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 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 6

football2I don’t feel particularly verbose today. Last week Zach was 0-5, while I fared a little better at 3-2. In an effort to get back on the right track we’re doing some bonus picks this week. It will either help right the ship, or it’ll totally blow up in our faces. We’ll see.

My Season:         12-14

Z’s Season:          8-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington (-8)                   at      Oregon

oregonThe Huskies are for real folks. They proved that by destroying Stanford and pretty much nailing the coffin shut on Christian washington2McCaffrey’s Heisman hopes. The Ducks are 2-3 and have dropped completely off the grid. However it should be noted that two of those three losses have been by 4 or less points. I have a difficult time fathoming that a team that has been highly ranked and super competitive for several years now has all the sudden become terrible overnight. That doesn’t mean that I believe they’ll win this game, or that I’m not sold on Washington. I just think that, especially in the friendly environment of Eugene, it’ll be much closer than 8 points. Zach is all in on Washington and thinks that Oregon looks like a team in a rebuilding phase.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Arizona               at      Utah (-9.5)

The Utes were on a 4-0 roll until being upset by the Cal Bears last weekend. Conversely, the Wildcats are an up & down 2-3. The points concern me utah2just a little, but I’m going to take a chance and predict that Utah covers. Zach thinks both of these teams are a bit unpredictable, but he too is picking Utah.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

Texas                  at      Oklahoma (-10)

TEXAS LONGHORNS.1271817676They used to call this the Red River Shootout until the PC Police got their panties twisted, so now it is dubbed the much tamer oklahoma2Red River Rivalry. Word on the street is that the powers-that-be in Austin are ready to shove head coach Charlie Strong out the door. A 2-2 start was not what they were hoping for. Of course things at Oklahoma haven’t been that much better thus far, as they have an identically mediocre record. The Sooners are clearly the better team at this point, and they do have the home field advantage. However, human beings are capable of great things when our backs are against the wall, and I believe the Longhorns will put up a heck of a fight for their coach. I’m not sure it’ll be enough to win, but it’ll probably be enough to cover. Zach is going in the opposite direction, predicting that Oklahoma should win by more than two TDs.

My Pick:     Texas

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

LSU  (-3)             at      Florida

The Bayou Bengals have already made a coaching change, and it seemed to work out well last week. I don’t think Ed Orgeron will get the gig lsu_logopermanently in Baton Rouge, but if he guides the team to a successful season after a rocky start perhaps he can snag a head coaching position elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Gators are a solid 4-1 and a fairly quiet Top 20 team. All things considered I am stunned that the oddsmakers aren’t even giving Florida a slight home field advantage. I have to assume that they know something I don’t and go with it. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

Tennessee                  at      Texas A&M (-7)

The Vols are off to a fantastic 5-0 start, but only a miraculous Hail Mary saved them from defeat last weekend. The 5-0 Aggies are surely the toughest 10015tenn_vols_w_helmetopponent Tennessee has faced, and the game is in College Station. Both are Top 10 teams just a tick away from playoff contention should a couple of higher ranked teams go down. I’m going to predict that A&M wins this game…by a field goal. Zach likes Tennessee to get the victory.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Tennessee

 

 

Florida St.          at      Miami, FL (-3)

miamiuThis used to be one of the biggest games on the schedule, but then the Hurricanes fell on tough times. And now that Miami Florida_State_Seminolesseems to be on the cusp of being back the Seminoles are having a tough year. A month ago I would have picked Florida St. without a second thought. If this game were in Tallahassee I’d still pick them. But given recent events and the fact that the game is being played in Miami it seems the momentum lies with the favorites. Zach disagrees. He’s such a rebel.

My Pick:     Miami, FL

Z’s Pick:     Florida St.

 

 

Philadelphia (-3)                   at      Detroit

Rookie QB Carson Wentz is the real deal. The 3-0 Eagles should have no problem beating the 1-3 Lions. I can’t believe the point spread isn’t higher. philadelphia_eagles-3715Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

Washington       at      Baltimore (-3.5)

Washington_Redskins_logoThe Redskins, at 2-2, are having a tougher year than I anticipated. Conversely, the 3-1 Ravens are better than I expected. There Baltimore_Ravens2is only 40 miles separating DC & Baltimore, so I don’t think the home field is that big of an advantage. The Vibes are telling me to go with the upset. Zach feels differently and he’s picking the home team.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Baltimore

 

 

Houston             at      Minnesota (-6)

Could it be that Sam Bradford was as good of a quarterback as a #1 overall draft pick is supposed to be all along and has now finally found the kind of vikingshelmet1good team he’s needed to shine?? It’s an interesting hypothesis. The Vikings’ defense is undeniably great, and there seem to be a plethora of weapons on offense. The Texans aren’t too shabby either, but they are playing on the road. I’m a big believer in Big Mo, and I think that rests with Minnesota. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 1

football-introducing-the-science_1Annnnnnndddd we’re back!! Football has returned, and so have my nephew Zach & myself to prove that we’re just as smart as the talking heads on ESPN & other sports news outlets. The goal is simple for me my friends…to make it thru the season. Last year we didn’t get past Week 10 because I ended up spending the latter half of November, all of December, & the first part of January in the hospital. There are moments in life when one is faced with obstacles and what matters becomes clear. In the grand scheme of things I understand that this blog, these picks, and football games in general don’t mean a whole lot, but I am so blessed & grateful to be able to exercise my creative juices and embrace my love of something as ultimately frivolous as sports. It may seem silly to some, and I have several friends who’ll spend their weekends doing a hundred other things before watching a ballgame even crosses their mind. That’s cool…but I am totally psyched about spending the next five months of weekends engrossed in one of the most awesome forms of entertainment on the planet. If you have entered The Manoverse to check out these picks I assume we’re in agreement on that.

 

As usual college football starts before the NFL, but fortunately the playoff system has forced teams to re-evaluate their schedule strength. Back in theCollege-Football-Map old days (just a few years ago) we’d be lucky to get even a few watchable, competitive games in the first couple weeks of the season. However, now the powers-that-be recognize the importance of coming out of the gate with a bang and grabbing some attention, so there are a plethora of games on tap that are worthy of attention. We’ll settle into our normal routine of picking five games next week, but will get things started with some bonus picks. As always I remind you that we are just fans and claim no intimate insider knowledge. Also, point spreads are included only to add a layer of intrigue & strategery. We are not here to encourage or endorse gambling, although what y’all do with your disposable income is your choice. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma (-10.5)        vs.              Houston

I have the Sooners as my pre-season #2, with Houston also in the Top 10. This game is being played at the home stadium of the NFL’s Houston oklahomaTexans rather than the Cougars’ normal home field, which shouldn’t make a difference one way or another except that there will be 70k in the stands versus 40k. Houston, TX is over 400 miles away from Norman, OK, so I assume there will be a distinct fan partiality for the underdogs. I suppose that there are those who feel like there is a legitimate chance for an upset. I am not one of those people. So then the question becomes whether or not Oklahoma will cover the points. I don’t anticipate that will be an issue. If Houston can stay within three TDs then finish the remainder of the season without another loss they still might be a solid Top 10 team. Zach believes this game will be a blowout win for the Sooners.

My Pick:         Oklahoma

Z’s Pick:         Oklahoma

 

 

 

UCLA                            at                Texas A&M (-3)

texas_am_01The Bruins return QB Josh Rosen from a solid yet underachieving 9-5 team last season. However they lost RB Paul Perkins & ucla_bruins2LB Myles Jack to the NFL. Is Rosen the next Andrew Luck?? Or is he the next Jimmy Clausen?? I’m willing to bet he’s closer to the former than the latter. The bigger concern is UCLA’s defense, which gave up anywhere from 31-56 points in those five losses in 2015. The Aggies have the nominal home field point advantage, but I suspect that in reality the benefit will be greater. A&M’s QB situation has been interesting the past few years. 2015 starter Kyler Murray transferred to Oklahoma and will be the Sooners’ signal caller this season. Kenny Hill, who began 2014 as the top QB in College Station, transferred last year and will be the starter for the TCU Horned Frogs. Last season at A&M Murray lost his job to Kyle Allen, who has now transferred to Houston. So who is starting for A&M behind center?? Well…that’d be Trevor Knight, who was Oklahoma’s starter in 2014 before losing the job last year to Baker Mayfield, who had transferred to Oklahoma from Texas Tech. I think I have all of that straight. I don’t know…my head is spinning a bit. At any rate, I am looking for this to be a high scoring, close game, but I like the Aggies to win & cover. Zach not only doesn’t agree about the outcome, but is oddly unenthusiastic about watching this game.

My Pick:         Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:         UCLA

 

 

 

Georgia (-2.5)              vs.              North Carolina

The Bulldogs have a new head coach for the first time in 15 years. Mark Richt has moved on to Miami, FL, and former Alabama defensive coordinator carolinaKirby Smart takes over the reins in Athens. Georgia is coming off a 10-3 finish last season and RB Nick Chubb returns after missing the latter half of 2015 with a knee injury. I suspect that Smart will have the defense ready to rock & roll, but I have questions about the state of Chubb’s recovery and what else Georgia has on offense if they are unable to completely rely on their star running back. The Tar Heels had a fine 11-3 season last year, but must start anew at the quarterback position. However they do return most of last year’s contributors elsewhere, including WR Ryan Switzer & RB Elijah Hood, who is a 6ft. 220lb. hoss. This is a “neutral” site game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, meaning it’s not really all that neutral. Despite that fact I’m going to roll the dice and pick the upset. Kirby Smart doesn’t have Nick Saban around anymore, and I think it might take him some time to grow into his new role. Zach thinks special teams will be the key, and he is picking the upset as well.

My Pick:         North Carolina

Z’s Pick:         North Carolina

 

 

 

Notre Dame (-3.5)       at                Texas

Charlie Strong’s critical season begins with a huge game against a tough opponent, but fortunately for the Longhorns the game is in Austin. The Irish TEXAS LONGHORNS.1271817676lost over a dozen players to the NFL. It looks like they’ll be giving time behind center to both QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle. But who will they be throwing or handing off to, and who’ll be protecting them?? And can the defense find new stars to replace those that have moved on?? Texas is in the third year of the Strong era, and the first two haven’t gone well. 6-7 & 5-7 doesn’t cut it in the Lone Star State folks. But here a fantastic opportunity presents itself…a non-conference game at home against a much heralded team that must replace a huge chunk of their roster and may not be on solid footing early on. Word on the street is that Texas will be starting a hotshot freshman QB. Heck…why not?? Nothing else has worked. This could be considered a must-win for Texas, as the Big 12 (which has ten teams) schedule is usually always tough. It’s probably not the wise choice, but I’m rolling with another upset here. Zach thinks that Notre Dame’s on-field changes & off-field issues will catch up to them and once again is picking the upset.

My Pick:         Texas

Z’s Pick:         Texas

 

 

 

LSU (-10)                     vs.              Wisconsin

Leonard Fournette. Learn it. Love it. You’ll be hearing the name a lot this year. The Tigers’ RB begins the season as the early Heisman favorite after lsu_logo-9547racking up 22 TDs and almost 2000 yards rushing in 2015. Unfortunately three late season losses and a poor showing against Alabama (31 yards, 1 TD) doomed his Heisman chances and his team’s season. The opener is another “neutral” site game that isn’t neutral, as it is being played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Well okay…I think it’s safe to assume the weather conditions in early September won’t be quite so chilly. At any rate, the Badgers are coming off a solid 10-3 season, and tough opening games aren’t anything new for them. In 2015 they lost to Alabama and in 2014 it was a close loss to…LSU. I don’t think the pattern will be broken this year, and I don’t believe the Bayou Bengals will have any problem covering the points. Zach sees LSU as a serious national title contender.

My Pick:         LSU

Z’s Pick:         LSU

 

 

 

Arizona (-1)                  vs.              BYU

BYU_CougarsThe Wildcats finished 2015 with a mediocre 6-6 record, with a lot of high scoring games for both they & their opponents. The ArizonaWildcatsPac 12 is a brutally tough conference, which makes it essential to win non-conference games. BYU is an independent, and their schedule is probably one of the toughest in the nation. This was the case last season as well and the Cougars finished an impressive 9-4. Three of those losses were by a total of 13 points. They play atleast seven teams who could challenge for a Top 25 ranking, although it looks to be a frontloaded docket, meaning if they can get to November with a decent record they’ll have an opportunity to finish strong. I don’t know enough about either team to intelligently analyze the rosters, so this is a total vibe game, and I’m going with the underdogs. Zach believes in Rich Fraudriguez’s spread offense and looks for the ‘Cats to put up some big passing numbers.

My Pick:         BYU

Z’s Pick:         Arizona

 

 

 

USC                               vs.              Alabama (-10.5)

This is a big one…or atleast it should be. A matchup pitting two of college football’s most decorated programs against each other in Week 1 would have AlabamaCrimsonTide2been unheard of not long ago. Having said that, one must ponder whether Southern Cal can currently claim that elite status. After records of 7-6, 9-4, 9-4, & 7-6 the last few years there is no doubt that the Trojans have been good…but not that good. Meanwhile, as we all know, the Tide has rolled to four national titles in nine seasons in the Nick Saban era. If ‘Bama loses more than one game it is major news. That’s got to end at some point, right?? I don’t know…we’ll see. This is a true neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas, so I’m not sure either team will have a notable crowd advantage. Until I see some significant chinks in the armor I can’t go against Alabama. They’ll have a tough time getting thru a super strong SEC unblemished, but I think they’ll easily win & cover this game. Zach concurs, predicting a 35 point win for ‘Bama.

My Pick:         Alabama

Z’s Pick:         Alabama

2010-11 College Football Bowl Prognostications

College football bowl season has arrived and it is a fascinating dichotomy. On one hand there are far too many bowl games, the season drags on way too long, and rewarding average teams for their mediocrity is just silly. On the other hand, it provides us with about three weeks of nearly non-stop football, and that cannot be considered a bad thing. I must warn my dear readers not to bet any money based on these picks, not only because The Manofesto doesn’t condone gambling but because my choices last year were so bad that I have blocked the atrocity of the final numbers from my brain. Nevertheless, the time has come to get back on the horse and give it another whirl. Enjoy.



New Mexico Bowl

BYU vs. UTEP

12/18…2pm…ESPN

Two 6-6 teams meet in a bowl named after a place…a double whammy of awful. I’ll take BYU in a laugher.


Humanitarian Bowl

Northern Illinois vs. Fresno St.

12/18…5:30 pm…ESPN

Northern Illinois won 10 games this season, but when you’re in the MAC that doesn’t mean much more than ending up in a lower tier bowl in Boise, Idaho. On top of that the Huskies are in the midst of a coaching change after their head man bolted for Minnesota. Fresno St. is always fun to watch and I give them the slight edge in what should be a high scoring affair decided by less than a touchdown.


New Orleans Bowl

Ohio vs. Troy

12/18…9pm…ESPN

The question I have is will anyone be watching this game?? I’ll take the Bobcats in a snoozefest.


St. Petersburg Bowl

Southern Miss. vs. Louisville

12/21…8pm…ESPN

Louisville uses the current inane rules to squeak into the postseason at 6-6, which theoretically would make them an underdog to the 8-4 Golden Eagles, but I’m not buying it. I like Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong, who I believe will get his team back to its winning ways sooner rather than later. This contest may serve as a springboard. Louisville wins easily.


Las Vegas Bowl

Utah vs. Boise St.

12/22…8pm…ESPN

The most disappointed team in America has to be Boise St., who fell just a 3 point OT loss to Nevada short of being undefeated. It is unlikely that the Broncos would have been playing for the national title anyway, but they almost certainly would have had a date with one of the big boys in a BCS bowl had they achieved perfection. Utah ain’t no slouch either. The Utes won 10 games and will be moving to The Pac 10 next season. I’m looking forward to this game and believe it will be really entertaining. Most pundits will undoubtedly favor Boise St., thinking that they will be angry about falling short of their goal and take that frustration out on their opponents. That may very well be the case. But it is also quite possible that disappointment will outweigh anger and open up the door for an upset. I have a vibe that the latter will be the case, so I’m picking Utah.


Poinsettia Bowl

Navy vs. San Diego St.

12/23…8pm…ESPN

A bowl named after the quintessential Christmas flower and played on Christmas Eve Eve. I can dig that. It is pretty much a home game for the Aztecs, but I’m picking the Midshipmen.


Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii vs. Tulsa

12/24 …8pm…ESPN

This is another game where one of the participants is playing a home game, which sort of defeats the purpose of a bowl game in my opinion. This time I will take the home team, as I feel like Hawaii is a better team who is more battle tested.


Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl

Florida International vs. Toledo

12/26…8:30pm…ESPN

Formerly known as the Motor City Bowl, this is the game that rewards two teams’ success with a trip to Detroit in December. Florida International is another 6-6 team that probably shouldn’t be playing a postseason game. Why should they be playing while 8-4 Temple stays home for the holidays?? Anyway, most fans will probably be watching the Philly/Minnesota NFL game on the night after Christmas and skip this yawner, which I think will be won by Toledo.


Independence Bowl

Air Force vs. Georgia Tech

12/27…5pm…ESPN2

Again I ask…6-6 Georgia Tech goes bowling while Temple’s Owls watch on TV?? It’s just not right. I’ll take Air Force in a competitive game.


Champs Sports Bowl

West Virginia vs. NC State

12/28…6:30pm…ESPN

WVU is one of my favorite teams, so I won’t pick against them. However, from as objective a point of view as I can muster the Mountaineers should win with good defense.


Insight Bowl

Missouri vs. Iowa

12/28…10pm…ESPN

Iowa looked to be in the BCS hunt early on but took quite a tumble at the end of the season, losing their final three games. Missouri is always better than people think they are. I love a west coast late night bowl game, although I’ll miss the later half of this one since it’s a work night. That’s unfortunate, because I think it’ll be quite a good game that the Hawkeyes win late in the 4th quarter.


Military Bowl

East Carolina vs. Maryland

12/29…2:30pm…ESPN

Formerly known as the EagleBank Bowl and played in Washington DC, so this is almost a home game for the Terrapins. I have a certain level of affection for East Carolina and hope they end up in The Big East someday, but this year they’re just another undeserving 6-6 team. Still, I think this will be a more than decent contest. I suppose I’ll take Maryland in a coin flip.


Texas Bowl

Illinois vs. Baylor

12/29…6pm…ESPN

I don’t have an issue with Texas. My best friend lives there and likes it just fine. But bowls should not be named after places. It’s just so damn pretentious, pedestrian, and uncreative. Despite Illinois being yet another annoying 6-6 bowl participant and this game being close enough to a home game for Baylor I will pick the Illini for the win.


Alamo Bowl

Oklahoma St. vs. Arizona

12/29…9:15pm…ESPN

Oklahoma St. hung 65 points on an opponent twice this season, and scored in the 40-55 point range in most of their other games. Mountaineer fans are excited that the Cowboys offensive coordinator is heading east to run West Virginia’s underachieving offense next year and take over as head coach in 2012. Meanwhile, Arizona limped to a 7-5 finish by losing their final four games. This late night contest is also on a work night for me, so I am bummed to be missing the 2nd half of what will probably be a high scoring shootout. I am going to place the over/under at about 75 and take the over, with Oklahoma St. prevailing.


Armed Forces Bowl

Army vs. SMU

12/30…Noon…ESPN

It’s nice to see the once dead Mustangs program back and successful. Unfortunately I think their second straight postseason appearance will end like the first…with a loss.


Pinstripe Bowl

Kansas St. vs. Syracuse

12/30…3:20pm…ESPN

Big East fans know the ‘Cuse is back. Maybe not all the way back, but definitely on the cusp. Yankee Stadium may not be the sun bathed paradise most players and fans desire for a bowl game, but it’s atleast cooler than Detroit or Idaho. I’ll take a the Orangemen in a low scoring affair.


Music City Bowl

North Carolina vs. Tennessee

12/30…6:40pm…ESPN

UNC had much higher expectations coming into 2010, and the Volunteers have seemingly been spinning their wheels for several years. This game could be used as a launch pad for future success, and since I suspect that these teams cover a lot of the same recruiting territory I am sure it is being taken seriously. Tennessee is riding a four game winning streak and seems to have the momentum, so that’s the pick.


Holiday Bowl

Nebraska vs. Washington

12/30…10pm…ESPN

This, thankfully, is a late night game I will be able to watch since I am off that night. It is also a rare bowl rematch of two teams that met in the regular season, a game which the Cornhuskers dominated. Washington QB Jake Locker will be a top 10 NFL draft choice this spring, yet his Huskies could only muster a 6-6 record. Meanwhile, Nebraska, one of college football’s historically elite programs, is a ten game winner and only a narrow loss to Oklahoma in The Big 12 (or however many teams they have) championship game kept them out of the BCS mix. They’ll head to The Big 10 (or however many teams they have) next season and I think they’ll do so on the heels of an impressive victory.


Meineke Bowl

South Florida vs. Clemson

12/31…Noon…ESPN

Beating the ACC whenever the opportunity arises is a big deal for The Big East. The latter is constantly maligned for being a weak conference undeserving of a seat at the big table, while the ACC is given a pass even though it isn’t any more impressive, just bigger. Both teams have been inconsistent and unpredictable this season, so that makes this game difficult to get a handle on. I’ll take the Bulls in a squeaker.


Sun Bowl

Notre Dame vs. Miami

12/31…2pm…CBS

This would be an awesome matchup…if it were 1988. Unfortunately for these teams Lou Holtz and Jimmy Johnson aren’t walking through the door. Neither is Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon, or I guess I should say former head coach. Shannon was fired a few weeks ago despite the program seeming to be on the doorstep of reclaiming its former glory. I guess the powers-that-be don’t really care that his players were graduating and the team’s thugnacious reputation has improved. Maybe the folks in charge at “The U” prefer their players to be members of Future Inmates of America. The Irish, meanwhile, improved from 6-6 in 2009 under former coach Charlie Weis to 7-5 under new coach Brian Kelly. Big leap, huh?? Anyway, I detest both these teams and wish they’d both lose, but someone’s got to win. Because of the upheaval a coaching change brings I cannot in good conscience pick Miami, so I will reluctantly take Notre Dame. I have to go throw up now.


Liberty Bowl

Georgia vs. Central Florida

12/31…3:30pm…ESPN

This season was a huge disappointment for the 6-6 Georgia Bulldogs. Conversely it was a great 10 win, Conference USA winning season for the UCF Knights. UCF is 0-3 in bowl games since moving up to Division 1-A in 1996. I say that losing streak ends here as the Knights surprise the Bulldogs.


Chick-fil-A Bowl

South Carolina vs. Florida St.

12/31…7:30pm…ESPN

This is the poster child for how far into the abyss college football has fallen. Formerly known…for four decades…as the Peach Bowl, it became corporately sponsored and then eventually the sponsor just decided to screw tradition and name the game after the company. I detest such idiocy. However, it is still a good football game and the 2010 contest should be a dandy. Because Steve Spurrier is a better, more experienced coach at this point than Jimbo Fisher I have to give the nod to the Gamecocks.


TicketCity Bowl

Northwestern vs. Texas Tech

New Year’s Day…Noon…ESPNU

Nothing speaks of the relative importance of a game than the fact that it can be viewed on ESPNU. I guess Versus couldn’t come up with the cash. I mean really…this is a New Year’s Day game. CBS, ABC, and Fox all have only one bowl game this season, and NBC has none. It’s just so different from the way things were not all that long ago, and I am not sure ESPN’s dominance is such a positive thing. Also, this game is being played in the old Cotton Bowl stadium but is NOT the Cotton Bowl or a replacement for it. It’s just another new bowl game, as if there weren’t enough already. At any rate, a matchup of two 7-5 teams doesn’t look all that appetizing on paper, but I think this may turn out to be a more than decent game, with Northwestern winning in front of a hostile crowd.


Outback Bowl

Florida vs. Penn State

New Year’s Day…1pm…ABC

Yes ladies & gentlemen, Joe Paterno is still coaching at Penn St. Now whether or not he is still alive is debatable. I think it is quite possible that the folks in Happy Valley have been pulling off some sort of Weekend at Bernie’s thing with the corpse of JoePa since the mid-90’s. One thing is for sure though…the Nittany Lions just keep on winning. They haven’t been in the national title mix for a few years, but they had won atleast 9 games for five straight seasons until this year’s 7-5 finish. This will be the swan song…for now…for outgoing Gators coach Urban Meyer, a middle aged, metrosexual, angst-ridden Dick Vermeil wannabe. If there is any justice Paterno’s boys will unload heretofore unseen offensive firepower on their opponents and show that sticking around is almost always better than slinking away like a pansy-ass milquetoast.


Capital One Bowl

Alabama vs. Michigan State

New Year’s Day…1pm…ESPN

This may be the best game on the postseason schedule other than the championship. Both teams were in the thick of the title hunt, with the Spartans falling just short of being undefeated by way of a loss to Iowa. I bet they are really kicking themselves for that loss now since the Hawkeyes proved to be vastly overrated. I’m not really sure what happened to the Crimson Tide, as they came into this season as defending national champions with 8 returning starters on offense, including the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, RB Mark Ingram. Losses to Auburn, LSU, and South Carolina derailed the opportunity for a repeat. I have high expectations that this one will be a heavyweight fight and highly entertaining, and in a flip of the coin I’ll take Michigan State for the victory.


Gator Bowl

Mississippi St. vs. Michigan

New Year’s Day…1:30pm…ESPN2

What has happened to the Gator Bowl?? It used to be a 2nd tier New Year’s Day game, but even though it is still being played on January 1st I’m not sure it deserves the respect of being considered 2nd tier. How does a 7-5 Michigan team…with “impressive” victories over UMass, Bowling Green, and Indiana…get an opportunity to play in January and get the big pay day?? It is mind boggling. I am unabashedly rooting for the Bulldogs and I hope they hang 60 points on that dirtbag Fraudriguez.


Rose Bowl

Wisconsin vs. TCU

New Year’s Day…5pm…ESPN

They call it The Grandaddy, and this year the Rose Bowl lives up to the hype. TCU gets the opportunity to prove they belong on the big stage against a legitimate opponent, but unfortunately I think they will have to do that by means of a moral victory. Wisconsin wins, but if it is a fun, competitive, close game then TCU still gets the respect of fans and talking heads alike. If the game is a blowout then the Horned Frogs will have to wait until they join The Big East to get back their mojo.


Fiesta Bowl

Connecticut vs. Oklahoma `

New Year’s Day…8:30pm…ESPN

Oklahoma vs. a Big East team in the Fiesta Bowl. That brings back memories. Can the Huskies shock the Sooners ala the Mountaineers in 2008 (not to mention Boise St. upsetting Oklahoma as well in the 2007 game)?? I would very much like to think it is possible, but on an intellectual level I just can’t pull the trigger on such a pick. The Sooners win, but it will be more of a battle than most expect.


Orange Bowl

Stanford vs. Virginia Tech

1/3…8:30pm…ESPN

Stanford proves that a successful athletic program and high academic standards can go hand-in-hand. This will probably be the last collegiate game for Cardinal QB Andrew Luck, who is likely to enter the NFL Draft and become a first round pick, and I think he’ll go out a winner.


Sugar Bowl

Ohio State vs. Arkansas

1/4…8:30pm…ESPN

The Buckeyes were #1 until a mid-season misstep against Wisconsin. The Razorbacks are another team with a highly regarded quarterback, Ryan Mallett, who will be playing on Sundays next fall. Look for a great game decided by turnovers and special teams, with Arkansas prevailing.


GoDaddy.com Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Miami, OH

1/6…8pm…ESPN

This is where things go awry and begin to get silly. First of all, I hate the name GoDaddy.com. I think it’s a website building/domain name company, but I’m not sure. What I do know is that they use sex to sell their product. Don’t misunderstand…I am a red blooded American male and certainly no prude. I just think their advertising is cheap, unimaginative, and unnecessary. Secondly, this game is being played on January 6. Not only has the college football season begun to drag on far too long past what used to be a New Year’s Day finish, but now we are getting crappy games featuring lower level teams playing way too deep into the new year. It is unappealing and unacceptable. But it is still football so fans, including me, will watch. Miami’s coach just got hired for the same gig at Pitt, so that might be the deciding factor in Middle Tennessee’s second consecutive bowl win.


Cotton Bowl

LSU vs. Texas A&M

1/7…8pm…FOX

Isn’t Dallas, TX special?? We already looked at the game being played in the old Cotton Bowl stadium, but this is the traditional Cotton Bowl game. It used to be an important New Year’s Day game for over a half century, but for some reason it has seemingly lost a degree of importance. This go round the game has been moved to the Dallas Cowboys’ shiny new billion dollar mega-stadium, and the matchup itself is interesting. LSU’s games are rarely boring, and somehow they usually find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, except for losses to #1 Auburn and Arkansas. I’ll pick the Tigers to pull out one more heart stopping win.


Compass Bowl

Pitt vs. Kentucky `

1/8…Noon…ESPN

If the NCAA had any sense of humor this game would feature two directional schools. Kentucky, at 6-6, has no business doing anything in January except returning Christmas gifts. Pitt is nominally better at 7-5, but they are another team who just fired their coach so they’ll have an interim guy leading the charge until the new coach takes over. I’m going to take the upset here with the Wildcats winning a low scoring, prosaic affair.


Fight Hunger Bowl

Nevada vs. Boston College

1/9…9pm…ESPN

This is the old Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, a game Boston College has played in often enough that California charges the team property taxes. Nevada got everyone’s attention by taking down Boise State, and I think they’ll keep it by winning big.


National Championship Game

Oregon vs. Auburn

January 10, 2011 – ESPN

Finally, the big one. I am not a fan of the BCS and have always advocated a playoff, but I will admit that more often than not the system works the way it is meant to when it comes to the championship game. This game is a great example, as most fans will agree Auburn and Oregon are undoubtedly the best two teams in the country. I am not convinced that Auburn QB and Heisman winner Cam Newton didn’t know anything about his father’s nefarious activities involving trying to get money for his kid to play ball, but the NCAA cleared the young man and Auburn has never been implicated at all anyway, so I will just let that mess go. On the field this has the potential to be an instant classic, and I am looking forward to an exciting, fast paced, high scoring game. Newton receiving most of the attention…both good and bad…might be a huge positive for the Ducks, and wouldn’t it be ironic if a game in which everyone is trumpeting full throttle offense is decided by a few key defensive plays?? After much thought and consideration I am picking Oregon to win the title in a 34-27 type of contest.