2022 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 2

The season hasn’t even really begun and I’m already in a hole. Kudos to Zach, who pretty much nailed almost every game last week in going 4-1, while I struggled to a 1-4 mark. I watched as much as I could of a couple of games, but had other things going on. This weekend is pretty much the same. I’ll catch some of the early action, then head to our local Italian Heritage Festival Saturday night. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. There are a few intriguing matchups, and some potential playoff contenders could have their hopes negatively impacted right off the bat. I know there are fans that don’t particularly care for the College Football Playoff, but one positive byproduct has been marquee games in the first week or two. Teams can no longer get away with destroying glorified high school opponents by five touchdowns for the first three weeks of the season and hope to impress voters, and fans are the winners. 

My Season: 1-4

Zach’s Season: 4-1

West Virginia at Pitt (-7)

The Backyard Brawl returns from hiatus after a decade+ (thanks conference realignment 🙄) and I’m pretty psyched. The Panthers are coming off a successful 2021 campaign in which they won the ACC Championship & went 11-3. USC transfer Kedon Slovis takes over the quarterbacking duties from new Steelers backup Kenny Pickett, but wide receiver Jordan Addison (who transferred to USC…the carousel is redonkulous) will be more difficult to replace. My Mountaineers are entering their fourth year under head coach Neal Brown, and if he wants fans to continue to “trust the climb” we’re going to need to see some progress. We understand that going undefeated, winning the Big 12, and being a legit playoff contender is not something to be expected, but winning 8 or 9 games shouldn’t feel as out of reach as it has the past few seasons. Georgia transfer QB JT Daniels will be under center, so if the offensive line has improved and the defense is solid there is reason for optimism. We’ll see. This is a Thursday night game on ESPN. Zach has confidence in Slovis & thinks WVU consistently falls short in big games. 

My Pick: West Virginia 

Z’s Pick: Pitt 

Cincinnati at Arkansas (-6.5)

The Bearcats had nine players drafted into the NFL, including five picks in the Top 100. Replacing that amount of talent won’t be easy, so I don’t expect them to be nearly as successful. Conversely, the Razorbacks won nine games a year ago after a few lean seasons, and I believe they’ll maintain that. Certainly playing in the SEC is a brutal task, making it all the more vital that they win non-conference battles. They have the home field in Fayetteville and I think it’ll be a solid victory.  Conversely, Zach doesn’t foresee Cincy falling off that much from last season’s success & thinks they’ll score the close win this week. 

My Pick: Arkansas 

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Utah (-2.5) at Florida 

I assume it is rare for a visiting team to be favored at The Swamp. Many “experts” believe Utah can contend for the PAC 12 title, and I agree. Actually, I think they can do even better. That being said, if the Utes want to make a statement and put themselves in the playoff conversation right off the bat they must seize this opportunity. The Gators have been on a downward trend the past couple of seasons and made a change last November. Can new head coach Billy Napier, who was 40-12 in four seasons at Louisiana, right the ship?? The SEC is a huge step up from the Sun Belt, but this is a big test even before Napier gets to the conference grind. Perhaps he’ll be successful in the long run, but I don’t foresee things beginning too well. Zach likes Utah’s superior team speed to lead them to victory. 

My Pick: Utah 

Z’s Pick: Utah 

Oregon at Georgia (-17.5)

Credit where it is due…the defending champion Bulldogs aren’t taking the easy way out to begin the new season. The Ducks were 10-4 a year ago & played in the PAC 12 title game. However, head coach Dan Lanning is new in town after former coach Mario Cristobal moved on to the Miami Hurricanes. What makes this matchup interesting is that Lanning spent the past three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. The champs return 13 starters, but lost 15 players to the NFL, including a record breaking five defensive players in the first round. Most of the time when we see those kind of numbers I assume a total rebuild is happening and have few expectations for that team, but I don’t feel that way about Georgia. I believe they’ll contend for another national championship & be as good or better than last season. Admittedly the points scare me a little, but this is a fantastic chance for Georgia to make a statement & show that they’re here to stay. Zach concurs, opining that Georgia’s size & experience in big games will make the difference. 

My Pick: Georgia 

Z’s Pick: Georgia 

Notre Dame at Ohio State (-17)

The Buckeyes have been consistent playoff contenders since the new system began in 2014, but only have two appearances & one national title to show for it. Will anything short of hoisting the big gold trophy on January 9 be a failure?? I think it just might be. The Irish are one of college football’s most fabled programs, but they haven’t won a national title since 1988. They’ve appeared in the playoff twice, losing in the semifinal both times. I realize Ohio St. has the home field, but it is strange seeing Notre Dame as a double digit underdog. I have good vibes about new head coach Marcus Freeman and believe he’ll lead his team back to prominence one day…but not this day. As a die hard Michigan fan Zach rarely has any positive opinions about Ohio St., so he’s picking Notre Dame to atleast cover the points.

My Pick: Ohio St. 

Z’s Pick:  Notre Dame 

2022 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

As we head into a new football season I will admit to having mixed feelings. Things like conference realignment & NIL have exposed college athletics as the big business that it is, which has eroded much of its charm & virtue. Tradition means nothing when billions of dollars are at stake. That being said, for the next four months I’ll be spending most of my Saturdays vegged out in front of the TV from the time the pregame shows start at 9am until the final west coast games end around 1am, and I’ll love every second of it. I’m a pretty low key guy who is easily entertained, and there’s nothing better than autumn weekends & hours upon hours of gridiron action. So, as we have done for more than a decade now, let us take a peek into the ol’ crystal ball and see if we can predict with some degree of accuracy what may unfold between now & the end of the year. As always I discourage any kind of gambling based on what you read here. I’m not an expert and sometimes have no idea what I’m talking about, so enjoy my pontification in the spirit in which it is intended. 

25 Michigan

Last Season: 12-2

Key Games: 10/15 vs. Penn St., 10/29 vs. Michigan St., 11/26 at Ohio St.

Jim Harbaugh allegedly flirted with some NFL teams this offseason but ultimately returned to Ann Arbor. I do not think that will affect the season, but I also don’t believe the Wolverines will be a playoff contender in 2022. 

24 Oklahoma

Last Season: 11-2

Key Games: 10/8 vs. Texas, 10/29 at Iowa St, 11/5 vs. Baylor, 11/19 vs. Oklahoma St. 

The Sooners lost their head coach & multiple players, including two star quarterbacks. That’s alot to overcome, and I think we’ll see a slight drop under new head coach Brent Venables. This may or may not be their final season in the Big 12, but that’s a discussion for another day. 

23 Houston

Last Season: 12-2

Key Games: 9/10 at Texas Tech, 10/22 at Navy

Can Dana Holgorsen continue last year’s success and keep on winning?? The Cougars will be joining the Big 12 in a season or two, so it would behoove them not only to build momentum, but also take advantage of playing lesser competition while they still can. The September clash in Lubbock against the Red Raiders will provide an indication of how Houston stacks up against their future conference brethren, and it’s also a must win for this year.

22 Oregon 

Last Season: 10-4

Key Games: 9/3 vs. Georgia, 9/17 vs. BYU, 11/19 vs. Utah 

Head coach Mario Cristobal bolted to return to his alma mater Miami (FL), so former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is in charge now. That makes the season opener against the Bulldogs even more interesting. The PAC 12 eliminated divisions, so the top two teams will play in the conference title game, meaning the Ducks will need to be better than Utah or USC. They go head to head with the Utes in Eugene in mid-November.

21 North Carolina State 

Last Season: 9-3

Key Games: 9/17 vs. Texas Tech, 10/27 vs. Virginia Tech, 11/25 at North Carolina 

The ACC has become a muddled mess of mediocrity. Only one team is considered playoff worthy…the rest are jockeying for bowl position. Of course only half of the league are likely to find themselves in that hunt, so the question becomes which teams will rise?? 4 out of the past 5 seasons have had the Wolfpack winning eight or more games, and I think we’ll see more of that in 2022. 

20 Pitt 

Last Season: 11-3

Key Games: 9/1 vs. West Virginia, 9/10 vs. Tennessee, 11/26 at Miami (FL)

Quarterback Kenny Pickett is now plying his trade with my Steelers, and such a key loss would normally be cause for concern. However, thanks to the transfer portal the Panthers will now have former Southern Cal QB Kaden Slovis under center. I don’t believe they’ll be quite as successful as a year ago, but 8 or 9 wins seems achievable. I’m really looking forward to the long awaited renewal of the Backyard Brawl to open the season. 

19 Michigan State

Last Season: 11-2

Key Games: 10/8 vs. Ohio St., 10/15 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 at Michigan, 11/26 at Penn St. 

I’m never quite sure what to make of the Spartans. In the past six seasons they’ve been  3-9, 10-3, 7-6 (twice), 2-5 (in the Covid shortened year), and 11-2. The Big Ten is stacked, so it’s pretty easy to get lost in the shuffle. They’ll need to win atleast a couple of the key games noted above, which won’t be easy, and may go into Happy Valley at the end of November in a must win situation. 

18 Tennessee

Last Season: 7-6

Key Games: 9/10 at Pitt, 10/24 vs. Florida, 10/15 vs. Alabama, 11/5 at Georgia

It’s time. I remember when the Vols were consistently one of the top teams in the SEC, but that hasn’t been the case since the late 90’s. Occasionally they’ll show signs of life with a 9 or 10 win season, but that has not happened in about five years. I have no evidence to support my optimism. I may look back at this prediction in shame. However, I believe they’ll pull off atleast one stunning upset this season. 

17 Arkansas

Last Season: 9-4

Key Games: 9/3 vs. Cincinnati, 9/24 vs. Texas A&M, 10/1 vs. Alabama, 11/12 vs. LSU

Not every SEC team will finish ranked, but more of them will receive benefit of the doubt than programs from other conferences. Can the Razorbacks continue their momentum from last year, or will they fall back into the abyss they’d been in the four seasons before that?? They can get things off to a good start by beating last year’s favorite underdog story, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and hosting other key games on the schedule at home could prove beneficial.

16 LSU

Last Season: 6-7

Key Games: 9/4 vs. Florida St., 10/1 at Auburn, 10/8 vs. Tennessee, 10/15 at Florida, 11/5 vs. Alabama, 11/26 at Texas A&M

The Ed Orgeron Era is over in Baton Rouge, and former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has taken the reins. Keep in mind Kelly was not fired…he chose to make the move, and I assume he believes this team can be elite. Certainly it’s a tough road in the SEC, but we can’t overlook the fact that the Bayou Bengals won a national championship as recently as 2019. I don’t think it’ll take long to turn things around.

15 Iowa

Last Season: 10-4

Key Games: 9/10 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Michigan, 10/22 at Ohio St., 11/12 vs. Wisconsin 

It seems like the Hawkeyes are always good. They’ve won 8+ games in seven of the past nine years, and that’s including the Covid shortened season of 2020. Unlike the PAC 12 the Big Ten has not abandoned its divisional setup, so Iowa doesn’t have to be better than Ohio St., Penn St., or Michigan to get into the conference title game. Eight wins & a Rose Bowl berth is certainly possible.

14 South Carolina 

Last Season: 7-6

Key Games: 9/17 vs. Georgia, 10/22 vs. Texas A&M, 11/26 at Clemson 

This is a big wildcard. Shane Beamer enters his second season in Columbia with a little more familiarity of the SEC, and I expect to see some maturation. They’ll need to score atleast one huge upset, but that’s not out of the question. 

13 Southern California 

Last Season: 4-8

Key Games: 10/15 at Utah, 11/19 vs. UCLA, 11/26 vs. Notre Dame 

I toyed with placing the Trojans much higher, but decided to be conservative. Lincoln Riley’s defection from Oklahoma along with QB Caleb Williams and the transfer of former Pitt receiver Jordan Addison grabbed a lot of headlines in the past several months, and expectations are high. However, perhaps it’d be wise to pump the brakes just a bit. Games at Utah and against Notre Dame in L.A. won’t be easy, and I expect USC to lose atleast once…maybe twice. Fear not Trojan fans…Riley will have his team in the playoff discussion soon…but not quite yet.

12 Notre Dame

Last Season: 11-2

Key Games: 9/3 at Ohio St., 11/5 vs. Clemson, 11/26 at USC

Credit where it is due…the Irish don’t have an easy path. Oh sure, they play a couple of gimmes (one of which will be the season opener against my alma mater…Go Herd), but they’ll need to win atleast one & maybe two of the key games noted above to climb this close to the Top 10, and that’s not going to be a a walk in the park. I am impressed with new head coach Marcus Freeman thus far, but he’s going to have to prove his worth with some big victories. 

11 Clemson

Last Season: 10-3

Key Games: 10/15 at Florida St., 11/5 at Notre Dame, 11/19 vs. Miami (FL)

After winning two national championships in six traight playoff appearances the Tigers fell off just a bit last year. And by that I mean they still had ten victories but didn’t win the ACC title and finished 14th in the final rankings. It’s the hallmark of an elite program when that is considered disappointing. Will they be back in the playoff picture this season?? I don’t think so. No one respects the ACC anymore, and I won’t be surprised if two SEC teams & two Big Ten teams are in the playoff. The only shot Clemson has is to go undefeated in convincing fashion & lay a smackdown on Notre Dame in South Bend.

10 Texas A&M

Last Season: 8-4

Key Games: 9/17 vs. Miami (FL), 10/24 vs. Arkansas, 10/8 at Alabama, 11/5 vs. Florida, 11/26 vs. LSU

Head coach Jimbo Fisher talks a good game, but can his team get it done on the field?? When you sign a ten year contract worth $75 million finishing third in the division simply isn’t good enough. Fisher’s feud” with Nick Saban has been a highlight of this offseason, but what matters is what happens between the lines. I don’t expect A&M to defeat ‘Bama in Tuscaloosa, but anything less than ten wins will be a huge disappointment, and that seat might start to get pretty hot for my man Jimbo.

9 Wisconsin

Last Season: 9-4

Key Games: 9/24 at Ohio St., 10/15 at Michigan St., 11/12 at Iowa

I’ve always been a big fan of Badger football. They’re not flashy, but they are fundamentally sound and win in the trenches. Having said that, the Big Ten is looking awfully difficult, and it is entirely possibly that Wisconsin could be a middle-of-the-pack program right now. All three of the key games I’ve noted are on the road, which is a daunting task. I’m going to venture way out on a limb though and predict they’ll pull off massive upsets in two of those games, paving the way for double digit victories & a Top 10 finish. 

8 Penn State

Last Season: 7-6

Key Games: 9/17 at Auburn, 10/15 at Michigan,  10/29 vs. Ohio St., 11/26 vs. Michigan St.

Is it likely that two Big Ten teams outside the state of Ohio finish in the Top 10?? No. So I guess I’m hedging my bets. An out of conference battle at Auburn & a home game against Michigan St. are must wins for the Nittany Lions.

7 Baylor

Last Season: 12-2

Key Games: 9/10 at BYU, 9/24 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Oklahoma St., 11/5 at Oklahoma, 11/25 at Texas

The Bears won the Big 12 title and were victorious in the Sugar Bowl a season ago, and I believe it is entirely possible they’ll be just as good in 2022. However, they’ll need be road warriors to achieve that level of success. With Texas & Oklahoma ditching the Big 12 in the not-so-distant future there is a vacuum at the top of the conference, and Baylor has an opportunity to become the new standard bearer (pun unavoidable). Don’t miss their visit to Norman, OK in early November…I think it’ll be a really great game. 

6 BYU

Last Season: 10-3

Key Games: 9/10 vs. Baylor, 10/15 vs. Arkansas 

This is BYU’s final year as an Independent before joining the Big 12, and they’re ending their independence with a bang. It’s a hell of a schedule. I do not expect them to beat Notre Dame or Oregon on the road, but if they can upset Baylor & Arkansas, win all the games they’re supposed to win, and get to ten victories once again they might actually be in the playoff discussion. There’s no chance they’ll actually be invited to participate, but sometimes getting the respect of simply being mentioned is enough.

5 Alabama

Last Season: 13-2

Key Games: 9/10 at Texas, 10/1 at Arkansas, 10/8 vs. Texas A&M, 10/15 at Tennessee, 11/5 at LSU, 11/26 vs. Auburn 

Freakin’ Nick Saban actually had the nerve to say that 2021 was a rebuilding year for the Tide…a season that saw them win 13 games, beat the snot out of Georgia in the SEC title game, and inexplicably fall by two TDs in the National Championship Game. The sad part is he might be right. Still, the fact is that ‘Bama always receives every opponent’s best shot, and things happen in such a scenario. I don’t know which one it’ll be, but I have a feeling an opponent listed above will have everything fall into place just perfectly, and Alabama will have a rare off day. Will that be enough to derail their playoff aspirations?? God I hope so.

4 Utah

Last Season: 10-4

Key Games: 9/3 at Florida, 10/15 vs. USC, 11/19 at Oregon 

USC has gotten all the PAC 12 attention the past several months, but Utah might be the team to beat right now. We’ll learn a lot when the Utes venture into The Swamp, and playing the Trojans in the cozy confines of Salt Lake City could be quite beneficial. I expect the winner of the mid-November clash in Eugene, OR to take one spot in the conference title game. 

3 Ohio State

Last Season: 11-2

Key Games: 9/3 vs. Notre Dame, 10/8 at Michigan St., 10/29 at Penn St., 11/26 vs. Michigan 

The Buckeyes have essentially become an NFL farm team. Quarterback CJ Stroud returns for his sophomore season after finishing 4th on the Heisman ballot last year. He’ll be considered a front runner for that award as long as his team is winning. I don’t believe the season opener against Notre Dame will be much of a challenge, and they have Michigan at The Horseshoe, so anything less than a playoff berth would be a huge disappointment. 

2 Oklahoma State

Last Season: 12-2

Key Games: 10/1 at Baylor, 10/22 vs. Texas, 11/12 vs. Iowa St., 11/19 at Oklahoma 

The “experts” all seem to slot the Cowboys about ten spots lower than this, so I’m really rolling the dice. The two biggest games on the schedule are both on the road, which makes the task that much harder. QB Spencer Sanders is a senior, which is good, but there was also some turnover in the coaching staff, which makes me nervous. It’s a “go big or go home” kind of thing really. Despite the fact that the TV folks (who really run the business of college sports, in case you didn’t know 😉) would undoubtedly love to see a playoff totally comprised of SEC & Big Ten teams (or USC if they can win the PAC 12), I think a Big 12 team will be in the mix, and given all of the offseason drama don’t believe it’ll be the Oklahoma Sooners. Keep an eye on the October 1st game at Baylor…the winner of that one might have an inside track to a playoff berth. 

1 Georgia

Last Season: 14-1

Key Games: 9/3 vs. Oregon, 10/29 vs. Florida, 11/5 vs. Tennessee

“To be The Man you’ve got to beat The Man”. That’s what wrasslin’ legend Ric Flair always said, and I think it’s good advice. The Bulldogs defeated Alabama to win the National Championship, and I don’t know of any reason to expect a decline. If Georgia comes out of the gate fast and beats Oregon badly then it’s on like Donkey Kong. Most people are likely expecting a rematch against The Tide in the SEC title game, and they’re probably right. I think Georgia wins that game, which will cost ‘Bama a playoff opportunity. 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 14  

After last weekend’s craziness the playoff committee released their rankings as follows: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St., Notre Dame, & Ohio St.. That’s the Top 7 and no one else really matters. Barring any upsets in the conference title games (a huge IF if there ever was one) the essential questions are these: a) how far will the loser of the SEC Championship fall?? & b) can Oklahoma St. leapfrog Cincinnati if they win the Big 12 title?? Notre Dame is screwed because they’re sitting at home while these other teams are still playing. They need Cincinnati AND Oklahoma St. to lose, and even then the 4th playoff spot could go to Ohio St.. At any rate, our marathon of picks during Rivalry Week turned out slightly better for me (6-3) than Zach (2-7), and the lineup is even more packed this weekend. Unfortunately I have plans Friday & Saturday so I probably won’t be watching much of the action. I should be able to keep up with the scores frequently though.

My Season: 43-43

Zach’s Season: 32-54

C-USA

Western Kentucky at UTSA (-2.5)

The first time these teams met on October 9 in Bowling Green, KY the Roadrunners won a high scoring shootout, so the rematch has the potential to be a lot of fun. I’m pretty pissed that my Marshall Thundering Herd isn’t playing in this one, but they blew their chance in spectacular fashion. Texas-San Antonio has the home field and that’s enough for me. Conversely, Zach feels like momentum favors the Hilltoppers and he thinks they’ll eek out a close win.

My Pick: UTSA 

Z’s Pick: Western Kentucky 

PAC 12 (Las Vegas, NV)

Utah (-3) vs. Oregon 

I am intrigued. When these teams met on November 20 in Salt Lake City the Utes scored a huge 38-7 victory and ended Oregon’s playoff aspirations. Will the Ducks face a similar fate on a neutral field?? I don’t think so. It’ll be much closer this time, and I think the underdogs have what it takes to pull off the mild Friday night upset. Zach, on the other hand, believes Utah is firing on all cylinders right now and has a better team with superior athletes. He agrees that it’ll be closer than the first contest between these two, but thinks the favorites will win again. 

My Pick: Oregon 

Z’s Pick: Utah 

Big 12 (Dallas, TX)

Oklahoma State (-7) vs. Baylor 

On October 2 the Bears went into Stillwater and were defeated 24-14, but this game is being played at Jerry World, aka The Palace in Dallas, so there is no home field advantage. The Cowboys could earn a playoff spot if Cincinnati loses, and a convincing win could make the debate interesting even if Cincy wins. I don’t expect anything to be drastically different than the first meeting, and with (potentially) so much at stake I believe we’re looking at another solid OK St. triumph. Zach is impressed by State’s defense and likes their offensive line, but foresees a tight ballgame that could be decided by a late or overtime field goal. 

My Pick: Oklahoma State

Z’s Pick: Baylor 

Mountain West

Utah State at San Diego State (-3.5)

I don’t know who makes the schedule, but c’mon man!! I should be able to hunker down in my warm bed late at night and watch a fun west coast battle, but instead we’re getting a 3pm EST kickoff. Anyway, these teams have not previously met this season, which is a rarity in conference title games. The 9-3 Aggies face a tough task going into hostile territory against the 11-1 Aztecs, who are riding a four game win streak. I don’t expect anything too crazy and believe the home team will win comfortably. Zach likes Utah St.’s ground game but feels like San Diego St.’s defense will come alive in the second half to secure a win.

My Pick: San Diego State 

Z’s Pick: San Diego State

AAC

Houston at Cincinnati (-11)

The Bearcats are causing me a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog guy. Always have been, always will be. That being said, I am just not sure Cincinnati belongs in the playoff. They deserve kudos for going thru their schedule undefeated, but are they truly on the level of any Power 5 opponent they’d face in the semifinal?? I have serious doubts. My feelings about this game are further complicated by the presence of current Cougars & former WVU Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. We expected big things from him in the Mountain State, and he was a fairly decent 51-38 in seven seasons at the helm. However, Holgorsen clearly wasn’t happy here and jumped at the chance to take the Houston job. Both of these teams will be members of the Big 12 in the near future, so the rivalry will continue to grow. This particular contest isn’t hard to pick for me because the points are just too much. Cincy will probably win, but it won’t be a double digit victory. Zach doesn’t think Cincinnati belongs in the playoff but doesn’t believe the committee will deny them if they win this game. However, he foresees Holgorsen having his team ready to pull off the upset. If that happens no one will be happier than the CFP committee. 

My Pick: Houston

Z’s Pick: Houston 

MAC (Detroit, MI)

Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-5.5)

I used to be a big fan of MACtion. Their random Tuesday or Wednesday night games were a treat. To be honest though, it’s been a few years since I’ve paid any attention to the conference. I vaguely recall when the Huskies went 12-2 in 2012 and lost to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in Heisman voting in 2013 behind Alabama QB AJ McCarron & winner Jameis Winston, the quarterback at Florida St. As far as this game, the Golden Flashes are 7-5 and led a rather weak field in the MAC West, while NIU is a solid but unspectacular 8-4 and were beaten by three TDs in their last game. When these teams met just a few weeks ago Kent won a 52-47 shootout, although NIU scored 20 fourth quarter points as their spirited comeback fell short. I suppose there’s a chance it could be a sneakily entertaining contest, but I’m leaning toward Kent winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach likes NIU to pound the rock and score the upset. 

My Pick: Kent State 

Z’s Pick: Northern Illinois 

Sun Belt

Appalachian State (-3.5) at Louisiana

This is my sleeper pick for best game of the week. On October 12 the Mountaineers traveled to Lafayette and suffered a 41-13 loss, so I’m a bit surprised by the odds. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t tasted defeat since losing the season opener at Texas, but it seems like they’re not getting much respect. Perhaps the impending departure of head coach Billy Napier to the Florida Gators is a factor. Otherwise, do the oddsmakers have some inside info, or are they simply making assumptions?? I don’t know. Given the current circumstances and taking what we know at face value I have to lean toward the home team scoring a mild “upset”. Zach predicts special teams will play an important role in an App. St. victory. 

My Pick: Louisiana 

Z’s Pick: Appalachian State

SEC (Atlanta, GA)

Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama 

As a certain former President might say, this game is YUUUGGGEEE. Not only will an SEC Champion be crowned, but there are major playoff implications. If Georgia wins they’re in, but it is entirely possible that they could lose yet not fall out of the Top 4. And what about ‘Bama?? Obviously they’d be in with a victory, but what happens if they lose?? Will the committee twist themselves in knots trying to justify only dropping the Tide to #4?? The simplest outcome is also the most likely…the Bulldogs win & cover and remain #1, while Alabama drops to #5 and is denied another National Championship opportunity. That’s what I’m hoping to see. As much as Zach respects Nick Saban he just doesn’t think this Alabama team measures up to their predecessors. He thinks Georgia has the best defense in the country and the offense is pretty good too. He’s predicting a big Bulldogs victory. 

My Pick: Georgia 

Z’s Pick: Georgia 

ACC (Charlotte, NC)

Pitt vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)

Good Lord, could there be a more underwhelming matchup?? The ACC really needs Clemson & Florida St. to figure things out because the rest of the conference is a snoozefest. Credit where it is due though, as the 10-2 Panthers have won four straight, while the Demon Deacons lost two of their final four games but still finished 10-2. The game is theoretically being played at a neutral site, but Wake will enjoy a quasi-home field advantage since their campus is only an hour away. That’s enough for me to predict a mundane & unremarkable victory for the favorites. Zach likes Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and believes he will have a great day picking apart Wake’s defense.

My Pick: Wake Forest

Z’s Pick: Pitt

Big Ten (Indianapolis, IN)

Michigan (-9) vs. Iowa 

I’m not a mental health expert, but I know that folks with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs followed by extraordinary lows. I also understand that it is sometimes difficult for athletes to sustain a high level of intensity. Therefore, my question is what do the 11-1 Wolverines have left in the tank after their magnificent beatdown of Ohio St.?? This game isn’t at The Big House against their archrivals, but they are playing for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a playoff berth that could lead to their first National Championship since 1997. Theoretically that should be ample motivation, right?? The 10-2 Hawkeyes fell off the radar after two consecutive October losses, yet here they are on a four game winning streak. Closer examination reveals that they won those four games by an average of less than 5 points against teams that are collectively 19-29. In other words their schedule was frontloaded, and they didn’t face Michigan or Ohio St.. Iowa’s most impressive victory was a home game against Penn St., a 7-5 team that lost four out of six games in the second half of the season. I don’t think there’s any way Michigan loses this game. However, I can see a dropoff in energy leading to the final margin of victory being a touchdown or less. Zach is also concerned about an emotional letdown for his beloved Wolverines, as well as the enormous pressure they face in restoring the program to its former glory. He points out that Iowa has won 5 out of the last 7 matchups between the two schools. Having said all of that, he isn’t picking against Michigan again (although it did work a week ago). 

My Pick: Iowa 

Z’s Pick: Michigan 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 9 

Happy Halloween Manoverse!! Sadly I was diagnosed as a diabetic a few months ago, and while my trick or treating days ended during the Reagan Administration I usually do hunt down some tasty treats this time of year and hit the day after candy sales…activities I won’t be engaging in now. At any rate, we both went 3-2 last week, which means we kept our head above water and took a small step on the long road back to mediocrity. Stay safe out there folks. Drink lots of water to counteract all that sugar you’ll be consuming. Don’t tick off any axe wielding psychopaths in hockey masks. Enjoy some old monster movies. And be generous to the little kiddies in your neighborhood. Not all Halloween treats are created equally.

My Season: 23-28

Zach’s Season: 22-29

UCLA at Utah (-5.5)

This season feels like a missed opportunity for both teams. The 5-3 Bruins could easily be 7-1, while the Utes are 4-3 but were in all three losses and have to ponder what might have been. But that’s football, right?? The good news is that both teams still have a legit shot to play in the conference title game if my man Tony Dungy & his Arizona St. Sun Devils stumble. This is a 10pm EST kickoff on ESPN, and unless I’m distracted by my thousandth viewing of Halloween (1978) or Hocus Pocus my eyes will be glued to the game. Utah has the home field and I am inclined to agree with the oddsmakers. Conversely, Zach foresees a high scoring game but doesn’t like the points, so he’s going with the underdogs.

My Pick: Utah

Z’s Pick: UCLA

Iowa at Wisconsin (-3)

Y’all remember Billy Bob from the 1999 film Varsity Blues?? That’s the kind of big ol’ boy that plays offensive & defensive line for these second tier Big Ten schools, and it’s why they’re so interesting to watch. A conference title game appearance is still on the table, and I feel like momentum is with the Badgers. If they study film & figure out the formula Purdue used to upset the Hawkeyes a couple of weeks ago it won’t matter that the visitors are coming out of a bye week. Zach thinks Wisconsin is too inconsistent and still believes in Iowa despite the loss to Purdue.

My Pick: Wisconsin

Z’s Pick: Iowa

Michigan (-4.5) at Michigan State

The home field feels like it might be huge here. I never would have predicted a few weeks ago that this would be a battle of Top Ten teams. Add in the fact that a berth in the conference championship and maybe even a playoff nod might be at stake and the whole intrastate rivalry thing is just a cherry on top. I’ve gone on record stating that I’d put both clubs in the CFP ahead of Oklahoma, Cincinnati, & even Alabama, but obviously the loser is eliminated. I can’t even remember the last time this rivalry had so much juice. I am hoping for a close thriller with some big plays but also stellar defense, and I think the home team does just enough to score the upset. Zach is a huge Wolverines fanatic, but he’s a pragmatist who isn’t afraid to be critical when necessary. He’s not sure they deserve to be a Top Ten team because the schedule has been rather prosaic, and he admits Jim Harbaugh’s record in big games isn’t great. Having said that, he thinks this year’s team has an opportunity to be the real deal. Unfortunately he has been let down too many times. I can relate (I’m a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan after all). I call it Battered Fan Syndrome. So, in a bit of shocking reverse psychology Zach, in an effort to will his team to victory (in my opinion), is picking against them. I have to admit I did not see that coming.

My Pick: Michigan State

Z’s Pick: Michigan State

Georgia (-14.5) vs. Florida

So the Florida-Georgia Line is 14 & a half points. Yes, I just made a really bad country music joke. Anyway, the Bulldogs sit at #1 and will waltz into the playoff…unless they inexplicably stumble along the way. I sincerely believe they’d receive a playoff berth even if they lost the SEC title game, assuming there are no other losses beforehand. The Gators have to be kicking themselves for letting LSU come back and win a high scoring, close game a couple weeks ago, but will that frustration be enough motivation to get the upset here?? I don’t think so. I foresee a big statement victory for Georgia. It should be noted that the game is being played in Jacksonville, so it isn’t a true home field for Florida but one would assume there’ll be more orange & blue in the stands than red. Zach really likes Georgia’s defense and thinks they’ll win big.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Georgia

Ole Miss at Auburn (-2)

The Rebels still have a slight chance to play in the conference title game, although they’ve already lost to Alabama so it’d be an uphill climb. Still…most teams would consider 6-1 with only a loss to (theoretically) one of the best teams in the nation a smashing success. Conversely, 5-2 Auburn isn’t in the SEC title hunt, but I’m sure they’re feeling pretty good about their season thus far. It’s a coin flip situation for me, and The Vibes are whispering Ole Miss in my ear. Zach believes Auburn’s defense will keep it close but likes the Rebels win a tight one.

My Pick: Ole Miss

Z’s Pick: Ole Miss

Penn State at Ohio State (-18)

I’m a little surprised by the points. I suppose the fact that the Buckeyes just rolled Indiana by six TDs while the Nittany Lions lost to Illinois in nine OTs has something to do with it, but still…18 points?? Sure, the game is at The ‘Shoe in Columbus, but 18 freakin’ points?? It just doesn’t feel right. I have no doubt that the home team will win, but I’ll be shocked if it’s by more than a touchdown. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Penn State

Z’s Pick: Penn State

Green Bay at Arizona (-3.5)

Despite all the off-season drama Green Bay & Aaron Rodgers are humming along at 6-1. However, speaking of humming…the Cards are undefeated. This is the Thursday night game, and the TV people have to be thrilled. I know there are folks (mostly players) that have a problem with Thursday Night Football, but from a fan perspective it’s phenomenal, especially when we are treated to a great matchup like this. Arizona has an opportunity to make a powerful statement, while it’s kind of a “hey guys…don’t forget about us” moment for The Pack. Unfortunate for them all-world wide receiver Davante Adams has tested positive for The Sickness, while the Cardinals just activated pass rushing monster Chandler Jones. There is a chance Adams could still play, and his status makes a huge difference. Armed with the information available right now I have to lean toward the home team. Zach acknowledges that being without Adams is a problem, but thinks AA-Rod will find a way to lead his team to victory, perhaps in overtime.

My Pick: Arizona

Z’s Pick: Green Bay

New England at LA Chargers (-6.5)

I have to give the Pats credit…they’re scrappy. Rookie QB Mac Jones has shown flashes and seems like he’ll evolve into something pretty decent. I don’t believe they’ll make the playoffs because the Buffalo Bills are just too good and there are a plethora of better teams fighting for a wildcard berth, but still…kudos. Conversely, the Chargers, as I predicted, look like legit contenders. I believe they’ll win the AFC West. New England might make this one interesting for awhile, but the home team will pull away for a comfortable victory. Zach is all in on the Patriots and believes they’ll win by a field goal.

My Pick: LA Chargers

Z’s Pick: New England

WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 5.21   

Greetings sports fans, & Happy Halloween Week. There’s a lot going right now, so sit back, relax, grab a warm beverage, & let’s discuss some issues that have absolutely no direct impact on our lives. 

The initial College Football Playoff rankings are just days away, and I am genuinely intrigued. If the committee follows what other polls are doing then the playoff teams right now would be Georgia, Cincinnati, Alabama, & Oklahoma. However, let us consider a few things. First, the committee plays by its own rules and seem to make things up as they go along. Secondly, kudos to the undefeated Bearcats, but are they a legit playoff contender?? Beating Notre Dame…especially in South Bend…has to count for something, yet the rest of their schedule leaves much to be desired. We can’t overlook the fact that the CFP is a television event, and Cincinnati would get obliterated by atleast two of those other teams. To be honest I’ll be surprised if they’re in the CFP’s top four. Alabama & Georgia will probably meet in the SEC title game and determine one playoff berth, but that’s down the line. At the moment the Bulldogs should be the unquestioned #1 team, while ‘Bama shouldn’t be in the top four but undoubtedly will be. And what about Oklahoma?? Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and the Sooners might be the luckiest team in America. I wouldn’t put them in my top four, but the committee will. So if it was up to me who would be the four playoff teams right now?? Georgia, Michigan St., Ohio St., & Michigan, with the loser of the upcoming matchup between the Wolverines & the Spartans falling out afterward and obviously the Ohio St./Michigan matchup at the end of November looming as a possible elimination game. Keep your eye on Notre Dame. If they win out things could get interesting. Also Oregon, although that overtime loss to Stanford is an issue. They’ll need some other dominoes to fall even if they win the PAC 12.

I’m pretty old-fashioned. Thru the years I’ve expressed a deep & abiding affection for smashmouth football, my preference that the designated hitter rule remain only in the American League, & disdain for conference realignment, amongst other things. I’m one step away from being the grumpy old man that yells at kids to get off my damn lawn. Having said that, allow me to make a radical proposal. Going forward, all newly built stadiums should have a retractable roof, and all current stadiums should be retrofitted with one if at all possible. I know absolutely nothing about construction or the cost of building such structures. Perhaps my idea is crazier than I realize, but if it is feasible then why not?? There’d be no more rainouts in baseball, and football teams would be able to run their plays without battling inclement weather. Fans would always be comfortable. Everybody wins. 

I don’t give a damn about the NHL unless the Pittsburgh Penguins are competing for the Stanley Cup, but a shout out to the league’s newest franchise. Seattle Kraken is a cool name. Sadly they play their home games in something called Climate Pledge Arena, which is asinine. Actually, Amazon owns the naming rights and that’s the kind of woke stupidity they came up with. Not that I’d ever root for anyone other than the Pens (and I barely pay attention to them), but I’m already out on the Kraken. The hippie dipping leftists in the Pacific Northwest will surely enjoy them though, which is nice. 

Rumor has it that the Miami Dolphins might trade for current Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson, which means they’re giving up on Tua Tagovailoa, their 2020 first round pick. In my opinion that’s crazy. Look, I freakin’ love Watson. Yes, I am aware of his private…proclivities, the legal action pending against him, & the likelihood of a future suspension by the NFL. In my opinion there have been players who have done much worse, paid the price, and recovered to have a good career. Watson is one of the best QBs in football and he’s only 26 years old. That being said, Tua is only 23 and it is way too soon to call him a bust. If…if…the Texans are smart enough to get him in the deal in addition to a gaggle of draft picks they could turn into a playoff team rather quickly. If Miami makes a separate trade and gets little to nothing in exchange for Tua it’ll be a huge mistake and whichever team swindles them will look brilliant in a couple of years. 

My Pittsburgh Pirates won the seventh game of the 1979 World Series on Wednesday, October 17, 1979. Four decades later the 2021 World Series begins tomorrow and will not conclude until November 3 if it goes to a Game 7. Perhaps MLB should look at revising their schedule. Anyway…Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves. I have zero interest. None. The Astros being in the World Series (again) is embarrassing for Major League Baseball given the fact that they are known cheaters that received absolutely no punishment for their ill gotten gain. Not only should Houston have been stripped of their 2017 championship, they also should’ve received a five year post-season ban for defrauding the game of baseball. If they were playing almost any other team in this series my rooting interest would be an easy decision, but my disdain for the Braves goes way back to the early 90’s. Like a man without a country I am a baseball fan with nowhere to turn. I suppose I’ll just look forward to spring training and try to convince myself that the Pirates may finally get their shit together. 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 5

We didn’t pick the Clemson game last week, but please indulge me while I give myself a rare pat on the back. In my pre-season poll I pondered the question “Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the (Clemson) Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been??”. It didn’t go down exactly like I thought it would, but yeah…I called it!! No playoff for Clemson this season. Now, if only my weekly picks in these games were as accurate. Sadly both Zach (2-3) and myself (1-4) struggled again last week, so I’m going against my better judgement by chasing wins with bonus picks. Y’all are welcome, even though it may just blow up in our faces.

My Season: 11-15

Zach’s Season: 10-16

Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)

I can’t be the only one who gets these two teams mixed up, so let’s take a little climb up the learning tree. The 2-2 Florida Atlantic Owls call Boca Raton (45 miles north of Miami) home, represent Conference USA, and are coached by Willie Taggart (former head coach at Oregon & Florida St.). The 1-3 Florida International Panthers are out of Miami, also play in C-USA, and their head coach is Butch Davis (who has also coached for Miami, North Carolina, & the Cleveland Browns). I don’t think there’s much of a home field advantage to be had, and in rivalry games like this most other conventional rules can be tossed aside. So it comes down to vibes and what assumptions one can make based on what we’ve seen thus far. FAU lost to Florida & Air Force, allowing both teams to score 30+ points. FIU has only played one game against top tier competition, and that was a four TD+ loss to Texas Tech. This feels like a relatively low scoring, tight game to be decided by turnovers, penalties, & special teams. Something along the lines of 28-24, which means that I don’t like the spread at all and will take the underdogs to cover. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Florida International 

Z’s Pick: Florida International

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame 

I had to look at those odds multiple times utilizing a few different sources. Sure, Cincy is a solid team that had two consecutive 11 win seasons before last year’s abbreviated campaign in which they logged 9 victories before narrowly losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. They handled a well regarded Indiana team last week. I am by no means saying that the Bearcats aren’t good. However, they’re an AAC team typically not on the same level as a program like Notre Dame. Not only that, but this game is in South Bend and the 4-0 Irish have given no one any reason to doubt them outside of being pushed into overtime by Florida St. in the season opener. Hell, they took Wisconsin’s best punch a week ago and still won by 4 TDs, so what am I missing?? Why is Cincinnati favored in this game?!?!?!?? It sounds pretty insane to me, so I’m going with the home team to score the “upset”. Conversely, Zach believes the Bearcats are for real and this is their opportunity to prove they belong in the playoff conversation. 

My Pick: Notre Dame 

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)

Well, atleast we don’t have to worry about Clemson in the playoff, so it’ll be fresh to some degree. Now if only we could see the Tide lose a couple of games and fall out of contention, how cool would that be?? Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen. ‘Bama has won four games by an average of 29 points, although it should be noted that they’ve not faced anyone with a pulse other than Florida, a game they only won by two points. The Rebels are 3-0 and have also beaten up on clearly inferior competition. In attendance will be highly touted recruit Arch Manning, Peyton & Eli’s nephew. It is my understanding that both Ole Miss & Alabama are high on his list, so it’ll be interesting to hear down the line how this game affected his decision. At any rate, if it were being played in Oxford I might be tempted to pick the upset. Enigmatic Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin spent a few years as ‘Bama’s offensive coordinator awhile back so obviously he’d love to snatch a shocking victory. However, with the game being contested in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it happening. The only question is if the home team can cover the points, and I believe they will. Zach’s man crush on Nick Saban makes his choice easy. 

My Pick: Alabama

Z’s Pick: Alabama 

Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)

I didn’t think the Razorbacks were legit, but I was wrong. They handled Texas A&M and moved into the Top 10. Unfortunately they now must travel to Athens and challenge the undefeated #2 Bulldogs. I’d be really surprised if Georgia loses, but can they cover?? The points feel a bit disrespectful. Having said that, it feels like a “go big or go home” moment, and I did pick Georgia to be a playoff team and thus far they’ve done nothing to dissuade me, so I’m counting on them to notch a three touchdown victory. Zach respects Georgia’s defense & team speed, but he doesn’t like the spread and thinks Arkansas will keep it close.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Arkansas 

Detroit at Chicago (-3)

Good Lord the Bears were awful a week ago. At the time of publication it is unknown whether the Bears’ starting QB will be rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or Nick Foles…but does it matter?? Conversely, the Lions are coming off a last second loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which it took the longest field goal in NFL history to beat them. Can they use that heartbreaking defeat as motivation?? If they were playing a playoff caliber team I might have doubts, but the Bears aren’t that, so I think Detroit scores the mild upset. Zach agrees on all counts. 

My Pick: Detroit 

Z’s Pick: Detroit 

Seattle at San Francisco (-3)

In my NFL Preview I predicted that the NFC West would be fun to watch, and so far they have not disappointed. This game might end up being a factor in a few months when deciding a playoff spot, and don’t think for a second these teams don’t realize that. Seattle lost to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, while ‘Frisco was on the losing end of an unsurprising Aaron Rodgers miracle, so both clubs will be looking to rebound. I think the home field actually does make a difference, so I’m picking the Niners. Zach, on the other hand, believes potential league MVP Russell Wilson will lead his team to victory. 

My Pick: San Francisco 

Z’s Pick: Seattle 

Arizona at LA Rams (-6)

Staying in the NFC West, these are the teams I believe will be battling for the division crown at the end, so it’s a pretty big early season matchup. Both are undefeated, but obviously that’ll change for one of them. It looks like the trade for QB Matthew Stafford was a wise move for the Rams, while the Cards have developed into a seemingly complete team. This is a tossup for me, but whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach foresees a close game but believes the home team will cover. 

My Pick: Arizona 

Z’s Pick: LA Rams 

Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England

It’s the Brady Bowl. I’m sure the folks in Boston & Tampa are pumped, but personally I’d rather see both teams lose. That being said, I think it’s been well established by now that the “Patriot Dynasty” was more about Brady than it ever was about Belichick. The oddsmakers seem to agree since the home team is a near touchdown underdog. The Sunday Night Football folks at NBC are probably going to be disappointed because I think this one will be over rather quickly and the defending Super Bowl champs might win by 4 or 5 TDs. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Tampa Bay 

Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay 

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

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 14

 

It all comes down to this…for them, not us. We still have a few more weeks of NFL action, but for now we are all college football one last time. It’s Championship Week, when conference titles will be won and playoff berths will be decided. Last week we didn’t do too bad, with me (5-2) edging out Zach (4-3), thanks to a big Auburn victory that seems to have (thankfully) knocked Alabama out of playoff contention. Credit to Zach though…he has brought his season record back to .500, so I’m going to have to do my due diligence and stay on my toes for the remainder of the season. Most of the conference title games are at neutral sites with a couple of exceptions, and most take place on Saturday (with one notable Friday night game). Enjoy!!

My Season:        47-35

Zach’s Season:  41-41

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah (-6.5)                     vs.              Oregon

Pac 12 Championship (Santa Clara, CA)

Oregon is out of playoff contention thanks to that tough November loss to Arizona St., but a conference championship and playing bigtime spoiler would be a nice consolation prize. Utah needs a domino or two to fall, and the playoff committee might hold a September loss to USC against them since the Trojans finished the regular season a slightly above average 8-4. But have you seen the Utes play?? They have the third best defense in the country, and their offense averages 36 points per game. In other words, they’re legit and would be a solid playoff team. The Ducks aren’t going to make it easy though. This is the Friday night game I mentioned and it should be a lot of fun. I think Utah has too much riding on the outcome and will play their best game. Conversely, Zach believes Oregon will really embrace a spoiler role.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Hawaii       at      Boise State (-14)

Mountain West Championship

I kind of feel sorry for Boise. Year in & year out they win 10 or 11 games and almost always play for the conference title, and their big reward is playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. Not that there is anything wrong with Vegas…I’ve been dying to visit there for years. Anyway, the Broncos have made a couple of splashes in the top bowl games, winning the Fiesta Bowl in 2007, 2010, & 2014. Will they receive a similar opportunity this season?? Well, first they’ll need to win this weekend, which I don’t think will be an issue. Zach thinks Hawaii is better than they’re being given credit for. He falls short of predicting an outright upset, but thinks it’ll definitely be closer than two TDs.

My Pick:     Boise State

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

 

 

Virginia     vs.    Clemson (-28.5)

ACC Championship (Charlotte, NC)

First of all, I don’t believe that Clemson deserves to be in the playoff even if they win this game. Their conference is weak & their schedule is weak other than a non-conference win over Texas A&M. The talking heads can yap all they want to about “resume” and “body of work”, but the simple truth is that Clemson will receive a playoff spot because they are Clemson. They are being rewarded for their recent pedigree, not for what they’ve done this season. Having said that, I don’t think the Tigers will have any issues putting away Virginia. The Cavaliers have had a nice season and will head to a sweet bowl location, but they aren’t winning the ACC title. Will Clemson cover?? They usually do, so I’m just going to roll with it. Zach, on the other hand, is making the smart move. He doesn’t think Virginia will win, but he believes they’re good enough to stay within four TDs.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Virginia

 

 

 

Baylor                 vs.              Oklahoma (-9)

Big 12 Championship (Dallas, TX)

As much as I truly believe Utah deserves that fourth playoff berth the “experts” seem to be leaning toward Oklahoma because…well, they’re Oklahoma. People like ESPN’s Paul Finebaum are under the delusion that the masses would rather see the Sooners than the Utes compete for the national championship, but he’s absolutely wrong. Trust me, college football fans are tired of the same old thing. Most fans outside of Tuscaloosa are ecstatic that Alabama won’t be in the playoff, and we’d be just as thrilled to see Oklahoma on the outside looking in. These two teams just did battle a few weeks ago, with Oklahoma scoring a narrow three point victory. I think it’ll be just as close again, and I’m hoping for an upset. Conversely, Zach believes the Sooners will learn from the mistakes they made in the previous matchup and won’t trail the entire game, winning by double digits.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

 

Cincinnati                              at                         Memphis (-9.5)

American Athletic Championship

Speaking of rematches, these two teams just played each other a week ago. Memphis scored a ten point victory, which explains the point spread. The winner seems likely to beat out Boise for a New Year’s bowl game, although that’s certainly not etched in stone. At any rate, I see no reason to expect a different outcome from what we saw last weekend. Zach believes Memphis will win again but the Bearcats will make it closer than the first contest.

My Pick:     Memphis

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnai

 

 

 

Georgia                        vs.                       LSU (-7)

SEC Championship (Atlanta, GA)

I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb to predict that the Bayou Bengals will be a playoff team no matter what happens this week. Worst case scenario is that they drop to #4 with a loss. Conversely, the Bulldogs have to win to hold onto a playoff spot. These two teams have not played one another this year, so that adds a layer of intrigue. It may be instructive to look at a common opponent: Texas A&M. Georgia beat the Aggies by six points a few weeks ago, while the very next week LSU defeated the Aggies in a 43 point blowout. I don’t think LSU will break a sweat winning this game and will have their backups in early in the second half. Zach foresees a defensive struggle and thinks that LSU quarterback & leading Heisman candidate Joe Burrow will make the difference in the 4th quarter.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

Ohio State (-16.5)                          vs.                       Wisconsin

Big Ten Championship (Indianapolis, IN)

Much like LSU I don’t see any scenario in which the Buckeyes aren’t in the playoff. I also don’t believe there is any way they’ll lose this game. However, I do think Wisconsin is being overlooked a little bit. That mid-October loss at Illinois really screwed up their season, but they are a better team than that, and RB Jonathan Taylor should be the Heisman frontrunner. I foresee a scenario in which Ohio St….with the bigger picture in mind…decides not to risk injuries to their starters by playing them in the fourth quarter. That might not mean a Badger victory because Ohio St. would have to be ahead by a significant margin for them to make that decision, but it could allow the underdogs to score a couple of times and pull closer. Zach likes Ohio St. RB JK Dobbins, but opines that the Buckeyes have choked in big games in previous years. He not only believes it’ll be a close game, but is picking the outright upset.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 4

It’s been unseasonably warm & sunny here in northcentral West Virginia, to the point that football is really the only tangible representation of the season. I’m not complaining though…I love 80 degrees & sunshine, and wouldn’t mind those conditions sticking around (wishful thinking on my part). Having said that, I am thankful for weekends full of gridiron action, even if my job now prevents me from enjoying all of it to the fullest extent. Not only was last weekend hellish at work (that whole Friday the 13th/full moon craziness went on for a couple of extra days), but again we didn’t do so good with our picks. Zach was 1-4, while I was 2-3. We’ll try to improve, but I am definitely glad we don’t gamble with actual money…he & I would both be destitute.

My Season:        9-9

Zach’s Season:  7-11

 

 

 

Michigan           at                Wisconsin (-3)

Both teams are 2-0 and hovering close to the Top 10, and each has a different advantage this week. The Wolverines are coming off of a bye week after a double OT tussle against Army, while the Badgers have the home field. This feels like one of those games Jim Harbaugh has to win to keep the folks in Ann Arbor from whining & complaining, but it’s not going to be easy. Wisconsin has scored 110 points in its first two games and allowed opponents zero. Yes, that’s right…they’ve had two shutouts, and I don’t care if the level of competition is subpar, that is impressive defense. I think Michigan will score, but I like Wisconsin to get a late touchdown to win & cover. To his credit Zach is usually fair-minded & logical when assessing his Wolverines. He knows they’re overrated right now and have work to do on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin RB & Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor is a beast at RB for the Badgers, and Zach thinks a big game for him spells doom for Michigan.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Auburn               at                Texas A&M (-4)

I have to give both teams credit…they have not started the season just playing lower level cupcakes like so many other teams. The Tigers are 3-0, including a season opening victory over Oregon. The Aggies are 2-1, but that loss came at the hands of #1 Clemson in Death Valley, and there’s no shame there. This feels like a must win for A&M. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier and this is a home game. Auburn might be looking at a 9 or 10 win season, but I don’t think this will be one of those victories. Auburn QB Bo Nix reminds Zach of former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, which is high praise indeed. Zach is predicting a close game…possibly even overtime…but likes Auburn to come away with a tough road win.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

 

Notre Dame                 at                Georgia (-13)

Both teams are undefeated, but neither has been tested at all thus far. The winner here will cement their status as a playoff contender, while the loser is probably out of that conversation. Georgia has multiple hurdles to clear, while Notre Dame would have a real opportunity to run the table if they climb this mountain and walk out of The Big House in Ann Arbor with a win in late October. In these situations I often refer back to my pre-season poll, and this year I ranked Notre Dame 7th and had Georgia #2. I opined that “one slip will knock them out of contention”, and I think that loss comes in Athens, GA. Zach thinks Notre Dame is overrated as usual and Georgia is the real deal. He is predicting an easy victory for the home team.

My Pick:     Georgia

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

 

Denver                at                Green Bay (-7.5)

I suspected that the Broncos would be terrible this year, and so far that’s held true. They’ve been competitive, but new head coach Vic Fangio has yet to work the magic that got him noticed when he was the Bears’ defensive coordinator, and the offense just isn’t clicking with Joe Flacco under center. Conversely, the Packers are 2-0 and faring much better than I anticipated. Lambeau Field won’t be a frozen tundra this weekend, but I believe it’ll be hostile enough for Denver and that Green Bay will win by more than a touchdown. Zach likes what he’s seen from the Packers. He thinks the Broncos have potential down the line but doesn’t think they’ll pose a problem in this game.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

 

 

 

Baltimore           at                Kansas City (-5)

I told y’all not to sleep on the Ravens. I couldn’t have anticipated how poorly my Steelers would be out of the gate and certainly didn’t know Ben Roethlisberger’s season would end so prematurely, but I knew they’d face a battle in the AFC Central. QB Lamar Jackson…despite winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016…was projected by many to be a wide receiver in the NFL, but lo & behold he seems to be evolving into a pretty good pro quarterback. Having said that, his level of competition increases exponentially this week. The Chiefs aren’t a surprise to anyone, and against all odds reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes looks like an even better quarterback now than he was a season ago. Arrowhead Stadium has long been lauded as one of the loudest in the league, and I expect the crowd to be full throttle on Sunday. That should be enough to rattle the visitors and allow the home team to get a comfortable win. Zach foresees a shootout and likes Baltimore’s defense to make one big stand to possibly win or atleast cover.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Baltimore

2019 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

25        Virginia Tech

Last Season:     6-7

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

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

 

 

24        Auburn

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

23        Michigan State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

22        Central Florida

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

21        Army

Last Season:     11-2

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

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

 

 

20        Northwestern

Last Season:             9-5                             

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

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

 

 

19        Fresno State

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

18        Michigan

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Arizona State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

16        Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

15        Stanford

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Nebraska

Last Season:     4-8

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

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

 

 

13        LSU

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

12        Utah

Last Season:     9-5

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

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

 

 

11        Iowa State

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

10        Wisconsin

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Southern California

Last Season:     5-7

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

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

 

 

8          Texas

Last Season:     10-4

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

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

 

 

7          Notre Dame

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

6          Ohio State

Last Season:    13-1

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

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

 

 

5             Oregon

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

4             Alabama

Last Season:     14-1

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

2          Georgia

Last Season:     11-3

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

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

 

 

1          Clemson

Last Season:     15-0

Key Games:     9/7 vs. Texas A&M

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