2014 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

football-introducing-the-science_1The time has finally come!! After decades of mythical national champions and BCS (emphasis on the BS) silliness college football finally gets a playoff. Is the system perfect?? I don’t know…probably not. But I will reserve judgment until I see exactly how it works out. One thing we know for sure…there is no longer a race to be #1 or even the runner-up. Four teams will earn an opportunity to be in the playoff mix, so as long as a team is amongst those final four they’ll get their shot. Any “controversy” will be a debate as to which team deserves that 4th spot, and I am sure there will be a few teams staking a claim. But at the end of the day my vibe is that the argument will be rather muted & somewhat trivial and that fans will be mostly satisfied with the outcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Florida State
Last Season: 14-0
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Oklahoma St., 9/20 vs. Clemson, 10/18 vs. Notre Dame
Defending national champions. Returning Heisman winning quarterback. Former wrestling champion Ric Flair used to say “To be the man you have to beat the man”FloridaStateSeminoles1 and until a team comes along and knocks the Seminoles off their perch I think they have to be given this top spot. Two out-of-conference games against Oklahoma St. & Notre Dame as well as the always entertaining ACC clash against Clemson are all in Tallahassee. I’d be stunned if this team isn’t in that final four.

 

 

 

2 Oregon
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/6 vs. Michigan St., 10/11 at UCLA, 11/1 vs. Stanford
Quarterback Marcus Mariotta likely could have been a first round pick in the NFL Draft but chose to return to Eugene for a shot at the national title and a run at the Oregon-DucksHeisman Trophy. I think he has a strong chance to snag both. Head coach Mark Helfrich didn’t miss a beat after taking the helm last season when Chip Kelly moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles. The PAC 12 is one of the toughest conferences in the land, but I think we’ll see the Ducks overcome both UCLA and Stanford to once again be in the national championship conversation.

 

 

 

3 Alabama
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/8 at LSU, 11/29 vs. Auburn
Let’s be clear…the inaugural 4 team playoff will, come hell or high water, include the Crimson Tide. The major players in the SEC are probably going to spend the AlabamaCrimsonTide2season beating up on each other, but that’ll just endear them all to the lapdog media even more. ‘Bama must replace quarterback AJ McCarron who is now patiently awaiting the inevitable implosion of fellow signal caller Andy Dalton as a Cincinnati Bengal. I don’t think it matters who ends up with the job for the Tide. Their calling card is a tenacious defense and a virtually unstoppable running game.

 

 

 

4 South Carolina
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 8/28 vs. Texas A&M, 9/13 vs. Georgia, 10/25 at Auburn, 11/29 at Clemson
Do not be surprised if the powers-that-be contort themselves into a pretzel trying to get two SEC teams into the playoff. How does that happen?? Simple. First of all,Gamecocks the Gamecocks don’t play Alabama during the regular season. It is entirely conceivable that both teams go into the SEC title game undefeated. Maybe ‘Bama is #1 and South Carolina is a Top 10 team. South Carolina wins a close game and rightfully ascends into the top 4. The collective hard-on the masses have for Alabama means they tumble…but not much. It’s possible. You heard it here first.

 

 

 

5 UCLA
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/11 vs. Oregon, 11/22 vs. USC, 11/28 vs. Stanford
I really like the PAC 12, but in the scenario described above it could be their runner-up that gets left out in the cold. Let’s imagine this. Oregon beats the ucla_bruins2Bruins on October 11th and goes undefeated. UCLA overcomes the loss and doesn’t lose the rest of the regular season. The two meet again in the conference title game and the Ducks prevail in an epic contest. There is no way that UCLA beats out the SEC runner-up to get into the playoff.

 

 

 

6 Oklahoma
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/8 vs. Baylor, 12/6 vs. Oklahoma St.
The Big 12 only has ten teams and no championship game. That really hurts their chances of having a playoff team. It doesn’t help that the conference is relatively weak. oklahomaEntertaining?? Sure. But the Sooners defeating the likes of TCU, Iowa St., West Virginia, & Kansas by three or more touchdowns won’t impress anybody. It is more than possible that Oklahoma could run the table and still not even be in the playoff discussion. If they drop a game to Baylor or in-state rival Oklahoma St. then they’re toast.

 

 

 

7 Wisconsin
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 8/30 vs. LSU, 11/15 vs. Nebraska
Other pundits may be picking a different Big Ten (which now has 14 teams) team to prevail, but I think the Badgers will pound their way to the conference WisconsinBadgerschampionship behind 6ft.1 207lb. junior running back Melvin Gordon. Whether or not they win their season opening out-of-conference matchup with the LSU Tigers is irrelevant, although that game being in Madison certainly helps. A mid-November clash with Nebraska is also at home and will likely decide who represents the division in the conference title game.

 

 

 

8 Baylor
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/8 at Oklahoma
Senior quarterback Bryce Petty returns to lead what was a prolific and dominating offense in 2013. The Bears have the same issue as any other Big 12 contender inbaylor that they are unlikely to receive as much respect on a national scale as teams from the SEC or PAC 12. An out-of-conference schedule that includes SMU, Northwestern St., & Buffalo isn’t going to help. Basically the whole season comes down to an early November clash with the Sooners in Norman. The winner of that game probably plays in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day. The loser will end up in something depressing like the Advocare Texas Bowl.

 

 

 

9 Boise State
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 8/28 vs. Ole Miss, 10/24 vs. BYU
They’re baaaccckkk. The Broncos have long been college football’s Little Engine That Could. They have consistently been a double digit win team over the past 15 boise-state-logoyears. After a lot of rumors and flirting with other gigs in the past decade former head coach Chris Petersen moved on to Washington and has been replaced in Boise by Bryan Harsin, a former Broncos offensive coordinator who also spent some time coaching under Mack Brown at Texas. After going 8-5 in 2013 no one is really talking about Boise St., which will make it all the sweeter when they win 10 or 11 games. Their season opener is an out-of-conference contest against an Ole Miss team that seems to be getting much love this pre-season despite the fact that they play a murderous SEC schedule. I’m betting people will remember Boise St. is still around afterward.

 

 

 

10 Michigan State
Last Season: 13-1
Key Games: 9/6 at Oregon, 10/4 vs. Nebraska, 11/8 vs. Ohio St.
The Spartans all too often get lost in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) shuffle. But if you look at their success over the past few seasons they have been remarkablyMichigan_State_Spartans consistent, winning 11+ games three out of the past four years. This is another team that wins with good old-fashioned smashmouth football and a tough defense. Even if they lose 2 out of 3 key games and finish 10-2 they could have a legitimate opportunity to be in the conference title mix.

 

 

 

11 Ohio State
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 11/8 at Michigan St.
Losing QB Braxton Miller for the season virtually eliminates the Buckeyes from the championship picture. They have an unimpressive & weak schedule with neither Ohio_State_BuckeyesNebraska nor Wisconsin anywhere in sight. All it will take is a loss to Michigan St. to end the dream. And let’s be honest…if they were to somehow make it to the playoff they’d get beaten like a government mule.

 

 

 

12 Nebraska
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 10/4 at Michigan St., 11/15 at Wisconsin
I fully expect a logjam at the top of the Big Ten (which has 14 teams). There will probably be 3 or 4 teams finishing somewhere around the 9-3/10-2 mark. The nebraskaCornhuskers’ out-of-conference schedule, which includes Miami, FL & Fresno St., isn’t bad. If they can split their two key games they will almost certainly be a solid Top 25 team.

 

 

 

13 Marshall
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: all of them and none of them
Marshall is my alma mater. I know that expectations are high in my old stomping grounds in Huntington, WV. Here is what I expect. I expect an undefeated season. I herdexpect QB Rakeem Cato to be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony though he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Arizona of actually winning. I expect that undefeated season to mean diddly squat as far as the national playoff. And I expect that if…if…the Herd screws the pooch in any game…including a C-USA championship game…they will tumble very quickly from the rankings.

 

 

 

14 Iowa
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 11/22 vs. Wisconsin, 11/28 vs. Nebraska
The Hawkeyes are another team that can always be dangerous even in a down year. Head coach Kirk Ferentz is one of those names that always gets mentioned iowafor “better” jobs, whether in the NFL or elsewhere in college. At age 59 and going into his 16th year at the helm in Iowa City it looks less & less likely that he will ever actually make the jump and will instead be one of those lifers like Bobby Bowden or Frank Beamer that sticks around for three decades. Having said that, a close examination of Iowa’s “success” under Ferentz shows that they’ve only had four double digit win seasons during his tenure. If they can split the two key games above…both of which are at home…they could add another in 2014.

 

 

 

15 Bowling Green
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: I have no idea
Someone’s got to win the MAC, right?? Actually I like watching MAC football. Their games are usually quite entertaining. The problem is that they are all kind of just bowling greenrandom teams from Ohio (and a couple of other midwestern states). It reminds me of eating at McDonald’s…you know there are better options available and you aren’t quite sure exactly what you’re consuming, but in the moment it is sort of tasty and mostly satisfying. At any rate, the Falcons won the conference title game in 2013, upsetting a Northern Illinois team that was ranked in the Top 20. They seem to be getting some “others receiving votes” love in other polls, and since the entire Top 25 can’t be SEC, PAC 12, & Big Ten (which has 14 teams) I’ll give this team a fighting chance to win 10 or 11 games (they’ll get mauled at Wisconsin), win the conference, and earn this spot.

 

 

 

16 LSU
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Wisconsin, 10/4 at Auburn, 11/8 vs. Alabama, 11/27 at Texas A&M
The Bayou Bengals seem to be one of those teams that just reload and have tremendous success year after year. However, I am a bit nervous about their chances lsu_logo-9547in 2014. First of all they have to replace a quarterback, running back, & wide receiver (as well as about a half dozen other players) that were all taken in the NFL Draft. Secondly their out-of-conference schedule includes the season opener…a neutral site clash against Wisconsin. And of course the biggest issue…they play in the SEC. I realize that the wet dream of the powers-that-be is probably an all-SEC four team playoff for the national title, but that ain’t gonna happen. Someone will be on the outside looking in. If LSU can overcome all of that and still have a Top 20 team it will be a remarkable feat.

 

 

 

17 Stanford
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/6 vs. USC, 10/4 at Notre Dame, 11/1 at Oregon, 11/28 at UCLA
Stanford has the same issue as LSU. They play in a tough conference where the law of averages dictates that not everybody can be a Top 10 national photo.stanfordtreechampionship contender. The schedule is brutal. If this team can somehow get to 9 wins they will deserve a solid ranking.

 

 

 

18 Navy
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Ohio St., 11/1 vs. Notre Dame
Call me crazy, but I think the Midshipmen have a puncher’s chance in their season opening neutral site game against Ohio St. Okay okay…I’m not going to rush to navyVegas or Atlantic City and actually put money on that, but the rest of the season looks pretty decent. There is a November contest against Notre Dame that is also winnable. But even if Navy loses those two games they could still end up in this spot by going 10-2 and being very competitive (within two TDs) against the Buckeyes and Irish.

 

 

 

19 Oklahoma State
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Florida St., 11/22 at Baylor, 12/6 at Oklahoma
The Cowboys open their season at the Palace in Dallas against #1 Florida St. Ouch. If they pull the upset it’ll turn college football on its collective ear on the very firstoklahoma_state_cowboys_iphone_wallpaper weekend of the season. However, even though that is unlikely, the truth is that the whole season comes down to the final two games against Baylor and Oklahoma. Split those two games and this ranking looks golden. But even if Oklahoma St. loses all three of their key games they can still get here by being very competitive in those games and beating their other nine opponents into oblivion.

 

 

 

20 Central Florida
Last Season: 12-1
Key Games: 8/30 at Penn St., 9/13 at Missouri
Quick…tell me what conference UCF plays in. Now tell me three other teams in that conference. Give up?? The American Athletic Conference is the very definition 2007-UCF-Knight-headof mediocrity, comprised of refugees from C-USA and the old Big East that just didn’t have enough to offer for a more well-respected conference to invite them to play with the big boys. It is somewhat surprising that UCF finds itself in such a hot mess given that they are the 2nd largest university in the country. Let that sink in for a minute. UCF is bigger than Florida, Florida St., & Miami, FL…all of whom have had tremendous success on the gridiron. Will such success eventually occur for the Knights?? Maybe. Until that happens though they will be satisfied to win their conference and be a solid Top 20 team. I am a bit concerned that they must replace QB Blake Bortles who is now plying his trade in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But at the end of the day I think this is a team that will overcome adversity, win 9 or 10 games, and secure another conference title.

 

 

 

21 Arizona
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 10/2 at Oregon, 10/11 vs. USC, 11/1 at UCLA,
There are a handful of other PAC 12 teams that get all the love, but don’t forget about the Wildcats. Head coach Rich Fraudriguez seems to be much more college_arizona_90comfortable in Tucson than he ever was in Ann Arbor, MI. I think lower expectations and staying off the beaten path suits him well. If Arizona can pull off just one big upset and win 9 or 10 games they are a solid choice to sneak into the rankings.

 

 

 

22 Notre Dame
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 10/4 vs. Stanford, 10/18 at Florida St., 11/29 at USC
The Fighting Irish can’t cheat as much on the football field as they apparently do in the classroom because…well…television cameras. The question is can theyNotreDameFightingIrish recover from the loss of atleast 4 players (and who knows what other shoes may drop) and meet always lofty expectations?? I assume they’ll hang around and be good enough to be a solid 8/9 win bowl team. Brian Kelly is a good coach and QB Everett Golson returns from his 2013…hiatus…which means the offense should be decent. Pulling an upset in any one of the three key games would almost assure sneaking into the final rankings.

 

 

 

23 Virginia Tech
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/6 at Ohio St., 10/4 at North Carolina, 10/23 vs. Miami, FL
Florida St. will win the ACC. But who will win the other division and be chum for the Seminoles in the conference title game?? Most “experts” are picking North Virginia_Tech_Hokies2Carolina or Miami to fill that role. I’m playing a hunch and going against the grain. Head coach Frank Beamer has a ton of experience and his team plays in a relatively mediocre conference. I don’t think they’ll beat Ohio St., but that isn’t where the focus should be anyway. It’s a three horse race for the Coastal Division and it’ll all come down to October contests against the Tar Heels and Hurricanes.

 

 

24 Auburn
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/4 vs. LSU, 10/25 vs. South Carolina, 11/8 vs. Texas A&M, 11/15 at Georgia, 11/29 at Alabama
An old saying tells us that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and the Tigers were very very very lucky last season. Oh they were good too…but being lucky auburntook them from going 9-3 and playing in the Cotton Bowl to going 12-1 and coming up short in the national championship. They won’t be as fortunate this season. I’m not concerned about players lost to the NFL. Teams like Auburn just reload, and QB Nick Marshall returns for his senior year as a viable Heisman candidate. But the schedule is ridiculously difficult and I don’t think this team will win more than a couple of the key games noted above.

 

 

 

25 Georgia
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Clemson, 9/13 at South Carolina
A 8/9 win season and a Top 25 ranking might not seem good enough for an upper echelon SEC team, but I say it’d be a pretty decent finish all things considered.georgia The Bulldogs must replace QB Aaron Murray, but they still have junior RB Todd Gurley, a 6ft.1 232lb. brute with 4.2/40 speed. He’ll be a legitimate Heisman candidate, but the defense will have to step up and new signal caller Hutson Mason…a senior who has sat behind Murray for four years…will have to become comfortable really quickly. I won’t be a bit surprised if 4 or 5 SEC teams end the season ranked, but logic dictates that they all can’t finish in the Top 10.

2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 13

Greetings Manoverse. I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving filled with food, family, & football. For a variety of reasons I decided not to include any of the plethora of gridiron goodness on Thursday & Friday in this week’s picks. However, even without those games there’s still a ton of tremendous action on Saturday. It’s Rivalry Week in the NCAA, and a few games even have meaning above & beyond the tradition of the rivalry itself. Heck, there are so many great matchups that we are able to once again focus exclusively on college football and still give y’all bonus picks. You’re welcome. Last week was another poor showing for both myself & Zach as we each went 1-4. We both whiffed in picking Texas A&M, UCLA, & the Indianapolis Colts. I correctly picked Oklahoma St. over Baylor, while Zach got the win with New England defeating Denver. That brings the season records to this:

                Your Humble Potentate of Profundity  =     30-31

                Zach  =    27-34

Zach is running out of time to take the season lead, while I have now fallen below .500. We’ll see what we can do about that.

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Ohio State (-16)            at              Michigan

Wmichow…where do I begin?? 2013 certainly hasn’t been a banner year in Ann Arbor. I mean sure, they will finish with a winning record and go bowling, but 7 or 8 wins and some December bowl Ohio_State_Buckeyesgame that no one watches against a mediocre team that no one cares about doesn’t match the high standard that the Wolverines aim at & usually achieve. Meanwhile, there is a very good chance that Ohio State could finish the season having won 25 straight games and still not get a whiff of the national championship, which is a perfect example of why the BCS sucks. Having said all that, I am still a bit surprised at the rather robust point spread. Sure Michigan is a bit down…but are they that down?? Is there a legitimate chance that they will get throttled by more than two TDs in The Big House?? Three of Michigan’s four losses thus far have been away from home. Their one loss at home was 17-13 to Nebraska…far from an epic beatdown. I suppose there are some that might say that the Buckeyes need (and are aware that they need) “style points” in case Auburn upsets Alabama, which would cause ‘Bama to fall out of the national title game but could also mean Auburn would leapfrog Ohio State in the BCS standings, but I honestly don’t think it’ll matter whether they win this game by 1 point or 100 points. So while I think it is likely that the Buckeyes get the victory I would be really surprised if it was by more that 7-10 points. Surprisingly Zach…a diehard Michigan fan…thinks Ohio State wins in a blowout.

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Clemson           at              South Carolina (-5)

South Carolina still has an outside shot to play in the SEC title game should Missouri fall to Texas A&M. Clemson needs Florida St. to lose its finale to the Florida Gators to sneak into the ACC title game, and Gamecocksthat simply isn’t going to happen. Given those circumstances plus the home field I have to give the nod to the Gamecocks. Zach concurs.

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Notre Dame             at               Stanford (-14.5)

Things have been pretty quiet in South Bend even though the Irish are clinging to a Top 25 ranking. Conversely Stanford has already booked their spot in the PAC 12 title game and had a really impressive win NotreDame1over Oregon a few weeks ago. I don’t think there is any doubt that Stanford gets the victory, but will they cover the points?? They have won only 4 games by more than 14 points, and only one of those victories was over a ranked opponent. The Irish have more to play for, and Stanford hasn’t really blown too many teams out this season, so the vibes are telling me that this will be a close game. Zach feels the same.

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Texas A&M              at              Missouri (-4.5)

a&mThese two teams used to be Big 12 opponents, but both are now in the SEC. Not that it matters…I just find it mildly interesting. I went with the Aggies and Johnny Football last week and Missouri_Tigers_Helmetpaid for it, so I am a bit hesitant to pull that particular trigger again. They looked absolutely atrocious against LSU. The only blemish on Missouri’s record is an overtime loss to South Carolina. They are a lot better than people (including me) have given them credit for. I think this may end up being one of the more entertaining games of the weekend, and it’s a total vibe game. The Voices are telling me to go with A&M again even though it doesn’t really make much sense. Zach, being a bit more…practical…than his old uncle, is going with Missouri.

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Arizona                            at             Arizona State (-11.5)

Arizona_State_logo_blanketIn 2012 the Arizona Wildcats finished with a rather pedestrian 8-5 record. The Arizona St. Sun Devils did the exact same thing. With a victory in this game the Sun Devils will get their 10th college_arizona_90victory and head to the Pac 12 title game. The Wildcats have pretty much the same record as last year but are on everyone’s radar after a notable beatdown of Oregon last week. I don’t think they can do it two weeks in a row though, so I am picking State to win and cover the points. Zach, however, was really impressed by that Wildcat win over the Ducks and is riding that wave.

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UCLA                 at              USC (-3)

USC_Trojans2Who would have ever thought at the end of September, right after the Trojans fired head coach Lane Kiffin, that they would be in the mix for their division lead at the end of the season?? They ucla_bruins2won’t win the division due to that loss to Arizona State that led to Kiffin’s ouster, but the fact that they are riding a 5 game winning streak and have won 6 out of 7 under the leadership of interim head coach Ed Orgeron is impressive. Just a few weeks ago no one thought that Orgeron had a snowball’s chance to land the permanent gig, but now a lot of folks seem to believe that a win this week will almost certainly clinch the job for him. Conversely, after beginning the season 5-0 the Bruins have gone 3-3 in the latter half of the campaign. This feels like two teams going in opposite directions, and who am I to go against momentum (or as my Dad calls it “Big Mo”)?? Zach is a rebel though and scoffs at momentum while picking UCLA.

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Alabama (-10.5)           at              Auburn

auburnEven though these two teams have been playing each other since 1893 the game has only been known as The Iron Bowl since 1980, with the name ostensibly referring to BAlabamaCrimsonTide2irmingham, Alabama’s standing as an epicenter of iron & steel production. A year ago ‘Bama won this game 49-0, but a year ago Auburn was a 3-9 football team. They are significantly better this season. Are they good enough to pull off the upset?? The Tide has barely broken a sweat so far in 2013. The only game they haven’t won by double digits was a second week 7 point victory over Johnny Football and Texas A&M. However, Auburn is probably the best team they have faced. Plus the game is at Jordan–Hare Stadium. If I am being honest I am really trying to talk myself into Auburn having a legitimate shot to win because I’d really like to see a little BCS chaos. It’s just really hard to go against Alabama given their recent history of dominance. Having said all of that though I am going to roll the dice on Auburn atleast making this a very close game. Zach sees the game being competitive in the first half but thinks the ‘Bama defense will take over and help the Tide secure a 3 TD victory.

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2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 6

Occasionally I feel a little frisky. And when that happens citizens of The Manoverse are the winners because you get bonus picks!! Last week I rolled the dice on a couple of my choices and things didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. I didn’t think Florida would cover 13 points against Kentucky…they won by 17. I thought Ohio State would only beat Wisconsin by 1-3 points…they covered the spread, winning by 7. Both Zach & I picked Notre Dame, who fell to Oklahoma by two TDs. I did a little better with my NFL choices, where Buffalo defeated Baltimore and Seattle covered against Houston (barely…in overtime). So that made me 2-3 for the week and Zach 3-2. For the season at this point this is how it stands:

Your Humble Potentate of Profundity    =       13-12

Zach          =       12-13

None of the games this week really jumped out at me. I think that is partially because I feel like I’ve already said all I can say about several teams, and a little bit because I have a scratchy throat and am praying I don’t actually get sick in the next day or two. At any rate there are several games that I find mildly yet equally intriguing, and thus the bonus picks:

 

 

 

Ohio St. (-7)   at         Northwestern

The Buckeyes are rolling along at 5-0, although Wisconsin did give them just about everything they had last week. Meanwhile, the Wildcats,Ohio_State_Buckeyes who I projected as a Top 25 team, are doing just about as well as I expected but this will be their first serious test. As much as I would love to give the nod to the underdogs I just can’t pull that trigger. Ohio State is merely biding their time until the end of the season when they’ll play at Michigan, and then likely meet either Nebraska or Michigan (again) in the Big Ten championship. And what they are really hoping for is that either Alabama or Oregon stumble, leaving a spot open in the national title game. Zach thinks Northwestern is a good team…but Ohio State is better.

My Pick          Ohio State

Z’s Pick           Ohio State

 

 

Georgia St.    at         Alabama (-56)

Look at that spread!! There is no doubt that ‘Bama will win this game. Georgia St. is an 0-4 I-AA team that has certainly filled their coffers this10a rat road kill clipart - merged season with trips to West Virginia and now Alabama. I think Nick Saban will take this opportunity to rest a lot of his starters, atleast after the first half. And while Saban isn’t the kind of milquetoast that’ll genuinely take it easy on a lesser opponent I think he’ll play this one smart, with the main goal being not to have anyone get hurt. I am envisioning a 52-7 kind of game…which would mean the Tide wins but doesn’t cover. Zach concurs.

My Pick          Georgia State

Z’s Pick           Georgia State

 

 

Washington   at         Stanford (-7)

Stanford is 4-0 and kind of getting overlooked. The talking heads will spout off all day long about Oregon, Ohio St., Notre Dame, and the entirephoto.stanfordtree SEC, but they barely talk about the #5 team in the country. I suspect that is just fine with the folks in Palo Alto. Sometimes flying under the radar can be advantageous. Meanwhile, the Huskies have garnered a bit of attention with victories over Boise St. and Arizona. This could be the sleeper game of the weekend, but I think that Stanford will take control in the 4th quarter and win by double digits. Zach likes Stanford’s defense and thinks that’ll be the key to victory.

My Pick          Stanford

Z’s Pick           Stanford

 

 

Maryland        at         Florida St. (-15.5)

The Terrapins are looking like the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. They are 4-0 and have somewhat impressive victories over WVU,university-of-maryland-terrapins Florida Int’l, & UConn, yet are passed over by 8 one loss teams in the Top 25. Clearly they need to make a statement in Tallahassee…but will they?? The Seminoles are 4-0, haven’t been tested at all, but have only played one 1-AA cupcake. Florida St’s freshman QB Jameis Winston looks like the real deal and will probably get some Heisman love next season before bolting early to the NFL. I think Maryland is atleast as good…and probably much better…than the Boston College team that Florida St. defeated a week ago by 14 points. So while I believe that Florida St. will get the victory I think it’ll be by about 10 or so points. And once again Zach & I are in complete agreement.

My Pick          Maryland

Z’s Pick           Maryland

 

 

New England            at         Cincinnati (-2)

I am shocked that the Bengals are favored in this game. Yes they have the home field, and Tom Brady has expressed some frustration with the New_England_Patriots_Helmetyoung receivers he’s had to coddle this season, but the Patriots are 4-0 and will likely just gather steam as the season moves along…especially when tight end Rob Gronkowski and WR Danny Amendola return from injuries. The Bengals are 2-2 and just lost to the Cleveland Browns. I don’t get the spread at all, which is why I’m going against it and picking New England. Zach would rather…and I quote…watch Dancing with the Stars or Teen Mom 2 than this game”. Wow. Anyway, he also thinks the Patriots will win.

My Pick         New England

Z’s Pick           New England

 

 

Seattle (-2.5)             at         Indianapolis

seattle-seahawks1The Colts are 3-1 and recently made headlines when they traded for RB Trent Richardson. Quarterback Andrew Luck is Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetstill a youngster but seems to have a tremendous veteran-like presence and maturity. However, the Seahawks have been the hottest thing in sports for the past month and have cruised to a 4-0 start, including a slightly surprising beatdown of the San Francisco 49ers. I think Indy is the team of the future, but Seattle is the team of the here & now and should win this one pretty easily. Zach disagrees and is picking the Colts to win. Interesting!!

My Pick          Seattle

Z’s Pick           Indianapolis

 

 

New Orleans             at         Chicago (-1)

This is another spread that surprises me just a tad. The Bears are 3-1 and QB Jay Cutler seems to finally be coming into his own under the 10_new_orleans_saintstutelage of head coach and quarterback guru Marc Trestman. However, the Saints have been an absolute machine thus far. QB Drew Brees has already thrown for over 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns, a record setting pace that is being overshadowed by Peyton Manning’s phenomenal start. I see no reason to start doubting New Orleans now. Zach is a big believer in Brees and tight end Jimmie Graham and thinks New Orleans will roll to a victory.

My Pick          New Orleans

Z’s Pick          New Orleans

   

 

Detroit            at         Green Bay (-7)

Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetIf you would have told me a month ago that the Lions would be tied for first place in the division and the Packers would be Detroit_Lions_Helmet1-2 I’d have said you were nuts. But that’s exactly what has happened. Detroit has looked pretty darn good, while the Packers have not fared so well against a tough early season schedule. But as you can tell by the spread folks haven’t quite given up on Green Bay and certainly haven’t bought into Detroit quite yet. I think both perspectives are pretty fair. The Pack is far from done, and the Lions will have to win a few more games before people start believing they’re for real. That process would certainly go a long way with a big win on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field…but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m still rooting for Detroit to have a solid season, but the cream rises to the top and I think this is the week Green Bay starts to figure things out. Zach thinks the bye week may have been helpful to Green Bay but is picking Detroit to pull the upset.

My Pick          Green Bay

Z’s Pick          Detroit

2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 5

Damn you Boise State!! The Broncos were the only thing standing between me & my first ever perfect week with these picks, but when they scored a touchdown with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter last Saturday I knew both Zach & I were doomed. Fresno St. had enough time to come back and win the game with 2 minutes remaining, but they weren’t able to cover the 3 points. Oh well…c’est la vie. I did win a head-to-head matchup in which I picked Stanford and Zach chose Arizona St., so that provided some measure of comfort. For the week I ended at 4-1 and Zach ended up 3-2, making our season look thusly:

Your Humble Potentate of Profundity  =  11-9

Zach  =  9-11

Now on to the task at hand.  At this point the season is beginning to take shape. Most teams…both college & pro…have shown us just enough so that it’s becoming clear who is good and who’s going to have a tough road. Theoretically that should make these picks a bit easier, but I know from experience that that is a little too optimistic. At any rate, there are atleast 9 or 10 games that pique my interest this week so I had a tough time narrowing the choices to just five, but I am really making an effort to spread the love and not pick games involving the same teams all the time. Enjoy!!

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Florida  (-13)                      at            Kentucky

florida gators imageThe Gators just lost their starting QB for the season to a broken leg and a key defensive tackle due to a torn ACL. Against better competition those Kentucky-Basketballlosses might be a killer, but with this week’s opponent being the Wildcats I doubt if Florida has too much to be concerned about…except, for our purposes, covering the points. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Kentucky gives a spirited effort, meaning they lose the game but not by two touchdowns. Zach doesn’t think Florida’s personnel deficiencies will be a big deal and believes that Kentucky will only be competitive in the first quarter.

My Pick          Kentucky

Z’s Pick           Florida

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Oklahoma (-3.5)               at            Notre Dame

This might be one of the best games on the NCAA schedule thus far in 2013. The Irish come into the game 3-1 but I think many people might say they have been the NotreDame1more impressive team. The Sooners are 3-0 but struggled to beat my WV Mountaineers, a team that can’t seem to score a touchdown most of the time. I am shocked that the Irish aren’t favored. Zach thinks both of these teams are overrated but believes Oklahoma is the more overrated of the two.

My Pick          Notre Dame

Z’s Pick           Notre Dame

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Wisconsin                            at            Ohio St. (-7)

WisconsinBadgersI’m really looking forward to this one. Good old-fashioned smash mouth football with the occasional big play and lots of solid defense. The Badgers Ohio_State_Buckeyesare 2-1 but really should be undefeated (remember the incompetent refs screwed them at Arizona St.). The Buckeyes are 4-0 but really haven’t played anybody. This game is in Columbus, which is a huge advantage. I picked Ohio St. #2 in my pre-season rankings, and if they continue winning that may just be where they end up. But my vibes are telling me that this is going to be a very close game. Ohio St. may or may not win, but if they do I think it’ll be by the slimmest of margins. Zach is a Michigan fan and thinks that Ohio State hasn’t played anybody yet (he’s right), but is willing to overlook the pain it causes him and pick the Buckeyes.

My Pick          Wisconsin

Z’s Pick           Ohio State

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Baltimore (-3.5)                                at            Buffalo

Buffalo_Bills_HelmetThe defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens are 2-1 but have clearly regressed since last season, although last week’s 30-9 demoliotion of Baltimore_Ravens2the Houston Texans was impressive. Meanwhile, the Bills are an impressive 1-2…if there can be such a thing. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel has been solid and will continue to get better. Buffalo could easily be 3-0 if a few balls had just bounced their way. I’m going against the grain one more time and picking the underdogs to finally put it all together. Zach thinks the Bills will keep the game close in the first half but eventually Baltimore will pull away for the victory.

My Pick          Buffalo

Z’s Pick           Baltimore

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Seattle  (-3)                         at            Houston

Not only did the Texans get beaten handily by Baltimore last week, but they really didn’t look that spectacular in their two wins. It took a 17 point 4th quarter seattle-seahawks1comeback to beat the San Diego Chargers and overtime to get past the Tennessee Titans. Conversely the Seahawks have barely broken a sweat in going 3-0. Houston will almost certainly put forth their best effort of the season, but I just don’t think it’ll be good enough. Zach concurs.

My Pick          Seattle

Z’s Pick           Seattle

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Winning & Musing…..Volume 9.11

We’re in the midst of both the college & pro football season, but there are still a couple other things to talk about.

 

 

When did The MAC become such an entertaining football conference?? Seemingly every Tuesday and Wednesday night these belittled teams with nothing to play for except a December bowl game in Detroit have the most engaging and competitive games of the collegiate football week. I’d rather watch a MAC game than a Big East or Big 10 game anytime.

 

 

 

It’s funny how the NBA season was supposed to start a couple of weeks ago but didn’t, yet I haven’t really noticed and don’t really care.

 


The backlash against Stanford QB Andrew Luck has very quietly begun. His inability to get the Cardinal past Oregon and remain in the national championship hunt has raised the ever-so-slightest of red flags, no matter how much the loss can legitimately be blamed on Stanford’s overall lack of depth & skill. The fact is that someone as hyped up as Luck is supposed to be able to put a subpar team on his back and carry them to victory in such games. I have very little doubt that he will still be the #1 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, but there is now a question in my mind…and the minds of more than a few others…as to whether he is a mortal lock to walk in the footsteps of Elway, Marino, Brady, and Manning.

 

 

 

I absolutely LOVE the fact that college football’s BCS system is in complete chaos. However, it looks like we could be headed toward a LSU-Alabama rematch for the national title, which isn’t creating much excitement since the first game between the two teams was such an overhyped snoozefest. When is the NCAA going to pry their heads from their own asses and create a freakin’ playoff??

 

 

 

Maybe I’m crazy, but when I was growing up a catch was a catch. I’ve always been a big proponent of the use of instant replay, but it has created a little bit of paralysis by analysis when it comes to defining whether or not a receiver really caught a football. I prefer to see games decided by the players, not the officials, and certainly not by redefining what should be the very simple definition of a completed pass.

 

 

 

I watched the main event of the recent UFC free-per-view on Fox and to say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. I remember the early days of UFC back in my college days. On a couple of occasions a group of my fraternity brothers got together and bought the PPV. Maybe I was easily impressed, or maybe I was just drunk, but those shows were the essence of brutality. It was two guys beating the living daylights out of each other until one guy couldn’t continue, and for an 18 year old full of testosterone and cheap beer it was awesome. Unfortunately what I saw on television this time around was a championship match that was stopped less than two minutes in, even though the loser had no marks or bruises, there was no blood, and he was able to give a cogent post-match interview less than 5 minutes later. I am not a huge boxing fan, but atleast when someone gets knocked out in a boxing match one can tell. And the competitor is given a fair shot…a standing 8 count for example…to regain his composure and continue. I will even express a preference for professional wrestling. It may be scripted entertainment, but I know I am going to get a 20-30 minute main event with lots of interesting action. The one positive I can say about my most recent UFC experience is that it was free. If I’d have actually paid for the show and had it end like that I would have demanded my money back from the cable provider.

 

 

 

Wow…what a fantastic, fun, exciting run to the championship by NASCAR’s Tony Stewart. Smoke won 5 of the final 10 races to narrowly edge Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker for the Sprint Cup. Both competitors deserve tons of credit for not only putting on a hell of a show the last two months of the season, but for remaining respectful, classy, and honorable in the midst of the battle. Racing fans were the real winners.

 

 

 

 

The Arizona Wildcats have chosen former WVU & Michigan coach Rich Fraudriguez to be their new football coach, while former Florida & Utah coach Urban Meyer seems to be headed to Columbus to rebuild a dinged Ohio State program. As much as I despise Fraudriguez and wish him nothing but miserable failure in every single facet of his pathetic excuse for a life, I must admit that on the surface it looks like a decent hire. Fraudriguez’s spread offense will work much better in the Pac 12 then it did in the Big 10, and Arizona doesn’t have any of the pesky tradition & closed-mindedness to “outsiders” that plagued his tenure at Michigan. Ohio State’s issues have mostly been off the field, and interim coach Luke Fickle was an unfortunate victim that was thrown into the frying pan way before he was ready for prime time, so I have no doubt that a proven entity like Meyer will have the Buckeyes back on top in no time, assuming he doesn’t flake out with phantom “health concerns” after a year or two.

 

 

A Plan to Save College Football

There’s an old adage that says “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. College football, to my knowledge, is as popular and successful as ever, so I suppose many would say why mess with a good thing. However, as a lifelong diehard fan of the sport, I truly feel it can be better. While many of the changes that have evolved during the course of my lifetime haven’t seemed to negatively impact business that does not necessarily mean that these changes have been positive. Monetary concerns have interfered in ways that have made college football a corporate sacrificial lamb while decreasing competitiveness and parity. Decisions are based on business considerations more than what’s best for the on-the-field product. These things may not significantly affect one’s enjoyment of the game on Saturday, but there is a cloud of self-indulgent self-interest hanging over the sport that has cheapened it somewhat and made even the most hardcore fan a bit cynical. I believe there are a few ways we can bring back atleast the appearance of virtue and tradition that is slowly and sadly evaporating.

1 Conference Realignment

Blame it on shrewd marketing, blame it on ESPN, blame it on whomever else you wish…..but the fact is that what we have right now in college football is about four conferences that matter, a few that used to matter but have fallen on rough times, and several others who are like the kid brother that desperately wants to play with the older kids but gets either knocked around or completely overlooked. We have craziness like the Big 10 having eleven teams, the ACC having a team like Boston College that’s nowhere near the Atlantic Coast for which the conference is named, and Conference USA having teams stretching across 1000 miles, from West Virginia to Texas. We have teams switching conferences like they’re a sorority girl sleeping her way through the campus until she finds the guy who’ll buy her the best gifts. Someone needs to stop the madness. The NCAA needs to act like the overseer it is supposed to be and stop letting individual conferences act selfishly while hurting the big picture. I will put forth details in a future series. For now I will just say that my conference realignment will take into consideration things like geography, traditional rivalries, and competitive balance. It will also keep an eye on how the conferences fit into the ultimate goal of crowning a legitimate national champion.

2 Eleven Game Season

For years college football teams played 11 games. Then the powers-that-be figured out that a 12th game would make them more money. This 12th game usually entails a powerhouse big conference team playing against a cupcake, a team from a much smaller and less competitive school, oftentimes from a lower division. It’s a win-win for the two schools involved. The smaller school gets paid a hefty sum for the game, money that goes into the school’s coffers and is undoubtedly spent on much needed projects most of the time. The smaller school also gets the added benefit of exposure, something that never hurts. And occasionally, as in Appalachian State’s remarkable upset of Michigan in 2007, the underdog wins which is just the cherry on top. The bigger school almost always gets an easy win to pad their schedule, something which is much more beneficial than it should be. In 2007 Ohio State beat 3 cupcakes (Youngstown St., Akron, and Kent St.) by an average of 32 points en route to an 11-1 regular season and a spot in the championship game, while other teams with tougher schedules but atleast 1 more loss were left on the outside looking in. The bigger team also gets the benefit of these types of games being on their home turf which enables them to make a lot of their money back since college football fans, being much more rabid and loyal than fans of pro teams, will sell out a 50 or 75 thousand seat stadium regardless of whether or not the game is actually good. The only losers are the fans, who will spend our hard earned money to attend or our precious time to watch these insipid and meaningless contests. I say bring the regular season back to 11 games…..2 or 3 non-conference games and 8 or 9 conference games. This would also give teams an incentive not to waste their precious few out of conference opportunities on games that, under my system, would hurt their strength of schedule and therefore their chance to make it into the playoff (more on that later).

3 One Poll

We have too many polls, too many voices telling us who should be #1. This has even lead in the past to a split national championship, where different teams were voted as the top dog by the writers and the coaches. The situation is worse now than it has ever been, even though the convoluted BCS system was supposed to achieve the goal of an undisputed champion. The BCS is itself comprised of a half dozen polls that require a PhD in mathematics to decipher. Add to that the fact that the Associated Press, one of the older and more respected rankings, opted out of the current system a couple years ago thereby re-opening the possibility of having two different championship teams. It’s just a mess. I am also of the opinion that a coaches’ poll is itself somewhat specious, with too many opportunities for jealousy, adversarial relationships, and revenge to inject themselves into the equation. What I propose is one poll made up of some acceptable mix of media, coaches, former players, and maybe even knowledgeable citizens with no ties to the sport itself. There could even be a mathematical component introduced that takes into consideration things like strength of schedule and point differential. In other words many of the same things that go into current polls, but all combined into one poll instead of several.

4 Notre Dame Isn’t Special

Notre Dame needs to be forced to join a conference immediately. Sorry Irish fans, but Knute Rockne and The Gipper are dead and it’s not the 1940’s anymore. It’s a real mystery to me why the sports media and the NCAA bend over backward in this day and age to put a product on a pedestal that’s really not that great of a product anymore. There are atleast a dozen teams who have been more successful than Notre Dame in the past 25 years and all of them are in conferences. Notre Dame has a winning tradition, a rich history, and a name brand that draws national interest and I am not disputing that. What I am saying though is that several other teams can lay claim to similar success, most of them more recent and relevant, and none of them expect the preferential treatment that the Irish demand. It’s time for Notre Dame to stop thinking it is somehow better than everyone else, join a conference, and play by the same rules as all the others. After all, a team that has a 58% winning percentage the past 4 years and a not much more impressive 65% over the past 3 decades doesn’t have that much legitimate leverage. In comparison, over the same 30 year time span, Ohio State has a winning percentage of 75%, USC 71%, and Florida State 78%. All of those teams are in a conference, so why should an exception be made for Notre Dame??

5 Conference Television Contracts

I like ESPN as much as the next guy. If you’re a sports fan “the family of networks” is nirvana. But I think maybe they have a bit too much power. And what’s up with Notre Dame having its own individual contract with NBC?? I know it seems like I’m picking on Notre Dame, and I am. It’s just that I cannot wrap my head around any reason why everyone seems to kowtow to them. It’s mind boggling. Also, why should the conferences have their own channels, like The Big Ten Network?? These are perfect examples of how the NCAA has abdicated its authority and let each conference run amok, basically going into business for themselves. When I turn on my television I see 5 places where college football ought to be found every fall Saturday (and I suppose Thursday night): ABC, CBS (and CSTV), NBC, ESPN (including ESPN2 & ESPNU), and Fox (which would include the regional Fox Sports channels and FX). Let each conference negotiate deals with a network, with each network limited to 2 conference deals. Maybe some networks only end up with one. So be it. If channels like TBS, USA, Spike, and Versus want to jump into the fray they would have the right to do so only after the “Big 5” have gotten first crack at what they want.

6 Limit Cupcakes

While going back to an 11 game season and having strength of schedule continue to be a key component in the ranking of teams very much helps the situation, we need one more control. Every Division 1 (the divisions would be realigned into Divisions 1,2,3,& 4…so no more 1-A, 1-AA, etc.) team would only be permitted to schedule 3 games with lower division teams in a 5 year period. That’s it. Sure, the fans enjoy the occasional David vs. Goliath upset, but more than that the fans like to see consistently competitive games.

7 No More Conference Championship Games

Let’s be honest…..there are only two reasons why conference championship games exist. First of all, some conferences (I’m looking at you SEC and ACC) are just too big. New conferences would have 9 or 10 teams maximum. Secondly…..greed. It’s always about the money. Always. If all the teams in a conference play each other over the course of the regular season there is no need to line anyone’s pockets…whether it’s a school, a conference, or a television network…with extra cash. These championship games are a relatively new invention and not necessarily a good one.

8 Only Three Independents

As previously mentioned, Notre Dame needs to join a conference because their arrogant sense of entitlement is misplaced and erroneous. However, under my plan we would have 3 independent teams…..Army, Navy, and Air Force. These teams represent our military, they represent the nation as a whole, they represent freedom and democracy. These are the teams that should be put on a pedestal and have earned a sense of entitlement, not because of success on the field but because of what their institutions and therefore their graduates do off the field. Besides, it would be a great recruiting tool. They would be the ambassadors of college football. And fans nationwide could cheer for these teams because they would be independent and not tied to a conference. Their schedules would vary greatly from year to year, befitting of their ambassador role. Having your favorite team get to go up against one of the service academies would be an honor and a privilege. Once upon a time these teams, Army in particular, were very highly regarded. But the business of college football got in the way and has made each of them just another team. Sadly,  outside their own conferences they are looked upon by many as being among the aforementioned cupcakes. That may not change overnight, and it may not ever completely change. After all, football is a sport of size and power, and the academies don’t necessarily get the biggest and strongest athletes. But the least we can do is celebrate them and put them in the special category they deserve to be in because of what they do for all of us that is so much more important than a football game.

9 A Playoff

I saved the best for last. Well…next to last.

There are only two things preventing a playoff from becoming reality in major college football. One is a sense of “tradition”…the old “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. This issue is a very small one though when one considers a lot of the other charming customs and rituals that have been thrown out the window the minute someone figured out a more profitable way of doing things. The bigger obstacles are greed and power. All those bowls that used to be named after fruit and regionally relevant products have been replaced with corporate names. Universities and conferences and cities make a lot of coin from these companies, who eagerly pay for a ton of positive press and a matchless advertising opportunity. Those universities, conferences, cities, and companies have a good thing going from a financial standpoint. It’s mutually beneficial for all sides and they aren’t going to give it up without a fight. They use every excuse in the book, from feigning concern about the academic careers of student athletes to hand wringing hysteria about how difficult it would be for fans to follow their teams to playoff games. To put it bluntly, it’s all poppycock. My alma mater, Marshall, was a 1-AA school when I was a student. I attended several playoff games and it was awesome. If anything a playoff would be more exciting and fun than the current bowl system. I won’t dive into details here, as I plan on laying out those details in a sequel series related to this entry. Suffice to say that a 16 team playoff while still retaining a revised version of the bowl system is eminently doable and much preferable to the existing system, atleast for us fans if not for the suits.

10 Bowl Revisions

Under my plan a few things would be done to revise the current post-season structure, the first of which is the playoff. However, as previously mentioned, the bowls would be kept, just on a smaller scale. Instead of nearly three dozen bowl games there would be maybe two dozen, if that. Corporate sponsorship would not be eliminated but it would be minimized. In other words, we aren’t naming bowls after a company. Neither are we naming bowls after a place. While the Papa John’s.com Bowl, Capital One Bowl, and Chick-Fil-A Bowl are atrociously insufferable names, the Texas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl aren’t much less obnoxious. Also, a record of 6-5 is a winning season and that’s just about it. To be bowl eligible 7 wins in an 11 game season should be required. New Year’s Day would regain its prominence, with the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, and Fiesta being played on that day and only the national championship game remaining after, hopefully to be played almost always on January 2nd.