2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 13

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

My Season:        32-37

Z’s Season:        27-42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mississippi State (-11)                  at                Ole Miss

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

My Pick:     Ole Miss

Z’s Pick:     Ole Miss

 

 

 

BYU                     at                Utah (-12)

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

My Pick:     BYU

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

 

Georgia Tech              at                Georgia (-17)

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

My Pick:     Georgia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

Nebraska                     at                Iowa (-9.5)

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

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Nebraska

 

 

 

Virginia (-4.5)               at                Virginia Tech

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

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia

 

 

Oregon (-17)                at                Oregon State

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

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

Central Florida (-14)                      at                South Florida

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

My Pick:     South Florida

Z’s Pick:     Central Florida

 

 

 

 

Washington                 at                Washington State (-2.5)

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

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington St.

 

 

 

 

Florida (-6)                             at                          Florida State

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

My Pick:     Florida State

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

LSU (-3)                       at                          Texas A&M

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

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

 

Kentucky (-17)                     at                          Louisville

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

My Pick:     Kentucky

Z’s Pick:     Kentucky

 

 

 

Utah State                             at                          Boise State (-2.5)

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

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Boise St.

 

 

 

Notre Dame (-10.5)               at                          USC

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

My Pick:     Notre Dame

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

 

Arizona State (-2)                 at                          Arizona

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

My Pick:     Arizona

Z’s Pick:     Arizona St.

 

 

 

South Carolina                    at                Clemson (-26)

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

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     South Carolina

 

 

 

Auburn                         at                          Alabama (-24.5)

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

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

 

Michigan (-4.5)                     at                Ohio State

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

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 8

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

My Season:     19-22

Z’s Season:     17-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama   (-28.5)                  at                Tennessee

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

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Tennessee

 

 

 

NC State                       at                Clemson (-17)

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

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     NC State

 

 

 

Mississippi State                 at                LSU (-6.5)

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

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

Carolina                       at                Philadelphia (-4.5)

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

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

 

Cleveland                     at                Tampa Bay (-3)

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

My Pick:     Cleveland

Z’s Pick:     Cleveland

2018 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

24     LSU 

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

23     Michigan

Last Season:      8-5

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

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

 

 

22     West Virginia

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

21     Penn State        

Last Season:      11-2

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

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

 

 

20     Texas       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

19     Florida State                       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

18     Florida Atlantic

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

17     Stanford

Last Season:      9-5

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

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

 

 

16     Oklahoma

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

15     Ohio State         

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

14     Auburn              

Last Season:      10-4

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

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

 

 

13     Notre Dame     

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

12     South Florida

Last Season:      10-2

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

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

 

 

11     Boise State                

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 at Oklahoma St.

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

 

 

10     Southern Cal   

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

9       Michigan State 

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

8       Virginia Tech    

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

7       Georgia

Last Season:      13-2

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

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

 

 

6       Miami (FL)

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

5       Clemson  

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Florida St.

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

 

 

4       Washington      

Last Season:      10-3 

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

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

 

 

3       TCU 

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

2       Alabama                               

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

 

 

1       Wisconsin        

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

2017-18 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

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

 

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

 

 

 

Tier 1

 

New Orleans     

12/16 at 1pm.

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

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

My Pick:     Troy

Zach’s Pick:        Troy

 

Cure (Orlando, FL)

12/16 at 2:30pm

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

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

My Pick:     Georgia St.

Zach’s Pick:        Western Kentucky

 

Camellia (Montgomery, AL)

12/16 at 8pm               

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

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

My Pick:     Middle Tennessee

Zach’s Pick:        Arkansas St.

 

Boca Raton       

12/19 at 7pm     

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

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

My Pick:     FAU

Zach’s Pick:        FAU

 

Frisco (Frisco, TX)      

12/20 at 8pm               

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

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

My Pick:     SMU

Zach’s Pick:        SMU

 

Pinstripe (New York City)

12/27 at 5:15pm          

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

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

My Pick:     Iowa

Zach’s Pick:        Iowa

 

Foster Farms (Santa Clara, CA)

12/27 at 8:30pm          

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

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

My Pick:     Arizona

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona

 

Texas       

12/27 at 9pm

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

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

My Pick:     Texas

Zach’s Pick:        Missouri

 

Military (Annapolis, MD)

12/28 at 1:30pm          

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

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

My Pick:     Navy

Zach’s Pick:        Navy

 

Belk (Charlotte, NC)

12/29 at 1pm               

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

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

My Pick:     Wake Forest

Zach’s Pick:        Texas A&M

 

Sun (El Paso, TX)

12/29 at 2pm               

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

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

My Pick:     NC St.

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona St.

 

Music City (Nashville, TN)

12/29 at 4:30pm         

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

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

My Pick:     Northwestern

Zach’s Pick:        Northwestern

 

Arizona

12/29 at 5:30pm         

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

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

My Pick:     Utah St.

Zach’s Pick:        Utah St.

 

 

 

Tier 2

 

Las Vegas         

12/16 at 3:30pm

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

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

My Pick:     Boise St.

Zach’s Pick:        Boise St.

 

New Mexico       

12/16 at 3:30pm

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

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

My Pick:     Marshall

Zach’s Pick:        Colorado St.

 

Gasparilla (St. Petersburg, FL)

12/21 at 8pm               

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

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

My Pick:     FIU

Zach’s Pick:        FIU

 

Bahamas  

12/22 at 12:30pm       

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

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

My Pick:     UAB

Zach’s Pick:        UAB

 

Potato       

12/22 at 4pm (Boise, ID)

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

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

My Pick:     Wyoming

Zach’s Pick:        Central Michigan

 

Birmingham       

12/23 at Noon             

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

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

My Pick:     USF

Zach’s Pick:        USF

 

Armed Forces (Fort Worth, TX)

12/23 at 3:30pm          

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

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

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Zach’s Pick:        Army

 

Dollar General (Mobile, AL)

12/23 at 7pm               

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

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

My Pick:     Toledo

Zach’s Pick:        Toledo

 

 

Hawai’i      

Christmas Eve at 8:30pm

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

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

My Pick:     Houston

Zach’s Pick:        Fresno St.

 

 

Heart of Dallas  

12/26 at 1:30pm

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

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

My Pick:     West Virginia

Zach’s Pick:        Utah

 

Quick Lane (Detroit, MI)

12/26 at 5:15pm

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

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

My Pick:     Northern Illinois

Zach’s Pick:        Duke

 

 

Cactus (Phoenix, AZ)

12/26 at 10pm             

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

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

My Pick:     UCLA

Zach’s Pick:        UCLA

 

 

Independence (Shreveport, LA)

12/27 at 1:30pm          

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

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

My Pick:     Southern Miss

Zach’s Pick:        Florida St.

 

 

Holiday (San Diego, CA)

12/28 at 9pm               

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

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

My Pick:     Washington St.

Zach’s Pick:        Michigan St.

 

 

Gator (Jacksonville, FL)

12/30 at Noon             

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

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

My Pick:     Louisville

Zach’s Pick:        Louisville

 

Liberty (Memphis, TN)

12/30 at 12:30pm                 

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

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

My Pick:     Memphis

Zach’s Pick:        Memphis

 

Outback (Tampa, FL)

New Year’s Day at Noon              

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

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

My Pick:     Michigan

Zach’s Pick:        South Carolina

 

Peach (Atlanta, GA)

New Year’s Day at 12:30pm                  

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

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

My Pick:     Auburn

Zach’s Pick:        Auburn

 

Citrus (Orlando, FL)

New Year’s Day at 1pm                

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

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

My Pick:     LSU

Zach’s Pick:        LSU

 

 

 

Tier 3

 

Camping World (Orlando, FL)

12/28 at 5:15pm

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

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

My Pick:     Oklahoma St.

Zach’s Pick:        Oklahoma St.

 

Alamo (San Antonio, TX)

Dec. 28 at 9pm

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

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

My Pick:     Stanford

Zach’s Pick:        Stanford

 

Cotton (Arlington, TX)

12/29 at 8:30pm

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

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

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Zach’s Pick:        USC

 

Fiesta (Glendale, AZ)

12/30 at 4pm

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

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

My Pick:     Penn St.

Zach’s Pick:        Penn St.

 

Orange (Miami, FL)

12/30 at 8pm

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

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

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Zach’s Pick:        Wisconsin

 

Rose (Pasadena, CA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 5 p.m.

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

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

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Zach’s Pick:        Georgia

 

Sugar (New Orleans, LA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 8:45 p.m.

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

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

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

 

 

National Championship (Atlanta GA)

January 8 at 8pm

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

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 13

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

My Season:        38-36

Z’s Season:        39-35

 

 

 

 

 

South Florida              at      Central Florida (-11)

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

My Pick:     South Florida

Z’s Pick:     Central Florida

 

 

 

Louisville (-10)            at      Kentucky

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

My Pick:     Kentucky

Z’s Pick:     Kentucky

 

 

 

Florida State (-5)                  at      Florida

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

My Pick:     Florida State

Z’s Pick:     Florida State

 

 

 

Notre Dame (-2.5)       at      Stanford

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

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Washington State      at      Washington (-9)

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

My Pick:     Washington State

Z’s Pick:     Washington State

 

 

 

Ohio State          (-11.5)        at      Michigan

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

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Michigan

 

 

 

Alabama (-4.5)            at      Auburn

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

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 8

I’m on the ball this week, and we aren’t even picking any Thursday games. This is what happens when I get the proper amount of sleep. At any rate, I was looking back at my NFL Preview, where I stated that “in light of all the absurdity happening in the world these days it’s good to know that we can curl up on the couch watching football and forget about life for awhile” and also opined that “football is a uniter, not a divider”. Well…it seemed like an appropriate thought process at the time lol. As far as last week goes, I was 4-4 while Zach was 4-5. I still can’t figure out LSU or the Atlanta Falcons, and Zach fell prey to his dislike for Ohio St. In the next few weeks Heisman hype will be heating up, and in my opinion Penn St. RB Saquon Barkley has to be the favorite, though he’ll need to perform well against Michigan, Ohio St., & Michigan St. in the next few weeks. QBs Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) & Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma St.) will face each other on November 4th, and Ohio St. signal caller JT Barrett could potentially play his way into an invitation to New York. 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson looks unlikely to be a serious candidate this season. Okay, y’all came here for some picks, so let’s do it.

My Season:         23-19

Z’s Season:           23-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa State                    at      Texas Tech (-5.5)

The 4-2 Cyclones are riding a two game winning streak and are still in the Big 12 title conversation. It helps that they upset Oklahoma a few weeks ago. The 4-2 Red Raiders have lost 2 out of 3 after a hot start to the season and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against my WV Mountaineers last weekend. They’ve scored more than 40 points in every game but one, while Iowa St. is only slightly less prolific. If you are looking to…invest…in this game I would strongly suggest taking the over. I expect a high scoring track meet with little defensive impact, and The Vibes are telling me that the underdogs are going to overcome the odds. Conversely, although he believes they’ll be tested, Zach likes Tech to rebound from last week’s tough loss.

My Pick:     Iowa St.

Z’s Pick:     Texas Tech

 

 

Tennessee        at      Alabama (-34.5)

I consulted multiple sources to make sure that huge point spread was indeed accurate, and it is. I’m a bit stunned. Spreads like that aren’t unheard of in college football, but it usually involves a powerhouse going up against a significantly inferior 1-AA opponent, not two conference foes. Are the 3-3 Vols really THAT bad?? They were defeated 41-0 by Georgia a few weeks ago, but that is by far their worst loss. To be honest I’m kind of bored with Alabama. They’ve been so good for so long that there’s no drama. A bad season for them is one loss and losing in the national championship game. Sure it’s great for their fans, but outside of that state they are a team that everybody respects but no one really likes anymore. Anyway, I certainly don’t expect Tennessee to win the game (although stranger things have happened), but can they keep it closer than five TDs?? As a fan I sure hope so. Zach agrees, but for a different reason. He thinks ‘Bama coach Nick Saban will respectfully call off the dogs before the 34 point threshold is reached.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Tennessee

 

 

USC                     at      Notre Dame (-3.5)

With all the conference realignment that’s been a part of upheaval in college football the past decade several traditional rivalries have been lost. The Backyard Brawl (Pitt/WV), Oklahoma vs. Nebraska, Texas vs. Texas A&M, & The Border War (Kansas/Missouri) have all gone away, and that’s a shame. Another rivalry that fell by the wayside a few years ago was Notre Dame vs. Michigan, but fortunately the Irish have kept USC on the schedule and both teams currently reside just outside the Top Ten. The Trojans were my pre-season #1, but a loss at Washington St. last month has taken them out of playoff contention for now. Notre Dame is a very quiet 5-1, with only a tight loss to Georgia besmirching their record. The Irish are getting the customary home field bump, but I think Southern Cal is the better team. Zach agrees and likes the Trojans by a touchdown.

My Pick:     USC

Z’s Pick:     USC

 

 

NY Jets               at      Miami (-3.5)

A few months ago this seemed like a totally unappealing matchup. I predicted the Jets to go 3-13, while I had the Dolphins at a respectable 8-8 but still finishing well behind the Patriots in the AFC East. Now here we are in mid-October. The Jets have already won three games and Miami is tied with New England…one game behind Buffalo in the division. So this game is actually meaningful. Some may not remember, but these two franchises have played in some of the most thrilling games in NFL history. Back in the 80’s & 90’s Jets-Dolphins was Must-See TV. Perhaps, sensing that New England may in fact be more vulnerable than anyone knew, this rivalry will kick it up a notch. One can dream, right?? I’m hoping for a high scoring contest that spills into overtime. If that happens then the likelihood of a field goal deciding things is high, meaning that the points might be too much. Zach also thinks it’ll be a close game, but he likes Miami to get the job done.

My Pick:     NY Jets

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

Dallas (-6)           at      San Francisco

Maybe I’m just feeling nostalgic, because this also was a tremendous rivalry back in my youth. And while the Cowboys have consistently been good most of the time since then, the 49ers have had some rough patches, especially the past few years. Right now Dallas is struggling a bit at 2-3, and ‘Frisco is off to a terrible 0-6 start. To be fair though two of those games went into overtime and five losses have been by a total of 13 points, so they aren’t necessarily as horrible as it may seem. I have a feeling they’ll be choosing a quarterback with that Top 5 pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. Meanwhile, I’m not sure whether Cowboys’ running back Zeke Elliott will be playing or not. His legal battle with the NFL has dragged on longer than the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election. Armed with the information I have, The Vibes are telling me than an upset is in order. Zach disagrees and believes the Cowboys will win easily.

My Pick:     San Francisco

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 1

We’re baaaaaaccccckkkk. I sincerely hope The Manoverse considers that a good thing, although I know there are those that don’t particularly enjoy sports related topics. Be patient. Y’all know that The Manofesto is a cornucopia where we discuss all kinds of stuff, and I will do my best to not focus solely on football for the next five months. This will be my 6th season making these picks, while my nephew Zach joins me for the fifth time. I finished 2016 with a record of 54-49 (a 52% winning percentage), while Zach struggled a bit and finished at 38-65 (37%). As always Week 1 is all about college football since the NFL hasn’t began its season just yet. Fortunately, because of the College Football Playoff, teams are bulking up their schedules with better early season non-conference games, and we fans are the beneficiaries. There are a couple of monster matchups on the opening weekend, so it wasn’t difficult to choose which games to pick. Let me remind you that Zach & I do not have any money riding on these games and I do not encourage gambling, but if that is an activity that frosts your cupcake and you have the disposable income while still paying your bills & feeding your family then go right ahead and do what you enjoy. Just don’t put too much stock in what you read here…we’re not very good at this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYU           vs.    LSU (-12.5)

Hurricane Harvey has forced this “neutral site” game, originally to be played in Houston, TX, to the New Orleans Superdome, meaning that it’s not so neutral anymore. I don’t think it makes much of a difference though. The Cougars are coming off of a solid 8-4 season and have already played a game last weekend, beating 1-AA Portland St. in unimpressive fashion. Equaling 2016’s record might be the best BYU can aspire to. The Bayou Bengals also finished last year at 8-4 in a season in which they fired their longtime head coach. RB Leonard Fournette has moved on to the NFL, which isn’t necessarily disastrous for LSU because honestly, he rarely lived up to the hype in my opinion. They probably aren’t winning their conference or even their division, but the boys from Baton Rouge shouldn’t have any problems winning this game. Zach thinks it’ll be a blowout.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

California           at      North Carolina (-12.5)

I’d have to do research to know for sure (and that ain’t happening), but it seems like a rare occurrence that the Pac 12 and ACC meet up during the regular season. The Golden Bears were an atrocious 5-7 last year, while the Tar Heels were 8-5. QB Mitch Trubisky & WR Ryan Switzer have both left Chapel Hill behind for the NFL, and that concerns me a little, especially for the first game of the season. I’m not bold enough to predict an outright upset, but the points feel like a bit much to me. Zach doesn’t foresee a blowout, but believes Carolina will win by a comfortable enough margin.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     UNC

 

 

 

Texas A&M        at      UCLA (-3)

After losing starting QB Josh Rosen to a shoulder injury in 2016 the Bruins nosedived to a 4-8 record, but Rosen is back and I expect him to be a first round NFL Draft pick next spring. The Aggies started off strong last season but struggled in the second half, limping to an 8-5 finish. They are without the services of defensive end Myles Garrett, who was chosen #1 overall by the Cleveland Browns. UCLA gets just a slight home field bump from the oddsmakers, but I don’t believe it’ll be that close. Zach likes A&M well enough but can’t overlook the home field advantage.

My Pick:     UCLA

Z’s Pick:     UCLA

 

 

 

Michigan (-5)     vs.    Florida

Michigan might be getting more love and national title hype if a) they didn’t have to replace ¾ of last season’s starters, and b) they didn’t play in the same conference as Ohio St. & Penn St. I expect a slight dropoff for the Wolverines from last year’s 10-3 record, though I still consider them a Top 25 team. Florida plays in the SEC, which might not be as good as in year’s past, but it’s still a pretty tough road. The Gators were 9-4 in 2016 and would probably be more than satisfied to equal that mark this season. This is a neutral site game being played at The Palace in Dallas, which atleast will make it fun to watch on TV. I think the oddsmakers have nailed this one. It’ll be competitive, but Michigan will win by a touchdown. Zach is a huge Michigan fan, but is shocking the world by predicting an upset.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Florida State      vs.    Alabama (-7.5)

Wow, what a huge game on the opening weekend!! Kudos to both teams. Alabama has won four national championships since 2010 and lost last season’s title game to Clemson on a touchdown pass in the final seconds. The Seminoles haven’t won a national title since 2013 but are always in the conversation. The winner of this game will emerge as the undisputed #1 team in the land, although the loser will still have a decent chance to make the playoff. It’s another neutral site game, this time emanating from the brand spankin’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This is a battle of wits between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher. I am expecting a low scoring, smashmouth defensive struggle, with a couple of big plays making the difference. I’m not brave enough to predict the outright upset, but I do think the game will be decided by less than a touchdown. Zach loves Saban and thinks the Tide will roll by two TDs.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

2017 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

With the exception of the Thanksgiving-Christmas corridor this might be my favorite time of year. Anticipation is at its zenith and the possibilities are endless. Just looking at the schedules has me amped up, especially for two or three weekends when the lineup looks to be especially loaded. Whenever I begin this process I almost always get The Vibes, and the word that keeps popping into my head at the moment is parity. It is unlikely that any team gets thru their season unbeaten, and it’s entirely possible that a team with 2 or 3 losses sneaks into the playoff. Saturdays are going to be as glorious as usual this autumn, if only I can stay awake to watch the games. 16 of the 25 teams I have ranked here had 10 or more victories last season, and a few more won 9 games. Who will shockingly fall off the map?? Who will do a complete turnaround and climb out of the abyss of losing seasons into the Top 25?? Only time will tell, and what follows represents my best guess based solely on minimal research & decades as a dedicated fan, not any sort of insider knowledge. Perhaps we’ll look back in a few months and laugh at my foolishness, or maybe…just maybe…I will prove my worth as a bona fide guru. Who knows??

 

 

 

 

 

1          USC

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Stanford, 10/21 at Notre Dame, 11/18 vs. UCLA

Honestly, the schedule doesn’t look all that daunting for a top tier team, and with Heisman Trophy contender Sam Darnold behind center I don’t think we’ll see the Trojans go backward. Clay Helton is firmly entrenched as the head coach, providing consistency that the program has been lacking in recent years. If any big time powerhouse has a legit chance to go undefeated this is the one, and at the very least anything short of a playoff appearance will be a huge disappointment.

 

 

2          Penn State

Last Season:             11-3

Key Games:              10/21 vs. Michigan, 10/28 at Ohio St.

Last season’s Rose Bowl was probably the best post-season game other than the national championship. USC bested the Nittany Lions 52-49 on a last second field goal, and in many people’s minds it was a harbinger of fantastic things to come for both teams. The Sandusky/Paterno kerfuffle seems to be in the rear view mirror for Penn St., and while we could engage in endless sociopolitical commentary about all of that there is no doubt that moving past the fallout is good for the football program. There are two Heisman contenders in Happy Valley…QB Trace McSorely & RB Saquon Barkley…and, while I’m no expert, I have to believe that bodes well for the team’s chances of success. They’ll have to face the Buckeyes in Columbus, but Michigan will be a home game. If the Lions can split those two huge games I think they just might be national title contenders.

 

 

3          Oklahoma State

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              10/21 at Texas, 11/4 vs. Oklahoma

Surprise!! While the other team in Oklahoma usually gets all of the attention (and still will this year) the Cowboys have been pretty successful, racking up 10 or more wins in five of the past seven seasons. QB Mason Rudolph returns for his senior season, and it feels like he may be flying under the radar just like his team. That’s probably fine with the folks in Stillwater. Don’t be surprised if this is the team that comes out on the positive end of Bedlam, and I think they might even have an outside shot at perfection.

 

 

4          Florida State

Last Season:             10-3   

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Alabama, 9/16 vs. Miami (FL), 11/11 at Clemson

The season opener against Alabama will obviously set a tone for the season. That game is a neutral site contest in Atlanta and is the highlight of college football’s first weekend. A win would set the Seminoles on a course for a playoff appearance, but I don’t think a loss would be fatal. They’re still the favorites to win the ACC.

 

 

5          Ohio State

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Oklahoma, 10/28 vs. Penn St., 11/25 at Michigan

The Buckeyes still have JT Barrett behind center, and that gives them an immediate advantage. They did lose seven players to the NFL, but that’s nothing to an elite program. The second weekend of games will be highlighted by Ohio St. against Oklahoma, but it’s in Columbus and, while the talking heads will do their best to pump up the hype machine, I really don’t think it’ll be much of a contest. Penn St. will visit Columbus right before Halloween & a showdown in The Big House wraps up the regular season, and it is in one of these games that I expect Ohio St.’s playoff dreams to be dashed.

 

 

6          Alabama

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Florida St., 11/4 vs. LSU, 11/25 at Auburn

I’m a non-conformist so I rarely do what everybody else does…rank ‘Bama #1. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. They may win or they may lose the season opener against Florida St., but The Voices are telling me that the true waterloo for the Tide will come in November against an archrival…either LSU or Auburn. Maybe both. A one or two loss Alabama would almost certainly still be in the playoff conversation, but I think they’ll fall short of the goal.

 

 

7          South Florida

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/15 vs. Illinois, 11/4 vs. Houston

Charlie Strong wasn’t deemed good enough to get the job done for Texas, but he’s moved on and found himself in a good situation. The American Athletic Conference doesn’t get much respect, but someone’s going to win it and the Bulls seem to be receiving all the buzz despite a coaching change that would normally be cause for apprehension. They’ll need to go undefeated to rank this high, and I don’t believe that to be an unreasonable expectation.

 

 

8          Georgia

Last Season:             8-5

Key Games:              9/9 at Notre Dame, 9/30 at Tennessee, 10/28 vs. Florida

It’s season 2 for Kirby Smart as the head coach in Athens, and I think his team will be more successful than they were last year. Obviously the SEC is extremely competitive, but if the Bulldogs can win a couple of the noted key games a Top 10 finish isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Running back Nick Chubb passed up being a likely first round NFL Draft pick to return for his senior season, a huge positive. A Georgia-Alabama conference title game could be really fun.

 

 

9          Wisconsin

Last Season:             11-3

Key Games:              10/7 at Nebraska, 11/18 vs. Michigan

I’m a little nervous about this one because the Big Ten is so tough. Can they really land three teams in the Top 10? And if so, is this the right third team?? I’ve left Nebraska, Northwestern, & Iowa out of this Top 25 altogether, but they’re always dangerous opponents. I’m betting that the Badgers get by all of them, meaning that a mid-November clash with Michigan…in Wisconsin…might decide a spot in the conference title game.

 

 

10        Auburn

Last Season:             8-5

Key Games:              9/9 at Clemson, 10/14 at LSU, 11/11 vs. Georgia, 11/25 vs. Alabama

The Tigers have been a bit off the radar the past few years since winning the national championship in 2010 and losing the title game in 2013. They are 23-16 over the past three seasons. Not bad, but not remarkable either. Exceeding mediocrity will be a tall order this season. They’ll need to pull off upsets in a couple of the games I have noted, but doing so would surely make them a solid Top 10 team.

 

 

11        Oklahoma

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/9 at Ohio St., 10/14 vs. Texas, 11/4 at Oklahoma St.

QB Baker Mayfield will get a lot of Heisman hype early in the season, but I’m just a bit uneasy about the sudden departure of head coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners will have superior talent on the field as they always do, and all indications are that new coach Lincoln Riley is a bright young mind who probably would’ve been a head coach somewhere sooner rather than later anyway, but I just don’t foresee a team undergoing such a coaching change contending for a national championship, especially with a daunting early season battle on the road in Columbus, OH. There’s also the fact that the Big 12 is expected to be as competitive this season as it’s been in awhile. Oklahoma will be a good team, but I think they’ll be on the losing end of one or two games that most wouldn’t expect them to lose.

 

 

12        Washington

Last Season:             12-2

Key Games:              9/23 at Colorado, 10/28 vs. UCLA, 11/25 vs. Washington St.

The Huskies were a playoff team last season and QB Jake Browning returns for his junior year. That’s good enough for me to take this team seriously. Barring any surprising losses it feels like Washington should be the favorite in their division to get a shot at the Pac 12 title, but I think that’s the ceiling. Any unexpected stumbles along the way could cause a rapid tumble down the rankings.

 

 

13        Louisville

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/16 vs. Clemson, 10/21 at Florida St.

Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson returns under center, and while there’s no denying that he’s a dynamic player the fact is that he’s not going to sneak up on anyone this year. Even going back to last season it seems like opponents began to figure him out since the Cardinals lost three straight to end the year, including a beatdown in the Citrus Bowl at the hands of LSU. Having said all of that, I think a 9 win season is possible. Keep an eye on the games against Clemson & Florida State. I expect both to be losses, but if they’re competitive contests it’ll go a long way toward earning Louisville respect.

 

 

14        Clemson

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              11/11 vs. Florida St.

Replacing a starting quarterback might be just as daunting as rebooting things under a new head coach. I am a huge fan of Deshaun Watson, who is now plying his trade in the NFL with the Houston Texans, and I don’t believe he’ll be easily forgotten (he should’ve won the Heisman Trophy last year). I have no doubt that the defending national champions will just reload at most positions, and head coach Dabo Sweeney is the real deal, but I think the Tigers will taste bitter defeat at the hands of archrival Florida St., and will probably be upset in atleast one other game.

 

 

15        Michigan

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Florida, 10/21 at Penn St., 11/25 vs. Ohio St.

When Jim Harbaugh was hired as the Wolverines’ head coach back in 2015 I predicted that they’d be “legitimate national championship contenders within three years”. However, faced with the task of replacing about 75% of the starting rotations on both sides of the ball I think it might be wise to dial back expectations just a bit. They have Ohio St. at The Big House in Ann Arbor, but must travel to Happy Valley to face Penn St. Another 10 win season would be phenomenal in a stacked Big Ten…anything more than that is probably wishful thinking.

 

 

16        West Virginia

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/3 vs. Virginia Tech, 10/28 vs. Oklahoma St., 11/18 vs. Texas, 11/25 at Oklahoma

Expectations are high for the Mountaineers, atleast here in West Virginia. The long awaited debut of QB Will Grier, a transfer from Florida who had to sit out last season, is imminent, and he’ll have no shortage of weapons, including RBs Kennedy McCoy & Justin Crawford and WRs Juvon Durante & KaRaun White. The X factor is the defense, which must replace the entire front line and cornerback Rasul Douglas, who has moved on to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. The optimism probably doesn’t spread too far outside the Mountain State, but that’s alright…we’re used to everyone underestimating us in all walks of life. West Virginia MUST beat archrival Virginia Tech in the season opener, and then pull off atleast one upset in big games against celebrated conference rivals.

 

 

17        Boise St.

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              10/6 at BYU, 11/11 at Colorado St.

The Broncos are what they are. They’ll win 9 or 10 games, play for the conference title, and try to surprise everyone by upsetting a team from a “power” conference in a bowl game. But wait…Boise HASN’T played for the Mountain West championship or in a bowl game that people actually watch since 2014. Can they rebound this year?? I think so.

 

 

18        Virginia Tech

Last Season:             10-4

Key Games:              9/3 vs. West Virginia, 9/30 vs. Clemson, 11/4 at Miami (FL)

In his first season as the Hokies’ head coach Justin Fuente led his team to 10 wins and spot in the conference title game. Can that success be duplicated in 2017?? Maybe. The ACC isn’t a cakewalk by any stretch, and a neutral site season opener against my WV Mountaineers won’t be an automatic win. The difference in Tech’s season will be whether they win 7/8 games or 9/10 games. Either is possible.

 

 

19        Florida

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Michigan, 10/7 vs. LSU, 10/28 vs. Georgia, 11/25 vs. Florida St.

It wasn’t that long ago that almost every team would open the season with a couple of easy games against cupcake opponents, the result usually being a 65-10 snoozefest that accomplished nothing except filling the coffers of the overmatched losing team. However, with the advent of the four team playoff strength of schedule has become a point of emphasis. One wouldn’t think that teams from the heralded SEC would need to concern themselves with such matters, but it looks like they’re not taking any chances. The Gators begin their season at The Palace in Dallas against Michigan. The winner will probably be vaulted into the Top 10, the loser will have to battle back. Either way Florida will have a tough road after that first game, and they’ll need to upset a couple of conference opponents to finish as a ranked team.

 

 

20        Texas

Last Season:             5-7

Key Games:              9/16 at USC, 10/14 vs. Oklahoma, 10/21 vs. Oklahoma St.

Here’s what I find interesting. IF the South Florida Bulls do as well as most are predicting in Charlie Strong’s first year as head coach there, what does it say about his ability?? And IF the Longhorns bounce back from a long stretch of mediocrity as well, does credit have to be given to new head coach Tom Herman, or will it be because Strong recruited well and the suits in Austin pulled the plug on him too soon?? It’s a conversation I’ll be looking forward to throughout the season. I don’t think Texas is going to suddenly be a threat to win 10 games or compete for the Big 12 title, but if they can pull off an upset or two, play Southern Cal tough in the opener, and ultimately win 8 games I think this spot would be well earned.

 

 

21        Stanford

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/9 at USC, 9/23 vs. UCLA, 11/10 vs. Washington, 11/25 vs. Notre Dame

Contrary to what the folks in SEC territory would have us believe I happen to think that the Big Ten & Pac 12 are the toughest football conferences in America. Stanford always seems to be in the mix near the top, and I have no reason to foresee anything different this season. They’ll need to score a couple of big upsets, and the fact that 3 of the 4 key games I have noted are being played in Palo Alto should certainly help the cause. Look for an 8 or 9 win season and a ranking somewhere in the lower portion of the Top 25.

 

 

22        LSU

Last Season:             8-4

Key Games:              10/7 at Florida, 10/14 vs. Auburn, 11/4 at Alabama

Allow me to say something controversial. I think Leonard Fournette was an overrated college running back that will have a relatively short and very average NFL career. There…I said it!! At any rate, I don’t believe Fournette’s departure will have that much of an impact on the Bayou Bengals. Actually it may help not having him as a distraction. What doesn’t help is a schedule that includes trips to The Swamp and Tuscaloosa. 9 wins and a 3rd place finish in their division looks like the ceiling, and that’d be good enough to finish as a ranked team. Head coach Ed Orgeron is firmly entrenched as the head coach for now, but I have to believe that he’s on a short leash. He’ll get two seasons to prove his worth, and probably needs to win 8 or 9 games each year.

 

 

23        Miami (FL)

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/16 at Florida St., 11/4 vs. Virginia Tech, 11/11 vs. Notre Dame

Head coach Mark Richt acquitted himself quite nicely in his first season in Coral Gables, as the ‘Canes continue to hover on the fringes of their former glory. With the ACC raising the bar and being one of the better conferences I have a difficult time seeing them making any kind of significant leap in 2017. However, if they can win a couple of key games and beat all of the teams they’re supposed to defeat I don’t think equaling last year’s success is an unreasonable expectation.

 

 

24        UCLA

Last Season:             4-8    

Key Games:              9/23 at Stanford, 10/28 at Washington, 11/18 at USC

Despite recent comments that “football and school don’t go together” (a statement that might contain a kernel of truth but should never be verbalized) I like QB Josh Rosen. He’ll be a first round NFL draft pick next spring, and his importance became clear when the Bruins lost 4 out of their final 5 games when Rosen suffered a season ending shoulder injury last year. The Pac 12 is super tough, but I think UCLA flips the script and wins 8 games.

 

 

25          Notre Dame

Last Season:             4-8

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Georgia, 10/21 vs. USC, 11/11 at Miami (FL), 11/25 at Stanford

Surely the beloved Fighting Irish won’t finish with a losing record two years in a row?? If they could pull off one…or two…upsets sneaking into the rankings seems like a solid possibility. Conversely, another bad year might mean the end of the road for head coach Brian Kelly.

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2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 7

cfoot2As I sit here writing this there is an NFL game, hockey’s opening night, the MLB playoffs, & a college football game all on at the same time. It’s the most stimulating experience I’ve had in many moons. At any rate, bonus picks didn’t really work out so well for either one of us last week, but I’m nothing if not persistent so we’re going to try again. Zach was 3-5, while I broke even at 4-4. We picked LSU/Florida, but they didn’t play because of Hurricane Matthew. That game has been rescheduled for mid-November. As of right now Alabama, Clemson, Washington, & the winner of Ohio St./Michigan look like the favorites to get into the NCAA playoff, while the NFL is being dominated by the Vikings, Cowboys, Broncos, & Falcons. Of course the cool thing about sports is that all of that could change in a single day.

My Season:        16-18

Z’s Season:        11-24

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama (-13)              at      Tennessee

tennessee_volunteers_football_iphone_wallpaperThe Tide hasn’t really been challenged much this season, winning every game by atleast 19 points with the exception of a 5 AlabamaCrimsonTide2point thriller against Ole Miss. The Vols were on a roll until they ran up against Texas A&M last weekend. Perhaps they were looking ahead to this game. When revealing my pre-season Top 25 I opined that “it would surprise me less if this team actually lost 3 or 4 games than it would if they’d go undefeated”. Of course I also had Oklahoma & LSU in my Top 5, so what do I know?? As a fan I am hoping for a great game, and that would necessitate something closer than 13 points. I’m not all that confident about it, but that’s the direction I’ll go. Conversely, Zach has faith in ‘Bama’s defense and believes they’ll win by a comfortable margin.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

Northwestern              at      Michigan St. (-4.5)

Northwestern_WildcatsNeither team is going to win the Big Ten (which has 14 teams), but with identical 2-3 records this is a game that could swing Michigan_State_Spartansthe momentum one way or the other and lead to a season to either feel alright about or flush completely from the memory. I’m no psychologist, but I assume that the rocky start isn’t a shock for the Wildcats, and a win here would be a giant boost to their morale. Conversely, the Spartans have been very successful in recent years, especially last season when they were in the playoffs. Recent events have to be rather disconcerting to them. I think Northwestern comes into this contest hyped up and ready to turn things around, while Michigan St.’s spirit may have already been broken. Zach thinks Northwestern is too inconsistent and believes Michigan St.’s defense will get the job done.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Stanford                       at      Notre Dame (-3)

photo.stanfordtreeUsually this is an important game between two highly ranked teams. This year…not so much. The Irish lost half their team to NotreDame1the NFL and are currently 2-4. Stanford has seen the Heisman buzz for RB/WR Christian McCaffrey virtually disappear in the throes of a two game losing streak that has them at 3-2. Part of me believes that Notre Dame HAS to win this game, since pride & defending their home turf are about the only worthy goals remaining, but I can’t fight this feeling that Stanford…atleast for this season…is the better team. Zach likes Notre Dame QB Deshone Kizer and thinks he’ll lead the Irish to victory.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

Ohio St. (-10)               at      Wisconsin

I didn’t have the Badgers anywhere near my pre-season Top 25. I just didn’t see any room for them to succeed in the loaded Big Ten. However, they WisconsinBadgersare capably filling the Top 10 spot I thought would be held by the faltering Iowa Hawkeyes. Of course no one is surprised by the 5-0 Buckeyes, who’ve barely broken a sweat thus far. That’ll change this week. I’d be surprised if Ohio St. lost, but I don’t think they’ll win by double digits on the road. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

Philadelphia (-2.5)      at      Washington

Washington_Redskins_logoThe NFC East might be the best, most competitive division in the NFL. Dallas is better than I thought they’d be, and the NY philadelphia_eagles-3715Giants are hanging around. This is an important game for Philly & the Redskins since the winner would stay on pace with the Cowboys. Rookie QB Carson Wentz has been impressive for the 3-1 Eagles, while the 3-2 Redskins don’t have much of a running attack and have relied completely on QB Kirk Cousins. It’s interesting that Washington isn’t getting the usual home field bump. The oddsmakers clearly have an opinion on which is the better team, but I’m going to go against the grain and pick the upset. Zach literally flipped a coin…I think…and is going with the favorites.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

Carolina (-3)                 at      New Orleans

New-Orleans-Saints-Logo-244x300In my NFL Preview I stated that I didn’t think the Panthers would fall prey the usual foibles of Super Bowl losers. That assessment CarolinaPanthersmay have been wrong. Not only is Carolina 1-4, but QB Cam Newton has been concussed and missed last week’s game. It looks like he’ll be back this week, and fortunately for he & his struggling team they face the equally dismal 1-3 Saints. Or is it fortunate?? The Superdome will be rockin’, and what better way to right the ship then for Drew Brees to lead his troops past the defending NFC champs?? I’m not sure either team can catch the Atlanta Falcons in the division, but a win here could conceivably catapult the victor into wildcard contention. Zach is looking for a high scoring game and thinks Newton will lead his team to a win.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     Carolina

 

 

Dallas                           at      Green Bay (-4.5)

Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetThis should be a really good game. Rookie QB Dak Prescott has been better than Cowboys fans could have ever expected in thedallas-cowboys-logo2 absence of Tony Romo, and fellow rookie Zeke Elliot might be the best running back in the NFL at the moment. I am not among those that think that Romo has already lost his starting gig, but I’m sure he’ll be on a short leash upon his return. For the powers-that-be in Dallas it’s a nice problem to have. Meanwhile, the Packers seem like a forgotten team, lost in the shadow of division foe Minnesota. If Prescott can go into the unfriendly environment of The Frozen Tundra and snag a victory I’ll be more than impressed…but I don’t believe that’s going to happen. Zach, on the other hand, likes the Cowboys’ offensive line a lot and thinks they are a legit title contender.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 1

football-introducing-the-science_1Annnnnnndddd we’re back!! Football has returned, and so have my nephew Zach & myself to prove that we’re just as smart as the talking heads on ESPN & other sports news outlets. The goal is simple for me my friends…to make it thru the season. Last year we didn’t get past Week 10 because I ended up spending the latter half of November, all of December, & the first part of January in the hospital. There are moments in life when one is faced with obstacles and what matters becomes clear. In the grand scheme of things I understand that this blog, these picks, and football games in general don’t mean a whole lot, but I am so blessed & grateful to be able to exercise my creative juices and embrace my love of something as ultimately frivolous as sports. It may seem silly to some, and I have several friends who’ll spend their weekends doing a hundred other things before watching a ballgame even crosses their mind. That’s cool…but I am totally psyched about spending the next five months of weekends engrossed in one of the most awesome forms of entertainment on the planet. If you have entered The Manoverse to check out these picks I assume we’re in agreement on that.

 

As usual college football starts before the NFL, but fortunately the playoff system has forced teams to re-evaluate their schedule strength. Back in theCollege-Football-Map old days (just a few years ago) we’d be lucky to get even a few watchable, competitive games in the first couple weeks of the season. However, now the powers-that-be recognize the importance of coming out of the gate with a bang and grabbing some attention, so there are a plethora of games on tap that are worthy of attention. We’ll settle into our normal routine of picking five games next week, but will get things started with some bonus picks. As always I remind you that we are just fans and claim no intimate insider knowledge. Also, point spreads are included only to add a layer of intrigue & strategery. We are not here to encourage or endorse gambling, although what y’all do with your disposable income is your choice. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma (-10.5)        vs.              Houston

I have the Sooners as my pre-season #2, with Houston also in the Top 10. This game is being played at the home stadium of the NFL’s Houston oklahomaTexans rather than the Cougars’ normal home field, which shouldn’t make a difference one way or another except that there will be 70k in the stands versus 40k. Houston, TX is over 400 miles away from Norman, OK, so I assume there will be a distinct fan partiality for the underdogs. I suppose that there are those who feel like there is a legitimate chance for an upset. I am not one of those people. So then the question becomes whether or not Oklahoma will cover the points. I don’t anticipate that will be an issue. If Houston can stay within three TDs then finish the remainder of the season without another loss they still might be a solid Top 10 team. Zach believes this game will be a blowout win for the Sooners.

My Pick:         Oklahoma

Z’s Pick:         Oklahoma

 

 

 

UCLA                            at                Texas A&M (-3)

texas_am_01The Bruins return QB Josh Rosen from a solid yet underachieving 9-5 team last season. However they lost RB Paul Perkins & ucla_bruins2LB Myles Jack to the NFL. Is Rosen the next Andrew Luck?? Or is he the next Jimmy Clausen?? I’m willing to bet he’s closer to the former than the latter. The bigger concern is UCLA’s defense, which gave up anywhere from 31-56 points in those five losses in 2015. The Aggies have the nominal home field point advantage, but I suspect that in reality the benefit will be greater. A&M’s QB situation has been interesting the past few years. 2015 starter Kyler Murray transferred to Oklahoma and will be the Sooners’ signal caller this season. Kenny Hill, who began 2014 as the top QB in College Station, transferred last year and will be the starter for the TCU Horned Frogs. Last season at A&M Murray lost his job to Kyle Allen, who has now transferred to Houston. So who is starting for A&M behind center?? Well…that’d be Trevor Knight, who was Oklahoma’s starter in 2014 before losing the job last year to Baker Mayfield, who had transferred to Oklahoma from Texas Tech. I think I have all of that straight. I don’t know…my head is spinning a bit. At any rate, I am looking for this to be a high scoring, close game, but I like the Aggies to win & cover. Zach not only doesn’t agree about the outcome, but is oddly unenthusiastic about watching this game.

My Pick:         Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:         UCLA

 

 

 

Georgia (-2.5)              vs.              North Carolina

The Bulldogs have a new head coach for the first time in 15 years. Mark Richt has moved on to Miami, FL, and former Alabama defensive coordinator carolinaKirby Smart takes over the reins in Athens. Georgia is coming off a 10-3 finish last season and RB Nick Chubb returns after missing the latter half of 2015 with a knee injury. I suspect that Smart will have the defense ready to rock & roll, but I have questions about the state of Chubb’s recovery and what else Georgia has on offense if they are unable to completely rely on their star running back. The Tar Heels had a fine 11-3 season last year, but must start anew at the quarterback position. However they do return most of last year’s contributors elsewhere, including WR Ryan Switzer & RB Elijah Hood, who is a 6ft. 220lb. hoss. This is a “neutral” site game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, meaning it’s not really all that neutral. Despite that fact I’m going to roll the dice and pick the upset. Kirby Smart doesn’t have Nick Saban around anymore, and I think it might take him some time to grow into his new role. Zach thinks special teams will be the key, and he is picking the upset as well.

My Pick:         North Carolina

Z’s Pick:         North Carolina

 

 

 

Notre Dame (-3.5)       at                Texas

Charlie Strong’s critical season begins with a huge game against a tough opponent, but fortunately for the Longhorns the game is in Austin. The Irish TEXAS LONGHORNS.1271817676lost over a dozen players to the NFL. It looks like they’ll be giving time behind center to both QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle. But who will they be throwing or handing off to, and who’ll be protecting them?? And can the defense find new stars to replace those that have moved on?? Texas is in the third year of the Strong era, and the first two haven’t gone well. 6-7 & 5-7 doesn’t cut it in the Lone Star State folks. But here a fantastic opportunity presents itself…a non-conference game at home against a much heralded team that must replace a huge chunk of their roster and may not be on solid footing early on. Word on the street is that Texas will be starting a hotshot freshman QB. Heck…why not?? Nothing else has worked. This could be considered a must-win for Texas, as the Big 12 (which has ten teams) schedule is usually always tough. It’s probably not the wise choice, but I’m rolling with another upset here. Zach thinks that Notre Dame’s on-field changes & off-field issues will catch up to them and once again is picking the upset.

My Pick:         Texas

Z’s Pick:         Texas

 

 

 

LSU (-10)                     vs.              Wisconsin

Leonard Fournette. Learn it. Love it. You’ll be hearing the name a lot this year. The Tigers’ RB begins the season as the early Heisman favorite after lsu_logo-9547racking up 22 TDs and almost 2000 yards rushing in 2015. Unfortunately three late season losses and a poor showing against Alabama (31 yards, 1 TD) doomed his Heisman chances and his team’s season. The opener is another “neutral” site game that isn’t neutral, as it is being played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Well okay…I think it’s safe to assume the weather conditions in early September won’t be quite so chilly. At any rate, the Badgers are coming off a solid 10-3 season, and tough opening games aren’t anything new for them. In 2015 they lost to Alabama and in 2014 it was a close loss to…LSU. I don’t think the pattern will be broken this year, and I don’t believe the Bayou Bengals will have any problem covering the points. Zach sees LSU as a serious national title contender.

My Pick:         LSU

Z’s Pick:         LSU

 

 

 

Arizona (-1)                  vs.              BYU

BYU_CougarsThe Wildcats finished 2015 with a mediocre 6-6 record, with a lot of high scoring games for both they & their opponents. The ArizonaWildcatsPac 12 is a brutally tough conference, which makes it essential to win non-conference games. BYU is an independent, and their schedule is probably one of the toughest in the nation. This was the case last season as well and the Cougars finished an impressive 9-4. Three of those losses were by a total of 13 points. They play atleast seven teams who could challenge for a Top 25 ranking, although it looks to be a frontloaded docket, meaning if they can get to November with a decent record they’ll have an opportunity to finish strong. I don’t know enough about either team to intelligently analyze the rosters, so this is a total vibe game, and I’m going with the underdogs. Zach believes in Rich Fraudriguez’s spread offense and looks for the ‘Cats to put up some big passing numbers.

My Pick:         BYU

Z’s Pick:         Arizona

 

 

 

USC                               vs.              Alabama (-10.5)

This is a big one…or atleast it should be. A matchup pitting two of college football’s most decorated programs against each other in Week 1 would have AlabamaCrimsonTide2been unheard of not long ago. Having said that, one must ponder whether Southern Cal can currently claim that elite status. After records of 7-6, 9-4, 9-4, & 7-6 the last few years there is no doubt that the Trojans have been good…but not that good. Meanwhile, as we all know, the Tide has rolled to four national titles in nine seasons in the Nick Saban era. If ‘Bama loses more than one game it is major news. That’s got to end at some point, right?? I don’t know…we’ll see. This is a true neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas, so I’m not sure either team will have a notable crowd advantage. Until I see some significant chinks in the armor I can’t go against Alabama. They’ll have a tough time getting thru a super strong SEC unblemished, but I think they’ll easily win & cover this game. Zach concurs, predicting a 35 point win for ‘Bama.

My Pick:         Alabama

Z’s Pick:         Alabama