalry. Anyway, the Ducks screwed themselves out of playoff contention with a loss to Utah last weekend, while the 7-4 Beavers still have an opportunity to surprise everyone by getting into the PAC 12 title game where they’d get a shot at the Utes. They’ll need to win this game and hope the Washington Huskies can upset the Washington St. Cougars in the Apple Cup. I’m disappointed that this is a 3:30pm kickoff on ESPN, because it would’ve been excellent late night viewing. Ah well…c’est la vie. I have to go with the favorites here, if only because it sets up a really interesting rematch for the conference championship. Zach won’t predict an outright upset, but he does think State will keep it close and stay within a touchdown. 

My Pick: Oregon 

Z’s Pick: Oregon State 

Ohio State (-8) at Michigan 

College football is always better when this game means something, and it potentially means a whole hell of a lot right now. The winner will earn a spot in the Big Ten title game, while the Buckeyes will certainly be in the playoff if they win out. Can #6 Michigan still get into the playoff?? It’s possible, although I’m not going to break down those scenarios here. Let’s just say several dominoes have to fall just right. But can we legitimately expect a competitive contest?? A week ago I confidently called Ohio St. being favored over Michigan St. by 19 & a half points crazy and Zach agreed. Then the Buckeyes went out and jumped to a 49-0 halftime lead before ultimately handing the Spartans a 56-7 beatdown. Can they go into The Big House and dominate the Wolverines in similar fashion?? I don’t know about that, but 8 points doesn’t seem so outlandish in comparison. At 10-1 Michigan has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but I just feel like their opponents are on another level. Zach points out that Jim Harbaugh is 3-9 against Michigan’s two biggest rivals…the Buckeyes & the Spartans…but they would control their destiny by winning this game. As has become tradition he is utilizing the reverse psychology method to motivate his beloved Wolverines by predicting that the visitors will have backups playing in the second half, may score 70+ points, and could win by 5+ touchdowns. It’s a bold strategy Cotton…let’s see how it works out for ‘em. 

My Pick: Ohio State 

Z’s Pick: Ohio State

Alabama (-19.5) at Auburn 

The Iron Bowl is always entertaining, right?? ‘Bama comes into the game 10-1 and in solid playoff contention, while Auburn is in the midst of a underwhelmingly prosaic campaign. As a matter of fact, despite the fact that the 6-5 Tigers will be invited to a pleasant enough post-season affair, THIS is their true bowl game. Discussion in the next couple of weeks may focus on whether or not the Tide deserves to be in the playoff. If they lose to Georgia in the SEC title game but keep it respectable does a two loss Alabama get in over one loss teams that might be in the mix?? Auburn can put an end to the debate with an upset, but clearly it’s a challenging task. The good news is the game is at Jordan–Hare Stadium, the bad news is I don’t think that means diddly squat. As much as I hate to admit it, ‘Bama, like Ohio St., is simply on another level. They aren’t losing this game. However, I do believe the home team will muster enough gumption to not lose by more than a couple of TDs. Zach thinks Alabama is overrated and may be caught looking ahead to their showdown with Georgia. He’s not going so far out on a limb as to predict an Auburn win, but he does think they’ll keep it close. 

My Pick: Auburn 

Z’s Pick: Auburn 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 12

A couple of random thoughts…

The college football playoff…at this moment…would be Georgia vs. Ohio St. & Alabama vs. Oregon. However, we know that Georgia & Alabama are playing each other in the SEC title game so things will change. Undefeated Cincinnati sits at #5, but even if they finish unbeaten I don’t know if they’ll be included, and quite honestly I am not so sure they’d deserve to be anyway. As far as the Heisman, I like RB Kenneth Walker from Michigan St., QB Matt Corral of the Ole Miss Rebels, & Ohio St. RB Treyveon Henderson. Let’s see who grabs the opportunity to shine when Walker & Henderson go head to head this weekend. Okay, so…Zach (0-5) had a pretty bad week, while I (3-2) was average, meaning I’ve extended the season lead to five games (I’m still below .500 though). We’ll probably be doing some extra picks in the next few weeks as college football reaches its regular season climax and the NFL rounds the turn into its second half. 

My Season: 34-38

Zach’s Season: 29-43

Michigan State at Ohio State (-19.5)

I really don’t understand the points. These are two Top 10 teams that are in the playoff conversation. The advantage the Buckeyes have is their one loss came way back in September to Oregon, while the Spartans stumbled just a couple of weeks ago at Purdue. Timing matters, in life and in college football. Let’s not overlook the fact that the winner here most likely secures a spot in the Big Ten title game, and with a victory Michigan St. would hold head-to-head tiebreakers over Michigan & Ohio St. ESPN’s College Gameday will be on the scene just in case anyone didn’t get the memo that it’s a rather huge matchup. I think the home team will win, and they may even do it comfortably…but by almost three TDs?? Nah!! That’s crazy. Zach thinks Ohio St. is building momentum & peaking at the right time, but he also considers Michigan St. running back Kenneth Walker to be the Heisman frontrunner. Ultimately the points are just too much for him too. 

My Pick: Michigan State 

Z’s Pick:  Michigan State

UCLA (-3) at Southern Cal

The Battle of Los Angeles has definitely lost its luster hasn’t it?? The Bruins initially looked like they might be pretty good this year, but have lost two of their last three games and sit at 6-4. Everyone keeps waiting for head coach Chip Kelly to turn things around, and to his credit this is his first winning season at UCLA in his fourth year, but mediocre isn’t going to cut it so his seat may be a bit warm. The 4-5 Trojans already fired their head coach back in September and are probably under the delusion that they can make a big splash with whomever they hire next. Perhaps they will, I don’t know. At any rate, once upon a time this would’ve been the prime time game on ESPN/ABC or Fox, but instead we’re getting a 4pm kickoff, and I have no idea what to expect. There is no significant home advantage since the two schools are less than an hour apart. It’s a coin flip for me, and in that scenario I always pull for the underdog. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe it’ll be much of a game and likes the visitors to win big.

My Pick: Southern Cal

Z’s Pick: UCLA

Oregon at Utah (-3)

There is a lot at stake here. The Ducks are all but locked into the PAC 12 title game, but they’re also in the playoff conversation and cannot afford a misstep. The Utes are battling Arizona St. for a berth in the conference title game, so we could see these two in a rematch next month. This is the prime time game on ABC, and I’m happy I don’t have any plans so I can stay home to watch. Y’all know I love me some playoff chaos, but you may also recall that I predicted Oregon would be in the Final Four, so my pride is contending with my preference as a fan. At the end of the day I feel like the home field plays a significant role in games like this, which is why I’m leaning toward Utah. Zach foresees a fun, high scoring game and thinks Oregon will do enough to win and remain in the playoff hunt. 

My Pick: Utah 

Z’s Pick: Oregon 

Detroit at Cleveland (-10)

The damn Lions somehow managed to tie our Steelers last week!! I know Pittsburgh was playing with a backup quarterback, but still…it was embarrassing. Can Detroit take things a step further & get over the hump this week?? Meanwhile, as I predicted, the 5-5 Browns haven’t met their unreasonably high expectations. QB Baker Mayfield has never lived up to the hype that comes with winning the Heisman Trophy and being the #1 overall draft pick, although, to be fair, it is rare that anyone justifies those lofty expectations. However, the AFC North is up for grabs and everything can change in the second half of the season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Detroit score the upset & get their first win since December 6, 2020, but I’m not counting on it. I do think they’ll keep it close though. Zach’s opinion of both teams is pretty low, but after an embarrassing beatdown by the Patriots he believes Cleveland will rebound.

My Pick: Detroit 

Z’s Pick: Cleveland 

Dallas at Kansas City (-2.5)

Are the Chiefs back?? Everyone had kind of given up on them until they beat the Rodgers-less Packers & followed that up with a proper thrashing of the Raiders on Sunday night. Now  the bandwagon seems to be full again. Meanwhile, the 7-2 Cowboys have had a stumble or two but otherwise they’ve mostly taken care of business throughout the season. Did you know that the Chiefs actually used to be the Cowboys?? Well, okay, not really. In the old days, when the AFL was a thing in the 1960s, one of their franchises was the Dallas Texans. At the same time the NFL expanded and the Cowboys were born. I guess Dallas wasn’t big enough for both teams, so the Texans relocated to Missouri (not Kansas) and became the Chiefs. At any rate, I think the home field is important and believe KC will get just enough big plays out of their high powered offense to score a close victory. Zach likes Dallas in a high scoring upset. 

My Pick: Kansas City 

Z’s Pick: Dallas 

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 10

Annnnndddd we’re BACK!!

We took a bye week due to unfortunate personal circumstances, but life moves forward and it’s good to get back in the saddle. The College Football Playoff Committee released their initial rankings, and I have opinions that essentially boil down to a) they got it right and b) right now it means diddly squat. I especially liked the fact that Clemson was ranked outside the Top 4 (at #5) not because the ACC is undoubtedly the weakest conference but because they just got done beating up on Wofford. Playing that game in September?? Fine. Not a problem. Playing it in November?? Inexcusable. Pathetic. Having said that, the Top 4 are going to cancel each other out in head-to-head matchups so don’t worry Dabo…your team will steamroll the rest of their cupcake schedule and be gifted a spot in the playoff. Of course Alabama plays Western Carolina in a couple of weeks which isn’t any less infuriating, but atleast they play in one of the best conferences so they’ll get a bit more clemency. At any rate, both college & pro football are starting to get really interesting, so enjoy the ride with us.

 My Season:        29-25

Zach’s Season:  26-28

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penn State (-6.5)                 at                  Minnesota

At the moment the Nittany Lions are in the playoff, but they still have to go to Columbus right before Thanksgiving, so stay tuned. The Golden Gophers are undefeated, but a closer look reveals they haven’t played much of anybody and the back end of their schedule is really tough. The fact that this game is in Minneapolis might help a little, but I am still inclined to ride with the favorites. Conversely, Zach believes Penn St. might be looking ahead to that very important game with the Buckeyes and could be walking into a trap. He believes that special teams will play a key role and even if the visitors win they may not cover the points.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

Iowa                                 at                    Wisconsin (-9.5)

We could call this the What Might Have Been Bowl. The Hawkeyes started off good, then suffered back to back losses to Michigan & Penn St. and have been back on the winning track for a couple of weeks. The Badgers looked like a possible playoff contender but have lost two straight games. I like Wisconsin to win at home, but the near double digit points give me pause…I think it’ll be closer than that. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive struggle but thinks Wisconsin RB and former Heisman frontrunner Jonathan Taylor will be the difference maker.

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

LSU                             at                       Alabama (-6.5)

This is the big one. Normally I don’t get too pumped for LSU/Bama because as much as I appreciate good defense a 60 minute battle of field position & field goals can be a bit tedious. However, both teams have suddenly become high powered offensive juggernauts. The over/under is 63 points, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the over wins. The Tide gets the home field advantage, and rightfully so…but The Vibes are telling me this is going to come down to the wire, so whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach thinks it’ll come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. He doesn’t believe LSU can run the ball against Alabama’s defense so QB Joe Burrow will have to make plays. Ultimately though it comes down to coaching, and Zach has long been a big Nick Saban fan.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

 

NY Giants (-1.5)                        vs.                  NY Jets

The Battle of New York?? New Jersey?? Both teams are terrible right now so I’m not sure either state would want to claim them. There is no home field advantage since they share a stadium, so it comes down to how one views the little things. For me the fact that the Giants have Saquon Barkley at running back tips the scales slightly in their favor. Zach doesn’t think this game will be the least bit interesting to watch, and he’s probably right. Anyway, he’s rolling the dice on the Jets.

My Pick:     NY Giants

Z’s Pick:     NY Jets

 

 

 

Seattle                          at                    San Francisco (-6)

I don’t expect the 49ers to finish the season undefeated, but will it be the Seahawks that knock them down a notch?? Seattle’s only two losses have been to the Saints & Ravens, so one must assess whether or not San Francisco is on the same level as those teams. QB Russell Wilson will be in the MVP discussion, but ‘Frisco QB Jimmy G. isn’t far behind. I expect this to be a terrific Monday Night Football game…it might even get me to change the channel from my wrasslin’. I sense another close battle decided by a late field goal, so I’m going to pick the underdogs. Zach thinks the 49ers defense can neutralize Wilson and will be the difference.

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     San Francisco

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 7

Once again I find myself watching Thursday Night Football and preparing this post even though I’ve had all the pertinent info for a couple of days. I’ve been meaning to do something about my bad habit of procrastinating for several years, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. At any rate, bonus picks worked out pretty well for me last week (6-2), and less so for Zach (3-5), yet my intention was not to do it two weeks in a row. However, the schedule is lit…especially on Saturday…so we’ll just go with the flow. Baseball is in playoff mode and both pre-season basketball & hockey have begun, but it’s still the ol’ pigskin that lights my fire.

My Season:        21-15

Zach’s Season:  16-20

 

 

 

 

Florida State                at                Clemson (-27)

Not long ago this was one of the marquee matchups each season, but the 3-2 Seminoles have fallen on hard times in recent years. Conversely, the Tigers have consistently been one of the top teams in the nation for awhile. I don’t see any of that changing overnight, especially in Death Valley. The question is whether or not Clemson will cover the near four touchdown spread. They damn near lost to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill a couple of weeks ago, so I don’t know if FSU should be encouraged by that result or petrified that the home team is coming off a bye week. I’m probably going to regret it, but I’m going with the #2 team in the country to get their mojo back and quiet the doubters (atleast for now). Zach feels like this could be a trap game. He doesn’t believe that Florida St. will win, but does feel like they’re improving and will play good enough to cover the points.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Florida St.

 

 

 

Michigan State           at                Wisconsin (-10)

This is a bigger game than I would have imagined it’d be a few weeks ago. The Badgers are an undefeated Top Ten team, while the Spartans are 4-2 and coming off a loss to Ohio St. Wisconsin has more to lose and is playing at home, so even though the points make me a little nervous I’ll roll the dice on the favorites. Zach really likes Badgers’ RB Jonathan Taylor and would vote for him to win the Heisman. That being said, he does believe that the Spartan defense will slow Taylor down just a little bit. However, he doesn’t think that defensive effort will be enough and thinks Wisconsin wins & covers.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Penn State (-3)                     at                         Iowa

The Big Ten is really solid this season!! The Nittany Lions are 5-0 & ranked 10th in the polls, but they aren’t even leading their division. The Hawkeyes are 4-1 & ranked 17tth and are FOURTH in their division. So what does all of that mean for this game?? Good question. It’s interesting that Iowa isn’t favored at home, but I’m not sure that’s the right call by the folks in Vegas. The Vibes are telling me that an upset could be brewing. Zach really digs Iowa’s home field, but he doesn’t believe it’ll be enough.

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

 

Florida                         at                         LSU (-13)

The Gators are an undefeated Top Ten team coming off of a huge win over Auburn, so it’s a bit weird for them to be nearly two TD underdogs. Of course when the opponent is an undefeated Top 5 team with a well-regarded home field advantage I suppose it makes sense. What bothers me about the Bayou Bengals is that with the exception of a victory over Texas they haven’t had a tough schedule at all. The Gators made a believer out of me a week ago, and I have a difficult time believing that they’ll have enough of a letdown to lose by double digits. I don’t know who will win, although straight up I’d probably choose LSU. I just think it’ll be a close game. Zach has some concerns about Florida’s inconsistency and possible injuries, but he’s joining me out on that limb.

My Pick:     Florida

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Alabama (-16.5)                    at                         Texas A&M

We don’t pick a lot of Alabama games because I’m just kind of over the hype, but I’ve had this game on my radar since August. The Tide is undefeated and untested…clearly the best team in the country. A&M is 3-2 but ranked by virtue of their unimaginably difficult schedule, and were competitive against Clemson & Auburn in losses. They call the 100k + fans at each home game in College Station The 12th Man, and it is a notable advantage, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough. It’s a safe bet that ‘Bama will win the game, but will they cover?? They are winning by an average of 37 points per game, but this is certainly the toughest opponent they’ve faced. I would love to be wrong, but I’m sensing a 20-29 point victory this weekend, which would be more than enough. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

 

Oklahoma (-11)                     vs.                       Texas

Hey, look y’all…it’s The Red River Shootout. Not only that, but both teams are almost in the Top Ten (Texas is ranked 11th), making this more meaningful than the matchup has been in quite awhile. There’s a good chance that there will be a rematch down the line in the conference title game because of how the Big 12 (which has ten teams) is set up, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Sooners haven’t broken a sweat thus far, and QB Jalen Hurts looks like a legit Heisman contender. The Longhorns’ only blemish is a loss to LSU, which is nothing of which to be ashamed. This is a neutral site game in Dallas, so there’s no real home field advantage. The double digit points indicate that the oddsmakers aren’t quite ready to believe in Texas, which is understandable. Five of the past six Shootouts have been decided by a touchdown or less, but I’m going to ignore that and cheer for Oklahoma to win big. Zach thinks Texas QB Sam Ehlinger is overrated, but he foresees a tight game in which the favorites win by only a touchdown.

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Z’s Pick:     Texas

 

 

 

Houston                      at                         Kansas City (-5)

One thing I know for sure about this game…take the over (which is 55 points). The 3-2 Texans haven’t been overwhelmingly impressive, but they could easily be undefeated if a few breaks had gone their way. The Chiefs have looked marginally better, but it’ll be interesting to see how they react to last week’s loss to division rival Indianapolis. The home field is notable and could make a difference in a close game. I know everybody fawns all over KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but I really like Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson a lot. I also like Houston defensive lineman JJ Watt, and I think defense could be the key to victory. Conversely, Zach expects a big game from Mahomes and an easy Chiefs win.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

 

 

Philadelphia                         at                         Minnesota (-3)

The Eagles have struggled to regain their Super Bowl form from a couple of years ago, going 9-7 last season, and though they lead the NFC East at this point they’re only 3-2. The Vikings are also 3-2, but sit dead last in the NFC Central (to be fair they’re only one game behind). I foresee a low scoring defensive struggle, so a big question is which running back do I trust more…Philly’s duo of Miles Sanders & Jordan Howard or Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook?? In this case I’m leaning toward Cook to get the winning score. Zach likes the Vikings to defend their home turf and get a fairly decisive victory.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

2019 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

First things first…I am indeed aware that the college football season begins tonight when the Miami Hurricanes visit the Florida Gators. I usually get these rankings published earlier in August, but…well, that didn’t happen. You’re not interested in my excuses and I’m not really into making any, so we’ll just go with the flow. I don’t think the Canes’ nor the Gators will factor significantly into how things play out, so it’s all good. We know that out of 130 FBS football teams only 65 “power” conference teams (including “independent” Notre Dame) have any shot at the national title, and this season it feels like it’s a ten team race at best. As a fan I am still entertained by watching games, but I have to admit that the foregone conclusion that the playoff has become sort of harshes my football buzz. I need underdogs. I need upsets. I need some semblance of parity. I need a little variety from year to year. One of the charms of college football has always been that each season players graduate and new players come in, which means that every year is different…except nowadays its seems like nothing much changes. There have always been dominant programs, but there were still cycles wherein some teams would rise for a couple of years while others fell off a bit. That yin & yang was part of the fun. I hope that happens this season. I hope a team or two that everyone expects to win a lot of games unexpectedly loses a few. I hope a few teams that no one sees coming win 10+ games and challenge for conference titles. I hope…but I won’t hold my breath. Still, it’s nice to have football back.

 

 

 

25        Virginia Tech

Last Season:     6-7

Key Games:     10/5 @Miami, 11/2 @Notre Dame, 11/23 vs. Pitt

This season will go one of two ways for the Hokies. Either they’ll have another miserable losing season and head coach Justin Fuentes will be on the hot seat…or they’ll rebound with 8 or 9 wins and have a legit shot to win a conference title in a rather weak ACC. Obviously I lean toward the latter scenario.

 

 

24        Auburn

Last Season:     8-5

Key Games:     8/31 vs. Oregon, 9/21 @Texas A&M, 11/16 vs. Georgia, 11/30 vs. Alabama

Here’s the thing about the SEC. Atleast half the conference is going to get some attention from the talking heads early in the season because…well, that’s just how it is. Heck, I have five SEC teams in these rankings, and that’s me being conservative. But logic dictates that only a couple of those teams will really be elite. The rest will either fall flat & have disappointing seasons or fall short a few times and end up with a solid 8 or 9 win season. I think the Tigers will land in the latter category. The season opener against Oregon should be a good barometer of what we can expect.

 

 

23        Michigan State

Last Season:     7-6

Key Games:     9/14 vs. Arizona St., 10/5 @Ohio St., 10/12 @Wisconsin, 10/26 vs. Penn St., 11/16 @Michigan

Trips to Columbus & Ann Arbor don’t bode well for the Spartans Big Ten title hopes, but I believe they’ll rebound from a subpar 2018 and win nine games.

 

 

22        Central Florida

Last Season:     12-1

Key Games:     9/14 vs. Stanford, 9/21 @Pitt

The Knights hadn’t lost a game in two years until they ran into the LSU Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl. Do I expect more of the same this year?? Maybe. Out-of-conference games against Stanford & Pitt are important and could make a huge difference. It’s probably too much to ask UCF to go undefeated again, but I think a ten win season deserves some respect.

 

 

21        Army

Last Season:     11-2

Key Games:     9/7 @Michigan, 12/14 vs. Navy

Very few football fans pay attention to the Black Knights until the very end of the season when the Army-Navy Game has the spotlight all to itself, but Army has gone 21-5 in the past two years, which is quite impressive. I don’t think they’ll go into Ann Arbor and pull off an upset, but I don’t believe another ten win season is far-fetched.

 

 

20        Northwestern

Last Season:             9-5                             

Key Games:              8/31 @Stanford, 9/21 vs. Michigan St., 9/28 @Wisconsin, 10/5 @Nebraska, 10/18 vs. Ohio St., 10/26 vs. Iowa

Perhaps it’s the purple uniforms, or maybe it’s the fact that they were perennial underdogs when I was growing up but ten win seasons have now become fairly normal in Evanston. It might be the tenacity of former linebacker & current head coach Pat Fitzgerald. For some reason I have a soft spot for the Wildcats. This prediction could be an epic disaster since they’ve got to travel to Palo Alto to begin the season and also have road trips to Madison & Lincoln. However, if Northwestern can gut out a few upsets and win eight games I may be onto something.

 

 

19        Fresno State

Last Season:     12-2

Key Games:     8/31 @USC, 9/7 @Minnesota, 10/26 vs. Colorado St.

I’m a bit sad because my work schedule has changed yet again and I have to be in bed super early on Friday & Saturday nights so I can get up at 5am. That means that for the first time in many years I won’t get to watch hardly any late night west coast games. The Pac 12 gets all of the attention, but don’t forget about the Mountain West. It has become standard for Boise St. to get the infinitesimal amount of love left over for the MWC, but I believe the Bulldogs will emerge as the better team this year.

 

 

18        Michigan

Last Season:     10-3

Key Games:     9/21 @Wisconsin, 10/5 vs. Iowa, 10/19 @Penn St., 10/26 vs. Notre Dame, 11/16 vs. Michigan St., 11/0 vs. Ohio St.

Are patience wearing thin where Jim Harbaugh is concerned?? Possibly, but I still think he’ll ditch Michigan before Michigan cans him…and neither scenario may ever happen. This isn’t the early 20th century anymore…everyone outside of the state of Alabama understands how difficult it is to win a national championship and knows it isn’t the only barometer for success. Harbaugh has won ten games in 3 out of 4 seasons leading the maize & Blue, which is pretty darn good. The one thing he has to do to quell any sort of rebellion: beat Ohio St. Now is the time. This is the year. The Wolverines could lose 3 or 4 other games and it won’t matter if they defeat the Buckeyes in The Big House in November.

 

 

17        Arizona State

Last Season:     7-6

Key Games:     9/14 @Michigan St., 10/19 @Utah, 11/9 vs. USC, 11/23 vs. Oregon

I’m a big fan of Sun Devils’ head coach Herm Edwards. He might be a better talking head than head coach, but I saw some flashes a year ago that leads me to believe that this is a team that could pull off a couple of upsets and sneak into the rankings.

 

 

16        Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-4

Key Games:     9/7@Clemson, 9/21 vs. Auburn, 10/12 vs. Alabama, 11/23 @Georgia, 11/30 @LSU

No team has more chances to affect the National Championship picture than the Aggies. All five key games noted above involve potential playoff contenders, so A&M has a unique opportunity to be the ultimate spoiler…or be embarrassingly inept. Entering Year 2 of the Jimbo Fisher era I believe they’ll continue to build a solid foundation that will eventually lead to playoff appearances in the near future.

 

 

15        Stanford

Last Season:     9-4

Key Games:     9/21 vs. Oregon, 10/5 vs. Washington, 11/16 @Washington St., 11/30 vs. Notre Dame

The Pac 12 is stacked, and it’ll be really interesting to see which team(s) emerge to lead the pack. Stanford has its biggest games at home, and that could lead to good things.

 

 

14        Nebraska

Last Season:     4-8

Key Games:     9/28 vs. Ohio St., 11/16 vs. Wisconsin, 11/29 vs. Iowa

I’m really going out on a limb. After back to back four win seasons the Cornhuskers enter Year 2 of the Scott Frost era, which means that noticeable improvement is expected.  So does that mean going from losing seasons to bowl eligibility?? Or does it mean bursting back onto the scene with 8-10 wins?? The biggest games are at home, and just one upset might mean a huge turnaround for the program.

 

 

13        LSU

Last Season:     10-3

Key Games:     9/7 @Texas, 10/12 vs. Florida, 10/26 vs. Auburn, 11/9 @Alabama, 11/30 vs. Texas A&M

Ed Orgeron now seems to be firmly entrenched as the Bayou Bengals’ head coach, and that kind of stability provides a real sense of freedom for a program. A split against the four noted conference foes would be fantastic, but an early season non-conference battle at Texas could be the key to LSU’s entire season.

 

 

12        Utah

Last Season:     9-5

Key Games:     8/29 @BYU, 9/20 @USC, 9/28 vs. Washington St., 10/19 vs. Arizona St., 11/2 @Washington

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to figuring out the Pac 12, but the Utes seem to be getting a lot of love. Anyone who has spent any time reading sports related content here at The Manofesto will recall my affection for BYU, which is why I consider that an important in-state contest for Utah even though BYU has only won eleven total games the past two years. I’m not sure what to think about Southern Cal or the two Washington teams…all three could make these rankings look silly a few months from now. One thing is for sure…the Utes are going to need to have some big road wins to have a successful season.

 

 

11        Iowa State

Last Season:     8-5

Key Games:     9/14 vs. Iowa, 11/9 @Oklahoma, 11/16 vs. Texas

Everybody loves to yap about Oklahoma & Texas, but Big 12 fans know not to sleep on the Cyclones. They’ve won eight games in each of the last two seasons, and with QB Brock Purdy entering his sophomore year I think bigger things await. I am predicting that they’ll upset either the Sooners or the Longhorns and finish third in the conference.

 

 

10        Wisconsin

Last Season:     8-5

Key Games:     9/21 vs. Michigan, 10/12 vs. Michigan St., 10/26 @Ohio St.

The bottom line is this…the Badgers have to upset one of the two Michigan teams because going into The Horseshoe & beating Ohio St. in October might be too much to expect. Otherwise, I expect a solid 8-10 win season, which is par for the course.

 

 

9          Southern California

Last Season:     5-7

Key Games:     9/7 vs. Stanford, 9/20 vs. Utah, 9/28 @Washington, 10/12 @Notre Dame, 11/2 vs. Oregon

I’m doing it…I’m rolling the dice on the Trojans!! I’m not sure what the heck happened a year ago, but it was USC’s first losing season in eighteen years. Was it an anomaly?? Or was 2018 indicative of a backward slide that will continue for the foreseeable future?? Obviously I’m betting on the former, and in the words of Billy Joel I’ll walk away a fool or a king.

 

 

8          Texas

Last Season:     10-4

Key Games:     9/7 vs. LSU, 10/12 vs. Oklahoma, 11/16 @Iowa St.

The long road back to relevancy is about as complete as one can expect nowadays…all they need to do now is maintain consistency. A losing or even mediocre season now would be disastrous for a program that’s taken almost a decade to rebuild. Most “experts” expect the Big 12 to come down to Texas & Oklahoma, so the Red River Shootout in mid-October will be a huge game, but the Longhorns shouldn’t overlook Iowa St. just a month later.

 

 

7          Notre Dame

Last Season:     12-1

Key Games:     9/21 @Georgia, 10/12 vs. USC, 10/26 @Michigan, 11/30 @Stanford

Coming off a playoff season expectations are high in South Bend, but the schedule is brutal. One slip will knock them out of contention, and with big road games at Georgia, Michigan, & Stanford I’d be stunned to see the Irish go undefeated.

 

 

6          Ohio State

Last Season:    13-1

Key Games:     9/28 @Nebraska, 10/5 vs. Michigan St., 10/26 vs. Wisconsin, 11/23 vs. Penn St., 11/30 @ Michigan

Ohio St. is a football factory that recruits elite athletes and churns out winning seasons as easily as you & I change socks in the morning. However, the dividing line for such teams is whether they win 9/10 games and finish highly ranked or go undefeated and contend for a playoff spot. I don’t think there will be a significant dropoff under new head coach Ryan Day, and perhaps it is even positive for the program to be rid of the various distractions that accompanied former coach Urban Meyer. However, I don’t think you’ll see the Buckeyes in the playoff, and they might even suffer a loss to Michigan.

 

 

5             Oregon

Last Season:     9-4

Key Games:     8/31 @Auburn, 9/21 @Stanford, 10/19 @Washington, 11/2 @USC

Mario Cristobal started his reign as the Ducks’ head coach with a nine win season, so now anticipation is at a fever pitch in Eugene. A non-conference battle with Auburn to kick things off is a neutral site game at The Palace in Dallas. I don’t necessarily think that game will make or break either team’s season, but the winner will certainly be headed on an upward trajectory. I’m not sure what to make of the Pac 12 quite yet, but if Oregon can emerge from the pack they just might find themselves in playoff contention.

 

 

4             Alabama

Last Season:     14-1

Key Games:     10/12 @Texas A&M, 11/9 vs. LSU, 11/30 @Auburn

I don’t know about y’all, but ‘Bama has become a team I love to see lose. I’m just really over the whole thing. I know I should root for fellow West Virginian Nick Saban, but I just can’t. I’m an underdog kind of guy and The Tide has evolved into The Evil Empire. However, a year ago I opined that Alabama might have to lose as many as three games for the powers-that-be to leave them out of the playoff. We know for sure that they don’t need to win the SEC or even play in the title game. So here is how I see it going down. I think A&M and LSU will both provide legit tests for ‘Bama, but they’ll go into the SEC Championship ranked #1 or #2 in the country, lose the title game to Georgia, and still make the playoff.

 

 

3          Oklahoma

Last Season:     12-2

Key Games:     10-12 vs. Texas, 11/9 vs. Iowa St., 11/30 @Oklahoma St.

Sooners’ head coach Lincoln Riley…at just 35 years old…has made a believer out of me. Two straight 12 win seasons. Two consecutive Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks. With former Alabama QB Jalen Hurts transferring in to lead the offense I see no reason to believe that Oklahoma won’t win the Red River Shootout and claim another conference title. The Big 12 doesn’t get as much respect as the other “power” conferences, and it would probably be easy for the playoff committee to squeeze the Sooners out…but I don’t believe that’ll happen this season.

 

 

2          Georgia

Last Season:     11-3

Key Games:     9/21 vs. Notre Dame, 11/2 vs. Florida, 11/16 @Auburn, 11/23 vs. Texas A&M

Beating Notre Dame in September is an absolute must for the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes, but fortunately it’s a home game. I’m not buying into any Florida hype, and by late November I think tough schedules will have taken their toll on Auburn and A&M. I also believe Georgia will win the SEC Championship. I would much rather see a Clemson-Georgia National Championship versus any matchup involving Alabama.

 

 

1          Clemson

Last Season:     15-0

Key Games:     9/7 vs. Texas A&M

Champion wrestler Ric Flair used to say “to be The Man you’ve got to beat The Man”, and until someone steps up & knocks the Tigers from their perch there’s no other choice for the #1 spot. When I look at the schedule it looks like A&M is the only legit threat they face in the regular season, and the playoff committee hasn’t penalized Clemson in the past for the relative weakness of the ACC so it would be inconsistent to do so now. Most “experts” seem to recognize that Clemson is on a whole other level at the moment, and QB Trevor Lawrence is special. He’s my favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 7

So if the College Football Playoff were to be played right now the four combatants would be Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, & Clemson, and if the Super Bowl was on the immediate horizon it looks like the Los Angeles Rams vs. the Kansas City Chiefs might be a likely matchup. Of course there is a lot of football left to be played and I expect some big changes along the way. I had a better week (3-2) than Zach (1-4) and have taken back the season lead, but that’ll probably change a lot in the next couple of months as well.

My Season:        16-20

Z’s Season:        15-21

 

 

 

 

 

Arizona               at                Utah (-13.5)

The PAC 12 title will probably come down to Washington or Stanford vs. USC or Colorado, but the 3-2 Utes and the 3-3 Wildcats are both dangerous enough to be spoilers. When Texas A&M canned Kevin Sumlin he landed on his feet at Arizona and I thought he’d do quite well there, but he’s off to a shaky start. Utah has clearly looked like the stronger team against better competition, which is reflected in the points. I am typically not comfortable with a two touchdown spread, but The Vibes are telling me to go big or go home for this game. Zach concurs because…in his words…”Arizona sucks man”.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

 

Tennessee                  at                Auburn (-15.5)

The War Eagles were getting a lot of pre-season love, but I knew they weren’t a Top Ten team, especially against a harsh schedule. Absolutely no one had any expectations for the Vols, and at 2-3 they’ve not altered that outlook. Auburn will win this game…the only question is by how much?? If it were being played on Knoxville I might give Tennessee a puncher’s chance of keeping things close, but that’s not going to happen at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Zach believes that Tennessee will keep things respectable for three quarters but Auburn will pull away and win big.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

 

Washington (-3)                   at                Oregon

I had the Huskies ranked as a playoff contender before the season started, but a loss to Auburn right out of the gate put a big dent in all of that unless a lot of other dominos fall. However, at 5-1 they are still in the driver’s seat to play for the conference championship. The 4-1 Ducks are still in that mix too, but this is probably a must-win game. Oregon QB Justin Herbert is beginning to get a bit of Heisman buzz, and he could really vault himself into the conversation with a big game at home against a Top Ten team. I don’t usually bail on teams that I heaped praise on in the pre-season, but in this case the home team underdogs are just too much of a temptation. Zach also likes the home field to make the difference for Oregon.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Wisconsin                   at                Michigan (-7.5)

The Badgers were my pre-season #1, but a September loss to BYU is a real killer, plus they still have to go to Happy Valley to face Penn St. next month. So basically this is yet another must-win game. I urged the masses to pump the brakes on high expectations for the Wolverines, but at 5-1 they have looked pretty darn good after a season opening loss at Notre Dame. This game is in The Big House, which is certainly a challenge, but I’ve already abandoned one of my pre-season playoff teams today…I won’t do it again. Wisconsin’s size concerns Zach just a bit, as does Michigan’s offense. However, he likes the Wolverine’s stellar defense. But at the end of the day he feels like Coach Harbaugh still has some work to do and…much to my surprise…he just can’t go with the Maize & Blue in this one.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

Kansas City                 at                New England (-3.5)

This is the Sunday night game on NBC, and I’d definitely take the over…if you’re into that sort of thing. The 3-2 Pats seem to have found their footing after a shaky start to the season, which is bad news for the rest of the AFC. However, the Chiefs are undefeated and looked rather impressive defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. I’m sure the TV folks would love to see a track meet where both teams score 40+ points, and that may happen. The winner will likely be decided by turnovers, penalties, & atleast one big defensive stand. I try to put emotion aside when making these picks, but I can’t deny that I am rooting for KC…hard. Zach figures that Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes has to have a bad game at some point, so it may as well be this weekend.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     New England

2018 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

24     LSU 

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

23     Michigan

Last Season:      8-5

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

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

 

 

22     West Virginia

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

21     Penn State        

Last Season:      11-2

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

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

 

 

20     Texas       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

19     Florida State                       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

18     Florida Atlantic

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

17     Stanford

Last Season:      9-5

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

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

 

 

16     Oklahoma

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

15     Ohio State         

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

14     Auburn              

Last Season:      10-4

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

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

 

 

13     Notre Dame     

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

12     South Florida

Last Season:      10-2

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

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

 

 

11     Boise State                

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 at Oklahoma St.

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

 

 

10     Southern Cal   

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

9       Michigan State 

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

8       Virginia Tech    

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

7       Georgia

Last Season:      13-2

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

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

 

 

6       Miami (FL)

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

5       Clemson  

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Florida St.

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

 

 

4       Washington      

Last Season:      10-3 

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

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

 

 

3       TCU 

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

2       Alabama                               

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

 

 

1       Wisconsin        

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 2

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

 

 

 

 

Pitt                       at                Penn State (-21.5)

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

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

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

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Auburn               at      Clemson (-5.5)

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

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Oklahoma                    at      Ohio State (-7.5)

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

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

Kansas City       at      New England (-9)

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

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

Oakland             at      Tennessee (-2.5)

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

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

Seattle                at                Green Bay (-3.5)

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

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

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2017 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

 

 

1          USC

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

2          Penn State

Last Season:             11-3

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma State

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

4          Florida State

Last Season:             10-3   

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

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

 

 

5          Ohio State

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

6          Alabama

Last Season:             14-1

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

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

 

 

7          South Florida

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

8          Georgia

Last Season:             8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Wisconsin

Last Season:             11-3

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

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

 

 

10        Auburn

Last Season:             8-5

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

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

 

 

11        Oklahoma

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

12        Washington

Last Season:             12-2

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

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

 

 

13        Louisville

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Clemson

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              11/11 vs. Florida St.

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

 

 

15        Michigan

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

16        West Virginia

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Boise St.

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

18        Virginia Tech

Last Season:             10-4

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

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

 

 

19        Florida

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

20        Texas

Last Season:             5-7

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

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

 

 

21        Stanford

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

22        LSU

Last Season:             8-4

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

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

 

 

23        Miami (FL)

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

24        UCLA

Last Season:             4-8    

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

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

 

 

25          Notre Dame

Last Season:             4-8

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

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

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2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 7

cfoot2As I sit here writing this there is an NFL game, hockey’s opening night, the MLB playoffs, & a college football game all on at the same time. It’s the most stimulating experience I’ve had in many moons. At any rate, bonus picks didn’t really work out so well for either one of us last week, but I’m nothing if not persistent so we’re going to try again. Zach was 3-5, while I broke even at 4-4. We picked LSU/Florida, but they didn’t play because of Hurricane Matthew. That game has been rescheduled for mid-November. As of right now Alabama, Clemson, Washington, & the winner of Ohio St./Michigan look like the favorites to get into the NCAA playoff, while the NFL is being dominated by the Vikings, Cowboys, Broncos, & Falcons. Of course the cool thing about sports is that all of that could change in a single day.

My Season:        16-18

Z’s Season:        11-24

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama (-13)              at      Tennessee

tennessee_volunteers_football_iphone_wallpaperThe Tide hasn’t really been challenged much this season, winning every game by atleast 19 points with the exception of a 5 AlabamaCrimsonTide2point thriller against Ole Miss. The Vols were on a roll until they ran up against Texas A&M last weekend. Perhaps they were looking ahead to this game. When revealing my pre-season Top 25 I opined that “it would surprise me less if this team actually lost 3 or 4 games than it would if they’d go undefeated”. Of course I also had Oklahoma & LSU in my Top 5, so what do I know?? As a fan I am hoping for a great game, and that would necessitate something closer than 13 points. I’m not all that confident about it, but that’s the direction I’ll go. Conversely, Zach has faith in ‘Bama’s defense and believes they’ll win by a comfortable margin.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

Northwestern              at      Michigan St. (-4.5)

Northwestern_WildcatsNeither team is going to win the Big Ten (which has 14 teams), but with identical 2-3 records this is a game that could swing Michigan_State_Spartansthe momentum one way or the other and lead to a season to either feel alright about or flush completely from the memory. I’m no psychologist, but I assume that the rocky start isn’t a shock for the Wildcats, and a win here would be a giant boost to their morale. Conversely, the Spartans have been very successful in recent years, especially last season when they were in the playoffs. Recent events have to be rather disconcerting to them. I think Northwestern comes into this contest hyped up and ready to turn things around, while Michigan St.’s spirit may have already been broken. Zach thinks Northwestern is too inconsistent and believes Michigan St.’s defense will get the job done.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Stanford                       at      Notre Dame (-3)

photo.stanfordtreeUsually this is an important game between two highly ranked teams. This year…not so much. The Irish lost half their team to NotreDame1the NFL and are currently 2-4. Stanford has seen the Heisman buzz for RB/WR Christian McCaffrey virtually disappear in the throes of a two game losing streak that has them at 3-2. Part of me believes that Notre Dame HAS to win this game, since pride & defending their home turf are about the only worthy goals remaining, but I can’t fight this feeling that Stanford…atleast for this season…is the better team. Zach likes Notre Dame QB Deshone Kizer and thinks he’ll lead the Irish to victory.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

Ohio St. (-10)               at      Wisconsin

I didn’t have the Badgers anywhere near my pre-season Top 25. I just didn’t see any room for them to succeed in the loaded Big Ten. However, they WisconsinBadgersare capably filling the Top 10 spot I thought would be held by the faltering Iowa Hawkeyes. Of course no one is surprised by the 5-0 Buckeyes, who’ve barely broken a sweat thus far. That’ll change this week. I’d be surprised if Ohio St. lost, but I don’t think they’ll win by double digits on the road. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

Philadelphia (-2.5)      at      Washington

Washington_Redskins_logoThe NFC East might be the best, most competitive division in the NFL. Dallas is better than I thought they’d be, and the NY philadelphia_eagles-3715Giants are hanging around. This is an important game for Philly & the Redskins since the winner would stay on pace with the Cowboys. Rookie QB Carson Wentz has been impressive for the 3-1 Eagles, while the 3-2 Redskins don’t have much of a running attack and have relied completely on QB Kirk Cousins. It’s interesting that Washington isn’t getting the usual home field bump. The oddsmakers clearly have an opinion on which is the better team, but I’m going to go against the grain and pick the upset. Zach literally flipped a coin…I think…and is going with the favorites.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

Carolina (-3)                 at      New Orleans

New-Orleans-Saints-Logo-244x300In my NFL Preview I stated that I didn’t think the Panthers would fall prey the usual foibles of Super Bowl losers. That assessment CarolinaPanthersmay have been wrong. Not only is Carolina 1-4, but QB Cam Newton has been concussed and missed last week’s game. It looks like he’ll be back this week, and fortunately for he & his struggling team they face the equally dismal 1-3 Saints. Or is it fortunate?? The Superdome will be rockin’, and what better way to right the ship then for Drew Brees to lead his troops past the defending NFC champs?? I’m not sure either team can catch the Atlanta Falcons in the division, but a win here could conceivably catapult the victor into wildcard contention. Zach is looking for a high scoring game and thinks Newton will lead his team to a win.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     Carolina

 

 

Dallas                           at      Green Bay (-4.5)

Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetThis should be a really good game. Rookie QB Dak Prescott has been better than Cowboys fans could have ever expected in thedallas-cowboys-logo2 absence of Tony Romo, and fellow rookie Zeke Elliot might be the best running back in the NFL at the moment. I am not among those that think that Romo has already lost his starting gig, but I’m sure he’ll be on a short leash upon his return. For the powers-that-be in Dallas it’s a nice problem to have. Meanwhile, the Packers seem like a forgotten team, lost in the shadow of division foe Minnesota. If Prescott can go into the unfriendly environment of The Frozen Tundra and snag a victory I’ll be more than impressed…but I don’t believe that’s going to happen. Zach, on the other hand, likes the Cowboys’ offensive line a lot and thinks they are a legit title contender.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Dallas