2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 1

Football season really snuck up on me!! There were actually a few college games last weekend, but I didn’t realize it until the night before. I suppose I’m a little out of practice since we took a break from these picks a year ago. Thankfully those games, which ESPN called Week Zero (seriously), weren’t anything…notable. But this week?? Folks, we have interesting matchups from Thursday to Sunday, which is great since our local Italian Heritage Festival…a northcentral WV tradition for over four decades…has been cancelled for the second straight year due to The Sickness and I suddenly find myself with no weekend plans other than watching football. A big shoutout to my nephew Zach who will once again be doing picks with me this season. Two years ago he ended the season with a .500 record of 52-52, while I was 61-43. Zach has already called his shot and predicted that he’ll best me this season. We’ll see.

Boise State at Central Florida (-5)

Neither team is really in the “Group of 5” spotlight anymore, and both are probably praying they’ll get invited to “move up” in the upcoming conference realignment chaos. The Broncos finished 5-2, skipped out on bowl season, and their head coach bolted for Auburn. New head coach Andy Avalos was a longtime Boise St. assistant before spending last season as the defensive coordinator at Oregon. After three straight 10+ win seasons (including going undefeated in 2017) UCF fell to 6-4 a year ago, including a bowl loss to BYU. UCF gets the home field bump in this Thursday night game, but I think Boise comes into town and steals a win for their new coach. Zach concurs, predicting a high scoring affair in which the Broncos’ ground game makes the difference.

My Pick: Boise St.

Z’s Pick: Boise St.

Ohio State (-13.5) at Minnesota

I have defending CFP runner-up Ohio St. as my preseason #1, while Zach despises them with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. The Gophers had won bowl games in 4 out of the previous 5 seasons before last year’s pedestrian 3-4 campaign. I’m not holding anything bad that happened a season ago against anyone, so there is reason to believe that they could be a winning team once again…but Minnesota isn’t beating the Buckeyes. The points make me a bit nervous, but I think the favorites roll big & cover easily. This is also a Thursday night game. Zach doesn’t think Ohio St. will have any issues replacing departed QB Justin Fields, and they may even get into the playoff again…but will choke once they arrive. As far as this game, he calls the Gophers scrappy and believes they could stay close for atleast a half, but at the end of the day the favorites will win.

My Pick: Ohio St.

Z’s Pick: Ohio St.

North Carolina (-5.5) at Virginia Tech

The Tar Heels are a Top 10 team according to some polls, but not mine. I think they’ll have a nice season, but they aren’t winning the ACC. The Hokies haven’t had a 10 win season since 2016, and a year ago they finished 5-6. How’s that move to the ACC working out for them?? I know Tech has the home field, and strange things happen at Lane Stadium after dark, but I foresee a blowout for the favorites on Friday night. Like myself, Zach has doubts about Carolina’s playoff worthiness, but thinks they’ll be pretty good. He believes this will be a closer game than I do, but still predicts the Heels will cover.

My Pick: UNC

Z’s Pick: UNC

Stanford at Kansas State (-2.5)

The Wildcats have been getting some pre-season love and should be in the top half of the Big 12 after finishing 4-6 a year ago. Meanwhile, Stanford feels like a forgotten team in the Pac 12, which seems unfair. Putting aside last year’s 4-8 finish, Stanford had won 9+ games eight of the previous nine seasons. Kansas St. has the home field, but I think it’ll be a comfortable win for the visitors. Zach recalls that Kansas St. oftentimes begins the season strong before fading away, but thinks Stanford’s size & strength will make the difference.

My Pick: Stanford

Z’s Pick: Stanford

Penn State at Wisconsin (-5.5)

This might end up being one of the best games of the (real) opening weekend. After winning 11 games in three of the previous four seasons the Nittany Lions were a pedestrian 4-5 in 2020, but I’m not concerned at all. The Badgers had won 10+ games in five of the previous six seasons until last year when they were 4-3. Both teams will be looking to put a forgettable season behind them, and I look for both to be successful in that endeavor. The loser here is behind the proverbial 8-Ball right out of the gate though, and I think that’ll be Penn St. Look for Wisconsin to run the ball a lot and their offensive line to wear out the opposing defense before surging to victory in the 4th quarter. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Wisconsin

Z’s Pick: Wisconsin

Fresno State at Oregon (-21)

The Ducks are my pre-season #3, and if they’re going to get the playoff committee’s attention a dominant victory in the season opener would be a good start. Fresno seems to have a solid team more often than not, but they’re not winning this game. Can Oregon cover the points?? I think so. Conversely, Zach foresees first game jitters for Oregon being just enough to allow Fresno to keep things closer than three TDs.

My Pick: Oregon

Z’s Pick: Fresno St.

Alabama (-18.5) vs. Miami (FL)

There was a time when this would have been the top matchup of the week. Unfortunately ‘Bama has simply gotten too good (and boring), while the ‘Canes aren’t the powerhouse they once were. Still though, given the storied history of both programs, if we close our eyes and use our imagination we might be able to fool ourselves into believing this is a game awash in nostalgia & greatness. The truth?? As decent as Miami has been lately they’ve only gotten to nine wins three times in the past decade and The Tide will roll in Atlanta. Can they cover the points?? Sure. I think Alabama wins by three TDs. Zach is a big Nick Saban fan and thinks the favorites pull away in the second half for a comfortable win.

My Pick: Alabama

Z’s Pick: Alabama

Georgia vs Clemson (-4)

This is the best game of the weekend. Both teams have legit playoff hopes. The Dawgs face a formidable schedule and will need to beat Alabama in the SEC title game. Conversely, this is the toughest game of the season for Clemson until they get to the ACC Championship. It won’t be easy, but I believe Georgia waltzes into Charlotte, NC and steals a late victory via turnover or some kind of special teams wackiness. Zach also thinks it will be close, but foresees Clemson winning by a touchdown in the last three minutes of game.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Clemson

Notre Dame (-7) at Florida State

Since the NFL doesn’t begin their season until next week this is a Sunday night game, which is cool. Can the Seminoles regain some semblance of their former glory after being a dumpster fire the past few years?? I’m not sure whether or not that’ll happen, but if so it won’t be in this game. The Irish have their eyes on another 10+ win season, something they have accomplished five out of the past eight years, including a playoff appearance a year ago. I predict more of the same in 2021, including an easy win in this one. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Notre Dame

Z’s Pick: Notre Dame

2021 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

So…it took football to pull me out of the abyss. Y’all may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything here for about six months. There are reasons for that, but this isn’t the time for such a therapy session.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to college football. I am excited about its return, and so glad there will be crowded stadiums once again this season. Watching games just wasn’t the same a year ago, and it didn’t help that one never knew how things might be affected week to week by The Sickness. The chaos this offseason though hasn’t been virus related. There is talk of expanding the playoff. That’s not surprising, but I’m not a fan of a 16 team playoff…I like the idea of 6, or 8 at most. Players are also legally able to get paid now. I don’t know all the ins & outs so I’ll tread lightly and just say it is what it is and I’m not all that enthused about it. Conference realignment is back too, as Texas & Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 in a few years and heading the SEC. More dominoes will fall, and the landscape will change dramatically in the near future.

Having said all that, I am thrilled that football and the relative normalcy of enjoying it as a fan has come back into our lives. I’m happy to do this preseason poll, the upcoming NFL Preview, and weekly picks with my nephew. And I’m damn sure blessed to have this little corner of the info superhighway.

25 Liberty

Last Season: 10-1

Key Games:   9/24@ Syracuse, 11/6@ Ole Miss, 11/20 vs. Lousiana, 11/27 vs. Army

In just their second full season in the FBS division the Flames were 10-1, with road victories over Syracuse & Virginia Tech. Can they have similar success this year?? Maybe. They face the Orange again, then finish the regular season by traveling to Ole Miss then hosting Louisiana & Army. Liberty will need to win 10 games again to sneak into the rankings, but I think that’s doable if they split those four games.

24 West Virginia

Last Season:     6-4

Key Games:     9/18 vs. Virginia Tech, 9/25@ Oklahoma, 10/30 vs. Iowa St., 11/20 vs. Texas

Neal Brown enters his third season as the Mountaineers’ head coach, and it’s time to prove to fans that we really can “trust the climb”. As a lifelong resident of the Mountain State I’m looking for nine wins. As much as we’d love to be in the playoff conversation the truth is that most WVU fans are smart enough to not expect that on a regular basis, but winning 8 or 9 games and playing in a top tier bowl should never be out of reach. If Brown can pull off a couple of upsets and land in the rankings at the end we’ll be more inclined to give him our trust.

23 North Carolina

Last Season:     8-4

Key Games:  10/9 vs. Florida St., 10/16 vs. Miami (FL), 10/30@ Notre Dame

Most polls have the Tar Heels ranked much higher, but I’m just not buying it. I like head coach Mack Brown and I’m glad he’s re-energized his career after things fizzled out at Texas, but the ACC is sneaky tough. No one knows what to expect from Florida St. these days, but I’ll always consider that a tough game. UNC has the Hurricanes of Miami at home, which should be a great game, but I don’t believe they’ll beat the Irish in South Bend. This feels like another 8-ish win season. Not bad…but not elite.

22 Iowa

Last Season:     6-2

Key Games:    9/11@ Iowa St., 10/9 vs. Penn St., 10/30@ Wisconsin

I’m a big fan of good old fashioned smashmouth football, and we can usually count on Big Ten teams like the Hawkeyes to have a huge offensive line that makes that even more fun. While I do not believe that Iowa is a threat to win the conference I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull off an upset or two and win 8 or 9 games.

21 USC

Last Season:     5-1

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Utah, 11/6@ Arizona St., 11/27 vs. BYU

Southern Cal has been decent the past couple of years, but let’s face it…that’s not good enough for one of the premier programs in college football. Clay Helton enters his sixth season as the Trojans’ head coach, and I have to believe his seat might be getting a bit warm. The October game against Utah could make or break the season.

20 Coastal Carolina

Last Season:     11-1

Key Games:     9/10 vs. Kansas, 10/20@ Appalachian St.

A chanticleer, in case you’re curious, is a rooster. Why the powers-that-be have not booked a Coastal vs. South Carolina game is beyond me…I’ll let y’all figure out why that would be marketing nirvana. At any rate, Coastal was an overtime loss in the Cure Bowl against Liberty from going undefeated last season, and I don’t expect much of a dropoff. The Kansas Jayhawks are rarely very good in football, but a victory over a Big 12 team would be impressive for Coastal. If you’d have told me a few years ago that a Coastal Carolina/Appalachian State game would be intriguing I would not have believed it, but I have a feeling my eyes will be glued to the TV on October 20.

19 Miami (FL)

Last Season:    8-3

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Alabama, 9/18 vs. Michigan St., 10/16@ North Carolina

Much like USC the ‘Canes usually have higher goals than 8/9 wins and a Top 25 finish, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and after several lean years Miami is back to atleast being pretty good. Can they compete for an ACC title?? Ehhh…maybe, although I’d consider it a long shot. As much as I would love to see an upset of Alabama in the season opener I do not think that’ll happen, but wins over Michigan State & UNC are not out of the question.

18 Army

Last Season:     9-3

Key Games:     10/16@ Wisconsin, 11/27@ Liberty

I’ve always been a big fan of the service academies’ football games for a variety of reasons, and it has been fun to watch the Black Knights’ success, as they’ve won 9+ games three out of the past four years (I’m not sure what happened in 2019). Do I think they’ll go into Madison and upset the Badgers?? No. Do I think they can go into enemy territory and beat Liberty?? Absolutely. Another nine win season should assure an appearance in the final rankings, and I believe that’s exactly what we’ll see.

17 Arizona State

Last Season:     2-2

Key Games:     9/18@ BYU, 10/16@ Utah, 11/6 vs. USC, 11/13@ Washington

I have expressed my admiration for head coach Herm Edwards in the past. How can anyone not like Herm?? This will be his fourth year at the helm in Tempe, and they had winning records in the first two before last season’s weirdness. Can they kick it up a notch to the next level?? The Pac 12 is kind of a mystery. On paper the conference looks loaded, but inevitably someone is going to have a worse season than expected. If the Sun Devils lose all four of they key games noted above then…surprise…they are that team and the joke is on me, which is entirely possible. However, I’m betting on my man Herm to not let me down.

16 LSU

Last Season:     5-5

Key Games:   10/2 vs. Auburn, 10/16 vs. Florida, 11/6@ Alabama, 11/27 vs. Texas A&M

Which Bayou Bengals’ team will we see this year?? Will it be the one that won 10+ games six times in ten years and captured national championships in 2017 & 2019, or the one that finished .500 last season?? Since 2020 was such a strange year on multiple levels I’ll give LSU the benefit of the doubt and assume their season was an anomaly. However, I still don’t foresee them being in the conference title hunt or the playoff discussion. They will need to atleast split the key games noted to have a chance at a solid Top 25 finish.

15 Penn State

Last Season:    4-5

Key Games:     9/4@ Wisconsin, 9/18 vs. Auburn, 10/9@ Iowa, 10/30@ Ohio St.

Not only is the Big Ten stacked, but the Nittany Lions are coming off a losing season, so this prediction makes me a bit nervous. Before last year (which I won’t really take all that seriously given the circumstances) Penn St. had won 11 games in three out of the previous four seasons (they won nine in 2018), so there’s no reason to believe they’ll fall off a cliff. I don’t think they will beat Ohio St. at The Horseshoe, but if they can defeat Auburn at home then split road games at Wisconsin & Iowa they could be looking at a solid Top 25 finish.

14 Wisconsin

Last Season:     4-3

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Penn St., 9/25 vs. Notre Dame, 10/30 vs. Iowa

It’s not so much about including Wisconsin as much as the fact that I simply don’t see a way to leave them out. Other Big Ten teams will get more TV coverage and love from the talking heads, but the Badgers will still line up, ram the ball down opponents’ throats, and grind out ugly wins. That’s what they do, and at some point in late November folks will be looking at the polls and saying “Wisconsin?? Where’d they come from??”.

13 Texas

Last Season:     7-3

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Oklahoma, 11/6@ Iowa St.

The Longhorns still play in the Big 12 and they better enjoy it while they can because I believe they will be very average in the SEC. The winner of the Texas/Iowa St. game in early November will likely meet Oklahoma in the conference title game, although a Texas victory in the Red River Shootout could throw a monkey wrench into that scenario.

12 Cincinnati

Last Season:     9-1

Key Games:     9/18@ Indiana, 10/2@ Notre Dame

I get it, but then again I don’t. A year ago the Bearcats won nine games and finished as a Top 10 team. But that season included victories over Army, SMU, Tulsa, & Central Florida being considered the most impressive. A loss to Georgia in the Peach Bowl was close, but still a loss. So armed with that information I have to believe that a similar season, including another AAC title, could land Cincy back in the same general vicinity. Indiana doesn’t appear in this poll because I think the Big Ten is just too tough and they won’t repeat the same level of success they enjoyed last season, but it’s an important game for Cincinnati. I do not believe a win over Notre Dame is possible, but if the road team can keep it respectably close they could actually gain respect.

11 Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-1

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Alabama, 11/27@ LSU

I will continue to opine that moving from the Big 12 to the SEC was an error in judgment for the Aggies, atleast from a football perspective. God knows they’re enjoying the financial windfall. However, I have also stated that I think head coach Jimbo Fisher (who graduated from the same high school as me, just a few years earlier) is building something in College Station. Will they contend for an SEC title with so many elite teams standing in their way?? I wouldn’t hold my breath for that, but I don’t think an upset or two and a 10 win season is out of reach.

10 Iowa State

Last Season:     9-3

Key Games:     9/11 vs. Iowa, 11/6 vs. Texas, 11/20@ Oklahoma

The Cyclones have been a dangerous team for awhile, and with QB Brock Purdy entering his senior season now seems like a great time to fulfill all that potential. An out of conference game against in state foe Iowa looks intriguing, especially since it’s in Ames, and I think they’ll beat Texas.

9 BYU

Last Season:     11-1

Key Games:     9/11 vs. Utah, 9/18 vs. Arizona St., 10/9 vs. Boise St., 10/16@ Baylor

The Cougars intrigue me. When the aforementioned conference realignment dominoes begin to fall I think BYU will end up with a new home. Pac 12?? Big 12?? Who knows?? Until then part of the fun of them being independent is the schedule, which quite literally all over the map. I am particularly fascinated by the October contest against Boise, who I chose to leave out of this poll though I’m sure they’ll be as competitive as usual. Ranking BYU this high has been a mistake before, but ignoring them has been equally as wrong. They are quite the football enigma, and I dig that.

8 Florida

Last Season:     8-4

Key Games:    9/18 vs. Alabama, 10/16@ LSU, 10/30 vs. Georgia

I’m sure football fans in the deep south enjoy the hell out of the SEC’s dominance, but for the rest of us it has become exhausting. That being said, when doing a poll like this one must decide which teams to include and which ones to leave out, and the fact is I cannot avoid ranking less than five deserving programs. The Gators host ‘Bama but have to go to Death Valley to face LSU. A game against Georgia comes after a bye week which could be advantageous. I expect Florida to lose two of those three games, but they should win everything else with relative ease.

7 Clemson

Last Season:     10-2

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Georgia

Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been?? A loss to the likes of UNC or Miami in the conference title game might be enough to cost them a playoff spot. Am I brave enough to lay money down on that prospect?? Of course not. But it’s a fun scenario to ponder.

6 Alabama

Last Season:     13-0

Key Games:    9/18@ Florida, 10/9@ Texas A&M, 11/6 vs. LSU

I know it’s wrong, but I cannot help myself. With all due respect to Nick Saban & The Tide I will once again opine that I’m simply tired of them. Their dynasty has become tedious. It is likely that this prediction is way off base, that ‘Bama will inevitably find themselves in the playoff even if they lose the SEC title game. The truth is that television (specifically ESPN) controls the college football narrative, and Alabama is good for business. But this is my poll, so indulge me in a little wish fulfillment in which the almighty defending champs stumble once or twice and finish on the outside looking in.

5 Oklahoma

Last Season:     9-2

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Texas, 11/20 vs. Iowa St.

A decade from now I believe the Sooners will regret jumping from the Big 12 to the SEC, but that hasn’t occurred quite yet. For now their path to the playoff doesn’t seem all that tough outside of implicit disrespect of the Big 12, and that may bite them in the ass, especially if Notre Dame takes a playoff spot. The schedule lines up in their favor, with out of conference games they should win easily and Iowa State coming to Norman. The Red River Shootout is, as usual, a neutral site game in Dallas.

4 Notre Dame

Last Season:     10-2

Key Games:     9/25 vs. Wisconsin, 10/23 vs. USC, 10/30 vs. North Carolina

The Irish will always be in the playoff conversation as long as the team is winning games. I don’t know how conference realignment will affect them, but for now the status quo tilts in their favor. All of their key games are in South Bend, and we’ll know by the time November rolls around if they are serious championship contenders.

3 Oregon

Last Season:     4-3

Key Games:     9/11@ Ohio St., 11/20@ Utah

The Pac 12 really messed up last year by preemptively cancelling their season then reconsidering and ultimately having an abbreviated season. I assume there are too many indoctrinated Californians at the top of the conference management food chain. Anyway, the Ducks seem to be headed in the right direction after a rough go of it in 2016 & 2017. This will be the fourth year under head coach Mario Cristobal, and I foresee good things ahead, even assuming a season opening loss in Columbus.

2 Georgia

Last Season:     8-2

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Clemson, 10/30 vs. Florida

Can the Bulldogs upset the Crimson Tide and roll into the playoff themselves?? It won’t be easy. The SEC is stacked and that season opener against Clemson is brutal. That’s a neutral site game in Charlotte, and the winner certainly has a leg up on the competition. Having said that, I think it is entirely plausible that Georgia could lose that game, win every game afterward, defeat Alabama in the SEC title game, and still end up in the playoff.

1 Ohio State

Last Season:     7-1

Key Games:     9/11 vs. Oregon, 10/30 vs. Penn St., 11/27@ Michigan

Let me be clear…I didn’t think the Buckeyes should have been anywhere near the playoff last season. They only played six regular season games. Regardless of the circumstances I believe an eight game minimum threshold should have been in place to get into the Final Four. That did not happen, and I can’t blame them for taking full advantage. Every indication seems to point to another wildly successful campaign, as I don’t see any other Big Ten team capable of stopping them, unless Michigan shocks the world.





2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 9

I thought I might be distracted tonight by The World Series, but the game is pretty much over in the 7th inning, so it’s on to football. Zach (3-2) bested me (1-4) last weekend and has drawn closer to a .500 record and the season lead. Injuries in the NFL have wreaked havoc on my fantasy teams thus far, so I must admit to waning enthusiasm. Thankfully these picks help me maintain a certain level of interest.

My Season:        27-22

Zach’s Season:  24-25

 

 

 

 

 

 

USC (-13)                     at                         Colorado

I had high hopes for the Trojans, but injuries wrecked any shot they had at playoff contention. However, at 4-3 they still have a decent opportunity to get into the conference title game. Conversely, the Buffs are on a three game losing streak and the schedule looks to be rough the rest of the way. Their goal has to be bowl eligibility at this point, and I’m not sure I’d bet on that happening. Can Colorado muster enough home field mojo to atleast cover the points?? I don’t think so. Conversely, Zach sees USC as inconsistent and does believe Colorado can keep things close in a high scoring game.

My Pick:     Southern Cal

Z’s Pick:     Colorado

 

 

 

Auburn                        at                         LSU (-10)

The Bayou Bengals have visions of a conference championship and a playoff berth on their minds. They’re undefeated and have a huge home field advantage. Will they be looking ahead to a date with Alabama in Tuscaloosa?? I suppose it’s possible, but they do have a bye next week so it shouldn’t be as big of an issue as it could be. Auburn is a dangerous Top Ten foe, but it seems like a lot of folks have jumped off that bandwagon after they lost at Florida a couple of weeks ago. I expect a really fun game, and I think LSU will get the victory…however I believe it will be a single digit win. Zach understands the possibility of this being a trap game for LSU, but can’t ignore the excellence of QB Joe Burrow & the dominating defense.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame                          at                         Michigan (-1)

The Disney TV folks were probably hoping that this would be the big matchup of the week, but the luster has been diminished just a bit. The Irish are somehow in the Top Ten, but the truth is they haven’t played a tough schedule outside of a loss to Georgia. The Wolverines have lost two games, the latest just a week ago to Penn St. Rumors of Jim Harbaugh bolting for the NFL have already begun. So basically this game is going to save one of these teams’ season. Another loss might knock Michigan completely out of the rankings, while Notre Dame losing would open up the floodgates of the talking heads accusing them of being overrated. I have no idea what to expect, but when in doubt I tend to ride with the home team. Zach was heartbroken by Michigan’s loss to Penn St., but recognized some positives. Having said that, he’s going with the old “expect the worst” philosophy, which is probably smart.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin                            at                         Ohio State (-14)

A week ago this game was going to be epic. It still could be, but thanks to an upset by Illinois that no one saw coming more people have jumped off the Badger bandwagon than the folks that have ditched Auburn. In the legendary words of Ferris Bueller…”life moves pretty fast”. Having said that, there’s still a lot at stake here. The Buckeyes are eyeing a playoff spot, and both teams could meet again in the conference title game. There are a couple of things to consider. First, The Horseshoe in Columbus is a rather significant home field advantage for Ohio St. Secondly, even if one concedes that the home team deserves to be favored those points are…attention grabbing. Was the Illinois game just an anomaly…or did it expose Wisconsin as a fraud?? Is Ohio St. really a Top 5 team, or should we be talking about their relatively weak schedule?? I envision a low-scoring game (the over/under is 50 and I’d take the under)…defense, special teams, field position, ground & pound. The Vibes tell me Ohio St. wins, but not by 14 points. Zach reluctantly admits that the Buckeyes look scary good right now and thinks they’d definitely make the playoff if it began now. However, he leans toward last week being a glitch and looks for Wisconsin to rebound strong.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Carolina                       at                  San Francisco (-5)

The 49ers are undefeated y’all!! It’s been awhile since they had a good football team in ‘Frisco, but anyone who’s been following Jimmy G. isn’t all that shocked. Conversely, the Panthers’ are being led by backup QB Kyle Allen since the injury bug has bitten Cam Newton. That’s not a bad thing though…Carolina is 4-2 and RB Christian McCaffrey is a legit MVP candidate. This is going to be a fun game to watch, and my sense is that turnovers will play a key role. I’m pulling the trigger on an upset because no one goes unbeaten in the NFL and ‘Frisco will eventually win their division easily anyway. Conversely, Zach has no hesitation in predicting a big Niners win.

My Pick:     Carolina

Z’s Pick:     San Francisco

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 4

It’s been unseasonably warm & sunny here in northcentral West Virginia, to the point that football is really the only tangible representation of the season. I’m not complaining though…I love 80 degrees & sunshine, and wouldn’t mind those conditions sticking around (wishful thinking on my part). Having said that, I am thankful for weekends full of gridiron action, even if my job now prevents me from enjoying all of it to the fullest extent. Not only was last weekend hellish at work (that whole Friday the 13th/full moon craziness went on for a couple of extra days), but again we didn’t do so good with our picks. Zach was 1-4, while I was 2-3. We’ll try to improve, but I am definitely glad we don’t gamble with actual money…he & I would both be destitute.

My Season:        9-9

Zach’s Season:  7-11

 

 

 

Michigan           at                Wisconsin (-3)

Both teams are 2-0 and hovering close to the Top 10, and each has a different advantage this week. The Wolverines are coming off of a bye week after a double OT tussle against Army, while the Badgers have the home field. This feels like one of those games Jim Harbaugh has to win to keep the folks in Ann Arbor from whining & complaining, but it’s not going to be easy. Wisconsin has scored 110 points in its first two games and allowed opponents zero. Yes, that’s right…they’ve had two shutouts, and I don’t care if the level of competition is subpar, that is impressive defense. I think Michigan will score, but I like Wisconsin to get a late touchdown to win & cover. To his credit Zach is usually fair-minded & logical when assessing his Wolverines. He knows they’re overrated right now and have work to do on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin RB & Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor is a beast at RB for the Badgers, and Zach thinks a big game for him spells doom for Michigan.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Auburn               at                Texas A&M (-4)

I have to give both teams credit…they have not started the season just playing lower level cupcakes like so many other teams. The Tigers are 3-0, including a season opening victory over Oregon. The Aggies are 2-1, but that loss came at the hands of #1 Clemson in Death Valley, and there’s no shame there. This feels like a must win for A&M. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier and this is a home game. Auburn might be looking at a 9 or 10 win season, but I don’t think this will be one of those victories. Auburn QB Bo Nix reminds Zach of former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, which is high praise indeed. Zach is predicting a close game…possibly even overtime…but likes Auburn to come away with a tough road win.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

 

Notre Dame                 at                Georgia (-13)

Both teams are undefeated, but neither has been tested at all thus far. The winner here will cement their status as a playoff contender, while the loser is probably out of that conversation. Georgia has multiple hurdles to clear, while Notre Dame would have a real opportunity to run the table if they climb this mountain and walk out of The Big House in Ann Arbor with a win in late October. In these situations I often refer back to my pre-season poll, and this year I ranked Notre Dame 7th and had Georgia #2. I opined that “one slip will knock them out of contention”, and I think that loss comes in Athens, GA. Zach thinks Notre Dame is overrated as usual and Georgia is the real deal. He is predicting an easy victory for the home team.

My Pick:     Georgia

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

 

Denver                at                Green Bay (-7.5)

I suspected that the Broncos would be terrible this year, and so far that’s held true. They’ve been competitive, but new head coach Vic Fangio has yet to work the magic that got him noticed when he was the Bears’ defensive coordinator, and the offense just isn’t clicking with Joe Flacco under center. Conversely, the Packers are 2-0 and faring much better than I anticipated. Lambeau Field won’t be a frozen tundra this weekend, but I believe it’ll be hostile enough for Denver and that Green Bay will win by more than a touchdown. Zach likes what he’s seen from the Packers. He thinks the Broncos have potential down the line but doesn’t think they’ll pose a problem in this game.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

 

 

 

Baltimore           at                Kansas City (-5)

I told y’all not to sleep on the Ravens. I couldn’t have anticipated how poorly my Steelers would be out of the gate and certainly didn’t know Ben Roethlisberger’s season would end so prematurely, but I knew they’d face a battle in the AFC Central. QB Lamar Jackson…despite winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016…was projected by many to be a wide receiver in the NFL, but lo & behold he seems to be evolving into a pretty good pro quarterback. Having said that, his level of competition increases exponentially this week. The Chiefs aren’t a surprise to anyone, and against all odds reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes looks like an even better quarterback now than he was a season ago. Arrowhead Stadium has long been lauded as one of the loudest in the league, and I expect the crowd to be full throttle on Sunday. That should be enough to rattle the visitors and allow the home team to get a comfortable win. Zach foresees a shootout and likes Baltimore’s defense to make one big stand to possibly win or atleast cover.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Baltimore

2019 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

25        Virginia Tech

Last Season:     6-7

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

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

 

 

24        Auburn

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

23        Michigan State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

22        Central Florida

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

21        Army

Last Season:     11-2

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

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

 

 

20        Northwestern

Last Season:             9-5                             

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

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

 

 

19        Fresno State

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

18        Michigan

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Arizona State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

16        Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

15        Stanford

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Nebraska

Last Season:     4-8

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

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

 

 

13        LSU

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

12        Utah

Last Season:     9-5

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

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

 

 

11        Iowa State

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

10        Wisconsin

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Southern California

Last Season:     5-7

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

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

 

 

8          Texas

Last Season:     10-4

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

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

 

 

7          Notre Dame

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

6          Ohio State

Last Season:    13-1

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

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

 

 

5             Oregon

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

4             Alabama

Last Season:     14-1

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

2          Georgia

Last Season:     11-3

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

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

 

 

1          Clemson

Last Season:     15-0

Key Games:     9/7 vs. Texas A&M

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

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 12

It is weeks like this that I am thankful for these silly little football picks that we do. Have you ever experienced one of those moods when you don’t necessarily feel bad but you just don’t have much…pep?? I call it a funk. Perhaps others would refer to it as a malaise or melancholy. It’s not quite depression, but kind of depression light. I get this way on occasion, especially when there is a time change. I’m always able to shake it off eventually, and with the holidays fast approaching I’m confident that I’ll get my mojo back soon enough. Until then there is football, and last week wasn’t half bad for me (5-3), but Zach (3-5) might have a different perspective. At any rate, we’re back to our normal five games for now, with the balance being tipped in the NFL’s favor for once since the college schedule is atrocious. Really Alabama?? You’re playing The Citadel in November?? That’s shameful. The Tide ought to lose their #1 ranking just for that.

 My Season:        30-34

Z’s Season:        26-38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Syracuse           at      Notre Dame (-9.5)

I’m old enough to remember when Syracuse was legitimately good back in the late 80s & early 90s, but they haven’t had a nine win season since 1997. However, they are currently 8-2 and a Top 15 team. The Orangemen aren’t going to be a playoff team or make it to the ACC title game, but could they derail the National Championship dreams of the undefeated Irish?? This is a “neutral site” game being played at Yankee Stadium, which is a good thing because I just can’t enjoy watching games that emanate from The Carrier Dome. It looks too much like an Arena League game and I can’t take it seriously. At any rate, as much as I’d love to see an upset and the resulting playoff upheaval I’m not buying into the Syracuse hype. They’ve played three decent opponents and lost two of those games. I’d love to be wrong, but I think we’re looking at a blowout situation here. Conversely, Zach remembers Syracuse upsetting Clemson a year ago and thinks anything can happen in college football. He won’t go so far as to predict the upset, but believes that ‘Cuse will keep things close enough to cover the points.

My Pick:     Notre Dame

Z’s Pick:     Syracuse

 

 

 

 

Arizona               at                Washington State (-10.5)

I must admit that my initial reason for including this game was purely selfish. I figured it’d give me something to watch that I actually have a stake in during a boring Saturday night at work. But then I remembered that I’m actually off Saturday night!! I’ll probably watch anyhow since it might actually be rather entertaining. The 5-5 Wildcats don’t have the best results, but they are usually fun to watch. Conversely, the Cougars are 9-1 and still have playoff hopes if the dominoes fall just right. The points look a little risky, but I think the home team will cover. Zach thinks Arizona might be building something good for the future, but feels like State is clearly the better team right now.

My Pick:     Washington State

Z’s Pick:     Washington State

 

 

 

 

Houston (-3)                at               Washington

I’m starting Deshaun Watson at QB in my dynasty league this week over Ben Roethlisberger & Marcus Mariota, so the Texans better have a big game. They have taken the lead in the AFC South and have won six straight games after an alarming 0-3 start, so momentum is there. Meanwhile, the Redskins also lead their division, but since the other three teams are terrible I’m not sure it means all that much. It is interesting that the home team has been deemed the underdogs by the oddsmakers, but I am inclined to agree. Zach thinks Washington is overrated while Houston is on a roll.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

 

 

Minnesota                    at                Chicago (-3)

Who’d have believed a couple of months ago that the Bears…even with the home field…would be favored in this game?? However, after trading for sackmaster Khalil Mack things have gone very well for the division leaders, especially with second year QB Mitch Trubisky looking like a legit first rounder. Conversely, the Vikings have been somewhat disappointing. At 5-3-1 they are hardly awful, and could take the division lead with a victory, yet I can’t help but feel like they’ve underperformed thus far. Chicago is certainly capable of scoring 30+ points, but I don’t think that’ll happen against Minnesota’s defense. This feels like a 21-ish to 17-ish kind of game, and I’m going to trust Kirk Cousins to get that one extra score on Sunday night.. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

 

Kansas City                at                LA Rams (-2.5)

This game was supposed to be played in Mexico City on Monday night, but apparently raging wildfires in Los Angeles are still less of a threat than a football field in Mexico that looks like the golf course at the end of Caddyshack after Bill Murray bombed the hell out of it trying to kill the gopher, so back to California it is. Could this be a Super Bowl preview?? Maybe. The Patriots, Steelers, & Saints might all have a say in that particular debate, but right now the Chiefs & Rams look like the two best teams in the NFL. Los Angeles suffered their first defeat a couple of weeks ago, but are averaging about 34 points per game with RB Todd Gurley already near the 1000 yard rushing mark. KC can score a lot of points too, so I’d definitely take the over in this one. With two prolific offenses I assume the outcome will be decided by special teams & turnovers. I’m sure ESPN would love a high scoring shootout that comes down to a last second field goal, and I wouldn’t mind either. It’s pretty much a pick ‘em game, but I think I like the underdogs to pull off a mild upset, and so does Zach.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 6

It’s my birthday y’all!! However, the difference between 23 and 46 is that doing these picks will be the highlight of my day, sandwiched between doing laundry and going to work later tonight. Adulting really isn’t much fun sometimes. And speaking of no fun…last week was pretty brutal. Zach (4-4) bested me (3-5) and has now taken the season lead. Both of us are still below .500, but for now we’re not going to chase wins with bonus picks.

My Season:     13-18

Z’s Season:     14-17

 

 

 

 

Texas                  vs.              Oklahoma (-7.5)

The Red River Shootout. I know the talking heads don’t use that moniker anymore because of misguided social engineering, but I don’t follow their rules. The 5-0 Sooners have steamrolled thru a fairly mundane schedule and haven’t missed former QB Baker Mayfield at all. The Longhorns are 4-1, but wins over USC & TCU have created a ripple of excitement in Austin, TX that’s been missing for several years. This is a neutral site game being played at the old Cotton Bowl in Dallas, which means no discernible home field advantage for either team. Oklahoma has looked unstoppable thus far, but this will be their first legit test. Texas has shown a spark here & there the past few seasons, but it never amounts to anything. So this appears to be a crossroads for both teams. I don’t know who will come out on top, but I believe that the victor will win by less than a touchdown. Zach concurs. He believes this game will be a high scoring affair with very little defense.

My Pick:     Texas

Z’s Pick:     Texas

 

 

 

LSU (-2.5)           at                Florida

The Bayou Bengals have been en fuego!! At 5-0 they have victories over Auburn, Miami (FL), & Ole Miss, which has them in the playoff conversation. The 4-1 Gators have looked pretty solid and The Swamp is one of the best home fields in college football. I think this will be a fun game, but at the end of the day LSU is clearly the better team. Zach thinks this game will be a lot better than most expect, but his concern is Florida’s inconsistency on both sides of the ball.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

Kentucky           at                Texas A&M (-6)

Kentucky is good…at football?? We have to go all the way back to 1984 for the last 9 win season for the Wildcats, but at 5-0 it looks like that is a reasonable goal. And with wins over Florida & Mississippi St. we can’t say their schedule has been soft. A&M is 3-2 under new $75 million head coach Jimbo Fisher, which probably has the folks in College Station dissatisfied, but they need to be patient. I’m a little surprised by the points. I know all about The Twelfth Man at A&M, and it’s no shock that folks are a bit hesitant to buy into Kentucky just yet, but a six point spread seems a bit disrespectful. Having said that, I have to go with the favorites. Zach is looking forward to a close game but believes Kentucky is legit.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Kentucky

 

 

Notre Dame (-6)           at                Virginia Tech

This is probably the best matchup of the weekend, with Notre Dame in the playoff conversation and Tech one baffling loss to Old Dominion away from being a Top Ten team. Of course it’s that inexplicable misstep that has everyone perplexed. If this game were being played in South Bend the Irish would be a double digit favorite, no one would bat an eye, and we probably wouldn’t even be discussing it. But strange things happen in Blacksburg on Saturday nights. I anticipate a really fun & close game, and I’m going to pull the trigger on picking the upset cause that’s how I roll. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia Tech

 

 

Jacksonville                at                Kansas City (-3)

These are probably the two best teams in the AFC right now given New England’s shaky start and Pittsburgh’s dysfunction. I’m not sure that’ll be the case by season’s end, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes. Essentially what we’re all looking forward to seeing is the Chiefs’ high flying offense versus the Jags’ impermeable defense. In my season preview I called Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette “an injury waiting to happen”, and sure enough he is missing games with a hamstring issue. Is that enough to cost his team this game?? I think it might be. Conversely, Zach likes the Jags’ defense to finally get KC quarterback Pat Mahomes to come crashing back down to Earth.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Jacksonville

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 5

Unlike last week the schedule is loaded on both the college & pro levels this go round, to the point that we’re doing bonus picks despite serious reservations on my part. We’re already off to a shaky start and chasing wins is probably a bad idea. Ah well…c’est la vie. Zach (3-2) bested me (2-3) a week ago, and as a reward got an all- expenses paid trip to South Bend, IN, home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Okay okay…his trip is work related and has nothing to do with these picks, but how cool would that be if we won awesome prizes for doing this?? At any rate, my philosophy of mixing things up & not picking games involving the same teams over & over is pretty much out the window this week, but good football is good football and I can’t control which teams are or aren’t interesting, so we’ll just go with the flow.

My Season:   10-13

Z’s Season:   10-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYU                 at      Washington (-17.5)

BYU really frustrates me. Every time I leave them out of my pre-season poll they turn out to have a decent team, while anytime I have them ranked they screw the pooch. At the moment the Cougars are 3-1 & a solid Top 20 team, including an upset of my #1 team Wisconsin. The 3-1 Huskies might not make it to the playoff like I anticipated, but they’re still hovering around the Top 10 and have a realistic shot at a conference title. I don’t think BYU will win this game, but the points are a bit much. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     BYU

Z’s Pick:     BYU

 

 

 

 

Oregon (-3)        at      California

The Ducks really let me down last week. They’re 3-1 and still ranked, but they would be an undefeated Top 10 team if they hadn’t given away the game to Stanford a week ago. Cal is a team that is perpetually overlooked in the Pac 12, but they’re 3-0 and ranked as well. I don’t know enough about either team to discuss specifics, but I think this will be a really entertaining game. The home team are underdogs, but I think they might pull off the mild upset. Sorry Ducks…you lost my faith. Zach likes Oregon’s offense to get the job done by a comfortable margin.

My Pick:     Cal

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Ohio St. (-3.5)    at      Penn St.

This is the big one…the marquee matchup of the weekend. Whatever your opinion might be of head coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes, & everything that has occurred in Columbus the past few months the fact is that they weathered the storm and have been unstoppable thus far. They know a thing or two about controversy & weathering storms in Happy Valley, and the Nittany Lions have regained much of the allure of dominance that once defined the program. I thought Ohio St. would falter a bit in the midst of the Meyer kerfuffle, and I believed that Penn St. would sorely miss RB Saquon Barkley. I was wrong on both counts. It is a testament to how impressive the Buckeyes have been thus far that they will go into Beaver Stadium in front of over 100k fans facing a Top 10 team and are favored. I don’t really have a dog in the fight and simply look forward to a great game, and though I believe an upset is certainly possible I have to go with the favorites. Zach knows that I know that he refuses to pick Ohio St., but as long as they’re playing these big games there is always a chance they’ll be on our agenda.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Penn State

 

 

 

Stanford             at      Notre Dame (-4.5)

It might get overlooked a bit in the shadow of the Ohio St./Penn St. game, but this is also a battle of two Top 10 teams. I’ve heard that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but Stanford seems to be both. They were very fortunate to escape Eugene, OR with an overtime victory, a game in which Heisman candidate RB Bryce Love was held to just 59 yards rushing. After a season opener in which he ran for only 29 yards I think Love’s Heisman chances may be dead in the water, but he’s still a dangerous weapon on a good team. The 4-0 Irish haven’t really played anyone since the season opener against Michigan, but I can’t underestimate their home field advantage. If Notre Dame wants to be in the playoff conversation they have to treat this as a playoff game itself. Can Stanford’s luck prevail a second week in a row?? I don’t know…but I think no matter who wins it’ll be decided by a field goal. Zach did get to visit Touchdown Jesus this week but he flies home on Saturday morning and won’t have an opportunity to overpay for scalped tickets. It’s probably just as well because I don’t think he’d be able to resist the temptation to wear Michigan garb into Notre Dame Stadium and may have gotten beat up by a drunken Indiana millworker. He thinks both teams are overrated but likes Stanford to win a tight defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Minnesota                   at      LA Rams (-6.5)

I really tried to avoid the Thursday night game, but this one is just too damn enticing. The Vikings were my pre-season choice to represent the NFC in The Super Bowl, but I had them losing that game to the Steelers, so what the hell do I know?? Anyway, Minnesota comes into this game with a less than impressive 1-1-1 record after getting hammered by the Bills last week. The Bills!! Conversely, I have heard more than one talking head call the 3-0 Rams the best team in the NFL. It might be a bit premature to go that far, but it is undeniable that they’ve put together an impressive squad on both sides of the ball. Their defense has some issues with injuries, and kicker Greg Zeurlein is shelved with a groin pull, so this is going to be a test of the team’s depth. I’m not ready to jump on the Rams’ bandwagon just yet, and neither am I willing to abandon my Super Bowl pick, so I’ve got to go with the underdogs and hope defense wins the day. Zach likes Los Angeles to do just enough to win by a touchdown.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     LA Rams

 

 

  

Houston             at      Indianapolis (-1)

I really thought the Texans would bounce back and be good this season, but at 2-1 they haven’t looked as impressive as I’d hoped. The Colts are 1-2 and QB Andrew Luck may not be at full strength quite yet. It’s way too early to make a solid judgment about either team, so I have to believe in my original thought process that Houston is clearly better. Zach hasn’t lost faith in Indy’s signal caller yet. He doesn’t believe that Deshaun Watson & the Texans will suddenly find their rhythm this week and thinks Luck will have a big game.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Indianapolis

 

 

 

Tampa Bay                  at      Chicago (-3)

The Bucs gave my Steelers everything they could handle last Monday night, but the FitzMagic ran out of steam. With Jameis Winston returning from his suspension the quarterback situation for 2-1 Tampa is…fluid. Things could get interesting. Meanwhile, the Bears look like they totally swindled the Oakland Raiders when they traded for LB/DE Khalil Mack, although to be fair we’ll have to wait & see what Oakland does with those two first round picks they received. At 2-1 Chicago sits atop the NFC Central, although I think they’ll ultimately finish behind the Vikings. Tampa won’t be able to slice thru a porous defense like they did in the second half of last week’s game, and that will be their downfall in a low scoring slugfest. Zach likes the Bucs to pull out a close victory no matter who their quarterback is.

My Pick:     Chicago

Z’s Pick:     Tampa Bay

 

 

 

Miami                  at      New England (-7)

If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Dolphins would come into this game in first place and two games up on the Patriots I would have said you were insane, but here we are. It seems that most people are scoffing at the reversal of fortunate, unable to process the idea that Miami might actually be good and refusing to believe that New England could finally be reaching the end of their domination. I too am hesitant to buy into those things, despite my longstanding hatred for the Pats. I’d really love to pick Miami, but it just doesn’t feel like the smart choice at the moment. I’d be thrilled to be wrong. Zach concurs. He thinks Brady will throw for 450 yards and lead his team to an easy win.

My Pick:     New England

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

 

Kansas City (-4.5)      at      Denver

In my NFL Preview I said that “I really sense a decline coming from Kansas City” and predicted that second year QB Pat Mahomes “might take some time…to figure things out”. That may end up being one of the most boneheaded things I’ve ever written. The Chiefs are 3-0 and Mahomes is averaging almost 300 yards/game with 13 TDs, zero interceptions, & a 66% completion rate. Conversely, I predicted that the Broncos would go 2-14. They’ve already won two games. So the question is can Denver’s defense rise up and make Mahomes look like a rookie?? The deciding factor for me is that the game is being played in the Mile High City. That may be something that Mahomes has to adjust to, and it might just be enough for an upset. Zach loves KC’s team speed and believes they are a legit Super Bowl contender.

My Pick:     Denver

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 1

My nephew & I first began doing these picks in 2013. I flew solo in 2012, but we’ll set that aside. In five years Zach has amassed a record of 198-263 (a 43% winning percentage), while I have gone 239-210 (53%). We utilize a point spread from the oddsmakers for each game just to make things a little more interesting but do not encourage gambling, even though that kind of thing is apparently legal now. As usual college football begins before the NFL, and because of the way the College Football Playoff does its rankings more teams are beginning their year with a competitive challenge rather than beating up on inferior opposition. I have all of these teams in my pre-season rankings, and I’m excited to see if my pre-conceived notions were accurate.

 

 

 

 

 

Washington       vs.    Auburn (-2.5)

This is a neutral site game being played in Atlanta, which means that it will be a pro Auburn crowd. Both teams have been receiving some pre-season love, with most polls ranking both in the Top Ten. A season ago both won ten games, with the Tigers upsetting Alabama in The Iron Bowl (which should’ve meant the end of ‘Bama’s season) before falling to Georgia in the SEC title game, and the Huskies falling short of a conference championship game appearance because of a mid-season loss to Stanford. Auburn has Heisman hopeful Jarrett Stidham under center, as well as a defensive line that a lot of folks are talking about. Washington brings back QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, and nine starters on defense. It is a squad replete with experienced senior leadership. The Vibes have me high on Washington, to the point that I believe they’ll be in the playoff. A victory for them in this game might be considered an upset by some, but I fully expect it. Zach thinks it’ll be close but believes Washington is the better team.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

 

Florida Atlantic           at      Oklahoma (-21)

While I don’t expect the Sooners to be in the playoff discussion in December neither do I expect Lane Kiffin’s Owls to walk into Norman and pull off a stunning upset. However, this could be a win/win situation for both teams. New Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray can settle into his role & the team can work out any kinks against a decent opponent before the real fun begins. FAU has the comfort of knowing that this is the toughest test they’ll face all season and no one is expecting much. I’m not a proponent of moral victories, but that’s about the best that FAU can hope for in this game. So it all comes down the points. By how much will Oklahoma win?? A year ago they dispatched early season non-conference opponents by 40+ points, but I think FAU is better than UTEP & Tulane. How much better?? Probably enough to stay within 25-30 points. Zach is not only picking FAU to cover the points…he thinks they’ll win the game. He’s either a freakin’ genius or needs medical attention.

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Z’s Pick:     FAU

 

 

Michigan           at      Notre Dame (even)

Is the first week of the season too early for a Must Win game?? Probably. And that perspective might be a tad dramatic. Yet it is difficult to deny that some folks are beginning to question Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach in Ann Arbor. The Big Ten is really competitive, and the Wolverines are likely to be underdogs in a few conference battles, making this game seem much more significant than it probably should be. QB Shea Patterson transferred from Ole Miss in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the program which ultimately cost the head coach his job. Patterson was granted a waiver by the NCAA so he does not have to sit out a year and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Since he is the most talented quarterback to wear the Maize & Blue in atleast a decade he easily won the starting job, and expectations are high. Notre Dame went into last season with head coach Brian Kelly on the hot seat after a 4-8 finish in 2016. They rebounded nicely with a ten win season, although that schedule pales in comparison to what they face this year. Senior QB Brandon Wimbush will lead the Irish, but he might be on a short leash. It doesn’t help that his offensive line lost two Top Ten NFL draft picks. My gut feeling is that Notre Dame will have to rely heavily on defense for a few games until the offense finds its mojo, and that might work okay against Michigan. It’ll be a close one, but I think the home field actually could make a meaningful difference. Zach is a huge Michigan fan and is therefore really excited about this game. He believes Notre Dame is overrated and Michigan’s defense will be the difference.

My Pick:     Notre Dame

Z’s Pick:     Michigan

 

 

Miami (FL) (-3.5)              vs.        LSU

The Hurricanes felt like they were on the verge of being back last year…almost. The ACC won’t be a cakewalk, and beginning the season against the Bayou Bengals is a tough test. This is a Sunday evening contest being played at The Palace in Dallas, which probably means a pro-LSU crowd. The Tigers were a solid nine win team a season ago, and if they want to match that they’re probably going to have to make hay before a brutal mid-season stretch when 0-4 is a real possibility. Those of us “of a certain age” remember when Miami was a really annoying & dominant powerhouse, but they’ve lost 3 or more games each season since 2003, and while ten win seasons are great it doesn’t make a team elite, which is what I expect again this year from the ‘Canes. LSU is probably going to get rocked a few times in October & November, but I like their chances in this game. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to win easily.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     Miami (FL)

 

 

Virginia Tech     at      Florida St. (-7.5)

Clemson and Miami are getting all the pre-season ACC buzz, but don’t overlook these two teams. Everyone always forgets about Virginia Tech until all the sudden a highly ranked team ventures into Blacksburg and gets a punt blocked or loses on a Pick Six late in the fourth quarter. I don’t expect the Seminoles to win their division and make it to the ACC title game, but I believe that last season’s 7-6 fiasco was an anomaly. New coach Willie Taggart has a talented trio of quarterbacks, including former starter Deondre Francois, who suffered a knee injury in the season opener a year ago but has returned to reclaim his job, and workhorse RB Cam Akers to lead the offense. The defense is young and a complete wildcard, which could be an early season issue. Tech lost five players from last year’s 9-4 team to the NFL, so expectations are being tempered, although a friendly schedule could help. I’ll probably be predicting a pretty big upset for the ‘Noles in a couple of months that will pretty much make their entire season, but for now…despite playing in hostile territory…I think the Hokies will get the job done. Zach likes Florida State to snag the victory…but he thinks it’ll be by less than a touchdown.

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia Tech

2018 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

24     LSU 

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

23     Michigan

Last Season:      8-5

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

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

 

 

22     West Virginia

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

21     Penn State        

Last Season:      11-2

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

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

 

 

20     Texas       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

19     Florida State                       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

18     Florida Atlantic

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

17     Stanford

Last Season:      9-5

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

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

 

 

16     Oklahoma

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

15     Ohio State         

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

14     Auburn              

Last Season:      10-4

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

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

 

 

13     Notre Dame     

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

12     South Florida

Last Season:      10-2

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

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

 

 

11     Boise State                

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 at Oklahoma St.

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

 

 

10     Southern Cal   

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

9       Michigan State 

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

8       Virginia Tech    

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

7       Georgia

Last Season:      13-2

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

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

 

 

6       Miami (FL)

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

5       Clemson  

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Florida St.

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

 

 

4       Washington      

Last Season:      10-3 

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

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

 

 

3       TCU 

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

2       Alabama                               

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

 

 

1       Wisconsin        

Last Season:      13-1

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

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