2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 1

Football season really snuck up on me!! There were actually a few college games last weekend, but I didn’t realize it until the night before. I suppose I’m a little out of practice since we took a break from these picks a year ago. Thankfully those games, which ESPN called Week Zero (seriously), weren’t anything…notable. But this week?? Folks, we have interesting matchups from Thursday to Sunday, which is great since our local Italian Heritage Festival…a northcentral WV tradition for over four decades…has been cancelled for the second straight year due to The Sickness and I suddenly find myself with no weekend plans other than watching football. A big shoutout to my nephew Zach who will once again be doing picks with me this season. Two years ago he ended the season with a .500 record of 52-52, while I was 61-43. Zach has already called his shot and predicted that he’ll best me this season. We’ll see.

Boise State at Central Florida (-5)

Neither team is really in the “Group of 5” spotlight anymore, and both are probably praying they’ll get invited to “move up” in the upcoming conference realignment chaos. The Broncos finished 5-2, skipped out on bowl season, and their head coach bolted for Auburn. New head coach Andy Avalos was a longtime Boise St. assistant before spending last season as the defensive coordinator at Oregon. After three straight 10+ win seasons (including going undefeated in 2017) UCF fell to 6-4 a year ago, including a bowl loss to BYU. UCF gets the home field bump in this Thursday night game, but I think Boise comes into town and steals a win for their new coach. Zach concurs, predicting a high scoring affair in which the Broncos’ ground game makes the difference.

My Pick: Boise St.

Z’s Pick: Boise St.

Ohio State (-13.5) at Minnesota

I have defending CFP runner-up Ohio St. as my preseason #1, while Zach despises them with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. The Gophers had won bowl games in 4 out of the previous 5 seasons before last year’s pedestrian 3-4 campaign. I’m not holding anything bad that happened a season ago against anyone, so there is reason to believe that they could be a winning team once again…but Minnesota isn’t beating the Buckeyes. The points make me a bit nervous, but I think the favorites roll big & cover easily. This is also a Thursday night game. Zach doesn’t think Ohio St. will have any issues replacing departed QB Justin Fields, and they may even get into the playoff again…but will choke once they arrive. As far as this game, he calls the Gophers scrappy and believes they could stay close for atleast a half, but at the end of the day the favorites will win.

My Pick: Ohio St.

Z’s Pick: Ohio St.

North Carolina (-5.5) at Virginia Tech

The Tar Heels are a Top 10 team according to some polls, but not mine. I think they’ll have a nice season, but they aren’t winning the ACC. The Hokies haven’t had a 10 win season since 2016, and a year ago they finished 5-6. How’s that move to the ACC working out for them?? I know Tech has the home field, and strange things happen at Lane Stadium after dark, but I foresee a blowout for the favorites on Friday night. Like myself, Zach has doubts about Carolina’s playoff worthiness, but thinks they’ll be pretty good. He believes this will be a closer game than I do, but still predicts the Heels will cover.

My Pick: UNC

Z’s Pick: UNC

Stanford at Kansas State (-2.5)

The Wildcats have been getting some pre-season love and should be in the top half of the Big 12 after finishing 4-6 a year ago. Meanwhile, Stanford feels like a forgotten team in the Pac 12, which seems unfair. Putting aside last year’s 4-8 finish, Stanford had won 9+ games eight of the previous nine seasons. Kansas St. has the home field, but I think it’ll be a comfortable win for the visitors. Zach recalls that Kansas St. oftentimes begins the season strong before fading away, but thinks Stanford’s size & strength will make the difference.

My Pick: Stanford

Z’s Pick: Stanford

Penn State at Wisconsin (-5.5)

This might end up being one of the best games of the (real) opening weekend. After winning 11 games in three of the previous four seasons the Nittany Lions were a pedestrian 4-5 in 2020, but I’m not concerned at all. The Badgers had won 10+ games in five of the previous six seasons until last year when they were 4-3. Both teams will be looking to put a forgettable season behind them, and I look for both to be successful in that endeavor. The loser here is behind the proverbial 8-Ball right out of the gate though, and I think that’ll be Penn St. Look for Wisconsin to run the ball a lot and their offensive line to wear out the opposing defense before surging to victory in the 4th quarter. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Wisconsin

Z’s Pick: Wisconsin

Fresno State at Oregon (-21)

The Ducks are my pre-season #3, and if they’re going to get the playoff committee’s attention a dominant victory in the season opener would be a good start. Fresno seems to have a solid team more often than not, but they’re not winning this game. Can Oregon cover the points?? I think so. Conversely, Zach foresees first game jitters for Oregon being just enough to allow Fresno to keep things closer than three TDs.

My Pick: Oregon

Z’s Pick: Fresno St.

Alabama (-18.5) vs. Miami (FL)

There was a time when this would have been the top matchup of the week. Unfortunately ‘Bama has simply gotten too good (and boring), while the ‘Canes aren’t the powerhouse they once were. Still though, given the storied history of both programs, if we close our eyes and use our imagination we might be able to fool ourselves into believing this is a game awash in nostalgia & greatness. The truth?? As decent as Miami has been lately they’ve only gotten to nine wins three times in the past decade and The Tide will roll in Atlanta. Can they cover the points?? Sure. I think Alabama wins by three TDs. Zach is a big Nick Saban fan and thinks the favorites pull away in the second half for a comfortable win.

My Pick: Alabama

Z’s Pick: Alabama

Georgia vs Clemson (-4)

This is the best game of the weekend. Both teams have legit playoff hopes. The Dawgs face a formidable schedule and will need to beat Alabama in the SEC title game. Conversely, this is the toughest game of the season for Clemson until they get to the ACC Championship. It won’t be easy, but I believe Georgia waltzes into Charlotte, NC and steals a late victory via turnover or some kind of special teams wackiness. Zach also thinks it will be close, but foresees Clemson winning by a touchdown in the last three minutes of game.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Clemson

Notre Dame (-7) at Florida State

Since the NFL doesn’t begin their season until next week this is a Sunday night game, which is cool. Can the Seminoles regain some semblance of their former glory after being a dumpster fire the past few years?? I’m not sure whether or not that’ll happen, but if so it won’t be in this game. The Irish have their eyes on another 10+ win season, something they have accomplished five out of the past eight years, including a playoff appearance a year ago. I predict more of the same in 2021, including an easy win in this one. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Notre Dame

Z’s Pick: Notre Dame

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 1

My nephew & I first began doing these picks in 2013. I flew solo in 2012, but we’ll set that aside. In five years Zach has amassed a record of 198-263 (a 43% winning percentage), while I have gone 239-210 (53%). We utilize a point spread from the oddsmakers for each game just to make things a little more interesting but do not encourage gambling, even though that kind of thing is apparently legal now. As usual college football begins before the NFL, and because of the way the College Football Playoff does its rankings more teams are beginning their year with a competitive challenge rather than beating up on inferior opposition. I have all of these teams in my pre-season rankings, and I’m excited to see if my pre-conceived notions were accurate.

 

 

 

 

 

Washington       vs.    Auburn (-2.5)

This is a neutral site game being played in Atlanta, which means that it will be a pro Auburn crowd. Both teams have been receiving some pre-season love, with most polls ranking both in the Top Ten. A season ago both won ten games, with the Tigers upsetting Alabama in The Iron Bowl (which should’ve meant the end of ‘Bama’s season) before falling to Georgia in the SEC title game, and the Huskies falling short of a conference championship game appearance because of a mid-season loss to Stanford. Auburn has Heisman hopeful Jarrett Stidham under center, as well as a defensive line that a lot of folks are talking about. Washington brings back QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, and nine starters on defense. It is a squad replete with experienced senior leadership. The Vibes have me high on Washington, to the point that I believe they’ll be in the playoff. A victory for them in this game might be considered an upset by some, but I fully expect it. Zach thinks it’ll be close but believes Washington is the better team.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

 

Florida Atlantic           at      Oklahoma (-21)

While I don’t expect the Sooners to be in the playoff discussion in December neither do I expect Lane Kiffin’s Owls to walk into Norman and pull off a stunning upset. However, this could be a win/win situation for both teams. New Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray can settle into his role & the team can work out any kinks against a decent opponent before the real fun begins. FAU has the comfort of knowing that this is the toughest test they’ll face all season and no one is expecting much. I’m not a proponent of moral victories, but that’s about the best that FAU can hope for in this game. So it all comes down the points. By how much will Oklahoma win?? A year ago they dispatched early season non-conference opponents by 40+ points, but I think FAU is better than UTEP & Tulane. How much better?? Probably enough to stay within 25-30 points. Zach is not only picking FAU to cover the points…he thinks they’ll win the game. He’s either a freakin’ genius or needs medical attention.

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Z’s Pick:     FAU

 

 

Michigan           at      Notre Dame (even)

Is the first week of the season too early for a Must Win game?? Probably. And that perspective might be a tad dramatic. Yet it is difficult to deny that some folks are beginning to question Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach in Ann Arbor. The Big Ten is really competitive, and the Wolverines are likely to be underdogs in a few conference battles, making this game seem much more significant than it probably should be. QB Shea Patterson transferred from Ole Miss in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the program which ultimately cost the head coach his job. Patterson was granted a waiver by the NCAA so he does not have to sit out a year and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Since he is the most talented quarterback to wear the Maize & Blue in atleast a decade he easily won the starting job, and expectations are high. Notre Dame went into last season with head coach Brian Kelly on the hot seat after a 4-8 finish in 2016. They rebounded nicely with a ten win season, although that schedule pales in comparison to what they face this year. Senior QB Brandon Wimbush will lead the Irish, but he might be on a short leash. It doesn’t help that his offensive line lost two Top Ten NFL draft picks. My gut feeling is that Notre Dame will have to rely heavily on defense for a few games until the offense finds its mojo, and that might work okay against Michigan. It’ll be a close one, but I think the home field actually could make a meaningful difference. Zach is a huge Michigan fan and is therefore really excited about this game. He believes Notre Dame is overrated and Michigan’s defense will be the difference.

My Pick:     Notre Dame

Z’s Pick:     Michigan

 

 

Miami (FL) (-3.5)              vs.        LSU

The Hurricanes felt like they were on the verge of being back last year…almost. The ACC won’t be a cakewalk, and beginning the season against the Bayou Bengals is a tough test. This is a Sunday evening contest being played at The Palace in Dallas, which probably means a pro-LSU crowd. The Tigers were a solid nine win team a season ago, and if they want to match that they’re probably going to have to make hay before a brutal mid-season stretch when 0-4 is a real possibility. Those of us “of a certain age” remember when Miami was a really annoying & dominant powerhouse, but they’ve lost 3 or more games each season since 2003, and while ten win seasons are great it doesn’t make a team elite, which is what I expect again this year from the ‘Canes. LSU is probably going to get rocked a few times in October & November, but I like their chances in this game. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to win easily.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     Miami (FL)

 

 

Virginia Tech     at      Florida St. (-7.5)

Clemson and Miami are getting all the pre-season ACC buzz, but don’t overlook these two teams. Everyone always forgets about Virginia Tech until all the sudden a highly ranked team ventures into Blacksburg and gets a punt blocked or loses on a Pick Six late in the fourth quarter. I don’t expect the Seminoles to win their division and make it to the ACC title game, but I believe that last season’s 7-6 fiasco was an anomaly. New coach Willie Taggart has a talented trio of quarterbacks, including former starter Deondre Francois, who suffered a knee injury in the season opener a year ago but has returned to reclaim his job, and workhorse RB Cam Akers to lead the offense. The defense is young and a complete wildcard, which could be an early season issue. Tech lost five players from last year’s 9-4 team to the NFL, so expectations are being tempered, although a friendly schedule could help. I’ll probably be predicting a pretty big upset for the ‘Noles in a couple of months that will pretty much make their entire season, but for now…despite playing in hostile territory…I think the Hokies will get the job done. Zach likes Florida State to snag the victory…but he thinks it’ll be by less than a touchdown.

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia Tech

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.

Save

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 9

pfootIt wasn’t my intention to do bonus picks again so soon, but both the college & NFL schedules are chockful of intriguing matchups and I just can’t resist. Last week was a rough one for yours truly, as I could only muster a record of 1-4, while Zach fared a little better at 2-3. Obviously neither of us have a bright future in the prognostication arts, but we’ll have fun trying.

My Season:        22-24

Z’s Season:        16-31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California                     at                USC (-15.5)

The Bears come into this game 4-3, but it must be noted that two of those losses were by 5 points or less, and they’ve split the last two games in overtime. Meanwhile,cal the Trojans have an identical 4-3 record but are riding a three game winning streak. This is a Thursday night contest, and while it is a home game for Southern Cal the 2 TD+ spread seems a bit much. I think it’ll be closer and Zach agrees.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Michigan (-24)             at                Michigan St.

A year ago the Spartans escaped with a thrilling last second victory after a touchdown on a fumbled punt. But that team was undefeated and would go on to play in the national Michigan_State_Spartansplayoff semifinal. In 2016 the tables have been turned. The Wolverines are undefeated and ranked #2 in the country while State has lost five straight to stand at 2-5. I am not quite sure what has happened in East Lansing outside of the normal ebb & flow of players graduating & new ones stepping up take those spots, but obviously things have taken a bad turn. Conversely, Jim Harbaugh has coached his alma mater back to relevancy much quicker than I anticipated, although few are really shocked that they have been successful. I’d be surprised if the favorites lost, but I’d be almost as surprised if Sparty didn’t show some pride in defending their home field. Zach is a big Michigan fan but he agrees.

My Pick:     Michigan St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Baylor (-3)          at                Texas

I thought that it’d be Baylor having a rough year given their…eventful…offseason, while Texas would show some life with Charlie Strong’s job on the line. However the bayloropposite has happened thus far. The Bears are 6-0 and have barely been tested. The Longhorns are 3-4 and probably already have a list of candidates to replace Strong. I’d LOVE to pick the upset…but I just can’t pull the trigger, even with the game being played in Austin. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Baylor

 

 

Washington (-10)       at                Utah

utah2The Huskies are a very quiet 7-0, ranked 4th in the polls, & look like a solid playoff team unless they stumble down the stretch. Could that washington2misstep come against the 7-1 Utes in Salt Lake City?? I think it is possible. At the very least I am uncomfortable with a double digit point spread.  Zach has no issues with the spread. He thinks it’ll be close for three quarters but Washington will take over in the end.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Nebraska           at                Wisconsin (-8.5)

nebraskaThis is the prime time game on ESPN Saturday night. The Huskers have rather quietly amassed a perfect 7-0 record, while the Badgers have lost WisconsinBadgerstwice…to Michigan & Ohio St….nothing to be ashamed about. Wisconsin gets the home field bump, which is understandable. But are the points too much?? I think they might be. Zach thinks Nebraska is overrated and he likes Wisconsin’s defense.

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

Clemson (-4.5)            at                Florida St.

Florida_State_SeminolesBefore the season began this game looked like it could decide a playoff spot. Unfortunately the Seminoles have dropped a couple of games and clemsonare unlikely to re-enter the playoff conversation. However the Tigers, despite a few close shaves, remain undefeated and very much in the playoff hunt. As much as I’d love to stick with my pre-season choice and pick Clemson The Vibes are reminding me that this game is in Tallahassee, that Florida St. is still a very good team, & that Clemson has been on the cusp of losing a couple of times and their luck can’t run on forever. Zach believes the Seminoles will put up a good fight but Clemson will be too much in the 4th quarter.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Kansas City (-2.5)      at                Indianapolis

The Chiefs were one of my pre-season Super Bowl picks, but thus far they are an underwhelming 4-2 and trailing both the Raiders & Broncos in the AFC West. The kc-chiefs-logoColts aren’t much better. At 3-4 they still have a chance to win their division as I predicted only because the Texans aren’t very good. It is interesting that Indy is a home underdog. If the folks in Vegas aren’t going to respect them why should I?? Zach likes the Chiefs to outcoach the opponent and snag a victory.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

 

Oakland             at                Tampa Bay (-1.5)

The Raiders have been fairly impressive in what seems to be the culmination of a decade long rebuild, leading their division at 5-2. The Bucs have been…alright. They raidersare 3-3 and occasionally show flashes of…something. Whatever it is they aren’t there yet and Oakland is ahead of their progress by a country mile. Zach notes that Tampa has suffered some key injuries and thinks the Raiders will be a playoff team.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

Arizona               at                Carolina (-2.5)

Many pundits thought the Cards were a Super Bowl favorite this season, but so far they’ve looked rather mediocre. The Panthers have been even worse, following in the footsteps of other Super Bowl losers of the past by stinking up the joint the following year. I have no idea what the problem is, but it is irrefutable that a problem exists.nflarizonacardinals Carolina is probably already out of playoff contention, but Arizona can still recover and win their division. This looks like a tossup on paper, but I’m gonna go with the visiting underdogs. Zach agrees. He likes the Cardinals’ defense to lead them to victory.

My Pick:     Arizona

Z’s Pick:     Arizona

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

football_goalFirst things first. Last week both Zach and I went 2-3. We would’ve done better if the Bengals would’ve score another couple of points or if Texas Tech had played anything resembling defense. At any rate we move on. The college schedule is a little more appetizing this week, and atleast we now have some evidence on which to base NFL picks, so I am hoping we improve our accuracy from now on.

My Season:     6-6

Z’s Season:     4-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida St. (-2.5)           at      Louisville
Florida_State_SeminolesThe Seminoles are 2-0 but haven’t really been tested yet. The Cardinals are also 2-0 but haven’t played anyone. This is a matchup of Louisville-Cardinalstwo Top 10 teams and Louisville has the home field, but I think they are probably overrated. I don’t believe Florida St. will have any problems winning easily. Conversely, Zach really likes Louisville’s big play QB and thinks he’ll get the job done in a shootout.

My Pick:     Florida State

Z’s Pick:     Louisville

 

 

Michigan St.                at      Notre Dame (-7.5)

A year ago this was a marquee matchup, and while it is still interesting I don’t think anyone will deny that neither team is as good as they were in Michigan_State_Spartans2015. The Spartans have only played one game, beating Furman by just two TDs. The Irish are 1-1 and have the home field. Despite that fact I’m going to pick the upset. I think it’ll be a tight game decided in the final five minutes. Zach agrees that Michigan St. will win, although he believes they’ll put a 17 point beatdown on Notre Dame. I’d be okay with that.

My Pick:     Michigan State

Z’s Pick:     Michigan State

 

 

Ohio St.     (-2)             at      Oklahoma

Ohio_State_BuckeyesThe Sooners are still slapping themselves upside the head trying to figure out what went wrong in the season opening loss to oklahomaHouston. They rebounded by beating up a speck of dust last week but that means nothing. Meanwhile, after losing half their team to the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes look like they haven’t missed a beat, although they haven’t played an opponent worthy of their best effort yet. That all changes this week. If it were just about any other team I might pick the upset, but I don’t believe Urban Meyer will allow Ohio St. to let their foot off the gas. As a matter of fact they might actually play better against good competition. Zach has an irrational animosity toward Ohio St. that clouds his judgment.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

Seattle                at                LA Rams

I can’t find odds for this game, but does it really matter?? The Seahawks can, should, & will win easily. Zach concurs.seattle-seahawks1

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Seattle

 

 

Green Bay (-2.5)                   at      Minnesota

Both teams are off to a 1-0 start, with the Vikings having defeated the Titans on the road and the Packers squeaking by the Jags, also on the road. This Green_Bay_Packers_Helmetis the Sunday night game on NBC and will be the inaugural game played in Minnesota’s fancy new stadium. I had pretty much given up on the Vikes after QB Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season to a knee injury, but their defense bailed them out in the season opener. It’s just a matter of time before newly acquired Sam Bradford replaces journeyman Shaun Hill behind center, but I’m not sure that is all that much of a confidence booster. As much as I’d love to see Minnesota christen their new digs with a victory I’d be shocked if it actually happened. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

2016 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

cfoot1It’s time!! Glorious football is back!! A bunch of stuffed shirts & bean counters have done their darndest the past several years to ruin the game…conference realignment, draconian rules in the name of “safety”, a long awaited playoff system that is flawed and makes the stark contrast between the haves & have nots even more apparent. Nevertheless, for the next few months weekends will be even sweeter as fans will have several hours of couch potato worthy entertainment available at their fingertips. One positive change that has emerged in the wake of the four team playoff is a focus on strength of schedule, meaning that there are more competitive games in the first few weeks of the season than ever before. Oh sure there are still cupcake games, but their value is so diminished under the playoff system that coaches & athletic directors have been forced to up the ante just a bit. In Week 1 alone I am seeing over a dozen matchups that probably wouldn’t have been on the schedule just a few years ago. And you know who the winners are?? That’s right…you & me…the fans. As far as my methodology in putting together these rankings…well, I really can’t say I have much of a method. I do know a few things. I know that everyone can’t finish undefeated. I know that “power” conference teams cannibalize each other, with big wins sometimes cancelling out big losses…and vice versa. Teams from “lesser” conferences certainly aren’t going to make it to the playoff, and just one or two losses can significantly impact their ranking. I don’t do a ton of research for this because it’s supposed to be fun not work, but I do try to pay attention to things like coaching changes, substantial personnel losses from players moving on to the NFL or simply graduating, and any other turmoil that may have affected a program in the offseason. It is difficult for more than a few teams from a single conference…even the big boys…to end up ranked, so one basically cfoot2must develop a hierarchy. Which teams will be in the hunt for the conference crown and possibly a playoff spot?? Which ones will be good, but lose a couple of games and end up in the lower tier of the poll?? Which teams…despite their talent and vast praise from the talking heads…will finish on the outside looking in?? I’m not an expert so for me it’s just a guessing game based on my vibes & minimal data, but that’s okay. I’d still put my “expertise” up against many members of the sports media who don’t know half as much as they’d like us to believe they do. At any rate, let’s dive in.

 

 

 

 

 

1       Clemson

Last Season:      14-1

Key Games:       9/3 at Auburn, 10/1 vs. Louisville, 10/29 at Florida St.

The Tigers fell just short of winning the national championship last season, but they return QB DeShaun Watson, who looks like the second coming ofclemson Cam Newton. That’s good enough for me to put them in this spot, although they’ll need to overcome a hostile crowd in Tallahassee right before Halloween and take down the Seminoles.

 

 

2       Oklahoma

Last Season:      11-2

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Houston, 9/17 vs. Ohio St., 10/8 vs. Texas, 12/3 vs. Oklahoma St.

I’m predicting that the Big 12 (which has 10 teams) will be a little down this season, leaving the Sooners as the clear favorites. They have tough oklahomanon-conference games against Houston and Ohio State, but both are in the friendly environment of Norman, OK. QB Baker Mayfield & RB Samaje Perine return, and both could be in the Heisman discussion.

 

 

3       Alabama

Last Season:      14-1

Key Games:       9/3 vs. USC, 10/15 at Tennessee, 11/5 at LSU, 11/26 vs. Auburn

Putting The Tide at #1 would be too easy & predictable and that’s not how I roll. The SEC is just too darn tough…I’d AlabamaCrimsonTide2be shocked if anyone came thru it unscathed. The season opener against Southern Cal is a neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas and it won’t be easy. Then ‘Bama has to travel to Knoxville & Baton Rouge. It would surprise me less if this team actually lost 3 or 4 games than it would if they’d go undefeated.

 

 

4       Ohio State

Last Season:      12-1

Key Games:       9/17 at Oklahoma, 11/5 vs. Nebraska, 11/19 at Michigan St., 11/26 vs. Michigan

Remember last year when the Buckeyes had three legit QBs and no one knew how playing time would be distributed?? It’s a way different story this Ohio_State_Buckeyesseason, as both Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller (who switched to WR) are plying their trade in the NFL. That means it’s JT Barrett’s show, and that’s a good thing. Now the question becomes how to replace RB Ezekiel Elliott & defensive standout Joey Bosa. It’s also worth noting that the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) looks like it could be even stronger than usual. I might be ranking this team a little too high given all the obstacles they face, but until someone knocks them off the pedestal I have to give them benefit of the doubt. The opener at Oklahoma will be super tough, but even if Ohio St. loses that game they could still win 10 games and end up in this spot.

 

 

5       LSU

Last Season:      9-3

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Wisconsin, 10/8 at Florida, 11/5 vs. Alabama

We’ve been waiting a few years for the Bayou Bengals to climb back into legit national title contention, and many seem to believe this is the season. lsu_logo-9547RB Leonard Fournette will be in the thick of the Heisman debate. A 31 yard effort against Alabama killed the young man’s momentum last year so it’ll be really interesting to watch that early November contest to see if he can do better.

 

 

6       Florida State

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/5 at Ole Miss, 10/8 at Miami FL, 10/29 vs. Clemson, 11/26 vs. Florida

The Seminoles have enjoyed a relatively smooth ride thru the ACC over the years, winning 15 conference Florida_State_Seminolestitles since 1992. However, I think things might be a little tougher than usual this season. Clemson visits Tallahassee, so that helps. That game could very well decide not only the conference but also a spot in the national title playoff. I also expect the early October tilt at Miami to be more like it was back in the old days when both teams were elite.

 

 

7       Tennessee

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/24 vs. Florida, 10/1 at Georgia, 10/15 vs. Alabama

Could this finally be the year that the Volunteers return to national prominence and actually contend for the SEC title?? A lot of people seem to think 10015tenn_vols_w_helmetso. They haven’t won 10 games in a season since 2007 and are on their 3rd head coach since Phillip Fulmer’s departure after the 2008 season. However I think Butch Jones is finally the one. They’ve improved every year under his guidance and if that upward trend continues the Vols might get to 10 wins this year. They host Alabama in Knoxville which is advantageous.

 

 

8       Houston

Last Season:      13-1

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Oklahoma, 11/25 at Memphis

Everyone fawns over the “power” conference darlings, but there are five “other” conferences and someone’s got to win them, right?? The Cougars houstoneasily won the American Athletic Conference last season and upset Florida St. in the Peach Bowl. They finished in this very spot in the final poll despite an inexplicable loss at Connecticut. I don’t believe they’ll beat Oklahoma in the season opener, but if they can atleast keep that game respectable then run the table they will have the opportunity for another big post-season victory and a Top 10 finish.

 

 

9       Iowa

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/1 vs. Northwestern, 10/22 vs. Wisconsin, 11/12 vs. Michigan, 11/25 vs. Nebraska

Two Big Ten teams finishing in the Top 10 wouldn’t surprise anyone…but which two teams do you prefer?? The Hawkeyes got off to a hot start last iowaseason before ending the year with two losses…a close call against Michigan St. and a beatdown by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The toughest games on the schedule all happen to be at home this year, so that’s positive. Being overlooked is nothing new for Iowa, but objectively speaking I think another 10 win season is easily within their grasp.

 

 

10     Temple

Last Season:      10-4

Key Games:       9/17 at Penn St., 10/6 at Memphis, 10/29 vs. Cincinnati

I suppose I’m hedging my bets a bit with two AAC teams in the Top 10. That probably won’t happen. Back in the day when my WV Mountaineers templeplayed the Owls annually they were pretty much the doormats of the now defunct Big East and their home games were usually poorly attended snoozefests. But last year something clicked. They beat Penn St. in the opener, lost a close one to Notre Dame, & made it to the conference title game. The Irish aren’t on the schedule this season, so it isn’t unreasonable to think that they could be even more successful, and if they find a way to go into Happy Valley and take down the Nittany Lions again that’d be the cherry on top. Could an AAC title game rematch against Houston actually be a highly anticipated, eminently entertaining contest?? Whoa…that’s crazy talk!!

 

 

11     Michigan

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       10/1 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 at Michigan St., 11/12 at Iowa, 11/26 at Ohio St.

Let’s pump the brakes a bit on the Wolverines, okay?? I just finished reading a rather interesting book called End Zone, about the slow implosion of michthe Michigan athletic department & football team over the past several years. Of course all of those issues seemed to fade away into the ether the minute Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach last season, and now all the talking heads are throwing Michigan out there as a potential playoff contender. Upon his hiring I did say that Harbaugh would have this team in national title contention within three years, and one thing I Iearned from the aforementioned book is that former coach Brady Hoke, while probably not ready for prime time as far as game management goes, was well liked, highly respected, & a good recruiter. Harbaugh took the talent that was already there last season and won ten games, up from five victories in 2014. An impressive turnaround indeed. However I am just not ready to put them in the playoff hunt quite yet. They have to go on the road for their three biggest games, and I think they could lose atleast two of them. Jim Harbaugh will get Michigan into the playoff eventually…but not yet.

 

 

12     Boise State

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       10/20 vs. BYU, 11/25 at Air Force

The Broncos did their usual last season…9 wins, an impressive bowl victory…except that they didn’t compete for the conference championship. I thinkboise-state1 they can do better this year. Non-conference games against BYU, Washington St., & Oregon St. are important but not vital. They’ll be out for revenge against Air Force, with the winner of that game likely making it to the Mountain West title game. That’s the goal for Boise, and I think meeting those expectations combined with the attrition of various powerhouses beating each other up might propel the Broncos solidly into the Top 20.

 

 

13     Utah

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/23 vs. USC, 10/8 vs. Arizona, 11/19 vs. Oregon

The Pac 12 really should end up having a team ranked much higher than this, but it’s a tough conference and I think it’s possible that they all utahcannibalize each other into 9-3 records requiring tiebreakers to see who ends up in the title game. The Utes have their biggest games at home so I’m giving them a slight advantage.

 

 

14     Notre Dame

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/4 at Texas, 9/17 at Michigan St., 10/15 at Stanford, 11/26 at USC

Looking at the schedule I am not at all sure that the Irish will win enough games to climb this high. It’s going to be really tough. Is Texas back to being NotreDame1Texas?? Can Michigan St. find a new QB?? Is Stanford being overrated by the talking heads or underrated by me?? Is Southern Cal ready to take back the spotlight?? The answers to all of these questions affect Notre Dame. I’d be shocked if they’re anywhere near the playoff conversation, yet they always seem to find a way to be competitive and win big games. And they ended the Michigan rivalry (for now) just in the nick of time.

 

 

15     Oklahoma State

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       11/24 at Baylor, 10/1 vs. Texas, 12/3 at Oklahoma

While I think Oklahoma is the clear favorite in the Big 12 (which has ten teams) I am picking their in-state rivals from Stillwater to be a respectable oklahoma_state_cowboys_iphone_wallpaperrunner-up. Texas may or may not be up to par quite yet, and unlike many “experts” I believe too much has transpired at Baylor in the off season for them to be serious contenders. That leaves the Cowboys, who could conceivably come into that first weekend in December undefeated to face the also undefeated Sooners. That really would be Bedlam.

 

 

16     Northern Illinois

Last Season:      8-6

Key Games:       11/9 vs. Toledo

Much like the AAC the MAC gets overlooked in the substantial shadow of the “power” conferences. MAC games get huskiesrelegated to Tuesday or Wednesday nights on ESPN, but that’s just fine with me. I rather enjoy the brand of football their teams play. The Huskies won the conference title in 2014 but fell off just a bit last season, losing their last three games, including a shellacking by Boise St. in the Poinsettia Bowl. I’m venturing out on a limb and predicting that they’ll get back to 10 wins, a feat they achieved five straight seasons before last year.

 

 

17     BYU

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Arizona, 9/10 vs. Utah, 9/17 vs. UCLA, 10/8 at Michigan St.

The Cougars used to be a mainstay in this pre-season poll, but they kept disappointing me so I left them off the last couple of years. I’m like my father BYU_Cougarsthough…I can’t stay mad at anyone for long. The great & awful thing about BYU being independent is that they have freedom in scheduling. Freedom is cool, but also a little daunting when the powers-that-be fill the calendar with tough games against top flight opponents. They could start the season 3-0…or 0-3. Most likely it’ll be somewhere in the middle. But things don’t get much easier from there, with October games against Michigan St. & Boise St. If I had money on it or a weapon being held in my face I’d say 7-5 would be a solid record for such a difficult schedule. However since I’m just having some fun I’m going to hope for a couple of upsets. 9 wins against this imposing lineup of opponents would be quite impressive.

 

 

18     Louisiana Tech

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 at Arkansas, 9/17 at Texas Tech, 10/6 vs. Western Kentucky

Someone’s going to win C-USA. My heart belongs to the ol’ alma mater…my Marshall Thundering Herd. Nothing would make me happier than to see louisianatechthem end up in this spot, but I’m trying to be objective or something. I don’t know. The season opener against SEC foe Arkansas is a bit daunting, but an upset wouldn’t be shocking. Can the Bulldogs run the table after that even if they don’t get the win in that first game?? It’s possible. I feel like a lot of talking heads and opposing coaches might overlook this team due to RB Kenneth Dixon moving on to the NFL. That might be perfectly valid…or a huge mistake.

 

 

19     USC

Last Season:      8-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Alabama, 9/23 at Utah, 11/19 at UCLA, 11/26 vs. Notre Dame

The Trojans have only won 27 games the past three seasons. That would be great for most teams, but this is not most teams. Finishing outside the USC_Trojans2national title conversation and playing in a December bowl game is not good enough for the folks in Southern California. Head coach Clay Helton was given the job last year after the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian, and one must assume that he has a very short leash. Finishing with 8 or 9 wins against a challenging schedule would go a long way toward some job security.

 

 

20     Michigan State

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       9/17 at Notre Dame, 9/24 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 vs. Michigan, 11/19 vs. Ohio St.

The Spartans looked great last season, with only a controversial loss in the waning seconds against Nebraska as a blemish. But then they ran into a michstbuzzsaw in the playoff semifinal, getting rolled by the Tide. Because they have to replace QB Connor Cook and O-Lineman Jack Conklin I foresee just a little dropoff. Not much. They’ll still be a good team…just not winning a conference title or in the playoff conversation.

 

 

21     Texas

Last Season:      5-7

Key Games:       9/4 vs. Notre Dame, 10/1 at Oklahoma St., 10/8 vs Oklahoma, 10/29 vs. Baylor

This is it. In Charlie Strong’s first two seasons as head coach he has an 11-14 record. I think this is a make or break year for him. Either he wins 8+ texasgames or he’s unemployed. The pre-Halloween game against Baylor might be a critical contest. If the Longhorns can’t beat the Bears in Austin after everything that has occurred in Waco the past several months then perhaps Strong deserves to be shown the door.

 

 

22     Arizona

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. BYU, 10/1 at UCLA, 10/8 at Utah

Did I mention that the Pac 12 is a really competitive conference?? I’m kind of sad actually, because my current job entails me leaving for work at about ArizonaWildcats10pm on Saturday nights, which means I will miss out on the pleasure of staying up til 1am watching those last few west coast games that are oftentimes a lot of fun. Ah well…c’est la vie. Anyway, the Wildcats fell off last season after winning 10 games in 2014. Can they get back on track?? Both RB Nick Wilson (725 yards rushing, 8 TDs) and QB Anu Solomon (2600+ yards passing, 20 TDs) return, although the defense must replace linebacker Scooby Wright who has moved on to the NFL. I think improving to 8 or 9 wins in a tough Pac 12 will be good enough to sneak into the rankings.

 

 

23     Miami, FL

Last Season:      8-5

Key Games:       10/8 vs. Florida St., 10/29 at Notre Dame

After being one of the elite teams of the 1980’s & 90’s the Hurricanes have endured some struggles the past decade, not winning 10 games since 2003.miamiu2 But there’s a new sheriff in town. Head coach Mark Richt won 74% of his games in 15 seasons at Georgia, and now he returns to his alma mater to help them achieve the success that eluded the past 2 or 3 coaches. Miami has shown flashes of their former glory the past few years but couldn’t quite get over the hump. I don’t expect them to compete for a conference title, especially with Clemson & Florida St. standing in the way, but 8 or 9 wins doesn’t seem like an unreasonable goal.

 

 

24     Nebraska

Last Season:      6-7

Key Games:       9/17 vs. Oregon, 10/29 at Wisconsin, 11/5 at Ohio St., 11/25 at Iowa

I might regret this pick, but I’m going to take a chance anyway. Back in the day when I was growing up Nebraska was one of the cornerstone programs nebraskaof college football. I don’t know if it is location, bad management, poor coaching, or a move to the Big Ten a few years ago, but the Cornhuskers seem like a forgotten team nowadays. They are 24-15 over the past three seasons, including last year’s disaster under first year coach Mike Riley. They have been completely eclipsed in the news cycle by Ohio St., Michigan, Iowa, Michigan St., and even Wisconsin & Northwestern. If Riley has another subpar season he might be another guy on the chopping block, but if he can guide his team to a couple of upsets and get to that 8/9 win level then he’ll live to coach another season in Lincoln.

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/17 at Nebraska, 11/5 at USC, 11/12 vs. Stanford, 11/19 at Utah

The Ducks have won atleast 9 games in each of the past nine seasons. That’s impressive. I honestly couldn’t name one member of the team without oregonusing Google, but I know that Oregon seems like one of those programs that just reloads instead of rebuilding, and while they certainly won’t be in the national title conversation or probably be a legit threat to win the conference I think it is likely that they win 8 games and score an upset or two along the way.

2015 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 10

football-introducing-the-science_1Greetings citizens!! Let’s jump right in by saying that both Zach & I were 2-3 last week. Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse. I continue to be amazed how accurately oddsmakers are in pinpointing a spread. I’m sure there’s a lot that goes into all of that. Thankfully I’m not much of a gambler. I wouldn’t like the stress. At any rate, for the season Zach’s record stands at 20-29, while your humble Potentate of Profundity fell to 32-17. I think we have some pretty decent games on the docket this week. The college football playoff committee announced their initial rankings, so now we’ll have a good idea just what games matter and what a win or loss may do for various teams. As far as the NFL, it looks like atleast a few divisions may be already wrapped up. Injuries have played a significant part in the…non-success…of several teams. I suppose that’s not unusual, but it seems particularly harsh this year for some reason. Anyway, let’s make some picks. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Florida St. at Clemson (-12.5)
Clemson tops the initial playoff rankings, and to be honest this looks like the only possible roadblock between them and the Final Four. The Seminoles Florida_State_Seminolesaren’t too shabby themselves, but a loss to now 3-6 Georgia Tech a few weeks ago has probably shut them out of the playoff conversation. First of all, I’m a little surprised by the points. You’d think Florida St. was a .500 team who’d lost games to 1-AA opponents, which is just not the case. If this game was in Tallahassee I may be inclined to pick the outright upset. However, even though it is in “Death Valley” I just don’t like the spread. Florida St. has an opportunity to knock off a #1 team and significantly impact the playoff…yet they are supposed to lose by nearly two TDs?? I don’t think so. Zach is on the same wavelength. He believes whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win, and he thinks that’ll be Clemson…but by far fewer than 12.5 points.

My Pick: Florida State
Z’s Pick: Florida State

 

 

 

TCU (-5) at Oklahoma St.
The powers-that-be obviously have little regard for the Big 12 (which has ten teams). Undefeated Baylor is ranked 6th, while the Horned Frogs are TCU Cool Logoundefeated also and ranked 8th. This is an opportunity for TCU to not only leapfrog Baylor, but also move up a couple of spots and patiently await other dominoes to inevitably tumble. The Cowboys aren’t an easy win though. They are undefeated too (I’m sensing a pattern) and 14th in the rankings. Too much probably has to happen that simply won’t for them to make it to the Final Four, but much like Florida St. they can play a spoiler role. Oklahoma St. has the home field, but TCU has a lot more on the line. I don’t think they’ll screw it up. Both myself & Zach are impressed with Horned Frogs’ QB Treyvone Boykin, and he is likely to make the difference.

My Pick: TCU
Z’s Pick: TCU

 

 

 

LSU at Alabama (-6.5)
Somewhere in Bristol, CT the entire college football lineup of talking heads is having a collective nocturnal emission over this game, and even I admit lsu_logoit’s pretty big. LSU is ranked 2nd right now, while Alabama is 4th, so this is essentially an elimination game. Some have opined that ‘Bama didn’t deserve to be amongst the top four, but I am neither surprised nor all that offended mostly because I know how meaningless all of that is right now. The Tide gets the home field points bump which is also just fine by me. I think this will be a low scoring defensive battle with lots of red zone stops and field goals. I’m not sure who’ll come out on top, but I’m confident that whoever wins will do so by less than a touchdown. Zach’s heart is with ‘Bama but he thinks LSU is likely to pull this one out.

My Pick: LSU
Z’s Pick: LSU

 

 

 

Miami at Buffalo (-3)
Sadly neither of these teams has a prayer of catching the New England Patriots in the AFC East. A wildcard berth isn’t looking too promising either. In Miami_Dolphins_Helmetmy NFL Preview I had positive thoughts about both clubs, but both have underachieved. The Bills don’t have a franchise QB, and the Dolphins have already fired their coach. Miami seemed to jump to life under the leadership of their interim coach until they ran into the hated Patriots who deflated the Dolphins since it’s kind of their thing. Buffalo has the slight home field advantage, but at this stage Miami feels like the slightly better team. I suppose that could be called damning with faint praise. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami

 

 

 

St. Louis at Minnesota (-2.5)
vikingshelmet1I predicted that the Vikings would be a playoff contender and so far they are looking good. The Rams are doing okay too. They St_Louis_Ramseven have a better record than the Seattle Seahawks (a situation I don’t expect to last). On paper this doesn’t seem like an appealing game, but it could prove to be rather important for the winner. I’m not ready to declare either team a serious Super Bowl threat, but they do both seem to be taking a step forward. Minnesota feels like they’re a notch or two ahead at this point. Zach sees this as a tossup but likes St. Louis’ rookie RB Todd Gurley to pave the way to victory.

My Pick: Minnesota
Z’s Pick: St. Louis

College Football Bowlapalooza 2014

College football wrapped up its regular season a couple of weeks ago, and now we have the opportunity to watch nearly 40 post-season bowl gamestrophy over the next few weeks. Some games will be more entertaining than others. Let me remind everyone that these picks are not part of our Pigskin Picks of Profundity and we do not utilize point spreads. There are just so many games, many of them featuring teams that we know very little about. Bowl season is quite unpredictable, and there are a plethora of variables. Some teams are playing for interim coaches. Some are disappointed about where they ended up. Some have a big chip on their shoulder, while others enjoy the fun aspects of the bowl experience a bit too much. Most of these teams will not have suited up for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. Having said all of that, we’ll give prognosticating these games a whirl. I am going back to an idea that I utilized a couple of years ago. I am dividing all bowl games into three tiers. Tier 1 are the more superfluous games, with second-rate matchups featuring uninteresting teams that will likely be enjoyed only by hardcore football fans and of course fans of the teams involved. Tier 2 games have the potential to be quite engaging. Most football fans will atleast check them out. Tier 3 is the good stuff. These are the games that nearly everyone is excited about and should provide several hours of quality gridiron action. Enjoy!!

Tier 1

New Orleans Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
12/20 11am ESPN
I’m a Wolfpack fan, but there’s no denying that they’ve settled into a pattern of 7 win mediocrity the past few years after going 13-1 in 2010. I know very little about the Ragin’ Cajuns except they are one of what seems like dozens of college football teams in Louisiana. This is basically a home game for Lafayette, but old habits die hard. I’m going with Nevada. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Nevada Z’s Pick – Nevada

New Mexico Bowl
Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)
12/20 2pm ESPN
I have picked against Utah St. in previous bowl games because I didn’t know anything about them. But now I know that they’ve won their past two bowl games. That’s enough evidence for me. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Utah St. Z’s Pick – Utah St.

Potato Bowl (Boise, ID)
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
12/20 5:45pm ESPN
I suppose I’ll be all patriotic and pick the service academy. Zach likes the Falcons’ triple option and believes that’ll help them get the win.                     My Pick – Air Force Z’s Pick – Air Force

Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL)
South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)
12/20 9:15pm ESPN
A camellia…for those who may be wondering…is a type of flower. That’s cool. Atleast they didn’t name this game after some second-rate retail establishment or a publicity seeking restaurant. I’m a MAC fan so I’m going with the Falcons. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Bowling Green Z’s Pick – Bowling Green

Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)
12/23 6pm ESPN
Oh where to begin. I was severely disappointed when my alma mater & the C-USA champions chose this game over another one in which they would have faced an admittedly mediocre Big Ten team. The knock on the Herd all season has been that their schedule was weak and they haven’t played any “power” conference teams. Like it or not perception matters in college football and I still believe that Marshall should have taken the opportunity to silence the doubters, even if it would have been against a 6-6 opponent. Having said all that I do have to admit that this will likely be a competitive contest. My residual bitterness about Marshall’s season ending in a low level post-season game on a Tuesday night instead of heading undefeated to a New Year’s Eve bowl or atleast a pedestrian matchup with a “power” conference foe may or may not dissipate in the next several days. Strangely enough Zach feels more loyalty to The Herd than I do, although he does have legitimate concerns about a defense that allowed 67 points to Western Kentucky…something that ruined the perfect season.
My Pick – n/a Z’s Pick – Marshall

Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, CA)
Navy (6-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
12/23 9:30pm ESPN
So this is basically a home game for the Aztecs. Shouldn’t there be a rule against that?? Anyway, I suppose once again I’ll make the jingoistic choice. Zach is in agreement due to his affection for the triple option. My Pick – Navy Z’s Pick – Navy

Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5)
12/24 Noon ESPN
All I know is that Western Kentucky ruined Marshall’s perfect season…those bastards. I know even less about Central Michigan. I’m pretty unforgiving when I comes to sports, so I’m rooting for the Chippewas all the way. Zach likes WKU’s prolific offense.
My Pick – Central Michigan Z’s Pick – Western Kentucky

Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5)
12/24 8pm ESPN
The NCAA oftentimes appears to be rather obtuse, but they are atleast smart enough to have figured out that if you’re going to have football teams be away from home on Christmas then they need to be enticed by exotic locales like The Bahamas and Hawaii. I have a huge problem with a team like Fresno St. going to a bowl game with a losing record, while other eligible teams with a .500 (i.e. not losing) record like Ohio U., Temple, & Middle Tennessee are staying at home. It’s not right. Pulling for Rice may be a meaningless & ineffective form of protest, but it’s all that I’ve got. The Bulldogs have screwed the pooch on three occasions this season when Zach picked them, so he’s understandably going in a different direction this time. My Pick – Rice Z’s Pick – Rice

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5)
12/26 1pm ESPN
This is the game that my Marshall Thundering Herd should be playing in. Instead Louisiana Tech…the team that the Herd defeated in the C-USA title game…gets the opportunity to challenge a “power” conference team. Obviously the Illini aren’t that great, but they played teams like Wisconsin & Minnesota tough in losing efforts and beat both Penn St. & Northwestern. A shaky resume for sure…but I’ll take it. Zach think this will be a close game and likes Bulldogs’ QB Cody Sokol to snag a late victory. My Pick – Illinois Z’s Pick – Louisiana Tech

Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI)
Rutgers (7-5) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
12/26 4:30pm ESPN
This is the old Motor City/Little Caesars Bowl, now being sponsored by an auto shop subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company. I have a feeling most people will be at the mall exchanging the banal yet overpriced Christmas gifts they received from clueless friends & relatives rather than watching a completely superfluous football game. Zach thinks the Tar Heels’ special teams will make the difference.                                                                  My Pick – North Carolina Z’s Pick – North Carolina

St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State (7-5) vs. Central Florida (9-3)
12/26 8pm ESPN
This game would be much more interesting if it were being played in St. Petersburg, Russia instead of Florida. I had the Knights in my pre-season Top 25, and I’ll be darned if they didn’t almost get there. Ah well…close, horseshoes, hand grenades, etc. I suppose I’ll stick with them until the bitter end though. Zach is borrowing my philosophy about teams in better conferences being battle tested and therefore being prepared for games such as these.
My Pick – UCF Z’s Pick – NC St.

Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD)
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
12/27 1pm ESPN
Shouldn’t one of the academies be playing in this game?? Anyway, the Bearcats have been a much better team than the Hokies this season and I see no reason why that won’t continue here. Conversely, Zach believes Va. Tech has a better coaching staff and will win this game with a superior ground attack.
My Pick – Cincinnati Z’s Pick – Virginia Tech

Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, NY)
Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)
12/27 4:30pm ESPN
Hey look…it’s a game that could be played during every regular season if the people that ran the now defunct Big East football conference hadn’t been complete idiots. The Nittany Lions have had all sanctions removed, as if that pesky sexual abuse stuff never really happened. The NCAA should just go the extra step and restore all of Joe Paterno’s old records. The hook for this shindig is that it is played at Yankee Stadium. I suppose it’s better than playing in Detroit. Zach sees this as an even matchup, and believes that the Eagles’ rushing attack as well as their defensive line will make the difference. My Pick – Penn St. Z’s Pick – Boston College

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC)
Georgia (9-3) vs. Louisville (9-3)
12/30 6:30pm ESPN
The Bulldogs had much higher hopes for 2014, but we knew someone would be the odd team out in the SEC. The Cardinals didn’t suffer too badly from the loss of QB Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL, and I must admit to being a bit surprised. Belk, for those who may be curious, is a department store chain on par with JC Penney’s, Dillard’s, & Kohl’s. We don’t have one where I live so I know nothing else. Anyway, I think Georgia will be ready to take their frustration & disappointment out on someone, and it looks like Louisville is the unfortunate victim. Zach is unimpressed with Louisville and thinks freshman backup RB Nick Chubb will have a breakout game for Georgia.
My Pick – Georgia Z’s Pick – Georgia

Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX)
Houston (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
1/2 Noon ESPN
Soooo…we have a Military Bowl AND an Armed Forces Bowl?? Seems redundant. Anyway, I believe both of these teams will be playing for interim head coaches. The Cougars fired their coach and Pitt’s coach is leaving for Wisconsin. As a long time WV Mountaineer fan I can’t bring myself to cheer for the Panthers. Zach likes the Panthers’ rushing attack and believes it will help them prevail.
My Pick – Houston Z’s Pick – Pitt

Cactus Bowl (Tempe, AZ)
Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
1/2 10:15pm ESPN
This is the former Copper/Insight.com/Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. I like the new name much better. The Huskies fared quite well this season under new head coach Chris Peterson and the Pac 12 might want to look out in another year or two. The Cowboys fell off a bit after posting 9+ wins in 5 of the previous 6 seasons. I think this might be a shootout, and I’m picking the upset. Zach likes Washington to win easily.
My Pick – Oklahoma St. Z’s Pick – Washington

GoDaddy Bowl (Mobile, AL)
Toledo (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
1/4 9pm ESPN
Those that have perused these bowl picks in previous years may recall my contempt for this particular game. It’s horribly named. GoDaddy is a website building company that can’t be taken seriously with that stupid moniker. Yes it is memorable & catchy…but it’s also juvenile & unprofessional. The game itself never features an engaging matchup, and it is played at the worst possible time. By January 4th the other bowls are over and all that remains is the national title game. Plus the NFL playoffs are underway. With all that going on in addition to the post-holidays resumption of ho-hum normalcy can anyone really be expected to give a hoot about Toledo and Arkansas St.?? I think not. Zach concurs My Pick – Toledo Z’s Pick – Toledo

Tier 2

Las Vegas Bowl
Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
12/20 3:30pm ABC
Okay…now things are beginning to heat up. This could very well be the best of the spate of games that begin the bowl season. As opposed to the poor guys who ended up in places like Detroit and Idaho for the post-season these teams get to go to Vegas. Vegas baby…Vegas!! The Rams have had a nice season and were a loss to Boise St. away from playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Their head coach has already departed for greener pastures with the Florida Gators, which puts them at a disadvantage. Zach believes that losing their coach will energize the Rams and they’ll secure the victory.                            My Pick – Utah Z’s Pick – Colorado St.

Miami Beach Bowl
BYU (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3)
12/22 2pm ESPN
I think this is a brand new bowl game…as if we needed that. Atleast it’s a good matchup though. I think this will be a close contest that’ll be decided late in the 4th quarter. Zach sees big things on the horizon for the Cougars (might I suggest an invitation to join the Big 12) and thinks it starts with this game.
My Pick – BYU Z’s Pick – BYU

Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)
Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
12/27 2pm CBS
It’s Devils vs. Devils!! Did you know that the Sun Bowl is one of the 2nd oldest bowl games?? The Rose Bowl began in 1902, and the Sun, Sugar, & Orange Bowls were first played in 1935. I’m not sure how the Sugar & Orange Bowls have grown to be so much more prestigious than their solar-named brother. At any rate, I still think of Duke as a basketball school. Conversely, the Sun Devils have had a very nice year and were in the thick of the Pac 12 title race until the end. Zach foresees a blowout win for Arizona St.
My Pick – Arizona St. Z’s Pick – Arizona St.

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA)
Miami (FL) (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
12/27 3:30pm ABC
Not all that long ago this would have been a marquee matchup, but both programs have hit kind of a rough patch. The Hurricanes have been mired in mediocrity for about a decade, while it’s just a bad season for the Gamecocks. I refuse to believe that Steve Spurrier, given a month to practice & plan for a very average opponent, won’t be completely prepared. Zach thinks both teams have been inconsistent this season, but agrees that The Old Ball Coach will make the difference.
My Pick – South Carolina Z’s Pick – South Carolina

Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA)
Nebraska (9-3) vs. USC (8-4)
12/27 8pm ESPN
If this were the 80’s these teams might be competing for a national championship, but in the new reality of college football USC is still very good but hardly dominant, while the Cornhuskers are finding out that recruiting 5 star athletes to play in Lincoln, NE isn’t as easy as it was a few decades ago. Nebraska will be playing for an interim coach, while the Trojans seem poised to make another run at the top sooner rather than later. Zach isn’t sold on USC and believes this game is a toss-up.
My Pick – USC Z’s Pick – Nebraska

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)
Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
12/29 2pm ESPN
The Aggies were knocked down a peg or two adjusting to life after Johnny Football, but still had a decent year. My Mountaineers are settling into life in the Big 12, but this may be their fate more often than not for the foreseeable future…a solid season rewarded with a December bowl game that will only draw mild interest. I’m actually looking forward to this game. The thing I notice more than anything about the much celebrated SEC is the overall speed of the teams. WVU might have a tough time matching that speed, but they’ll give it their best shot. Zach believes that A&M will shred the Mountaineers’ defense.
My Pick – West Virginia Z’s Pick – Texas A&M

Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Oklahoma (8-4) vs. Clemson (9-3)
12/29 5:30pm ESPN
Once upon a time this was the Blockbuster/MicronPC/CarQuest/Champ Sports Bowl. They seem to have an issue retaining consistent corporate sponsorship. At any rate, both teams were hoping for bigger & better things in 2014, but stuff happens. On paper this looks like it’ll be a fun, close contest. I hope that is the case. Oklahoma is beginning to have the same issues as Nebraska…just because they used to be elite 30 or 40 years ago doesn’t mean they are going to retain that status in the 21st century. Clemson benefits from playing in the ACC where only the defending national champion Florida St. Seminoles are consistently superior. I think this will be a low scoring game with lots of tough defense, but the Sooners will prevail in the end. Zach thinks Oklahoma’s offensive line will lead them to a crushing victory. My Pick – Oklahoma Z’s Pick – Oklahoma

Texas Bowl (Houston, TX)
Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)
12/29 9pm ESPN
Despite the pedestrian name of the bowl and the matchup of two 6-6 teams this could be a real sleeper. Both programs have seen better days, but I believe that both will be successful again…eventually. I like the Razorbacks rushing attack to grind out a low scoring victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Arkansas Z’s Pick – Arkansas

Foster Farms Bowl (Santa Clara, CA)
Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5)
12/30 10pm ESPN
Formerly known as the Fight Hunger/Walnut/Emerald Bowl, this game is now being played in the San Francisco 49ers brand new stadium. Foster Farms is a California poultry company. I hope that doesn’t mean the game will be a turkey. The Stanford campus is about a half hour away, so this is basically a home game for them. I think that’ll help make the difference in a fairly easy victory. Zach is all bent out of shape about Maryland’s lack of class & sportsmanship. I obviously missed something.
My Pick – Stanford Z’s Pick – Stanford

Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
Mississippi State (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech (10-3)
New Year’s Eve 8pm ESPN
I find it odd that the venerable Orange Bowl has been pushed back to New Year’s Eve. Ah well…atleast it won’t have to compete with the playoff semifinal games. The Bulldogs were in the national title hunt for awhile but must settle for this consolation prize. Tech is one of those mostly unexceptional programs that occasionally has a really good season. However, their failure to “upset” vastly overrated Florida St. in the ACC championship is troubling. I think Mississippi St. wins this game easily. Zach believes it’ll be a rather close contest, but likes Bulldogs’ QB Dak Prescott to lead his team to victory. My Pick – Mississippi St. Z’s Pick – Mississippi St.

Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Missouri (10-3) vs. Minnesota (8-4)
New Year’s Day 1pm ABC
It’s back!! Well okay…it never really left, but for the past decade this game was known by one of those horribly tacky corporate names. I’m glad that’s over. The combatants are two sneaky good teams that were overshadowed by well-known brands in their respective conferences. The Tigers probably have more team speed and I think that’ll make the difference. Zach is really interested in this game and believes that Missouri will win a close one late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick – Missouri Z’s Pick – Missouri

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL)
Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
1/2 3:30pm ESPN
This game is officially known by one of the aforementioned crass corporate names, but I refuse to play along. It’s been the Gator Bowl since 1946 and it’ll stay that way in The Manoverse. In addition to the name BS the game is being played after New Year’s, which wouldn’t happen if I were in charge. The matchup is a little dubious as well. The Gator Bowl used to invite 9 or 10 win teams. This is the best they could do in 2014-15?? Having said all that, I think these are two solid teams that are a threat to be really good in any given season (just not this year). I think it’ll be a decent game…not a defensive battle but not a shootout either. The Voices are telling me special teams will be the difference in a Volunteers victory. Zach likes the Hawkeyes by a touchdown.
My Pick – Tennessee Z’s Pick – Iowa

Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina (8-4) vs. Florida (6-6)
1/3 1pm ESPN
I hate the unimaginative name of this bowl as well as its spot two days after New Year’s. Folks will have had their fill of collegiate gridiron action by now and will be concentrating on the NFL playoffs and the national title game. However, one cannot overlook the fact that at one time the Pirates were in the running for the “access” bowl, i.e. the bone thrown to the best team among the non-power conferences, before going 2-3 in the latter part of the season. The Gators will be playing under an interim head coach since Will Muschamp was fired (and has since become the defensive coordinator for Auburn). I’m not sure who is considered the underdog. East Carolina has the better record, but Florida is battle tested in the SEC. I am known to pull for the little guy, so I suppose I’ll do that. Zach has very little interest in this game but believes Florida will win easily.
My Pick – East Carolina Z’s Pick – Florida

Tier 3

Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN)
Notre Dame (7-5) vs. LSU (8-4)
12/30 3pm ESPN
Normally these are two teams that would be aiming for a much more valuable prize, but they just so happened to have both had an off year. Kudos to the powers-that-be in Nashville for putting together what is still an intriguing matchup despite what the mundane records might indicate. Neither team has much momentum coming into the post-season, with the Irish on a four game losing streak and the Bayou Bengals losers of 2 out of their last 3. It’s all about pride and trying to build on something positive heading into 2015. Zach has nothing but contempt for both teams, but thinks LSU will win easily. My Pick – LSU Z’s Pick – LSU

Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA)
Ole Miss (9-3) vs. TCU (11-1)
New Year’s Eve 12:30pm ESPN
Both teams were in the thick of the playoff hunt. Many still believe that TCU should be one of the final four. Now it’s time for both clubs to prove themselves. If the Horned Frogs win it’ll add fuel to the argument that they should have been included in the playoff. A Rebels victory would end a mostly positive season on a high note after dropping 3 out of their last 4 regular season games. I’m not totally sold on either team, but I’m going to pick the upset. Zach is one who believes the Horned Frogs got screwed by the playoff committee, and thinks that QB Trevone Boykin will lead TCU to a late win. My Pick – Ole Miss Z’s Pick – TCU

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)
Boise State (11-2) vs. Arizona (10-3)
New Year’s Eve 4pm ESPN
I’m really looking forward to this game. It is unfortunate that it’ll be played at 4pm on New Year’s Eve when most folks are on their way home from work and preparing to go out and celebrate the holiday. Like the Orange Bowl the Fiesta is typically played on New Year’s Day in prime time, but the playoff has changed most of the traditional rules. Anyway, the Broncos have proven that they can go toe to toe with the big boys. The “new reality” of college football will likely dictate a move for them to one of the “power” conferences” in the near future (may I suggest the Big 12…which currently has ten teams), but that’s down the line. As far as this game goes, I certainly think Boise St. can hang with the Wildcats, who will essentially be playing a home game. Can they pull off the upset?? I’m predicting a high scoring (over 80 points combined) shootout, with the Broncos winning a squeaker. Zach likes Arizona’s high-powered offense and thinks they’ll win easily.
My Pick – Boise St. Z’s Pick – Arizona

Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL)
Auburn (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
New Year’s Day Noon ESPN2
I was really high on the Badgers…until they got blasted in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) title game by Ohio St. Then their head coach bolted…for Oregon St. I pretty much nailed Auburn’s season in my pre-season rankings. They’re good, but not at the level they were at a year ago. This should be a really competitive contest, and I’m not at all concerned with Wisconsin’s coaching situation since former coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is temporarily at the helm. I think the Badgers were humiliated in that conference championship game and will be motivated to prove their worth. Conversely, Zach thinks the game will become ugly early, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (Heisman runner-up) will be shut down, & Auburn QB Nick Marshall will have a great game.
My Pick – Wisconsin Z’s Pick – Auburn

Cotton Bowl (Arlington, TX)
Michigan State (10-2) vs. Baylor (11-1)
New Year’s Day 12:30pm ESPN
As former pro wrestling announcer Jim Ross might say, this is going to be a real slobberknocker. Lots of people believe that Baylor deserved a spot in the playoff. The Spartans had a lot of buzz coming into the season but an early November loss to Ohio St. doomed their playoff chances. Baylor’s campus in Waco, TX is less than a hundred miles from the Palace in Dallas, so I expect they’ll have a notable home field advantage. I also think that the Bears will be hellbent on proving that they should have had the opportunity to play for the national championship. Zach, on the other hand, likes the Spartan defense to shut down Baylor and win by 7-10 points.
My Pick – Baylor Z’s Pick – Michigan St.

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) – Playoff Semifinal
Oregon (12-1) vs. Florida State (13-0)
New Year’s Day 5pm ESPN
Here we go with the four team playoff for the national title. As much as I have complained (with good reason) about the playoff committee and their methodology I must admit that I have no problem with the four teams selected. I think the Seminoles have been far more lucky than good in 2014 but I believe their luck will run out here. The Ducks can match…and probably exceed…Florida St.’s team speed, and though I’m no Mel Kiper Jr. or Todd McShay I will opine that I’d take Oregon QB & Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota over Florida St. QB & former Heisman winner Jameis Winston with no hesitation. Zach has reservations about Oregon’s defense but is still picking them to make it to the championship game. My Pick – Oregon Z’s Pick – Oregon

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – Playoff Semifinal
Alabama (12-1) vs. Ohio State (12-1)
New Year’s Day 8:30pm ESPN
There was some thought that the playoff committee wouldn’t put Ohio St. in as the #4 seed because they are down to their 3rd string quarterback. That would have been completely unfair and I am glad the committee didn’t fall victim to that logic. However, the facts can’t be ignored when it comes to this game. The Buckeyes’ defense would have to play the game of their lives to secure a victory. Is that out of the realm of possibility?? No…but it isn’t likely. ‘Bama just has too much size & athleticism in the trenches, and their ground game may be slowed a bit but it won’t be stopped. This feels like a low scoring affair (under 40 total points), with the Tide grinding out a close victory. To say that Zach has disdain for Ohio St. would be like saying President Obama is slightly unethical or Gigli wasn’t a great film. He doesn’t believe the Buckeyes belong anywhere near the playoff and is hoping that Alabama hangs 100 points on them.
My Pick – Alabama Z’s Pick – Alabama

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX)
Kansas State (9-3) vs. UCLA (9-3)
1/2 6:45pm ESPN
I’m not sure when the Alamo Bowl became significant enough to get a post-New Year’s prime time (kind of) time slot, but there is no denying that this is an attractive matchup. The Bruins were in the hunt for a Pac 12 title until an inexplicable home loss to Stanford in the final game of the regular season. The Wildcats fought hard in the Big 12 but couldn’t overcome TCU & Baylor. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is the likely difference in a fun & competitive contest. Zach isn’t a bit impressed by UCLA and is picking K St. to win big.
My Pick – UCLA Z’s Pick – Kansas St.

National Championship (Arlington, TX)
Oregon/Florida St. vs. Alabama/Ohio St.
1/12 TBD ESPN

Oregon-DucksI am predicting an Oregon vs. Alabama title game, which is the matchup that I am pretty sure most folks want to see. Zach AlabamaCrimsonTide2agrees. Can ‘Bama’s defense, ranked 4th in the nation in points allowed, stop QB Marcus Mariota and the 3rd ranked scoring offense in the country?? Will the Ducks’ defense be able to stop the Tide’s ground game, led by TJ Yeldon & Derrick Henry?? Can ‘Bama WR Amari Cooper (who finished third in Heisman voting) escape probable double coverage and make some big plays?? I think it’ll be a close game for 3 quarters, but eventually Mariota will be able to hit a few long bombs and the Ducks will pull away for the surprising victory. Zach believes that Alabama’s experience on the big stage will make the difference.
My Pick – Oregon Z’s Pick – Alabama

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 15

We’ve reached the end of the road for college football, atleast as far as these picks go. I’ll do a little bowl pick ‘em, but it won’t count as part of this process. From here on out our picks will be strictly NFL until they finish up.

*

It’s conference title game week for all except The Big 12 (which has 10 teams). We now know the 6 or 7 teams vying for 4 spots in the playoff, and the talking heads have had a field day dissecting all related issues. If I hear the phrase “body of work” one more time I’m going to punch somebody. The fact is that the playoff committee is atleast half comprised of folks who have a stake in the outcome and others who have strong ties & loyalty to certain institutions, which taints the whole procedure. When I first heard that college football was going to have a playoff I was excited and imagined that it’d be similar to the way the March Madness basketball field is set. I was obviously wrong. There is very little resemblance between the two and the entire football playoff methodology is flawed. I’ll probably have more to say about it some other time, but for now it is what it is and y’all are here for picks.

*

Last week Zach got the better of me, as he went 4-3 while I went 3-4. That brings his season record to 41-38, while I cling to a slight advantage at 42-37.

 

 

 

 

 

Kansas St. at Baylor (-8.5)
baylorBig 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby should be fired immediately. No one is buying the whole idea that the conference doesn’t need to add two teams and a championship game because they all play each other now. We know it’s about the money. The school presidents like the idea of splitting the pie 10 ways instead of 12. And now the commissioner has not only gone against logic and football tradition but he has kneeled & bowed to this damn playoff committee which has entirely too much power and no idea how to wield it properly. They are just making up the rules as they go. Commissioner Bowlsby has stated that…assuming both TCU & Baylor win this week…they’ll be co-champions of the conference, which is idiotic. There are always tiebreakers, and the first one is usually the results of the head-to-head matchup. In this case Baylor defeated TCU 61-58 in overtime on October 11th. Despite that outcome the playoff committee (I’ve got to come up with a catchy nickname for them) haskansas-state-dm seen fit to rank TCU ahead of Baylor, and right now the Horned Frogs are in the Top 4. Bowlsby doesn’t want to cost his conference any money, and doing the right thing by having the head-to-head lead to Baylor being named conference champs might do exactly that. In other words Bowlsby has been castrated by the stupid committee. Moron. At any rate, the way things have gone Baylor certainly isn’t out of the playoff picture, but they’ll need to beat Kansas St. like Adrian Peterson at a daycare with a bag of switches. I think they’ll do exactly that. Zach foresees a shootout and is picking Kansas St.

My Pick = Baylor
Z’s Pick = Kansas St.

Northern Illinois (-6.5) at Bowling Green
huskiesThis is the MAC title game. I like the MAC. I wish my Marshall Thundering Herd would have never left the MAC. Their teams get very littlebowling green respect and are oftentimes stuck playing televised games on Tuesday & Wednesday nights. However, for true football fans the games are usually more than watchable. I don’t think the Huskies will have any problems covering the points and winning the trophy. This is a rematch of last year’s championship when the Falcons pulled off the upset. Northern Illinois will want revenge. Zach thinks this will be a close game and Northern Illinois will be unable to cover the points.

My Pick = Northern Ilinois
Z’s Pick = Bowling Green

 

 

 

Arizona at Oregon (-14.5)
Oregon DucksI’m really looking forward to this game, which will be played on Friday night at the San Francisco 49ers new stadium. The Ducks are in the ArizonaWildcatsplayoff. A lot of things would have to go haywire for that to change. The Wildcats aren’t going to be pushovers though. Actually they have an outside shot to make the playoff, although it is highly unlikely that all the dominoes would fall right for that to occur. I am almost positive Oregon will win the game, but by how much?? I am normally skittish about such large point spreads, but for some strange reason The Voices are screaming at me, and they are saying one word…Oregon. Zach thinks it likely that Oregon wins but doesn’t believe they’ll cover.

My Pick = Oregon
Z’s Pick = Arizona

 

 

 

Alabama (-14.5) vs. Missouri
Congratulations to the Missouri Tigers. You’ve had a good season. You’ll enjoy a nice bowl destination. But you are not winning the SEC title. Nothing would make AlabamaCrimsonTide2me happier than for all of the top teams to lose and the playoff situation to become complete mayhem. Would an Alabama loss in this game drop them out of the Top 4?? Sadly we’ll never know. And not only will the Tide win, but they’ll roll BIG. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Alabama
Z’s Pick = Alabama

 

 

 

Florida St. (-4.5) vs. Georgia Tech
The one nice thing I’ll say about the playoff committee is that they seem to have Florida St.’s number. The Seminoles can’t be denied a shot to defend their nationalgatechlogocos-3 championship as long as they remain undefeated, but they’ve slipped all the way to #4 in the process of scratching & clawing their way to wins in which they were outplayed for atleast ¾ of the game. A loss in this ACC title tilt would be devastating, as either Baylor or Ohio St. would surely leapfrog into the playoff. The Yellow Jackets are a team I have completely overlooked this season. I had no idea they were 10-2 and even in the conference title hunt. This is a neutral site game being played in Charlotte, NC, which may help Tech a bit. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I’ve been hoping for a Florida St. loss like Ralphie wants a BB gun in A Christmas Story. That movie had a happy ending…maybe this game will too. Zach feels the same way.

My Pick = Georgia Tech
Z’s Pick = Georgia Tech

 

 

 

Fresno St. at Boise St. (-20.5)
boise-state-logoThis is the Mountain West title game. It is being played on Boise’s blue turf. If my Marshall Thundering Herd hadn’t shot themselves in the footfresno last week and still had a shot at a New Year’s bowl I’d probably be really interested in this game and rooting hard for a Broncos loss. However, now I simply don’t care, although I’ll probably watch, atleast until it gets out of hand, which may be fairly early. I don’t believe Boise St. will have any problems covering the points. Conversely, Zach is unimpressed with Boise St. and uncomfortable with such a large spread. He thinks Boise may win but won’t cover the points.

My Pick = Boise St.
Z’s Pick = Fresno St.

Wisconsin (-4) vs. Ohio St.
I must take this opportunity to admit a mistake. Anyone who follows these picks or has read other sports related content here at The Manofesto knows that I like to WisconsinBadgerspoke fun at the Big 12 for having ten teams and the Big Ten for having 12 teams. The problem with that is that in 2014 the Big Ten has 14 teams. I completely forgot that Rutgers & Maryland joined this season. Oops. Anyway, this is the Big Ten title game and is being played on a neutral field in Indianapolis. Everybody has seemingly given up on the Buckeyes after they lost QB JT Barrett to injury and now must rely on a 3rd string QB. As much as I hate to admit it those folks are probably right. With Barrett there is no way Ohio St. would be underdogs in this game…without him Wisconsin is favored by 4 points. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see the Buckeyes beat out Florida St. and both Big 12 contenders for the final playoff spot, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Zach gleefully concurs and doesn’t feel a bit bad about picking against Ohio St.

My Pick = Wisconsin
Z’s Pick = Wisconsin