WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 1.22

Our first edition of W&M in 2022 is football heavy as usual, but that’ll change in the not-too-distant future. For now it is time to bid farewell to goal posts & penalty flags and say so long to QB sacks & onside kicks. Enjoy. 

Kudos to the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. As a Steelers fan I wasn’t about to cheer for the Cincinnati Bengals, and I’m beginning to get a little uncomfortable with the sports media’s blatant attempts to position Cincy QB Joe Burrow as Tom Brady 2.0. The kid seems a bit too big for his britches (shout out to my late Grandma P.), so perhaps it’s best he was brought down a peg or two. Also, after wasting over a decade with the hapless Detroit Lions one can’t help but be happy for Rams’ QB Matthew Stafford (I bet Calvin Johnson wishes he would’ve gotten an opportunity to play football somewhere other than Detroit). The game itself was rather prosaic, although thankfully it wasn’t a blowout. I have no opinion about any of the commercials because I had company who is literally unable to STOP TALKING for longer than ten seconds at a time (it’s exhausting). I’m not going to crown the halftime show featuring nearly every old school rapper that hasn’t been shot yet as “the best EVER”, but it was sufficiently entertaining. That kind of music was never my jam back in the 90s, but if it was yours then you probably enjoyed the show way more than me. 

After an atrocious 1-7 record for each of us in the final week of the season, our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with yours truly scoring the season victory at 57-69, while Zach was 49-77 on the year. Although I wish we were more skilled prognosticators, as always it was so much fun doing these picks with my nephew, an annual tradition I’ve come to really appreciate.

In the wake of an ultra exciting weekend of playoff football a few weeks ago fans were calling the Chiefs-Bills clash that KC won in overtime one of the best football games they’d ever seen while lamenting the lame NFL OT rules that essentially allow a coin toss to decide the outcome. I don’t necessarily disagree with those sentiments, but I also have an alternative view. If I were in charge of the NFL overtime would follow the general idea of the current college football OT rules (more on that below), but let’s focus on defense. Y’all remember defense right?? We used to believe that “defense wins championships”, but that no longer seems to be true. Buffalo was up by three points in that game with thirteen seconds remaining. 13 seconds!! Yet they allowed Kansas City to get into field goal range with just a couple of long passes, which gave the home team an opportunity to execute the game tying field goal. While it is undeniably fun to watch great skill players & elite QBs throw haymaker after haymaker like what transpired between the Buffalo Bills & Kansas City Chiefs, let’s not get it twisted. The “Bills Mafia” can blame stupid overtime rules all they want, but the fact is that all their team had to do was stop the opposition from going 44 yards in 13 seconds and they failed. 

Congratulations to newly minted MLB Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz, who will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer. Big Papi won three World Series with the Boston Red Sox, was a ten time All-Star, and had a .286 career batting average with 541 home runs in 20 seasons. Sadly, Ortiz’s moment was overshadowed a bit by hand-wringing over Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens not being selected in their final year on the ballot. I find it interesting that so many will passionately defend known defrauders of the game like Bonds & Clemens, yet they’re perfectly fine with Curt Schilling being excluded from the Hall of Fame. Schilling’s alleged mediocrity…6 time All-Star, 3 time World Series Champion, 3000+ strikeouts…is a weak excuse since we all know the real reason the powers-that-be don’t like him is because of his very candid political opinions. 

Y’all, I didn’t even keep track of college football’s bowl season while it was happening, but I did go back & check the numbers. Zach edged me by a couple of games in our Bowl-a-Palooza picks, going 18-19 while I was 16-21. Five bowl games were canceled altogether, while two games were played with altered matchups so those results were tossed aside. Between COVID, the transfer portal, star players opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, & the coaching carousel, bowl season didn’t seem like very much fun this year. When the playoff is expanded something is going to need to be done to make the other games matter for fans and apparently players & coaches.

Okay, so let’s talk overtime. The current college football OT rules allow each offense to have the ball starting on their opponent’s 25 yard line, meaning they’re essentially in field goal range already. No matter what Offense A does Offense B gets the ball (also on the opponent’s 25 yard line). The wildcard is what does Offense A do with the ball?? At worst they’ll have an opportunity to kick a 41 yard field goal (unless they turn the ball over). That’s not a chip shot, but it’s more than makable in most circumstances. At best they’ll score a touchdown & put the pressure on the opposing team’s offense. Now here’s where it gets weird. If both teams trade matching scores and there is a second overtime, any TD must be followed up with a 2 point conversion instead of an extra point. Then, if we make it to a third OT, the teams just alternate 2 point plays (that start on the three yard line), which is basically a football variation of penalty kicks in soccer. I despise the two point conversion rule for overtime. In contrast, the NFL does have a kickoff (after a coin toss, with the winner of that always choosing to receive…obviously), and if Offense A scores a touchdown the game is over. If they score a FG or don’t score at all Offense B gets an opportunity. If Offense B matches what Offense A did then it becomes sudden death, and if the teams are still tied at the end of 10 minutes the game ends in a tie. My proposal would be a hybrid of the two differing systems, and would ideally be implemented on both levels…college & pro. Give Offense A the ball on the 50 yard line. I’m not usually a proponent of minimizing special teams, but in this case I believe it works best. The offense isn’t already in field goal range and has some work to do, while the defense has a legit opportunity to do their job. No matter what happens Offense B will get a chance to possess the football. Unlike the current college system I would have a time clock, but, as opposed to current NFL rules, I’d bump the extra period back up to 15 minutes (I don’t like ties but can live with the theoretical yet unlikely possibility that it could happen). No team would ever be forced to attempt a two point conversion unless they choose to do so. 

I would be remiss not to mention the retirement of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Thankfully it wasn’t a surprise, and it was time. I don’t know if all the blame belongs with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, or if Big Ben just didn’t have an arm anymore, but the offense had become painful to watch. I enjoy an occasional screen pass, and realize “bubble screens” specifically have become part of football, but I just don’t believe throwing the ball five yards or less downfield constantly is productive, especially when defenses are expecting it. To be clear, I am aware that the Steelers’ offensive line was abysmal this past season & needs a major overhaul. I’m not completely sold on the receiving corps either: Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, & JuJu Schuster aren’t nearly as great as they believe themselves to be. Aside from those issues though, an aging quarterback with zero mobility & a weakening arm simply doesn’t bode well, especially when the AFC boasts young guns who can move like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, & Joe Burrow. Roethlisberger was never fast, but he always had tremendous escapability that allowed him to scramble & extend plays. That escapability had noticeably diminished, and when combined with a poor offensive line & questionable play calls the Steelers offense was doomed. So, as the Steelers & all the fans prepare to move forward, right now I want to give one last shoutout to Ben Roethlisberger. It has been a joy to watch you, from the moment I gathered with co-workers at a local sports bar on that spring day 18 years ago & watched my Steelers draft you with the eleventh pick, thru two Super Bowl victories, all the way to a bitterly decisive playoff defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs last month. More importantly, it has been delightful to see you evolve from an impetuous young man into a mature & responsible husband, father, leader, & adult. People still like to bring up the past & criticize you for mistakes made 15 years ago, but I’d tell those people to clean their own house first. None of us are perfect, and you’ve gone thru your battles very publicly. From a football perspective I wish you’d have gotten atleast a couple more opportunities in the Super Bowl, but so many factors play into that. You got us two Lombardis & provided many other great memories. I don’t know if coaching or ownership or anything football related is in your future, but as a fan I sincerely hope to have you as part of the Steelers organization in some capacity down the road.

2019-20 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

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

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/20/19

Bahamas Bowl (2pm on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     Buffalo

Z’s Pick:     Buffalo

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Kent St.

Z’s Pick:     Utah St.

 

 

Saturday 12/21

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Alcorn State

Z’s Pick:     North Carolina A&T

 

 

New Mexico Bowl (2pm on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Z’s Pick:     San Diego St.

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Georgia Southern

Z’s Pick:     Georgia Southern

 

 

Boca Raton Bowl (3:30pm on ABC)

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

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

My Pick:     FAU

Z’s Pick:     FAU

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     FIU

Z’s Pick:     FIU

 

 

Las Vegas Bowl (7:30pm on ABC)

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

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

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

New Orleans Bowl (9pm on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     Appalachian St.

Z’s Pick:     Appalachian St.

 

 

Monday 12/23

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Marshall

Z’s Pick:     UCF

 

 

Christmas Eve

Hawaii Bowl (8pm on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     Hawaii

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

Thursday 12/26

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

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

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

My Pick:     Louisiana Tech

Z’s Pick:     Miami (FL)

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Eastern Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Pitt

 

Friday 12/27

Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD – Noon on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     North Carolina

Z’s Pick:     Temple

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Wake Forest

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:    Texas A&M

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     USC

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Washington St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington St.

 

 

Saturday 12/28

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

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

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

My Pick:     Iowa St.

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX – Noon on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

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

College Football Playoff Semifinal

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

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

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

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

College Football Playoff Semifinal

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

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

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Monday 12/30

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

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

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

My Pick:     Western Kentucky

Z’s Pick:     Western Kentucky

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Mississippi St.

Z’s Pick:     Louisville

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Illinois

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Orange Bowl (Miami, FL – 8pm on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     Florida

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

New Year’s Eve

 

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC – Noon on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia Tech

 

 

 Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX – 2pm on CBS)

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

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

My Pick:     Arizona St.

Z’s Pick:     Arizona St.

  

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Navy

Z’s Pick:     Navy

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Georgia St.

Z’s Pick:     Wyoming

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

New Year’s Day

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

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

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

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

Friday 1/3

Birmingham Bowl (3pm on ESPN)

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

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

My Pick:     Cincinnati

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Indiana

 

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Ohio

Z’s Pick:     Nevada

 

 

Saturday 1/4

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Southern Miss

Z’s Pick:     Tulane

 

 

Monday 1/6

 

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

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

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

My Pick:     Louisiana-Lafayette

Z’s Pick:     Louisiana-Lafayette

 

 

Monday 1/13

College Football Playoff National Championship Game

New Orleans, LA – 8pm on ESPN

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

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

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 14

 

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

My Season:        47-35

Zach’s Season:  41-41

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah (-6.5)                     vs.              Oregon

Pac 12 Championship (Santa Clara, CA)

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

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Hawaii       at      Boise State (-14)

Mountain West Championship

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

My Pick:     Boise State

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

 

 

Virginia     vs.    Clemson (-28.5)

ACC Championship (Charlotte, NC)

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

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Virginia

 

 

 

Baylor                 vs.              Oklahoma (-9)

Big 12 Championship (Dallas, TX)

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

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

 

Cincinnati                              at                         Memphis (-9.5)

American Athletic Championship

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

My Pick:     Memphis

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnai

 

 

 

Georgia                        vs.                       LSU (-7)

SEC Championship (Atlanta, GA)

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

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

Ohio State (-16.5)                          vs.                       Wisconsin

Big Ten Championship (Indianapolis, IN)

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

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin