WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 4.21  

Again?? So soon?? As previously mentioned, these months are consumed by football games & weekly picks to the point that I purposely avoid bombarding The Manoverse with other sportscentric content. However, the old saying “circumstances alter cases” applies because there are a few things that need addressed in a timely fashion. 

I’m sure that young kids dreaming of a career in sports journalism think of ESPN as the pinnacle of professional success, but I hope those future talking heads are paying attention to The Flagship in Bristol’s recent treatment of Rachel Nichols & Sage Steele and considering other options. Actually, I pray that Nichols & Steele themselves are seeking alternative employment. I know I would be if my bosses at any job had treated me like those two ladies have been by ESPN. I trust that The Manoverse is resourceful enough to research the details, but suffice to say that neither woman has a damn thing to apologize for, and their company (which is owned by evil empire Disney) has proven that contrary to their statement that “we embrace different points of view” they absolutely do not. ESPN also said that “we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values and in line with our internal policies”, which essentially means that their values & policies are completely abhorrent yet they expect total assimilation. 

I couldn’t help but look at the recent Alabama-Texas A&M game from a little different perspective. Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher became the first of Nick Saban’s former assistants to defeat their old boss. Both Saban & Fisher hail from northcentral West Virginia. Saban grew up just outside Fairmont, which is about 20 miles up the road, while Fisher grew up right here in Clarksburg. West Virginians are proud of the success of our native sons, but it is an inescapable fact that they both did what so many from here have to do…go far away to achieve success. Much like the Pittsburgh Pirates have become a farm team for the rest of MLB our state is an incubator, its best & brightest growing up in safety & comfort only to flee elsewhere and blossom. Every time there is a coaching vacancy at WVU there are fans that hope & wish for either Saban or Fisher to return home, but it’s a pipe dream. Never going to happen. To their credit both men moved on long ago and would diminish their legacies by coming back here. So, while most fans watched and felt about it one way or another how a football fan feels about a great game, I saw it as a microcosm of real life and its oftentimes unfortunate realities. 

Oh hey, speaking of being canceled, Jon Gruden needs Rachel Nichols & Sage Steele to hold his beer…..

I’ve had some time to reflect on this one and modify my initial gut reaction. But first, a story. A couple of years ago a tenant was evicted from my apartment building. The people that run the place had been trying to get rid of him for years to no avail, until he was dumb enough to do the one thing he absolutely could not do. This idiot (allegedly 😉) did a drug deal in full view of security cameras. So, after years of evading efforts by the powers-that-be who simply didn’t like him for whatever reason, this guy did it to himself. How does that relate to Gruden?? My knee jerk response was to rail against cancel culture, which I despise. However, upon further reflection the fact is that Jon Gruden should’ve known better. Yes, some of the emails that cost him his job stretch back to 2011. Yes, all of it occurred before he was even rehired as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in 2018. I’ll even go so far as to say that I don’t completely disagree with some of the points he made (my disdain for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is well documented). Having said that, the fact is that almost any kind of communication can potentially become public. That’s especially true now, but was also the case in 2011. Jon Gruden is a grown, middle-aged man who has been in the public eye for many years. He should have been smart enough not to openly express some of the things that he did. I think we’ve all learned by now that anything electronic…voicemails, texts, emails, social media posts…are forever. Hell, I started the original incarnation of The Manofesto on MySpace in 2008 and someone could probably come after me for a long forgotten sentence or paragraph. Is it right for a person to have their life wrecked for things that happened years ago?? Probably not, but those are the current rules of engagement, which means the prudent course of action is to lay low, play your cards close to the vest, and keep that big mouth shut. Of course it also helps if you avoid racism, sexism, & derogatory slurs of any kind. That seems like a good place to start. 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 4

It’s been really cool to be a football fan the past couple of weeks. There have been some intense & exciting games that were fun to watch even if one didn’t have a particular rooting interest. Unfortunately all of that good football hasn’t translated into many wins for us. Zach was 1-4 last week, while I went 2-3 thanks to Oklahoma St.’s narrow victory over Boise St.. The good news is that we are starting to get a sense, at both the college & NFL levels, of which teams are going to be successful and who might struggle this season. Hopefully that bodes well for us if we’re smart…but don’t hold your breath. 

My Season: 10-11

Zach’s Season: 8-13

Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (-5.5)

The Irish were a preseason playoff team for me, though I also ranked the Badgers in the Top 20. Notre Dame is 3-0 but hasn’t been that impressive against teams they should have beaten soundly. Wisconsin is 1-1, losing a close season opener against Penn St. but handling their business last weekend. This is a neutral site game being played in Chicago, and I’m a bit surprised that Wisconsin is favored. This will set the tone for both teams for the remainder of the season, so the question is who will have the positive momentum going forward. I’m not sure who will actually come out on top, but I smell a close game…closer than five points anyway. Zach, on the other hand, believes Notre Dame is overrated. He is interested in watching grad transfer quarterback Jack Coan lead the Irish against his former team, but doesn’t think it will be enough. 

My Pick: Notre Dame

Z’s Pick: Wisconsin 

Texas A&M (-6) vs. Arkansas

Most “experts” expected the Aggies to do well in Jimbo Fisher’s fourth year at the helm, and thus far they are 3-0. Meanwhile, the 3-0 Razorbacks have kind of snuck up on people, easily upending the competition, including a 19 point win over the Texas Longhorns. This is another neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas and brings back memories of the good ol’ days when the Big 8 was a thing. I think it will be another fun game to watch, but A&M is just too deep & talented so I’m picking them to win by atleast a touchdown. Zach thinks Arkansas is the real deal and is predicting the upset. 

My Pick: Texas A&M

Z’s Pick: Arkansas 

Colorado at Arizona State (-14.5)

My man Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils looking decent at 2-1, but they lost a tough one a week ago to BYU. Conversely, the Buffaloes are 1-2, having played well but not well enough against A&M then getting pummeled by Minnesota. The points concern me just a little. Two TDs+ seems high. I feel like Arizona St. will win comfortably, but it’ll be more like a 10-12 point victory. Zach is concerned that the home team is somewhat inconsistent and believes it will be a close game.

My Pick: Colorado 

Z’s Pick: Colorado 

Miami at Las Vegas (-5)

Those damn Raiders!! They beat our Steelers last week and I’m not happy about it. I can be petty just like any other human being, so there’s part of me that wants to pick Miami out of spite. However, the 1-1 Dolphins got obliterated 35-0 by the Buffalo Bills on Sunday and QB Tua Tagovailoa injured his ribs in the process, meaning backup Jacoby Brissett will be under center this weekend. Conversely, 2-0 Vegas is firing on all cylinders and they have the home field. If the visitors had a healthy starting quarterback I might be tempted to go with the upset, but they don’t so I won’t. Zach is predicting an easy win for Vegas. 

My Pick: Las Vegas

Z’s Pick: Las Vegas 

Philadelphia at Dallas (-4)

It’s still a fun rivalry even if both teams aren’t exactly at the top of their game. Philly is 1-1 and the jury is still out on QB Jalen Hurts. I don’t think Joe Flacco or Gardner Minshew are legit threats to seize the job, but never say never in the NFL. On the flip side of that is Cowboys’ signal caller Dak Prescott, who has looked fantastic returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him most of last season. The issue in Dallas is RB Ezekiel Elliott, who has rushed for just over 100 yards and one touchdown thru two games, driving fantasy owners everywhere bonkers. They absolutely have to get Zeke going if they’re going to compete for a division title. This is the Monday night game, and despite the home field I don’t have much faith in Dallas. I smell an upset. Zach respects the Eagles’ toughness, but feels like the combination of the home field, a solid defense, and a better QB in Prescott makes the difference for the Cowboys. 

My Pick: Philadelphia 

Z’s Pick: Dallas

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 11

Well, I picked a bad week to do a supersized crop of picks, especially with a Thursday night game among them. This is going to be as short & sweet as possible, not only because of that game, but our Steelers (whose games we never pick) are playing tonight too, so the goal is to have this posted before kickoff. Nothing like cutting it close, right??

My Season:     32-27

Zach’s Season:       28-31

 

 

 

 

North Carolina                    at                         Pitt (-5)

Head coach Mack Brown probably has the Tar Heels heading in the right direction, although the numbers don’t necessarily reflect that. At 4-5 they’re just fighting for bowl eligibility at this point. Conversely, the 6-3 Panthers are still in the thick of the race to lose to Clemson in the ACC title game. Pitt has the theoretical home field advantage, but I suspect a lot of fans will be disguised as empty seats at Heinz Field while many folks stay home to watch the Steelers game. Zach likes what Brown is doing at UNC. He feels like this is going to be a really close game one way or another, so he’s rolling with the underdogs to atleast cover.

My Pick:     North Carolina

Z’s Pick:     North Carolina

 

 

 

Texas                                     at                        Iowa St. (-6.5)

I really thought the Cyclones would be much better this season, but at 5-4 they’ve not met my high expectations. Meanwhile, the 6-3 Longhorns are just about where most believed they’d be but surprisingly find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big 12 title game, making this a must-win. I don’t usually abandon my pre-season picks too easily, but despite having the home field I think Iowa St. will fall to a more talented Texas team. Zach sees Texas spiraling a bit since the Red River Shootout a month ago, and retains a lot more faith in Iowa St. than me. But he’s not comfortable with the points and feels like Texas will atleast cover on the road.

My Pick:     Texas

Z’s Pick:     Texas

 

 

 

Michigan St.                         at                         Michigan (-13.5)

The talking heads always say to throw out the records when it comes to rivalry games. Are they right?? The Spartans come into this weekend below .500 and losers of four straight. Conversely, the Wolverines are 7-2, although a lot of dominoes are going to need to fall just right for them to play in the Big Ten title game. The Big House is a significant home field advantage, but is it two TDs big?? Those kind of points make me nervous….especially in a rivalry game…but I’m going to roll with the oddsmakers. Zach, on the other hand, doesn’t like the points. He likes the Wolverines at home but doesn’t feel like their offense is clicking just yet and thinks State will put up enough of a fight to cover.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Michigan State

 

 

 

TCU (-3)                                at                         Texas Tech

Do I wish my WVU Mountaineers could play in a more…geographically appropriate…conference?? Yes. But I must admit that the Big 12 is sufficiently entertaining. Both teams come into this game at 4-5, so a win seems like it’d be huge as far as bowl eligibility. The Horned Frogs have the home field, but I think I lean toward the underdog Red Raiders to get a late game winning field goal in a high scoring shootout. Zach likes TCU to come up with a big stop late in the game to come out on top.

My Pick:     Texas Tech

Z’s Pick:     TCU

 

 

 

Georgia (-3)                          at                         Auburn

The Bulldogs would be in the playoff if it were played today, but we found out a week ago just how precarious those four positions can be. Auburn still harbors conference title & playoff hopes as well, although their climb will be quite tricky. I love chaos when it comes to the playoff, and War Eagle has a nice home field, so I’m pulling the trigger on an upset. Zach is intrigued by Auburn’s freshman QB Bo Nix, but feels like Georgia is the better team right now.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

 

Oklahoma          (-10)                     at                         Baylor

I don’t think anybody would have predicted a couple of months ago that this game would be so huge, but that’s exactly what it is. It’s a must win for the undefeated Bears who are getting zero respect from the playoff committee, and almost as important for the Sooners, whose inexplicable stumble at Kansas St. a couple of weeks ago could end up being quite costly. It looks like the playoff committee aren’t the only ones disregarding Baylor…when was the last time an undefeated home team in November was a ten point underdog?? I’m hoping for a close & exciting game, so I have to pull for Baylor. Like so many others Zach doesn’t believe Baylor is the real deal. He thinks they might keep it close for three quarters but the athletically superior Sooners will pull away for a comfortable victory.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

 

South Carolina                    at                         Texas A&M (-10.5)

I’m not sure what to think or how to feel about this game. The Gamecocks are 4-6, but defeated Georgia in double overtime a month ago. The Aggies have one of the toughest schedules in the country but are 6-3. Losing to Alabama, Clemson, & Auburn is nothing to be ashamed of, and they’ll finish the season with road games at Georgia & LSU. A&M needs to go into those final two contests strong, even though they’ve already attained bowl eligibility, which is something South Carolina is still seeking. They call the home crowd in College Station The 12th Man, and this would be an excellent week to earn that nickname. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

 

Dallas (-3.5)                          at                         Detroit

Few things in life give me more pleasure than seeing the Cowboys lose, especially when so many “experts” propped them up as Super Bowl contenders not that long ago. At 5-4 they are in a dogfight with the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East, but I feel like Philly is trending upward while Dallas is heading in the other direction. Perhaps that is wishful thinking. Anyway, the Lions are who I thought they’d be, although they’ve battled in every single game. The Vibes are telling me that this could be a one point game either way, so I’m going to be cheering on the home underdogs. Zach doesn’t like the Cowboys any more than I do, but he just can’t get behind Detroit backup QB Jeff Driskel, who is likely to sub for a second straight week while Matthew Stafford deals with a back injury.

My Pick:     Detroit

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

 

 

 

 

New Orleans (-5.5)               at                         Tampa Bay

Speaking of divisional dogfights…well, I guess that really doesn’t apply to the NFC South. Despite the injury & absence of QB Drew Brees the Saints are going to win the division easily, especially now that Brees is back. I realize that the Bucs have the home field this week, but just like the oddsmakers I don’t think it matters. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

 

 

 

Houston                                at                         Baltimore (-4)

I’ve been on Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson since college, and now the “experts” are beginning to recognize him as one of the best in the NFL. Having said that, the talking heads are really buzzing about his counterpart in this game, Ravens’ signal caller and former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who has already surpassed retired NBA baller Lamar Odom and former U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander on the list of best Lamars. Despite the quarterbacks getting all the hype I suspect this game will be decided by special teams, time of possession, & turnovers, and I think Houston is the better overall team. Zach thinks Baltimore might overlook Houston a bit and get taken by surprise.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

 

Kansas City (-3.5)                at                         LA Chargers

The Chargers have failed to live up to my lofty expectations and currently sit third in the AFC West. However, some chinks in the armor of the Chiefs have been spotted, and their division lead is by no means safe. This is the Monday night game, so we’re all hoping for an entertaining battle. I’m not sure the home field is any kind of an advantage for the transplanted Chargers, and I think Kansas City wins this one rather comfortably. Zach thinks KC’s defense might cost them down the line but has no doubt they’ll take care of business this week.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

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 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 2

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. – Robert Burns

 

I know what you’re thinking…”Week 2?? What happened to Week 1??”.  Well, your humble Potentate of Profundity made a slight miscalculation. We did actually make picks, but due to a new work schedule (well new since last football season anyway) for myself and a busier than usual weekend I just didn’t get anything written & posted. In years past I could hammer out something quick on Saturday morning before kickoff if necessary, but that’s not the case anymore and last weekend it just messed up the whole deal. At any rate, in life one must learn to occasionally adapt on the fly, so that’s what we’re doing. Zach & I made picks on the following games a week ago: South Carolina/North Carolina, Northwestern/Stanford, Boise St./Florida St., USC/Fresno St., & Oregon/Auburn. Zach went 1-4, while I fared slightly better at 2-3 (thank you Southern Cal for not covering the points). Not exactly the beginning either of us hoped for, but we’ll just move on. The NFL begins their season this week, so to celebrate that and to make up for my previous error it seems like a fine idea to do some bonus picks. Enjoy.

Sam’s Season:   2-3

Zach’s Season:  1-4

 

 

 

 

 

Syracuse           at                Maryland (-2)

So I guess…after almost two decades of futility (with occasional sprinkles of mediocrity)…the Orange is allegedly competitive again. To be fair, they did post a 10-3 record last season and easily handled my WV Mountaineers in a bowl game in which the WVU coaching staff clearly phoned it in. The Terrapins beat the snot out of some junior high team last week, but does that really tell us anything?? I’m not ready to buy into Syracuse being “back” quite yet, but neither do I believe Maryland should be favored…even at home…based on one dominating performance against clearly inferior competition. Where does that leave us?? Well, hopefully with a fairly entertaining game. Zach believes Maryland’s hot start is legit and will continue.

My Pick:     Syracuse

Z’s Pick:     Maryland

 

 

 

LSU (-6)               at                Texas

Neither team was challenged a week ago, but we’ll see what they’re really made of now. If this game was in Baton Rouge the pick would be easy, but at home I think the Longhorns might have a legit shot to win. Texas has a kicker named Cameron Dicker…Dicker the Kicker, which I find entertaining in a juvenile sort of way. My vision is a last second game winning field goal in which Dicker just can’t get the ball where he needs to and falls a bit short. It’s okay. It’s common. It happens to every kicker. It’s no big deal. But atleast in that scenario Texas would cover the points. Zach thinks Texas might be a bit overrated, but also feels like LSU often fails to win big games. He’s calling for the outright upset.

My Pick:     Texas

Z’s Pick:     Texas

 

 

 

Stanford             at                USC (-1)

The Trojans won a tough battle with Fresno St. a week ago, while Stanford beat Northwestern. This game is essentially a pick ‘em, which means the folks in Vegas seem to agree that USC’s abysmal 2018 was a blip on the radar. They have a chance to make a statement by defending their home field and getting a leg up in the Pac 12, and I believe that’s exactly what will happen. Zach likes Stanford’s defense, especially considering USC lost starting quarterback JT Daniels to a torn ACL and will now be led by a freshman QB.

My Pick:     Southern Cal

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Texas A&M                  at                Clemson (-18)

I’m really looking forward to this game. Fortunately it’s a 3:30pm kickoff, which fits into my day perfectly. A&M has a brutal schedule, and they’ll deserve respect for even becoming bowl eligible. However, I think they’ll do better than that and pull off a couple of upsets this season. Will that happen this week?? Well…no. Clemson is a well-oiled machine whose spot in the playoff is virtually guaranteed. Having said that, I’m a little taken aback by the points. I’m not sure if it indicates just how awesome the Tigers are, or possibly a lack of respect for the Aggies, which in my humble opinion would be a mistake. I don’t believe Clemson will lose, and the game might not be particularly close, but The Vibes are telling me it’ll be a 14-17 point victory. Zach likes Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence & RB Travis Etienne, but feels like A&M is also an improving team. Like me, he thinks the points are just too much.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

 

Kansas City (-3)                    at                Jacksonville

The oddsmakers have the Chiefs as one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl, and I don’t disagree. There is no question that QB Patrick Mahomes will lead the offense to some big numbers, so if KC’s defense evolves into something they could become almost unstoppable. The Jags usually have a solid defense, but they’ve been lacking where it counts most…behind center. Will QB Nick Foles change that?? Will he continue to be the quarterback that led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Lombardi trophy a couple of years ago?? Or faced with the task of being the unquestioned starter for an entire season will Foles be exposed as the journeyman backup many always thought him to be?? Those questions will be answered in due time, but in this specific contest I don’t believe Jacksonville has the firepower to keep up or a defense elite enough to stop the Chiefs offense. Zach doesn’t think Mahomes will put up MVP numbers like he did a year ago, but winning this game won’t be an issue.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

 

 

Indianapolis                at                LA Chargers (-6)

It’s been just another quiet, uneventful summer in Indianapolis. Well, except for the bombshell retirement of QB Andrew Luck before he even turns 30 years of age. Not to be outdone, the Chargers have been dealing with their own drama in the form of running back Melvin Gordon’s holdout. This game would probably be a lot more interesting with Luck & Gordon both playing, but their absence creates a sense of mystery & intrigue. The Colts’ coaching staff & front office can talk up new quarterback Jacoby Brissett all they want, but he’s got to prove it to me first. I’m rooting for the guy because wide receiver TY Hilton and RB Marlon Mack are integral pieces of my fantasy teams, but the reality is that it’s a huge change. The Chargers might have a bit of a dropoff without Gordon, but I think they’re equipped to weather the storm. Zach believes the Chargers are overrated, but Luck’s abrupt departure has doomed Indy’s season.

My Pick:     LA Chargers

Z’s Pick:     LA Chargers

 

 

 

NY Giants                       at                Dallas (-7)

I’m going to offer an opinion that some may find odd. I believe the Cowboys would have been better off had RB Zeke Elliott’s holdout lasted a few more weeks. I think Dallas will have a nice season and contend for a playoff spot, but in the end they’ll fall short like they always do. It might have been nice for Zeke to have fresher legs going into the last few games of the season. However, in regard to this game I don’t think any of that matters and the Cowboys will handle business easily. Zach concurs, predicting a three TD victory for the favorites.

My Pick:     Dallas

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

 

 

Houston                       at                New Orleans (-7)

This will be the earlier of two games on Monday night, and it should be really fun. My fondness for Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson is well-documented, and the team has made several moves in recent weeks that could prove to be helpful. The RB tandem of Duke Johnson & Carlos Hyde could be sneaky good, and JJ Watt will lead a stellar defense. The problem is that Houston is taking on my Super Bowl favorites in The Big Easy. A loss won’t destroy either team’s season, and I believe both will get into the playoffs. The home field is enough for me to go with the Saints, and Zach agrees, opining that New Orleans will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after being erroneously knocked out of a trip to the Super Bowl last season.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

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 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 13

turkeyfootballHappy Thanksgiving Manoverse!! Not only do we get to enjoy tasty vittles like turkey, stuffing, yams, & pumpkin pie today, but we get a heaping helping of football during this long holiday weekend. It’s Rivalry Week in college football, so that’s what we are focusing on. Sadly, because of conference realignment, several old rivalries have gone by the wayside…Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, The Backyard Brawl (WVU vs. Pitt), The Border War (Missouri vs. Kansas). However, many remain and this year some of them actually mean something beyond bragging rights. Speaking of which, neither Zach nor myself can brag about last week’s picks, which resulted in me going 3-2 and him trailing at 2-3. I’m still befuddled by what has happened to the Green Bay Packers. At any rate, enjoy food, family, & football, and may God bless each & every one of y’all.

My Season:        34-37

Z’s Season:        26-45

 

 

 

 

 

LSU (-5)              at      Texas A&M

Another rivalry that has disappeared from the schedule is Texas vs. Texas A&M, which not only was played annually from 1915-2011, but was a centerpiece of the plotlsugiving for the 1982 classic musical comedy film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. However, I suppose that LSU is an acceptable substitute opponent for the Aggies. The Bayou Bengals are 6-4 in the midst of a roller coaster season, while A&M has fallen to 8-3 after getting thru the first six weeks of the season unscathed. Losing quarterback Trevor Knight to a shoulder injury hasn’t helped. I’d love to pick the upset because A&M does have the home field advantage, but I just don’t have much faith in their backup QB. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

Washington (-6)                   at      Washington St.

The Huskies are still technically on the outside looking in at the playoff, but for reasons that we’ll get to soon they have to feel pretty confident about their chances of washington2ultimately sneaking in. Winning this game in impressive fashion would certainly help. The 8-3 Cougars aren’t going to be an easy out on their home field, but given what’s at stake I’d be shocked to see Washington stumble. Zach isn’t sold on Washington’s playoff resume, but agrees they should win this game.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Auburn               at      Alabama (-17)

tideturkeyI wish I could get excited about The Iron Bowl. It has produced some lasting memories over the years. However, ‘Bama has been so dominant auburnturkeythis season that I just can’t fathom them losing this game on their home field. Not only that, but I’d be surprised if it is even close. Zach is an optimist, and though he doesn’t believe there will be an outright upset, he thinks it’ll actually be a watchable & competitive game. To be honest I hope he’s right.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

Michigan St.      at      Penn St. (-13)

Penn_State_logo111111The Nittany Lions have clawed their way back to relevance after…issues…that we shall not revisit. Due to upsetting Ohio St. about a month michstago Penn St. would actually sneak into the Big Ten title game with a victory. Meanwhile, the Spartans have had a terrible year. There’s really nothing else one can say. I’d be very surprised if Penn St. blows this opportunity, especially in the cozy confines of Happy Valley. Once again Zach isn’t predicting an upset but he’s a bit uncomfortable with the points.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Utah                    at      Colorado (-10.5)

Many people may have missed the fact that Colorado moved to the Pac 12 back in 2011. Now they have an opportunity to play in the conference title game (against theutah2 winner of Washington/Washington St.), but they must win this game or else they lose a tiebreaker against USC, who defeated the Buffaloes back in early October. Meanwhile, the Utes come into this game with nothing to gain or lose except pride & bowl position after a stunning loss to 4-7 Oregon last week. A few things are in play here. First of all, I’m not comfortable with the spread. Secondly, I think it is entirely possible that one team in this game is overrated while the other is underrated. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide which is which. Also, though I’m NOT a conspiracy theorist let’s face it…who would the powers-that-be rather have in the Pac 12 title game…Colorado or USC?? I think that answer is obvious. And finally, Utah’s loss last week isn’t a good think…for Colorado. Do they want to end their season with two losses?? I don’t think so. We’re on the same wavelength here, as Zach IS predicting the upset in this one.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

Florida                at      Florida St. (-6.5)

Florida_State_SeminolesThe Gators have already secured their spot in the SEC title game, where they will be beaten handily by Alabama. Conversely, the Seminoles florida gators imagearen’t getting anywhere near the ACC title game unless they buy tickets. However, of all these rivalry games this one is near the top of the list as far as records or even the home field being almost meaningless. I feel a disturbance in The Force here. One team has already achieved their goal, the other has nothing to lose. Zach likes the Gators’ defense to get the job done.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

Michigan            at      Ohio St. (-6.5)

Ohio_State_BuckeyesIt’s nice to have this game matter once again. Really cool. Now stick with me here…this might get confusing. If the Wolverines win they will play michigan-wolverines-fan-gearin the conference title game against either Nebraska or Wisconsin (Wisconsin holds that tiebreaker). If Ohio St. wins and Penn St. wins then neither the Wolverines nor the Buckeyes make it to the title game…it’ll be Penn St. vs. Nebraska or Wisconsin. If Ohio St. wins this game but Penn St. loses it’ll be the Buckeyes facing off against Nebraska or Wisconsin. And oh…by the way…all of these teams are still in the conversation for the playoff regardless of what happens here, although one would have to believe that the loser will be out of luck. I’ve said all along that Harbaugh was ahead of schedule, that I didn’t expect him to have Michigan in the national championship picture quite yet. This game is being played in Columbus, which is huge. I love the fact that they are sticking to the traditional noon kickoff despite it being undeniably the biggest game of the week and an obvious choice for the prime time spotlight. It’s the little things, right?? Predictably Zach is picking his favorite team. Heck, even Stevie Wonder could’ve seen that coming.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Michigan