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

2016 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

cfoot1It’s time!! Glorious football is back!! A bunch of stuffed shirts & bean counters have done their darndest the past several years to ruin the game…conference realignment, draconian rules in the name of “safety”, a long awaited playoff system that is flawed and makes the stark contrast between the haves & have nots even more apparent. Nevertheless, for the next few months weekends will be even sweeter as fans will have several hours of couch potato worthy entertainment available at their fingertips. One positive change that has emerged in the wake of the four team playoff is a focus on strength of schedule, meaning that there are more competitive games in the first few weeks of the season than ever before. Oh sure there are still cupcake games, but their value is so diminished under the playoff system that coaches & athletic directors have been forced to up the ante just a bit. In Week 1 alone I am seeing over a dozen matchups that probably wouldn’t have been on the schedule just a few years ago. And you know who the winners are?? That’s right…you & me…the fans. As far as my methodology in putting together these rankings…well, I really can’t say I have much of a method. I do know a few things. I know that everyone can’t finish undefeated. I know that “power” conference teams cannibalize each other, with big wins sometimes cancelling out big losses…and vice versa. Teams from “lesser” conferences certainly aren’t going to make it to the playoff, and just one or two losses can significantly impact their ranking. I don’t do a ton of research for this because it’s supposed to be fun not work, but I do try to pay attention to things like coaching changes, substantial personnel losses from players moving on to the NFL or simply graduating, and any other turmoil that may have affected a program in the offseason. It is difficult for more than a few teams from a single conference…even the big boys…to end up ranked, so one basically cfoot2must develop a hierarchy. Which teams will be in the hunt for the conference crown and possibly a playoff spot?? Which ones will be good, but lose a couple of games and end up in the lower tier of the poll?? Which teams…despite their talent and vast praise from the talking heads…will finish on the outside looking in?? I’m not an expert so for me it’s just a guessing game based on my vibes & minimal data, but that’s okay. I’d still put my “expertise” up against many members of the sports media who don’t know half as much as they’d like us to believe they do. At any rate, let’s dive in.

 

 

 

 

 

1       Clemson

Last Season:      14-1

Key Games:       9/3 at Auburn, 10/1 vs. Louisville, 10/29 at Florida St.

The Tigers fell just short of winning the national championship last season, but they return QB DeShaun Watson, who looks like the second coming ofclemson Cam Newton. That’s good enough for me to put them in this spot, although they’ll need to overcome a hostile crowd in Tallahassee right before Halloween and take down the Seminoles.

 

 

2       Oklahoma

Last Season:      11-2

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Houston, 9/17 vs. Ohio St., 10/8 vs. Texas, 12/3 vs. Oklahoma St.

I’m predicting that the Big 12 (which has 10 teams) will be a little down this season, leaving the Sooners as the clear favorites. They have tough oklahomanon-conference games against Houston and Ohio State, but both are in the friendly environment of Norman, OK. QB Baker Mayfield & RB Samaje Perine return, and both could be in the Heisman discussion.

 

 

3       Alabama

Last Season:      14-1

Key Games:       9/3 vs. USC, 10/15 at Tennessee, 11/5 at LSU, 11/26 vs. Auburn

Putting The Tide at #1 would be too easy & predictable and that’s not how I roll. The SEC is just too darn tough…I’d AlabamaCrimsonTide2be shocked if anyone came thru it unscathed. The season opener against Southern Cal is a neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas and it won’t be easy. Then ‘Bama has to travel to Knoxville & Baton Rouge. It would surprise me less if this team actually lost 3 or 4 games than it would if they’d go undefeated.

 

 

4       Ohio State

Last Season:      12-1

Key Games:       9/17 at Oklahoma, 11/5 vs. Nebraska, 11/19 at Michigan St., 11/26 vs. Michigan

Remember last year when the Buckeyes had three legit QBs and no one knew how playing time would be distributed?? It’s a way different story this Ohio_State_Buckeyesseason, as both Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller (who switched to WR) are plying their trade in the NFL. That means it’s JT Barrett’s show, and that’s a good thing. Now the question becomes how to replace RB Ezekiel Elliott & defensive standout Joey Bosa. It’s also worth noting that the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) looks like it could be even stronger than usual. I might be ranking this team a little too high given all the obstacles they face, but until someone knocks them off the pedestal I have to give them benefit of the doubt. The opener at Oklahoma will be super tough, but even if Ohio St. loses that game they could still win 10 games and end up in this spot.

 

 

5       LSU

Last Season:      9-3

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Wisconsin, 10/8 at Florida, 11/5 vs. Alabama

We’ve been waiting a few years for the Bayou Bengals to climb back into legit national title contention, and many seem to believe this is the season. lsu_logo-9547RB Leonard Fournette will be in the thick of the Heisman debate. A 31 yard effort against Alabama killed the young man’s momentum last year so it’ll be really interesting to watch that early November contest to see if he can do better.

 

 

6       Florida State

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/5 at Ole Miss, 10/8 at Miami FL, 10/29 vs. Clemson, 11/26 vs. Florida

The Seminoles have enjoyed a relatively smooth ride thru the ACC over the years, winning 15 conference Florida_State_Seminolestitles since 1992. However, I think things might be a little tougher than usual this season. Clemson visits Tallahassee, so that helps. That game could very well decide not only the conference but also a spot in the national title playoff. I also expect the early October tilt at Miami to be more like it was back in the old days when both teams were elite.

 

 

7       Tennessee

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/24 vs. Florida, 10/1 at Georgia, 10/15 vs. Alabama

Could this finally be the year that the Volunteers return to national prominence and actually contend for the SEC title?? A lot of people seem to think 10015tenn_vols_w_helmetso. They haven’t won 10 games in a season since 2007 and are on their 3rd head coach since Phillip Fulmer’s departure after the 2008 season. However I think Butch Jones is finally the one. They’ve improved every year under his guidance and if that upward trend continues the Vols might get to 10 wins this year. They host Alabama in Knoxville which is advantageous.

 

 

8       Houston

Last Season:      13-1

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Oklahoma, 11/25 at Memphis

Everyone fawns over the “power” conference darlings, but there are five “other” conferences and someone’s got to win them, right?? The Cougars houstoneasily won the American Athletic Conference last season and upset Florida St. in the Peach Bowl. They finished in this very spot in the final poll despite an inexplicable loss at Connecticut. I don’t believe they’ll beat Oklahoma in the season opener, but if they can atleast keep that game respectable then run the table they will have the opportunity for another big post-season victory and a Top 10 finish.

 

 

9       Iowa

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/1 vs. Northwestern, 10/22 vs. Wisconsin, 11/12 vs. Michigan, 11/25 vs. Nebraska

Two Big Ten teams finishing in the Top 10 wouldn’t surprise anyone…but which two teams do you prefer?? The Hawkeyes got off to a hot start last iowaseason before ending the year with two losses…a close call against Michigan St. and a beatdown by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The toughest games on the schedule all happen to be at home this year, so that’s positive. Being overlooked is nothing new for Iowa, but objectively speaking I think another 10 win season is easily within their grasp.

 

 

10     Temple

Last Season:      10-4

Key Games:       9/17 at Penn St., 10/6 at Memphis, 10/29 vs. Cincinnati

I suppose I’m hedging my bets a bit with two AAC teams in the Top 10. That probably won’t happen. Back in the day when my WV Mountaineers templeplayed the Owls annually they were pretty much the doormats of the now defunct Big East and their home games were usually poorly attended snoozefests. But last year something clicked. They beat Penn St. in the opener, lost a close one to Notre Dame, & made it to the conference title game. The Irish aren’t on the schedule this season, so it isn’t unreasonable to think that they could be even more successful, and if they find a way to go into Happy Valley and take down the Nittany Lions again that’d be the cherry on top. Could an AAC title game rematch against Houston actually be a highly anticipated, eminently entertaining contest?? Whoa…that’s crazy talk!!

 

 

11     Michigan

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       10/1 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 at Michigan St., 11/12 at Iowa, 11/26 at Ohio St.

Let’s pump the brakes a bit on the Wolverines, okay?? I just finished reading a rather interesting book called End Zone, about the slow implosion of michthe Michigan athletic department & football team over the past several years. Of course all of those issues seemed to fade away into the ether the minute Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach last season, and now all the talking heads are throwing Michigan out there as a potential playoff contender. Upon his hiring I did say that Harbaugh would have this team in national title contention within three years, and one thing I Iearned from the aforementioned book is that former coach Brady Hoke, while probably not ready for prime time as far as game management goes, was well liked, highly respected, & a good recruiter. Harbaugh took the talent that was already there last season and won ten games, up from five victories in 2014. An impressive turnaround indeed. However I am just not ready to put them in the playoff hunt quite yet. They have to go on the road for their three biggest games, and I think they could lose atleast two of them. Jim Harbaugh will get Michigan into the playoff eventually…but not yet.

 

 

12     Boise State

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       10/20 vs. BYU, 11/25 at Air Force

The Broncos did their usual last season…9 wins, an impressive bowl victory…except that they didn’t compete for the conference championship. I thinkboise-state1 they can do better this year. Non-conference games against BYU, Washington St., & Oregon St. are important but not vital. They’ll be out for revenge against Air Force, with the winner of that game likely making it to the Mountain West title game. That’s the goal for Boise, and I think meeting those expectations combined with the attrition of various powerhouses beating each other up might propel the Broncos solidly into the Top 20.

 

 

13     Utah

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/23 vs. USC, 10/8 vs. Arizona, 11/19 vs. Oregon

The Pac 12 really should end up having a team ranked much higher than this, but it’s a tough conference and I think it’s possible that they all utahcannibalize each other into 9-3 records requiring tiebreakers to see who ends up in the title game. The Utes have their biggest games at home so I’m giving them a slight advantage.

 

 

14     Notre Dame

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/4 at Texas, 9/17 at Michigan St., 10/15 at Stanford, 11/26 at USC

Looking at the schedule I am not at all sure that the Irish will win enough games to climb this high. It’s going to be really tough. Is Texas back to being NotreDame1Texas?? Can Michigan St. find a new QB?? Is Stanford being overrated by the talking heads or underrated by me?? Is Southern Cal ready to take back the spotlight?? The answers to all of these questions affect Notre Dame. I’d be shocked if they’re anywhere near the playoff conversation, yet they always seem to find a way to be competitive and win big games. And they ended the Michigan rivalry (for now) just in the nick of time.

 

 

15     Oklahoma State

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       11/24 at Baylor, 10/1 vs. Texas, 12/3 at Oklahoma

While I think Oklahoma is the clear favorite in the Big 12 (which has ten teams) I am picking their in-state rivals from Stillwater to be a respectable oklahoma_state_cowboys_iphone_wallpaperrunner-up. Texas may or may not be up to par quite yet, and unlike many “experts” I believe too much has transpired at Baylor in the off season for them to be serious contenders. That leaves the Cowboys, who could conceivably come into that first weekend in December undefeated to face the also undefeated Sooners. That really would be Bedlam.

 

 

16     Northern Illinois

Last Season:      8-6

Key Games:       11/9 vs. Toledo

Much like the AAC the MAC gets overlooked in the substantial shadow of the “power” conferences. MAC games get huskiesrelegated to Tuesday or Wednesday nights on ESPN, but that’s just fine with me. I rather enjoy the brand of football their teams play. The Huskies won the conference title in 2014 but fell off just a bit last season, losing their last three games, including a shellacking by Boise St. in the Poinsettia Bowl. I’m venturing out on a limb and predicting that they’ll get back to 10 wins, a feat they achieved five straight seasons before last year.

 

 

17     BYU

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Arizona, 9/10 vs. Utah, 9/17 vs. UCLA, 10/8 at Michigan St.

The Cougars used to be a mainstay in this pre-season poll, but they kept disappointing me so I left them off the last couple of years. I’m like my father BYU_Cougarsthough…I can’t stay mad at anyone for long. The great & awful thing about BYU being independent is that they have freedom in scheduling. Freedom is cool, but also a little daunting when the powers-that-be fill the calendar with tough games against top flight opponents. They could start the season 3-0…or 0-3. Most likely it’ll be somewhere in the middle. But things don’t get much easier from there, with October games against Michigan St. & Boise St. If I had money on it or a weapon being held in my face I’d say 7-5 would be a solid record for such a difficult schedule. However since I’m just having some fun I’m going to hope for a couple of upsets. 9 wins against this imposing lineup of opponents would be quite impressive.

 

 

18     Louisiana Tech

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 at Arkansas, 9/17 at Texas Tech, 10/6 vs. Western Kentucky

Someone’s going to win C-USA. My heart belongs to the ol’ alma mater…my Marshall Thundering Herd. Nothing would make me happier than to see louisianatechthem end up in this spot, but I’m trying to be objective or something. I don’t know. The season opener against SEC foe Arkansas is a bit daunting, but an upset wouldn’t be shocking. Can the Bulldogs run the table after that even if they don’t get the win in that first game?? It’s possible. I feel like a lot of talking heads and opposing coaches might overlook this team due to RB Kenneth Dixon moving on to the NFL. That might be perfectly valid…or a huge mistake.

 

 

19     USC

Last Season:      8-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Alabama, 9/23 at Utah, 11/19 at UCLA, 11/26 vs. Notre Dame

The Trojans have only won 27 games the past three seasons. That would be great for most teams, but this is not most teams. Finishing outside the USC_Trojans2national title conversation and playing in a December bowl game is not good enough for the folks in Southern California. Head coach Clay Helton was given the job last year after the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian, and one must assume that he has a very short leash. Finishing with 8 or 9 wins against a challenging schedule would go a long way toward some job security.

 

 

20     Michigan State

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       9/17 at Notre Dame, 9/24 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 vs. Michigan, 11/19 vs. Ohio St.

The Spartans looked great last season, with only a controversial loss in the waning seconds against Nebraska as a blemish. But then they ran into a michstbuzzsaw in the playoff semifinal, getting rolled by the Tide. Because they have to replace QB Connor Cook and O-Lineman Jack Conklin I foresee just a little dropoff. Not much. They’ll still be a good team…just not winning a conference title or in the playoff conversation.

 

 

21     Texas

Last Season:      5-7

Key Games:       9/4 vs. Notre Dame, 10/1 at Oklahoma St., 10/8 vs Oklahoma, 10/29 vs. Baylor

This is it. In Charlie Strong’s first two seasons as head coach he has an 11-14 record. I think this is a make or break year for him. Either he wins 8+ texasgames or he’s unemployed. The pre-Halloween game against Baylor might be a critical contest. If the Longhorns can’t beat the Bears in Austin after everything that has occurred in Waco the past several months then perhaps Strong deserves to be shown the door.

 

 

22     Arizona

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. BYU, 10/1 at UCLA, 10/8 at Utah

Did I mention that the Pac 12 is a really competitive conference?? I’m kind of sad actually, because my current job entails me leaving for work at about ArizonaWildcats10pm on Saturday nights, which means I will miss out on the pleasure of staying up til 1am watching those last few west coast games that are oftentimes a lot of fun. Ah well…c’est la vie. Anyway, the Wildcats fell off last season after winning 10 games in 2014. Can they get back on track?? Both RB Nick Wilson (725 yards rushing, 8 TDs) and QB Anu Solomon (2600+ yards passing, 20 TDs) return, although the defense must replace linebacker Scooby Wright who has moved on to the NFL. I think improving to 8 or 9 wins in a tough Pac 12 will be good enough to sneak into the rankings.

 

 

23     Miami, FL

Last Season:      8-5

Key Games:       10/8 vs. Florida St., 10/29 at Notre Dame

After being one of the elite teams of the 1980’s & 90’s the Hurricanes have endured some struggles the past decade, not winning 10 games since 2003.miamiu2 But there’s a new sheriff in town. Head coach Mark Richt won 74% of his games in 15 seasons at Georgia, and now he returns to his alma mater to help them achieve the success that eluded the past 2 or 3 coaches. Miami has shown flashes of their former glory the past few years but couldn’t quite get over the hump. I don’t expect them to compete for a conference title, especially with Clemson & Florida St. standing in the way, but 8 or 9 wins doesn’t seem like an unreasonable goal.

 

 

24     Nebraska

Last Season:      6-7

Key Games:       9/17 vs. Oregon, 10/29 at Wisconsin, 11/5 at Ohio St., 11/25 at Iowa

I might regret this pick, but I’m going to take a chance anyway. Back in the day when I was growing up Nebraska was one of the cornerstone programs nebraskaof college football. I don’t know if it is location, bad management, poor coaching, or a move to the Big Ten a few years ago, but the Cornhuskers seem like a forgotten team nowadays. They are 24-15 over the past three seasons, including last year’s disaster under first year coach Mike Riley. They have been completely eclipsed in the news cycle by Ohio St., Michigan, Iowa, Michigan St., and even Wisconsin & Northwestern. If Riley has another subpar season he might be another guy on the chopping block, but if he can guide his team to a couple of upsets and get to that 8/9 win level then he’ll live to coach another season in Lincoln.

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/17 at Nebraska, 11/5 at USC, 11/12 vs. Stanford, 11/19 at Utah

The Ducks have won atleast 9 games in each of the past nine seasons. That’s impressive. I honestly couldn’t name one member of the team without oregonusing Google, but I know that Oregon seems like one of those programs that just reloads instead of rebuilding, and while they certainly won’t be in the national title conversation or probably be a legit threat to win the conference I think it is likely that they win 8 games and score an upset or two along the way.

2015 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 10

football-introducing-the-science_1Greetings citizens!! Let’s jump right in by saying that both Zach & I were 2-3 last week. Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse. I continue to be amazed how accurately oddsmakers are in pinpointing a spread. I’m sure there’s a lot that goes into all of that. Thankfully I’m not much of a gambler. I wouldn’t like the stress. At any rate, for the season Zach’s record stands at 20-29, while your humble Potentate of Profundity fell to 32-17. I think we have some pretty decent games on the docket this week. The college football playoff committee announced their initial rankings, so now we’ll have a good idea just what games matter and what a win or loss may do for various teams. As far as the NFL, it looks like atleast a few divisions may be already wrapped up. Injuries have played a significant part in the…non-success…of several teams. I suppose that’s not unusual, but it seems particularly harsh this year for some reason. Anyway, let’s make some picks. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Florida St. at Clemson (-12.5)
Clemson tops the initial playoff rankings, and to be honest this looks like the only possible roadblock between them and the Final Four. The Seminoles Florida_State_Seminolesaren’t too shabby themselves, but a loss to now 3-6 Georgia Tech a few weeks ago has probably shut them out of the playoff conversation. First of all, I’m a little surprised by the points. You’d think Florida St. was a .500 team who’d lost games to 1-AA opponents, which is just not the case. If this game was in Tallahassee I may be inclined to pick the outright upset. However, even though it is in “Death Valley” I just don’t like the spread. Florida St. has an opportunity to knock off a #1 team and significantly impact the playoff…yet they are supposed to lose by nearly two TDs?? I don’t think so. Zach is on the same wavelength. He believes whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win, and he thinks that’ll be Clemson…but by far fewer than 12.5 points.

My Pick: Florida State
Z’s Pick: Florida State

 

 

 

TCU (-5) at Oklahoma St.
The powers-that-be obviously have little regard for the Big 12 (which has ten teams). Undefeated Baylor is ranked 6th, while the Horned Frogs are TCU Cool Logoundefeated also and ranked 8th. This is an opportunity for TCU to not only leapfrog Baylor, but also move up a couple of spots and patiently await other dominoes to inevitably tumble. The Cowboys aren’t an easy win though. They are undefeated too (I’m sensing a pattern) and 14th in the rankings. Too much probably has to happen that simply won’t for them to make it to the Final Four, but much like Florida St. they can play a spoiler role. Oklahoma St. has the home field, but TCU has a lot more on the line. I don’t think they’ll screw it up. Both myself & Zach are impressed with Horned Frogs’ QB Treyvone Boykin, and he is likely to make the difference.

My Pick: TCU
Z’s Pick: TCU

 

 

 

LSU at Alabama (-6.5)
Somewhere in Bristol, CT the entire college football lineup of talking heads is having a collective nocturnal emission over this game, and even I admit lsu_logoit’s pretty big. LSU is ranked 2nd right now, while Alabama is 4th, so this is essentially an elimination game. Some have opined that ‘Bama didn’t deserve to be amongst the top four, but I am neither surprised nor all that offended mostly because I know how meaningless all of that is right now. The Tide gets the home field points bump which is also just fine by me. I think this will be a low scoring defensive battle with lots of red zone stops and field goals. I’m not sure who’ll come out on top, but I’m confident that whoever wins will do so by less than a touchdown. Zach’s heart is with ‘Bama but he thinks LSU is likely to pull this one out.

My Pick: LSU
Z’s Pick: LSU

 

 

 

Miami at Buffalo (-3)
Sadly neither of these teams has a prayer of catching the New England Patriots in the AFC East. A wildcard berth isn’t looking too promising either. In Miami_Dolphins_Helmetmy NFL Preview I had positive thoughts about both clubs, but both have underachieved. The Bills don’t have a franchise QB, and the Dolphins have already fired their coach. Miami seemed to jump to life under the leadership of their interim coach until they ran into the hated Patriots who deflated the Dolphins since it’s kind of their thing. Buffalo has the slight home field advantage, but at this stage Miami feels like the slightly better team. I suppose that could be called damning with faint praise. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami

 

 

 

St. Louis at Minnesota (-2.5)
vikingshelmet1I predicted that the Vikings would be a playoff contender and so far they are looking good. The Rams are doing okay too. They St_Louis_Ramseven have a better record than the Seattle Seahawks (a situation I don’t expect to last). On paper this doesn’t seem like an appealing game, but it could prove to be rather important for the winner. I’m not ready to declare either team a serious Super Bowl threat, but they do both seem to be taking a step forward. Minnesota feels like they’re a notch or two ahead at this point. Zach sees this as a tossup but likes St. Louis’ rookie RB Todd Gurley to pave the way to victory.

My Pick: Minnesota
Z’s Pick: St. Louis

2015 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 5

kickoff_footballLast week I swung for the fences…with mixed results. Both Zach & I went 5-3. I absolutely nailed the wacky Texas Tech/TCU finish, and The Vibes guided me correctly in a very close Colts/Titans game. Zach wisely picked the Utes of Utah, who mauled a shockingly inept Oregon squad, and also took the Green Bay Packers. I suppose the KC Chiefs aren’t as good as I thought they were. So far in 2015 the numbers look like this:

Me = 16-7           Z = 11-12

The schedule is a bit tricky this week. There are a handful of potentially good games, but I really try to have variety in these picks. I don’t want to focus on the same few teams every week. That’s difficult in college football because the cream tends to rise to the top and it is tempting to gravitate toward matchups featuring the same highly ranked teams over & over. It’s even harder with the NFL, which has only 32 teams and fans tend to lose interest in those that we can already see are going to be terrible, which narrows the pool even more. The point spread shouldn’t play a significant role in any of these games, but then again I could have said the same thing last week and I ended up winning two games in which the points did matter. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Minnesota at Northwestern (-3.5)
Northwestern_WildcatsIt seems like every few years Northwestern pops up with a solid season in which they take up residence in the polls and end up minnesotalanding in a nice bowl location. I always know when it’s that kind of year for the Wildcats since one of their biggest fans is my man Greeny from ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, a 1989 graduate of the school. Minnesota was a consistent Top 25 team last year and are off to a pretty decent start this season, with the only blemish being a close loss to highly ranked TCU in the season opener. I am far from an expert on either of these teams, but I would assume we can expect characteristic hard-hitting Big Ten football, a low scoring affair dominated by defense. There may be some concern about Northwestern looking past this game and ahead to next week’s battle with Michigan, but I’d actually be more worried about that if they were playing a lesser opponent. They won’t overlook Minnesota, and I think the home team wins by a touchdown. Zach disagrees and is picking Minnesota to win by a field goal.

My Pick – Northwestern
Z’s Pick – Minnesota

 

 

Alabama at Georgia (-2)
AlabamaCrimsonTide2This is the first game since 2009 in which Alabama has been the underdog. Wow. That’s impressive. The reason folks are georgiadoubting them is a surprising loss to Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago. They also don’t seem to have a QB that impresses anyone, which is an issue. Conversely, the Bulldogs are undefeated and just keep handing the rock to RB Nick Chubb, who is averaging nearly 150 yds/game. This is a must win for ‘Bama if they hope to make it to the playoff. Two losses would kill that dream. We’ll know a lot more about these two teams when this one is over. Is the uncertainty about the Tide valid?? Are the Bulldogs for real?? The question I have is whether or not Georgia has a Plan B if the Alabama defense stuffs Chubb. I don’t think he’s getting 150 yards this week. He may not get 100. Can they chuck the ball downfield and get the job done thru the air?? I’ll believe it if I see it. Alabama with their backs against the wall is dangerous. Zach is putting his mancrush on Nick Saban on the backburner, choosing Georgia to win by two TDs.

My Pick – Alabama
Z’s Pick – Georgia

Notre Dame at Clemson (-1.5)
NotreDameFightingIrishThe talking heads have been bragging on Clemson since before the season began, many of them predicting that the Tigers clemsonwould win the ACC. Meanwhile I have been much higher on Notre Dame than most. My enthusiasm has been tempered just a bit because of all the injuries the Irish have suffered, but they’re 4-0 without the benefit of as easy of a schedule as most have played thus far. This will be Clemson’s first real test and they do have the home field. The winner of this game will be nicely positioned for a playoff run, although it is far too early to really think in those terms. It may not be the wise choice, but I’m pretty stubborn about sticking with my pre-season vibes until I am proven wrong, so I have to lean toward the underdogs. Zach believes that Clemson is the real deal, and isn’t buying the luck of the Irish.

My Pick – Notre Dame
Z’s Pick – Clemson

 

 

NY Jets (-1.5) vs Miami
Miami_Dolphins_HelmetIt’s early, but it is entirely possible that I may have completely misjudged both of these teams. I thought Miami would be solid Jets-Pin-Proand in the hunt for a wildcard playoff spot, but they’ve gotten off to a 1-2 start. People are criticizing the non-impact of free agent defensive end Ndamukong Suh and there are whispers that Joe Philbin could be the first head coach in the unemployment line this season. Conversely, the Jets have already secured the 2 victories that I predicted they’d get for the entire season and the reviews have been much more positive than most expected. This game is in London, England which means that those of us on the east coast will have to watch it at 9:30am, and I can’t imagine that there’ll be anyone out west getting up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning for it. The NFL really needs to rethink this London thing. Anyway, I’m just not buying the good vibes coming out of New York and I still believe the Dolphins are the better team. Zach does buy what the Jets are selling and thinks they’ll win the game easily.

My Pick – Miami
Z’s Pick – NY Jets

 

 

St. Louis at Arizona (-6.5)
nflarizonacardinalsThe Cardinals just might be the best non-cheating franchise in the NFL at the moment. If QB Carson Palmer can remain healthy (a huge IF) they could be a legitimate challenger to Seattle for the division title. Meanwhile, the Rams occasionally show potential but something just seems to be missing. Whatever that something may be is unlikely to suddenly show up in the desert this week. Zach concurs.

My Pick – Arizona
Z’s Pick – Arizona