2021-22 COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL-A-PALOOZA 

Annnndddd we’re back!!!! After a COVID-induced hiatus a year ago we have returned to make mostly uninformed & generally random picks of bowl games involving a bunch of teams about which neither of us know all that much. I read a quote years ago something akin to “golf & sex are the only things one can enjoy without being very good”, but I would include picking football games as well. As noted a couple of years ago, I have evolved from being one of those cranky old dudes ranting about too many bowl games to rather enjoying obscure & totally inconsequential weekday afternoon gridiron battles. These picks are separate from our weekly Picks of Profundity, no point spreads are used, & we don’t pretend like we have any clue what we’re talking about for the most part. I’ll leave it to The Manoverse to find the dates, times, & specific locations of these games. Most of them will be on the ESPN “family of networks”, though there are exceptions. As always I discourage wagering of any kind. I have broken down the games into three tiers: Bronze are the games that I have very little interest in and may or may not watch, Silver are games for which I have a modest level of enthusiasm and will probably try to check out, and Gold are the Must See contests. Sadly there are way too many in the first group and far too few in the last, but the cool thing about Bowl Season is that there are always surprises…games that’ll be tied in the fourth quarter and you suddenly find yourself invested for no apparent reason. I love that, and I appreciate the fact that we have once again been able to enjoy such compelling yet ultimately meaningless entertainment in 2021. I hope The Manoverse is staying safe & warm, enjoying the holiday season, and appreciating every second of this amazing life. 

Bronze

Bahamas Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo 

How cool is it that these college kids get to travel to The Bahamas for free?? That alone is worth the blood, sweat, & tears of playing football. It’s an experience they’ll truly appreciate two or three decades from now. I’m not sure how many fans can afford to make the trek, but hey…life isn’t perfect, right?? The Blue Raiders represent C-USA and are 6-6, while the Rockets are out of the MAC and come into this game 7-5. 

My Pick: Toledo

Z’s Pick: Toledo

Celebration Bowl

South Carolina State vs. Jackson State 

This is a game specifically for “historically black” colleges, which seems like kind of an outdated concept in the 21st Century, but whatever. The SC St. Bulldogs are 6-5, while the Jackson St. Tigers (from Mississippi in case you are curious) are 11-1 and coached by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. On paper it really looks like kind of a mismatch. Zach feels like momentum is on the Tigers’ side.

My Pick: Jackson State

Z’s Pick: Jackson State

New Mexico Bowl

Fresno State vs. UTEP 

The 9-3 Bulldogs faced some pretty stiff competition in the Mountain West and went toe to toe with the Oregon Ducks, while the Miners were 7-5 out of C-USA. I don’t think this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.

My Pick: Fresno State 

Z’s Pick: Fresno State

Independence Bowl

BYU vs. UAB 

I had high hopes for the Cougars, and they did go 10-2. September victories over Arizona St. & Utah seem especially impressive. Unfortunately, playing as an independent and having no direct access to conference bowl affiliations means you end up playing the 8-4 Blazers on a Saturday afternoon in Shreveport a week before Christmas. Perhaps I’m selling this game short, but I don’t believe it will be all that competitive. Zach likes the game to be a little closer but ultimately believes BYU will get the victory. 

My Pick: BYU

Z’s Pick: BYU

LendingTree Bowl

Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan 

This is the old GMAC Bowl, aka Dollar General Bowl, aka GoDaddy Bowl. Y’all know I despise corporate bowl names. Anyway, the 7-5 Flames dipped significantly from their 10-1 season a year ago, which saw them finish in the Top 20. Meanwhile, the 7-5 Eagles out of the MAC are appearing in their fourth bowl game since 2016 (they are 0-3 in previous efforts). I don’t foresee this being close or interesting at all. Zach agrees, opining that Liberty might win by 40 points.

My Pick: Liberty 

Z’s Pick: Liberty

Fenway Bowl

SMU vs. Virginia 

It’s like people in Boston were whining “Hey…there’s a bowl game at Yankee Stadium!! We want one too!!”, and someone somewhere acquiesced. Honestly though…is playing football in Boston at the end of December a reward for these players?? I’d much rather go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. At any rate, the Mustangs are out of the AAC and currently sit at 8-4, while the ACC’s Cavaliers are 6-6. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has already announced his departure after the game, having been at the helm in Charlottesville for six years. He’s only 55 years old so one has to assume he’ll have a final act somewhere, but for now his exit provides a motivational storyline. Zach predicts both offenses will put up big numbers, with SMU ultimately prevailing.

My Pick: Virginia 

Z’s Pick: SMU 

Sun Bowl

Washington State vs. Miami (FL)

ESPN dominates bowl coverage, but the Sun Bowl remains on CBS, which is kind of refreshing. It is one of the oldest bowl games, having first been played way back in 1935. The 7-5 Hurricanes underachieved tremendously in three seasons under head coach Manny Diaz, who has already been shown the door. The 7-5 Cougars faced coaching turmoil themselves back in October when their head coach & several assistants were fired for refusing to kneel & bow to Nazi-esque vaccine mandates, which means there is no way in hell I can cheer for a school that engages in that kind of foolishness. Zach is rolling the dice on State. 

My Pick: Miami (FL)

Z’s Pick: Washington State 

Arizona Bowl

Boise State vs. Central Michigan 

It was an off year for the 7-5 Broncos, who were competitive against UCF & Oklahoma St. and actually beat BYU, but nevertheless failed to live up to previously set lofty standards. Conversely, the 8-4 Chippewas out of the MAC continue to bounce back from the nadir of a 1-11 season in 2018. I don’t know why, but I feel like this game could exceed expectations. Conversely, Zach predicts an easy Boise win. 

My Pick: Central Michigan 

Z’s Pick: Boise State 

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Tulsa vs. Old Dominion 

The Golden Hurricanes out of the AAC are 6-6, as are C-USA’s Monarchs. This is one of those 2:30pm Monday afternoon kickoffs that theoretically no one will be watching, but who knows…perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suppose I’ll pick Old Dominion in a coin flip. Zach notes that Tulsa suffered several close losses and is probably a better team than the record shows. 

My Pick: Old Dominion 

Z’s Pick: Tulsa 

Potato Bowl

Kent State vs. Wyoming 

Potatoes may not be the sexiest vegetable, but I can dig a game named after spuds instead of some mortgage broker. The 7-6 Golden Flashes lost the MAC title game, while the 6-6 Cowboys started strong but went 2-6 in the back end of their Mountain West schedule. I’m guessing the folks in Vegas would favor Kent, but I’ve got to go with the upset. Zach foresees a dominant defensive effort leading to a convincing Wyoming win. 

My Pick: Wyoming 

Z’s Pick: Wyoming 

Frisco Football Classic 

North Texas vs. Miami (OH)

Once upon a time there was something called the Redbox Bowl, which was cancelled in 2020 because of The Sickness then scrapped again this year. Actually it wasn’t a new game, having formerly been known as the Emerald Bowl & Fight Hunger Bowl, amongst other things. At any rate, the NCAA was left with too many bowl eligible teams for the available slots, so they literally created this game last week. I’m not even kidding. Making things even weirder is the fact that there is already a Frisco Bowl, so I’m not sure how this little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb is being awarded a second post-season matchup, but whatever…we’ll just go with it. Both teams are 6-6, and it is essentially a home game for the Mean Green since their campus is a half hour down the road. Credit to the RedHawks for making the trek, but it’s gonna be a tough day for them. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to snag the victory. 

My Pick: North Texas 

Z’s Pick: Miami (OH)

Armed Forces Bowl

Army vs. Missouri 

To clarify, the Armed Forces Bowl is played in Fort Worth, TX, while the Military Bowl is contested in Annapolis, MD. I take no issue with the redundancy since our folks in uniform deserve all the kudos they get & more. The 8-4 Black Knights are going for their fourth season of 9+ wins in the past five years, while the SEC’s Tigers are 6-6 and probably wishing they wouldn’t have left the Big 12 a decade ago. I can’t go against our soldiers, although I realize it’ll be an uphill climb. Zach loves Army’s triple option and believes Missouri’s defense will have a difficult time stopping it. 

My Pick: Army 

Z’s Pick: Army

Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii vs. Memphis 

Is it fair that the 6-7 Rainbow Warriors get a home game during bowl season, or that they’re playing in the postseason despite a losing record?? Probably not, but I assume the 6-6 Tigers won’t complain about a free trip to paradise. The home team is 2-1 in the past four years in this game, and I don’t think Memphis is remarkable enough to overcome the advantages their opponents will enjoy. Zach predicts a close game with Memphis winning with a late field goal.

My Pick: Hawaii 

Z’s Pick: Memphis 

Camellia Bowl

Ball State vs. Georgia State 

I know I’ve taught y’all this before, but it’s been a couple of years, so…a camellia is the state flower of Alabama, which is why this game is contested in the state’s capital of Montgomery. The 6-6 Cardinals represent the MAC as well as talk show legend David Letterman’s alma mater. The 7-5 Panthers are out of the Sun Belt and have only been playing football since 2008. I might be undervaluing this game a bit, and I’m hoping it’s a Christmas Day surprise that’ll tear me away from Ralphie’s pursuit of the elusive BB gun for a couple of hours. Zach likes Georgia St. to score a late 4th quarter win. 

My Pick: Georgia State 

Z’s Pick: Georgia State 

Quick Lane Bowl

Western Michigan vs. Nevada 

Quick Lane is exactly what you’d imagine it to be…a auto store where you can get your vehicle inspected, have the oil changed, & get your tires rotated. The game was previously known as the Motor City Bowl & Little Caesar’s Bowl and is still played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. It may not be The Bahamas or sunny Florida, but perhaps it’s a step up from Boise, ID, home of the Potato Bowl. Atleast the venue has a roof so weather won’t be an issue. Anyway, the 7-5 Broncos out of the MAC only have to travel a couple of hours from Kalamazoo, while the 8-4 Wolfpack obviously have a much more significant trek. I don’t know how much of a difference that kind of thing makes in bowl games, but it’s got to mean something, right?? Conversely, Zach thinks Nevada wins big and the game will essentially be over by halftime. 

My Pick: Western Michigan 

Z’s Pick: Nevada

Military Bowl

Boston College vs. East Carolina 

The 6-6 Eagles have always bored me, as far back as the 80’s when they played in the Big East and faced my WV Mountaineers annually. There were those few years when they had QB Doug Flutie, but other than that a BC game is similar to watching paint dry. The 7-5 Pirates have cool purple uniforms, but kind of get lost in the shuffle since no one gives a damn about the AAC. Kickoff is 2:30pm on a Monday, but it’s two days after Christmas so maybe there won’t be any better options on TV since all the holiday films will be over. Honestly just thinking about this game makes me want to lay down and go to sleep. Zach agrees on all counts.

My Pick: East Carolina 

Z’s Pick: East Carolina 

First Responder Bowl

Air Force vs. Louisville 

Okay, so honoring first responders with a bowl game is cool. The matchup?? Ehhhh. The Falcons are 9-3 with competitive losses to San Diego St. & Utah St. and a win over Boise St., while the 6-6 Cardinals have dropped off considerably since QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 before heading to the NFL. Fingers crossed that this will be a great game, but I’m not assuming anything. Zach is optimistic that it will be close & exciting and likes Air Force to win. 

My Pick: Air Force 

Z’s Pick: Air Force 

Liberty Bowl

Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State

This is the game I wanted WVU to play in, but that didn’t happen. The 6-6 Red Raiders are playing for an interim coach since they fired their head coach in October, while the 7-5 Bulldogs beat Kentucky & Auburn this year but faced an uphill climb in the SEC. I suppose I’m a little bitter about the ‘Eers’ exclusion because this is probably going to be more fun than I’m giving it credit for. Zach thinks depth might be an issue for Tech and likes State to win fairly easily. 

My Pick: Mississippi State 

Z’s Pick: Mississippi State 

Silver 

Cure Bowl

Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois 

The Cure Bowl is so named to promote awareness & research of breast cancer, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Chanticleers are 10-2 (the second straight year they’ve won 10 games) but didn’t even win their division, which says a lot about the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskies are the 9-4 MAC Champions. This is a 6pm Friday kickoff, and I’ll be watching. We both expect a high scoring shootout and like Coastal to secure victory late in the 4th quarter. 

My Pick: Coastal Carolina 

Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina 

Boca Raton Bowl

Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky

My Marshall Thundering Herd might’ve been playing in this game if they’d made it to the C-USA title game, but kudos to the 8-5 Hilltoppers for doing that instead. The 10-3 Mountaineers lost the Sun Belt title game but won 9+ games for the seventh consecutive season. This one kicks off at 11am on Saturday a week before Christmas, and I’m glad because I have plans that night. I feel like this is one of those times when everyone will be expecting a shootout but instead we’ll be treated to a hard hitting defensive struggle, probably decided by a late field goal. Zach thinks the Mountaineers are more experienced in big games. 

My Pick: Appalachian State  

Z’s Pick: Appalachian State 

LA Bowl

Oregon State vs. Utah State 

This game has the potential to be sneaky good. It is the inaugural contest and will be played on the home field of the NFL’s Rams & Chargers. The 7-5 Beavers almost slid in the back door of the PAC 12 title game, but a loss to their in-state rivals doomed those chances. Meanwhile, the 10-3 Aggies are the surprising Mountain West Champions. It’s a 7:30pm kickoff on 12/18 so unfortunately I will miss it. Ah well…c’est la vie. I’d like to think it’ll be a close & exciting contest, but it could just as easily be a blowout. I have no idea what to expect. Zach likes Utah St.‘s running attack behind a stout offensive line.

My Pick: Utah State 

Z’s Pick: Utah State

New Orleans Bowl

Marshall vs. Louisiana 

This is what the 7-5 Herd gets for not making it to their conference title game. It is essentially a home game for the 12-1 Ragin’ Cajuns, winners of the Sun Belt. Marshall will be joining that conference in the not-so-distant future, so we’ll see plenty of rematches. It’s another game on the crowded 12/18 schedule, but kickoff isn’t until 9:15pm so I’ll actually get to see most of the action, which is cool. I can’t pretend to be unbiased, but to be honest the only thing that gives me hope is the fact that Louisiana will be playing for an interim coach making me somewhat hopeful for an upset. Zach thinks my alma mater comes into this game disappointed with the ending of the regular season and believes that hangover will lead to a Louisiana blowout. 

My Pick: Marshall 

Z’s Pick: Louisiana 

Frisco Bowl

UTSA vs. San Diego State 

Earlier I referred to Frisco, TX as a “little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb”. To put that in context, the population of Frisco is 177k, making it about triple the size of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston. Everything is bigger in Texas. The 12-1 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners won the C-USA title, while the 11-2 Aztecs were beaten soundly in the Mountain West Championship Game. It’s nearly a five hour haul from San Antonio to Frisco, but UTSA should still enjoy a notable home field-esque kind of advantage. Kickoff is at 7:30pm EST on the Tuesday before Christmas, so it’ll be an evening of channel flipping between Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Scrooge, & football. That’s a fun night in my world. I hope it’s a competitive game, but with battles against Utah & Boise St. (both games that they won) under their belt, it feels like SD St. is probably the superior squad. Conversely, Zach likes UTSA’s offense a little better and thinks they’ll get the job done.

My Pick: San Diego State 

Z’s Pick: Texas-San Antonio 

Gasparilla Bowl

Florida vs. Central Florida 

I’ve explained this is previous years, but it’s a cool story. This game is named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. “The Last of the Buccaneers” allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century, amassing a huge fortune by taking prizes & ransoming hostages, and died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind an enormous and as-yet undiscovered treasure. That tale alone makes this a badass bowl game no matter who is playing in it. The 6-6 Gators had high hopes but encountered choppy waters this season, ending with firing their coach last month. 8-4 UCF’s “uncrowned national championship” from a few years back is about as spurious as the story of Jose Gaspar, but head coach Gus Malzahn (who previously had tremendous success at Auburn) has kept them in the conversation as one of the best Group of Five programs and will soon lead them into the Big 12. This would be a huge win for the Knights, an opportunity to defeat an in-state “rival” that’ll always receive more respect whether they deserve it or not. Zach isn’t sure the Gators will be into this one mentally as much as their opponents. 

My Pick: Central Florida 

Z’s Pick: Central Florida 

Birmingham Bowl

Houston vs. Auburn   

Rarely will I be all that complimentary toward former WVU Mountaineers’ head coach Dana Holgorsen, but credit where it is due…he has the 11-2 Cougars headed in the right direction in his third season at the helm. They’ll be a problem in the Big 12 soon enough. Conversely, the 6-6 Tigers didn’t fare as well in head coach Bryan Harsin’s first season as they would have liked, but there’s no reason to think they can’t be good again in the near future. Kickoff is at Noon on a Tuesday, which is unfortunate because this matchup probably deserves better. I think the talent disparity between a mid-level SEC program and the AAC will be apparent, and it helps that Auburn is playing only two hours away from home, so they’ll have a lot of fans in the stands. Zach thinks Houston is solid but not spectacular, while Auburn is inconsistent. He likes Auburn’s defense to be the difference maker. 

My Pick: Auburn 

Z’s Pick: Auburn 

Holiday Bowl

North Carolina State vs. UCLA 

It looks good on paper, but will it be as interesting in reality?? The Wolfpack went 9-3 with wins over Clemson, Florida St., and in-state rival UNC, while the 8-4 Bruins would like to have a redo on a couple of early season stumbles. This is a prime time game during that week between Christmas & New Year’s when no one really knows where they are, what day it is, or what exactly is going on. I think UCLA probably has a deeper bench, so they’ll pull away in the 4th quarter. It’s a tossup for Zach but he feels like NC St. has dealt with a tougher schedule and that experience will pay off. 

My Pick: UCLA

Z’s Pick: North Carolina State 

Texas Bowl

Kansas State vs. LSU

Ed Orgeron won’t be on the sidelines for the 6-6 Bayou Bengals, who’ll be led by an interim coach before Brian Kelly takes the reins. In comparison the 7-5 Wildcats are rather stable, which is a difference maker in my eyes. Zach feels like all the upheaval might actually provide motivation for LSU. 

My Pick: Kansas State 

Z’s Pick: LSU

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

West Virginia vs. Minnesota

As a Mountaineer fan this is kind of a letdown. A mediocre Big Ten opponent & a 10:15pm EST kickoff on a Tuesday night isn’t much to get excited about. This game was formerly known as the Copper Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, Cactus Bowl, & Cheez-It Bowl, but now bears the name of a Chicago based mortgage company, which is indicative of everything wrong with collegiate sports. The last time WVU played in it about five years ago they snagged a thrilling win over Arizona St., but I was in the hospital and fast asleep before the action heated up. Perhaps I can manage to stay awake this time. Zach thinks Minnesota will run the ball easily against the WV defense and win big.

My Pick: West Virginia 

Z’s Pick: Minnesota 

Pinstripe Bowl

Virginia Tech vs. Maryland 

They’ve been playing a bowl game at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it except the time in 2012 when WV got embarrassed by Syracuse. In a college football world that had an ounce of sense this matchup would be an annual rivalry between two East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools, but in reality they play in different conferences and haven’t met on the football field since 2013. The 6-6 Hokies fired their head coach last month so they’ll be led by an interim coach, while Maryland is also 6-6 having lost 4 games in the second half of the season. I feel like it should be a much more compelling game than it is, but the 2pm Wednesday kickoff sort of characterizes the general interest level most will likely have for it. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Maryland 

Z’s Pick: Maryland 

Cheez-It Bowl

Iowa State vs. Clemson 

Okay, stick with me here. Once upon a time the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix was known as the Cheez-It Bowl, but sponsorships changed as they often do. This game, emanating from Orlando, FL, used to be the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, & Camping World Bowl. Anyway, we all know that it’s been an odd season for the 9-3 Tigers. Let’s be honest, that’s a record so many teams would give anything to have, but for a program that’s used to going undefeated & being in the playoff it is a disappointing year. The 7-5 Cyclones had higher expectations as well, but the Big 12 ended up being pretty competitive. This could be the sleeper game of the entire postseason, and with a 5:45pm Wednesday evening kickoff it is situated perfectly to provide ample entertainment value. I have a lot of faith in Dabo Swinney and believe his team will end their campaign on a high note. Zach agrees. 

My Pick: Clemson 

Z’s Pick: Clemson 

Alamo Bowl

Oklahoma vs. Oregon

They could called this the What Might’ve Been Bowl or the Dashed Hopes Bowl, as both teams were in the playoff conversation right up until the end. The Sooners are 10-2, but head coach Lincoln Riley has already bolted for USC. Similarly, the Ducks finished 10-3 and also lost their coach Mario Cristobal, who has returned to his hometown & alma mater Miami Hurricanes. I’m not familiar enough with the inner workings of a college football team to know exactly what kind of chaos such upheaval causes, but it has to be unsettling. Nevertheless, I am expecting a fun game with lots of big plays & offense, and I think Oregon will win by a touchdown. Zach, on the other hand, thinks Oregon is overrated and their defense lacking. He likes Oklahoma, under the temporary guidance of former head coach Bob Stoops, to win easily. 

My Pick: Oregon 

Z’s Pick: Oklahoma 

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

North Carolina vs. South Carolina 

I’ve never tasted Dukes, although I’ve heard it’s good. I’m a lifelong Miracle Whip guy. This is the Charlotte based game formerly known as the Continental Tire Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, & Belk Bowl, and seems tailor made for a Battle of the Carolinas. The Gamecocks were 6-6 against a rather challenging schedule, while the 6-6 Tar Heels failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations. This will be the swan song for UNC quarterback Sam Howell, who is likely to be a first round NFL Draft pick. I am expecting a close game decided by a late turnover or special teams play, and I give the edge to Mack Brown’s guys. Zach thinks there is a possibility that Howell won’t even play on the game, but still believes UNC can get the job done. 

My Pick: North Carolina 

Z’s Pick: North Carolina

Music City Bowl

Purdue vs. Tennessee 

I have to think that both teams will come into the game with a chip on their shoulder seeking to gain attention & build momentum for next year. The 8-4 Boilermakers get lost in the shuffle of a stacked Big Ten, while the 7-5 Volunteers continue trying to get back to enjoying the kind of success they had during the Peyton Manning era 25 years ago. This is damn near a home game for the Vols, as Knoxville is less than three hours from Nashville. That’s enough for me to pick Tennessee to win comfortably. Conversely, Zach believes Purdue’s defense will shine and lead the team to victory. 

My Pick: Tennessee

Z’s Pick: Purdue 

Peach Bowl

Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh

Perspective is a word that pops into my mind. I wonder how differently these teams might be viewing the same opportunity. The 10-2 Spartans won eight games before losing two of their last four, all while watching in-state rival Michigan (who they beat at the end of October) win the Big Ten and end up in the College Football Playoff. Conversely, the 11-2 Panthers just won the ACC title & quarterback Kenny Pickett was a Heisman finalist. This feels like a consolation prize for State and the culmination of an immensely successful comeback for Pitt. Zach doesn’t have much faith in State’s defense and thinks Pickett will put up big numbers in victory, while I believe Sparty has something to prove. 

My Pick: Michigan State 

Z’s Pick: Pitt 

Las Vegas Bowl

Wisconsin vs. Arizona State 

I expected so much more from both teams. The 8-4 Badgers simply faced too much supremely talented opposition in the Big Ten, losing 3 out of 4 to begin the season. The 8-4 Sun Devils had similar problems in the PAC 12. This is a 10:30pm EST kickoff on New Year’s Eve Eve, which is a tough proposition. I suppose I could stay up for it then snooze most of the next day in preparation for the festivities. Anyway, it feels like a pretty even matchup that’ll end up being a hard hitting, low scoring defensive struggle decided by penalties & turnovers, and in that scenario I can’t go against my guy Herm Edwards. Conversely, Zach thinks Wisconsin’s ground game makes the difference. 

My Pick: Arizona State 

Z’s Pick: Wisconsin 

Gator Bowl

Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest 

Now that LSU has put all those Jimbo Fisher rumors to rest he can concentrate on coaching the team that’s actually paying him to do so. It’s probably unfair to call an 8-4 season disappointing, but when someone is making bank like Fisher the fact is that anything less than a playoff berth isn’t good enough. Conversely, though they lost the ACC title, no one in Winston-Salem is going to complain about 10-3 & a New Year’s Eve bowl game for the Demon Deacons, a team that’s only won 9 or more games in a season twice before now. I think Wake will give a great effort, but the talent disparity will show itself in the second half. Zach agrees.

My Pick: Texas A&M

Z’s Pick: Texas A&M

Outback Bowl

Arkansas vs. Penn State 

Originally known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, it feels like this is a game that’s been around longer than it’s 1986 debut. The 8-4 Razorbacks started strong before losing three straight October games, while the 7-5 Nittany Lions did pretty much the same thing. If it were possible I might be tempted to predict that both teams could lose this one, but someone’s got to come out on top. I’m going to venture out on a limb and say that this will be one of those games where something screwy or controversial occurs…a penalty, turnover, blocked kick…that decides the outcome and becomes the subject of much debate on all the sports talk shows. Zach likes Penn St.’s defense to be a difference maker.

My Pick: Arkansas 

Z’s Pick: Penn State 

Citrus Bowl

Kentucky vs. Iowa 

Congrats to the Wildcats on a stellar season. Kentucky has always been a basketball school, but after going 9-3 with wins over LSU & Florida they’ve got the attention of football fans everywhere. Conversely, the 10-3 Hawkeyes are probably a bit disappointed after dropping two consecutive contests in October that torpedoed their playoff hopes then getting obliterated by Michigan in the Big Ten Championship. I feel like most “experts” would say Iowa is the more talented team, but it seems like Kentucky has come up big when it really counted this year. Conversely, Zach predicts Iowa will win a close game.

My Pick: Kentucky 

Z’s Pick: Iowa 

Sugar Bowl

Baylor vs. Ole Miss

11-2 Baylor won the Big 12 title, but an inexplicable November loss at TCU cost them a playoff berth. The 10-2 Rebels have quarterback Matt Corral, whose Heisman invite got lost in the mail, something he’ll feel better about when his name is called very early in next spring’s NFL Draft. This game has the potential to be great, but I think the Bears have more athletes across the board at more positions, and they will assert their dominance in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach really likes Corral and thinks Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffen might have a few tricks up his sleeve. 

My Pick: Baylor 

Z’s Pick: Ole Miss 

Fiesta Bowl

Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State

I really thought the 11-1 Irish would be a playoff team, but that October loss to Cincinnati was a killer. The 11-2 Cowboys had a legit playoff shot as well, but Baylor was just too tough in the Big 12 title game. I’m probably selling this game short…it should be a Gold Tier level matchup, but it just seems like both teams underachieved. I think State will have more big plays and snag a 5-10 point victory, while Zach believes Notre Dame will be motivated & inspired to win a close one. 

My Pick: Oklahoma State

Z’s Pick: Notre Dame 

Cotton Bowl

(1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati

I admit that it is unfair to not have a playoff semifinal in the Gold Tier. Having said that, I have been clear about my opinion of the Bearcats. They deserve all the kudos for going undefeated. The fact that they went into South Bend and beat Notre Dame cannot be overlooked. However, the rest of their schedule being opponents like Temple, Tulsa, & South Florida shouldn’t be glossed over either. The NCAA needs to consider separating the Power 5 and the Group of 5 into different divisions, each with its own National Championship. The 12-1 Crimson Tide just beat Georgia by 17 points to win the SEC Championship…what do you think they’re going to do to Cincinnati?? I would love to be wrong, but I think ‘Bama will win this game by four TD’s, and that’s after Saban calls off the dogs in the second half, which is why I can’t get too excited about it. Zach has a bit more respect for Cincy, but still thinks they lose by 10 points. 

My Pick: Alabama 

Z’s Pick: Alabama

Gold

Rose Bowl

Ohio State vs. Utah

I don’t care if the Buckeyes lost two games…they should be in the playoff. I get it. I know the committee couldn’t put them in with two losses ahead of undefeated Cincinnati. It would’ve been the ballsy move, but a PR nightmare. It didn’t help that Michigan absolutely trucked their archrivals by two touchdowns. Still, I believe if Ohio St. played Cincy five times they’d win atleast four games quite easily. It is what it is though, and the consolation prize for fans is pretty great because 10-3 Utah might be the hottest team in the country. Two of their three losses came in September, and they’re riding a six game win streak that includes annihilating Oregon to win the PAC 12 Championship. Honestly, I think the Utes would beat the snot out of Cincinnati too. At any rate, this should be a fantastic game, but I think Ohio St. might be too fast & athletic for Utah to overcome. Zach hates Ohio St. so obviously he’s picking against them 😂.

My Pick: Ohio State

Z’s Pick: Utah 

Orange Bowl

(2) Michigan vs. (3) Georgia

I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Alabama does, but I did not expect them to beat Georgia by 17 points in the SEC title game. Having said that, it is a testament to the 12-1 Bulldogs and the immense respect they’ve earned that they’re still amongst the Final Four. The 12-1 Wolverines only have a late October loss to in-state rival Michigan St. as a blemish on their record, but it seemed to have awakened them because they’ve been on fire ever since. I’m not sure even the most passionate Michigan fans would’ve considered them a playoff contender a month ago. This is The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object and has Game of the Year written all over it. As far as predictions, one can’t help but allow a little wishful thinking into the process. Would you rather see an Alabama-Georgia rematch or an Alabama-Michigan wet dream for all the marbles?? I know which one I prefer. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. Zach knows Georgia’s defense is extremely tough, but he thinks his Wolverines have what it takes to push the game into overtime and get a victory. 

My Pick: Michigan 

Z’s Pick: Michigan

National Championship 

Alabama/Cincinnati vs. Michigan/Georgia 

So we are both predicting and/or wishing for an Alabama-Michigan National Championship Game. When Jim Harbaugh got the job in Ann Arbor in 2015 I said he’d have them in title contention in three years. It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but here we are. I think ‘Bama will beat Cincinnati easily to get to this point, while it’ll be much more difficult for the Wolverines to overcome Georgia. How will that affect the Championship Game?? I don’t know. There are just so many variables that can make a difference and alter the entire landscape in the space of a month. Given what we know at this moment in time I will predict a very close, very exciting, rather historic Michigan upset to win the title…their first since 1997, back when the National Championship was “mythical”, a quaint notion nowadays. Zach thinks Michigan has what it takes to compete, but in a Saban vs. Harbaugh coaching duel he simply has more faith in Saban. 

My Pick: Michigan 

Z’s Pick: Alabama 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 14  

After last weekend’s craziness the playoff committee released their rankings as follows: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St., Notre Dame, & Ohio St.. That’s the Top 7 and no one else really matters. Barring any upsets in the conference title games (a huge IF if there ever was one) the essential questions are these: a) how far will the loser of the SEC Championship fall?? & b) can Oklahoma St. leapfrog Cincinnati if they win the Big 12 title?? Notre Dame is screwed because they’re sitting at home while these other teams are still playing. They need Cincinnati AND Oklahoma St. to lose, and even then the 4th playoff spot could go to Ohio St.. At any rate, our marathon of picks during Rivalry Week turned out slightly better for me (6-3) than Zach (2-7), and the lineup is even more packed this weekend. Unfortunately I have plans Friday & Saturday so I probably won’t be watching much of the action. I should be able to keep up with the scores frequently though.

My Season: 43-43

Zach’s Season: 32-54

C-USA

Western Kentucky at UTSA (-2.5)

The first time these teams met on October 9 in Bowling Green, KY the Roadrunners won a high scoring shootout, so the rematch has the potential to be a lot of fun. I’m pretty pissed that my Marshall Thundering Herd isn’t playing in this one, but they blew their chance in spectacular fashion. Texas-San Antonio has the home field and that’s enough for me. Conversely, Zach feels like momentum favors the Hilltoppers and he thinks they’ll eek out a close win.

My Pick: UTSA 

Z’s Pick: Western Kentucky 

PAC 12 (Las Vegas, NV)

Utah (-3) vs. Oregon 

I am intrigued. When these teams met on November 20 in Salt Lake City the Utes scored a huge 38-7 victory and ended Oregon’s playoff aspirations. Will the Ducks face a similar fate on a neutral field?? I don’t think so. It’ll be much closer this time, and I think the underdogs have what it takes to pull off the mild Friday night upset. Zach, on the other hand, believes Utah is firing on all cylinders right now and has a better team with superior athletes. He agrees that it’ll be closer than the first contest between these two, but thinks the favorites will win again. 

My Pick: Oregon 

Z’s Pick: Utah 

Big 12 (Dallas, TX)

Oklahoma State (-7) vs. Baylor 

On October 2 the Bears went into Stillwater and were defeated 24-14, but this game is being played at Jerry World, aka The Palace in Dallas, so there is no home field advantage. The Cowboys could earn a playoff spot if Cincinnati loses, and a convincing win could make the debate interesting even if Cincy wins. I don’t expect anything to be drastically different than the first meeting, and with (potentially) so much at stake I believe we’re looking at another solid OK St. triumph. Zach is impressed by State’s defense and likes their offensive line, but foresees a tight ballgame that could be decided by a late or overtime field goal. 

My Pick: Oklahoma State

Z’s Pick: Baylor 

Mountain West

Utah State at San Diego State (-3.5)

I don’t know who makes the schedule, but c’mon man!! I should be able to hunker down in my warm bed late at night and watch a fun west coast battle, but instead we’re getting a 3pm EST kickoff. Anyway, these teams have not previously met this season, which is a rarity in conference title games. The 9-3 Aggies face a tough task going into hostile territory against the 11-1 Aztecs, who are riding a four game win streak. I don’t expect anything too crazy and believe the home team will win comfortably. Zach likes Utah St.’s ground game but feels like San Diego St.’s defense will come alive in the second half to secure a win.

My Pick: San Diego State 

Z’s Pick: San Diego State

AAC

Houston at Cincinnati (-11)

The Bearcats are causing me a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog guy. Always have been, always will be. That being said, I am just not sure Cincinnati belongs in the playoff. They deserve kudos for going thru their schedule undefeated, but are they truly on the level of any Power 5 opponent they’d face in the semifinal?? I have serious doubts. My feelings about this game are further complicated by the presence of current Cougars & former WVU Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. We expected big things from him in the Mountain State, and he was a fairly decent 51-38 in seven seasons at the helm. However, Holgorsen clearly wasn’t happy here and jumped at the chance to take the Houston job. Both of these teams will be members of the Big 12 in the near future, so the rivalry will continue to grow. This particular contest isn’t hard to pick for me because the points are just too much. Cincy will probably win, but it won’t be a double digit victory. Zach doesn’t think Cincinnati belongs in the playoff but doesn’t believe the committee will deny them if they win this game. However, he foresees Holgorsen having his team ready to pull off the upset. If that happens no one will be happier than the CFP committee. 

My Pick: Houston

Z’s Pick: Houston 

MAC (Detroit, MI)

Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-5.5)

I used to be a big fan of MACtion. Their random Tuesday or Wednesday night games were a treat. To be honest though, it’s been a few years since I’ve paid any attention to the conference. I vaguely recall when the Huskies went 12-2 in 2012 and lost to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in Heisman voting in 2013 behind Alabama QB AJ McCarron & winner Jameis Winston, the quarterback at Florida St. As far as this game, the Golden Flashes are 7-5 and led a rather weak field in the MAC West, while NIU is a solid but unspectacular 8-4 and were beaten by three TDs in their last game. When these teams met just a few weeks ago Kent won a 52-47 shootout, although NIU scored 20 fourth quarter points as their spirited comeback fell short. I suppose there’s a chance it could be a sneakily entertaining contest, but I’m leaning toward Kent winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach likes NIU to pound the rock and score the upset. 

My Pick: Kent State 

Z’s Pick: Northern Illinois 

Sun Belt

Appalachian State (-3.5) at Louisiana

This is my sleeper pick for best game of the week. On October 12 the Mountaineers traveled to Lafayette and suffered a 41-13 loss, so I’m a bit surprised by the odds. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t tasted defeat since losing the season opener at Texas, but it seems like they’re not getting much respect. Perhaps the impending departure of head coach Billy Napier to the Florida Gators is a factor. Otherwise, do the oddsmakers have some inside info, or are they simply making assumptions?? I don’t know. Given the current circumstances and taking what we know at face value I have to lean toward the home team scoring a mild “upset”. Zach predicts special teams will play an important role in an App. St. victory. 

My Pick: Louisiana 

Z’s Pick: Appalachian State

SEC (Atlanta, GA)

Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama 

As a certain former President might say, this game is YUUUGGGEEE. Not only will an SEC Champion be crowned, but there are major playoff implications. If Georgia wins they’re in, but it is entirely possible that they could lose yet not fall out of the Top 4. And what about ‘Bama?? Obviously they’d be in with a victory, but what happens if they lose?? Will the committee twist themselves in knots trying to justify only dropping the Tide to #4?? The simplest outcome is also the most likely…the Bulldogs win & cover and remain #1, while Alabama drops to #5 and is denied another National Championship opportunity. That’s what I’m hoping to see. As much as Zach respects Nick Saban he just doesn’t think this Alabama team measures up to their predecessors. He thinks Georgia has the best defense in the country and the offense is pretty good too. He’s predicting a big Bulldogs victory. 

My Pick: Georgia 

Z’s Pick: Georgia 

ACC (Charlotte, NC)

Pitt vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)

Good Lord, could there be a more underwhelming matchup?? The ACC really needs Clemson & Florida St. to figure things out because the rest of the conference is a snoozefest. Credit where it is due though, as the 10-2 Panthers have won four straight, while the Demon Deacons lost two of their final four games but still finished 10-2. The game is theoretically being played at a neutral site, but Wake will enjoy a quasi-home field advantage since their campus is only an hour away. That’s enough for me to predict a mundane & unremarkable victory for the favorites. Zach likes Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and believes he will have a great day picking apart Wake’s defense.

My Pick: Wake Forest

Z’s Pick: Pitt

Big Ten (Indianapolis, IN)

Michigan (-9) vs. Iowa 

I’m not a mental health expert, but I know that folks with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs followed by extraordinary lows. I also understand that it is sometimes difficult for athletes to sustain a high level of intensity. Therefore, my question is what do the 11-1 Wolverines have left in the tank after their magnificent beatdown of Ohio St.?? This game isn’t at The Big House against their archrivals, but they are playing for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a playoff berth that could lead to their first National Championship since 1997. Theoretically that should be ample motivation, right?? The 10-2 Hawkeyes fell off the radar after two consecutive October losses, yet here they are on a four game winning streak. Closer examination reveals that they won those four games by an average of less than 5 points against teams that are collectively 19-29. In other words their schedule was frontloaded, and they didn’t face Michigan or Ohio St.. Iowa’s most impressive victory was a home game against Penn St., a 7-5 team that lost four out of six games in the second half of the season. I don’t think there’s any way Michigan loses this game. However, I can see a dropoff in energy leading to the final margin of victory being a touchdown or less. Zach is also concerned about an emotional letdown for his beloved Wolverines, as well as the enormous pressure they face in restoring the program to its former glory. He points out that Iowa has won 5 out of the last 7 matchups between the two schools. Having said all of that, he isn’t picking against Michigan again (although it did work a week ago). 

My Pick: Iowa 

Z’s Pick: Michigan 

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.