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.





2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 2

I’m going to do something that, to my recollection, I’ve never done since beginning these picks six years ago. Last week both Zach & I picked UCLA to beat Texas A&M, which they did. However, the point spread was 3 and the Bruins won by only one point on a last second touchdown after completing a four TD 4th quarter comeback. It was such an epic, thrilling victory that I’m going to give both of us the win as well. Hey…my game, my rules. So what that means is that in the opening week of the season I was 4-1, while Zach was 3-2. Florida St. let me down, as they were manhandled by Alabama, while Zach should’ve had more faith in his Michigan Wolverines. This week the NFL adds a layer of intrigue to our little contest, and y’all know what that means…bonus picks!! Enjoy the games, and a special shout out to my Texas peeps recovering from Hurricane Harvey & Florida friends preparing for Hurricane Irma. We’re praying for you and know that you’ll be okay in the long run.

 

 

 

 

Pitt                       at                Penn State (-21.5)

The Nittany Lions were #2 in my pre-season rankings, and did nothing to dissuade me from that assessment in their season opening beatdown of Akron. Conversely, the Panthers had a rough second half and had to go to overtime to beat Youngstown St. Despite it being an in-state rivalry I don’t think this will be much of a game. Penn St. RB Saquon Barkley might run for 200 yards & 4 TDs unless they sit him the entire second half. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

Nebraska           at      Oregon (-13.5)
The Cornhuskers only beat Arkansas St. by 7 points last week, which isn’t a good sign. Meanwhile, the Ducks kicked the snot out of Southern Utah, just as they should have. Was last season’s 4-8 atrocity just an anomaly for what has been a successful Oregon program in the past decade?? It’s too early to say for sure, but there is that distinct possibility. I tend to believe that Oregon is better than they showed in 2016, but won’t rely on last week’s victory as any kind of accurate barometer. I also think last week may have served as a wakeup call for Nebraska. This feels like it will be a competitive & entertaining game. I’m not sure who will win, but whoever comes out on top will likely do so by less than double digits. Zach is a little nervous about the spread but likes Oregon’s high powered offense.

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Auburn               at      Clemson (-5.5)

Oooohhhh this is a good one, and it’s probably flying a little under the radar. Auburn easily defeated Georgia Southern last week, which tells us nothing. Defending national champions Clemson beat up on Kent St., and that doesn’t mean anything either. So now that both teams have the kinks worked out it’s time to play a real game. In my pre-season rankings I predicted that Clemson would “taste bitter defeat at the hands of archrival Florida St., and will probably be upset in atleast one other game.” That Florida St. thing is looking a lot more doubtful now, but I think Auburn could very well be the “one other game”. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe Clemson will have any problems and thinks they’ll win by two TDs.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Oklahoma                    at      Ohio State (-7.5)

This is being advertised as the centerpiece game of the schedule for Week 2, but I’m not so sure. The Buckeyes got off to a slow start before defeating Indiana a week ago, while Oklahoma easily beat UTEP. I sincerely believe Ohio St. is the superior team, and despite having Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield at quarterback I can’t get past the idea that Sooners’ head coach Lincoln Riley is new to all of this. Especially since the game is being played at The Horseshoe in Columbus I don’t think it’ll even be all that close. Zach has an irrational hatred for Ohio St. and thinks they are overrated.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

Kansas City       at      New England (-9)

The NFL is back and this is the big Thursday night opener. Everyone is so in love with the Patriots that it’d be hilarious if they screwed the pooch right out of the gate. The Chiefs are coming off of a successful 12-4 season, but I think they’ll fall back just a bit this year and be in a dog fight for a playoff spot. New England, in contrast to the sickening adulation heaped on them by the talking heads, won’t go undefeated, but they’ll probably win this game. However, can they cover the spread?? I think it is quite possible that the game is a little closer than nine points. Zach is sticking with the party line and predicting a 10 point Pats victory.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

Oakland             at      Tennessee (-2.5)

Both of these teams are early favorites to win their respective divisions, with good reason…they are clubs on the rise behind the leadership of young & talented quarterbacks. I like Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr, though Carr is probably further ahead in his development. Both running games should be solid, and there are ample weapons for each signal caller to throw the ball to, with Tennessee’s offensive line being just a little more talented. The difference in this game will likely be defense, with Oakland’s pass rushing tandem of Khalil Mack & Bruce Irvin being a real headache for opposing offenses, while Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo leads the charge surrounded by a lot of unproven talent. The Titans get the slight home field bump here, but, while I think they’ll be a playoff team, I’m not buying that they’ll win this game. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

Seattle                at                Green Bay (-3.5)

This is an NFC title caliber matchup in Week 1. It’s going to be odd seeing RB Eddie Lacy in a Seahawks’ uniform and lining up against his former team, but I think he’ll do well. As a matter of fact, I have no doubt that both offenses will put on a show, so defense will be the deciding factor. On paper that advantage goes to Seattle. Zach thinks that the home field is a huge advantage for Green Bay and is looking for QB Aaron Rodgers to have a big day.

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

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2015 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 6

football-introducing-the-science_1Damn you Clemson!! Last week was another mixed bag, although it skewed toward the lower end of “mixed”. Both Zach & I went 2-3. Notre Dame was stopped on a last second two point conversion, otherwise things might have looked a bit different. I also screwed up one of my NFL picks. Three years ago I said that Miami Dolphins’ “ownership made a horrible mistake hiring Joe Philbin as the new head coach”, and that “Philbin seems like a perfectly nice man, but traditionally very nice men don’t make successful NFL coaches.” This week, one day after losing to the NY Jets in London, Philbin was fired. I really am smarter than I look, which makes it all the more inexplicable why I picked the Dolphins in that game. Ah well…c’est la vie. Anyway, for the season our records look like this:

Me = 18-10           Z = 13-15

This week we’re going strictly with college football. No reason…that’s just how I decided to roll. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Indiana at Penn St. (-6.5)
penn-state-logoThe Hoosiers darn near upset the alleged #1 team in the land last weekend, but once again Ohio St. escaped. Still, Indiana’sindiana record is a surprising 4-1. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are also 4-1, with only a season opening loss to Temple as a blemish on their record. If the same Indiana team that almost beat the Buckeyes last week shows up in Happy Valley the Lions are in deep trouble. However, that is the million dollar conundrum. Is Indiana for real or not?? And even if they are better than usual will there be a steep emotional dropoff after playing out of their minds a week ago?? Penn St. hasn’t played anyone good, so they are still a mystery as well. The home field is huge, and I’m not convinced that Indiana is legit, so I’m leaning toward the favorites. Conversely, Zach believes in Indiana’s defense and thinks they’ll get the job done.

My Pick – Penn St.
Z’s Pick – Indiana

 
Northwestern at Michigan (-8)
Northwestern_WildcatsI’m really intrigued by this game. I predicted that Jim Harbaugh would quickly fix a lot of what has ailed Michigan, and this is a tremendous opportunity to make a statement. However, the Wildcats are looking to make a statement as well. Sure they are undefeated thus far, but is anyone really buying it?? I suppose it’d be tempting for the Wolverines to look ahead to next week’s battle with in-state rival Michigan St., but I don’t think that’ll be a factor. This feels like a toss-up to me. I think the home field is a big advantage for Michigan…but 8 points big?? Probably not. Zach concurs.

My Pick – Northwestern
Z’s Pick – Northwestern

 
Wisconsin at Nebraska (-1.5)
nebraskaBoth teams are usually in the thick of the conference title discussion and oftentimes positioned for a national title run…but not WisconsinBadgersthis year. The Badgers are still adjusting to a new head coach & life without All-American RB Melvin Gordon. They already have two losses. The Cornhuskers also have a new head coach this season and have lost 3 games. This game might not mean all that much in the short term, but it might help the winner build to atleast a winning season and a solid bowl invitation. For the loser it will likely be another nail in a dismal year. I’ve got to go with the ‘Huskers to defend their turf. Conversely, Zach thinks it’ll be Wisconsin that bounces back to get a victory.

My Pick – Nebraska
Z’s Pick – Wisconsin

 
Miami, FL at Florida St. (-9)
miamiuIt’s a game that doesn’t mean as much as it did 15 or 20 years ago, but it still has meaning. The Seminoles probably aren’t going to make it to the four team playoff this year, but they are 4-0 so far. The Hurricanes have slowly been working their way back into relevance the past few years and are currently 3-1. This one is on ABC prime time Saturday night, so someone somewhere has high hopes that it’ll be entertaining & competitive. I think you can throw point spreads out the window when these two meet, and 9 points feels like a bit much. I have a feeling Florida St. will find a way to win, but it’ll be by a touchdown or less. Zach concurs.

My Pick – Miami, FL
Z’s Pick – Miami, FL

 

 

California at Utah (-7.5)
calApparently Cal QB Jared Goff is one of the top prospects going into next spring’s NFL Draft. I’ll just take the experts’ word on utahit since I’ve never seen the kid play. I have watched Utah and, like everyone else, am mildly surprised by how good they have been thus far. Both teams are undefeated, so it comes down to which one you believe in. If Goff wants to prove he’s an elite QB he’s got to lead his team to victories in games like this. I’ll roll the dice on that happening, and on Utah being overrated. Zach, on the other hand, believes the Utes will score another blowout win.

My Pick – California
Z’s Pick – Utah

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.15

kickoff_footballThe Super Bowl is this Sunday but your humble Potentate of Profundity won’t be watching. I think it might be the first time in 42+ years on the planet that I haven’t bought into the hype. The truth is that my interests have shifted a bit in the past couple of years and I find myself less interested in sports than I once was. I find both teams involved to be somewhat loathsome. We know that the commercials won’t be all that interesting (there hasn’t been a truly memorable slate of Super Bowl ads in several years) and I can check them all out online on Monday anyway. They have a semi-talented harlot performing the halftime show which I am sure will thrill little girls with no taste and teenage boys attracted to the…well…not the music, that’s for sure. There’s just nothing there for me. My energy can be better spent reading a book or on any number of other activities. So, with that in mind now seems like the perfect time to wrap up the football season by tying some loose ends and pontificating on whatever else pops into my brain. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

I apologize that our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with such a whimper. I ran into some computer issues right before the final week of the NFL 1regular season. I am not opposed to taking a bye week, but that’s not how I wanted to finish the year. However it is what it is. C’est la vie. For the season Zach finished with a 46-50 record (he had a brutal final week…well, the final week that we picked), while I concluded with a record of 52-44. I’d put our records against any of the talking heads at ESPN.

 

Our bowl picks were even closer, but with the same result. I went 23-15 for a 60.5% winning percentage, while Zach was 22-17 for a 56.4% winning Ohio_State_Buckeyespercentage. Neither of us picked Ohio St. to win the national title or even make it past the semifinal. I am sure we weren’t alone in assuming Alabama would defeat the Buckeyes. Obviously we were wrong.

 

Looking back at my pre-season Top 25 a few things pop out. I had Florida St., Oregon, & Alabama in the Top 3, but made the assumption that Ohio St.’s NCAA_footballchances at a national championship were lost when QB Braxton Miller was lost to injury. I was way wrong. My 4th team was South Carolina, which ended up going 6-6. I said Boise St. would win 10 or 11 games (they won 11 in the regular season), although they did finish a few spots lower in the final rankings than I thought they would. Baylor, Michigan St., & UCLA had strong seasons as I predicted. I whiffed on Oklahoma, who I thought would be a Top 10 team but finished with just 8 wins. My Marshall Thundering Herd blew an opportunity to go undefeated and finish with a Top 15 record as I’d hoped, but did end up 23rd in the polls. LSU had a subpar 8 win season and didn’t finish ranked liked I thought they would. Ditto for Notre Dame. Arizona had a solid year and finished just about where I predicted. Ditto for Auburn.

 

My NFL prognostications were solid with few surprises. I got 5 out of 8 division winners correct. My Steelers really surprised me by winning the AFC nfl-footballCentral, while their Pennsylvania neighbors the Philadelphia Eagles completely fell apart down the stretch, losing 3 out of their final 4 games. I picked 5 out of 6 AFC playoff teams, although I said it’d be Denver representing the conference in The Super Bowl. Damn I wish I would have been right about that. I only got 3 out of 6 NFC playoff teams right and predicted Green Bay would go to The Super Bowl. If their coach wasn’t so conservative and they could play special teams at all I would have been right.

 

dfEven though I am ambivalent in regard to The Super Bowl the fact is that this DeflateGate stuff with the New England Patriots has been difficult to escape. Even non-sports news outlets are talking about it. I actually turned off the AFC Championship game at halftime and was in bed by 8:30pm that night. I could see where things were headed and just couldn’t stomach watching anymore Patriots “success”. So do I believe that they deflated balls in a covert attempt to win the game in an underhanded fashion?? Yes I do. Do I believe deflating balls helped all that much and altered the outcome of the game?? Not really. Although I do think those that are pointing out that New England outscored Indianapolis 28-0 in the second half after the subterfuge had been discovered and the footballs pumped up to their proper air pressure are missing the point. By halftime the game was over. The Colts’ spirits had been broken. Whatever kind of advantage the chicanery did provide in the first half was enough. I am a big believer in momentum. I think that if the score would have been 17-14 or 10-10 at the half it is possible that Indianapolis might have been more competitive. However, whether or not deflated balls made a difference in who won & lost the game isn’t really the most important issue. The fact is that over the past dozen or so years the New England Patriots, under the “leadership” of head coach Bill Belichick, have been proven to be built on a foundation of cheating and arrogantly thumbing their nose to the rulebook. If they win The Super Bowl will they really care about a fine of a few hundred grand or losing a draft pick?? Of course not. It’ll be a small df2price to pay. It is well known that NFL Commissioner Fidel Goodell is good buddies with Pats owner Bob Kraft. Goodell is an incompetent assclown anyway, and any kind of preferential, non-objective treatment of the Patriots in this situation would further call into question Goodell’s capability to carry out his duties properly. I know that this will never happen, but what I would do is fine the team $10 million, take away their 1st, 2nd, & 3rd round draft picks for the next three years, and suspend Belichick for the entire 2015 season. Surely this would be a stiff enough penalty to f-i-n-a-l-l-y get the attention of the folks in New England.

 

I had a huge problem with the NCAA ending all sanctions against Penn St. football a few months ago, penalties that had been handed down in the wake joe-paterno-psu1of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal and resulting investigation. I thought the scholarship restrictions and post-season ban should have stayed in effect for the entire 4 years they had been originally set at. However, I don’t have any issue with former/late head coach Joe Paterno’s wins being restored. I have always believed that retroactively going back and changing record books and acting as if games never happened was kind of silly. We all know who won those games…why ignore it?? Eliminating the post-season ban and restoring full scholarship capacity is, in my opinion, a much bigger deal because I am not sure the citizens of Happy Valley and Nittany Lions fans have really been humbled and learned to put football in a proper perspective. It feels to me like they still assume that Penn St. is above the rules…and evidently they are right.

Adios Joe Paterno

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

–       Edmund Burke

 

When a hot topic arises that I feel compelled to address in this forum I try to do so in a timely manner. However, there are occasions when it takes a bit for my thoughts to gel together. I have learned to go with the flow rather than go off half-cocked and let emotion get the best of my senses…atleast most of the time.

 

As a kid growing up in northcentral West Virginia and a WVU Mountaineer fan, I always hated Penn State. The Nittany Lions were among the nation’s elite college football programs and one of West Virginia’s biggest rivals. Unfortunately it was pretty one sided, with the Mountaineers only winning 2 games against their foes in my lifetime. A 1984 upset victory broke a 25 year WVU losing streak in the rivalry and is still considered one of the most memorable moments in Old Gold & Blue history.

 

The annual matchup came to an end after 1992 because Penn St. joined the Big Ten, and over time my stance softened. Coach Joe Paterno became an elder statesman, the kind of old guy that one tends to root for because it’d be nice to see him “go out on top”. I’m a sucker for those kind of stories, like when John Elway won the Super Bowl and was named MVP in his last game or when Ted Williams hit a home run in his final at bat (although that happened before I was born). Alas, such a storybook ending was not in store for college football’s all-time winningest coach. Not by a long shot.

 

Several weeks ago a firestorm erupted when former long-time Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested for allegedly molesting atleast 9 young boys dating back as far as 1994. That is bad enough and Sandusky will have his day in court eventually, but the issue was complicated by implications that Paterno and other university officials had been alerted about Sandusky’s…activities…especially on one specific occasion in 2003. The story is that apparently Paterno was told by another assistant coach, reported the incident to his athletic director, and then took no further action. He did not call law enforcement, nor did he follow up with his bosses (the AD and school president). The accusation is that Joe Paterno…the most powerful chief in his little kingdom…did the bare minimum then went on his merry way without really confronting the issue, choosing instead to bury his head in the sand in a misguided effort to protect the reputation of his school and his football program.

 

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden once advised to “be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Taking that up several notches, 1 Chronicles 28:9 says “The Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts.” No one knows what really went through Joe Paterno’s head or heart except God, and that must sorted out between the two of them. However, Paterno has had to deal with this pesky little thing we call the court of public opinion, and it’s a battle that he seems to have lost handily. One of my Undeniable Truths of Life is that perception is reality and reality is perception, and the perception is that Coach Paterno chose the heretofore untainted reputation of his football team ahead of the safety of children, and that has angered a lot of people.

 

Two things need to be noted at this point. First of all, one of the reasons my dislike of Penn State football dissipated as I matured was the general belief, held by most fans, that Paterno and Penn St. were one of the few programs that were aboveboard and unblemished. In a world beset by cheating scandals of all shapes & sizes over the last few decades they seemed beyond reproach and were highly respected for conducting business the right way & not forgetting that the student athletes were in school primarily for an education. Joe Paterno’s graduation rates usually hovered around 90%, which is remarkable and certainly among the best in his profession. Over the course of his 46 years he was known to have given back to the school & the community in the form of millions of dollars in donations that had far reaching benefits. Even their plain blue uniforms with the unadorned white helmets conveyed a sense of cleanliness & purity. Secondly, as rabid as many sports fans…including yours truly…can be, most of us have a sense of perspective. We realize that there are many many things in life far more important than the outcome of a game.

 

Taking these two things into consideration, it is not surprising that the situation at Penn State took an ugly turn very quickly. For one of the “cleanest” programs in college football to be plagued by a scandal is shocking enough. For that scandal to involve repeated sexual assault of children is unspeakably horrifying. Joe Paterno and his sterling reputation would likely have survived some recruiting violations or other relatively benign indiscretions that aren’t uncommon in big time collegiate athletics, but to seemingly ignore sexual abuse of young boys was just too big of a transgression to overlook. Paterno’s legendary career came to an abrupt end when he was fired, a conclusion that no one in their wildest dreams could have ever foreseen just a few months ago.

 

Sure, there have been many that have been calling for an end to the Paterno era for several years. He was old, out of touch, just a figurehead. But even though the Nittany Lions haven’t really been in the national title hunt for most of the past 15 years they were, for the most part, still very successful and won a lot of games. That fact combined with Paterno’s legendary status, his record of community service & involvement, and the unsoiled status of the program made him virtually unchallengeable. But there was no way that he could survive the battering that he & the institution he served so faithfully for over a half century have taken in the past several weeks.

 

I think it is vitally important to make a clear distinction between Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. No one is defending Sandusky or feeling any kind of sympathy for his plight. Though under the outstanding American legal system he is technically innocent until proven guilty there seems to be enough smoke to indicate that there was indeed fire, and if he did commit the acts for which he is accused to say that he is a vile, revolting, sinful, sick & twisted dirtbag would be a huge understatement. The general attitude toward Paterno is much more ambiguous and diverse. Few are denying that he made a huge error in judgment, but just how sinister that mistake was and how harshly he should be scorned is a spirited topic of debate.

 

There is little argument that the Board of Trustees made the right decision by dismissing Paterno. They were put in a very difficult position and did the only thing that made any sense for the long term good of the school, the town, and the victims of the alleged crimes. However, it is also a fact that Joe Paterno is not being accused of doing anything illegal and that when the situation was reported to him he did tell his immediate superior. It’s not that he did nothing, it’s that the general consensus is that he did not do enough under the considerably serious circumstances.

 

There is a part of me that feels very sad for Coach Paterno. In contrast to my fondness for heartwarming stories in which people retire at the height of their glory, his fall from grace has been so rapid and so precipitous that it is hard to really wrap one’s head around the epic descent. Complicating matters is the fact that the man is 85 years old. There will be no comeback, no opportunity for absolution, and that is disheartening because we all love a good redemption story. However, with the aforementioned proper perspective we should all realize that Joe Paterno, Penn State University, and the Nittany Lion football team are largely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The fact is that 9 or more young boys were violated in a way that will have an ineradicable impact on their lives. No legal outcome, no amount of money, no public apologies, no job dismissals will ever erase that. My prayer is that those young men have and will continue to find a way to move forward, seek happiness, and not let what one disgusting pervert did to them ruin their lives. In due time I am sure society will find a balance between the success Joe Paterno had & the good things he did versus the mistakes he made & the negative way his legacy has been permanently tarnished, and that’s about as much as can be expected.