WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 4.21  

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

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

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

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

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

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 5

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

My Season: 11-15

Zach’s Season: 10-16

Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)

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

My Pick: Florida International 

Z’s Pick: Florida International

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame 

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

My Pick: Notre Dame 

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)

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

My Pick: Alabama

Z’s Pick: Alabama 

Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)

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

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Arkansas 

Detroit at Chicago (-3)

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

My Pick: Detroit 

Z’s Pick: Detroit 

Seattle at San Francisco (-3)

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

My Pick: San Francisco 

Z’s Pick: Seattle 

Arizona at LA Rams (-6)

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

My Pick: Arizona 

Z’s Pick: LA Rams 

Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England

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

My Pick: Tampa Bay 

Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay 

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 13

It’s Rivalry Week in college football, and while conference realignment has obliterated too much of that sacred tradition there are a few tasty morsels remaining. One game we will not be picking though is Ohio St./Michigan. Y’all know we don’t pick Steelers, WV Mountaineers, or Marshall Thundering Herd games specifically because Zach & I both love the Steelers, I’m a Marshall alum, & we’ve both grown up as Mountaineer fans. So it dawned on me that perhaps it is a bit unfair to make Zach pick games involving his beloved Wolverines, atleast when the game is as important as this one. Fortunately there are enough interesting options that we have a full slate+ even without that game. Some of these occur on Black Friday, most are on Saturday. I won’t remember exactly which is which, but The Manoverse is smart enough to figure it out. Best wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving.

My Season:        42-33

Zach’s Season:  37-38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cincinnati                             at                Memphis (-10.5)

We don’t pick a lot of “Group of Five” games, but this one is kind of important. The best team from the “other” five conferences gets an opportunity to face one of the big boys in a New Year’s bowl game, and right now it looks like the winner of this game will have a leg up on the competition, although Boise St. is in the mix as well. On top of all that, Cincinnati has already clinched a spot in the AAC title game, and Memphis could do the same with a victory, so there could be a rematch next week. Actually a rematch is pretty much a done deal because Memphis would hold tiebreakers over both Navy & SMU. At any rate, the Tigers have the home field and are riding a five game win streak, while the only blemish for the Bearcats is an early September loss to Ohio St., which is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not sure why Memphis is a double digit favorite even playing at home. The points are enough to scare me off and choose Cincinnati. Zach concurs and thinks it’ll be a high scoring affair decided by single digits.

My Pick:     Cincinnati

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

 

 

Oregon State               at                Oregon (-19.5)

They call this game The Civil War and it goes back 125 years. The Ducks were in the playoff hunt but got upset last week. They’ve already sewn up a spot in the Pac 12 title game though, so they can focus their attention on battling Utah for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Beavers are 5-6 and need a victory to achieve bowl eligibility. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but what about the points?? 19 & a half is a lot…but I’m rolling the dice and taking the home favorites to cover. Zach agrees. He likes the Ducks to rebound from that heartbreaking loss and win this one in a blowout.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

 

Clemson (-27)             at                South Carolina

Has Clemson actually played anyone other than Texas A&M?? Why are they in the playoff conversation?? I was under the impression that what happened last year isn’t supposed to matter, but clearly the committee takes reputation into account. Having said that, I don’t think South Carolina can pull off another upset like they did against Georgia back in October, but can they stay within four TDs?? The Gamecocks have the home field, and if they have a shred of pride & an ounce of fight left in them I surely hope they can atleast keep it respectable. Zach thinks Clemson is overrated but concedes that they will be in the playoff. With that in mind he foresees Dabo Swinney calling off the dogs and playing conservatively in the second half.

My Pick:     South Carolina

Z’s Pick:     South Carolina

 

 

 

 

Arizona               at                Arizona State (-13.5)

We were all over our pal Herm Edwards and his early season success with the Sun Devils, but they’ve kind of fallen off a bit in the past couple of months…until last week’s huge upset of Oregon. At 6-5 State has already achieved bowl eligibility, while the 4-7 Wildcats aren’t going anywhere but home after this game. They call this the Duel in the Desert, but I don’t anticipate much of a contest. It might be fairly close for 2 or 3 quarters, but I think State is clearly the superior team and will win easily. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Arizona State

Z’s Pick:     Arizona State

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin (-2.5)                            at                         Minnesota

There are games that will get more attention, but we shouldn’t overlook the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, a rivalry that goes back 128 years. On top of the long history this year’s contest features two teams hoping for a Top Ten finish, even if it is likely they’ll both miss the playoff. The winner will receive the opportunity to get beaten by Ohio St. in the Big Ten title game, but both teams will land in very nice bowl locations. The Badgers are 9-2 and have to be kicking themselves for that close October loss to Illinois. The 9-2 Gophers were an early playoff contender, but losing at Iowa a couple of weeks ago killed that dream. I’m predicting a good old-fashioned slugfest…classic smashmouth football. In that case I like Wisconsin’s offensive line to wear down the opposition and snag a win in the 4th quarter. Zach agrees and thinks Wisconsin will ride Heisman Trophy candidate & the nation’s second leading rusher Jonathan Taylor to victory.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Oklahoma (-13)           at                Oklahoma State

They call this game Bedlam, and that could be the case if the Cowboys pull off the upset at home. For some reason there are still a few talking heads who seem to believe that the Sooners have a shot to make the playoff. Anything is possible, but they’d need to have three teams currently ranked above them fall. One definitely will (the loser of the SEC title game). Two is possible. Three is probably asking too much. Nevertheless, they do have a date with Baylor in the Big 12 title game, and finishing the season with two big wins could impress the committee. State has shown me no reason to believe that they can hang with their in-state rival, so I think this is going to be a rather easy win for the road favorites. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

 

 

Alabama (-3.5)             at                Auburn

The Iron Bowl is always entertaining, but when there is something on the line besides bragging rights it’s even more fun. I’ve always thought that the playoff committee would do everything they possibly could to get the Tide into the playoff no matter what, and this season is no exception. Georgia will meet LSU in the SEC title game, but since ‘Bama is currently ranked fifth it feels like that fourth spot will come down to Utah (if they win the Pac 12 championship), maybe Oklahoma, possibly the loser of the SEC championship (especially if that is LSU)…and Alabama. In that scenario don’t be surprised if Nick Saban gets an early Christmas gift. But…but…they have to take care of business this week first and that’s easier said than done. Auburn is 8-3 but all three losses have come in the past six weeks. I really don’t know what to expect, but I think it’ll come down to the final five minutes and be decided by less than a field goal. Conversely, Zach thinks ‘Bama will be able to run the ball and get a decisive win.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 10

Annnnndddd we’re BACK!!

We took a bye week due to unfortunate personal circumstances, but life moves forward and it’s good to get back in the saddle. The College Football Playoff Committee released their initial rankings, and I have opinions that essentially boil down to a) they got it right and b) right now it means diddly squat. I especially liked the fact that Clemson was ranked outside the Top 4 (at #5) not because the ACC is undoubtedly the weakest conference but because they just got done beating up on Wofford. Playing that game in September?? Fine. Not a problem. Playing it in November?? Inexcusable. Pathetic. Having said that, the Top 4 are going to cancel each other out in head-to-head matchups so don’t worry Dabo…your team will steamroll the rest of their cupcake schedule and be gifted a spot in the playoff. Of course Alabama plays Western Carolina in a couple of weeks which isn’t any less infuriating, but atleast they play in one of the best conferences so they’ll get a bit more clemency. At any rate, both college & pro football are starting to get really interesting, so enjoy the ride with us.

 My Season:        29-25

Zach’s Season:  26-28

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penn State (-6.5)                 at                  Minnesota

At the moment the Nittany Lions are in the playoff, but they still have to go to Columbus right before Thanksgiving, so stay tuned. The Golden Gophers are undefeated, but a closer look reveals they haven’t played much of anybody and the back end of their schedule is really tough. The fact that this game is in Minneapolis might help a little, but I am still inclined to ride with the favorites. Conversely, Zach believes Penn St. might be looking ahead to that very important game with the Buckeyes and could be walking into a trap. He believes that special teams will play a key role and even if the visitors win they may not cover the points.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

Iowa                                 at                    Wisconsin (-9.5)

We could call this the What Might Have Been Bowl. The Hawkeyes started off good, then suffered back to back losses to Michigan & Penn St. and have been back on the winning track for a couple of weeks. The Badgers looked like a possible playoff contender but have lost two straight games. I like Wisconsin to win at home, but the near double digit points give me pause…I think it’ll be closer than that. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive struggle but thinks Wisconsin RB and former Heisman frontrunner Jonathan Taylor will be the difference maker.

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

LSU                             at                       Alabama (-6.5)

This is the big one. Normally I don’t get too pumped for LSU/Bama because as much as I appreciate good defense a 60 minute battle of field position & field goals can be a bit tedious. However, both teams have suddenly become high powered offensive juggernauts. The over/under is 63 points, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the over wins. The Tide gets the home field advantage, and rightfully so…but The Vibes are telling me this is going to come down to the wire, so whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach thinks it’ll come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. He doesn’t believe LSU can run the ball against Alabama’s defense so QB Joe Burrow will have to make plays. Ultimately though it comes down to coaching, and Zach has long been a big Nick Saban fan.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

 

NY Giants (-1.5)                        vs.                  NY Jets

The Battle of New York?? New Jersey?? Both teams are terrible right now so I’m not sure either state would want to claim them. There is no home field advantage since they share a stadium, so it comes down to how one views the little things. For me the fact that the Giants have Saquon Barkley at running back tips the scales slightly in their favor. Zach doesn’t think this game will be the least bit interesting to watch, and he’s probably right. Anyway, he’s rolling the dice on the Jets.

My Pick:     NY Giants

Z’s Pick:     NY Jets

 

 

 

Seattle                          at                    San Francisco (-6)

I don’t expect the 49ers to finish the season undefeated, but will it be the Seahawks that knock them down a notch?? Seattle’s only two losses have been to the Saints & Ravens, so one must assess whether or not San Francisco is on the same level as those teams. QB Russell Wilson will be in the MVP discussion, but ‘Frisco QB Jimmy G. isn’t far behind. I expect this to be a terrific Monday Night Football game…it might even get me to change the channel from my wrasslin’. I sense another close battle decided by a late field goal, so I’m going to pick the underdogs. Zach thinks the 49ers defense can neutralize Wilson and will be the difference.

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     San Francisco

2019 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

25        Virginia Tech

Last Season:     6-7

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

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

 

 

24        Auburn

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

23        Michigan State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

22        Central Florida

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

21        Army

Last Season:     11-2

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

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

 

 

20        Northwestern

Last Season:             9-5                             

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

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

 

 

19        Fresno State

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

18        Michigan

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Arizona State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

16        Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

15        Stanford

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Nebraska

Last Season:     4-8

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

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

 

 

13        LSU

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

12        Utah

Last Season:     9-5

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

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

 

 

11        Iowa State

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

10        Wisconsin

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Southern California

Last Season:     5-7

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

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

 

 

8          Texas

Last Season:     10-4

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

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

 

 

7          Notre Dame

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

6          Ohio State

Last Season:    13-1

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

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

 

 

5             Oregon

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

4             Alabama

Last Season:     14-1

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

2          Georgia

Last Season:     11-3

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

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

 

 

1          Clemson

Last Season:     15-0

Key Games:     9/7 vs. Texas A&M

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

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 13

It’s Rivalry Week in college football, and it is Thanksgiving. Warm wishes to The Manoverse for a delightful holiday filled with food, football, family, flicks, & fun. I’m not gonna lie…last week was brutal. I (2-3) edged out Zach (1-4), but that’s really not saying a whole lot. If the Texans would’ve covered a measly three point spread and if the Chiefs were capable of playing a shred of defense things would have turned out differently, but those things didn’t happen. I scored 133 points in my dynasty league and still lost, and my opponent didn’t even have the best week in the league because another team broke a six year old all-time single game scoring record. Needless to say I’m a bit perturbed with the NFL at the moment, but fortunately the timing is perfect. In-state & regional rivalries are the bedrock on which college football is built, but conference realignment in recent years has had a negative effect on such traditions. It seems like an effort is being made to remedy that, which makes me happy. I had a hard time choosing which games to focus on, so what the hell…we’re just going to pick most of them. I’m pretty sure we’ve never picked this many games in one week, but with both of us below .500 on the season this feels like a great opportunity to dig ourselves out of the hole (or sink inescapably deeper into the abyss).

My Season:        32-37

Z’s Season:        27-42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mississippi State (-11)                  at                Ole Miss

Why can only one of these teams be good in any one season?? This year it is the 7-4 Bulldogs that look solid, while the 5-6 Rebels are fighting for bowl eligibility. Ole Miss has the home field and something to play for so I’m going with the upset. Zach believes these are two mediocre teams with potential. He’s uncomfortable with the points so he’s picking the underdogs to atleast cover.

My Pick:     Ole Miss

Z’s Pick:     Ole Miss

 

 

 

BYU                     at                Utah (-12)

The 6-5 Cougars are a perplexing program. I’m not sure why a conference like The Big 12 or Mountain West hasn’t scooped them up yet. Being independent doesn’t seem to be working out well. And I’m never sure what to expect from year to year. Conversely, things seem to be going just fine for the 8-3 Utes, who have already secured a spot in the Pac 12 title game. Is this a trap game?? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way the 12 points is too much. Zach gives props to BYU for beating Wisconsin earlier in the season, but he likes the home team in this one.

My Pick:     BYU

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

 

Georgia Tech              at                Georgia (-17)

Could the Bulldogs be looking ahead to their SEC Championship clash against Alabama?? The Yellow Jackets are 7-4 and have only a bowl game to look forward to, but knocking their in-state rivalry out of playoff contention would be the cherry on top of a solid season. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but the points are just way too much. Zach thinks Tech’s triple option could cause issues for Georgia’s defense, but with a playoff berth possibly on the line he is going out on a limb and picking the favorites to cover the sizeable spread.

My Pick:     Georgia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

Nebraska                     at                Iowa (-9.5)

The Cornhuskers are a dreadful 4-7, but have shown signs of life by winning 4 out of their last 5 games. Conversely, the Hawkeyes are 7-4 but have lost 3 of 4. These are two teams heading in the opposite direction, and I smell an upset (or atleast a close game). Zach is predicting a low-scoring defensive battle and thinks Nebraska has the hot hand.

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Nebraska

 

 

 

Virginia (-4.5)               at                Virginia Tech

Okay…here’s the deal. Tech comes into this game 4-6, and they had a game against East Carolina cancelled back in September due to Hurricane Florence. If the Hokies win this game they are one victory shy of bowl eligibility. A deal is in place where Tech would play a game against my alma mater the Marshall Thundering Herd, who also had a game at South Carolina cancelled because of the same hurricane. That game will only take place if the Hokies win here, which won’t be an easy task against the 7-4 Cavaliers. Traditionally Tech has a significant home field advantage, and I’m hoping that is the case once again. Conversely, Zach believes the Cavs will get the easy victory.

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia

 

 

Oregon (-17)                at                Oregon State

They call this game The Civil War. It is one of the oldest rivalries in college football, having first been played 124 years ago. The two campuses are less that fifty miles apart, so I don’t think there is any true home field advantage. The Ducks come into the game 7-4, having had a real roller coaster season. The Beavers are 2-9, so their coaster seems to be broken. Anything can happen in a rivalry game, but I’m picking the favorites to win easily. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

Central Florida (-14)                      at                South Florida

Way back when I did my pre-season rankings I placed the Bulls 12th and had the Knights unranked. I said that “UCF is still getting much of the love from talking heads this pre-season, but I’m not buying it”, while posing the question “can USF steal the spotlight in 2018?”. Well, so far that thought process hasn’t quite come to fruition. South Florida is 7-4, while Central Florida remains undefeated and is a Top 10 team. Both teams have something to play for…pride for South, and remaining unbeaten for Central. The two campuses are little more than an hour apart, so the home field probably isn’t that big of a deal. I can’t pull the trigger on an upset, but I think the Bulls will keep it closer than two TDs. Zach likes UCF’s offense to carry them to an easy win.

My Pick:     South Florida

Z’s Pick:     Central Florida

 

 

 

 

Washington                 at                Washington State (-2.5)

They call this The Apple Cup because Washington is the nation’s leading producer of…well, I’m sure you can guess. The Huskies were getting all the pre-season love, but at 8-3 have fallen short of expectations. Conversely, the Cougars are still in the playoff conversation, but they need a few dominoes to fall in front of them. The winner of this game will play Utah for the Pac 12 title, and I’m smelling an upset for the underdogs. Zach is predicting a really close game…possibly even overtime…to be won by the home team.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington St.

 

 

 

 

Florida (-6)                             at                          Florida State

Wow…who could have predicted that this game would be a mere afterthought on a weekend full of other battles of much more interest & importance?? I truly thought the Seminoles would bounce back after a rough 2017 campaign, but at 5-6 they need a win to even become bowl eligible. The 8-3 Gators certainly aren’t terrible, but have been forgotten amidst all the love for Alabama & Georgia and even love for Kentucky & LSU. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict the upset since Florida St. will be looking to extend their streak of 36 consecutive bowl game appearances. Zach likes the Gators’ defense to get the job done.

My Pick:     Florida State

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

LSU (-3)                       at                          Texas A&M

Do I believe that two loss LSU should be a Top 10 team?? No. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a dangerous opponent for anyone who goes up against them. At 7-4 A&M is just about what we thought they’d be…tons of potential with good things ahead, but not quite there yet. I can’t overlook the home field in this one and think the Aggies can pull off a mild surprise. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

 

Kentucky (-17)                     at                          Louisville

It seems odd to be talking about this matchup on the football field instead of the basketball court, but that’s where we are. The Wildcats have had a really nice season and will land in a fun bowl location. Conversely, the 2-9 Cardinals have already fired their coach and look like they need to move to the AAC or C-USA because the ACC is just too good for them. I have no doubt that Kentucky will win, but the points concern me just a bit. I suppose it’s one of those “go big or go home” moments, right?? According to Zach Louisville is “garbage” and he likes Kentucky’s ground game to win big.

My Pick:     Kentucky

Z’s Pick:     Kentucky

 

 

 

Utah State                             at                          Boise State (-2.5)

The winner of this game will play Fresno St. in the Mountain West title game. The Bulldogs have the home field and a solid track record of winning big games, so I believe they’ll get the job done. Zach likes Utah St. in the trenches, but doesn’t believe it’s enough for them to overcome the home field advantage.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Boise St.

 

 

 

Notre Dame (-10.5)               at                          USC

So this is it. The Trojans are Notre Dame’s final hurdle to the playoff. Normally that would not only be intriguing, but it’d make this the biggest game of the weekend. However, while the undefeated Irish have looked unstoppable 5-6 Southern Cal has not. Much like Florida State, USC is a traditional power now just battling for bowl eligibility. Can they get the job done and pull off a huge upset?? I wish…but probably not. Zach thinks USC will make a coaching change after the season, and as much as he’d like to see the upset he doesn’t believe it’ll happen.

My Pick:     Notre Dame

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

 

Arizona State (-2)                 at                          Arizona

Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils at 6-5 and heading in the right direction. The arrow is pointing up for Kevin Sumlin’s Wildcats as well, despite a roller coaster season. The Wildcats have the home field and need a victory to become bowl eligible, so that’s the pick for me. Zach doesn’t like Arizona’s defense (or lack thereof), so he is going with the favorites.

My Pick:     Arizona

Z’s Pick:     Arizona St.

 

 

 

South Carolina                    at                Clemson (-26)

The Gamecocks aren’t winning this game. Clemson has a playoff berth on the line and they’re not going to let their in-state rival steal that away. But what about the points?? That’s an awfully big spread. Might Clemson rest some players and hold something back for the ACC title game?? Nahhhhh. They’ll win by atleast four touchdowns. Zach is going in the other direction, believing the Tigers will take their foot off the gas just enough for the Gamecocks to cover.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     South Carolina

 

 

 

Auburn                         at                          Alabama (-24.5)

The Iron Bowl is always one of the biggest games on the calendar, and this year is no exception. I think Alabama is destined for the playoff win or lose, and they could even drop this game and the SEC title game and still be gifted a playoff berth. Auburn is 7-4 and has been underwhelming this year, but I expect them to play their best game against their archrival. I don’t believe the Tigers have a snowball’s chance in California of winning the game, but they’ll probably keep it closer than the oddsmakers think. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

 

Michigan (-4.5)                     at                Ohio State

This is it. This is the biggest game of the holiday weekend. For the first time in awhile the Wolverines are actually favored, despite playing at The Horseshoe in Columbus. The winner will face Northwestern in the Big Ten title game, but Michigan has much bigger fish to fry because a playoff berth awaits. However, unlike ‘Bama, they cannot afford to stumble. The Buckeyes have to have a lot of things go their way to make it to the playoff, which is unlikely. But I have to believe that screwing their hated rival out of a chance to play for the National Championship would be a fantastic consolation prize. Because a) I love playoff chaos, b) I know Zach will pick Michigan, & c) I don’t think the home field can be overlooked, I am picking the upset. As predicted Zach is picking the Wolverines to give Ohio St. an epic beatdown.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 8

I’m running a little behind this week and am thankful we didn’t pick any Thursday games. I have no excuse except pure laziness, which happens sometimes. I suppose with my Steelers on their bye week and my Mountaineers off as well after an embarrassing beatdown last weekend I’m just not all that excited about football at the moment, but I’ll get over it. Speaking of beatdowns, last week both myself (3-2) and Zach (2-3) continued our epic mediocrity, proving once again that, as much fun as it may be, we’re really not very good at this.

My Season:     19-22

Z’s Season:     17-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama   (-28.5)                  at                Tennessee

We don’t pick ‘Bama games very often because quite honestly they bore me. I’m over it. Dominance is only interesting for a team & its fan base…everyone else is rooting for them to lose. Zach & I both agree that nobody is beating Alabama (not yet anyway), but I am intrigued by the points. So far this season The Tide has won seven games by an average of 30.5 points per game. Of course Tennessee is a step up in competition from teams like Arkansas St. & Louisiana-Lafayette, but not as good as Ole Miss and Texas A&M, both of which were beaten easily by Alabama. The wildcard is the health of Tide starting QB Tua Tagovailoa, who left last week’s game with a knee injury. Having former starter Jalen Hurts as a backup means the team won’t be negatively impacted all that much, but the offense would be undeniably less dynamic. My vibe is that Tua will start but will get dinged up and come out of the game at some point, so I’m going to roll the dice and guess that ‘Bama’s victory will be by 21-28 points. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Tennessee

 

 

 

NC State                       at                Clemson (-17)

Mountaineer fans here in WV were denied an opportunity to see the Wolfpack in action due to Hurricane Florence, but they’ve steamrolled to a 5-0 record against mediocre competition, including my alma mater the Marshall Thundering Herd. Their first legit test comes in Death Valley against the 6-0 Tigers who are once again in the playoff conversation despite a bit of a quarterback brouhaha a few weeks ago. Once again I don’t expect an upset but am intrigued by the points. Clemson is winning games by an average of more than 27 points per game, although they have had a couple of close calls…a two point victory over A&M and beating Syracuse by just four points. It just depends on how one view NC St. Are they a legit Top 25 team…or are they pretenders propped up by a soft schedule?? I think I lean toward the latter. Zach doesn’t believe that Clemson is as good as everyone seems to think they are and feels like NC St. will give it a good go before losing a close game.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     NC State

 

 

 

Mississippi State                 at                LSU (-6.5)

I definitely did not expect the Bayou Bengals to be a playoff contender this season considering their 9-4 record a year ago and an 8-4 finish in 2016. However, despite a misstep at Florida a couple of weeks ago they still have an outside shot at getting there, especially if a big upset of Alabama occurs after the bye week. First things first though…the 4-2 Bulldogs could certainly be viewed as a trap game of LSU is looking ahead to ‘Bama. If this game were being played in Starkville I might be a little worried, but in the friendly environment of Baton Rouge I don’t think it’ll be all that close. Zach believes LSU is for real and will win big.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

Carolina                       at                Philadelphia (-4.5)

Defending Super Bowl champs traditionally have problems defending their crown, and the 3-3 Eagles sure haven’t looked like serious contenders thus far. At 3-2 the Panthers haven’t been too impressive either. Both teams are going to have an issue just winning their division and making the playoffs. I’m not sure what to think about this game, but I suppose I’ll lean in the direction of the home field. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

 

Cleveland                     at                Tampa Bay (-3)

Are we really picking a Browns/Bucs game?? Yes…yes we are. I like to spread the love cause I’m generous like that, and the truth is that the Browns actually have a pulse for the first time in a very long while. I don’t expect them to get near the playoffs or anything, but 5 or 6 wins seems possible, and that would be a significant improvement. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are 2-3 and just fired their defensive coordinator. Isn’t it odd how the team has gone in the crapper since Jameis Winston returned as the starting QB?? Tampa is getting the traditional home field bump, but I’m predicting a fairly easy Cleveland victory. Zach has very little faith in either team but is going with the upset.

My Pick:     Cleveland

Z’s Pick:     Cleveland

2018 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh got some attention from the sports media recently when he pontificated about the College Football Playoff eventually expanding from four to eight teams and ultimately ending up at sixteen. Obviously it isn’t a new debate and Harbaugh’s comments were simply convenient fodder on a slow news day. However, what always strikes me about the discussion is the fact that everyone talks about the idea of expanding to eight or sixteen teams, but no one ever mentions the solution that I prefer, which is a six team playoff. In this format the top two teams would get a bye, which incentivizes trying to snag one of those two spots versus merely sneaking into the playoff. All five “power” conference champions would qualify, making conference title games de facto playoff games and actually meaningful instead of the needless money grabs that they are right now. One wildcard would be chosen which would likely spark a few heated arguments. Most of the time one of the “power” conference runners-up would get the nod (like Alabama anytime they happen to falter), but when you occasionally have an undefeated contender from one of the “other” conferences…for example, the 2017 Central Florida Knights…then they could very easily slide into that spot.

 

Anyway, all of that is just a mildly interesting preamble for our true purpose today. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/22 vs. Stanford, 10/13 vs. Washington, 10/27 at Arizona

Former Florida International head coach & Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal takes over in Eugene after the Ducks have gone 20-18 the past three years following seven seasons of 10 or more victories. The PAC 12 is really competitive, and I don’t expect Oregon to be in the conference title mix, but a pre-Halloween clash at Arizona could be the deciding factor in getting to eight wins and securing a spot in the rankings.

 

 

24     LSU 

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/2 vs. Miami (FL), 9/15 at Auburn, 10/13 vs. Georgia, 11/3 vs. Alabama

I don’t think anyone is getting out of the SEC with less than two losses. They’re all going to spend the next few months beating each other up, playing a game of Last Man Standing. The non-conference season opener against Miami is a neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas, and it’ll set a tone right off the bat. The Bayou Bengals are probably going to have to upset Auburn or Georgia…perhaps both…to get to eight wins and slip into the bottom of the Top 25.

 

 

23     Michigan

Last Season:      8-5

Key Games:       9/1 at Notre Dame, 10/13 vs. Wisconsin, 10/20 at Michigan St., 11/3 vs. Penn St., 11/24 at Ohio St.

I’ve slowed my roll on enthusiasm for the Harbaugh Era in Ann Arbor after initially thinking that he might have the Wolverines back in the national title conversation within a few years. The truth is that the Big Ten is so tough that winning a conference title would be a major accomplishment. The schedule is vicious, including a season opening non-conference clash against the Irish in South Bend, a rivalry that had been on hiatus for a few years. Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson will start at QB, and he’ll need to spice up an offense that has really been holding the team back. 8 or 9 wins feels like the ceiling again, but if those victories include a couple of big upsets it should be enough to sneak into the rankings.

 

 

22     West Virginia

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Tennessee, 9/15 at NC St., 9/22 vs. Kansas St., 11/3 at Texas, 11/10 vs. TCU, 11/23 vs. Oklahoma

Mountaineers QB Will Grier will be a legit Heisman candidate and converted quarterback David Sills has become a solid receiver, so I am not at all concerned about the offense. It’s been a lack of defense that has held WVU back the past few seasons, but a couple of transfers will allegedly bolster that side of the ball this year. I don’t expect the ‘Eers to beat TCU or Oklahoma (though both opponents are visiting Morgantown), so I think games against K-State and Texas will be the difference between 7 or 8 wins versus 9 or 10 wins.

 

 

21     Penn State        

Last Season:      11-2

Key Games:       9/29 vs. Ohio St., 10/13 vs. Michigan St., 11/3 at Michigan, 11/10 vs. Wisconsin

Happy Valley might be somewhat less happy in 2018 since Saquon Barkley is now toting the rock for the NY Giants. That doesn’t mean that the Nittany Lions will fall completely off the map, but for me it does take them out of the conference title discussion. QB Trace McSorely will be a Heisman contender, and whether this team wins 9+ games or falls into mediocrity looks to be squarely on his shoulders.

 

 

20     Texas       

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/15 vs. USC, 9/22 vs. TCU, 10/6 vs. Oklahoma, 11/3 vs. West Virginia

We’ve been waiting for the Longhorns to get back to their former glory for nearly a decade. Head coach Mack Brown was forced into retirement in 2013, and Charlie Strong couldn’t get it done in his three years in Austin. Tom Herman’s inaugural season at the helm was a slight improvement, but still underwhelming. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that they’ll win more games this year than last, but an upset or two will be necessary to achieve that goal.

 

 

19     Florida State                       

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Virginia Tech, 10/6 at Miami (FL), 10/27 vs. Clemson, 11/10 at Notre Dame

The Seminoles’ season was torpedoed right out of the gate in 2017 when starting QB Deondre Francois suffered a tear of his patellar tendon and freshman James Blackman stepped in to fill the void. After the season head coach Jimbo Fisher bolted for Texas A&M (and a ten year $75 million contract), which took a lot of folks by surprise. Former South Florida & Oregon head coach Willie Taggart has taken the helm, which also came as a bit of a surprise. Francois & Blackman are both in the mix at quarterback, and redshirt freshman Bailey Hockman might get some reps as well. RB Cam Akers will be be a huge help to whomever is under center. The schedule is brutal, and I understand that this isn’t the 1990’s anymore. One shouldn’t assume that Florida St. will sit near the top of the college football mountain like they used to, especially in an increasingly deep & competitive ACC. However, I think eight wins is doable, and anything more would really thrill the folks in Tallahassee

 

 

18     Florida Atlantic

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/1 at Oklahoma, 9/21 at UCF

The talking heads love to fawn all over the glamor teams in the power conferences, but a) when two such teams play each other someone is going to lose, and b) there will be teams winning the “other” conferences. Owls’ head coach Lane Kiffin will undoubtedly move on to another high profile job in the future, but for now he’ll be focused on building on last year’s 11 win season. I don’t expect FAU to travel to Norman and beat the Sooners, but I am predicting an upset of Central Florida in Orlando a month into the season. Another 10+ win season should be recognized with a spot in the Top 25, which will help score a big payday for Kiffin…eventually.

 

 

17     Stanford

Last Season:      9-5

Key Games:       9/8 vs. USC, 9/22 at Oregon, 9/29 at Notre Dame, 11/3 at Washington

RB Bryce Love has to be considered the Heisman frontrunner early on, especially since he was the runner-up a year ago. That’s enough for me to consider Stanford a Top 25 team, but the PAC 12 is so loaded that it’s going to take an upset or two for them to get over the hump.

 

 

16     Oklahoma

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/6 vs. Texas, 10/20 at TCU, 11/23 at West Virginia

I am not buying any pre-season hype that puts the Sooners back in the playoff conversation or even has them in the Top 10. A team just doesn’t replace a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback that easily. It helps that former Texas A&M starter Kyler Murray will be stepping into that role though, and the defense will be counted on to win some close games. A Big 12 title isn’t out of the question, but I believe the road is going to be bumpier than it has been in recent years for Oklahoma.

 

 

15     Ohio State         

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       9/15 vs. TCU, 11/29 at Penn St., 11/10 at Michigan St., 11/24 vs. Michigan

No one can convince me that this Urban Meyer kerfuffle won’t cause a disturbance in The Force in Columbus. Whether the coach’s “paid leave” ends tomorrow or he is ultimately terminated damage has already been done, especially as it relates to a very tough early game against TCU. The talent level is indisputably elite on the field, although replacing JT Barrett at quarterback won’t be easy. The Big Ten is just too competitive to expect more than a couple of teams to still be standing in November, and this year I think it’ll be the Buckeyes who are left out in the cold.

 

 

14     Auburn              

Last Season:      10-4

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Washington, 9/15 vs. LSU, 11/10 at Georgia, 11/24 at Alabama

Auburn is in much the same situation as Ohio St. as far as probably being the 3rd  or 4th best team in a deep conference. QB Jarrett Stidham will be an early Heisman contender, but a neutral site season opener against Washington in Atlanta could put the kibosh on everything very quickly. I think the Tigers are looking at atleast three losses, but if they balance those out with an upset or two the season could still be rather successful.

 

 

13     Notre Dame     

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Michigan, 9/29 vs. Stanford, 10/6 at Virginia Tech, 11/10 vs. Florida St., 11/24 at USC

Brian Kelly probably saved his job last year with a 10 win season following a dismal 2016. The schedule is daunting to say the least, but if the Irish can get a couple of big upsets at home pollsters may be lenient.

 

 

12     South Florida

Last Season:      10-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Houston, 11/23 vs. UCF

A year ago I predicted a Top Ten finish for the Bulls in Charlie Strong’s first year at the helm in Tampa. Instead they finished somewhere around #21 in most polls, in part because of intrastate and AAC rival Central Florida, who went undefeated and snagged that Top Ten spot. UCF is still getting much of the “non-power” love from talking heads this pre-season, but I’m not buying it since Scott Frost bolted to coach at his alma mater Nebraska. Can USF steal the spotlight in 2018?? Can they win the AAC and maybe even go undefeated?? I think it’s possible.

 

 

11     Boise State                

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 at Oklahoma St.

The Broncos are once again defending Mountain West champions and ended last season on a high note by defeating Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. The issue was their early non-conference schedule, which accounted for two out of three losses. I don’t have Oklahoma St. in this Top 25 because they are replacing a quarterback as well as one of the nation’s best wide receivers, so I think it is possible that Boise could go into Stillwater in mid-September and score an upset. That combined with another conference title could have them hovering near the Top Ten by season’s end.

 

 

10     Southern Cal   

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/8 at Stanford, 9/15 at Texas, 9/29 at Arizona, 11/24 vs. Notre Dame

Sam Darnold is gone, off to a doomed future quarterbacking the NY Jets. With a true freshman probably stepping into that role it’ll be up to the Trojan defense to keep scores low and grind out some close victories. A non-conference tilt at Texas won’t be a picnic, and the rest of the schedule looks a bit intimidating as well, but The Voices are telling me to go big or go home on this one.

 

 

9       Michigan State 

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       10/13 at Penn St., 10/20 vs. Michigan, 11/10 vs., Ohio St.

The Spartans rebounded quite nicely a year ago from a miserable 2016 during which they only won three games. QB Brian Lewerke is said to have NFL potential along the lines of former Michigan St. signal callers Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer, Connor Cook,& Drew Stanton, which I’m sure is meant as a compliment. The Big Ten is going to be a grind, but both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes have to come to East Lansing, so an upset or two could really boost the chances of a Top Ten finish and an appearance in the conference title game.

 

 

8       Virginia Tech    

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 at Florida St., 10/6 vs. Notre Dame, 11/17 vs. Miami (FL)

Who said the ACC was a basketball conference?? Okay okay…I’m sure I’ve probably said that in the past, but this season the football side of things could be quite impressive, atleast at the top. The Hokies are always a tough opponent, and after a few lean years they got back to double digit victories last year. I don’t believe that they’ll win the conference title or be a serious playoff contender, but an upset or two could vault them into the Top Ten.

 

 

7       Georgia

Last Season:      13-2

Key Games:       10/13 at LSU, 11/10 vs. Auburn

The Bulldogs played for the National Championship last season and came very close to winning it all before an Alabama comeback that we all knew was coming. I don’t foresee another playoff appearance this year, but they are the clear favorites in their division and should get another crack at ‘Bama in the SEC title game.

 

 

6       Miami (FL)

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/2 vs. LSU, 10/6 vs. Florida St.

Break out the Turnover Chain!! I have my opinions about that particular “tradition”, but it was an undeniably unique motivational tool last season. I don’t think Florida St. will be an easy out this year, but that might not matter all that much since they play in the other ACC division. An appearance in the conference title game should be expected. The only questions are a) can they get past LSU in the neutral site season opener in Dallas, b) can they stand toe to toe with Clemson in the ACC Championship game, & c) will winning the conference title translate into a playoff berth??

 

 

5       Clemson  

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Florida St.

A lot of people are picking Clemson as the favorites to win it all, but as a certain ESPN personality is fond of saying…not so fast my friends. Yes, the Tigers are loaded. They have NFL talent throughout their roster, especially on the defense. Dabo Swinney is a legit great coach and unlike some of his peers he seems like a genuinely good dude. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they even have a chance to go undefeated. But…but…what if they go into Tallahassee at the end of October and get beat?? Look at the rest of their schedule. Might a one loss ACC Champion with victories on their resume against the likes of Furman, Georgia Southern, Wake Forest, & Syracuse get left on the outside looking in?? I not only believe it is possible…I think it might be probable.

 

 

4       Washington      

Last Season:      10-3 

Key Games:       9/1 vs. Auburn, 10/13 at Oregon, 11/3 vs. Stanford

Speaking of being left out, after a playoff appearance two years ago the Huskies fell short last season because of tough road losses to Arizona St. & Stanford. Trust me y’all, if you can stay awake ‘til about 1am on Saturday nights in the fall PAC 12 football is usually worth watching. Not only does Washington have the best defense in the conference, they also return QB Jake Browning & RB Myles Gaskin. I’m calling it right now…they will beat down Auburn in the non-conference neutral field season opener in Atlanta, which should put the rest of the country on notice that Washington is back and they are for real.

 

 

3       TCU 

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 vs. Ohio St., 9/22 at Texas, 10/20 vs. Oklahoma, 11/10 at West Virginia

Most “experts” are predicting a solid Top 25 season for the Horned Frogs, but I’m taking things a step further. I think they’ll upset Ohio St. in an early season non-conference “neutral site” game at The Palace in Dallas. I parenthesize that because let’s be honest…it isn’t exactly neutral since Dallas is only a half hour from TCU’s campus in Fort Worth. The Buckeyes have had too many distractions this summer and are ripe for the picking. That game is a major reason that I have Ohio St. ranked 15th and TCU in playoff position instead of the other way around. Other than that I look at the fact that Oklahoma has to come to Fort Worth, Texas is rising but not quite there yet, and my Mountaineers tend to screw the pooch in huge home games against top flight opponents. Everything seems to be breaking in TCU’s favor, and if they can take advantage there just might be a national championship opportunity waiting.

 

 

2       Alabama                               

Last Season:      13-1

Key Games:       11/3 at LSU, 11/24 vs. Auburn

Okay okay okay…I give. Uncle!! Uncle!! It has become abundantly clear to me that the playoff committee will twist themselves in knots to roll the Tide into the Final Four. It doesn’t matter if they have a loss or two. It doesn’t matter if they don’t win the SEC Championship. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if they don’t make it to the SEC title game. The powers-that-be rendered conference championship games totally meaningless the minute ‘Bama was awarded a playoff spot last season. They might remedy that someday, but under the current rules I assume Alabama would have to lose atleast three games to be left out of the playoff, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. An early November clash in Baton Rouge will probably be low scoring and a complete snoozefest which will be counterbalanced by an exciting Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa just a few weeks later. If…if…if ‘Bama were to drop both games they MIGHT get left out of the playoff…but maybe not. The biggest offseason news story has been the quarterback battle between last year’s starter Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa, who came into the second half of the National Championship Game in January and won the Tide another trophy. Both guys will probably see their fair share of action this season, and I don’t foresee it being an issue. Nick Saban will go with the hot hand and use his special brand of Jedi mind tricks to soothe egos.

 

 

1       Wisconsin        

Last Season:      13-1

Key Games:       10/13 at Michigan, 11/10 at Penn St.

Last season it was Wisconsin’s loss to Ohio St. in the Big Ten title game (combined with the Buckeyes’ inexplicable regular season loss at Iowa) that left a crack in the door that Alabama walked thru all the way to a national championship. Since the Badgers don’t have Michigan St. or Ohio St. on the schedule this year and open the season with games against Western Kentucky, New Mexico, and BYU I expect a fairly clear path to another conference title game…probably against Michigan St….and I don’t think they’ll blow another opportunity. I suppose it’s possible that they could find themselves in the same boat as Clemson, with people questioning their strength of schedule. The easy way to take care of that is to go undefeated. It won’t be easy with trips to The Big House and Happy Valley, but I’m predicting that they’ll get the job done.

2017-18 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

Bowl season has arrived. It’s a month long college football smorgasbord, and just like any other buffet there are some really tasty vittles, a few offerings that you might be kind of curious about but are somewhat hesitant to sample, and some things that most everyone looks at with an expression of nauseous antipathy. There are two schools of thought when it comes to bowl games. Many of us feel like there are too many of them and are troubled by the idea of rewarding mediocrity. Others opine that even bad football games are good entertainment and have no issue with having as many meaningless post-season games as possible. Regardless of one’s outlook it is undeniable that the next few weeks will be fun. Some games will live up to high expectations, while others will be just as boring as anticipated. The best games are the ones that no one thinks will be at all remarkable, but then all the sudden you find yourself glued to the television watching the 4th quarter of an epic battle involving two teams you know nothing about and now you are strangely invested in the outcome. That’s why bowl season concurrently matters yet doesn’t matter. It’s very odd.

 

Picking these games is pretty much a crapshoot. There are just so many wildcards. Injuries. Coaching changes. Neutral sites. Last year I was 18-23 with these picks, while Zach was 21-20. The whole idea of a bowl game is to pit two unfamiliar opponents against one another, so I assume much goes into scouting & film study. For Zach & I there are many teams that we know virtually nothing about outside of their record, and since we have lives and aren’t paid to spend time doing research most of our picks are semi-educated guesses based on the general knowledge we have as fans. We don’t do point spreads for these picks, and no money is on the line. We’re just having fun, which is what football fans should do this time of year. As usual I have broken down the games into three tiers. Tier 1 are the games that hold very little interest for me. Two .500 teams from a bottom dweller conference playing in a bowl game on a weekday afternoon in December is kind of like watching an Adam Sandler movie…I have very low expectations and if the result is even mildly entertaining I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Tier 2 games come with somewhat higher hopes. I might not go out of my way to watch them, but if I happen to be home and flipping thru the channels I’ll probably check out such a game if it is on. Tier 3 are the games that I’m really looking forward to and have the potential to be tremendous fun.

 

 

 

Tier 1

 

New Orleans     

12/16 at 1pm.

Troy (10-2)                   vs.    North Texas (9-4)

I’ll give credit where it is due…these two teams have won their fair share of games and actually earned a post-season reward (unlike the plethora of bowl bound 6-6 teams). Having said that, they are teams that very few outside their respective fan bases pay any attention to, so it’s difficult to be excited about the matchup. I’m feeling generous, so allow me to suggest…free of charge…some ideas to the game’s organizers for a name with a bit more pizzazz: Bayou Bowl, Cajun Bowl, Creole Bowl, Lagniappe Bowl, Jazz Bowl, Crawfish Bowl, Beignet Bowl, Big Easy Bowl, Gumbo Bowl, Jambalaya Bowl. See, it’s not that hard. You’re welcome.

My Pick:     Troy

Zach’s Pick:        Troy

 

Cure (Orlando, FL)

12/16 at 2:30pm

Georgia State (6-5)    vs.   Western Kentucky (6-6)

Proceeds from the game go to breast cancer awareness, which is admittedly quite charitable. Still though, it’s a dull name for a game featuring two prosaic opponents.

My Pick:     Georgia St.

Zach’s Pick:        Western Kentucky

 

Camellia (Montgomery, AL)

12/16 at 8pm               

Middle Tennessee (6-6)     vs.    Arkansas State (7-4)

A camellia is a type of flower. Fans of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird might recognize it as the flower grown by mean old Mrs. Dubose that was destroyed by an angry Jem Finch. The game itself holds zero interest for me. Zach has actually watched an Arkansas St. game, so he knows more about what’s going on here than me.

My Pick:     Middle Tennessee

Zach’s Pick:        Arkansas St.

 

Boca Raton       

12/19 at 7pm     

Florida Atlantic (10-3)                   vs.    Akron (7-6)

I’m surprised FAU head coach Lane Kiffin hasn’t been mentioned as a serious candidate for one of the many jobs that have been open recently. Perhaps the football community feels like he needs another season of being humbled?? Anyway, I don’t expect this to be much of a game. Zach likes FAU’s offense to make it look easy.

My Pick:     FAU

Zach’s Pick:        FAU

 

Frisco (Frisco, TX)      

12/20 at 8pm               

Southern Methodist (7-5)   vs.   Louisiana Tech (6-6)

Point of clarification: this game does not take place in San Francisco, CA. Frisco, TX is a suburb of Dallas and has been amongst the fastest growing cities in America for over a decade. So essentially this is a home game for the SMU Mustangs, whose coach just left for Arkansas.

My Pick:     SMU

Zach’s Pick:        SMU

 

Pinstripe (New York City)

12/27 at 5:15pm          

Boston College          (7-5)           vs.              Iowa (7-5)

The draw here is that the game is contested at Yankee Stadium, which I guess is supposed to be cool. Unfortunately for players & fans it’ll also be cold, but I suppose spending Christmas in The Big Apple will be fun for all involved. Zach isn’t a fan of playing a football game in a baseball stadium.

My Pick:     Iowa

Zach’s Pick:        Iowa

 

Foster Farms (Santa Clara, CA)

12/27 at 8:30pm          

Arizona (7-5)               vs.              Purdue (6-6)

In the past this game was known as the Fight Hunger Bowl and the Emerald Bowl. Foster Farms is a California poultry company, which means that they really should call this the Turkey Bowl. The matchup involves middle-of-the-road teams from the Pac 12 & Big Ten, so I suppose one could think of it as a really mediocre version of a Rose Bowl.

My Pick:     Arizona

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona

 

Texas       

12/27 at 9pm

Texas (6-6)                  vs.              Missouri (7-5)

If it were up to me I’d call it the Lone Star Bowl, but no one asked for my opinion. These two teams are better than their record shows, but playing in a competitive conference and having a little bad luck tends to have a negative impact on the numbers. It might end up being a more entertaining game than I’m giving it credit for, which would be fine with me. Zach expects a relatively low scoring defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Texas

Zach’s Pick:        Missouri

 

Military (Annapolis, MD)

12/28 at 1:30pm          

Virginia (6-6)               vs.              Navy (6-6)

I like the idea of a bowl game to honor the military, but it’s probably a bit unfair to have the Midshipmen be playing a home game.

My Pick:     Navy

Zach’s Pick:        Navy

 

Belk (Charlotte, NC)

12/29 at 1pm               

Wake Forest (7-5)                vs.              Texas A&M (7-5)

I’m praying that fans show up to this game with bells that they ring throughout the entire contest. If you don’t know why I’ll point you in the right direction to find the answer. A&M recently fired head coach Kevin Sumlin and hired Jimbo Fisher away from Florida St. That news made quite the splash, but really has no bearing here except for the fact that the Aggies…I assume…will be led by an interim coach. Wake Forest fans should have an easy time traveling 80 miles to cheer their team, and it might be their best opportunity to get a victory over a (perceived) top tier SEC opponent. Zach thinks A&M will have the game in the bag by halftime.

My Pick:     Wake Forest

Zach’s Pick:        Texas A&M

 

Sun (El Paso, TX)

12/29 at 2pm               

NC State (8-4)             vs.              Arizona State (7-5)

The Sun Bowl is the third oldest bowl game and one of the few not telecast by Disney (ESPN/ABC). The Sun Devils will also be playing for an interim coach as former NFL head coach & ESPN commentator Herm Edwards prepares to take the reins in 2018.

My Pick:     NC St.

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona St.

 

Music City (Nashville, TN)

12/29 at 4:30pm         

Kentucky (7-5)            vs.              Northwestern (9-3)

Hey, what do you know…they can do something besides play basketball & race horses in Kentucky!! Unfortunately for fans in the Bluegrass State Northwestern has been an above average program for awhile. One thing is for sure…the Wildcats will win this game.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Zach’s Pick:        Northwestern

 

Arizona

12/29 at 5:30pm         

New Mexico State (6-6)                vs.              Utah State (6-6)

Part of me wants to suggest better names for this game like I did for the New Orleans Bowl, but sadly my creativity is zapped for the moment. All I know is that this is a second-rate game with subpar teams being played at 5:30pm on a Friday. Perhaps they could call it the Who Cares Bowl.

My Pick:     Utah St.

Zach’s Pick:        Utah St.

 

 

 

Tier 2

 

Las Vegas         

12/16 at 3:30pm

Boise State (10-3)      vs.    Oregon (7-5)

Okay NOW we’re getting somewhere!! I’m guessing the players won’t be permitted to roam free thru the plethora of casinos in Sin City, but I am confident that they’ll have plenty of fun. Boise has had the kind of season they usually have…ten wins & the Mountain West title. However, due to the success of Central Florida the Broncos aren’t playing on New Year’s Eve/Day like they’ve become accustomed to doing. The Ducks have fallen off a bit from the days when they were winning 10+ games and competing for the national championship, but were a few games better this year than last. Unfortunately head coach Willie Taggert has already bolted after just one season to take over at Florida St. Zach likes Boise’s defense to make the difference in a close game.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Zach’s Pick:        Boise St.

 

New Mexico       

12/16 at 3:30pm

Marshall (7-5)    vs.    Colorado State (7-5)

Marshall University is my alma mater so I freely admit my bias toward the Thundering Herd. It’s nice to have them back in the post-season after the debacle of 2016. I believe the Rams usually have a high octane offense that scores a lot of points, so this game might be pretty fun to watch. Zach has doubts about Marshall’s ability to win big games.

My Pick:     Marshall

Zach’s Pick:        Colorado St.

 

Gasparilla (St. Petersburg, FL)

12/21 at 8pm               

Temple (6-6)      vs.   Florida International (8-4)

This game was formerly known as the St. Petersburg Bowl and the Beef o’ Brady’s Bowl, so atleast we’re making progress with the name. Gasparilla was an 18th century Spanish pirate that may or may not have actually existed, but apparently he is infamous in the Tampa, FL area and in fact inspired the nickname of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That story alone makes it a much cooler game than the New Orleans, Boca Raton, & Texas Bowls.

My Pick:     FIU

Zach’s Pick:        FIU

 

Bahamas  

12/22 at 12:30pm       

Alabama-Birmingham (8-4)                  vs.    Ohio (8-4)

I’m 45 years old and the closest I’ve ever gotten or likely ever will get to the Bahamas is when I occasionally got snockered on rum back in college, so congrats to these teams for scoring one of the cooler post-season destinations. UAB’s football program has actually been shut down the past couple of years due to financial concerns, but public outcry persuaded the powers-that be to resurrect it, so this is a pretty neat story. I’m sure most fans will be rooting for a positive outcome. So are we.

My Pick:     UAB

Zach’s Pick:        UAB

 

Potato       

12/22 at 4pm (Boise, ID)

Wyoming (7-5)            vs.              Central Michigan (8-4)

The story here will be Cowboys’ quarterback Josh Allen, who is expected to be a first round pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. One would think that if he is that talented he’d be able to lead his team to victory in a bowl game, but Zach doesn’t think that’ll happen.

My Pick:     Wyoming

Zach’s Pick:        Central Michigan

 

Birmingham       

12/23 at Noon             

South Florida (9-2)              vs.              Texas Tech (6-6)

In my pre-season poll I ranked the Bulls 7th and thought they might have an opportunity to go undefeated. That didn’t happen and they aren’t a Top 10 team…but they could still finish in the Top 25 by defeating a team from a “power” conference. Zach never bought into the USF hype, but he thinks their defense can make a difference in this game.

My Pick:     USF

Zach’s Pick:        USF

 

Armed Forces (Fort Worth, TX)

12/23 at 3:30pm          

Army (9-3)          vs.   San Diego State (10-2)

Okay, so we have an Armed Forces Bowl AND a Military Bowl. Seems a bit redundant, but it could be worse. I love the military academies, but I think the Aztecs might have a little too much offense. Zach believes Army’s ground game can dominate time of possession and make the difference in a victory.

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Zach’s Pick:        Army

 

Dollar General (Mobile, AL)

12/23 at 7pm               

Appalachian State (8-4)     vs.   Toledo (11-2)

Atleast Dollar General is a step above former title sponsor Go Daddy.

My Pick:     Toledo

Zach’s Pick:        Toledo

 

 

Hawai’i      

Christmas Eve at 8:30pm

Fresno State (9-4)      vs.   Houston (7-4)

Right up there with The Bahamas as a desirable bowl location is the lovely island of Honolulu. Mele Kalikimaka indeed!!

My Pick:     Houston

Zach’s Pick:        Fresno St.

 

 

Heart of Dallas  

12/26 at 1:30pm

West Virginia (7-5)     vs.    Utah (6-6)

As with my Marshall Thundering Herd I am completely biased when it comes to the Mountaineers. If quarterback Will Greer is able to come back from injury in time to play in this game I think he’ll lead the ‘Eers to an exciting victory. Without Greer it’s going to be tough sledding. I choose to think positively. Zach’s outlook is a bit more pessimistic. He doesn’t believe Greer will be healthy enough to play, and he has no faith in WVU’s defense.

My Pick:     West Virginia

Zach’s Pick:        Utah

 

Quick Lane (Detroit, MI)

12/26 at 5:15pm

Duke (6-6)          vs.             Northern Illinois (8-4)

Every single year, whether it’s called the Motor City Bowl, Little Caesar’s Bowl, or now the Quick Lane Bowl I poke fun at the fact that, while other teams get to go to cool places like Hawaii, The Bahamas, or Las Vegas, there are two teams that are rewarded for allegedly successful seasons with a trip to Detroit. I’ve never been there to be honest though. Perhaps it is nicer than I think?? Feedback is always welcome.

My Pick:     Northern Illinois

Zach’s Pick:        Duke

 

 

Cactus (Phoenix, AZ)

12/26 at 10pm             

UCLA (6-6)         vs.             Kansas State (7-5)

WVU fans were kind of hoping for another trip out west to this game, especially with an opportunity to face Bruins’ quarterback Josh Rosen, who could be the #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Alas, K-State gets that chance. Zach points out that Rosen can be somewhat inconsistent, but thinks he’ll play well in what is basically an NFL audition.

My Pick:     UCLA

Zach’s Pick:        UCLA

 

 

Independence (Shreveport, LA)

12/27 at 1:30pm          

Florida State (6-6)      vs.    Southern Mississippi (8-4)

The Seminoles have been bowl eligible for 36 straight seasons, which I’m pretty sure is some sort of record. However, head coach Jimbo Fisher has already left for Texas A&M, and All-American defensive back Derwin James will not play in the bowl game to protect his NFL Draft status. Despite all of that I have to think that the Golden Eagles would count beating Florida St. in a bowl game amongst their biggest all-time victories. Zach believes the upheaval in Tallahassee may serve as motivation for the team.

My Pick:     Southern Miss

Zach’s Pick:        Florida St.

 

 

Holiday (San Diego, CA)

12/28 at 9pm               

Michigan State (         9-3)            vs.              Washington State (9-3)

The Holiday Bowl has become one of my favorites over the years. Not only has it stubbornly held onto its cool & festive name, but it’s a west coast game which means late night football here in the east. What can I say…I’m easily amused. The Spartans have rebounded nicely from an abysmal 9-3 season in 2016, but the Cougars have top NFL prospect Luke Falk at quarterback. Zach likes Michigan St.’s defense better than he likes Falk.

My Pick:     Washington St.

Zach’s Pick:        Michigan St.

 

 

Gator (Jacksonville, FL)

12/30 at Noon             

Louisville (8-4)            vs.              Mississippi State (8-4)

As has become tradition I refuse to call this game by its corporate name. The Gator Bowl was just dandy for nearly seven decades, and I see no reason to change. 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson had, in my opinion, a fairly quiet season under center for the Cardinals, but he still managed another invite to the Downtown Athletic Club and finished a distant third in this year’s voting. The Bulldogs will be playing for an interim coach after Dan Mullen bounced to Gainesville, FL to helm the Gators.

My Pick:     Louisville

Zach’s Pick:        Louisville

 

Liberty (Memphis, TN)

12/30 at 12:30pm                 

Iowa State (7-5)          vs.              Memphis (10-2)

This is where most Mountaineer fans here in West Virginia wanted their team to play since it would’ve been a fairly easy drive, but the Cyclones got the nod instead. The Tigers have won atleast eight games in four straight seasons, and this is really a home game for them. Zach has high expectations for this to be a really good game.

My Pick:     Memphis

Zach’s Pick:        Memphis

 

Outback (Tampa, FL)

New Year’s Day at Noon              

Michigan (8-4)             vs.              South Carolina (8-4)

For its first eight years this was called the Hall of Fame Bowl, but for the past couple of decades it’s taken on the name of its sponsor Outback Steakhouse. As I’ve made clear I am not a fan of such things, but in this case I can atleast imagine that the game is an homage to Crocodile Dundee or kangaroos & koalas. The Wolverines & Spartans have been participants more than any other teams, so if the matchup seems familiar there’s a reason for that. Surprisingly Zach is picking against his beloved Wolverines because he just doesn’t feel like their offense is good enough.

My Pick:     Michigan

Zach’s Pick:        South Carolina

 

Peach (Atlanta, GA)

New Year’s Day at 12:30pm                  

Auburn (10-3)             vs.              Central Florida (12-0)

I was very tempted to bump this game up to Tier 3. The Tigers were just a whisper away from making the playoff until losing the SEC title game. The Knights are undefeated but getting very little respect because they play in one of those “other” conferences. I’ve been wondering aloud for years why Central Florida hasn’t become more of a collegiate sports powerhouse since the school itself is the largest university in the United States. Perhaps in the next round of conference realignment (you know it’s going to happen) they’ll be invited into the inner sanctum. The question is, despite their spotless record, can UCF compete on a big stage against an athletically superior opponent?? Head coach Scott Frost is leaving for his alma mater Nebraska, where he was a great quarterback in the mid-90’s, but it is my understanding that he might coach UCF one last time in the bowl game. I’d love to pick UCF, and I hope it turns out to be a really fantastic game, but I’m just not sure that’s the way this is going to go. Like me Zach loves what UCF has accomplished but doesn’t think this is a good matchup for them.

My Pick:     Auburn

Zach’s Pick:        Auburn

 

Citrus (Orlando, FL)

New Year’s Day at 1pm                

Notre Dame (9-3)        vs.              LSU (9-3)

The Irish really turned things around this season, improving tremendously from a 4-8 record last year. But let’s not forget the 2016 turmoil for the Bayou Bengals when they were 8-4 but fired their coach just a third of the way thru. Both programs seem to be on more familiar solid ground nowadays, which means that this might be a better game than expected.

My Pick:     LSU

Zach’s Pick:        LSU

 

 

 

Tier 3

 

Camping World (Orlando, FL)

12/28 at 5:15pm

Oklahoma State (9-3)          vs.    Virginia Tech (9-3)

This game was formerly known as the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Micron PC Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, & Russell Athletic Bowl. It’s had as many corporate sponsors as the Kardashians have had pro athlete boy toys. Despite my hatred for bowls with such names I cannot deny that the matchup is terrific. In my pre-season poll I ranked the Hokies 18th and had the Cowboys in the playoff conversation at 3rd. OK St. fell far short of my expectations, while VA Tech isn’t too far from where I predicted. My Mountaineers were a common opponent, unfortunately losing to both teams. The Hokies began the season by beating WVU by a touchdown, while the Cowboys won a high scoring shootout over the ‘Eers. I’d take the over on this one…if I was a gambling man.

My Pick:     Oklahoma St.

Zach’s Pick:        Oklahoma St.

 

Alamo (San Antonio, TX)

Dec. 28 at 9pm

Stanford (9-4)              vs.              TCU (10-3)

While neither team was ever a serious playoff contender they both played in their conference title games, where they came up short. Stanford running back Bryce Love has burst onto the scene and finished second in the Heisman race, which deserves props. This game is on at the same time as the Holiday Bowl, so I foresee a fun night of channel flipping in my future. Maybe I should buy some batteries. Zach thinks Love will have a big game.

My Pick:     Stanford

Zach’s Pick:        Stanford

 

Cotton (Arlington, TX)

12/29 at 8:30pm

Ohio State (11-2)                  vs.              USC (11-2)

I am shamelessly old-fashioned, and when I was a kid New Year’s Day meant the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, & Fiesta bowls were on. Those were the five best bowls then, and that’s what they remain in my mind. But with the playoff and a bunch of other factors all bets are off and nothing is like it once was. Progress?? I don’t know. Anyway, it weirds me out that this game is being played three days earlier than what I perceive as normal, but I’m sure no one important gives a rat’s petoot about my opinion. Did Ohio St. get screwed out of a playoff spot?? Well, on one hand I find it troubling that conference titles mean nothing to the committee. By definition one of the “power” conference champs will always be left on the outside looking in, and this year two of them didn’t make it, which feels wrong. On the other hand, the Buckeyes didn’t do themselves any favors when they got beat down by 30 points at Iowa last month. The committee could have overlooked the early season loss to Oklahoma, but such a resounding defeat to a mediocre opponent apparently made a huge difference, and wins against Army & UNLV didn’t help. The powers-that-be in Columbus have to do better when putting together the schedule. The Trojans, despite winning the Pac 12 title, weren’t serious playoff contenders due to a 35 point loss at Notre Dame in October. However, they’re riding a five game winning streak and QB Sam Darnold could be a first round pick if he declares for the NFL Draft. I expect this to be a moderately high scoring game…something with both teams hovering around 28-35 point range…with turnovers and (sadly) officiating making a difference. Zach is just thrilled that Ohio St. didn’t make the playoff.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Zach’s Pick:        USC

 

Fiesta (Glendale, AZ)

12/30 at 4pm

Washington (10-2)     vs.              Penn State (10-2)

I bumped this game up to Tier 3 specifically because of the presence of Nittany Lions’ running back Saquon Barkley. At one point he was the clear leader for the Heisman Trophy, and I took it for granted that he’d atleast be invited to New York. However, the Heisman is a numbers award, and Barkley only topped 100 yards rushing in four games. I still believe he’s the best running back in college football, and I’ll be interested to see what he can do in the NFL behind a legit offensive line, but I understand why he fell out of favor with the talking heads. The Huskies are a pretty darn good team too, so this game could be a lot of fun. Zach isn’t nearly as enthusiastic as me because he feels like both teams have been vastly overrated.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Zach’s Pick:        Penn St.

 

Orange (Miami, FL)

12/30 at 8pm

Miami (10-2)                vs.              Wisconsin (12-1)

Both teams fell short in their conference title games, so this is essentially a consolation game for just missing the playoff. The Badgers haven’t gotten much respect all season, but with early season victories over Utah St., Florida Atlantic, & BYU (teams with a combined total record of 20-18) I understand why folks have been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Still, if they would have beaten Ohio St. for the Big Ten championship and finished undefeated they would have probably made the playoff. The ‘Canes finished the season by dropping two games, including the ACC championship. But before that they vaguely resembled The U of the 80’s & 90’s. Miami is flash & speed, Wisconsin is old fashioned smashmouth football…a definite clash of styles. Both of us think size will outlast speed.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Zach’s Pick:        Wisconsin

 

Rose (Pasadena, CA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 5 p.m.

Oklahoma          (12-1)         vs.              Georgia (12-1)

The first playoff semi features Heisman Trophy winning QB Baker Mayfield versus the SEC Champions. I’ve seen no shortage of people comparing Mayfield to former Heisman winner and NFL bust Johnny Manziel. However, as much as it pains me to say it since he does seem like kind of a prick, in my opinion Mayfield has a Bret Favre vibe. Keep in mind that Favre was a 2nd round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons before being traded to the Green Bay Packers, and you know the rest. Mayfield obviously has a higher profile than Favre did coming out of Southern Mississippi, but there are doubts about how his talent may fit into the NFL. At any rate, casual fans are probably more familiar with Oklahoma than Georgia because, despite spending some time at #1 this season, the Bulldogs have kind of flown under the radar a bit. I expect this game to be really enjoyable and very close, with turnovers & special teams making the difference. Zach believes in the old maxim that defense wins championships, and he thinks Georgia has a better defense.

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Zach’s Pick:        Georgia

 

Sugar (New Orleans, LA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 8:45 p.m.

Clemson (12-1)           vs.              Alabama (11-1)

In case you may have forgotten, this is a rematch of the past two national championship games. ‘Bama beat Clemson by five points a couple of years ago, and Clemson won with a last second touchdown a year ago. Does Alabama even deserve to be in this game?? It’s an interesting debate. I don’t like how the playoff committee has essentially rendered conference titles meaningless. The Tide didn’t lose the SEC championship game…they didn’t even play in it. But Ohio St,’s incomprehensible mid-season loss to Iowa was deemed to be a bigger faux pas than Alabama’s fairly close loss to Auburn. I don’t totally agree with the logic, but I understand it. I honestly thought that Clemson would decline just a little after QB Deshaun Watson moved on to the NFL, but the defending national champions have looked even more impressive this year. I’m not sure what happened at Syracuse back in mid-October, but that game was definitely an anomaly. I’m kind of tired of the Alabama hype myself, although I recognize that’s a fringe viewpoint. Conversely, I really like Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who seems like a genuinely good dude. Zach feels like ‘Bama has had some extra time to get healthy, and he just can’t go against Coach Saban.

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

 

 

National Championship (Atlanta GA)

January 8 at 8pm

My title game is Clemson vs. Oklahoma. Zach has Georgia vs. Alabama. ‘Bama has been there before (many times), and Saban’s experience in big games is the difference maker in Zach’s opinion. I also think coaching is a huge factor. I never thought Oklahoma would be so successful under first year head coach Lincoln Riley. The future is bright in Norman, OK if they can find a solid replacement at quarterback next season, but in this game I can’t overlook that this is Clemson’s third straight appearance and I think that experience is the deciding factor.

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 13

Happy Thanksgiving Manoverse!! I hope all of you will be spending tomorrow enjoying the four F’s…food, family, friends, & football. I believe there are games every day for five days straight, which is pretty cool. Last week was a rather decent week for both of us, although Zach edged me by going 4-1 to my 3-2. I really thought the Seattle Seahawks were going to pull out that Monday night game. Ah well…c’est la vie, and we move on. We’re probably going to be sticking strictly to college football the next couple of weeks. This is commonly known as Rivalry Week, although realignment has negatively impacted the concept. As a West Virginia Mountaineers fan I really miss The Backyard Brawl against the Pitt Panthers. However, a few big games remain, and as a bonus a few of them even have playoff implications. Next week will be the conference title games, and a couple games this week will determine some of those matchups. It’s a great time to be a football fan. Enjoy.

My Season:        38-36

Z’s Season:        39-35

 

 

 

 

 

South Florida              at      Central Florida (-11)

In my pre-season poll I predicted that it’d be the Bulls who would reign supreme among the “non-power” teams, but it’s the undefeated Knights who have emerged at the top of that particular heap. USF isn’t far behind though, and with a victory could catapult themselves into a New Year’s bowl game against a “power” opponent. The winner of this game will face Memphis in the AAC title game. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to sticking with my pre-season picks, and it’s not as if 9-1 USF is a bad team. The two campuses are less than a hundred miles apart, so I don’t think the home field advantage is much of a factor. Kickoff is on Black Friday afternoon, and I’ll be glad to be home cheering for the Bulls rather than fighting crowds at a shopping mall. Zach likes UCF head coach Scott Frost (who’s probably leaving soon for Nebraska), so he’s going with the favorites.

My Pick:     South Florida

Z’s Pick:     Central Florida

 

 

 

Louisville (-10)            at      Kentucky

No, it’s not a basketball game. Actually these are two rather decent football teams. The 7-4 Cardinals haven’t gotten as much attention as a year ago when quarterback Lamar Jackson took the NCAA by storm en route to winning the Heisman Trophy, but they’ve still had a nice season. The Wildcats are also 7-4 with impressive wins over Tennessee and South Carolina. Kentucky has the home field and the double digit points are a bit much in my opinion, so I’m leaning toward the underdogs. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Kentucky

Z’s Pick:     Kentucky

 

 

 

Florida State (-5)                  at      Florida

What a disappointing season it has been for both of these teams. The Seminoles stumbled right out of the gate and lost their starting QB for the season. At 4-6 this is a must win to even become bowl eligible, a circumstance they’re certainly not accustomed to in Tallahassee. The Gators are also 4-6 and have already fired their coach. They have no chance at qualifying for a bowl unless the NCAA makes some kind of exception since an early season game was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. What it all boils down to is that this is as close to post-season action as one or both of these teams might get, which makes it atleast somewhat interesting. Because the Seminoles still have a reasonable shot at being invited to a bowl game I have to give them the nod. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Florida State

Z’s Pick:     Florida State

 

 

 

Notre Dame (-2.5)       at      Stanford

The Irish blew their opportunity to get into the playoff when they lost to Miami a couple of weeks ago, but at 9-2 will still probably find themselves playing in a January bowl game. Stanford may or not be heading to next week’s Pac 12 championship, but at 8-3 will be playing somewhere in the post-season. This game doesn’t affect their conference situation either way, but pride, momentum, & bowl position are on the line. It feels like a toss-up to me, but I’m going to pick the home team to score the mild upset. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Washington State      at      Washington (-9)

Stanford’s hopes of playing in the Pac 12 title game depend on the result of this game. If the Cougars win they’re in. If the Huskies win then Stanford earns the right to meet USC next week based on their victory over Washington a couple of weeks ago. They call this game the Apple Cup, and when you peel away the hype and look at the core of the matchup the more fruitful offense belongs to Washington St., while Washington’s defense has a bit more juice. Ok…yeah…that was fun!! Anyway, The Vibes are telling me that Cougars’ QB Luke Falk…a potential first round NFL draft choice…will have a big day and lead his team to a huge win. Zach really likes State head coach Mike Leach and believes he will lead his team to victory.

My Pick:     Washington State

Z’s Pick:     Washington State

 

 

 

Ohio State          (-11.5)        at      Michigan

Everyone was a lot more excited about this matchup a few months ago. Since then the Wolverines have gone 8-3 and are nowhere near the playoff conversation or conference title contention, while the 9-2 Buckeyes will be playing in the Big Ten title game but are 9th in the playoff poll and would need a lot of dominoes to fall the right way. Still…it’s Ohio St.-Michigan. This IS college football. I’m not sure what exactly has gone wrong with the Wolverines this season, but I believe they are better than their record. The game is in The Big House in Ann Arbor, which is another factor to consider. Ohio St. is clearly the superior team and motivated by a lingering yet admittedly miniscule chance at a playoff spot so I think they’ll win, but what about the points?? The smart assumption is probably that it’ll be a closer game than the oddsmakers indicate, but sometimes one has to go big or go home. Zach’s opinion…in the interest of full accuracy…is “screw Ohio St”.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Michigan

 

 

 

Alabama (-4.5)            at      Auburn

They call this the Iron Bowl because the city of Birmingham was a big producer of iron & steel back in the 70’s. More tangibly, this has become one of the most anticipated annual games on the calendar because one or both teams are consistently near the top of the rankings and there is usually a lot riding on the outcome…this year is no exception. ‘Bama is the undefeated #1 team in the country and will secure a spot in the SEC title game with a victory. In my opinion if they make it that far they’ll be in the playoff win or lose. However, Auburn would take that SEC championship game spot and vault themselves into the playoff conversation with a victory. Tide head coach Nick Saban grew up in Monongah, WV which is about a half hour up the road from me, so most folks around here like to see him be successful, but as a football fan not only do I usually cheer for the underdog but I am also thoroughly bored with Alabama. Dynasties are only entertaining to fans of that particular team…everybody else is rooting for them to get knocked off. I also love chaos when it comes to the playoff because the methodology just doesn’t frost my cupcake. So that’s why I’ll be cheering for Auburn. Zach is fully invested in the Saban lovefest and thinks the Tide will roll by three TDs.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Alabama