2019-20 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

The old adage is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Political pundit Steven Crowder has a frequent feature on his podcast called “Change My Mind”, in which he engages in polite debate with those who disagree with whatever opinion he is presenting at that moment. I’m old-ish & stuck in my ways, so I tend to agree with the notion of not being able to teach old dog new tricks, and I have very strong beliefs about many things so it is difficult for others to change my mind about much. But friends…today I have evolved. I have changed my mind. It’s a freakin’ miracle!! For years I have been a proponent of fewer bowl games and railed against the evil of pedestrian teams being rewarded for their mediocrity, while others have promoted the idea of “the more the merrier” because watching an unexceptional football game is still a pleasant way to spend a few hours. Friends, I have seen the light. I have broken on thru to the other side. Perhaps it’s because there are so few entertaining options on television these days. Or maybe I’ve become even more of a couch potato than ever. A girlfriend might be nice too, but that’s not happening anytime soon. I don’t know why, but I say bring on the bowl games!! Show me your 6-6 teams. Beguile me with games featuring teams from the Sun Belt, MAC, & C-USA whose existence the talking heads don’t even acknowledge. Give me games at 2pm on a Tuesday for no apparent reason. Offer me an alternative to Christmas movies I’ve seen a thousand times. Cause me to question whether I really want to go out on New Year’s Eve or if I’d prefer to stay home and watch football. Allow me the opportunity to become invested in a tie game late in the 4th quarter featuring two teams I know absolutely nothing about. Just bring it!! As always these games do not count toward our season long Pigskin Picks of Profundity, we don’t bother with point spreads, & we understand that a variety of elements that we may know nothing about can have an effect on the outcome. Zach has beaten me in these picks the last three years. I usually start off strong then fade when the “big & important” games roll around, which basically means that I’m better at guessing about games that I don’t know anything about than informed analysis of games about which I think I have some knowledge. We’ll see if I can change that this year. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/20/19

Bahamas Bowl (2pm on ESPN)

Buffalo Bulls (7-5)                vs.              Charlotte 49ers (7-5)

I don’t get the opportunity to travel much. I spent a big chunk of last summer in two hospitals in different counties, and that’s about as far as I’ve gone in awhile. Therefore, I think it’s pretty damn cool that football provides a bunch of youngsters a chance to visit a tropical paradise like The Bahamas. The game itself should be entertaining. Buffalo has sent a few players to the NFL in recent years, most notably Bears LB Khalil Mack & former Chargers RB Branden Oliver. Charlotte is an up & coming team, but this is their first ever bowl game so I have to give the edge to the Bulls. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Buffalo

Z’s Pick:     Buffalo

 

 

Frisco Bowl (Frisco, TX – 7:30pm on ESPN2)

Kent State Golden Flashes         (6-6)            vs.    Utah State Aggies (7-5)

The Frisco Bowl (which takes place in Texas and not California) enters its third season looking for a competitive game since the first two have been lopsided blowouts. Utah St. has gone bowling 8 out of the past 9 seasons, winning 4-3 in the previous games, while this will only be Kent St.’s fourth bowl game ever and their first since 2012. They’ve not won the previous three so I think they’re about due. Conversely, Zach thinks the Aggies have an advantage on the offensive line and will utilize the running game to snag a victory.

My Pick:     Kent St.

Z’s Pick:     Utah St.

 

 

Saturday 12/21

 

Celebration Bowl (Atlanta, GA) – Noon on ABC)

Alcorn State Braves (9-3)   vs.    North Carolina A&T Aggies (8-3)

This game serves as a de facto championship among historically black colleges and is the only current bowl game to feature teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (everyone else has a full blown playoff system. This will be A&T’s third straight appearance, while the Braves were also in it a year ago. In that contest the Aggies scored a two point victory, so I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the Braves earn a measure of revenge this year. Zach is picking A&T to repeat.

My Pick:     Alcorn State

Z’s Pick:     North Carolina A&T

 

 

New Mexico Bowl (2pm on ESPN)

Central Michigan Chippewas (8-5)      vs.    San Diego State Aztecs (9-3)

The Vibes are telling me that this might be a high scoring shootout, although the Aztecs have only exceeded 30 points once this season while the Chippewas have exceeded 40 points six times. I say they meet somewhere in the middle, with San Diego St. pulling out a 34-31 victory. Zach points out that…troubled…NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown is a Central Michigan product, and since we Steeler fans are no longer in the AB business that’s enough for him to choose San Diego St. I must admit that I was thinking along the same lines but chose not to go there. I’m kind of glad he did though.

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Z’s Pick:     San Diego St.

 

 

Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL – 2:30pm on CBS Sports Network)

Liberty Flames (7-5)            vs.              Georgia Southern Eagles (7-5)

Proceeds from this game go to help the fight against breast cancer, which is nice. Liberty is in its first full season in Division1-A/FBS, while Georgia Southern has been playing in the Sun Belt Conference since 2014. They are 2-0 in previous bowl appearances in addition to winning six 1-AA national titles, second only to North Dakota St. The Flames are off to a good start, but I think they’ll fall to a team that has post-season winning in their DNA. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Georgia Southern

Z’s Pick:     Georgia Southern

 

 

Boca Raton Bowl (3:30pm on ABC)

Florida Atlantic Owls (10-3)         vs.    Southern Methodist Mustangs (10-2)

Lane Kiffin has already left FAU behind and headed to Old Miss, so the Owls will be playing for an interim coach until Willie Taggart takes the reins. FAU comes into the game riding a six game winning streak, while things have been a bit bumpier for the Mustangs. After starting the season 8-0 SMU has lost 2 out of their last 4. This is a home game for the Owls, which is an issue the NCAA really needs to address. No team should be allowed to play a bowl game in their own stadium. But that’s not the case at the moment, so given the situation I think it’ll be an easy win for FAU. Zach thinks it might be a close game but also likes the Owls to win.

My Pick:     FAU

Z’s Pick:     FAU

 

 

Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL – 5:30pm on ESPN)

Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)        vs.    Florida International Panthers (6-6)

This is your annual reminder that a camellia is a lovely flower that some may recall being mentioned in the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird. As far as the matchup is concerned, FIU’s season has been a real roller coaster, while Arkansas St. had won four straight before losing their season ending game at South Alabama.  I’m going to ride with the Panthers because in the wild I feel like a panther would kick a wolf’s ass. Zach likes FIU to win a low scoring defensive battle.

My Pick:     FIU

Z’s Pick:     FIU

 

 

Las Vegas Bowl (7:30pm on ABC)

Boise State Broncos (12-1)         vs.              Washington Huskies (7-5)

It may not be a New Year’s game against a Top 10 team, but Boise has another opportunity to go toe to toe with a “power” conference team and give some folks (maybe the Big 12) something to think about when the next round of upheaval rolls around. The Huskies have fallen off a bit after three straight 10+ win seasons, but that’s just college football; most teams aren’t football factories that reload every year…they are actually affected by graduations & players moving on to the NFL. I’m far too lazy to do actual research, but it’s safe to assume that Washington probably has a size & athleticism advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball where games are often won & lost in the 4th quarter. That means that logically one should lean that way, but I’m not always logical. The Broncos have overcome the numbers before and I think they’ll do it again. Zach, on the other hand, likes Huskies’ QB Jacob Eason to lead his team to victory.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

New Orleans Bowl (9pm on ESPN)

Appalachian State Mountaineers (12-1)      vs.     Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (9-4)  

Well, atleast one team named Mountaineers is playing in a bowl game. App. St. is a solid Top 25 team, but UAB has had a nice season as well. The Mountaineers will have a new head coach…their third in three years because it’s that type of program; successful, but a launchpad to allegedly bigger & better stuff. The positive thing is that their new coach has been their offensive line coach for a few years so there shouldn’t be much upheaval. UAB has fared rather well since reviving their football program a few years ago, amassing a 28-12 record since 2017, but I think they’ll fall short in this game, and so does Zach.

My Pick:     Appalachian St.

Z’s Pick:     Appalachian St.

 

 

Monday 12/23

 

Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, FL – 2:30pm on ESPN)

Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4)           vs.    Central Florida Knights (9-3)

I make no effort to hide my bias when it comes to my alma mater, so I’ll definitely be pulling for the Herd, but I am legit intrigued. UCF claimed to be an uncrowned national champion after going undefeated in 2017, then followed that up with a 12-1 record a year ago (with the loss being to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl). They may have fallen off just a bit this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good. Marshall will need to play a damn near perfect four quarters to get the upset. Zach foresees a high scoring affair and doesn’t think MU has the horses to get the job done.

My Pick:     Marshall

Z’s Pick:     UCF

 

 

Christmas Eve

Hawaii Bowl (8pm on ESPN)

BYU Cougars (7-5)              vs.    Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (9-5)

Did you know about the Hawaii Exemption?? It’s an NCAA rule that allows the Rainbows and any team on their schedule that travels to the islands to either play an extra game to help nullify travel expenses or have an extra bye week during the season. That’s why Hawaii has played 14 games. However, though that is a pretty neat rule I still think it is unfair for Hawaii or any other team to play a bowl game on their home turf, even if it is cool for the BYU folks to get to be in paradise for Christmas. This will be Hawaii’s fifth appearance since 2008 and they are 1-4 in that timeframe. I think they’ll be successful this year. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Hawaii

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

Thursday 12/26

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA – 4pm on ESPN)

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (9-3)             vs.    Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-6)

After going a combined 19-7 in Mark Richt’s first two seasons as head coach it kind of felt like the ‘Canes were recapturing a wee bit of the glory that made them one of the preeminent college football teams of the 1990’s. But they fell off dramatically a year ago Richt retired and now the program is trying to get things revved up again. However, even though Miami now obviously isn’t the Miami of old I have to believe that everyone associated with La. Tech is considering this a huge opportunity for a program defining victory. Will it happen?? It’s going to be tough, but I think the Bulldogs will outscore their opponents and come away with a hard fought win. Zach thinks Miami will be ready to go and get a comfortable win.

My Pick:     Louisiana Tech

Z’s Pick:     Miami (FL)

 

 

Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI – 8pm on ESPN)

Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-6)   vs.    Pitt Panthers (7-5)

On one hand I’m tempted to lampoon sPitt for being the very definition  if a mediocre football program, but I’m sure that their fans would point out that atleast that team is playing in a bowl game, whereas their rivals in the now dormant Backyard Brawl…my West Virginia Mountaineers…are not. Having said that, I think the Eagles will score the upset and leave the Panthers wondering where it all went so wrong. Zach thinks Pitt is probably the better team.

My Pick:     Eastern Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Pitt

 

Friday 12/27

Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD – Noon on ESPN)

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6)             vs.    Temple Owls (8-4)

Did y’all see the late September game where the Tar Heels darn near beat Clemson?? Of course I need to be fair and point out losses to Wake Forest & Pitt. So the question is whether a middle-of-the-pack ACC team is better than the middle-of-the-pack team from the America Athletic Conference, and I think the answer is “yes”, especially when a rejuvenated Mack Brown is the head coach. Zach likes Temple’s defense to play well enough to score a close win.

My Pick:     North Carolina

Z’s Pick:     Temple

 

Pinstripe Bowl (NY, NY – 3:20pm on ESPN)

Michigan State Spartans (6-6)             vs.    Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-4)

Is there a more confusing team in college football than Michigan St.?? From 2013-15 they were 36-5, fell to 3-9 in 2016, rebounded to 10-3 in 2017, a year later went 7-6, and now need a win to match that record in 2019. I have no idea what to make of them. Meanwhile, this is Wake’s fourth straight 7+ win season after being abysmal for about eight years. The arrow is pointing up for the Demon Deacons, while the arrow is drunk for the Spartans. I like consistency and think this will be a nice victory for the relatively weak ACC. Zach thinks it’ll be a low scoring defensive struggle and likes the Spartans to get a close win.

My Pick:     Wake Forest

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Texas Bowl (Houston, TX – 6:45pm on ESPN)

Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-4)           vs.    Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)

One can choose to look at A&M’s season in one of two ways. Either their brutally difficult schedule has prepared them for battle and laid the groundwork for future success, or they’ve got to be exhausted & beaten up after playing five Top 10 teams. I’m a glass half full kind of guy so I choose the former viewpoint. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have been completely overlooked while having a solid season, beating everyone they should have and losing only to the best teams in the Big 12 (well, except for Texas Tech…no idea what happened there). OK St. has running back Chuba Hubbard, who finished as the nation’s leading rusher with over 1900 yards and 8th in Heisman voting, but the Aggies have a more complete team and bright future. Zach believes that A&M’s season has prepared them for this moment and they’ll outscore their opponents in a tough game.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:    Texas A&M

 

 

Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA – 8pm on FS1)

Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3)           vs.    Southern California Trojans (8-4)

Friday nights are rough for me since I have to be at work at 6:30am on Saturdays, but I might have to stay up a bit late to watch this one. I expected better things for USC this year, but injuries pretty much torpedoed their season. The Hawkeyes started the season 4-0 but two straight losses in October ended any hopes of competing in a loaded Big Ten. The Trojans are riding a three game winning streak, but I think Iowa will dedicate the game to recently deceased legendary coach Hayden Fry and score an emotional victory. Zach thinks this game might be somewhat boring, but he believes Southern Cal is a more balanced & complete team that’ll get the close victory.

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     USC

 

 

Cheez-It Bowl (Phoenix, AZ – 10:15pm on ESPN)

Air Force Falcons (10-2)    vs.    Washington State Cougars (6-6)

No, I won’t be staying up to watch this one…I have my limits. I do enjoy watching the military academies play, although it seems like prepping for a bowl game gives opponents ample time to figure out the quirks. The Falcons are 4-3 in the past decade of post-season games, and the Cougars won’t be an easy out. I expect plenty of offense and would certainly take the over, whatever that may be. The Cheez-It Bowl has had a variety of names…Copper Bowl, Cactus Bowl, Insight Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl…but it’s usually a fun game no matter what it’s called. I think the Cougars probably have a depth & size advantage up & down the lines and that will enable them to take command in the 4th quarter for a comfortable win. Zach isn’t sure either defense will have much success and likes the Cougars’ ability to put up points.

My Pick:     Washington St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington St.

 

 

Saturday 12/28

Camping World Bowl (Orlando, FL – Noon on ABC)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2)                   vs.    Iowa State Cyclones (7-5)

I haven’t heard much about Notre Dame this season. Perhaps that is because their ten win season comes against a relatively unimpressive schedule. They lost to Georgia & Michigan, although in fairness I suppose wins against Virginia, Virginia Tech, USC, & Navy deserve mild kudos since those are all bowl teams. I really thought the Cyclones would challenge for the Big 12 title, but Baylor was better than anyone thought and a season ending loss to Kansas St. was something I wouldn’t have predicted. I’m sure most of the talking heads will be in the tank for the Irish, but I believe they’re going to find themselves in a tougher battle than expected. Zach likes Notre Dame’s defense and believes that’ll make the difference in a close game.

My Pick:     Iowa St.

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX – Noon on ESPN)

Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)           vs.    Memphis Tigers (12-1)

So this is the…ummm…reward…for winning the AAC & being the highest ranked “Group of Five” team?? I could go off on a tirade about the structure of college football and how I’d change everything if I had the power, but let’s save it for another time. Much like Notre Dame the Nittany Lions haven’t received much love in 2019 despite winning ten games. That’s what happens when you play not only in the same conference as Ohio St. but also the same division. A loss to Minnesota that no one would have predicted four months ago didn’t help. Having said that, I have to believe that Penn St. has vastly superior athleticism & depth over Memphis, and this game won’t be all that close. It won’t help the Tigers that former head coach Mike Norvell has already moved on to Florida St. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA – 4pm on ESPN)

College Football Playoff Semifinal

LSU Tigers (13-0)                vs.              Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

They really had no choice. The playoff committee was hamstrung by Utah’s loss in the Pac 12 title game & Georgia’s poor performance in the SEC title game. I was sincerely hoping for a more interesting alternative, but Baylor failed miserably so here we are with the Sooners getting a crack at solving the playoff puzzle, the Big 12’s first appearance in this format. Do I think they have a shot?? No. LSU is a well-oiled machine with a Heisman winning QB and a powerful offense that more than makes up for their 32nd ranked defense. There are NFL prospects up & down both rosters, but the Tigers are clearly the better team and I don’t even think it’s close. Zach likes Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, but doesn’t feel like Oklahoma’s defense is up to the task of stopping Joe Burrow & the Tigers’ offense.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ – 8pm on ESPN)

College Football Playoff Semifinal

Ohio State Buckeyes          (13-0)         vs.    Clemson Tigers (13-0)

I get it. I understand why Clemson is here. They’re undefeated and the defending national champions. They’ve been in the playoff three previous times. Dabo Swinney is one of the best coaches in college football and he’s a fun interview (much more entertaining than Nick Saban). But when one really looks at THIS season and examines their weak schedule it just feels like they shouldn’t be a playoff team. Conversely, the Buckeyes have faced some real challenges and faced every single one. They had three players in the top 6 in Heisman voting, which negatively impacted those players’ chances to win but certainly speaks well of the program. Chase Young is the best defensive player in the nation and will be a very high NFL draft choice whenever he decides to move on. Will this be a good game?? Probably. I have no doubt that Swinney will have his troops ready to play and they’ll be psyched to play a legit opponent. But I just don’t see any way that Clemson can overcome the odds and defeat a better team. For Zach it comes down to coaching, and he believes Swinney will find a way to lead his team to a hard fought victory.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Monday 12/30

First Responder Bowl (Dallas, TX – 12:30pm on ESPN)

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4)    vs.    Western Michigan Broncos (7-5)

I’m glad they changed the name of this game from the weird sounding Heart of Dallas Bowl. Y’all know how neurotic I can be about corporate sponsorship and bowl names, but I suppose a game honoring our nation’s first responders is a nice idea. As for the game itself, I’m a little more familiar with the Hilltoppers since they’ve competed against my Thundering Herd in C-USA for several years, while I haven’t followed the Broncos at all. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Western Kentucky

Z’s Pick:     Western Kentucky

 

 

Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN – 4pm on ESPN)

Louisville Cardinals (7-5)            vs.    Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6)

Mediocre teams…one from a mediocre conference and the other that gets lost in the SEC shuffle. I think the Bulldogs probably have better athletes on their roster and most certainly have played tougher opponents this season, which should have them well prepared. Zach likes Louisville to win a shootout.

My Pick:     Mississippi St.

Z’s Pick:     Louisville

 

 

Redbox Bowl (Santa Clara, CA – 4pm on Fox)

California Golden Bears (7-5)     vs.    Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6)

Is Redbox still a thing?? Doesn’t everyone stream movies now?? Do they even still make DVDs?? These questions interest me far more than the game itself. Illinois did score one big win over Wisconsin, so there’s that. Plus you just have to dig Illini head coach Lovie Smith, who probably should get another opportunity in the NFL someday. Cal will probably have a bit of a “home field” advantage since the game is being played less than two hours from their campus, but I like Lovie to lead his team to victory. Zach thinks Cal will go up early, Illinois will make a spirited comeback, but that effort will fall short.

My Pick:     Illinois

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Orange Bowl (Miami, FL – 8pm on ESPN)

Florida Gators (10-2)           vs.              Virginia Cavaliers (9-4)

I’m just going to go ahead and say it…Virginia is vastly overrated. If one peeks at their schedule you’ll see that they lost to four bowl teams (Notre Dame, Miami, Louisville, & Clemson), while padding their resume with wins over William & Mary, Old Dominion, and the train wreck that Florida St. has become. Sorry, but I’m not buying the Cavaliers hype. Conversely, the Gators did quite well in the nation’s toughest conference and fell short against LSU & Georgia, which isn’t anything to feel bad about. I’m forecasting a blowout win for Florida. Zach thinks it’ll be a close game but also believes the Gators will win.

My Pick:     Florida

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

New Year’s Eve

 

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC – Noon on ESPN)

Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)               vs.              Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4)

I ranked the Hokies 25th in my pre-season poll and had a feeling they’d turn things around from last season’s 6-7 abomination. Tough losses to Notre Dame & Virginia doomed their conference title ambitions, but progress is progress. This will be defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s final game in that role after more than three decades in Blacksburg. He says he’s retiring, but we know how those stories go and since he’s only 60 years old I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on a sideline somewhere in a year or two, but his departure will certainly have a negative impact on Tech. Under Foster’s guidance Tech has had one of the top defenses in the nation for many years and I suspect they’ll be amped up to send him out on a high note. Long known as a basketball school, Kentucky has had a football renaissance the past few years, but I don’t think they stand a chance in this game. Zach has a little more faith in UK to keep things close but also believes Tech’s defense will lead them to victory.

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia Tech

 

 

 Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX – 2pm on CBS)

Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5)   vs.    Florida State Seminoles (6-6)

Okay okay…the Seminoles are a train wreck, but they are a bowl eligible train wreck, so atleast they got that going for them, which is nice. Willie Taggart was fired mid-season and Mike Norvell will be coming down from Memphis to take over, so they are playing under an interim coach for the time being. Conversely, my man Herm Edwards is firmly entrenched at Arizona St. and has what it takes to build a winning program. A signature win over Florida St….even this version of Florida St….would be a real boost. I always enjoy watching the Sun Bowl. There’s nothing better to do on New Year’s Eve afternoon since the…festivities…don’t start until later, and it’s fun to wonder what it’d be like to live in a sunshine filled delight like El Paso instead of the grey, cold, depressing winter of Appalachia. At any rate, I think the Sun Devils will get the job done by a comfortable margin. The Seminoles will be back near the top someday, but that day is not now. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Arizona St.

Z’s Pick:     Arizona St.

  

 

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN – 3:45pm on ESPN)

Kansas State Wildcats (8-4)                 vs.              Navy Midshipmen (10-2)

I’m glad to see one of the service academies playing in the Liberty Bowl. It just makes sense. K St. gets lost in the Big 12 shuffle while everyone fawns all over Oklahoma & Texas and this year Baylor, but they have quietly put together a solid yet wildly inconsistent program. This has been a good year for them. Unfortunately for the Wildcats their opponents are having their best season since 2016 and I think the Midshipmen will get the easy win. Zach thinks Navy’s triple option spells doom for the Wildcats.

My Pick:     Navy

Z’s Pick:     Navy

 

 

Arizona Bowl (4:30pm on CBS Sports Network)

Georgia State Panthers (7-5)                vs.              Wyoming Cowboys (7-5)

I have a vague recollection of Wyoming having a really good football team back in the late 1980’s & early 90’s. Unfortunately we east coasters don’t get much of an opportunity to watch their games. The Panthers have only had a football program since 2010 and moved up to Division 1-A/FBS in 2013. This will be their third bowl game in five years. I am intrigued by this game simply because I know very little about either team. I suppose I’ll pull for Georgia St. because I assume they’ll be considered underdogs. Zach likes Wyoming.

My Pick:     Georgia St.

Z’s Pick:     Wyoming

 

 

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX – 7:30pm on ESPN)

Utah Utes (11-2)                             vs.              Texas Longhorns (7-5)

Oh wow…another “woulda, coulda, shoulda” matchup. Utah had to win the Pac 12 title and almost certainly would have been in the playoff, but they laid an egg against Oregon. The college football world has been waiting for awhile for Texas to climb back on top, but after a stellar 10-4 record a year ago they fell flat in 2019. The Utes have a really good defense, but Texas probably has the deeper & more athletic team. This one could be a dogfight that goes right down to the wire, and I’d be fine with that. In the end I believe in the old philosophy that defense wins championships and I think Utah’s physicality makes the difference. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

New Year’s Day

Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL – 1pm on ABC)

Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2)               vs.              Michigan Wolverines (9-3)

This is not where these two teams would prefer to be on New Year’s Day. As we all know, ‘Bama is usually in the playoff whether they win the SEC title or not, but losing the Iron Bowl to archrival Auburn spelled doom. Meanwhile, the folks in Ann Arbor may or may not be growing a little impatient with head coach Jim Harbaugh. 47-15 over the course of five years would get buildings named after a coach at most universities, but Michigan has extremely high…maybe impossible…expectations. However, putting all expectations aside this is a pretty darn entertaining matchup for the fans and both schools. I expect the mind games and verbal sparring between Harbaugh & Nick Saban to be delightful fun in the next few weeks. Unless a bunch of their players decide to sit out to protect their NFL Draft status I think the Tide has superior talent right now, so I think they’ll win comfortably. Zach reluctantly agrees.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL – 1pm on ESPN)

Auburn Tigers (9-3)             vs.              Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-2)

Underrated vs. overrated. Auburn’s lineup is stacked with NFL level talent and I believe they can compete for a playoff berth in the near future. Losing to Florida, LSU, & Georgia is nothing to be ashamed of and doesn’t truly represent how good Auburn is, but that’s life in the SEC…the difference between winning & losing such games is the thin line between competing for a national title and playing in this bowl game. Conversely, I just don’t buy what Minnesota is selling. Other than upsetting Penn St. I just haven’t been overwhelmingly impressed. I think Auburn will put up a lot of points, play stellar defense, win easily. Once again Zach believes it’ll be a lot closer, but he likes Auburn as well.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA – 5pm on ESPN)

Oregon Ducks (11-2)           vs.              Wisconsin Badgers (10-3)

Both teams might have been playoff contenders, but a November loss to Arizona St. doomed the Ducks, while Wisconsin’s October loss to Illinois might be the head scratcher of the year. Nevertheless these are two really talented football teams, and my expectations are unreasonably high. Badgers’ RB Jonathan Taylor has something to prove after not being invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony, while the Ducks need to defend the honor of the Pac 12, whose champion has only made the playoff twice since 2014. I’m a big fan of smashmouth football and generally lean in that direction, but I think Oregon might just be too fast and have too many weapons for Wisconsin to stop. If they get behind early and have to abandon the run it’d be disastrous. Once upon a time Ducks’ QB Justin Herbert was thought to be a potential #1 overall NFL draft pick, but he stayed in college long enough for the talking heads to become enamored with other signal callers. Don’t be surprised if Herbert puts on a show in this game and goes on to have a better pro career than every quarterback drafted ahead of him. Despite predicting a big day for Taylor Zach also feels like Oregon is the better overall team.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA – 8:45pm on ESPN)

Georgia Bulldogs (11-2)               vs.              Baylor Bears (11-2)

The playoff would have looked vastly different if either one (or both) of these teams had been successful in their conference title games. Unfortunately for Georgia the LSU Tigers have been a beast in 2019 and weren’t going to be stopped. Baylor is a bit different. They had two cracks at Oklahoma and fell short both times. I don’t believe in moral victories when it comes to sports, and when you have a team like the Sooners on the ropes you have to go in for the kill. I hope this is another really fun game, and I’ll be rooting for the Bears to find a way to get over the hump…but I’m not sure I’d put any money on them. Zach has zero faith in Baylor and thinks the Bulldogs will cruise to victory.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

Friday 1/3

Birmingham Bowl (3pm on ESPN)

Cincinnati Bearcats (10-3)           vs.              Boston College Eagles (6-6)

As noted in the opening I take no issue with the existence of these next several games. I’ll watch some of them and probably be entertained to varying degrees. However, I find the placement odd. Once we get to New Year’s fans want to see the best teams face off. Throwaway games should be played in December. By January 3rd we’re finished with the holidays, have returned to work, and have a bit of football fatigue. Our remaining energy is reserved for the National Championship and the NFL playoffs. At any rate, the Bearcats have had a much better season and I think they’ll cap it off with a victory. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Cincinnati

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL – 7pm on ESPN)

Indiana Hoosiers (8-4)                  vs.              Tennessee Volunteers (7-5)

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, how far has the Gator Bowl fallen?? It used to be one of the big games played on New Year’s Eve or Day, and now it’s here with these two teams?? I don’t know who’s running things behind the scenes for the bowl organization, but they might need to be replaced. Secondly, when did Indiana become good at football?? Wins over Northwestern, Nebraska, & Purdue are mildly impressive. Conversely, the Vols are still trying to recapture the glory they enjoyed back when Peyton Manning played quarterback. Far from being meaningless, I have to believe that a win for either team could be a harbinger of positive things to come. I give Tennessee the slight edge, but this could be a really close contest. Zach also thinks it’ll  be close but likes the Hoosiers to get the win.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Indiana

 

 

Potato Bowl (Boise, ID- 3:30pm on ESPN)

Nevada Wolfpack (7-5)                 vs.              Ohio Bobcats (6-6)

Hey, atleast Boise St. isn’t playing in this game, so that’s a step in the right direction. I used to have an odd fascination with the Wolfpack and recall watching some of their really fun late night games. However, one of reasons they came to prominence about a decade ago was the play of QB Colin Kaepernick…you may have heard of him. I cannot in good conscience bring myself to support anything connected to Kaepernick, so I’ll be pulling for the Bobcats. Conversely, Zach’s irrational disdain is reserved for the entire state of Ohio.

My Pick:     Ohio

Z’s Pick:     Nevada

 

 

Saturday 1/4

 

Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX – 11:30am on ESPN)

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (7-5)              vs.              Tulane Green Wave (6-6)

I’d love to see the television ratings for all of these games, and if we did my guess is this would be among the least watched of all of them. I mean no disrespect to either team…it’s not about them. Well okay…it’s not completely about them. The timing is just atrocious. The first weekend of the new year. Everyone is still in a post-holiday haze. Before noon on a Saturday. I assume there will be NFL playoff games on later in the day. I’m sure both fanbases are psyched and that’s cool, but I have a feeling most of the rest of us will be skipping out. I’m not familiar with either team, so I’ll go with The Vibes and choose Southern Miss. Zach is going in the opposite direction and picking he Green Wave to get a close win.

My Pick:     Southern Miss

Z’s Pick:     Tulane

 

 

Monday 1/6

 

LendingTree Bowl (Mobile, AL – 7:30pm on ESPN)

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (10-3)   vs.    Miami (OH) RedHawks (8-5)

Monday night is wrasslin’ night at The Bachelor Palace so I probably won’t be watching the game, but football fans are pre-conditioned to watch on Monday nights, so the ratings might be marginally better. Once again my knowledge (and my level of giving a damn) is rather low, so I’m going with the Cajuns because I like their food & their accent. Zach is picking Louisiana because…well…you know.

My Pick:     Louisiana-Lafayette

Z’s Pick:     Louisiana-Lafayette

 

 

Monday 1/13

College Football Playoff National Championship Game

New Orleans, LA – 8pm on ESPN

Ohio St. Buckeyes / Clemson Tigers vs.    LSU Tigers / Oklahoma Sooners

I’m predicting an LSU vs. Ohio St. matchup, while Zach is leaning toward LSU vs. Clemson. If I’m right it’ll be The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object…the two most complete teams in college football. I think the offenses are fairly even, while I’d give a slight edge to the Buckeyes defense. Both lineups are loaded with NFL talent, and I don’t think either team has a distinct coaching advantage. If Ohio St. can control the clock with JK Dobbins & the running game it gives them a leg up. This will come down to the little things…special teams, field position, turnovers. I don’t foresee a shootout (the defenses are too good), but neither do I think it’ll be a low scoring affair. I’m looking at something like 24-21, with the outcome hanging in the balance late in the 4th quarter. The TV folks will love it, and I have a feeling the folks in Columbus will too. Conversely, Zach is all in on Dabo Swinney and has really high expectations for this game.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 9

I thought I might be distracted tonight by The World Series, but the game is pretty much over in the 7th inning, so it’s on to football. Zach (3-2) bested me (1-4) last weekend and has drawn closer to a .500 record and the season lead. Injuries in the NFL have wreaked havoc on my fantasy teams thus far, so I must admit to waning enthusiasm. Thankfully these picks help me maintain a certain level of interest.

My Season:        27-22

Zach’s Season:  24-25

 

 

 

 

 

 

USC (-13)                     at                         Colorado

I had high hopes for the Trojans, but injuries wrecked any shot they had at playoff contention. However, at 4-3 they still have a decent opportunity to get into the conference title game. Conversely, the Buffs are on a three game losing streak and the schedule looks to be rough the rest of the way. Their goal has to be bowl eligibility at this point, and I’m not sure I’d bet on that happening. Can Colorado muster enough home field mojo to atleast cover the points?? I don’t think so. Conversely, Zach sees USC as inconsistent and does believe Colorado can keep things close in a high scoring game.

My Pick:     Southern Cal

Z’s Pick:     Colorado

 

 

 

Auburn                        at                         LSU (-10)

The Bayou Bengals have visions of a conference championship and a playoff berth on their minds. They’re undefeated and have a huge home field advantage. Will they be looking ahead to a date with Alabama in Tuscaloosa?? I suppose it’s possible, but they do have a bye next week so it shouldn’t be as big of an issue as it could be. Auburn is a dangerous Top Ten foe, but it seems like a lot of folks have jumped off that bandwagon after they lost at Florida a couple of weeks ago. I expect a really fun game, and I think LSU will get the victory…however I believe it will be a single digit win. Zach understands the possibility of this being a trap game for LSU, but can’t ignore the excellence of QB Joe Burrow & the dominating defense.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame                          at                         Michigan (-1)

The Disney TV folks were probably hoping that this would be the big matchup of the week, but the luster has been diminished just a bit. The Irish are somehow in the Top Ten, but the truth is they haven’t played a tough schedule outside of a loss to Georgia. The Wolverines have lost two games, the latest just a week ago to Penn St. Rumors of Jim Harbaugh bolting for the NFL have already begun. So basically this game is going to save one of these teams’ season. Another loss might knock Michigan completely out of the rankings, while Notre Dame losing would open up the floodgates of the talking heads accusing them of being overrated. I have no idea what to expect, but when in doubt I tend to ride with the home team. Zach was heartbroken by Michigan’s loss to Penn St., but recognized some positives. Having said that, he’s going with the old “expect the worst” philosophy, which is probably smart.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin                            at                         Ohio State (-14)

A week ago this game was going to be epic. It still could be, but thanks to an upset by Illinois that no one saw coming more people have jumped off the Badger bandwagon than the folks that have ditched Auburn. In the legendary words of Ferris Bueller…”life moves pretty fast”. Having said that, there’s still a lot at stake here. The Buckeyes are eyeing a playoff spot, and both teams could meet again in the conference title game. There are a couple of things to consider. First, The Horseshoe in Columbus is a rather significant home field advantage for Ohio St. Secondly, even if one concedes that the home team deserves to be favored those points are…attention grabbing. Was the Illinois game just an anomaly…or did it expose Wisconsin as a fraud?? Is Ohio St. really a Top 5 team, or should we be talking about their relatively weak schedule?? I envision a low-scoring game (the over/under is 50 and I’d take the under)…defense, special teams, field position, ground & pound. The Vibes tell me Ohio St. wins, but not by 14 points. Zach reluctantly admits that the Buckeyes look scary good right now and thinks they’d definitely make the playoff if it began now. However, he leans toward last week being a glitch and looks for Wisconsin to rebound strong.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Carolina                       at                  San Francisco (-5)

The 49ers are undefeated y’all!! It’s been awhile since they had a good football team in ‘Frisco, but anyone who’s been following Jimmy G. isn’t all that shocked. Conversely, the Panthers’ are being led by backup QB Kyle Allen since the injury bug has bitten Cam Newton. That’s not a bad thing though…Carolina is 4-2 and RB Christian McCaffrey is a legit MVP candidate. This is going to be a fun game to watch, and my sense is that turnovers will play a key role. I’m pulling the trigger on an upset because no one goes unbeaten in the NFL and ‘Frisco will eventually win their division easily anyway. Conversely, Zach has no hesitation in predicting a big Niners win.

My Pick:     Carolina

Z’s Pick:     San Francisco

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.

2018-19 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

So…college football’s bowl season kind of snuck up on me y’all!! The games actually begin today. At the moment I am hoping I get this up on the website in time, but rest assured that even if I’m running a little late these picks were made in advance…no shenanigans. I’m feeling a little more ambivalent than usual about these games…for a variety of reasons. However, I will try to refrain from my normal kvetching about stupid (i.e. corporate) bowl names, teams with only six wins being bowl eligible, & the schedule containing far too many pointless games. There are those that embrace the idea of as many bowl games as possible because a bad football game is like bad sex…still not a bad way to spend some downtime, and I suppose I see their point. At any rate, as always these games do not count toward our season long Pigskin Picks of Profundity, we don’t bother with point spreads, & for the most part we understand that a variety of elements that we may know nothing about can have an effect on the outcomes. I’ve decided not to break everything down into tiers this year, so we’ll just go in chronological order. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cure

Orlando, FL

Saturday 12/15 at 1:30pm on CBS Sports Network

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (7–6)   vs.    Tulane Green Wave (6–6)

The proceeds from the game are donated to breast cancer research, which is nice. I suppose the NCAA wouldn’t have approved of naming it the Boobies Bowl. Having no real knowledge about either team I’m going with the Green Wave because I like waves & the color green. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Tulane

Z’s Pick:     Tulane

 

 

New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM

Saturday 12/15 at 2pm on ESPN

Utah State Aggies (10–2)   vs.    North Texas Mean Green (9–3)

This might actually be a fun game. Both teams have obviously had a successful season and are well deserving of a bowl bid. Sticking with a theme I’m picking North Texas because their green is mean. Conversely, Zach likes the rushing attack for the Aggies.

My Pick:     North Texas

Z’s Pick:     Utah St.

 

 

Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV

Saturday 12/15 at 3:30pm on ABC

Arizona State Sun Devils (7–5)  vs.    Fresno State Bulldogs (11–2)   

Vegas baby!! Vegas!!!! I envy these kids for getting to spend a few days in Sin City. I am sure that, despite all the potential distractions, Herm Edwards will have his Sun Devils ready to play. The Bulldogs defeated Boise St. to win the Mountain West title game, and this is their reward. It should be another fun game, and I gotta go with my man Herm to score the upset. Zach likes ol’ Herm well enough, but he just can’t be all in on the Sun Devils at this point.

My Pick:     Arizona St.

Z’s Pick:     Fresno St.

 

 

Camellia

Montgomery, AL

Saturday 12/15 at 5:30pm on ESPN

Eastern Michigan Eagles (7–5)  vs.    Georgia Southern Eagles (9–3)

A camellia is a type of flower. Fans of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird might recognize it as the flower grown by mean old Mrs. Dubose that was destroyed by an angry Jem Finch. I know zero about the teams involved, so I’m just going with the favorites. Zach believes it’ll be an easy win for Georgia Southern.

My Pick:     Georgia Southern

Z’s Pick:     Georgia Southern

 

 

New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

Saturday 12/15 at 9pm on ESPN

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8–5)         vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (10–2)       

It’s a great location for a bowl game, but I have to wonder how many folks from Murfreesboro, TN (located about 30 miles from Nashville) & Boone, NC (named for pioneer Daniel Boone) will be making the trek to The Big Easy. The Blue Raiders beat my Marshall Thundering Herd back in October (on my birthday!!), so I’ve got to root against them. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Appalachian St.

Z’s Pick:     Appalachian St.

 

 

Boca Raton       

Boca Raton, FL

Tuesday 12/18 at 7pm on ESPN

Northern Illinois Huskies (8–5)  vs.    UAB Blazers (10–3)  

UAB shut down their football program for a couple of seasons awhile back, so it’s great to see the team revived & successful.  Northern Illinois played Florida St. in the Orange Bowl back in 2012, so they’ve had their share of success over the years. I really like UAB’s comeback story so I always cheer for the Blazers. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     UAB

Z’s Pick:     UAB

 

 

Frisco

Frisco, TX

Wednesday 12/19 at 8pm on ESPN

San Diego State Aztecs (7–5)              vs.              Ohio Bobcats (8–4)  

No, the game is not in San Francisco…it’s in Frisco, TX, a Dallas suburb. I think the Aztecs have too much speed & firepower for the Bobcats to overcome, so I’m looking for a fairly comfortable victory for SD State. Zach likes State’s rushing attack to lead the way.

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Z’s Pick:     San Diego St.

 

 

Gasparilla 

Tampa, FL

Thursday 12/20 at 8pm on ESPN

South Florida Bulls (7–5)            vs.              Marshall Thundering Herd (8–4)         

This is how you name a bowl game. At first glance you might think that gasparilla is some kind of flower or plant along the lines of a camellia, but the game is actually named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. As the story goes, The Last of the Buccaneers allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century. It’s a cool story even if it is probably fictional. Anyway, I can’t pick against my alma mater, even though I did rank their opponent 12th in my pre-season poll. I’m happy this game is on a non-work night for me because I think it’ll be fun to watch. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Marshall

Z’s Pick:     Marshall

 

 

Bahamas  

Nassau, Bahamas

Friday 12/21 at 12:30pm on ESPN

FIU Panthers (8–4)              vs.              Toledo Rockets (7–5)         

I’m not sure how many fans of either team will be making the trip, but for those able to afford it and for the players, coaches, & staff of each program going to The Bahamas seems like a rather splendid Christmas gift.  I think this is another game where speed & athleticism will make a huge difference. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Florida International

Z’s Pick:     Florida International

 

 

Potato       

Boise, ID

Friday 12/21 at 4pm on        ESPN

Western Michigan Broncos (7–5)                 vs.              BYU Cougars (6–6)  

I will be eternally bemused that Boise was deemed by somebody somewhere as an appropriate bowl location. Perhaps the folks at The Mothership in Bristol, CT thought the blue turf would mesmerize television viewers. The Cougars come into the game having been battle tested against opponents like Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, & Utah. Conversely, the Broncos have played…well okay, Syracuse & Michigan. Gotta give them credit for playing two legit out-of-conference opponents. I think this will be a high scoring affair…something like 42-35…and I’m picking BYU to come out on top. Zach thinks BYU’s rushing attack will lead them to victory.

My Pick:     BYU

Z’s Pick:     BYU

 

 

Birmingham

Birmingham, AL

Saturday 12/22 at Noon on ESPN

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6–6)            vs.              Memphis Tigers (8–5)         

Memphis beat Houston a few weeks ago then played UCF tough in the AAC title game before losing, so I think they are a pretty decent team. Zach likes Memphis to win a shootout.

My Pick:     Memphis

Z’s Pick:     Memphis

 

 

Armed Forces   

Fort Worth, TX

Saturday 12/22 at 3:30pm on ESPN

Army Black Knights (9–2)           vs.              Houston Cougars (8–4)    

I’m actually looking forward to this game and believe it could be sneaky good. There are always a few of those this time of year. I’d love to pick Army, but I think Houston will have a size advantage in the trenches and wear down their opponent by the fourth quarter. Zach sees things the opposite way. He believes that Army’s offense will wear out the Houston defense and win in the final quarter.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Army

 

Dollar General

Mobile, AL

Saturday 12/22 at 7pm on ESPN

Buffalo Bulls (10–3)            vs.              Troy Trojans (9–3)    

I’m tempted to call this another sneaky good game, but if y’all have been sleeping on these two teams that’s your own fault. Buffalo beat Temple & Rutgers, and Troy played Nebraska tough, so they are both pretty good. Obviously neither team is going to walk into a “power” conference and compete on a weekly basis with Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio St., etc., but on their own level they have both built respectable programs. I’ve been really impressed with the Bulls when I’ve watched them play, so I’ll lean in that direction. Zach has a gut feeling, and he’s picking Troy.

My Pick:     Buffalo

Z’s Pick:     Troy

 

 

 

Hawaii

Honolulu, HI

Saturday 12/22 at 10:30pm on ESPN

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7–5)           vs.              Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (8–5)

Everything I said about the Bahamas Bowl applies to this game as well. I don’t know how much Tech support the Bulldogs will have (sorry…I just couldn’t resist) but for those who do make the trip it’ll surely be a fun vacation. It is basically another home game for the Rainbow Warriors, so I think that gives them a big edge. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Hawaii

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

 


First Responder

Dallas, TX

Wednesday 12/26 at 1:30pm on ESPN

Boston College Eagles (7–5)               vs.              Boise State Broncos (10–3)       

This was known the past few years as the Heart of Dallas Bowl, so kudos for the name change. It may not be a New Year’s Bowl against a traditional football elite, but this is still an opportunity for Boise to prove that they can compete with “power” conference foes, and I’d like to see them take advantage of it. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Boise St.

 

 

Quick Lane        

Detroit, MI

Wednesday 12/26 at 5:15pm on ESPN

Minnesota Golden Gophers (6–6)       vs.    Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7–5) 

On paper this is one of the least appealing games being played. I probably won’t watch. You probably won’t watch. I’m going to pick Minnesota just because I think gophers are cooler than yellow jackets. Zach doesn’t think Minnesota can deal with Tech’s triple option.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Georgia Tech

 

 

Cheez-It    

Phoenix, AZ

Wednesday 12/26 at 9pm on ESPN

TCU Horned Frogs (6–6)             vs.              California Golden Bears (7–5)   

Back in the day it was the Copper Bowl, then the Insight.com Bowl, then the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and finally the Cactus Bowl for a few years until now. I like to dip Cheez-its in chicken salad for a tasty snack. I like these west coast games on non-work nights, so I suppose I’ll watch & hope for a fun contest. TCU was apre-season playoff team for me, but obviously they fell far short of that goal. Cal beat Washington, USC, & Colorado during the season, so they can be randomly good. The Vibes are telling me to go with the Golden Bears, and so I shall. Zach has picked against Cal four times this season and is 0-4, so now he’s coming on over to the other side.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Independence

Shreveport, LA

Thursday 12/27 at 1:30pm on ESPN

Temple Owls (8–4)              vs.              Duke Blue Devils (7–5)      

The Independence Bowl has been around since 1976, and has grown from one of the lesser games to being respected as one of the old guard traditional games. Unfortunately it still doesn’t get many great matchups, and I don’t believe this will be a pleasantly surprising exception. I have a soft spot for the Owls since I fondly recall them as a Big East doormat when I was a kid (although at the time they had a highly touted basketball program). Duke is still a basketball school for the most part, but the football program has been pretty good for several years. My expectations are low, and Temple is the pick. Conversely, Zach likes Duke to get a close win.

My Pick:     Temple

Z’s Pick:     Duke

 

 

Pinstripe   

NY, NY

Thursday 12/27 at 5:15pm on ESPN

Wisconsin Badgers (7–5)            vs.              Miami Hurricanes (7–5)     

The Badgers were my pre-season #1 because…well, I’m sure my reasons seemed perfectly valid at the time. Needless to say, things didn’t quite work out as I had envisioned. The Hurricanes underperformed as well, falling off steeply from their 10-3 record a year ago. However, in spite of both squads having disappointing seasons I think this might be an entertaining game, and I am riding with my top team. I’m loyal like that. Zach feels like Miami has been too inconsistent offensively this season, and likes Wisconsin to use old-fashioned smashmouth football to score the victory.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:      Wisconsin

 

 

 

Texas       

Houston, TX

Thursday 12/27 at 9pm on ESPN

Baylor Bears (6–6)              vs.              Vanderbilt Commodores (6–6)   

Ehhh. I can’t imagine that anyone outside the two fanbases will have any interest in this game. I’ll pick Vanderbilt because the school is known as The Harvard of The South and I really like smart people. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Vanderbilt

Z’s Pick:     Vanderbilt

 

 

Music City

Nashville, TN

Friday 12/28 at 1:30pm on ESPN

Auburn Tigers (7–5)            vs.              Purdue Boilermakers (6–6)        

The Auburn folks might be disappointed in their season, but I’m not totally shocked that they went from a ten win team a year ago to where they find themselves currently. The SEC is tough anyway, and Tennessee, Kentucky, & LSU were all better than expected, so someone is going to fall thru the cracks and this year it was Auburn. The highlight of Purdue’s season was a beatdown of Ohio St. in October, which ultimately cost the Buckeyes a playoff spot. Otherwise there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about for Boilermaker fans. This will be portrayed as important for bragging rights between the SEC and Big Ten, and I think we all know who usually draws the short straw in that competition. Zach doesn’t think Auburn will be into the game on an emotional level, so that tips the scales to Purdue.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Purdue

 

 

Camping World

Orlando, FL

Friday 12/28 at 5:15pm on ESPN

Syracuse Orange (9–3)                vs.              West Virginia Mountaineers (8–3)      

As a Mountaineers fan I am beyond disappointed by this game. There were such high hopes coming into the season, but poor coaching and other bad decisions doomed the team to just another run-of-the-mill record, ending up in a run-of-the-mill bowl game against a run-of-the-mill opponent. I have no issue with WVU QB Will Grier’s decision to skip the game and get a head start in preparing for the NFL Draft. The dude is a potential first round draft pick…why should he risk injury is this meaningless game?? Credit where it is due to ‘Cuse for a nice season, but I’m sorry…the ‘Eers were expecting better than this. I suppose the smart money is on WVU not being all that motivated to be in the game and a bit behind the eight ball with their starting quarterback not playing. I get it…but I just can’t pick against them. Given Grier’s absence and WVU’s poor bowl record over the years Zach is going in the opposite direction.

My Pick:     West Virginia

Z’s Pick:     Syracuse

 

 

Alamo       

San Antonio, TX

Friday 12/28 at 9pm on ESPN

Iowa State Cyclones (8–4)          vs.              Washington State Cougars (10–2)      

This is the game West Virginia should be playing in, but since they didn’t bother to show up during a road loss to the Cyclones in October and probably because the games organizers can read a map and know that Iowa is a skosh closer than West Virginia to San Antonio this is how things ended up. Cougars’ QB Gardner Minshew will be looking to improve his draft stock, but he’ll be facing a tough defense. On paper the Cougars look like a heavy favorite…but they better not take the opponent lightly. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Washington St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington St.

 

 

Belk

Charlotte, NC

Saturday 12/29 at Noon on ABC

South Carolina Gamecocks (7–5)                vs.              Virginia Cavaliers (7–5)      

Could it be a sneaky good game?? Maybe, but no one is expecting much from two middle-of-the-road teams playing in a middle-of-the-road bowl game. The Vibes are telling me to pick Virginia, and I always listen to The Vibes. Zach likes the Cocks.

My Pick:     Virginia

Z’s Pick:     South Carolina

 

 

Arizona     

Tucson, AZ

Saturday 12/29 at 1:15pm on CBS Sports Network

Nevada Wolf Pack (7–5)              vs.              Arkansas State Red Wolves (8–4)     

I actually have CBSSN on my channel lineup, so I guess I’ll check in to see if this game is worth watching. I won’t hold my breath though. The Wolfpack have been on my radar for several years and have been known to play in some entertaining games. Zach is going in the opposite direction and picking the Red Wolves.

My Pick:     Nevada

Z’s Pick:     Arkansas St.

 

 

 

Peach       

Atlanta, GA

Saturday 12/29 at Noon on ESPN

Florida Gators (9–3)            vs.              Michigan Wolverines (10–2)      

Oh what might have been. Both teams had opportunities during the season to end up in a better spot, but the Gators fell to Kentucky & Missouri…two teams they’d beat in any “normal” year…and the Wolverines once again couldn’t get past archrival Ohio St. I suppose this is a rather decent consolation prize, especially for fans who can probably look forward to a competitive & engaging contest. I expect Jim Harbaugh will have his team ready, and I look for Michigan to prevail. Zach is worried about Michigan’s offense and thinks they may fall short.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Cotton (Playoff Semifinal Game)

Arlington, TX

Saturday 12/29 4pm on ESPN

Clemson Tigers (13–0)                          vs.              Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12–0)          

I wish I could get more excited about the playoff, but since ¾ of the field has pretty much been a foregone conclusion for weeks the whole thing has lost much of its charm. This is why the NCAA basketball tournament…aka March Madness…is a superior postseason show, because even if we think we know who the top teams are there are always upsets and surprises along the way. If we end up with the teams we perceived all along as the best battling for the title that’s okay because there has been some excitement leading up to it. With football the playoff just feels…anticlimactic. At any rate, of the two semifinal games I guess this is the one I’m most interested in. A few months ago I thought Clemson may get left out in the cold due to a rather weak schedule, but Syracuse, Boston College, & Pitt all ended up being better than anticipated, or atleast good enough for the powers-that-be to overlook Clemson’s out-of-conference games against Furman & Georgia Southern. It doesn’t hurt that the Tigers are loaded with NFL caliber talent, especially on defense. The Irish had a relatively soft schedule as well in my humble opinion, but both teams deserve credit for mowing down whatever competition was put in front of them and finishing undefeated. I think Clemson’s defense is just too damn good, so I look for them to pull out a close victory. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

 

Orange (Playoff Semifinal Game)

Miami, FL

Saturday 12/29 at 8pm on ESPN

Alabama Crimson Tide (13–0)             vs.              Oklahoma Sooners (12–1)         

I know Nick Saban is from West Virginia. I know that means I’m supposed to root for him. But Charles Manson was born in WV too, and no one was cheering him on. No, I’m not comparing Saban to Manson, but I’m just tired of Alabama. As awesome as college football is it needs some parity. It needs for some great teams to have a few bad years and a few bad teams to challenge for championships. That’s one reason why we love the NFL…it isn’t uncommon for a team to finish at the bottom of their division one year and make the playoffs the following season. That kind of unpredictability is good. I would have rather seen Ohio St. get the final spot instead of the Sooners, but I understand why it worked out the way it did. As far this game is concerned, I think ‘Bama’s defense is good enough to slow down Heisman winning QB Kyler Murray just a little, and their offense can go toe to toe with Oklahoma. Zach thinks the score might top 100 points collectively, and he likes Saban to make the right moves at the right time to lead his team to victory.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

Military

Annapolis, MD

New Year’s Eve at Noon on ESPN

Virginia Tech Hokies (6–6)                             vs.                        Cincinnati Bearcats (10–2)       

The Hokies owe a huge thank you to my Marshall Thundering Herd for sacrificing themselves so that Tech could become bowl eligible. I think that’s where the good news ends for them though because for possibly the first & only time Cincinnati is clearly the better team. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Cincinnati

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

Sun  

El Paso, TX

New Year’s Eve at 2pm on CBS

Stanford Cardinal (8–4)               vs.              Pittsburgh Panthers (7–6)          

The Sun Bowl is one of the oldest bowl games, and one of the few that doesn’t air on the ESPN “family of networks”. This could be a decent game, although in my humble opinion Pitt isn’t as good as some seem to think. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive battle.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

Redbox     

Santa Clara, CA

New Year’s Eve at 3pm on Fox

Michigan State Spartans (7–5)            vs.                        Oregon Ducks (8–4)

This game has had a few names over the years…the Walnut Bowl, the Emerald Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, the Foster Farms Bowl. It’s amusing to me that Redbox has obtained naming rights because Redbox is about as outdated as Blockbuster. Does anyone actually go out and rent DVDs anymore?? My money is on this game becoming the Roku Bowl or the Amazon Firestick bowl within a year or two. The matchup is mildly compelling…two teams who probably had higher expectations but who probably ended up about where they should’ve given the competitiveness of their conferences. I think the crowd will be significantly in Oregon’s corner, and I like the Ducks’ offense to get the job done. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

Liberty       

Memphis, TN

New Year’s Eve at 3:45pm on ESPN

Oklahoma State Cowboys (6–6)                   vs.              Missouri Tigers (8–4)         

I wouldn’t have minded seeing my Mountaineers play in this game, but they screwed the pooch against the Cowboys in November. Missouri should have never left the Big 12…they are a forgotten team in the SEC. Tigers’ QB Drew Lock is a potential first round draft pick, so this could be a great opportunity for him to solidify that status. Conversely, Zach likes OK State.

My Pick:     Missouri

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma St.

 

 

Holiday     

San Diego, CA

New Year’s Eve at 7pm on FS1

Northwestern Wildcats (8–5)                vs.              Utah Utes (9–4)          

I’m going to climb out on a limb and predict that this will be one of the best bowl games of the entire schedule. Both teams fell short in their conference title games, so this is an opportunity for redemption. I really like Northwestern, and I think they’ll grind out a hard fought, low scoring defensive battle and snag the win. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Z’s Pick:     Northwestern

 

 

Gator  

Jacksonville, FL

New Year’s Eve at 7:30pm on ESPN

Texas A&M Aggies (8–4)             vs.              NC State Wolfpack (9–3) 

The Aggies are another team that should still be in the Big 12 instead of the SEC. That move never made much sense to me. Having said that, there’s no doubt that Jimbo Fisher is building something special there, and I just don’t see the Wolfpack being able to compete. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

Outback

Tampa, FL

New Year’s Day at Noon on          ESPN2

Mississippi State Bulldogs (8–4)                  vs.                        Iowa Hawkeyes (8–4)          

Both teams are overlooked in conferences that are loaded with great teams. This is a chance for them to shine and hog the spotlight for once. I like the Hawkeyes to win another low scoring defensive battle, with turnovers & special teams playing a key role in the outcome. Zach is predicting a big game from Iowa tight end Noah Fant, who might be a first round draft pick next spring.

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     Iowa

 

 

Citrus        

Orlando, FL

New Year’s Day at 1pm on ABC

Penn State Nittany Lions (9–3)            vs.                        Kentucky Wildcats (9–3)    

I never would have predicted a few months ago that the Wildcats would be playing football on New Year’s Day. They’ve had an outstanding season and deserve praise for their accomplishments. However, the Nittany Lions have been here before and are used to success. I think Kentucky can hang tough for three quarters, but Penn St. will pull away and win comfortably. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

Fiesta        

Glendale, AZ

New Year’s Day at 1pm on ESPN

LSU Tigers (9–3)                           vs.                        UCF Knights (12–0)  

I didn’t think either team would be as good as they’ve been this season, despite past success. UCF hasn’t lost a game in two years, which is amazing, and they proved a year ago that they can hang with the big boys when they defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Can they do the same thing without injured starting QB McKenzie Milton?? I’d love to see it. Zach thinks UCF might win in a blowout.

My Pick:     Central Florida

Z’s Pick:     Central Florida.

 

 

Rose

Pasadena, CA

New Year’s Day at 5pm on ESPN

Washington Huskies (10–3)                 vs.              Ohio State Buckeyes (12–1)       

I know both teams wanted to be in the playoff, and I thought the Buckeyes might have been able to sneak in, but I suppose the Rose Bowl is one hell of a fallback option. This is the last hurrah for Ohio St. head coach Urban Meyer before he “retires” (for now), and I expect his team to use his departure and anger about being left out of the playoff as fuel to spark a big win. Conversely…and to absolutely no one’s surprise…Zach is picking Washington.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Sugar        

New Orleans, LA

New Year’s Day at 8:45pm on ESPN

Texas Longhorns (9–4)               vs.              Georgia Bulldogs (11–2)    

I knew Texas would be back in the spotlight eventually, and I expect that they’ll be huge favorites to win the Big 12 next season. Georgia is probably disappointed about not making the playoff, but they received a fair shot and couldn’t overcome Alabama in the SEC title game. Both squads have their fair share of NFL caliber talent, so this will probably be a really good game to watch. Going forward I think you’ll see the Longhorns ascending and the Bulldogs descending, but in this game I’m looking for Georgia to score a tight victory. Zach actually likes Georgia to win big.

My Pick:     Georgia

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

 

College Football Playoff National Championship

Santa Clara, CA

Monday, January 7 at 8pm on ESPN

Alabama/Oklahoma              vs.              Clemson/Notre Dame

We both have predicted an Alabama vs. Clemson title game. I think Clemson is the only team good enough on both sides of the ball to give ‘Bama a fight. If this is the matchup the focus will be on QB Tua Tagovailoa & the Tide offense versus a Clemson defense that is stacked with NFL talent. But what about the other side of the coin?? Can Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence & RB Travis Etienne overcome ‘Bama’s stout defense??       It might just be wishful thinking on my part, but I really like Dabo Swinney, and I think he can lead his team to another title. Zach just can’t go against saban, and he believes Alabama will win yet another championship.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

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 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 1

We’re baaaaaaccccckkkk. I sincerely hope The Manoverse considers that a good thing, although I know there are those that don’t particularly enjoy sports related topics. Be patient. Y’all know that The Manofesto is a cornucopia where we discuss all kinds of stuff, and I will do my best to not focus solely on football for the next five months. This will be my 6th season making these picks, while my nephew Zach joins me for the fifth time. I finished 2016 with a record of 54-49 (a 52% winning percentage), while Zach struggled a bit and finished at 38-65 (37%). As always Week 1 is all about college football since the NFL hasn’t began its season just yet. Fortunately, because of the College Football Playoff, teams are bulking up their schedules with better early season non-conference games, and we fans are the beneficiaries. There are a couple of monster matchups on the opening weekend, so it wasn’t difficult to choose which games to pick. Let me remind you that Zach & I do not have any money riding on these games and I do not encourage gambling, but if that is an activity that frosts your cupcake and you have the disposable income while still paying your bills & feeding your family then go right ahead and do what you enjoy. Just don’t put too much stock in what you read here…we’re not very good at this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYU           vs.    LSU (-12.5)

Hurricane Harvey has forced this “neutral site” game, originally to be played in Houston, TX, to the New Orleans Superdome, meaning that it’s not so neutral anymore. I don’t think it makes much of a difference though. The Cougars are coming off of a solid 8-4 season and have already played a game last weekend, beating 1-AA Portland St. in unimpressive fashion. Equaling 2016’s record might be the best BYU can aspire to. The Bayou Bengals also finished last year at 8-4 in a season in which they fired their longtime head coach. RB Leonard Fournette has moved on to the NFL, which isn’t necessarily disastrous for LSU because honestly, he rarely lived up to the hype in my opinion. They probably aren’t winning their conference or even their division, but the boys from Baton Rouge shouldn’t have any problems winning this game. Zach thinks it’ll be a blowout.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

California           at      North Carolina (-12.5)

I’d have to do research to know for sure (and that ain’t happening), but it seems like a rare occurrence that the Pac 12 and ACC meet up during the regular season. The Golden Bears were an atrocious 5-7 last year, while the Tar Heels were 8-5. QB Mitch Trubisky & WR Ryan Switzer have both left Chapel Hill behind for the NFL, and that concerns me a little, especially for the first game of the season. I’m not bold enough to predict an outright upset, but the points feel like a bit much to me. Zach doesn’t foresee a blowout, but believes Carolina will win by a comfortable enough margin.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     UNC

 

 

 

Texas A&M        at      UCLA (-3)

After losing starting QB Josh Rosen to a shoulder injury in 2016 the Bruins nosedived to a 4-8 record, but Rosen is back and I expect him to be a first round NFL Draft pick next spring. The Aggies started off strong last season but struggled in the second half, limping to an 8-5 finish. They are without the services of defensive end Myles Garrett, who was chosen #1 overall by the Cleveland Browns. UCLA gets just a slight home field bump from the oddsmakers, but I don’t believe it’ll be that close. Zach likes A&M well enough but can’t overlook the home field advantage.

My Pick:     UCLA

Z’s Pick:     UCLA

 

 

 

Michigan (-5)     vs.    Florida

Michigan might be getting more love and national title hype if a) they didn’t have to replace ¾ of last season’s starters, and b) they didn’t play in the same conference as Ohio St. & Penn St. I expect a slight dropoff for the Wolverines from last year’s 10-3 record, though I still consider them a Top 25 team. Florida plays in the SEC, which might not be as good as in year’s past, but it’s still a pretty tough road. The Gators were 9-4 in 2016 and would probably be more than satisfied to equal that mark this season. This is a neutral site game being played at The Palace in Dallas, which atleast will make it fun to watch on TV. I think the oddsmakers have nailed this one. It’ll be competitive, but Michigan will win by a touchdown. Zach is a huge Michigan fan, but is shocking the world by predicting an upset.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Florida State      vs.    Alabama (-7.5)

Wow, what a huge game on the opening weekend!! Kudos to both teams. Alabama has won four national championships since 2010 and lost last season’s title game to Clemson on a touchdown pass in the final seconds. The Seminoles haven’t won a national title since 2013 but are always in the conversation. The winner of this game will emerge as the undisputed #1 team in the land, although the loser will still have a decent chance to make the playoff. It’s another neutral site game, this time emanating from the brand spankin’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This is a battle of wits between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher. I am expecting a low scoring, smashmouth defensive struggle, with a couple of big plays making the difference. I’m not brave enough to predict the outright upset, but I do think the game will be decided by less than a touchdown. Zach loves Saban and thinks the Tide will roll by two TDs.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

2017 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

 

 

1          USC

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

2          Penn State

Last Season:             11-3

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma State

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

4          Florida State

Last Season:             10-3   

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

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

 

 

5          Ohio State

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

6          Alabama

Last Season:             14-1

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

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

 

 

7          South Florida

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

8          Georgia

Last Season:             8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Wisconsin

Last Season:             11-3

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

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

 

 

10        Auburn

Last Season:             8-5

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

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

 

 

11        Oklahoma

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

12        Washington

Last Season:             12-2

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

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

 

 

13        Louisville

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Clemson

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              11/11 vs. Florida St.

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

 

 

15        Michigan

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

16        West Virginia

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Boise St.

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

18        Virginia Tech

Last Season:             10-4

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

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

 

 

19        Florida

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

20        Texas

Last Season:             5-7

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

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

 

 

21        Stanford

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

22        LSU

Last Season:             8-4

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

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

 

 

23        Miami (FL)

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

24        UCLA

Last Season:             4-8    

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

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

 

 

25          Notre Dame

Last Season:             4-8

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

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

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2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 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