2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 9 

Happy Halloween Manoverse!! Sadly I was diagnosed as a diabetic a few months ago, and while my trick or treating days ended during the Reagan Administration I usually do hunt down some tasty treats this time of year and hit the day after candy sales…activities I won’t be engaging in now. At any rate, we both went 3-2 last week, which means we kept our head above water and took a small step on the long road back to mediocrity. Stay safe out there folks. Drink lots of water to counteract all that sugar you’ll be consuming. Don’t tick off any axe wielding psychopaths in hockey masks. Enjoy some old monster movies. And be generous to the little kiddies in your neighborhood. Not all Halloween treats are created equally.

My Season: 23-28

Zach’s Season: 22-29

UCLA at Utah (-5.5)

This season feels like a missed opportunity for both teams. The 5-3 Bruins could easily be 7-1, while the Utes are 4-3 but were in all three losses and have to ponder what might have been. But that’s football, right?? The good news is that both teams still have a legit shot to play in the conference title game if my man Tony Dungy & his Arizona St. Sun Devils stumble. This is a 10pm EST kickoff on ESPN, and unless I’m distracted by my thousandth viewing of Halloween (1978) or Hocus Pocus my eyes will be glued to the game. Utah has the home field and I am inclined to agree with the oddsmakers. Conversely, Zach foresees a high scoring game but doesn’t like the points, so he’s going with the underdogs.

My Pick: Utah

Z’s Pick: UCLA

Iowa at Wisconsin (-3)

Y’all remember Billy Bob from the 1999 film Varsity Blues?? That’s the kind of big ol’ boy that plays offensive & defensive line for these second tier Big Ten schools, and it’s why they’re so interesting to watch. A conference title game appearance is still on the table, and I feel like momentum is with the Badgers. If they study film & figure out the formula Purdue used to upset the Hawkeyes a couple of weeks ago it won’t matter that the visitors are coming out of a bye week. Zach thinks Wisconsin is too inconsistent and still believes in Iowa despite the loss to Purdue.

My Pick: Wisconsin

Z’s Pick: Iowa

Michigan (-4.5) at Michigan State

The home field feels like it might be huge here. I never would have predicted a few weeks ago that this would be a battle of Top Ten teams. Add in the fact that a berth in the conference championship and maybe even a playoff nod might be at stake and the whole intrastate rivalry thing is just a cherry on top. I’ve gone on record stating that I’d put both clubs in the CFP ahead of Oklahoma, Cincinnati, & even Alabama, but obviously the loser is eliminated. I can’t even remember the last time this rivalry had so much juice. I am hoping for a close thriller with some big plays but also stellar defense, and I think the home team does just enough to score the upset. Zach is a huge Wolverines fanatic, but he’s a pragmatist who isn’t afraid to be critical when necessary. He’s not sure they deserve to be a Top Ten team because the schedule has been rather prosaic, and he admits Jim Harbaugh’s record in big games isn’t great. Having said that, he thinks this year’s team has an opportunity to be the real deal. Unfortunately he has been let down too many times. I can relate (I’m a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan after all). I call it Battered Fan Syndrome. So, in a bit of shocking reverse psychology Zach, in an effort to will his team to victory (in my opinion), is picking against them. I have to admit I did not see that coming.

My Pick: Michigan State

Z’s Pick: Michigan State

Georgia (-14.5) vs. Florida

So the Florida-Georgia Line is 14 & a half points. Yes, I just made a really bad country music joke. Anyway, the Bulldogs sit at #1 and will waltz into the playoff…unless they inexplicably stumble along the way. I sincerely believe they’d receive a playoff berth even if they lost the SEC title game, assuming there are no other losses beforehand. The Gators have to be kicking themselves for letting LSU come back and win a high scoring, close game a couple weeks ago, but will that frustration be enough motivation to get the upset here?? I don’t think so. I foresee a big statement victory for Georgia. It should be noted that the game is being played in Jacksonville, so it isn’t a true home field for Florida but one would assume there’ll be more orange & blue in the stands than red. Zach really likes Georgia’s defense and thinks they’ll win big.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Georgia

Ole Miss at Auburn (-2)

The Rebels still have a slight chance to play in the conference title game, although they’ve already lost to Alabama so it’d be an uphill climb. Still…most teams would consider 6-1 with only a loss to (theoretically) one of the best teams in the nation a smashing success. Conversely, 5-2 Auburn isn’t in the SEC title hunt, but I’m sure they’re feeling pretty good about their season thus far. It’s a coin flip situation for me, and The Vibes are whispering Ole Miss in my ear. Zach believes Auburn’s defense will keep it close but likes the Rebels win a tight one.

My Pick: Ole Miss

Z’s Pick: Ole Miss

Penn State at Ohio State (-18)

I’m a little surprised by the points. I suppose the fact that the Buckeyes just rolled Indiana by six TDs while the Nittany Lions lost to Illinois in nine OTs has something to do with it, but still…18 points?? Sure, the game is at The ‘Shoe in Columbus, but 18 freakin’ points?? It just doesn’t feel right. I have no doubt that the home team will win, but I’ll be shocked if it’s by more than a touchdown. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Penn State

Z’s Pick: Penn State

Green Bay at Arizona (-3.5)

Despite all the off-season drama Green Bay & Aaron Rodgers are humming along at 6-1. However, speaking of humming…the Cards are undefeated. This is the Thursday night game, and the TV people have to be thrilled. I know there are folks (mostly players) that have a problem with Thursday Night Football, but from a fan perspective it’s phenomenal, especially when we are treated to a great matchup like this. Arizona has an opportunity to make a powerful statement, while it’s kind of a “hey guys…don’t forget about us” moment for The Pack. Unfortunate for them all-world wide receiver Davante Adams has tested positive for The Sickness, while the Cardinals just activated pass rushing monster Chandler Jones. There is a chance Adams could still play, and his status makes a huge difference. Armed with the information available right now I have to lean toward the home team. Zach acknowledges that being without Adams is a problem, but thinks AA-Rod will find a way to lead his team to victory, perhaps in overtime.

My Pick: Arizona

Z’s Pick: Green Bay

New England at LA Chargers (-6.5)

I have to give the Pats credit…they’re scrappy. Rookie QB Mac Jones has shown flashes and seems like he’ll evolve into something pretty decent. I don’t believe they’ll make the playoffs because the Buffalo Bills are just too good and there are a plethora of better teams fighting for a wildcard berth, but still…kudos. Conversely, the Chargers, as I predicted, look like legit contenders. I believe they’ll win the AFC West. New England might make this one interesting for awhile, but the home team will pull away for a comfortable victory. Zach is all in on the Patriots and believes they’ll win by a field goal.

My Pick: LA Chargers

Z’s Pick: New England

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 2

For those who may be new to these picks we normally choose five games each week. However, since we didn’t do this at all last year, and since the college schedule was abnormally stacked with awesome season openers last week, and since the NFL is back this week…well, y’all get what I call bonus picks. To be honest that’s a tad bit dangerous since neither of us got out of the gate too well. Zach nailed Fresno covering the points against Oregon, while I correctly predicted Georgia upsetting Clemson. Unfortunately though, we both finished 4-5. Let’s see if we can do better this week.

My Season: 4-5

Zach’s Season: 4-5

Oregon at Ohio State (-14)

I usually don’t like picking games involving teams we dealt with just a week ago, but this one is just too tempting. The Buckeyes had a tougher time with Minnesota in their opener than most anticipated but still managed to win by two TDs. Oregon also had a close call but emerged victorious. Both teams are preseason playoff participants for me, but I don’t think the Ducks will go to Columbus and win. Can they keep it close?? Probably not. I think the home team wins by 15-20 points. Zach isn’t impressed by either team, opining that Ohio St. needs to take pressure off their young QB by running the ball. He thinks this will be a boring game but the home team will win by enough.

My Pick: Ohio State

Z’s Pick: Ohio State 

Iowa at Iowa State (-3.5)

I think this could end up being the most fun game of the weekend. The Hawkeyes surprised some people a week ago by handling the Indiana Hoosiers by 3+ touchdowns, but not me. Meanwhile, the Cyclones handled their business against in-state 1-AA foe Northern Iowa. Who knew there were so many colleges in the state of Iowa?? Anyway, I think this might be a really close one…like field goal close, which is why I’m taking the visitors. Zach notes that he’d pick the Hawkeyes easily if the game were on their home turf, but thinks it’ll be a little tougher winning on the road. Like me he won’t go so far as to pick the underdogs to score the upset, but believes they will keep it close. 

My Pick: Iowa

Z’s Pick: Iowa

Utah (-6.5) at BYU

Conference realignment has really messed with some of the traditional charm of college football, including long-standing rivalries, so it’s nice to see intrastate games that are all too rare nowadays. The Cougars, whose invitation to join the Big 12 might already be in the mail, beat Arizona in their opener, while the Utes hardly broke a sweat beating some pissant irrelevant team that atleast got a nice payday. Utah is a rare road favorite because everyone is impressed by the big bad PAC 12, but I’m picking the upset. Zach concurs, stating that once again he isn’t all that impressed with either team. 

My Pick: BYU

Z’s Pick: BYU

LA Chargers (-1.5) at Washington

Since I predicted that the San Diego…excuse me…Los Angeles Chargers will narrowly upend the highly touted Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West crown I suppose I need to get behind them early. I’m a little concerned about RB Austin Ekeler’s hamstring injury, but even if he misses the game I think QB Justin Herbert is good enough to get the job done, and I like LA’s defense to stop the Redskins’ (yes, I still call them that…deal with it) lineup of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Antonio Gibson, & WR Terry McLaurin. I think Chargers’ pass rusher Joey Bosa will have a huge game. Conversely, Zach has more faith in FitzMagic than Herbert and believes the ‘Skins get the win. 

My Pick: LA Chargers

Z’s Pick: Washington 

Cleveland at Kansas City (-6)

All the talking is done for the Browns. It’s time to prove that they’re worthy of the hype, but I don’t think they can. The crowd at Arrowhead Stadium provides one of the biggest home field advantages in sports, and that’s not going to change now. I’ll be disappointed if the Chiefs don’t win by double digits. Zach is all in on the Cleveland hype and thinks the home team will start slow and find themselves in a nail biter. 

My Pick: Kansas City 

Z’s Pick: Cleveland 

Arizona at Tennessee (-3)

I expect big things from both teams this season, so the loser of this game shouldn’t be affected too terribly. The Titans get the requisite home field bump, and I think they’ll win by atleast that much. Look for RB Derrick Henry to wear down the opposing defense and allow his team to take control in the fourth quarter. Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray can’t hurt you if he’s on the bench, right?? Zach thinks Arizona has a bright future, but believes Tennessee is a team built to win now. 

My Pick: Tennessee 

Z’s Pick: Tennessee 

Green Bay (-3) vs. New Orleans

It should be noted that this game is being played in Jacksonville, FL due to Hurricane Ida. Drew Brees ain’t walking thru that door for the Saints, so they have to hope that former Heisman Trophy winning QB Jameis Winston can finally fulfill all the potential so many have always seen in him. The offseason hasn’t been any easier on The Pack, as quarterback Aaron Rogers creates more drama than the writing team of Days of Our Lives. Will all that off the field turmoil cause issues on the field?? I think it just might, especially in the first half of the season. But fear not Packer fans, because I think they’ll eventually figure things out. That being said, I am picking the upset in this one. While Zach agrees with me that Green Bay is a Super Bowl caliber team in the long run he also believes they’ll get out of the gate fast. He thinks Winston is garbage and New Orleans will get destroyed in this game. 

My Pick: New Orleans 

Z’s Pick: Green Bay 

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.





Winning & Musing…Volume 3.20

We meet again…five months later. The good news is there have been sporting events that we can talk about. Having said that, 2020 has been an undeniably challenging time to be a fan. Will the new year see a return to normalcy?? Probably not, ateast at first. But we’ll watch anyway, and occasionally ponder related topics right here.

 

 

 

 

As happy as I am that the NFL & NCAA have given us a football season the fact is it just isn’t the same. It’s so strange to watch a game being played in an empty or nearly empty stadium. We didn’t do our normal preseason poll or NFL preview because I just didn’t know what to expect. My nephew & I haven’t done our weekly picks like in years past and we won’t be picking bowl games (several of which have been canceled anyway). There have been way too many games canceled and players who have missed time after testing positive for The Sickness or being in close proximity to others who have tested positive. Kudos to all involved for making the effort and taking the risk, but even though I have watched I am admittedly not as invested as usual.

 

 

I was dealing with my own (non-Covid) health issues this past summer, so I really didn’t pay all that much attention to the abbreviated baseball season or the bubble-wrapped NBA playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series and the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title, so in a world turned upside down I suppose two big city franchises with enough money to buy their championship provided some semblance of status quo normalcy. Also, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, but honestly I had to look that up because I paid even less attention to hockey this season than usual.

 

 

I appreciate the fact that the Indianapolis 500 and The Masters were both rescheduled instead of being outright cancelled, but as a fan it just didn’t work for me. I watched a little bit of The Masters, but was mostly focused on football that weekend, as I’m sure most fans were. I didn’t even know the Indy 500 was on until about an hour after it was over. I just completely forgot about it. Congrats to whoever won each event, but I don’t recall who that was and at the moment it’s not important enough to me to look it up.

 

 

Folks, we need to get something straight. Just because a fan is upset at their team losing and expresses some negativity does not mean they aren’t a “real” fan. I saw this kind of debate rear its ugly head after my Pittsburgh Steelers had their hot start come to a screeching halt and lost a couple of games. Fans were upset…mad at the NFL for bumbling the rescheduling of games and seeming to apply the rules differently to different teams, angry about wide receivers dropping way too many balls, frustrated by mounting injuries to the team, peeved at sports media types who were questioning the Steelers legitimacy even before they lost, disappointed by questionable coaching strategies, and of course debating dubious calls by referees. In my opinion this is normal fan behavior. However, there are those who say anyone who expresses any kind of doubts or frustration aren’t true fans. That’s poppycock. My perspective has always been the irritated passion a fan exhibits when things aren’t going well proves just how deep & fervent their fandom really is, contrary to the kind of blindly loyal fan who acts like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, shouting “All is well!! Remain calm!!”, even as chaos reigns down all around him.

 

 

It would be negligent for me not to address the latest in the PC Police’s War on Sports, and guess what…the fans are losing. In the midst of the uproar caused by the #BlackLivesMatter hoopla last summer the NFL’s Washington Redskins finally bowed to media created pressure and dropped the “offensive” nickname. They’ve played this entire season as the Washington Football Team, which is all kinds of stupid. And now the Cleveland Indians have announced plans to drop their century old moniker. I’ve just never understood how anyone could possibly be offended by a sports team honoring a group of people by naming their team after them. Have y’all ever  had a friend or family member name their baby or even a pet after you?? It’s meant as a compliment. Do you know how thrilled I’d be if West Virginia got an NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL franchise and called them the West Virginia Sams?? I’d be verklempt!! But that’s what liberals do in the name of “progress”. They suck all the joy out of the room, like sort of giant, evil vacuum. It is what it is, and it makes me sad.

 

 

I’m not sure what the answer is, but in no way do I feel like an Ohio State Buckeyes team that has only played six games should be in the College Football Playoff. In retrospect this would have been the perfect year to do a test run of an expanded playoff with 8 or even 16 teams. I won’t ride the powers-that-be too much for their lack of foresight because they, just like so many of us in all walks of life, have been making things up on the fly in the midst of all the craziness, but it would’ve been nice to see some fairness & common sense implemented instead of what it looks like is happening, which seems to be “let’s do whatever we can to get four traditional power programs in the playoff by any means necessary because it’ll be good for TV ratings”.

2019-20 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

The old adage is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Political pundit Steven Crowder has a frequent feature on his podcast called “Change My Mind”, in which he engages in polite debate with those who disagree with whatever opinion he is presenting at that moment. I’m old-ish & stuck in my ways, so I tend to agree with the notion of not being able to teach old dog new tricks, and I have very strong beliefs about many things so it is difficult for others to change my mind about much. But friends…today I have evolved. I have changed my mind. It’s a freakin’ miracle!! For years I have been a proponent of fewer bowl games and railed against the evil of pedestrian teams being rewarded for their mediocrity, while others have promoted the idea of “the more the merrier” because watching an unexceptional football game is still a pleasant way to spend a few hours. Friends, I have seen the light. I have broken on thru to the other side. Perhaps it’s because there are so few entertaining options on television these days. Or maybe I’ve become even more of a couch potato than ever. A girlfriend might be nice too, but that’s not happening anytime soon. I don’t know why, but I say bring on the bowl games!! Show me your 6-6 teams. Beguile me with games featuring teams from the Sun Belt, MAC, & C-USA whose existence the talking heads don’t even acknowledge. Give me games at 2pm on a Tuesday for no apparent reason. Offer me an alternative to Christmas movies I’ve seen a thousand times. Cause me to question whether I really want to go out on New Year’s Eve or if I’d prefer to stay home and watch football. Allow me the opportunity to become invested in a tie game late in the 4th quarter featuring two teams I know absolutely nothing about. Just bring it!! As always these games do not count toward our season long Pigskin Picks of Profundity, we don’t bother with point spreads, & we understand that a variety of elements that we may know nothing about can have an effect on the outcome. Zach has beaten me in these picks the last three years. I usually start off strong then fade when the “big & important” games roll around, which basically means that I’m better at guessing about games that I don’t know anything about than informed analysis of games about which I think I have some knowledge. We’ll see if I can change that this year. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/20/19

Bahamas Bowl (2pm on ESPN)

Buffalo Bulls (7-5)                vs.              Charlotte 49ers (7-5)

I don’t get the opportunity to travel much. I spent a big chunk of last summer in two hospitals in different counties, and that’s about as far as I’ve gone in awhile. Therefore, I think it’s pretty damn cool that football provides a bunch of youngsters a chance to visit a tropical paradise like The Bahamas. The game itself should be entertaining. Buffalo has sent a few players to the NFL in recent years, most notably Bears LB Khalil Mack & former Chargers RB Branden Oliver. Charlotte is an up & coming team, but this is their first ever bowl game so I have to give the edge to the Bulls. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Buffalo

Z’s Pick:     Buffalo

 

 

Frisco Bowl (Frisco, TX – 7:30pm on ESPN2)

Kent State Golden Flashes         (6-6)            vs.    Utah State Aggies (7-5)

The Frisco Bowl (which takes place in Texas and not California) enters its third season looking for a competitive game since the first two have been lopsided blowouts. Utah St. has gone bowling 8 out of the past 9 seasons, winning 4-3 in the previous games, while this will only be Kent St.’s fourth bowl game ever and their first since 2012. They’ve not won the previous three so I think they’re about due. Conversely, Zach thinks the Aggies have an advantage on the offensive line and will utilize the running game to snag a victory.

My Pick:     Kent St.

Z’s Pick:     Utah St.

 

 

Saturday 12/21

 

Celebration Bowl (Atlanta, GA) – Noon on ABC)

Alcorn State Braves (9-3)   vs.    North Carolina A&T Aggies (8-3)

This game serves as a de facto championship among historically black colleges and is the only current bowl game to feature teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (everyone else has a full blown playoff system. This will be A&T’s third straight appearance, while the Braves were also in it a year ago. In that contest the Aggies scored a two point victory, so I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the Braves earn a measure of revenge this year. Zach is picking A&T to repeat.

My Pick:     Alcorn State

Z’s Pick:     North Carolina A&T

 

 

New Mexico Bowl (2pm on ESPN)

Central Michigan Chippewas (8-5)      vs.    San Diego State Aztecs (9-3)

The Vibes are telling me that this might be a high scoring shootout, although the Aztecs have only exceeded 30 points once this season while the Chippewas have exceeded 40 points six times. I say they meet somewhere in the middle, with San Diego St. pulling out a 34-31 victory. Zach points out that…troubled…NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown is a Central Michigan product, and since we Steeler fans are no longer in the AB business that’s enough for him to choose San Diego St. I must admit that I was thinking along the same lines but chose not to go there. I’m kind of glad he did though.

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Z’s Pick:     San Diego St.

 

 

Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL – 2:30pm on CBS Sports Network)

Liberty Flames (7-5)            vs.              Georgia Southern Eagles (7-5)

Proceeds from this game go to help the fight against breast cancer, which is nice. Liberty is in its first full season in Division1-A/FBS, while Georgia Southern has been playing in the Sun Belt Conference since 2014. They are 2-0 in previous bowl appearances in addition to winning six 1-AA national titles, second only to North Dakota St. The Flames are off to a good start, but I think they’ll fall to a team that has post-season winning in their DNA. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Georgia Southern

Z’s Pick:     Georgia Southern

 

 

Boca Raton Bowl (3:30pm on ABC)

Florida Atlantic Owls (10-3)         vs.    Southern Methodist Mustangs (10-2)

Lane Kiffin has already left FAU behind and headed to Old Miss, so the Owls will be playing for an interim coach until Willie Taggart takes the reins. FAU comes into the game riding a six game winning streak, while things have been a bit bumpier for the Mustangs. After starting the season 8-0 SMU has lost 2 out of their last 4. This is a home game for the Owls, which is an issue the NCAA really needs to address. No team should be allowed to play a bowl game in their own stadium. But that’s not the case at the moment, so given the situation I think it’ll be an easy win for FAU. Zach thinks it might be a close game but also likes the Owls to win.

My Pick:     FAU

Z’s Pick:     FAU

 

 

Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL – 5:30pm on ESPN)

Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)        vs.    Florida International Panthers (6-6)

This is your annual reminder that a camellia is a lovely flower that some may recall being mentioned in the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird. As far as the matchup is concerned, FIU’s season has been a real roller coaster, while Arkansas St. had won four straight before losing their season ending game at South Alabama.  I’m going to ride with the Panthers because in the wild I feel like a panther would kick a wolf’s ass. Zach likes FIU to win a low scoring defensive battle.

My Pick:     FIU

Z’s Pick:     FIU

 

 

Las Vegas Bowl (7:30pm on ABC)

Boise State Broncos (12-1)         vs.              Washington Huskies (7-5)

It may not be a New Year’s game against a Top 10 team, but Boise has another opportunity to go toe to toe with a “power” conference team and give some folks (maybe the Big 12) something to think about when the next round of upheaval rolls around. The Huskies have fallen off a bit after three straight 10+ win seasons, but that’s just college football; most teams aren’t football factories that reload every year…they are actually affected by graduations & players moving on to the NFL. I’m far too lazy to do actual research, but it’s safe to assume that Washington probably has a size & athleticism advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball where games are often won & lost in the 4th quarter. That means that logically one should lean that way, but I’m not always logical. The Broncos have overcome the numbers before and I think they’ll do it again. Zach, on the other hand, likes Huskies’ QB Jacob Eason to lead his team to victory.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

New Orleans Bowl (9pm on ESPN)

Appalachian State Mountaineers (12-1)      vs.     Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (9-4)  

Well, atleast one team named Mountaineers is playing in a bowl game. App. St. is a solid Top 25 team, but UAB has had a nice season as well. The Mountaineers will have a new head coach…their third in three years because it’s that type of program; successful, but a launchpad to allegedly bigger & better stuff. The positive thing is that their new coach has been their offensive line coach for a few years so there shouldn’t be much upheaval. UAB has fared rather well since reviving their football program a few years ago, amassing a 28-12 record since 2017, but I think they’ll fall short in this game, and so does Zach.

My Pick:     Appalachian St.

Z’s Pick:     Appalachian St.

 

 

Monday 12/23

 

Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, FL – 2:30pm on ESPN)

Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4)           vs.    Central Florida Knights (9-3)

I make no effort to hide my bias when it comes to my alma mater, so I’ll definitely be pulling for the Herd, but I am legit intrigued. UCF claimed to be an uncrowned national champion after going undefeated in 2017, then followed that up with a 12-1 record a year ago (with the loss being to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl). They may have fallen off just a bit this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good. Marshall will need to play a damn near perfect four quarters to get the upset. Zach foresees a high scoring affair and doesn’t think MU has the horses to get the job done.

My Pick:     Marshall

Z’s Pick:     UCF

 

 

Christmas Eve

Hawaii Bowl (8pm on ESPN)

BYU Cougars (7-5)              vs.    Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (9-5)

Did you know about the Hawaii Exemption?? It’s an NCAA rule that allows the Rainbows and any team on their schedule that travels to the islands to either play an extra game to help nullify travel expenses or have an extra bye week during the season. That’s why Hawaii has played 14 games. However, though that is a pretty neat rule I still think it is unfair for Hawaii or any other team to play a bowl game on their home turf, even if it is cool for the BYU folks to get to be in paradise for Christmas. This will be Hawaii’s fifth appearance since 2008 and they are 1-4 in that timeframe. I think they’ll be successful this year. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Hawaii

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

Thursday 12/26

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA – 4pm on ESPN)

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (9-3)             vs.    Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-6)

After going a combined 19-7 in Mark Richt’s first two seasons as head coach it kind of felt like the ‘Canes were recapturing a wee bit of the glory that made them one of the preeminent college football teams of the 1990’s. But they fell off dramatically a year ago Richt retired and now the program is trying to get things revved up again. However, even though Miami now obviously isn’t the Miami of old I have to believe that everyone associated with La. Tech is considering this a huge opportunity for a program defining victory. Will it happen?? It’s going to be tough, but I think the Bulldogs will outscore their opponents and come away with a hard fought win. Zach thinks Miami will be ready to go and get a comfortable win.

My Pick:     Louisiana Tech

Z’s Pick:     Miami (FL)

 

 

Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI – 8pm on ESPN)

Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-6)   vs.    Pitt Panthers (7-5)

On one hand I’m tempted to lampoon sPitt for being the very definition  if a mediocre football program, but I’m sure that their fans would point out that atleast that team is playing in a bowl game, whereas their rivals in the now dormant Backyard Brawl…my West Virginia Mountaineers…are not. Having said that, I think the Eagles will score the upset and leave the Panthers wondering where it all went so wrong. Zach thinks Pitt is probably the better team.

My Pick:     Eastern Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Pitt

 

Friday 12/27

Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD – Noon on ESPN)

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6)             vs.    Temple Owls (8-4)

Did y’all see the late September game where the Tar Heels darn near beat Clemson?? Of course I need to be fair and point out losses to Wake Forest & Pitt. So the question is whether a middle-of-the-pack ACC team is better than the middle-of-the-pack team from the America Athletic Conference, and I think the answer is “yes”, especially when a rejuvenated Mack Brown is the head coach. Zach likes Temple’s defense to play well enough to score a close win.

My Pick:     North Carolina

Z’s Pick:     Temple

 

Pinstripe Bowl (NY, NY – 3:20pm on ESPN)

Michigan State Spartans (6-6)             vs.    Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-4)

Is there a more confusing team in college football than Michigan St.?? From 2013-15 they were 36-5, fell to 3-9 in 2016, rebounded to 10-3 in 2017, a year later went 7-6, and now need a win to match that record in 2019. I have no idea what to make of them. Meanwhile, this is Wake’s fourth straight 7+ win season after being abysmal for about eight years. The arrow is pointing up for the Demon Deacons, while the arrow is drunk for the Spartans. I like consistency and think this will be a nice victory for the relatively weak ACC. Zach thinks it’ll be a low scoring defensive struggle and likes the Spartans to get a close win.

My Pick:     Wake Forest

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Texas Bowl (Houston, TX – 6:45pm on ESPN)

Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-4)           vs.    Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)

One can choose to look at A&M’s season in one of two ways. Either their brutally difficult schedule has prepared them for battle and laid the groundwork for future success, or they’ve got to be exhausted & beaten up after playing five Top 10 teams. I’m a glass half full kind of guy so I choose the former viewpoint. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have been completely overlooked while having a solid season, beating everyone they should have and losing only to the best teams in the Big 12 (well, except for Texas Tech…no idea what happened there). OK St. has running back Chuba Hubbard, who finished as the nation’s leading rusher with over 1900 yards and 8th in Heisman voting, but the Aggies have a more complete team and bright future. Zach believes that A&M’s season has prepared them for this moment and they’ll outscore their opponents in a tough game.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:    Texas A&M

 

 

Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA – 8pm on FS1)

Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3)           vs.    Southern California Trojans (8-4)

Friday nights are rough for me since I have to be at work at 6:30am on Saturdays, but I might have to stay up a bit late to watch this one. I expected better things for USC this year, but injuries pretty much torpedoed their season. The Hawkeyes started the season 4-0 but two straight losses in October ended any hopes of competing in a loaded Big Ten. The Trojans are riding a three game winning streak, but I think Iowa will dedicate the game to recently deceased legendary coach Hayden Fry and score an emotional victory. Zach thinks this game might be somewhat boring, but he believes Southern Cal is a more balanced & complete team that’ll get the close victory.

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     USC

 

 

Cheez-It Bowl (Phoenix, AZ – 10:15pm on ESPN)

Air Force Falcons (10-2)    vs.    Washington State Cougars (6-6)

No, I won’t be staying up to watch this one…I have my limits. I do enjoy watching the military academies play, although it seems like prepping for a bowl game gives opponents ample time to figure out the quirks. The Falcons are 4-3 in the past decade of post-season games, and the Cougars won’t be an easy out. I expect plenty of offense and would certainly take the over, whatever that may be. The Cheez-It Bowl has had a variety of names…Copper Bowl, Cactus Bowl, Insight Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl…but it’s usually a fun game no matter what it’s called. I think the Cougars probably have a depth & size advantage up & down the lines and that will enable them to take command in the 4th quarter for a comfortable win. Zach isn’t sure either defense will have much success and likes the Cougars’ ability to put up points.

My Pick:     Washington St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington St.

 

 

Saturday 12/28

Camping World Bowl (Orlando, FL – Noon on ABC)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2)                   vs.    Iowa State Cyclones (7-5)

I haven’t heard much about Notre Dame this season. Perhaps that is because their ten win season comes against a relatively unimpressive schedule. They lost to Georgia & Michigan, although in fairness I suppose wins against Virginia, Virginia Tech, USC, & Navy deserve mild kudos since those are all bowl teams. I really thought the Cyclones would challenge for the Big 12 title, but Baylor was better than anyone thought and a season ending loss to Kansas St. was something I wouldn’t have predicted. I’m sure most of the talking heads will be in the tank for the Irish, but I believe they’re going to find themselves in a tougher battle than expected. Zach likes Notre Dame’s defense and believes that’ll make the difference in a close game.

My Pick:     Iowa St.

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX – Noon on ESPN)

Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)           vs.    Memphis Tigers (12-1)

So this is the…ummm…reward…for winning the AAC & being the highest ranked “Group of Five” team?? I could go off on a tirade about the structure of college football and how I’d change everything if I had the power, but let’s save it for another time. Much like Notre Dame the Nittany Lions haven’t received much love in 2019 despite winning ten games. That’s what happens when you play not only in the same conference as Ohio St. but also the same division. A loss to Minnesota that no one would have predicted four months ago didn’t help. Having said that, I have to believe that Penn St. has vastly superior athleticism & depth over Memphis, and this game won’t be all that close. It won’t help the Tigers that former head coach Mike Norvell has already moved on to Florida St. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA – 4pm on ESPN)

College Football Playoff Semifinal

LSU Tigers (13-0)                vs.              Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

They really had no choice. The playoff committee was hamstrung by Utah’s loss in the Pac 12 title game & Georgia’s poor performance in the SEC title game. I was sincerely hoping for a more interesting alternative, but Baylor failed miserably so here we are with the Sooners getting a crack at solving the playoff puzzle, the Big 12’s first appearance in this format. Do I think they have a shot?? No. LSU is a well-oiled machine with a Heisman winning QB and a powerful offense that more than makes up for their 32nd ranked defense. There are NFL prospects up & down both rosters, but the Tigers are clearly the better team and I don’t even think it’s close. Zach likes Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, but doesn’t feel like Oklahoma’s defense is up to the task of stopping Joe Burrow & the Tigers’ offense.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ – 8pm on ESPN)

College Football Playoff Semifinal

Ohio State Buckeyes          (13-0)         vs.    Clemson Tigers (13-0)

I get it. I understand why Clemson is here. They’re undefeated and the defending national champions. They’ve been in the playoff three previous times. Dabo Swinney is one of the best coaches in college football and he’s a fun interview (much more entertaining than Nick Saban). But when one really looks at THIS season and examines their weak schedule it just feels like they shouldn’t be a playoff team. Conversely, the Buckeyes have faced some real challenges and faced every single one. They had three players in the top 6 in Heisman voting, which negatively impacted those players’ chances to win but certainly speaks well of the program. Chase Young is the best defensive player in the nation and will be a very high NFL draft choice whenever he decides to move on. Will this be a good game?? Probably. I have no doubt that Swinney will have his troops ready to play and they’ll be psyched to play a legit opponent. But I just don’t see any way that Clemson can overcome the odds and defeat a better team. For Zach it comes down to coaching, and he believes Swinney will find a way to lead his team to a hard fought victory.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Monday 12/30

First Responder Bowl (Dallas, TX – 12:30pm on ESPN)

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4)    vs.    Western Michigan Broncos (7-5)

I’m glad they changed the name of this game from the weird sounding Heart of Dallas Bowl. Y’all know how neurotic I can be about corporate sponsorship and bowl names, but I suppose a game honoring our nation’s first responders is a nice idea. As for the game itself, I’m a little more familiar with the Hilltoppers since they’ve competed against my Thundering Herd in C-USA for several years, while I haven’t followed the Broncos at all. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Western Kentucky

Z’s Pick:     Western Kentucky

 

 

Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN – 4pm on ESPN)

Louisville Cardinals (7-5)            vs.    Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6)

Mediocre teams…one from a mediocre conference and the other that gets lost in the SEC shuffle. I think the Bulldogs probably have better athletes on their roster and most certainly have played tougher opponents this season, which should have them well prepared. Zach likes Louisville to win a shootout.

My Pick:     Mississippi St.

Z’s Pick:     Louisville

 

 

Redbox Bowl (Santa Clara, CA – 4pm on Fox)

California Golden Bears (7-5)     vs.    Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6)

Is Redbox still a thing?? Doesn’t everyone stream movies now?? Do they even still make DVDs?? These questions interest me far more than the game itself. Illinois did score one big win over Wisconsin, so there’s that. Plus you just have to dig Illini head coach Lovie Smith, who probably should get another opportunity in the NFL someday. Cal will probably have a bit of a “home field” advantage since the game is being played less than two hours from their campus, but I like Lovie to lead his team to victory. Zach thinks Cal will go up early, Illinois will make a spirited comeback, but that effort will fall short.

My Pick:     Illinois

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Orange Bowl (Miami, FL – 8pm on ESPN)

Florida Gators (10-2)           vs.              Virginia Cavaliers (9-4)

I’m just going to go ahead and say it…Virginia is vastly overrated. If one peeks at their schedule you’ll see that they lost to four bowl teams (Notre Dame, Miami, Louisville, & Clemson), while padding their resume with wins over William & Mary, Old Dominion, and the train wreck that Florida St. has become. Sorry, but I’m not buying the Cavaliers hype. Conversely, the Gators did quite well in the nation’s toughest conference and fell short against LSU & Georgia, which isn’t anything to feel bad about. I’m forecasting a blowout win for Florida. Zach thinks it’ll be a close game but also believes the Gators will win.

My Pick:     Florida

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

New Year’s Eve

 

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC – Noon on ESPN)

Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)               vs.              Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4)

I ranked the Hokies 25th in my pre-season poll and had a feeling they’d turn things around from last season’s 6-7 abomination. Tough losses to Notre Dame & Virginia doomed their conference title ambitions, but progress is progress. This will be defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s final game in that role after more than three decades in Blacksburg. He says he’s retiring, but we know how those stories go and since he’s only 60 years old I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on a sideline somewhere in a year or two, but his departure will certainly have a negative impact on Tech. Under Foster’s guidance Tech has had one of the top defenses in the nation for many years and I suspect they’ll be amped up to send him out on a high note. Long known as a basketball school, Kentucky has had a football renaissance the past few years, but I don’t think they stand a chance in this game. Zach has a little more faith in UK to keep things close but also believes Tech’s defense will lead them to victory.

My Pick:     Virginia Tech

Z’s Pick:     Virginia Tech

 

 

 Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX – 2pm on CBS)

Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5)   vs.    Florida State Seminoles (6-6)

Okay okay…the Seminoles are a train wreck, but they are a bowl eligible train wreck, so atleast they got that going for them, which is nice. Willie Taggart was fired mid-season and Mike Norvell will be coming down from Memphis to take over, so they are playing under an interim coach for the time being. Conversely, my man Herm Edwards is firmly entrenched at Arizona St. and has what it takes to build a winning program. A signature win over Florida St….even this version of Florida St….would be a real boost. I always enjoy watching the Sun Bowl. There’s nothing better to do on New Year’s Eve afternoon since the…festivities…don’t start until later, and it’s fun to wonder what it’d be like to live in a sunshine filled delight like El Paso instead of the grey, cold, depressing winter of Appalachia. At any rate, I think the Sun Devils will get the job done by a comfortable margin. The Seminoles will be back near the top someday, but that day is not now. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Arizona St.

Z’s Pick:     Arizona St.

  

 

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN – 3:45pm on ESPN)

Kansas State Wildcats (8-4)                 vs.              Navy Midshipmen (10-2)

I’m glad to see one of the service academies playing in the Liberty Bowl. It just makes sense. K St. gets lost in the Big 12 shuffle while everyone fawns all over Oklahoma & Texas and this year Baylor, but they have quietly put together a solid yet wildly inconsistent program. This has been a good year for them. Unfortunately for the Wildcats their opponents are having their best season since 2016 and I think the Midshipmen will get the easy win. Zach thinks Navy’s triple option spells doom for the Wildcats.

My Pick:     Navy

Z’s Pick:     Navy

 

 

Arizona Bowl (4:30pm on CBS Sports Network)

Georgia State Panthers (7-5)                vs.              Wyoming Cowboys (7-5)

I have a vague recollection of Wyoming having a really good football team back in the late 1980’s & early 90’s. Unfortunately we east coasters don’t get much of an opportunity to watch their games. The Panthers have only had a football program since 2010 and moved up to Division 1-A/FBS in 2013. This will be their third bowl game in five years. I am intrigued by this game simply because I know very little about either team. I suppose I’ll pull for Georgia St. because I assume they’ll be considered underdogs. Zach likes Wyoming.

My Pick:     Georgia St.

Z’s Pick:     Wyoming

 

 

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX – 7:30pm on ESPN)

Utah Utes (11-2)                             vs.              Texas Longhorns (7-5)

Oh wow…another “woulda, coulda, shoulda” matchup. Utah had to win the Pac 12 title and almost certainly would have been in the playoff, but they laid an egg against Oregon. The college football world has been waiting for awhile for Texas to climb back on top, but after a stellar 10-4 record a year ago they fell flat in 2019. The Utes have a really good defense, but Texas probably has the deeper & more athletic team. This one could be a dogfight that goes right down to the wire, and I’d be fine with that. In the end I believe in the old philosophy that defense wins championships and I think Utah’s physicality makes the difference. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Utah

 

 

New Year’s Day

Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL – 1pm on ABC)

Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2)               vs.              Michigan Wolverines (9-3)

This is not where these two teams would prefer to be on New Year’s Day. As we all know, ‘Bama is usually in the playoff whether they win the SEC title or not, but losing the Iron Bowl to archrival Auburn spelled doom. Meanwhile, the folks in Ann Arbor may or may not be growing a little impatient with head coach Jim Harbaugh. 47-15 over the course of five years would get buildings named after a coach at most universities, but Michigan has extremely high…maybe impossible…expectations. However, putting all expectations aside this is a pretty darn entertaining matchup for the fans and both schools. I expect the mind games and verbal sparring between Harbaugh & Nick Saban to be delightful fun in the next few weeks. Unless a bunch of their players decide to sit out to protect their NFL Draft status I think the Tide has superior talent right now, so I think they’ll win comfortably. Zach reluctantly agrees.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL – 1pm on ESPN)

Auburn Tigers (9-3)             vs.              Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-2)

Underrated vs. overrated. Auburn’s lineup is stacked with NFL level talent and I believe they can compete for a playoff berth in the near future. Losing to Florida, LSU, & Georgia is nothing to be ashamed of and doesn’t truly represent how good Auburn is, but that’s life in the SEC…the difference between winning & losing such games is the thin line between competing for a national title and playing in this bowl game. Conversely, I just don’t buy what Minnesota is selling. Other than upsetting Penn St. I just haven’t been overwhelmingly impressed. I think Auburn will put up a lot of points, play stellar defense, win easily. Once again Zach believes it’ll be a lot closer, but he likes Auburn as well.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Auburn

 

 

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA – 5pm on ESPN)

Oregon Ducks (11-2)           vs.              Wisconsin Badgers (10-3)

Both teams might have been playoff contenders, but a November loss to Arizona St. doomed the Ducks, while Wisconsin’s October loss to Illinois might be the head scratcher of the year. Nevertheless these are two really talented football teams, and my expectations are unreasonably high. Badgers’ RB Jonathan Taylor has something to prove after not being invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony, while the Ducks need to defend the honor of the Pac 12, whose champion has only made the playoff twice since 2014. I’m a big fan of smashmouth football and generally lean in that direction, but I think Oregon might just be too fast and have too many weapons for Wisconsin to stop. If they get behind early and have to abandon the run it’d be disastrous. Once upon a time Ducks’ QB Justin Herbert was thought to be a potential #1 overall NFL draft pick, but he stayed in college long enough for the talking heads to become enamored with other signal callers. Don’t be surprised if Herbert puts on a show in this game and goes on to have a better pro career than every quarterback drafted ahead of him. Despite predicting a big day for Taylor Zach also feels like Oregon is the better overall team.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA – 8:45pm on ESPN)

Georgia Bulldogs (11-2)               vs.              Baylor Bears (11-2)

The playoff would have looked vastly different if either one (or both) of these teams had been successful in their conference title games. Unfortunately for Georgia the LSU Tigers have been a beast in 2019 and weren’t going to be stopped. Baylor is a bit different. They had two cracks at Oklahoma and fell short both times. I don’t believe in moral victories when it comes to sports, and when you have a team like the Sooners on the ropes you have to go in for the kill. I hope this is another really fun game, and I’ll be rooting for the Bears to find a way to get over the hump…but I’m not sure I’d put any money on them. Zach has zero faith in Baylor and thinks the Bulldogs will cruise to victory.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

Friday 1/3

Birmingham Bowl (3pm on ESPN)

Cincinnati Bearcats (10-3)           vs.              Boston College Eagles (6-6)

As noted in the opening I take no issue with the existence of these next several games. I’ll watch some of them and probably be entertained to varying degrees. However, I find the placement odd. Once we get to New Year’s fans want to see the best teams face off. Throwaway games should be played in December. By January 3rd we’re finished with the holidays, have returned to work, and have a bit of football fatigue. Our remaining energy is reserved for the National Championship and the NFL playoffs. At any rate, the Bearcats have had a much better season and I think they’ll cap it off with a victory. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Cincinnati

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL – 7pm on ESPN)

Indiana Hoosiers (8-4)                  vs.              Tennessee Volunteers (7-5)

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, how far has the Gator Bowl fallen?? It used to be one of the big games played on New Year’s Eve or Day, and now it’s here with these two teams?? I don’t know who’s running things behind the scenes for the bowl organization, but they might need to be replaced. Secondly, when did Indiana become good at football?? Wins over Northwestern, Nebraska, & Purdue are mildly impressive. Conversely, the Vols are still trying to recapture the glory they enjoyed back when Peyton Manning played quarterback. Far from being meaningless, I have to believe that a win for either team could be a harbinger of positive things to come. I give Tennessee the slight edge, but this could be a really close contest. Zach also thinks it’ll  be close but likes the Hoosiers to get the win.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Indiana

 

 

Potato Bowl (Boise, ID- 3:30pm on ESPN)

Nevada Wolfpack (7-5)                 vs.              Ohio Bobcats (6-6)

Hey, atleast Boise St. isn’t playing in this game, so that’s a step in the right direction. I used to have an odd fascination with the Wolfpack and recall watching some of their really fun late night games. However, one of reasons they came to prominence about a decade ago was the play of QB Colin Kaepernick…you may have heard of him. I cannot in good conscience bring myself to support anything connected to Kaepernick, so I’ll be pulling for the Bobcats. Conversely, Zach’s irrational disdain is reserved for the entire state of Ohio.

My Pick:     Ohio

Z’s Pick:     Nevada

 

 

Saturday 1/4

 

Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX – 11:30am on ESPN)

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (7-5)              vs.              Tulane Green Wave (6-6)

I’d love to see the television ratings for all of these games, and if we did my guess is this would be among the least watched of all of them. I mean no disrespect to either team…it’s not about them. Well okay…it’s not completely about them. The timing is just atrocious. The first weekend of the new year. Everyone is still in a post-holiday haze. Before noon on a Saturday. I assume there will be NFL playoff games on later in the day. I’m sure both fanbases are psyched and that’s cool, but I have a feeling most of the rest of us will be skipping out. I’m not familiar with either team, so I’ll go with The Vibes and choose Southern Miss. Zach is going in the opposite direction and picking he Green Wave to get a close win.

My Pick:     Southern Miss

Z’s Pick:     Tulane

 

 

Monday 1/6

 

LendingTree Bowl (Mobile, AL – 7:30pm on ESPN)

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (10-3)   vs.    Miami (OH) RedHawks (8-5)

Monday night is wrasslin’ night at The Bachelor Palace so I probably won’t be watching the game, but football fans are pre-conditioned to watch on Monday nights, so the ratings might be marginally better. Once again my knowledge (and my level of giving a damn) is rather low, so I’m going with the Cajuns because I like their food & their accent. Zach is picking Louisiana because…well…you know.

My Pick:     Louisiana-Lafayette

Z’s Pick:     Louisiana-Lafayette

 

 

Monday 1/13

College Football Playoff National Championship Game

New Orleans, LA – 8pm on ESPN

Ohio St. Buckeyes / Clemson Tigers vs.    LSU Tigers / Oklahoma Sooners

I’m predicting an LSU vs. Ohio St. matchup, while Zach is leaning toward LSU vs. Clemson. If I’m right it’ll be The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object…the two most complete teams in college football. I think the offenses are fairly even, while I’d give a slight edge to the Buckeyes defense. Both lineups are loaded with NFL talent, and I don’t think either team has a distinct coaching advantage. If Ohio St. can control the clock with JK Dobbins & the running game it gives them a leg up. This will come down to the little things…special teams, field position, turnovers. I don’t foresee a shootout (the defenses are too good), but neither do I think it’ll be a low scoring affair. I’m looking at something like 24-21, with the outcome hanging in the balance late in the 4th quarter. The TV folks will love it, and I have a feeling the folks in Columbus will too. Conversely, Zach is all in on Dabo Swinney and has really high expectations for this game.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 14

 

It all comes down to this…for them, not us. We still have a few more weeks of NFL action, but for now we are all college football one last time. It’s Championship Week, when conference titles will be won and playoff berths will be decided. Last week we didn’t do too bad, with me (5-2) edging out Zach (4-3), thanks to a big Auburn victory that seems to have (thankfully) knocked Alabama out of playoff contention. Credit to Zach though…he has brought his season record back to .500, so I’m going to have to do my due diligence and stay on my toes for the remainder of the season. Most of the conference title games are at neutral sites with a couple of exceptions, and most take place on Saturday (with one notable Friday night game). Enjoy!!

My Season:        47-35

Zach’s Season:  41-41

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah (-6.5)                     vs.              Oregon

Pac 12 Championship (Santa Clara, CA)

Oregon is out of playoff contention thanks to that tough November loss to Arizona St., but a conference championship and playing bigtime spoiler would be a nice consolation prize. Utah needs a domino or two to fall, and the playoff committee might hold a September loss to USC against them since the Trojans finished the regular season a slightly above average 8-4. But have you seen the Utes play?? They have the third best defense in the country, and their offense averages 36 points per game. In other words, they’re legit and would be a solid playoff team. The Ducks aren’t going to make it easy though. This is the Friday night game I mentioned and it should be a lot of fun. I think Utah has too much riding on the outcome and will play their best game. Conversely, Zach believes Oregon will really embrace a spoiler role.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Hawaii       at      Boise State (-14)

Mountain West Championship

I kind of feel sorry for Boise. Year in & year out they win 10 or 11 games and almost always play for the conference title, and their big reward is playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. Not that there is anything wrong with Vegas…I’ve been dying to visit there for years. Anyway, the Broncos have made a couple of splashes in the top bowl games, winning the Fiesta Bowl in 2007, 2010, & 2014. Will they receive a similar opportunity this season?? Well, first they’ll need to win this weekend, which I don’t think will be an issue. Zach thinks Hawaii is better than they’re being given credit for. He falls short of predicting an outright upset, but thinks it’ll definitely be closer than two TDs.

My Pick:     Boise State

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

 

 

Virginia     vs.    Clemson (-28.5)

ACC Championship (Charlotte, NC)

First of all, I don’t believe that Clemson deserves to be in the playoff even if they win this game. Their conference is weak & their schedule is weak other than a non-conference win over Texas A&M. The talking heads can yap all they want to about “resume” and “body of work”, but the simple truth is that Clemson will receive a playoff spot because they are Clemson. They are being rewarded for their recent pedigree, not for what they’ve done this season. Having said that, I don’t think the Tigers will have any issues putting away Virginia. The Cavaliers have had a nice season and will head to a sweet bowl location, but they aren’t winning the ACC title. Will Clemson cover?? They usually do, so I’m just going to roll with it. Zach, on the other hand, is making the smart move. He doesn’t think Virginia will win, but he believes they’re good enough to stay within four TDs.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Virginia

 

 

 

Baylor                 vs.              Oklahoma (-9)

Big 12 Championship (Dallas, TX)

As much as I truly believe Utah deserves that fourth playoff berth the “experts” seem to be leaning toward Oklahoma because…well, they’re Oklahoma. People like ESPN’s Paul Finebaum are under the delusion that the masses would rather see the Sooners than the Utes compete for the national championship, but he’s absolutely wrong. Trust me, college football fans are tired of the same old thing. Most fans outside of Tuscaloosa are ecstatic that Alabama won’t be in the playoff, and we’d be just as thrilled to see Oklahoma on the outside looking in. These two teams just did battle a few weeks ago, with Oklahoma scoring a narrow three point victory. I think it’ll be just as close again, and I’m hoping for an upset. Conversely, Zach believes the Sooners will learn from the mistakes they made in the previous matchup and won’t trail the entire game, winning by double digits.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

 

Cincinnati                              at                         Memphis (-9.5)

American Athletic Championship

Speaking of rematches, these two teams just played each other a week ago. Memphis scored a ten point victory, which explains the point spread. The winner seems likely to beat out Boise for a New Year’s bowl game, although that’s certainly not etched in stone. At any rate, I see no reason to expect a different outcome from what we saw last weekend. Zach believes Memphis will win again but the Bearcats will make it closer than the first contest.

My Pick:     Memphis

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnai

 

 

 

Georgia                        vs.                       LSU (-7)

SEC Championship (Atlanta, GA)

I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb to predict that the Bayou Bengals will be a playoff team no matter what happens this week. Worst case scenario is that they drop to #4 with a loss. Conversely, the Bulldogs have to win to hold onto a playoff spot. These two teams have not played one another this year, so that adds a layer of intrigue. It may be instructive to look at a common opponent: Texas A&M. Georgia beat the Aggies by six points a few weeks ago, while the very next week LSU defeated the Aggies in a 43 point blowout. I don’t think LSU will break a sweat winning this game and will have their backups in early in the second half. Zach foresees a defensive struggle and thinks that LSU quarterback & leading Heisman candidate Joe Burrow will make the difference in the 4th quarter.

My Pick:     LSU

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

Ohio State (-16.5)                          vs.                       Wisconsin

Big Ten Championship (Indianapolis, IN)

Much like LSU I don’t see any scenario in which the Buckeyes aren’t in the playoff. I also don’t believe there is any way they’ll lose this game. However, I do think Wisconsin is being overlooked a little bit. That mid-October loss at Illinois really screwed up their season, but they are a better team than that, and RB Jonathan Taylor should be the Heisman frontrunner. I foresee a scenario in which Ohio St….with the bigger picture in mind…decides not to risk injuries to their starters by playing them in the fourth quarter. That might not mean a Badger victory because Ohio St. would have to be ahead by a significant margin for them to make that decision, but it could allow the underdogs to score a couple of times and pull closer. Zach likes Ohio St. RB JK Dobbins, but opines that the Buckeyes have choked in big games in previous years. He not only believes it’ll be a close game, but is picking the outright upset.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

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 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 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.