The season hasn’t even really begun and I’m already in a hole. Kudos to Zach, who pretty much nailed almost every game last week in going 4-1, while I struggled to a 1-4 mark. I watched as much as I could of a couple of games, but had other things going on. This weekend is pretty much the same. I’ll catch some of the early action, then head to our local Italian Heritage Festival Saturday night. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. There are a few intriguing matchups, and some potential playoff contenders could have their hopes negatively impacted right off the bat. I know there are fans that don’t particularly care for the College Football Playoff, but one positive byproduct has been marquee games in the first week or two. Teams can no longer get away with destroying glorified high school opponents by five touchdowns for the first three weeks of the season and hope to impress voters, and fans are the winners.
My Season: 1-4
Zach’s Season: 4-1
West Virginia at Pitt (-7)
The Backyard Brawl returns from hiatus after a decade+ (thanks conference realignment 🙄) and I’m pretty psyched. The Panthers are coming off a successful 2021 campaign in which they won the ACC Championship & went 11-3. USC transfer Kedon Slovis takes over the quarterbacking duties from new Steelers backup Kenny Pickett, but wide receiver Jordan Addison (who transferred to USC…the carousel is redonkulous) will be more difficult to replace. My Mountaineers are entering their fourth year under head coach Neal Brown, and if he wants fans to continue to “trust the climb” we’re going to need to see some progress. We understand that going undefeated, winning the Big 12, and being a legit playoff contender is not something to be expected, but winning 8 or 9 games shouldn’t feel as out of reach as it has the past few seasons. Georgia transfer QB JT Daniels will be under center, so if the offensive line has improved and the defense is solid there is reason for optimism. We’ll see. This is a Thursday night game on ESPN. Zach has confidence in Slovis & thinks WVU consistently falls short in big games.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Cincinnati at Arkansas (-6.5)
The Bearcats had nine players drafted into the NFL, including five picks in the Top 100. Replacing that amount of talent won’t be easy, so I don’t expect them to be nearly as successful. Conversely, the Razorbacks won nine games a year ago after a few lean seasons, and I believe they’ll maintain that. Certainly playing in the SEC is a brutal task, making it all the more vital that they win non-conference battles. They have the home field in Fayetteville and I think it’ll be a solid victory. Conversely, Zach doesn’t foresee Cincy falling off that much from last season’s success & thinks they’ll score the close win this week.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Utah (-2.5) at Florida
I assume it is rare for a visiting team to be favored at The Swamp. Many “experts” believe Utah can contend for the PAC 12 title, and I agree. Actually, I think they can do even better. That being said, if the Utes want to make a statement and put themselves in the playoff conversation right off the bat they must seize this opportunity. The Gators have been on a downward trend the past couple of seasons and made a change last November. Can new head coach Billy Napier, who was 40-12 in four seasons at Louisiana, right the ship?? The SEC is a huge step up from the Sun Belt, but this is a big test even before Napier gets to the conference grind. Perhaps he’ll be successful in the long run, but I don’t foresee things beginning too well. Zach likes Utah’s superior team speed to lead them to victory.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: Utah
Oregon at Georgia (-17.5)
Credit where it is due…the defending champion Bulldogs aren’t taking the easy way out to begin the new season. The Ducks were 10-4 a year ago & played in the PAC 12 title game. However, head coach Dan Lanning is new in town after former coach Mario Cristobal moved on to the Miami Hurricanes. What makes this matchup interesting is that Lanning spent the past three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. The champs return 13 starters, but lost 15 players to the NFL, including a record breaking five defensive players in the first round. Most of the time when we see those kind of numbers I assume a total rebuild is happening and have few expectations for that team, but I don’t feel that way about Georgia. I believe they’ll contend for another national championship & be as good or better than last season. Admittedly the points scare me a little, but this is a fantastic chance for Georgia to make a statement & show that they’re here to stay. Zach concurs, opining that Georgia’s size & experience in big games will make the difference.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
Notre Dame at Ohio State (-17)
The Buckeyes have been consistent playoff contenders since the new system began in 2014, but only have two appearances & one national title to show for it. Will anything short of hoisting the big gold trophy on January 9 be a failure?? I think it just might be. The Irish are one of college football’s most fabled programs, but they haven’t won a national title since 1988. They’ve appeared in the playoff twice, losing in the semifinal both times. I realize Ohio St. has the home field, but it is strange seeing Notre Dame as a double digit underdog. I have good vibes about new head coach Marcus Freeman and believe he’ll lead his team back to prominence one day…but not this day. As a die hard Michigan fan Zach rarely has any positive opinions about Ohio St., so he’s picking Notre Dame to atleast cover the points.
Annnndddd we’re back!!!! After a COVID-induced hiatus a year ago we have returned to make mostly uninformed & generally random picks of bowl games involving a bunch of teams about which neither of us know all that much. I read a quote years ago something akin to “golf & sex are the only things one can enjoy without being very good”, but I would include picking football games as well. As noted a couple of years ago, I have evolved from being one of those cranky old dudes ranting about too many bowl games to rather enjoying obscure & totally inconsequential weekday afternoon gridiron battles. These picks are separate from our weekly Picks of Profundity, no point spreads are used, & we don’t pretend like we have any clue what we’re talking about for the most part. I’ll leave it to The Manoverse to find the dates, times, & specific locations of these games. Most of them will be on the ESPN “family of networks”, though there are exceptions. As always I discourage wagering of any kind. I have broken down the games into three tiers: Bronze are the games that I have very little interest in and may or may not watch, Silver are games for which I have a modest level of enthusiasm and will probably try to check out, and Gold are the Must See contests. Sadly there are way too many in the first group and far too few in the last, but the cool thing about Bowl Season is that there are always surprises…games that’ll be tied in the fourth quarter and you suddenly find yourself invested for no apparent reason. I love that, and I appreciate the fact that we have once again been able to enjoy such compelling yet ultimately meaningless entertainment in 2021. I hope The Manoverse is staying safe & warm, enjoying the holiday season, and appreciating every second of this amazing life.
Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo
How cool is it that these college kids get to travel to The Bahamas for free?? That alone is worth the blood, sweat, & tears of playing football. It’s an experience they’ll truly appreciate two or three decades from now. I’m not sure how many fans can afford to make the trek, but hey…life isn’t perfect, right?? The Blue Raiders represent C-USA and are 6-6, while the Rockets are out of the MAC and come into this game 7-5.
My Pick: Toledo
Z’s Pick: Toledo
South Carolina State vs. Jackson State
This is a game specifically for “historically black” colleges, which seems like kind of an outdated concept in the 21st Century, but whatever. The SC St. Bulldogs are 6-5, while the Jackson St. Tigers (from Mississippi in case you are curious) are 11-1 and coached by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. On paper it really looks like kind of a mismatch. Zach feels like momentum is on the Tigers’ side.
My Pick: Jackson State
Z’s Pick: Jackson State
New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State vs. UTEP
The 9-3 Bulldogs faced some pretty stiff competition in the Mountain West and went toe to toe with the Oregon Ducks, while the Miners were 7-5 out of C-USA. I don’t think this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.
My Pick: Fresno State
Z’s Pick: Fresno State
BYU vs. UAB
I had high hopes for the Cougars, and they did go 10-2. September victories over Arizona St. & Utah seem especially impressive. Unfortunately, playing as an independent and having no direct access to conference bowl affiliations means you end up playing the 8-4 Blazers on a Saturday afternoon in Shreveport a week before Christmas. Perhaps I’m selling this game short, but I don’t believe it will be all that competitive. Zach likes the game to be a little closer but ultimately believes BYU will get the victory.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan
This is the old GMAC Bowl, aka Dollar General Bowl, aka GoDaddy Bowl. Y’all know I despise corporate bowl names. Anyway, the 7-5 Flames dipped significantly from their 10-1 season a year ago, which saw them finish in the Top 20. Meanwhile, the 7-5 Eagles out of the MAC are appearing in their fourth bowl game since 2016 (they are 0-3 in previous efforts). I don’t foresee this being close or interesting at all. Zach agrees, opining that Liberty might win by 40 points.
My Pick: Liberty
Z’s Pick: Liberty
SMU vs. Virginia
It’s like people in Boston were whining “Hey…there’s a bowl game at Yankee Stadium!! We want one too!!”, and someone somewhere acquiesced. Honestly though…is playing football in Boston at the end of December a reward for these players?? I’d much rather go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. At any rate, the Mustangs are out of the AAC and currently sit at 8-4, while the ACC’s Cavaliers are 6-6. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has already announced his departure after the game, having been at the helm in Charlottesville for six years. He’s only 55 years old so one has to assume he’ll have a final act somewhere, but for now his exit provides a motivational storyline. Zach predicts both offenses will put up big numbers, with SMU ultimately prevailing.
My Pick: Virginia
Z’s Pick: SMU
Washington State vs. Miami (FL)
ESPN dominates bowl coverage, but the Sun Bowl remains on CBS, which is kind of refreshing. It is one of the oldest bowl games, having first been played way back in 1935. The 7-5 Hurricanes underachieved tremendously in three seasons under head coach Manny Diaz, who has already been shown the door. The 7-5 Cougars faced coaching turmoil themselves back in October when their head coach & several assistants were fired for refusing to kneel & bow to Nazi-esque vaccine mandates, which means there is no way in hell I can cheer for a school that engages in that kind of foolishness. Zach is rolling the dice on State.
My Pick: Miami (FL)
Z’s Pick: Washington State
Boise State vs. Central Michigan
It was an off year for the 7-5 Broncos, who were competitive against UCF & Oklahoma St. and actually beat BYU, but nevertheless failed to live up to previously set lofty standards. Conversely, the 8-4 Chippewas out of the MAC continue to bounce back from the nadir of a 1-11 season in 2018. I don’t know why, but I feel like this game could exceed expectations. Conversely, Zach predicts an easy Boise win.
My Pick: Central Michigan
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Tulsa vs. Old Dominion
The Golden Hurricanes out of the AAC are 6-6, as are C-USA’s Monarchs. This is one of those 2:30pm Monday afternoon kickoffs that theoretically no one will be watching, but who knows…perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suppose I’ll pick Old Dominion in a coin flip. Zach notes that Tulsa suffered several close losses and is probably a better team than the record shows.
My Pick: Old Dominion
Z’s Pick: Tulsa
Kent State vs. Wyoming
Potatoes may not be the sexiest vegetable, but I can dig a game named after spuds instead of some mortgage broker. The 7-6 Golden Flashes lost the MAC title game, while the 6-6 Cowboys started strong but went 2-6 in the back end of their Mountain West schedule. I’m guessing the folks in Vegas would favor Kent, but I’ve got to go with the upset. Zach foresees a dominant defensive effort leading to a convincing Wyoming win.
My Pick: Wyoming
Z’s Pick: Wyoming
Frisco Football Classic
North Texas vs. Miami (OH)
Once upon a time there was something called the Redbox Bowl, which was cancelled in 2020 because of The Sickness then scrapped again this year. Actually it wasn’t a new game, having formerly been known as the Emerald Bowl & Fight Hunger Bowl, amongst other things. At any rate, the NCAA was left with too many bowl eligible teams for the available slots, so they literally created this game last week. I’m not even kidding. Making things even weirder is the fact that there is already a Frisco Bowl, so I’m not sure how this little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb is being awarded a second post-season matchup, but whatever…we’ll just go with it. Both teams are 6-6, and it is essentially a home game for the Mean Green since their campus is a half hour down the road. Credit to the RedHawks for making the trek, but it’s gonna be a tough day for them. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to snag the victory.
My Pick: North Texas
Z’s Pick: Miami (OH)
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. Missouri
To clarify, the Armed Forces Bowl is played in Fort Worth, TX, while the Military Bowl is contested in Annapolis, MD. I take no issue with the redundancy since our folks in uniform deserve all the kudos they get & more. The 8-4 Black Knights are going for their fourth season of 9+ wins in the past five years, while the SEC’s Tigers are 6-6 and probably wishing they wouldn’t have left the Big 12 a decade ago. I can’t go against our soldiers, although I realize it’ll be an uphill climb. Zach loves Army’s triple option and believes Missouri’s defense will have a difficult time stopping it.
My Pick: Army
Z’s Pick: Army
Hawaii vs. Memphis
Is it fair that the 6-7 Rainbow Warriors get a home game during bowl season, or that they’re playing in the postseason despite a losing record?? Probably not, but I assume the 6-6 Tigers won’t complain about a free trip to paradise. The home team is 2-1 in the past four years in this game, and I don’t think Memphis is remarkable enough to overcome the advantages their opponents will enjoy. Zach predicts a close game with Memphis winning with a late field goal.
My Pick: Hawaii
Z’s Pick: Memphis
Ball State vs. Georgia State
I know I’ve taught y’all this before, but it’s been a couple of years, so…a camellia is the state flower of Alabama, which is why this game is contested in the state’s capital of Montgomery. The 6-6 Cardinals represent the MAC as well as talk show legend David Letterman’s alma mater. The 7-5 Panthers are out of the Sun Belt and have only been playing football since 2008. I might be undervaluing this game a bit, and I’m hoping it’s a Christmas Day surprise that’ll tear me away from Ralphie’s pursuit of the elusive BB gun for a couple of hours. Zach likes Georgia St. to score a late 4th quarter win.
My Pick: Georgia State
Z’s Pick: Georgia State
Quick Lane Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Nevada
Quick Lane is exactly what you’d imagine it to be…a auto store where you can get your vehicle inspected, have the oil changed, & get your tires rotated. The game was previously known as the Motor City Bowl & Little Caesar’s Bowl and is still played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. It may not be The Bahamas or sunny Florida, but perhaps it’s a step up from Boise, ID, home of the Potato Bowl. Atleast the venue has a roof so weather won’t be an issue. Anyway, the 7-5 Broncos out of the MAC only have to travel a couple of hours from Kalamazoo, while the 8-4 Wolfpack obviously have a much more significant trek. I don’t know how much of a difference that kind of thing makes in bowl games, but it’s got to mean something, right?? Conversely, Zach thinks Nevada wins big and the game will essentially be over by halftime.
My Pick: Western Michigan
Z’s Pick: Nevada
Boston College vs. East Carolina
The 6-6 Eagles have always bored me, as far back as the 80’s when they played in the Big East and faced my WV Mountaineers annually. There were those few years when they had QB Doug Flutie, but other than that a BC game is similar to watching paint dry. The 7-5 Pirates have cool purple uniforms, but kind of get lost in the shuffle since no one gives a damn about the AAC. Kickoff is 2:30pm on a Monday, but it’s two days after Christmas so maybe there won’t be any better options on TV since all the holiday films will be over. Honestly just thinking about this game makes me want to lay down and go to sleep. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: East Carolina
Z’s Pick: East Carolina
First Responder Bowl
Air Force vs. Louisville
Okay, so honoring first responders with a bowl game is cool. The matchup?? Ehhhh. The Falcons are 9-3 with competitive losses to San Diego St. & Utah St. and a win over Boise St., while the 6-6 Cardinals have dropped off considerably since QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 before heading to the NFL. Fingers crossed that this will be a great game, but I’m not assuming anything. Zach is optimistic that it will be close & exciting and likes Air Force to win.
My Pick: Air Force
Z’s Pick: Air Force
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
This is the game I wanted WVU to play in, but that didn’t happen. The 6-6 Red Raiders are playing for an interim coach since they fired their head coach in October, while the 7-5 Bulldogs beat Kentucky & Auburn this year but faced an uphill climb in the SEC. I suppose I’m a little bitter about the ‘Eers’ exclusion because this is probably going to be more fun than I’m giving it credit for. Zach thinks depth might be an issue for Tech and likes State to win fairly easily.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Z’s Pick: Mississippi State
Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois
The Cure Bowl is so named to promote awareness & research of breast cancer, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Chanticleers are 10-2 (the second straight year they’ve won 10 games) but didn’t even win their division, which says a lot about the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskies are the 9-4 MAC Champions. This is a 6pm Friday kickoff, and I’ll be watching. We both expect a high scoring shootout and like Coastal to secure victory late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina
Boca Raton Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
My Marshall Thundering Herd might’ve been playing in this game if they’d made it to the C-USA title game, but kudos to the 8-5 Hilltoppers for doing that instead. The 10-3 Mountaineers lost the Sun Belt title game but won 9+ games for the seventh consecutive season. This one kicks off at 11am on Saturday a week before Christmas, and I’m glad because I have plans that night. I feel like this is one of those times when everyone will be expecting a shootout but instead we’ll be treated to a hard hitting defensive struggle, probably decided by a late field goal. Zach thinks the Mountaineers are more experienced in big games.
My Pick: Appalachian State
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
Oregon State vs. Utah State
This game has the potential to be sneaky good. It is the inaugural contest and will be played on the home field of the NFL’s Rams & Chargers. The 7-5 Beavers almost slid in the back door of the PAC 12 title game, but a loss to their in-state rivals doomed those chances. Meanwhile, the 10-3 Aggies are the surprising Mountain West Champions. It’s a 7:30pm kickoff on 12/18 so unfortunately I will miss it. Ah well…c’est la vie. I’d like to think it’ll be a close & exciting contest, but it could just as easily be a blowout. I have no idea what to expect. Zach likes Utah St.‘s running attack behind a stout offensive line.
My Pick: Utah State
Z’s Pick: Utah State
New Orleans Bowl
Marshall vs. Louisiana
This is what the 7-5 Herd gets for not making it to their conference title game. It is essentially a home game for the 12-1 Ragin’ Cajuns, winners of the Sun Belt. Marshall will be joining that conference in the not-so-distant future, so we’ll see plenty of rematches. It’s another game on the crowded 12/18 schedule, but kickoff isn’t until 9:15pm so I’ll actually get to see most of the action, which is cool. I can’t pretend to be unbiased, but to be honest the only thing that gives me hope is the fact that Louisiana will be playing for an interim coach making me somewhat hopeful for an upset. Zach thinks my alma mater comes into this game disappointed with the ending of the regular season and believes that hangover will lead to a Louisiana blowout.
My Pick: Marshall
Z’s Pick: Louisiana
UTSA vs. San Diego State
Earlier I referred to Frisco, TX as a “little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb”. To put that in context, the population of Frisco is 177k, making it about triple the size of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston. Everything is bigger in Texas. The 12-1 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners won the C-USA title, while the 11-2 Aztecs were beaten soundly in the Mountain West Championship Game. It’s nearly a five hour haul from San Antonio to Frisco, but UTSA should still enjoy a notable home field-esque kind of advantage. Kickoff is at 7:30pm EST on the Tuesday before Christmas, so it’ll be an evening of channel flipping between Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Scrooge, & football. That’s a fun night in my world. I hope it’s a competitive game, but with battles against Utah & Boise St. (both games that they won) under their belt, it feels like SD St. is probably the superior squad. Conversely, Zach likes UTSA’s offense a little better and thinks they’ll get the job done.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: Texas-San Antonio
Florida vs. Central Florida
I’ve explained this is previous years, but it’s a cool story. This game is named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. “The Last of the Buccaneers” allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century, amassing a huge fortune by taking prizes & ransoming hostages, and died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind an enormous and as-yet undiscovered treasure. That tale alone makes this a badass bowl game no matter who is playing in it. The 6-6 Gators had high hopes but encountered choppy waters this season, ending with firing their coach last month. 8-4 UCF’s “uncrowned national championship” from a few years back is about as spurious as the story of Jose Gaspar, but head coach Gus Malzahn (who previously had tremendous success at Auburn) has kept them in the conversation as one of the best Group of Five programs and will soon lead them into the Big 12. This would be a huge win for the Knights, an opportunity to defeat an in-state “rival” that’ll always receive more respect whether they deserve it or not. Zach isn’t sure the Gators will be into this one mentally as much as their opponents.
My Pick: Central Florida
Z’s Pick: Central Florida
Houston vs. Auburn
Rarely will I be all that complimentary toward former WVU Mountaineers’ head coach Dana Holgorsen, but credit where it is due…he has the 11-2 Cougars headed in the right direction in his third season at the helm. They’ll be a problem in the Big 12 soon enough. Conversely, the 6-6 Tigers didn’t fare as well in head coach Bryan Harsin’s first season as they would have liked, but there’s no reason to think they can’t be good again in the near future. Kickoff is at Noon on a Tuesday, which is unfortunate because this matchup probably deserves better. I think the talent disparity between a mid-level SEC program and the AAC will be apparent, and it helps that Auburn is playing only two hours away from home, so they’ll have a lot of fans in the stands. Zach thinks Houston is solid but not spectacular, while Auburn is inconsistent. He likes Auburn’s defense to be the difference maker.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: Auburn
North Carolina State vs. UCLA
It looks good on paper, but will it be as interesting in reality?? The Wolfpack went 9-3 with wins over Clemson, Florida St., and in-state rival UNC, while the 8-4 Bruins would like to have a redo on a couple of early season stumbles. This is a prime time game during that week between Christmas & New Year’s when no one really knows where they are, what day it is, or what exactly is going on. I think UCLA probably has a deeper bench, so they’ll pull away in the 4th quarter. It’s a tossup for Zach but he feels like NC St. has dealt with a tougher schedule and that experience will pay off.
My Pick: UCLA
Z’s Pick: North Carolina State
Kansas State vs. LSU
Ed Orgeron won’t be on the sidelines for the 6-6 Bayou Bengals, who’ll be led by an interim coach before Brian Kelly takes the reins. In comparison the 7-5 Wildcats are rather stable, which is a difference maker in my eyes. Zach feels like all the upheaval might actually provide motivation for LSU.
My Pick: Kansas State
Z’s Pick: LSU
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
West Virginia vs. Minnesota
As a Mountaineer fan this is kind of a letdown. A mediocre Big Ten opponent & a 10:15pm EST kickoff on a Tuesday night isn’t much to get excited about. This game was formerly known as the Copper Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, Cactus Bowl, & Cheez-It Bowl, but now bears the name of a Chicago based mortgage company, which is indicative of everything wrong with collegiate sports. The last time WVU played in it about five years ago they snagged a thrilling win over Arizona St., but I was in the hospital and fast asleep before the action heated up. Perhaps I can manage to stay awake this time. Zach thinks Minnesota will run the ball easily against the WV defense and win big.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
They’ve been playing a bowl game at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it except the time in 2012 when WV got embarrassed by Syracuse. In a college football world that had an ounce of sense this matchup would be an annual rivalry between two East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools, but in reality they play in different conferences and haven’t met on the football field since 2013. The 6-6 Hokies fired their head coach last month so they’ll be led by an interim coach, while Maryland is also 6-6 having lost 4 games in the second half of the season. I feel like it should be a much more compelling game than it is, but the 2pm Wednesday kickoff sort of characterizes the general interest level most will likely have for it. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Maryland
Z’s Pick: Maryland
Iowa State vs. Clemson
Okay, stick with me here. Once upon a time the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix was known as the Cheez-It Bowl, but sponsorships changed as they often do. This game, emanating from Orlando, FL, used to be the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, & Camping World Bowl. Anyway, we all know that it’s been an odd season for the 9-3 Tigers. Let’s be honest, that’s a record so many teams would give anything to have, but for a program that’s used to going undefeated & being in the playoff it is a disappointing year. The 7-5 Cyclones had higher expectations as well, but the Big 12 ended up being pretty competitive. This could be the sleeper game of the entire postseason, and with a 5:45pm Wednesday evening kickoff it is situated perfectly to provide ample entertainment value. I have a lot of faith in Dabo Swinney and believe his team will end their campaign on a high note. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Clemson
Oklahoma vs. Oregon
They could called this the What Might’ve Been Bowl or the Dashed Hopes Bowl, as both teams were in the playoff conversation right up until the end. The Sooners are 10-2, but head coach Lincoln Riley has already bolted for USC. Similarly, the Ducks finished 10-3 and also lost their coach Mario Cristobal, who has returned to his hometown & alma mater Miami Hurricanes. I’m not familiar enough with the inner workings of a college football team to know exactly what kind of chaos such upheaval causes, but it has to be unsettling. Nevertheless, I am expecting a fun game with lots of big plays & offense, and I think Oregon will win by a touchdown. Zach, on the other hand, thinks Oregon is overrated and their defense lacking. He likes Oklahoma, under the temporary guidance of former head coach Bob Stoops, to win easily.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
I’ve never tasted Dukes, although I’ve heard it’s good. I’m a lifelong Miracle Whip guy. This is the Charlotte based game formerly known as the Continental Tire Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, & Belk Bowl, and seems tailor made for a Battle of the Carolinas. The Gamecocks were 6-6 against a rather challenging schedule, while the 6-6 Tar Heels failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations. This will be the swan song for UNC quarterback Sam Howell, who is likely to be a first round NFL Draft pick. I am expecting a close game decided by a late turnover or special teams play, and I give the edge to Mack Brown’s guys. Zach thinks there is a possibility that Howell won’t even play on the game, but still believes UNC can get the job done.
My Pick: North Carolina
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Tennessee
I have to think that both teams will come into the game with a chip on their shoulder seeking to gain attention & build momentum for next year. The 8-4 Boilermakers get lost in the shuffle of a stacked Big Ten, while the 7-5 Volunteers continue trying to get back to enjoying the kind of success they had during the Peyton Manning era 25 years ago. This is damn near a home game for the Vols, as Knoxville is less than three hours from Nashville. That’s enough for me to pick Tennessee to win comfortably. Conversely, Zach believes Purdue’s defense will shine and lead the team to victory.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Perspective is a word that pops into my mind. I wonder how differently these teams might be viewing the same opportunity. The 10-2 Spartans won eight games before losing two of their last four, all while watching in-state rival Michigan (who they beat at the end of October) win the Big Ten and end up in the College Football Playoff. Conversely, the 11-2 Panthers just won the ACC title & quarterback Kenny Pickett was a Heisman finalist. This feels like a consolation prize for State and the culmination of an immensely successful comeback for Pitt. Zach doesn’t have much faith in State’s defense and thinks Pickett will put up big numbers in victory, while I believe Sparty has something to prove.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
I expected so much more from both teams. The 8-4 Badgers simply faced too much supremely talented opposition in the Big Ten, losing 3 out of 4 to begin the season. The 8-4 Sun Devils had similar problems in the PAC 12. This is a 10:30pm EST kickoff on New Year’s Eve Eve, which is a tough proposition. I suppose I could stay up for it then snooze most of the next day in preparation for the festivities. Anyway, it feels like a pretty even matchup that’ll end up being a hard hitting, low scoring defensive struggle decided by penalties & turnovers, and in that scenario I can’t go against my guy Herm Edwards. Conversely, Zach thinks Wisconsin’s ground game makes the difference.
My Pick: Arizona State
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Now that LSU has put all those Jimbo Fisher rumors to rest he can concentrate on coaching the team that’s actually paying him to do so. It’s probably unfair to call an 8-4 season disappointing, but when someone is making bank like Fisher the fact is that anything less than a playoff berth isn’t good enough. Conversely, though they lost the ACC title, no one in Winston-Salem is going to complain about 10-3 & a New Year’s Eve bowl game for the Demon Deacons, a team that’s only won 9 or more games in a season twice before now. I think Wake will give a great effort, but the talent disparity will show itself in the second half. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Arkansas vs. Penn State
Originally known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, it feels like this is a game that’s been around longer than it’s 1986 debut. The 8-4 Razorbacks started strong before losing three straight October games, while the 7-5 Nittany Lions did pretty much the same thing. If it were possible I might be tempted to predict that both teams could lose this one, but someone’s got to come out on top. I’m going to venture out on a limb and say that this will be one of those games where something screwy or controversial occurs…a penalty, turnover, blocked kick…that decides the outcome and becomes the subject of much debate on all the sports talk shows. Zach likes Penn St.’s defense to be a difference maker.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Penn State
Kentucky vs. Iowa
Congrats to the Wildcats on a stellar season. Kentucky has always been a basketball school, but after going 9-3 with wins over LSU & Florida they’ve got the attention of football fans everywhere. Conversely, the 10-3 Hawkeyes are probably a bit disappointed after dropping two consecutive contests in October that torpedoed their playoff hopes then getting obliterated by Michigan in the Big Ten Championship. I feel like most “experts” would say Iowa is the more talented team, but it seems like Kentucky has come up big when it really counted this year. Conversely, Zach predicts Iowa will win a close game.
My Pick: Kentucky
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Baylor vs. Ole Miss
11-2 Baylor won the Big 12 title, but an inexplicable November loss at TCU cost them a playoff berth. The 10-2 Rebels have quarterback Matt Corral, whose Heisman invite got lost in the mail, something he’ll feel better about when his name is called very early in next spring’s NFL Draft. This game has the potential to be great, but I think the Bears have more athletes across the board at more positions, and they will assert their dominance in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach really likes Corral and thinks Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffen might have a few tricks up his sleeve.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State
I really thought the 11-1 Irish would be a playoff team, but that October loss to Cincinnati was a killer. The 11-2 Cowboys had a legit playoff shot as well, but Baylor was just too tough in the Big 12 title game. I’m probably selling this game short…it should be a Gold Tier level matchup, but it just seems like both teams underachieved. I think State will have more big plays and snag a 5-10 point victory, while Zach believes Notre Dame will be motivated & inspired to win a close one.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Notre Dame
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati
I admit that it is unfair to not have a playoff semifinal in the Gold Tier. Having said that, I have been clear about my opinion of the Bearcats. They deserve all the kudos for going undefeated. The fact that they went into South Bend and beat Notre Dame cannot be overlooked. However, the rest of their schedule being opponents like Temple, Tulsa, & South Florida shouldn’t be glossed over either. The NCAA needs to consider separating the Power 5 and the Group of 5 into different divisions, each with its own National Championship. The 12-1 Crimson Tide just beat Georgia by 17 points to win the SEC Championship…what do you think they’re going to do to Cincinnati?? I would love to be wrong, but I think ‘Bama will win this game by four TD’s, and that’s after Saban calls off the dogs in the second half, which is why I can’t get too excited about it. Zach has a bit more respect for Cincy, but still thinks they lose by 10 points.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Ohio State vs. Utah
I don’t care if the Buckeyes lost two games…they should be in the playoff. I get it. I know the committee couldn’t put them in with two losses ahead of undefeated Cincinnati. It would’ve been the ballsy move, but a PR nightmare. It didn’t help that Michigan absolutely trucked their archrivals by two touchdowns. Still, I believe if Ohio St. played Cincy five times they’d win atleast four games quite easily. It is what it is though, and the consolation prize for fans is pretty great because 10-3 Utah might be the hottest team in the country. Two of their three losses came in September, and they’re riding a six game win streak that includes annihilating Oregon to win the PAC 12 Championship. Honestly, I think the Utes would beat the snot out of Cincinnati too. At any rate, this should be a fantastic game, but I think Ohio St. might be too fast & athletic for Utah to overcome. Zach hates Ohio St. so obviously he’s picking against them 😂.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Utah
(2) Michigan vs. (3) Georgia
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Alabama does, but I did not expect them to beat Georgia by 17 points in the SEC title game. Having said that, it is a testament to the 12-1 Bulldogs and the immense respect they’ve earned that they’re still amongst the Final Four. The 12-1 Wolverines only have a late October loss to in-state rival Michigan St. as a blemish on their record, but it seemed to have awakened them because they’ve been on fire ever since. I’m not sure even the most passionate Michigan fans would’ve considered them a playoff contender a month ago. This is The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object and has Game of the Year written all over it. As far as predictions, one can’t help but allow a little wishful thinking into the process. Would you rather see an Alabama-Georgia rematch or an Alabama-Michigan wet dream for all the marbles?? I know which one I prefer. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. Zach knows Georgia’s defense is extremely tough, but he thinks his Wolverines have what it takes to push the game into overtime and get a victory.
My Pick: Michigan
Z’s Pick: Michigan
Alabama/Cincinnati vs. Michigan/Georgia
So we are both predicting and/or wishing for an Alabama-Michigan National Championship Game. When Jim Harbaugh got the job in Ann Arbor in 2015 I said he’d have them in title contention in three years. It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but here we are. I think ‘Bama will beat Cincinnati easily to get to this point, while it’ll be much more difficult for the Wolverines to overcome Georgia. How will that affect the Championship Game?? I don’t know. There are just so many variables that can make a difference and alter the entire landscape in the space of a month. Given what we know at this moment in time I will predict a very close, very exciting, rather historic Michigan upset to win the title…their first since 1997, back when the National Championship was “mythical”, a quaint notion nowadays. Zach thinks Michigan has what it takes to compete, but in a Saban vs. Harbaugh coaching duel he simply has more faith in Saban.
After last weekend’s craziness the playoff committee released their rankings as follows: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St., Notre Dame, & Ohio St.. That’s the Top 7 and no one else really matters. Barring any upsets in the conference title games (a huge IF if there ever was one) the essential questions are these: a) how far will the loser of the SEC Championship fall?? & b) can Oklahoma St. leapfrog Cincinnati if they win the Big 12 title?? Notre Dame is screwed because they’re sitting at home while these other teams are still playing. They need Cincinnati AND Oklahoma St. to lose, and even then the 4th playoff spot could go to Ohio St.. At any rate, our marathon of picks during Rivalry Week turned out slightly better for me (6-3) than Zach (2-7), and the lineup is even more packed this weekend. Unfortunately I have plans Friday & Saturday so I probably won’t be watching much of the action. I should be able to keep up with the scores frequently though.
My Season: 43-43
Zach’s Season: 32-54
Western Kentucky at UTSA (-2.5)
The first time these teams met on October 9 in Bowling Green, KY the Roadrunners won a high scoring shootout, so the rematch has the potential to be a lot of fun. I’m pretty pissed that my Marshall Thundering Herd isn’t playing in this one, but they blew their chance in spectacular fashion. Texas-San Antonio has the home field and that’s enough for me. Conversely, Zach feels like momentum favors the Hilltoppers and he thinks they’ll eek out a close win.
My Pick: UTSA
Z’s Pick: Western Kentucky
PAC 12 (Las Vegas, NV)
Utah (-3) vs. Oregon
I am intrigued. When these teams met on November 20 in Salt Lake City the Utes scored a huge 38-7 victory and ended Oregon’s playoff aspirations. Will the Ducks face a similar fate on a neutral field?? I don’t think so. It’ll be much closer this time, and I think the underdogs have what it takes to pull off the mild Friday night upset. Zach, on the other hand, believes Utah is firing on all cylinders right now and has a better team with superior athletes. He agrees that it’ll be closer than the first contest between these two, but thinks the favorites will win again.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Utah
Big 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oklahoma State (-7) vs. Baylor
On October 2 the Bears went into Stillwater and were defeated 24-14, but this game is being played at Jerry World, aka The Palace in Dallas, so there is no home field advantage. The Cowboys could earn a playoff spot if Cincinnati loses, and a convincing win could make the debate interesting even if Cincy wins. I don’t expect anything to be drastically different than the first meeting, and with (potentially) so much at stake I believe we’re looking at another solid OK St. triumph. Zach is impressed by State’s defense and likes their offensive line, but foresees a tight ballgame that could be decided by a late or overtime field goal.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Utah State at San Diego State (-3.5)
I don’t know who makes the schedule, but c’mon man!! I should be able to hunker down in my warm bed late at night and watch a fun west coast battle, but instead we’re getting a 3pm EST kickoff. Anyway, these teams have not previously met this season, which is a rarity in conference title games. The 9-3 Aggies face a tough task going into hostile territory against the 11-1 Aztecs, who are riding a four game win streak. I don’t expect anything too crazy and believe the home team will win comfortably. Zach likes Utah St.’s ground game but feels like San Diego St.’s defense will come alive in the second half to secure a win.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: San Diego State
Houston at Cincinnati (-11)
The Bearcats are causing me a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog guy. Always have been, always will be. That being said, I am just not sure Cincinnati belongs in the playoff. They deserve kudos for going thru their schedule undefeated, but are they truly on the level of any Power 5 opponent they’d face in the semifinal?? I have serious doubts. My feelings about this game are further complicated by the presence of current Cougars & former WVU Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. We expected big things from him in the Mountain State, and he was a fairly decent 51-38 in seven seasons at the helm. However, Holgorsen clearly wasn’t happy here and jumped at the chance to take the Houston job. Both of these teams will be members of the Big 12 in the near future, so the rivalry will continue to grow. This particular contest isn’t hard to pick for me because the points are just too much. Cincy will probably win, but it won’t be a double digit victory. Zach doesn’t think Cincinnati belongs in the playoff but doesn’t believe the committee will deny them if they win this game. However, he foresees Holgorsen having his team ready to pull off the upset. If that happens no one will be happier than the CFP committee.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Houston
MAC (Detroit, MI)
Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-5.5)
I used to be a big fan of MACtion. Their random Tuesday or Wednesday night games were a treat. To be honest though, it’s been a few years since I’ve paid any attention to the conference. I vaguely recall when the Huskies went 12-2 in 2012 and lost to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in Heisman voting in 2013 behind Alabama QB AJ McCarron & winner Jameis Winston, the quarterback at Florida St. As far as this game, the Golden Flashes are 7-5 and led a rather weak field in the MAC West, while NIU is a solid but unspectacular 8-4 and were beaten by three TDs in their last game. When these teams met just a few weeks ago Kent won a 52-47 shootout, although NIU scored 20 fourth quarter points as their spirited comeback fell short. I suppose there’s a chance it could be a sneakily entertaining contest, but I’m leaning toward Kent winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach likes NIU to pound the rock and score the upset.
My Pick: Kent State
Z’s Pick: Northern Illinois
Appalachian State (-3.5) at Louisiana
This is my sleeper pick for best game of the week. On October 12 the Mountaineers traveled to Lafayette and suffered a 41-13 loss, so I’m a bit surprised by the odds. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t tasted defeat since losing the season opener at Texas, but it seems like they’re not getting much respect. Perhaps the impending departure of head coach Billy Napier to the Florida Gators is a factor. Otherwise, do the oddsmakers have some inside info, or are they simply making assumptions?? I don’t know. Given the current circumstances and taking what we know at face value I have to lean toward the home team scoring a mild “upset”. Zach predicts special teams will play an important role in an App. St. victory.
My Pick: Louisiana
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
SEC (Atlanta, GA)
Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama
As a certain former President might say, this game is YUUUGGGEEE. Not only will an SEC Champion be crowned, but there are major playoff implications. If Georgia wins they’re in, but it is entirely possible that they could lose yet not fall out of the Top 4. And what about ‘Bama?? Obviously they’d be in with a victory, but what happens if they lose?? Will the committee twist themselves in knots trying to justify only dropping the Tide to #4?? The simplest outcome is also the most likely…the Bulldogs win & cover and remain #1, while Alabama drops to #5 and is denied another National Championship opportunity. That’s what I’m hoping to see. As much as Zach respects Nick Saban he just doesn’t think this Alabama team measures up to their predecessors. He thinks Georgia has the best defense in the country and the offense is pretty good too. He’s predicting a big Bulldogs victory.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
ACC (Charlotte, NC)
Pitt vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)
Good Lord, could there be a more underwhelming matchup?? The ACC really needs Clemson & Florida St. to figure things out because the rest of the conference is a snoozefest. Credit where it is due though, as the 10-2 Panthers have won four straight, while the Demon Deacons lost two of their final four games but still finished 10-2. The game is theoretically being played at a neutral site, but Wake will enjoy a quasi-home field advantage since their campus is only an hour away. That’s enough for me to predict a mundane & unremarkable victory for the favorites. Zach likes Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and believes he will have a great day picking apart Wake’s defense.
My Pick: Wake Forest
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Big Ten (Indianapolis, IN)
Michigan (-9) vs. Iowa
I’m not a mental health expert, but I know that folks with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs followed by extraordinary lows. I also understand that it is sometimes difficult for athletes to sustain a high level of intensity. Therefore, my question is what do the 11-1 Wolverines have left in the tank after their magnificent beatdown of Ohio St.?? This game isn’t at The Big House against their archrivals, but they are playing for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a playoff berth that could lead to their first National Championship since 1997. Theoretically that should be ample motivation, right?? The 10-2 Hawkeyes fell off the radar after two consecutive October losses, yet here they are on a four game winning streak. Closer examination reveals that they won those four games by an average of less than 5 points against teams that are collectively 19-29. In other words their schedule was frontloaded, and they didn’t face Michigan or Ohio St.. Iowa’s most impressive victory was a home game against Penn St., a 7-5 team that lost four out of six games in the second half of the season. I don’t think there’s any way Michigan loses this game. However, I can see a dropoff in energy leading to the final margin of victory being a touchdown or less. Zach is also concerned about an emotional letdown for his beloved Wolverines, as well as the enormous pressure they face in restoring the program to its former glory. He points out that Iowa has won 5 out of the last 7 matchups between the two schools. Having said all of that, he isn’t picking against Michigan again (although it did work a week ago).
Greetings sports fans, & Happy Halloween Week. There’s a lot going right now, so sit back, relax, grab a warm beverage, & let’s discuss some issues that have absolutely no direct impact on our lives.
The initial College Football Playoff rankings are just days away, and I am genuinely intrigued. If the committee follows what other polls are doing then the playoff teams right now would be Georgia, Cincinnati, Alabama, & Oklahoma. However, let us consider a few things. First, the committee plays by its own rules and seem to make things up as they go along. Secondly, kudos to the undefeated Bearcats, but are they a legit playoff contender?? Beating Notre Dame…especially in South Bend…has to count for something, yet the rest of their schedule leaves much to be desired. We can’t overlook the fact that the CFP is a television event, and Cincinnati would get obliterated by atleast two of those other teams. To be honest I’ll be surprised if they’re in the CFP’s top four. Alabama & Georgia will probably meet in the SEC title game and determine one playoff berth, but that’s down the line. At the moment the Bulldogs should be the unquestioned #1 team, while ‘Bama shouldn’t be in the top four but undoubtedly will be. And what about Oklahoma?? Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and the Sooners might be the luckiest team in America. I wouldn’t put them in my top four, but the committee will. So if it was up to me who would be the four playoff teams right now?? Georgia, Michigan St., Ohio St., & Michigan, with the loser of the upcoming matchup between the Wolverines & the Spartans falling out afterward and obviously the Ohio St./Michigan matchup at the end of November looming as a possible elimination game. Keep your eye on Notre Dame. If they win out things could get interesting. Also Oregon, although that overtime loss to Stanford is an issue. They’ll need some other dominoes to fall even if they win the PAC 12.
I’m pretty old-fashioned. Thru the years I’ve expressed a deep & abiding affection for smashmouth football, my preference that the designated hitter rule remain only in the American League, & disdain for conference realignment, amongst other things. I’m one step away from being the grumpy old man that yells at kids to get off my damn lawn. Having said that, allow me to make a radical proposal. Going forward, all newly built stadiums should have a retractable roof, and all current stadiums should be retrofitted with one if at all possible. I know absolutely nothing about construction or the cost of building such structures. Perhaps my idea is crazier than I realize, but if it is feasible then why not?? There’d be no more rainouts in baseball, and football teams would be able to run their plays without battling inclement weather. Fans would always be comfortable. Everybody wins.
I don’t give a damn about the NHL unless the Pittsburgh Penguins are competing for the Stanley Cup, but a shout out to the league’s newest franchise. Seattle Kraken is a cool name. Sadly they play their home games in something called Climate Pledge Arena, which is asinine. Actually, Amazon owns the naming rights and that’s the kind of woke stupidity they came up with. Not that I’d ever root for anyone other than the Pens (and I barely pay attention to them), but I’m already out on the Kraken. The hippie dipping leftists in the Pacific Northwest will surely enjoy them though, which is nice.
Rumor has it that the Miami Dolphins might trade for current Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson, which means they’re giving up on Tua Tagovailoa, their 2020 first round pick. In my opinion that’s crazy. Look, I freakin’ love Watson. Yes, I am aware of his private…proclivities, the legal action pending against him, & the likelihood of a future suspension by the NFL. In my opinion there have been players who have done much worse, paid the price, and recovered to have a good career. Watson is one of the best QBs in football and he’s only 26 years old. That being said, Tua is only 23 and it is way too soon to call him a bust. If…if…the Texans are smart enough to get him in the deal in addition to a gaggle of draft picks they could turn into a playoff team rather quickly. If Miami makes a separate trade and gets little to nothing in exchange for Tua it’ll be a huge mistake and whichever team swindles them will look brilliant in a couple of years.
My Pittsburgh Pirates won the seventh game of the 1979 World Series on Wednesday, October 17, 1979. Four decades later the 2021 World Series begins tomorrow and will not conclude until November 3 if it goes to a Game 7. Perhaps MLB should look at revising their schedule. Anyway…Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves. I have zero interest. None. The Astros being in the World Series (again) is embarrassing for Major League Baseball given the fact that they are known cheaters that received absolutely no punishment for their ill gotten gain. Not only should Houston have been stripped of their 2017 championship, they also should’ve received a five year post-season ban for defrauding the game of baseball. If they were playing almost any other team in this series my rooting interest would be an easy decision, but my disdain for the Braves goes way back to the early 90’s. Like a man without a country I am a baseball fan with nowhere to turn. I suppose I’ll just look forward to spring training and try to convince myself that the Pirates may finally get their shit together.
We didn’t pick the Clemson game last week, but please indulge me while I give myself a rare pat on the back. In my pre-season poll I pondered the question “Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the (Clemson) Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been??”. It didn’t go down exactly like I thought it would, but yeah…I called it!! No playoff for Clemson this season. Now, if only my weekly picks in these games were as accurate. Sadly both Zach (2-3) and myself (1-4) struggled again last week, so I’m going against my better judgement by chasing wins with bonus picks. Y’all are welcome, even though it may just blow up in our faces.
My Season: 11-15
Zach’s Season: 10-16
Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)
I can’t be the only one who gets these two teams mixed up, so let’s take a little climb up the learning tree. The 2-2 Florida Atlantic Owls call Boca Raton (45 miles north of Miami) home, represent Conference USA, and are coached by Willie Taggart (former head coach at Oregon & Florida St.). The 1-3 Florida International Panthers are out of Miami, also play in C-USA, and their head coach is Butch Davis (who has also coached for Miami, North Carolina, & the Cleveland Browns). I don’t think there’s much of a home field advantage to be had, and in rivalry games like this most other conventional rules can be tossed aside. So it comes down to vibes and what assumptions one can make based on what we’ve seen thus far. FAU lost to Florida & Air Force, allowing both teams to score 30+ points. FIU has only played one game against top tier competition, and that was a four TD+ loss to Texas Tech. This feels like a relatively low scoring, tight game to be decided by turnovers, penalties, & special teams. Something along the lines of 28-24, which means that I don’t like the spread at all and will take the underdogs to cover. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Florida International
Z’s Pick: Florida International
Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame
I had to look at those odds multiple times utilizing a few different sources. Sure, Cincy is a solid team that had two consecutive 11 win seasons before last year’s abbreviated campaign in which they logged 9 victories before narrowly losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. They handled a well regarded Indiana team last week. I am by no means saying that the Bearcats aren’t good. However, they’re an AAC team typically not on the same level as a program like Notre Dame. Not only that, but this game is in South Bend and the 4-0 Irish have given no one any reason to doubt them outside of being pushed into overtime by Florida St. in the season opener. Hell, they took Wisconsin’s best punch a week ago and still won by 4 TDs, so what am I missing?? Why is Cincinnati favored in this game?!?!?!?? It sounds pretty insane to me, so I’m going with the home team to score the “upset”. Conversely, Zach believes the Bearcats are for real and this is their opportunity to prove they belong in the playoff conversation.
My Pick: Notre Dame
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)
Well, atleast we don’t have to worry about Clemson in the playoff, so it’ll be fresh to some degree. Now if only we could see the Tide lose a couple of games and fall out of contention, how cool would that be?? Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen. ‘Bama has won four games by an average of 29 points, although it should be noted that they’ve not faced anyone with a pulse other than Florida, a game they only won by two points. The Rebels are 3-0 and have also beaten up on clearly inferior competition. In attendance will be highly touted recruit Arch Manning, Peyton & Eli’s nephew. It is my understanding that both Ole Miss & Alabama are high on his list, so it’ll be interesting to hear down the line how this game affected his decision. At any rate, if it were being played in Oxford I might be tempted to pick the upset. Enigmatic Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin spent a few years as ‘Bama’s offensive coordinator awhile back so obviously he’d love to snatch a shocking victory. However, with the game being contested in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it happening. The only question is if the home team can cover the points, and I believe they will. Zach’s man crush on Nick Saban makes his choice easy.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)
I didn’t think the Razorbacks were legit, but I was wrong. They handled Texas A&M and moved into the Top 10. Unfortunately they now must travel to Athens and challenge the undefeated #2 Bulldogs. I’d be really surprised if Georgia loses, but can they cover?? The points feel a bit disrespectful. Having said that, it feels like a “go big or go home” moment, and I did pick Georgia to be a playoff team and thus far they’ve done nothing to dissuade me, so I’m counting on them to notch a three touchdown victory. Zach respects Georgia’s defense & team speed, but he doesn’t like the spread and thinks Arkansas will keep it close.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Arkansas
Detroit at Chicago (-3)
Good Lord the Bears were awful a week ago. At the time of publication it is unknown whether the Bears’ starting QB will be rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or Nick Foles…but does it matter?? Conversely, the Lions are coming off a last second loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which it took the longest field goal in NFL history to beat them. Can they use that heartbreaking defeat as motivation?? If they were playing a playoff caliber team I might have doubts, but the Bears aren’t that, so I think Detroit scores the mild upset. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Detroit
Seattle at San Francisco (-3)
In my NFL Preview I predicted that the NFC West would be fun to watch, and so far they have not disappointed. This game might end up being a factor in a few months when deciding a playoff spot, and don’t think for a second these teams don’t realize that. Seattle lost to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, while ‘Frisco was on the losing end of an unsurprising Aaron Rodgers miracle, so both clubs will be looking to rebound. I think the home field actually does make a difference, so I’m picking the Niners. Zach, on the other hand, believes potential league MVP Russell Wilson will lead his team to victory.
My Pick: San Francisco
Z’s Pick: Seattle
Arizona at LA Rams (-6)
Staying in the NFC West, these are the teams I believe will be battling for the division crown at the end, so it’s a pretty big early season matchup. Both are undefeated, but obviously that’ll change for one of them. It looks like the trade for QB Matthew Stafford was a wise move for the Rams, while the Cards have developed into a seemingly complete team. This is a tossup for me, but whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach foresees a close game but believes the home team will cover.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England
It’s the Brady Bowl. I’m sure the folks in Boston & Tampa are pumped, but personally I’d rather see both teams lose. That being said, I think it’s been well established by now that the “Patriot Dynasty” was more about Brady than it ever was about Belichick. The oddsmakers seem to agree since the home team is a near touchdown underdog. The Sunday Night Football folks at NBC are probably going to be disappointed because I think this one will be over rather quickly and the defending Super Bowl champs might win by 4 or 5 TDs. Zach concurs.
Credit where credit is due…Zach nailed the Cleveland/Kansas City game a week ago. He predicted that the Chiefs would start slow and the game would be close, and that’s exactly what happened. Having said that, I am also going to take an opportunity to pat my own back for picking the Chargers over Washington and New Orleans over the Packers. So at the end of the day Zach was 3-4, while I was only slightly better at 4-3. As I have stated before, we don’t put money on these picks and there is a reason for that.
My Season: 8-8
Zach’s Season: 7-9
Cincinnati (-3.5) at Indiana
Apparently Bearcats’ head coach Luke Fickell is amongst the leading candidates to get the vacant gig at USC. I am sure he would make significantly more money in that scenario, but personally I think it’d be crazy to leave a solid team on the rise that will be joining a Power 5 conference in a couple of years to enter the pressure cooker of leading a program that considers anything less than a national championship to be a disappointment. Anyway, as far as this game goes, both teams are coming off of solid seasons a year ago, but they’ve gotten off to vastly different starts this year. Cincinnati is already 2-0, while the Hoosiers are 1-1, having been obliterated in their season opener at Iowa. I think Cincy is still ascending, while Indy may have peaked last year. I don’t believe this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Oklahoma State at Boise State (-4.5)
Well, the Big 12 has sent out invitations to the conference realignment party and the Broncos aren’t on the guest list. If you understand there is much more that goes into all of that than just success on the football field then you aren’t surprised. Nevertheless, this is another opportunity for Boise to prove that they can compete on the field even if they fall short off of it. Thus far they are 1-1, with that heartbreaking loss to UCF in the season opener reverberating even here in West Virginia. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have become a forgotten team in the Big 12, but they are 2-0. I know about the blue turf & all that jazz, but I’m going with the upset in this one. With the Big 12 shuffling its lineup in a couple of years I believe the Cowboys will want to begin showing that Texas & Oklahoma won’t be missed. Conversely, Zach thinks a turnover will make the difference in a close Boise victory.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Minnesota at Arizona (-4)
Is it possible that I overvalued Minnesota while underappreciating Arizona in my NFL Preview?? A week ago the Cards had no problem taking down my predicted Super Bowl Champions, while the Vikings lost to the Bengals in overtime. It looks like Arizona is a better team than I thought they’d be, so I have to pick them in this one. Zach believes the Cardinals look like a legit Super Bowl contender and will win easily.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Arizona
Tennessee at Seattle (-5.5)
As mentioned, Tennessee was beaten soundly by Arizona a week ago, while Seattle defeated the Indianapolis Colts. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson already looks to be in mid-season form, and that home field is extremely difficult for opponents. If Tennessee can control the clock with RB Derrick Henry eating up yardage they might be able to keep it close, but Henry’s measly 58 yards in the season opener doesn’t inspire confidence. Zach sees Wilson as an early front runner for MVP and predicts a double digit win for the home team.
My Pick: Seattle
Z’s Pick: Seattle
Kansas City (-2.5) at Baltimore
Cleveland gave Kansas City a real fight last week, but does that mean the Browns are that good, or that KC just wasn’t as prepared as they should have been?? One could ask the same question about Baltimore, who lost a hell of a game on Monday night in Vegas. In my season preview I predicted that the Ravens wouldn’t be as good as most “experts” thought they’d be, and a rash of injuries to their stable of running backs has made me even more confident in that assessment. I believe the Chiefs will shake the cobwebs of last week’s slow start and be emboldened by overcoming it to get a hard fought victory. It won’t be easy on the road, but look for a comfortable KC win. Zach thinks it’ll be close but likes the road team to cover the points.
So…it took football to pull me out of the abyss. Y’all may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything here for about six months. There are reasons for that, but this isn’t the time for such a therapy session.
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to college football. I am excited about its return, and so glad there will be crowded stadiums once again this season. Watching games just wasn’t the same a year ago, and it didn’t help that one never knew how things might be affected week to week by The Sickness. The chaos this offseason though hasn’t been virus related. There is talk of expanding the playoff. That’s not surprising, but I’m not a fan of a 16 team playoff…I like the idea of 6, or 8 at most. Players are also legally able to get paid now. I don’t know all the ins & outs so I’ll tread lightly and just say it is what it is and I’m not all that enthused about it. Conference realignment is back too, as Texas & Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 in a few years and heading the SEC. More dominoes will fall, and the landscape will change dramatically in the near future.
Having said all that, I am thrilled that football and the relative normalcy of enjoying it as a fan has come back into our lives. I’m happy to do this preseason poll, the upcoming NFL Preview, and weekly picks with my nephew. And I’m damn sure blessed to have this little corner of the info superhighway.
Last Season: 10-1
Key Games: 9/24@ Syracuse, 11/6@ Ole Miss, 11/20 vs. Lousiana, 11/27 vs. Army
In just their second full season in the FBS division the Flames were 10-1, with road victories over Syracuse & Virginia Tech. Can they have similar success this year?? Maybe. They face the Orange again, then finish the regular season by traveling to Ole Miss then hosting Louisiana & Army. Liberty will need to win 10 games again to sneak into the rankings, but I think that’s doable if they split those four games.
24 West Virginia
Last Season: 6-4
Key Games: 9/18 vs. Virginia Tech, 9/25@ Oklahoma, 10/30 vs. Iowa St., 11/20 vs. Texas
Neal Brown enters his third season as the Mountaineers’ head coach, and it’s time to prove to fans that we really can “trust the climb”. As a lifelong resident of the Mountain State I’m looking for nine wins. As much as we’d love to be in the playoff conversation the truth is that most WVU fans are smart enough to not expect that on a regular basis, but winning 8 or 9 games and playing in a top tier bowl should never be out of reach. If Brown can pull off a couple of upsets and land in the rankings at the end we’ll be more inclined to give him our trust.
23 North Carolina
Last Season: 8-4
Key Games: 10/9 vs. Florida St., 10/16 vs. Miami (FL), 10/30@ Notre Dame
Most polls have the Tar Heels ranked much higher, but I’m just not buying it. I like head coach Mack Brown and I’m glad he’s re-energized his career after things fizzled out at Texas, but the ACC is sneaky tough. No one knows what to expect from Florida St. these days, but I’ll always consider that a tough game. UNC has the Hurricanes of Miami at home, which should be a great game, but I don’t believe they’ll beat the Irish in South Bend. This feels like another 8-ish win season. Not bad…but not elite.
Last Season: 6-2
Key Games: 9/11@ Iowa St., 10/9 vs. Penn St., 10/30@ Wisconsin
I’m a big fan of good old fashioned smashmouth football, and we can usually count on Big Ten teams like the Hawkeyes to have a huge offensive line that makes that even more fun. While I do not believe that Iowa is a threat to win the conference I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull off an upset or two and win 8 or 9 games.
Last Season: 5-1
Key Games: 10/9 vs. Utah, 11/6@ Arizona St., 11/27 vs. BYU
Southern Cal has been decent the past couple of years, but let’s face it…that’s not good enough for one of the premier programs in college football. Clay Helton enters his sixth season as the Trojans’ head coach, and I have to believe his seat might be getting a bit warm. The October game against Utah could make or break the season.
20 Coastal Carolina
Last Season: 11-1
Key Games: 9/10 vs. Kansas, 10/20@ Appalachian St.
A chanticleer, in case you’re curious, is a rooster. Why the powers-that-be have not booked a Coastal vs. South Carolina game is beyond me…I’ll let y’all figure out why that would be marketing nirvana. At any rate, Coastal was an overtime loss in the Cure Bowl against Liberty from going undefeated last season, and I don’t expect much of a dropoff. The Kansas Jayhawks are rarely very good in football, but a victory over a Big 12 team would be impressive for Coastal. If you’d have told me a few years ago that a Coastal Carolina/Appalachian State game would be intriguing I would not have believed it, but I have a feeling my eyes will be glued to the TV on October 20.
19 Miami (FL)
Last Season: 8-3
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Alabama, 9/18 vs. Michigan St., 10/16@ North Carolina
Much like USC the ‘Canes usually have higher goals than 8/9 wins and a Top 25 finish, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and after several lean years Miami is back to atleast being pretty good. Can they compete for an ACC title?? Ehhh…maybe, although I’d consider it a long shot. As much as I would love to see an upset of Alabama in the season opener I do not think that’ll happen, but wins over Michigan State & UNC are not out of the question.
Last Season: 9-3
Key Games: 10/16@ Wisconsin, 11/27@ Liberty
I’ve always been a big fan of the service academies’ football games for a variety of reasons, and it has been fun to watch the Black Knights’ success, as they’ve won 9+ games three out of the past four years (I’m not sure what happened in 2019). Do I think they’ll go into Madison and upset the Badgers?? No. Do I think they can go into enemy territory and beat Liberty?? Absolutely. Another nine win season should assure an appearance in the final rankings, and I believe that’s exactly what we’ll see.
17 Arizona State
Last Season: 2-2
Key Games: 9/18@ BYU, 10/16@ Utah, 11/6 vs. USC, 11/13@ Washington
I have expressed my admiration for head coach Herm Edwards in the past. How can anyone not like Herm?? This will be his fourth year at the helm in Tempe, and they had winning records in the first two before last season’s weirdness. Can they kick it up a notch to the next level?? The Pac 12 is kind of a mystery. On paper the conference looks loaded, but inevitably someone is going to have a worse season than expected. If the Sun Devils lose all four of they key games noted above then…surprise…they are that team and the joke is on me, which is entirely possible. However, I’m betting on my man Herm to not let me down.
Last Season: 5-5
Key Games: 10/2 vs. Auburn, 10/16 vs. Florida, 11/6@ Alabama, 11/27 vs. Texas A&M
Which Bayou Bengals’ team will we see this year?? Will it be the one that won 10+ games six times in ten years and captured national championships in 2017 & 2019, or the one that finished .500 last season?? Since 2020 was such a strange year on multiple levels I’ll give LSU the benefit of the doubt and assume their season was an anomaly. However, I still don’t foresee them being in the conference title hunt or the playoff discussion. They will need to atleast split the key games noted to have a chance at a solid Top 25 finish.
15 Penn State
Last Season: 4-5
Key Games: 9/4@ Wisconsin, 9/18 vs. Auburn, 10/9@ Iowa, 10/30@ Ohio St.
Not only is the Big Ten stacked, but the Nittany Lions are coming off a losing season, so this prediction makes me a bit nervous. Before last year (which I won’t really take all that seriously given the circumstances) Penn St. had won 11 games in three out of the previous four seasons (they won nine in 2018), so there’s no reason to believe they’ll fall off a cliff. I don’t think they will beat Ohio St. at The Horseshoe, but if they can defeat Auburn at home then split road games at Wisconsin & Iowa they could be looking at a solid Top 25 finish.
Last Season: 4-3
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Penn St., 9/25 vs. Notre Dame, 10/30 vs. Iowa
It’s not so much about including Wisconsin as much as the fact that I simply don’t see a way to leave them out. Other Big Ten teams will get more TV coverage and love from the talking heads, but the Badgers will still line up, ram the ball down opponents’ throats, and grind out ugly wins. That’s what they do, and at some point in late November folks will be looking at the polls and saying “Wisconsin?? Where’d they come from??”.
Last Season: 7-3
Key Games: 10/9 vs. Oklahoma, 11/6@ Iowa St.
The Longhorns still play in the Big 12 and they better enjoy it while they can because I believe they will be very average in the SEC. The winner of the Texas/Iowa St. game in early November will likely meet Oklahoma in the conference title game, although a Texas victory in the Red River Shootout could throw a monkey wrench into that scenario.
Last Season: 9-1
Key Games: 9/18@ Indiana, 10/2@ Notre Dame
I get it, but then again I don’t. A year ago the Bearcats won nine games and finished as a Top 10 team. But that season included victories over Army, SMU, Tulsa, & Central Florida being considered the most impressive. A loss to Georgia in the Peach Bowl was close, but still a loss. So armed with that information I have to believe that a similar season, including another AAC title, could land Cincy back in the same general vicinity. Indiana doesn’t appear in this poll because I think the Big Ten is just too tough and they won’t repeat the same level of success they enjoyed last season, but it’s an important game for Cincinnati. I do not believe a win over Notre Dame is possible, but if the road team can keep it respectably close they could actually gain respect.
11 Texas A&M
Last Season: 9-1
Key Games: 10/9 vs. Alabama, 11/27@ LSU
I will continue to opine that moving from the Big 12 to the SEC was an error in judgment for the Aggies, atleast from a football perspective. God knows they’re enjoying the financial windfall. However, I have also stated that I think head coach Jimbo Fisher (who graduated from the same high school as me, just a few years earlier) is building something in College Station. Will they contend for an SEC title with so many elite teams standing in their way?? I wouldn’t hold my breath for that, but I don’t think an upset or two and a 10 win season is out of reach.
10 Iowa State
Last Season: 9-3
Key Games: 9/11 vs. Iowa, 11/6 vs. Texas, 11/20@ Oklahoma
The Cyclones have been a dangerous team for awhile, and with QB Brock Purdy entering his senior season now seems like a great time to fulfill all that potential. An out of conference game against in state foe Iowa looks intriguing, especially since it’s in Ames, and I think they’ll beat Texas.
Last Season: 11-1
Key Games: 9/11 vs. Utah, 9/18 vs. Arizona St., 10/9 vs. Boise St., 10/16@ Baylor
The Cougars intrigue me. When the aforementioned conference realignment dominoes begin to fall I think BYU will end up with a new home. Pac 12?? Big 12?? Who knows?? Until then part of the fun of them being independent is the schedule, which quite literally all over the map. I am particularly fascinated by the October contest against Boise, who I chose to leave out of this poll though I’m sure they’ll be as competitive as usual. Ranking BYU this high has been a mistake before, but ignoring them has been equally as wrong. They are quite the football enigma, and I dig that.
Last Season: 8-4
Key Games: 9/18 vs. Alabama, 10/16@ LSU, 10/30 vs. Georgia
I’m sure football fans in the deep south enjoy the hell out of the SEC’s dominance, but for the rest of us it has become exhausting. That being said, when doing a poll like this one must decide which teams to include and which ones to leave out, and the fact is I cannot avoid ranking less than five deserving programs. The Gators host ‘Bama but have to go to Death Valley to face LSU. A game against Georgia comes after a bye week which could be advantageous. I expect Florida to lose two of those three games, but they should win everything else with relative ease.
Last Season: 10-2
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Georgia
Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been?? A loss to the likes of UNC or Miami in the conference title game might be enough to cost them a playoff spot. Am I brave enough to lay money down on that prospect?? Of course not. But it’s a fun scenario to ponder.
Last Season: 13-0
Key Games: 9/18@ Florida, 10/9@ Texas A&M, 11/6 vs. LSU
I know it’s wrong, but I cannot help myself. With all due respect to Nick Saban & The Tide I will once again opine that I’m simply tired of them. Their dynasty has become tedious. It is likely that this prediction is way off base, that ‘Bama will inevitably find themselves in the playoff even if they lose the SEC title game. The truth is that television (specifically ESPN) controls the college football narrative, and Alabama is good for business. But this is my poll, so indulge me in a little wish fulfillment in which the almighty defending champs stumble once or twice and finish on the outside looking in.
Last Season: 9-2
Key Games: 10/9 vs. Texas, 11/20 vs. Iowa St.
A decade from now I believe the Sooners will regret jumping from the Big 12 to the SEC, but that hasn’t occurred quite yet. For now their path to the playoff doesn’t seem all that tough outside of implicit disrespect of the Big 12, and that may bite them in the ass, especially if Notre Dame takes a playoff spot. The schedule lines up in their favor, with out of conference games they should win easily and Iowa State coming to Norman. The Red River Shootout is, as usual, a neutral site game in Dallas.
4 Notre Dame
Last Season: 10-2
Key Games: 9/25 vs. Wisconsin, 10/23 vs. USC, 10/30 vs. North Carolina
The Irish will always be in the playoff conversation as long as the team is winning games. I don’t know how conference realignment will affect them, but for now the status quo tilts in their favor. All of their key games are in South Bend, and we’ll know by the time November rolls around if they are serious championship contenders.
Last Season: 4-3
Key Games: 9/11@ Ohio St., 11/20@ Utah
The Pac 12 really messed up last year by preemptively cancelling their season then reconsidering and ultimately having an abbreviated season. I assume there are too many indoctrinated Californians at the top of the conference management food chain. Anyway, the Ducks seem to be headed in the right direction after a rough go of it in 2016 & 2017. This will be the fourth year under head coach Mario Cristobal, and I foresee good things ahead, even assuming a season opening loss in Columbus.
Last Season: 8-2
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Clemson, 10/30 vs. Florida
Can the Bulldogs upset the Crimson Tide and roll into the playoff themselves?? It won’t be easy. The SEC is stacked and that season opener against Clemson is brutal. That’s a neutral site game in Charlotte, and the winner certainly has a leg up on the competition. Having said that, I think it is entirely plausible that Georgia could lose that game, win every game afterward, defeat Alabama in the SEC title game, and still end up in the playoff.
1 Ohio State
Last Season: 7-1
Key Games: 9/11 vs. Oregon, 10/30 vs. Penn St., 11/27@ Michigan
Let me be clear…I didn’t think the Buckeyes should have been anywhere near the playoff last season. They only played six regular season games. Regardless of the circumstances I believe an eight game minimum threshold should have been in place to get into the Final Four. That did not happen, and I can’t blame them for taking full advantage. Every indication seems to point to another wildly successful campaign, as I don’t see any other Big Ten team capable of stopping them, unless Michigan shocks the world.
The old saying is that “close only counts in horseshoes & hand grenades”, and I am not a big believer in moral victories anyway. However, I must say that I came oh so close to going 4-3 last week but instead ended up 2-5. Usually I get myself in trouble when I pick with my heart instead of my head, but as it turns out picking the hated Hokies of Virginia Tech over the Cincinnati Bearcats was a bad idea. I was also very disappointed in the effort of Michigan St. RB La’veon Bell, a potential Heisman candidate who I thought would do some damage to Ohio St. but was instead held to a paltry 45 yards in a loss. And maybe it’s time to jump on board the Minnesota Vikings bandwagon. Of course as soon as I do that they’ll start to look like…well…the Minnesota Vikings. At any rate, for the season I am at 13-24, a deficit that cannot be made up in one week. In other words, I am like a football team that is down atleast two scores. But since I am more of a ground & pound guy instead of a run & shoot aficionado I’ll just hunker down, grind it out, and dig out of the hole one week at a time.
Arizona at Stanford (-9.5)
Stanford wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of the season. I just figured that they’d fade a bit after losing QB Andrew Luck and a few other pieces to the NFL. Instead they have gone 3-1, complete with a victory over media darling USC. They stumbled last week at Washington, but I will assume that was just a hangover loss after the high of defeating the Trojans in the previous game. I also looked over Arizona from the outset because it usually takes Fraudriguez a couple of years to install his offensive scheme. However, the Wildcats have looked more than decent thus far in compiling a 3-2 record. This game marks the halfway point of a murderer’s row of 6 straight ranked opponents for Arizona, and I think maybe now we’ll see what we usually see in inaugural Fraudriguez seasons. Stanford may possibly be looking ahead to a matchup at Notre Dame next week, but otherwise they hold all the cards here so I am picking them to win and cover.
I really like watching the service academies play football. Maybe it’s the fact that they aren’t the big, athletic NFL prospects that we see on so many other teams. They are legitimate student athletes who retain the essence of what amateur sports should be. Or maybe it is the knowledge that these young men truly have a higher purpose and will all go on to do something meaningful and, to varying degrees, heroic with their lives. And I suppose it has a lot to do with the old-fashioned style of football played. Navy is 1-3 and among the top 25 rushing teams in the nation. Of course they rank near the bottom in passing yards & points scored, so I guess they need to mix it up a little more. Air Force leads the nation in rushing and is near the bottom of the barrel in passing yards, but they are averaging 37 points per game. Their defense has really let them down though, so they are only 2-2. I expect to see lots of running here, and probably a high score. I’ll take the Falcons to get the victory and cover the spread.
LSU (-2.5) at Florida
I have picked two favorites thus far. Will the trend continue??
In my pre-season Top 25 I put the Bayou Bengals at #17 with the logic that they have a target on their backs and opponents will be especially psyched to take them down. That has been true so far…kind of. LSU is 5-0 and ranked 4th in the polls, but they have slipped a spot each of the past two weeks after lackluster victories over Auburn and Towson. A subpar effort won’t cut it this week though against the 10th ranked 4-0 Gators, who have been impressive in wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, & Kentucky. So this looks like a contest of two undefeated & highly ranked teams that are going in opposite directions…one on the rise, and the other on the verge of being knocked down a peg or two. The boys in Vegas apparently didn’t get that memo since they have made LSU slight favorites even though they are venturing into decidedly unfriendly territory at The Swap. I think that is the difference here. I just can’t have much faith in a team that struggles to beat Towson and is now faced with the daunting task of playing a Top 10 team in one of the most…spirited…venues in college football. Florida gets the upset.
I suppose it isn’t all that shocking that we get the pleasure of seeing two SEC teams face one other who happen to be 2 of the top 6 teams in the country. The ESPN Gameday crew will be in Columbia slobbering all over themselves and fellatiating the SEC, but as much as I hate to say it the praise has been earned. Both teams come into this game undefeated and in the hunt for a national championship, but at the end of the day one of them will pretty much out of the running. The Gamecocks are slim favorites only because of the home field advantage. I picked South Carolina #3 in my preseason rankings, while I left the Bulldogs off the board entirely. The latter may have been a mistake, and this game will decide if the former was an egregious error as well. I don’t think it was. I stand behind my choice and will go with South Carolina here.
Denver at New England (-6.5)
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. That’s enough to sell this matchup. Brady leads the rivalry 8-4, and unfortunately I think he’ll extend the lead this week. I picked both of these teams to make the playoffs and the Patriots to make The Super Bowl. At this point I am not ready to back off of either prediction, but will say that both teams have looked much more…ordinary…than I thought they would. That being said, I think right now New England is a more complete team and Manning is still knocking off some rust. It makes me physically ill to pick the Patriots, but I think they’ll win and cover.
Buffalo at San Francisco (-9.5)
Who would have thought at this stage that the 49ers would NOT be in 1st place in their division?? Though they are 3-1 they are behind the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (although as I write this it looks like the Cardinals are going to lose their game). A stunning defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings left the football world abuzz, but I think it is much ado about nothing. If anything it just means that the Vikings are a lot better than we thought, but it almost certainly doesn’t indicate that San Francisco won’t be as awesome the remainder of the season as most of us believed they would. Buffalo currently sits in a 2-2 logjam in the AFC East and needs to do anything possibly to keep pace with the aforementioned Patriots, who are undoubtedly better than their record. I think this will be a defensive struggle, and the spread makes me a little nervous. San Francisco should win, but by how much?? Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is inconsistent at best, but has occasional flashes of being an actual NFL quarterback. Will he have a good week?? Word on the street is that both of Buffalo’s banged up running backs…Fred Jackson & CJ Spiller…will be ready to go for this game, but I’m not sure how much that’ll help against San Francisco’s stout run defense. I guess it can’t hurt, right?? But I really think it comes down to the play of Fitzpatrick. My vibes are telling me that Buffalo will study the SF/Minnesota game film and figure out a way to atleast keep this close, so I am picking the Bills.
San Diego at New Orleans (-4)
Anyone who read my NFL Preview might recall that I said “I do not believe that a team can go through the turmoil that the Saints have experienced this offseason and not be affected.” That might be the wisest prognostication I’ve made all season. But not even I thought they’d start the year 0-4. Will they drop to 0-5?? I also predicted that the Chargers would go 6-10 and said that “the party is over in San Diego and head coach Norv Turner will soon be enjoying an early retirement”. That hasn’t been so accurate thus far, as the Chargers are 3-1 and in 1st place. Are these trends solid or just a mirage?? I’ll go with the latter. I don’t think New Orleans is THIS bad, nor do I believe San Diego is that good. I think the Saints win & cover here, and I still think they can make it to the playoffs.