Do you want the good news or the bad news?? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as it’s all about perspective. We were both a dismal 3-7 last week, meaning Zach maintains the season lead. It also means that I’ve fallen below .500, which doesn’t make me happy. We’re ending the college football portion of our programming with Championship Weekend, with some games occurring Friday night & some on Saturday. I am not sure how much football I’ll get to watch because this weekend begins a pretty full dance card for the entirety of December, but in contrast to being laid up in a medical facility for the Christmas season I can’t complain.
My Season: 41-43
Zach’s Season: 43-41
North Texas at Texas-San Antonio (-8.5)
With all due respect, I am glad my Marshall Thundering Herd escaped Conference USA, which is basically a starter pack league. That being said, I’m kind of digging this game because the teams involved have cool names. I suppose I am easily entertained. I cannot opine with any level of confidence except to say that the Roadrunners won the title a year ago & have the home field advantage. By the time this game ends on Friday night (it’s on the CBS Sports Network in case you’re interested) I expect that they will have defended their championship and overcome the Mean Green. Zach likes UTSA’s offense in a blowout that’ll be all but over by halftime.
My Pick: UTSA
Z’s Pick: UTSA
PAC 12 Championship
Utah vs. Southern California (-3)
It’s pretty simple for the Trojans…win & they’re in The Playoff. One would think that’d be plenty of motivation. However, don’t count out the 9-3 Utes. Granted, they backed into this game via a weird tiebreaker system despite the fact they lost to Oregon a few weeks ago, but we cannot overlook the fact that Utah actually defeated the Trojans in mid-October. That game was decided by a gutsy 2 point conversion in the final minute, and it should be noted that it was in Salt Lake City. Can they do it again on a neutral field?? I’m on the fence to be quite honest, but enjoy playoff controversy and generally lean toward the underdog, so I’m pulling for an upset, whether it’s a smart move or not. Zach predicts a shootout, but thinks USC quarterback & Heisman front runner Caleb Williams is a difference maker.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: USC
Toledo (-1.5) vs. Ohio
There was a brief period of time when I occasionally enjoyed some MACtion when they’d have midweek games on ESPN, but it’s been awhile. This is a neutral site game in Detroit, so there’s no home field advantage. The 7-5 Rockets have lost their last two games, while the 9-3 Bobcats have won seven straight. It’s a Noon kickoff Saturday on ESPN, which might hook some viewers tuned into Gameday, including me. Momentum is obviously leaning toward Ohio, while the oddsmakers like Toledo. When in doubt follow the money, right?? Zach has issues with the entire state of Ohio, but he’s picking the Bobcats in a coin flip.
My Pick: Toledo
Z’s Pick: Ohio
Sun Belt Championship
Coastal Carolina at Troy (-10.5)
It ticks me off that the Herd aren’t in this game. How in the hell does a team upset Notre Dame in South Bend, then lose to Bowling Green?? My guys were also beaten by the 10-2 Trojans, who come into this game as double digit favorites on a nine game winning streak. The Chanticleers are 9-2 themselves, but could be without the services of starting QB Grayson McCall, who has been suffering from an ankle injury. Coastal got trucked by James Madison last week without McCall, so the prognosis isn’t good if he’s out again. They dominated time of possession in that game with over 40 minutes, but punted nine times & had two turnovers. Zach believes Coastal will be fired up after last week’s stunning loss, and he foresees a rebound win.
My Pick: Troy
Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina
Mountain West Championship
Fresno State at Boise State (-3.5)
We haven’t talked much about the Broncos this year, but they’re 9-3 on a three game winning streak. The 8-4 Bulldogs started slow but have won seven games in a row. It’s a 4pm Saturday kickoff on Fox, and unfortunately I probably won’t get to see the 4th quarter. Will the contest be decided by then?? Probably not, but I like Boise to come out on top on the infamous blue turf. Zach thinks it’ll be a low scoring defensive struggle, with the home team getting a close victory.
My Pick: Boise St.
Z’s Pick: Boise St.
Central Florida at Tulane (-3)
The American is another conference that doesn’t hold their title game on a neutral field, which makes it feel like a second rate rematch. The 10-2 Green Wave lost to the 9-3 Knights just a few weeks ago. That game was also in New Orleans, so I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome this time. Zach is expecting another competitive contest, but also thinks the outcome will be the same.
My Pick: UCF
Z’s Pick: UCF
Big Ten Championship
Purdue vs. Michigan (-16.5)
I’m not sure what to think about this one. The undefeated Wolverines are clearly a better team and will secure a spot in The Playoff with a victory. Even with a loss…unless they are inexplicably blown out…I expect Michigan is in the Final Four, although that’s certainly not a guarantee. Having said that, Indianapolis is only an hour away from the 8-4 Boilermakers’ home base, so they might enjoy a slight “home field” advantage. Michigan put so much into defeating Ohio St. last week that this becomes a classic trap game. Throw in the questionable health of RB Blake Corum & a two TDs+ point spread, and all the sudden the picture becomes somewhat murky. Of course the Wolverines rushing attack looked just fine a week ago, with sophomore Donovan Edwards averaging over 9 yards/carry on his way to over 200 yards & two touchdowns. Still, the fact is that the favorites just need to win…they don’t need to win big. So what if they’re up 15-20 points in the fourth quarter & the defense is playing well?? Could they take their foot off the gas just enough for Purdue to cover?? That’s what I’m predicting. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Purdue
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Clemson (-7.5) vs. North Carolina
I knew it. When ranking Clemson 11th in my preseason poll I said “will they be back in the playoff picture this season…I don’t think so….the only shot Clemson has is to go undefeated in convincing fashion & lay a smackdown on Notre Dame in South Bend”. Instead, the Tigers lost by three TDs to the Irish, were narrowly defeated by in-state rival South Carolina last weekend, and sit 9th in the ranking, just about where I predicted. But…are the 9-3 Tar Heels worthy competition?? Charlotte is a truly neutral site & both teams are coming off losses, so essentially it comes down to coaching & talent. As much as I respect UNC coach Mack Brown I believe Dabo Swinney is better right now, and he has superior talent. Zach likes Carolina to keep it close & atleast cover in a high scoring shootout.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Big 12 Championship
Kansas State vs. Texas Christian (-2.5)
The unbeaten Horned Frogs have more riding on this game than perhaps any other team playing this weekend. If they win they’ll be in The Playoff, but I am not at all confident in their chances of being amongst the Final Four with a loss. Let’s face it…the powers-that-be are chomping at the bit for an excuse to insert Ohio St. or Alabama back into the mix. Meanwhile, with everyone’s attention focused on Fort Worth, TX, the 9-3 Wildcats have quietly put together a pretty solid season. I think this will be a hell of a game for awhile. Much like Michigan, TCU just has to win…they don’t need to blow away the competition. The difference is the points are negligible in this one. When the two teams met back in October TCU score a comfortable ten point victory. It might be a little tighter this time, but I expect a similar outcome. Zach agrees.
My Pick: TCU
Z’s Pick: TCU
LSU vs. Georgia (-17.5)
LSU is a confusing team. They began the season with a surprising loss to Florida St. in New Orleans, then won a few games before getting demolished by Tennessee at home. They beat Alabama, but finished the season losing to a Texas A&M team that couldn’t even achieve bowl eligibility. Conversely, the #1 Bulldogs have cruised thru an unblemished schedule, unless you want to hold an early October scrape against Missouri that wasn’t decided until late in the 4th quarter against them. They call this a “neutral” field, but I’m pretty sure most of the 75k people on hand in Atlanta will be leaning a certain way. However, a couple of things must be considered. First, Georgia has played in five SEC title games since 2017 and won only once. Secondly, they are going to The Playoff no matter what, it’s just a matter of seeding. All things considered, I believe the points are simply too much. I wouldn’t be shocked by an outright Bayou Bengals victory, but the more likely scenario is that LSU plays balls to the wall, Georgia rests most of their starters in the second half, and the favorites end up winning by less than ten points. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe it’ll be any different than most other games on Georgia’s schedule, and thinks they’ll win handily.
Annnndddd we’re back!!!! After a COVID-induced hiatus a year ago we have returned to make mostly uninformed & generally random picks of bowl games involving a bunch of teams about which neither of us know all that much. I read a quote years ago something akin to “golf & sex are the only things one can enjoy without being very good”, but I would include picking football games as well. As noted a couple of years ago, I have evolved from being one of those cranky old dudes ranting about too many bowl games to rather enjoying obscure & totally inconsequential weekday afternoon gridiron battles. These picks are separate from our weekly Picks of Profundity, no point spreads are used, & we don’t pretend like we have any clue what we’re talking about for the most part. I’ll leave it to The Manoverse to find the dates, times, & specific locations of these games. Most of them will be on the ESPN “family of networks”, though there are exceptions. As always I discourage wagering of any kind. I have broken down the games into three tiers: Bronze are the games that I have very little interest in and may or may not watch, Silver are games for which I have a modest level of enthusiasm and will probably try to check out, and Gold are the Must See contests. Sadly there are way too many in the first group and far too few in the last, but the cool thing about Bowl Season is that there are always surprises…games that’ll be tied in the fourth quarter and you suddenly find yourself invested for no apparent reason. I love that, and I appreciate the fact that we have once again been able to enjoy such compelling yet ultimately meaningless entertainment in 2021. I hope The Manoverse is staying safe & warm, enjoying the holiday season, and appreciating every second of this amazing life.
Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo
How cool is it that these college kids get to travel to The Bahamas for free?? That alone is worth the blood, sweat, & tears of playing football. It’s an experience they’ll truly appreciate two or three decades from now. I’m not sure how many fans can afford to make the trek, but hey…life isn’t perfect, right?? The Blue Raiders represent C-USA and are 6-6, while the Rockets are out of the MAC and come into this game 7-5.
My Pick: Toledo
Z’s Pick: Toledo
South Carolina State vs. Jackson State
This is a game specifically for “historically black” colleges, which seems like kind of an outdated concept in the 21st Century, but whatever. The SC St. Bulldogs are 6-5, while the Jackson St. Tigers (from Mississippi in case you are curious) are 11-1 and coached by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. On paper it really looks like kind of a mismatch. Zach feels like momentum is on the Tigers’ side.
My Pick: Jackson State
Z’s Pick: Jackson State
New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State vs. UTEP
The 9-3 Bulldogs faced some pretty stiff competition in the Mountain West and went toe to toe with the Oregon Ducks, while the Miners were 7-5 out of C-USA. I don’t think this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.
My Pick: Fresno State
Z’s Pick: Fresno State
BYU vs. UAB
I had high hopes for the Cougars, and they did go 10-2. September victories over Arizona St. & Utah seem especially impressive. Unfortunately, playing as an independent and having no direct access to conference bowl affiliations means you end up playing the 8-4 Blazers on a Saturday afternoon in Shreveport a week before Christmas. Perhaps I’m selling this game short, but I don’t believe it will be all that competitive. Zach likes the game to be a little closer but ultimately believes BYU will get the victory.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan
This is the old GMAC Bowl, aka Dollar General Bowl, aka GoDaddy Bowl. Y’all know I despise corporate bowl names. Anyway, the 7-5 Flames dipped significantly from their 10-1 season a year ago, which saw them finish in the Top 20. Meanwhile, the 7-5 Eagles out of the MAC are appearing in their fourth bowl game since 2016 (they are 0-3 in previous efforts). I don’t foresee this being close or interesting at all. Zach agrees, opining that Liberty might win by 40 points.
My Pick: Liberty
Z’s Pick: Liberty
SMU vs. Virginia
It’s like people in Boston were whining “Hey…there’s a bowl game at Yankee Stadium!! We want one too!!”, and someone somewhere acquiesced. Honestly though…is playing football in Boston at the end of December a reward for these players?? I’d much rather go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. At any rate, the Mustangs are out of the AAC and currently sit at 8-4, while the ACC’s Cavaliers are 6-6. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has already announced his departure after the game, having been at the helm in Charlottesville for six years. He’s only 55 years old so one has to assume he’ll have a final act somewhere, but for now his exit provides a motivational storyline. Zach predicts both offenses will put up big numbers, with SMU ultimately prevailing.
My Pick: Virginia
Z’s Pick: SMU
Washington State vs. Miami (FL)
ESPN dominates bowl coverage, but the Sun Bowl remains on CBS, which is kind of refreshing. It is one of the oldest bowl games, having first been played way back in 1935. The 7-5 Hurricanes underachieved tremendously in three seasons under head coach Manny Diaz, who has already been shown the door. The 7-5 Cougars faced coaching turmoil themselves back in October when their head coach & several assistants were fired for refusing to kneel & bow to Nazi-esque vaccine mandates, which means there is no way in hell I can cheer for a school that engages in that kind of foolishness. Zach is rolling the dice on State.
My Pick: Miami (FL)
Z’s Pick: Washington State
Boise State vs. Central Michigan
It was an off year for the 7-5 Broncos, who were competitive against UCF & Oklahoma St. and actually beat BYU, but nevertheless failed to live up to previously set lofty standards. Conversely, the 8-4 Chippewas out of the MAC continue to bounce back from the nadir of a 1-11 season in 2018. I don’t know why, but I feel like this game could exceed expectations. Conversely, Zach predicts an easy Boise win.
My Pick: Central Michigan
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Tulsa vs. Old Dominion
The Golden Hurricanes out of the AAC are 6-6, as are C-USA’s Monarchs. This is one of those 2:30pm Monday afternoon kickoffs that theoretically no one will be watching, but who knows…perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suppose I’ll pick Old Dominion in a coin flip. Zach notes that Tulsa suffered several close losses and is probably a better team than the record shows.
My Pick: Old Dominion
Z’s Pick: Tulsa
Kent State vs. Wyoming
Potatoes may not be the sexiest vegetable, but I can dig a game named after spuds instead of some mortgage broker. The 7-6 Golden Flashes lost the MAC title game, while the 6-6 Cowboys started strong but went 2-6 in the back end of their Mountain West schedule. I’m guessing the folks in Vegas would favor Kent, but I’ve got to go with the upset. Zach foresees a dominant defensive effort leading to a convincing Wyoming win.
My Pick: Wyoming
Z’s Pick: Wyoming
Frisco Football Classic
North Texas vs. Miami (OH)
Once upon a time there was something called the Redbox Bowl, which was cancelled in 2020 because of The Sickness then scrapped again this year. Actually it wasn’t a new game, having formerly been known as the Emerald Bowl & Fight Hunger Bowl, amongst other things. At any rate, the NCAA was left with too many bowl eligible teams for the available slots, so they literally created this game last week. I’m not even kidding. Making things even weirder is the fact that there is already a Frisco Bowl, so I’m not sure how this little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb is being awarded a second post-season matchup, but whatever…we’ll just go with it. Both teams are 6-6, and it is essentially a home game for the Mean Green since their campus is a half hour down the road. Credit to the RedHawks for making the trek, but it’s gonna be a tough day for them. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to snag the victory.
My Pick: North Texas
Z’s Pick: Miami (OH)
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. Missouri
To clarify, the Armed Forces Bowl is played in Fort Worth, TX, while the Military Bowl is contested in Annapolis, MD. I take no issue with the redundancy since our folks in uniform deserve all the kudos they get & more. The 8-4 Black Knights are going for their fourth season of 9+ wins in the past five years, while the SEC’s Tigers are 6-6 and probably wishing they wouldn’t have left the Big 12 a decade ago. I can’t go against our soldiers, although I realize it’ll be an uphill climb. Zach loves Army’s triple option and believes Missouri’s defense will have a difficult time stopping it.
My Pick: Army
Z’s Pick: Army
Hawaii vs. Memphis
Is it fair that the 6-7 Rainbow Warriors get a home game during bowl season, or that they’re playing in the postseason despite a losing record?? Probably not, but I assume the 6-6 Tigers won’t complain about a free trip to paradise. The home team is 2-1 in the past four years in this game, and I don’t think Memphis is remarkable enough to overcome the advantages their opponents will enjoy. Zach predicts a close game with Memphis winning with a late field goal.
My Pick: Hawaii
Z’s Pick: Memphis
Ball State vs. Georgia State
I know I’ve taught y’all this before, but it’s been a couple of years, so…a camellia is the state flower of Alabama, which is why this game is contested in the state’s capital of Montgomery. The 6-6 Cardinals represent the MAC as well as talk show legend David Letterman’s alma mater. The 7-5 Panthers are out of the Sun Belt and have only been playing football since 2008. I might be undervaluing this game a bit, and I’m hoping it’s a Christmas Day surprise that’ll tear me away from Ralphie’s pursuit of the elusive BB gun for a couple of hours. Zach likes Georgia St. to score a late 4th quarter win.
My Pick: Georgia State
Z’s Pick: Georgia State
Quick Lane Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Nevada
Quick Lane is exactly what you’d imagine it to be…a auto store where you can get your vehicle inspected, have the oil changed, & get your tires rotated. The game was previously known as the Motor City Bowl & Little Caesar’s Bowl and is still played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. It may not be The Bahamas or sunny Florida, but perhaps it’s a step up from Boise, ID, home of the Potato Bowl. Atleast the venue has a roof so weather won’t be an issue. Anyway, the 7-5 Broncos out of the MAC only have to travel a couple of hours from Kalamazoo, while the 8-4 Wolfpack obviously have a much more significant trek. I don’t know how much of a difference that kind of thing makes in bowl games, but it’s got to mean something, right?? Conversely, Zach thinks Nevada wins big and the game will essentially be over by halftime.
My Pick: Western Michigan
Z’s Pick: Nevada
Boston College vs. East Carolina
The 6-6 Eagles have always bored me, as far back as the 80’s when they played in the Big East and faced my WV Mountaineers annually. There were those few years when they had QB Doug Flutie, but other than that a BC game is similar to watching paint dry. The 7-5 Pirates have cool purple uniforms, but kind of get lost in the shuffle since no one gives a damn about the AAC. Kickoff is 2:30pm on a Monday, but it’s two days after Christmas so maybe there won’t be any better options on TV since all the holiday films will be over. Honestly just thinking about this game makes me want to lay down and go to sleep. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: East Carolina
Z’s Pick: East Carolina
First Responder Bowl
Air Force vs. Louisville
Okay, so honoring first responders with a bowl game is cool. The matchup?? Ehhhh. The Falcons are 9-3 with competitive losses to San Diego St. & Utah St. and a win over Boise St., while the 6-6 Cardinals have dropped off considerably since QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 before heading to the NFL. Fingers crossed that this will be a great game, but I’m not assuming anything. Zach is optimistic that it will be close & exciting and likes Air Force to win.
My Pick: Air Force
Z’s Pick: Air Force
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
This is the game I wanted WVU to play in, but that didn’t happen. The 6-6 Red Raiders are playing for an interim coach since they fired their head coach in October, while the 7-5 Bulldogs beat Kentucky & Auburn this year but faced an uphill climb in the SEC. I suppose I’m a little bitter about the ‘Eers’ exclusion because this is probably going to be more fun than I’m giving it credit for. Zach thinks depth might be an issue for Tech and likes State to win fairly easily.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Z’s Pick: Mississippi State
Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois
The Cure Bowl is so named to promote awareness & research of breast cancer, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Chanticleers are 10-2 (the second straight year they’ve won 10 games) but didn’t even win their division, which says a lot about the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskies are the 9-4 MAC Champions. This is a 6pm Friday kickoff, and I’ll be watching. We both expect a high scoring shootout and like Coastal to secure victory late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina
Boca Raton Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
My Marshall Thundering Herd might’ve been playing in this game if they’d made it to the C-USA title game, but kudos to the 8-5 Hilltoppers for doing that instead. The 10-3 Mountaineers lost the Sun Belt title game but won 9+ games for the seventh consecutive season. This one kicks off at 11am on Saturday a week before Christmas, and I’m glad because I have plans that night. I feel like this is one of those times when everyone will be expecting a shootout but instead we’ll be treated to a hard hitting defensive struggle, probably decided by a late field goal. Zach thinks the Mountaineers are more experienced in big games.
My Pick: Appalachian State
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
Oregon State vs. Utah State
This game has the potential to be sneaky good. It is the inaugural contest and will be played on the home field of the NFL’s Rams & Chargers. The 7-5 Beavers almost slid in the back door of the PAC 12 title game, but a loss to their in-state rivals doomed those chances. Meanwhile, the 10-3 Aggies are the surprising Mountain West Champions. It’s a 7:30pm kickoff on 12/18 so unfortunately I will miss it. Ah well…c’est la vie. I’d like to think it’ll be a close & exciting contest, but it could just as easily be a blowout. I have no idea what to expect. Zach likes Utah St.‘s running attack behind a stout offensive line.
My Pick: Utah State
Z’s Pick: Utah State
New Orleans Bowl
Marshall vs. Louisiana
This is what the 7-5 Herd gets for not making it to their conference title game. It is essentially a home game for the 12-1 Ragin’ Cajuns, winners of the Sun Belt. Marshall will be joining that conference in the not-so-distant future, so we’ll see plenty of rematches. It’s another game on the crowded 12/18 schedule, but kickoff isn’t until 9:15pm so I’ll actually get to see most of the action, which is cool. I can’t pretend to be unbiased, but to be honest the only thing that gives me hope is the fact that Louisiana will be playing for an interim coach making me somewhat hopeful for an upset. Zach thinks my alma mater comes into this game disappointed with the ending of the regular season and believes that hangover will lead to a Louisiana blowout.
My Pick: Marshall
Z’s Pick: Louisiana
UTSA vs. San Diego State
Earlier I referred to Frisco, TX as a “little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb”. To put that in context, the population of Frisco is 177k, making it about triple the size of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston. Everything is bigger in Texas. The 12-1 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners won the C-USA title, while the 11-2 Aztecs were beaten soundly in the Mountain West Championship Game. It’s nearly a five hour haul from San Antonio to Frisco, but UTSA should still enjoy a notable home field-esque kind of advantage. Kickoff is at 7:30pm EST on the Tuesday before Christmas, so it’ll be an evening of channel flipping between Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Scrooge, & football. That’s a fun night in my world. I hope it’s a competitive game, but with battles against Utah & Boise St. (both games that they won) under their belt, it feels like SD St. is probably the superior squad. Conversely, Zach likes UTSA’s offense a little better and thinks they’ll get the job done.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: Texas-San Antonio
Florida vs. Central Florida
I’ve explained this is previous years, but it’s a cool story. This game is named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. “The Last of the Buccaneers” allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century, amassing a huge fortune by taking prizes & ransoming hostages, and died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind an enormous and as-yet undiscovered treasure. That tale alone makes this a badass bowl game no matter who is playing in it. The 6-6 Gators had high hopes but encountered choppy waters this season, ending with firing their coach last month. 8-4 UCF’s “uncrowned national championship” from a few years back is about as spurious as the story of Jose Gaspar, but head coach Gus Malzahn (who previously had tremendous success at Auburn) has kept them in the conversation as one of the best Group of Five programs and will soon lead them into the Big 12. This would be a huge win for the Knights, an opportunity to defeat an in-state “rival” that’ll always receive more respect whether they deserve it or not. Zach isn’t sure the Gators will be into this one mentally as much as their opponents.
My Pick: Central Florida
Z’s Pick: Central Florida
Houston vs. Auburn
Rarely will I be all that complimentary toward former WVU Mountaineers’ head coach Dana Holgorsen, but credit where it is due…he has the 11-2 Cougars headed in the right direction in his third season at the helm. They’ll be a problem in the Big 12 soon enough. Conversely, the 6-6 Tigers didn’t fare as well in head coach Bryan Harsin’s first season as they would have liked, but there’s no reason to think they can’t be good again in the near future. Kickoff is at Noon on a Tuesday, which is unfortunate because this matchup probably deserves better. I think the talent disparity between a mid-level SEC program and the AAC will be apparent, and it helps that Auburn is playing only two hours away from home, so they’ll have a lot of fans in the stands. Zach thinks Houston is solid but not spectacular, while Auburn is inconsistent. He likes Auburn’s defense to be the difference maker.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: Auburn
North Carolina State vs. UCLA
It looks good on paper, but will it be as interesting in reality?? The Wolfpack went 9-3 with wins over Clemson, Florida St., and in-state rival UNC, while the 8-4 Bruins would like to have a redo on a couple of early season stumbles. This is a prime time game during that week between Christmas & New Year’s when no one really knows where they are, what day it is, or what exactly is going on. I think UCLA probably has a deeper bench, so they’ll pull away in the 4th quarter. It’s a tossup for Zach but he feels like NC St. has dealt with a tougher schedule and that experience will pay off.
My Pick: UCLA
Z’s Pick: North Carolina State
Kansas State vs. LSU
Ed Orgeron won’t be on the sidelines for the 6-6 Bayou Bengals, who’ll be led by an interim coach before Brian Kelly takes the reins. In comparison the 7-5 Wildcats are rather stable, which is a difference maker in my eyes. Zach feels like all the upheaval might actually provide motivation for LSU.
My Pick: Kansas State
Z’s Pick: LSU
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
West Virginia vs. Minnesota
As a Mountaineer fan this is kind of a letdown. A mediocre Big Ten opponent & a 10:15pm EST kickoff on a Tuesday night isn’t much to get excited about. This game was formerly known as the Copper Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, Cactus Bowl, & Cheez-It Bowl, but now bears the name of a Chicago based mortgage company, which is indicative of everything wrong with collegiate sports. The last time WVU played in it about five years ago they snagged a thrilling win over Arizona St., but I was in the hospital and fast asleep before the action heated up. Perhaps I can manage to stay awake this time. Zach thinks Minnesota will run the ball easily against the WV defense and win big.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
They’ve been playing a bowl game at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it except the time in 2012 when WV got embarrassed by Syracuse. In a college football world that had an ounce of sense this matchup would be an annual rivalry between two East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools, but in reality they play in different conferences and haven’t met on the football field since 2013. The 6-6 Hokies fired their head coach last month so they’ll be led by an interim coach, while Maryland is also 6-6 having lost 4 games in the second half of the season. I feel like it should be a much more compelling game than it is, but the 2pm Wednesday kickoff sort of characterizes the general interest level most will likely have for it. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Maryland
Z’s Pick: Maryland
Iowa State vs. Clemson
Okay, stick with me here. Once upon a time the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix was known as the Cheez-It Bowl, but sponsorships changed as they often do. This game, emanating from Orlando, FL, used to be the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, & Camping World Bowl. Anyway, we all know that it’s been an odd season for the 9-3 Tigers. Let’s be honest, that’s a record so many teams would give anything to have, but for a program that’s used to going undefeated & being in the playoff it is a disappointing year. The 7-5 Cyclones had higher expectations as well, but the Big 12 ended up being pretty competitive. This could be the sleeper game of the entire postseason, and with a 5:45pm Wednesday evening kickoff it is situated perfectly to provide ample entertainment value. I have a lot of faith in Dabo Swinney and believe his team will end their campaign on a high note. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Clemson
Oklahoma vs. Oregon
They could called this the What Might’ve Been Bowl or the Dashed Hopes Bowl, as both teams were in the playoff conversation right up until the end. The Sooners are 10-2, but head coach Lincoln Riley has already bolted for USC. Similarly, the Ducks finished 10-3 and also lost their coach Mario Cristobal, who has returned to his hometown & alma mater Miami Hurricanes. I’m not familiar enough with the inner workings of a college football team to know exactly what kind of chaos such upheaval causes, but it has to be unsettling. Nevertheless, I am expecting a fun game with lots of big plays & offense, and I think Oregon will win by a touchdown. Zach, on the other hand, thinks Oregon is overrated and their defense lacking. He likes Oklahoma, under the temporary guidance of former head coach Bob Stoops, to win easily.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
I’ve never tasted Dukes, although I’ve heard it’s good. I’m a lifelong Miracle Whip guy. This is the Charlotte based game formerly known as the Continental Tire Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, & Belk Bowl, and seems tailor made for a Battle of the Carolinas. The Gamecocks were 6-6 against a rather challenging schedule, while the 6-6 Tar Heels failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations. This will be the swan song for UNC quarterback Sam Howell, who is likely to be a first round NFL Draft pick. I am expecting a close game decided by a late turnover or special teams play, and I give the edge to Mack Brown’s guys. Zach thinks there is a possibility that Howell won’t even play on the game, but still believes UNC can get the job done.
My Pick: North Carolina
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Tennessee
I have to think that both teams will come into the game with a chip on their shoulder seeking to gain attention & build momentum for next year. The 8-4 Boilermakers get lost in the shuffle of a stacked Big Ten, while the 7-5 Volunteers continue trying to get back to enjoying the kind of success they had during the Peyton Manning era 25 years ago. This is damn near a home game for the Vols, as Knoxville is less than three hours from Nashville. That’s enough for me to pick Tennessee to win comfortably. Conversely, Zach believes Purdue’s defense will shine and lead the team to victory.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Perspective is a word that pops into my mind. I wonder how differently these teams might be viewing the same opportunity. The 10-2 Spartans won eight games before losing two of their last four, all while watching in-state rival Michigan (who they beat at the end of October) win the Big Ten and end up in the College Football Playoff. Conversely, the 11-2 Panthers just won the ACC title & quarterback Kenny Pickett was a Heisman finalist. This feels like a consolation prize for State and the culmination of an immensely successful comeback for Pitt. Zach doesn’t have much faith in State’s defense and thinks Pickett will put up big numbers in victory, while I believe Sparty has something to prove.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
I expected so much more from both teams. The 8-4 Badgers simply faced too much supremely talented opposition in the Big Ten, losing 3 out of 4 to begin the season. The 8-4 Sun Devils had similar problems in the PAC 12. This is a 10:30pm EST kickoff on New Year’s Eve Eve, which is a tough proposition. I suppose I could stay up for it then snooze most of the next day in preparation for the festivities. Anyway, it feels like a pretty even matchup that’ll end up being a hard hitting, low scoring defensive struggle decided by penalties & turnovers, and in that scenario I can’t go against my guy Herm Edwards. Conversely, Zach thinks Wisconsin’s ground game makes the difference.
My Pick: Arizona State
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Now that LSU has put all those Jimbo Fisher rumors to rest he can concentrate on coaching the team that’s actually paying him to do so. It’s probably unfair to call an 8-4 season disappointing, but when someone is making bank like Fisher the fact is that anything less than a playoff berth isn’t good enough. Conversely, though they lost the ACC title, no one in Winston-Salem is going to complain about 10-3 & a New Year’s Eve bowl game for the Demon Deacons, a team that’s only won 9 or more games in a season twice before now. I think Wake will give a great effort, but the talent disparity will show itself in the second half. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Arkansas vs. Penn State
Originally known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, it feels like this is a game that’s been around longer than it’s 1986 debut. The 8-4 Razorbacks started strong before losing three straight October games, while the 7-5 Nittany Lions did pretty much the same thing. If it were possible I might be tempted to predict that both teams could lose this one, but someone’s got to come out on top. I’m going to venture out on a limb and say that this will be one of those games where something screwy or controversial occurs…a penalty, turnover, blocked kick…that decides the outcome and becomes the subject of much debate on all the sports talk shows. Zach likes Penn St.’s defense to be a difference maker.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Penn State
Kentucky vs. Iowa
Congrats to the Wildcats on a stellar season. Kentucky has always been a basketball school, but after going 9-3 with wins over LSU & Florida they’ve got the attention of football fans everywhere. Conversely, the 10-3 Hawkeyes are probably a bit disappointed after dropping two consecutive contests in October that torpedoed their playoff hopes then getting obliterated by Michigan in the Big Ten Championship. I feel like most “experts” would say Iowa is the more talented team, but it seems like Kentucky has come up big when it really counted this year. Conversely, Zach predicts Iowa will win a close game.
My Pick: Kentucky
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Baylor vs. Ole Miss
11-2 Baylor won the Big 12 title, but an inexplicable November loss at TCU cost them a playoff berth. The 10-2 Rebels have quarterback Matt Corral, whose Heisman invite got lost in the mail, something he’ll feel better about when his name is called very early in next spring’s NFL Draft. This game has the potential to be great, but I think the Bears have more athletes across the board at more positions, and they will assert their dominance in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach really likes Corral and thinks Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffen might have a few tricks up his sleeve.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State
I really thought the 11-1 Irish would be a playoff team, but that October loss to Cincinnati was a killer. The 11-2 Cowboys had a legit playoff shot as well, but Baylor was just too tough in the Big 12 title game. I’m probably selling this game short…it should be a Gold Tier level matchup, but it just seems like both teams underachieved. I think State will have more big plays and snag a 5-10 point victory, while Zach believes Notre Dame will be motivated & inspired to win a close one.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Notre Dame
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati
I admit that it is unfair to not have a playoff semifinal in the Gold Tier. Having said that, I have been clear about my opinion of the Bearcats. They deserve all the kudos for going undefeated. The fact that they went into South Bend and beat Notre Dame cannot be overlooked. However, the rest of their schedule being opponents like Temple, Tulsa, & South Florida shouldn’t be glossed over either. The NCAA needs to consider separating the Power 5 and the Group of 5 into different divisions, each with its own National Championship. The 12-1 Crimson Tide just beat Georgia by 17 points to win the SEC Championship…what do you think they’re going to do to Cincinnati?? I would love to be wrong, but I think ‘Bama will win this game by four TD’s, and that’s after Saban calls off the dogs in the second half, which is why I can’t get too excited about it. Zach has a bit more respect for Cincy, but still thinks they lose by 10 points.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Ohio State vs. Utah
I don’t care if the Buckeyes lost two games…they should be in the playoff. I get it. I know the committee couldn’t put them in with two losses ahead of undefeated Cincinnati. It would’ve been the ballsy move, but a PR nightmare. It didn’t help that Michigan absolutely trucked their archrivals by two touchdowns. Still, I believe if Ohio St. played Cincy five times they’d win atleast four games quite easily. It is what it is though, and the consolation prize for fans is pretty great because 10-3 Utah might be the hottest team in the country. Two of their three losses came in September, and they’re riding a six game win streak that includes annihilating Oregon to win the PAC 12 Championship. Honestly, I think the Utes would beat the snot out of Cincinnati too. At any rate, this should be a fantastic game, but I think Ohio St. might be too fast & athletic for Utah to overcome. Zach hates Ohio St. so obviously he’s picking against them 😂.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Utah
(2) Michigan vs. (3) Georgia
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Alabama does, but I did not expect them to beat Georgia by 17 points in the SEC title game. Having said that, it is a testament to the 12-1 Bulldogs and the immense respect they’ve earned that they’re still amongst the Final Four. The 12-1 Wolverines only have a late October loss to in-state rival Michigan St. as a blemish on their record, but it seemed to have awakened them because they’ve been on fire ever since. I’m not sure even the most passionate Michigan fans would’ve considered them a playoff contender a month ago. This is The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object and has Game of the Year written all over it. As far as predictions, one can’t help but allow a little wishful thinking into the process. Would you rather see an Alabama-Georgia rematch or an Alabama-Michigan wet dream for all the marbles?? I know which one I prefer. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. Zach knows Georgia’s defense is extremely tough, but he thinks his Wolverines have what it takes to push the game into overtime and get a victory.
My Pick: Michigan
Z’s Pick: Michigan
Alabama/Cincinnati vs. Michigan/Georgia
So we are both predicting and/or wishing for an Alabama-Michigan National Championship Game. When Jim Harbaugh got the job in Ann Arbor in 2015 I said he’d have them in title contention in three years. It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but here we are. I think ‘Bama will beat Cincinnati easily to get to this point, while it’ll be much more difficult for the Wolverines to overcome Georgia. How will that affect the Championship Game?? I don’t know. There are just so many variables that can make a difference and alter the entire landscape in the space of a month. Given what we know at this moment in time I will predict a very close, very exciting, rather historic Michigan upset to win the title…their first since 1997, back when the National Championship was “mythical”, a quaint notion nowadays. Zach thinks Michigan has what it takes to compete, but in a Saban vs. Harbaugh coaching duel he simply has more faith in Saban.
After last weekend’s craziness the playoff committee released their rankings as follows: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St., Notre Dame, & Ohio St.. That’s the Top 7 and no one else really matters. Barring any upsets in the conference title games (a huge IF if there ever was one) the essential questions are these: a) how far will the loser of the SEC Championship fall?? & b) can Oklahoma St. leapfrog Cincinnati if they win the Big 12 title?? Notre Dame is screwed because they’re sitting at home while these other teams are still playing. They need Cincinnati AND Oklahoma St. to lose, and even then the 4th playoff spot could go to Ohio St.. At any rate, our marathon of picks during Rivalry Week turned out slightly better for me (6-3) than Zach (2-7), and the lineup is even more packed this weekend. Unfortunately I have plans Friday & Saturday so I probably won’t be watching much of the action. I should be able to keep up with the scores frequently though.
My Season: 43-43
Zach’s Season: 32-54
Western Kentucky at UTSA (-2.5)
The first time these teams met on October 9 in Bowling Green, KY the Roadrunners won a high scoring shootout, so the rematch has the potential to be a lot of fun. I’m pretty pissed that my Marshall Thundering Herd isn’t playing in this one, but they blew their chance in spectacular fashion. Texas-San Antonio has the home field and that’s enough for me. Conversely, Zach feels like momentum favors the Hilltoppers and he thinks they’ll eek out a close win.
My Pick: UTSA
Z’s Pick: Western Kentucky
PAC 12 (Las Vegas, NV)
Utah (-3) vs. Oregon
I am intrigued. When these teams met on November 20 in Salt Lake City the Utes scored a huge 38-7 victory and ended Oregon’s playoff aspirations. Will the Ducks face a similar fate on a neutral field?? I don’t think so. It’ll be much closer this time, and I think the underdogs have what it takes to pull off the mild Friday night upset. Zach, on the other hand, believes Utah is firing on all cylinders right now and has a better team with superior athletes. He agrees that it’ll be closer than the first contest between these two, but thinks the favorites will win again.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Utah
Big 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oklahoma State (-7) vs. Baylor
On October 2 the Bears went into Stillwater and were defeated 24-14, but this game is being played at Jerry World, aka The Palace in Dallas, so there is no home field advantage. The Cowboys could earn a playoff spot if Cincinnati loses, and a convincing win could make the debate interesting even if Cincy wins. I don’t expect anything to be drastically different than the first meeting, and with (potentially) so much at stake I believe we’re looking at another solid OK St. triumph. Zach is impressed by State’s defense and likes their offensive line, but foresees a tight ballgame that could be decided by a late or overtime field goal.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Utah State at San Diego State (-3.5)
I don’t know who makes the schedule, but c’mon man!! I should be able to hunker down in my warm bed late at night and watch a fun west coast battle, but instead we’re getting a 3pm EST kickoff. Anyway, these teams have not previously met this season, which is a rarity in conference title games. The 9-3 Aggies face a tough task going into hostile territory against the 11-1 Aztecs, who are riding a four game win streak. I don’t expect anything too crazy and believe the home team will win comfortably. Zach likes Utah St.’s ground game but feels like San Diego St.’s defense will come alive in the second half to secure a win.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: San Diego State
Houston at Cincinnati (-11)
The Bearcats are causing me a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog guy. Always have been, always will be. That being said, I am just not sure Cincinnati belongs in the playoff. They deserve kudos for going thru their schedule undefeated, but are they truly on the level of any Power 5 opponent they’d face in the semifinal?? I have serious doubts. My feelings about this game are further complicated by the presence of current Cougars & former WVU Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. We expected big things from him in the Mountain State, and he was a fairly decent 51-38 in seven seasons at the helm. However, Holgorsen clearly wasn’t happy here and jumped at the chance to take the Houston job. Both of these teams will be members of the Big 12 in the near future, so the rivalry will continue to grow. This particular contest isn’t hard to pick for me because the points are just too much. Cincy will probably win, but it won’t be a double digit victory. Zach doesn’t think Cincinnati belongs in the playoff but doesn’t believe the committee will deny them if they win this game. However, he foresees Holgorsen having his team ready to pull off the upset. If that happens no one will be happier than the CFP committee.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Houston
MAC (Detroit, MI)
Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-5.5)
I used to be a big fan of MACtion. Their random Tuesday or Wednesday night games were a treat. To be honest though, it’s been a few years since I’ve paid any attention to the conference. I vaguely recall when the Huskies went 12-2 in 2012 and lost to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in Heisman voting in 2013 behind Alabama QB AJ McCarron & winner Jameis Winston, the quarterback at Florida St. As far as this game, the Golden Flashes are 7-5 and led a rather weak field in the MAC West, while NIU is a solid but unspectacular 8-4 and were beaten by three TDs in their last game. When these teams met just a few weeks ago Kent won a 52-47 shootout, although NIU scored 20 fourth quarter points as their spirited comeback fell short. I suppose there’s a chance it could be a sneakily entertaining contest, but I’m leaning toward Kent winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach likes NIU to pound the rock and score the upset.
My Pick: Kent State
Z’s Pick: Northern Illinois
Appalachian State (-3.5) at Louisiana
This is my sleeper pick for best game of the week. On October 12 the Mountaineers traveled to Lafayette and suffered a 41-13 loss, so I’m a bit surprised by the odds. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t tasted defeat since losing the season opener at Texas, but it seems like they’re not getting much respect. Perhaps the impending departure of head coach Billy Napier to the Florida Gators is a factor. Otherwise, do the oddsmakers have some inside info, or are they simply making assumptions?? I don’t know. Given the current circumstances and taking what we know at face value I have to lean toward the home team scoring a mild “upset”. Zach predicts special teams will play an important role in an App. St. victory.
My Pick: Louisiana
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
SEC (Atlanta, GA)
Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama
As a certain former President might say, this game is YUUUGGGEEE. Not only will an SEC Champion be crowned, but there are major playoff implications. If Georgia wins they’re in, but it is entirely possible that they could lose yet not fall out of the Top 4. And what about ‘Bama?? Obviously they’d be in with a victory, but what happens if they lose?? Will the committee twist themselves in knots trying to justify only dropping the Tide to #4?? The simplest outcome is also the most likely…the Bulldogs win & cover and remain #1, while Alabama drops to #5 and is denied another National Championship opportunity. That’s what I’m hoping to see. As much as Zach respects Nick Saban he just doesn’t think this Alabama team measures up to their predecessors. He thinks Georgia has the best defense in the country and the offense is pretty good too. He’s predicting a big Bulldogs victory.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
ACC (Charlotte, NC)
Pitt vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)
Good Lord, could there be a more underwhelming matchup?? The ACC really needs Clemson & Florida St. to figure things out because the rest of the conference is a snoozefest. Credit where it is due though, as the 10-2 Panthers have won four straight, while the Demon Deacons lost two of their final four games but still finished 10-2. The game is theoretically being played at a neutral site, but Wake will enjoy a quasi-home field advantage since their campus is only an hour away. That’s enough for me to predict a mundane & unremarkable victory for the favorites. Zach likes Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and believes he will have a great day picking apart Wake’s defense.
My Pick: Wake Forest
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Big Ten (Indianapolis, IN)
Michigan (-9) vs. Iowa
I’m not a mental health expert, but I know that folks with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs followed by extraordinary lows. I also understand that it is sometimes difficult for athletes to sustain a high level of intensity. Therefore, my question is what do the 11-1 Wolverines have left in the tank after their magnificent beatdown of Ohio St.?? This game isn’t at The Big House against their archrivals, but they are playing for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a playoff berth that could lead to their first National Championship since 1997. Theoretically that should be ample motivation, right?? The 10-2 Hawkeyes fell off the radar after two consecutive October losses, yet here they are on a four game winning streak. Closer examination reveals that they won those four games by an average of less than 5 points against teams that are collectively 19-29. In other words their schedule was frontloaded, and they didn’t face Michigan or Ohio St.. Iowa’s most impressive victory was a home game against Penn St., a 7-5 team that lost four out of six games in the second half of the season. I don’t think there’s any way Michigan loses this game. However, I can see a dropoff in energy leading to the final margin of victory being a touchdown or less. Zach is also concerned about an emotional letdown for his beloved Wolverines, as well as the enormous pressure they face in restoring the program to its former glory. He points out that Iowa has won 5 out of the last 7 matchups between the two schools. Having said all of that, he isn’t picking against Michigan again (although it did work a week ago).
I was following a rather interesting thread on social media recently in which the original poster opined that fantasy football is pretty much all about luck. Others were quick to reply, defending the ideals of skill & knowledge. As with most things in life the answer isn’t clear cut black & white. Yes, people who know what they are doing have a better shot at success. Involvement is important…making the right trades, combing the waiver wire, starting or sitting the best players, understanding matchups. However, let’s not pretend that luck doesn’t play a huge role. Would you call owners of Patrick Mahomes and/or Derrick Henry uninformed or inept?? Of course not…but they’re probably not winning their league championship this season. At any rate, slow & steady wins the race, or atleast that’s what I’ve always heard thru the years. Zach & I both went 5-3 last week, continuing our laborious crawl back toward the .500 mark. We’ll get there…maybe.
My Season: 28-31
Zach’s Season: 27-32
Boise State at Fresno State (-5)
At 4-4 the Broncos aren’t going to make it to the Mountain West title game, and at this point they’re just hoping for bowl eligibility. Conversely, the 7-2 Bulldogs need to keep winning if they want an opportunity to play for the conference championship. I have a feeling this will be a really entertaining game, so it’s too bad I have plans on Saturday evening and won’t be able to watch. Anyway, while I am tempted to pick an upset, The Vibes are telling me that Fresno will win by atleast a touchdown. Zach foresees a fun, high scoring, close game and likes the favorites to cover.
My Pick: Fresno State
Z’s Pick: Fresno State
Tennessee at Kentucky (-2.5)
It’s Jim Beam vs. Jack Daniels!! If y’all don’t understand the reference you need to get out of the house more, but you’re probably healthier than us. At any rate, the Vols are 4-4 and playing for bowl eligibility, while the 6-2 Wildcats are in the midst of a stellar season in which the best they can hope for is a New Year’s bowl game because they play in the same division as the Georgia Bulldogs. Tennessee leads the all time series 81-26 (with nine ties), which combined with the home field should provide plenty of motivation for the favorites. I think they win easily. Zach doesn’t think Tennessee is a terrible team, but believes they’ve faced a brutal schedule that isn’t any easier this week.
My Pick: Kentucky
Z’s Pick: Kentucky
LSU at Alabama (-28.5)
As expected the playoff committee not only has Alabama in their Top Four…they ranked them #2, despite having one loss. I’m not surprised, and ultimately it is meaningless anyway because the winner of the SEC Championship between ‘Bama & Georgia is a lock for the playoff, while Alabama would certainly be eliminated with another loss. As for this game, the only reason it’s even appearing here is the points. So many things factor into the discussion. I don’t care how bad LSU is playing there is no way they’d get beaten by 4+ TDs in Baton Rouge…but this game is in Tuscaloosa. ‘Bama cannot afford another misstep which adds an element of pressure. The Bayou Bengals have to have some pride left though, right?? If they could pull off a monumental upset and put the nail in the coffin of their rival’s championship aspirations it’d make their whole season. Do I think that will happen?? Absolutely not. Do I think the Tide will roll enough to cover the points?? Unfortunately I do. “Style points” are a thing, right?? I would be happy to be wrong though. The points are too much for Zach. He can buy ‘Bama winning by three TDs, but not four.
My Pick: Alabama
San Jose State at Nevada (-10)
It’s a 10pm kickoff on Fox Sports 2, which is perfect. I’ll be home in time to watch atleast 3/4 of the action. Neither team is winning the conference but both should receive some kind of bowl bid. I am not especially knowledgeable about the Mountain West but as a night owl I’ve enjoyed their games thru the years. The odds are intriguing since the Wolfpack isn’t elite & the Spartans aren’t especially terrible, so ten points is quite a home field bump. The visitors are riding a two game winning streak, while the home team is coming off a beatdown of in-state rival UNLV. I think a touchdown will decide things one way or another, so I’m picking the underdogs to atleast cover. Zach concurs.
My Pick: San JoseState
Z’s Pick: SanJose State
Minnesota at Baltimore (-5.5)
The 3-4 Vikings aren’t winning the NFC North like I thought they would and just lost defensive end Danielle Hunter to a torn pectoral muscle. The Ravens are in a real battle in their division but had a bye last week. Logic dictates that Baltimore should win rather easily, but I’m not always the most logical person. The points caught my eye, and I really think Minnesota will atleast stay within a field goal. Conversely, Zach believes Baltimore has recovered from a sluggish start and is ready to roll now.
My Pick: Minnesota
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
Cleveland at Cincinnati (-3)
Not long ago the Battle of Ohio held no interest for anyone outside of the state’s borders, but both teams have emerged as legitimate playoff contenders. I predicted that the Bengals would surprise people and win the AFC North and halfway thru the season they’ve done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion. The Browns have not altered my assessment of them, although they’ve played somewhat better than I thought they might. This is where the rubber meets the road though, and if Cincinnati is to lay claim to the division title they have to defend their turf against division rivals. Zach really likes Bengals QB Joe Burrow and thinks he’ll lead his team to victory.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Tennessee at LA Rams (-7.5)
Wow, talk about two teams who’ve had an interesting week!! The Titans sit atop the AFC South and looked like they’d run away with the division crown after an overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately it was a costly win as they lost workhouse Derrick Henry…quite possibly the best running back in the NFL right now…to a foot injury. They’ve signed Adrian Peterson as a replacement. Peterson rushed for just over 600 yards in a committee backfield with the Detroit Lions last season, but he’s 36 years old & hasn’t played football in almost a year. Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill now has to kick it up a notch, and fifth year RB Jeremy McNichols will get an opportunity to prove himself. As for the Rams, they’ve put all their chips in the middle of the table, trading for former Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller and adding him to a defense that already had pass rushing beast Aaron Donald & defensive back Jalen Ramsey. The off-season acquisition of 33 year old QB Matthew Stafford has worked out quite well too. Just last week I would have told you that one of these teams is going to the Super Bowl, but it would’ve been the wrong team. Tennessee might still make the playoffs, but the loss of Henry is devastating. The Rams are clearly better right now, and I think they’ll win this one by double digits. Zach likes the home team as well.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Green Bay at Kansas City (-3)
Well damn…Aaron Rodgers tested positive for The Sickness. That makes this game a lot less interesting than it was just yesterday. KC has the home field too. You know who’s really pissed about this?? Fox. There goes their marquee matchup. To my complete shock & amazement Zach is sticking with his original pick despite the breaking news because “the Chiefs defense sucks”. I suppose we’re about to learn a whole lot about the future of Packers’ backup QB Jordan Love.
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.
Our record setting round of bonus picks didn’t really prove all that much last week. Zach (9-8) lost out to myself (10-7) largely due to his misguided Michigan loyalty, but otherwise it’s basically just more mediocrity from us both. We are still focusing exclusively on college football because this is Championship Week when conference titles will be won & lost and the playoff picture will finally work itself out.
My Season: 42-44
Z’s Season: 36-50
Utah vs. Washington (-5.5)
Pac 12 Championship (Santa Clara, CA)
I’m excited because this is a Friday night game and I’ll get to catch the last quarter or so at work. The Huskies upset in-state rival Washington St. last weekend, while the Utes are riding a three game winning streak after a hard fought battle against BYU a week ago. The Vibes are telling me that Washington has the momentum coming into this game, so that’s the way I’m going to lean. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Washington
Z’s Pick: Washington
Texas vs. Oklahoma (-7.5)
Big 12 Championship (Arlington, TX)
I feel like I should be more interested in this one, but I’m having a hard time giving a damn because I really wanted my WV Mountaineers to be playing in the game. If the Sooners win they may find themselves in the playoff…or not. Who knows?? This is a rematch of a game that took place a couple of months ago, when Texas prevailed by a just a field goal in a high scoring shootout. I’d definitely take the over in this one if you’re into that kind of thing, but with so much at stake I expect a different outcome, and so does Zach.
My Pick: Oklahoma
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Memphis at Central Florida (-4.5)
American Athletic Championship
The college football community continues to give the Knights zero respect, which may or may not be valid. All I know is that they haven’t lost a game in two years, which is pretty doggone impressive. This is one of the rare conference title games not played on a neutral field, which means UCF is at home. I am somewhat surprised the points aren’t atleast a touchdown or more, but obviously there are questions since UCF starting quarterback McKenzie Milton had his season ended prematurely with a catastrophic knee injury. However, that injury occurred in the first half of last week’s game and the Knights went on to a fairly easy 38-10 win, so clearly the team has talent beyond Milton. I see no reason to expect an upset in this situation. Zach expects a high scoring nail biter but thinks the favorites will win by a touchdown.
My Pick: UCF
Z’s Pick: UCF
Alabama (-13.5) vs. Georgia
SEC Championship (Atlanta, GA)
I am beyond bored by the idea of this game. I believe ‘Bama is in the playoff win or lose. Georgia would certainly be in with a win, but there is some chatter that they could still make it even with a loss, which is absurd. If that actually happens they need to just scrap the entire playoff system. I have zero interest in watching and don’t care enough to even make a pick. Zach likes the Tide to roll…sort of. He believes the Bulldogs will be pumped up early and keep it close, but Alabama will prevail. He just doesn’t think they’ll cover the points.
My Pick: I Don’t Care
Z’s Pick: Georgia
Clemson (-25.5) vs. Pitt
ACC Championship (Charlotte, NC)
Yeah…you’re season is over sPitt (except for a meaningless bowl game in which they’ll get throttled). There is no way on God’s green Earth Clemson is losing this game. Will the Tigers cover the points?? Hell, I hope they double it. Conversely, Zach doesn’t like the spread at all. He thinks the Panthers will keep things close until the fourth quarter before ultimately falling short.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Fresno State at Boise State (-2.5)
Mountain West Championship
Fresno has had a nice ten win season, but they aren’t beating Boise on the blue turf. I’m kind of ticked that they’re kicking off at 7:45pm EST Saturday night. The charm of the west coast games is that I can usually watch them at work late at night, but I guess they’re trying to get more exposure or something. Zach likes the Broncos to win easily.
My Pick: Boise St.
Z’s Pick: Boise St.
Northwestern vs. Ohio State (-12.5)
Big Ten Championship (Indianapolis, IN)
It’s not that this is the best game of the weekend because I expect the Buckeyes to win easily, but it is probably the most important contest to keep an eye on. In the battle for an elusive playoff spot the talking heads are all about “style points”. Personally I think beating the snot out of Michigan by three TDs and hanging 62 points on what was supposed to be a stout defense was remarkable, but a similarly dominant performance this week is probably necessary. Zach is still a bit churlish about that beatdown his Wolverines took, so he’s picking the Wildcats to win in overtime.
It’s conference championship week in the NCAA. A couple of the games are virtually meaningless, a couple will decide who plays in a BCS bowl and who plays in a far less interesting (and less lucrative) bowl, and a couple of them will actually determine who plays for the national title. Not a bad weekend…although it’ll be hard to exceed the level of excitement of last week’s games. Speaking of which, I went 5-2, while Zach went 4-3. I’m so glad I rolled the dice on Auburn, although I certainly couldn’t have known it’d play out as it did. Kudos to Zach for picking UCLA and Missouri. Johnny Football really let me down. So for the season we stand thusly:
Myself = 35-33
Zach = 31-37
It’s the last ride for college football…after this everything will be NFL. We might do a bowl pick ‘em kind of deal, but for a variety of reasons it’ll be a simple win/lose thing with no point spreads and I won’t count the results toward the season record. Enjoy this final week feeding frenzy…I know I will.
As a WVU Mountaineer fan it blows my mind that our inept team is the one that singlehandedly eliminated Oklahoma State from national title consideration. Had the Cowboys came into this game undefeated it seems likely that they could have conceivably been ranked ahead of Ohio State and Auburn. They have to be kicking themselves for not taking the lowly Eers seriously (I have an inside scoop that that was the case). Meanwhile the Sooners are likely locked into the Alamo Bowl win or lose. However, all the extracurriculars can be tossed out the window when it comes to these in-state rivalries. They call this one Bedlam and it’s actually grown into an entire series encompassing all the sports played by these two schools. There’s a point system and everything. At any rate this feels like the Cowboys year to dominate their more…decorated…counterparts, and I think they’ll cover the spread. Conversely, Zach…although he can’t quite go so far as to predict the outright upset…believes that the Sooners will raise the bar and make this a close game.
The Big 12 doesn’t have a championship game (neither do they have 12 teams) so these two games will decide the title. If Oklahoma St. wins their game they win the conference, but should they fall then the winner of this game would secure the BCS berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Just a few weeks ago I thought the Bears looked like a legitimate national championship contender, but after Oklahoma St. spanked them and then they barely defeated TCU I must admit I was wrong. That’s not to say that they aren’t a very very good team…but they can be beaten. Can the Longhorns achieve that goal?? It would certainly put a nice exclamation point on an odd season in which many thought head coach Mack Brown was about to be canned before winning 7 of the last 8 games. To me this looks like a point spread situation in which Baylor is likely to win but unlikely to cover the points. Zach concurs.
Utah St. at Fresno St. (-3.5)
I’ll be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about the Mountain West Conference. I didn’t even know they had a title game. I do remember that Utah State won some bowl game last year that I had given them no chance to win. However, one thing I do know is that I picked the Bulldogs 18th in my pre-season Top 25 and they’ll need to win to secure their spot in the final poll. I can’t abandon them now!! Zach agrees.
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois (-3)
I really enjoy watching MAC football. I wish my Marshall Thundering Herd had never left the MAC. Sure their teams may not be as sexy as teams in the SEC or Pac 12, but it’s just like hitting on a fat gal…give ‘em a whirl because what they lack in natural skill they’ll make up for in effort. This game is being played in Detroit so I hope the conference doesn’t go bankrupt by association. Northern Illinois has a legitimate Heisman candidate in QB Jordan Lynch, who has amassed nearly 2500 yards passing, almost 1800 yards rushing, & 42 touchdowns this season. Compare that with Johnny Manziel’s 3500 passing yards, 650 rushing yards, & 40 touchdowns. Lynch won’t win the award but if he doesn’t atleast get invited to New York for the ceremony it’ll be a darn shame. Proper credit should be given to Bowling Green’s 9-3 record, but I just don’t see any way that the Falcons get the win here, especially since the Huskies have a decent shot at a BCS berth with a victory, likely in the Fiesta Bowl against the Big 12 champion. Zach isn’t as enamored with the MAC as I am but he is also picking Northern Illinois.
Missouri vs. Auburn (-2)
Auburn pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory last weekend on what will likely be remembered as one of the most thrilling plays in college football history. Many folks are saying that they deserve to be #2 over Ohio State. The SEC champion has played in the last 7 national championship games, and it could be 8 if Auburn wins this one and Ohio State loses the Big Ten title game. But let’s not overlook Missouri. They have had a really solid season and would be serious national title contenders if it wasn’t for a double overtime loss to South Carolina. This game is being played on a neutral field at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. One must ponder whether it is a classic trap game for Auburn. Have they spent too much energy basking in the glow of the upset of Alabama while simultaneously arguing the case that they should be ahead of Ohio State?? I think that is entirely plausible and for that reason will predict the mild upset. Zach is still bummed about ‘Bama’s loss and thinks Auburn is more lucky than good. He also believes their luck runs out this week.
Stanford at Arizona St. (-3)
Has the Pac 12 been really cool to watch this season or what?? Out of the 12 teams I think I have enjoyed games involving atleast 7 or 8. The Sun Devils get the requisite 3 point home field advantage, but that’s really not showing them all that much respect. Stanford’s inexplicable loss to Utah and mid-November defeat at the hands of the surging USC Trojans has really come back to bite them. If even just one of those losses hadn’t occurred they might be…well…probably not much higher on the totem pole than they are I suppose. What those losses really did was knock them just far enough off the radar that a red hot Arizona St. has stolen all the thunder. I say Stanford gets their mojo back, heads to the Rose Bowl, and finishes the season as a Top 5 team. Zach went off on such a passionate tangent about Nick Saban and The Tide that he forgot to pick this game.
Florida St. (-29.5) vs. Duke
Look, I respect Duke for turning a perpetually blundering football program at a nationally renowned basketball school into a winner at long last. But if I am being honest I don’t really have that high of a regard for the ACC. The Blue Devils beating Memphis, Troy, Navy, Virginia, & Wake Forest doesn’t impress me, and victories over Virginia Tech, NC State, North Carolina, & Miami barely move the scale. Meanwhile the Seminoles have steamrolled thru their schedule like Kirstie Alley in a donut shop. The only hesitation anyone has about Florida St. is whether or not freshman phenom QB Jameis Winston is actually a rapist. The hammer could fall on that situation in the next few weeks…most certainly ahead of the January 6th National Championship Game. However, there’ll be no legal stuff to impact this contest. Give me Florida State and the points. Shockingly Zach is picking Duke…not because he believes they’ll win but because he doesn’t like the huge point spread. Hey, atleast now I have a reason to pay some attention to this game. I won’t watch it but I’ll pay attention.
Ohio St.(-5.5) vs. Michigan St.
Anyone who watched Ohio State barely defeat the Michigan Wolverines last weekend knows that those who question the validity of the Buckeyes presence in the national title game over Auburn have a reasonable point. Their defensive effort was more than lackluster. And while Braxton Miller has great feet and is undoubtedly an above average running QB his passing is a bit erratic. Michigan State has quietly had a solid 11-1 season with the only blemish being a mid-September loss at Notre Dame. This game is being played on a neutral field in Indianapolis. My vibe is that the Spartans have all the momentum while everyone has been waiting for weeks for the seemingly overrated Buckeyes to stumble. If Ohio State’s defense plays as poorly against the Spartans as they did against the inferior (atleast for this year) Wolverines then their national championship hopes will fade away. I think that is what a lot of folks are expecting. However, I just cannot imagine that a team that has won 24 straight games…even if they were largely against substandard competition…will allow themselves to fall short now when they are so close to the goal. It may not be the smart or popular pick but The Voices are telling me to stick with Ohio State. Zach seems to have some deep disdain for the Buckeyes and states that…and I quote…”Ohio St. doesn’t have a prayer. Michigan St. by 21.” Well okey dokey then.