Buckle your seatbelts folks…we’re trying something a little different this week. Instead of going head to head and picking the same games Zach & I will each be picking different games. It’s a format I originally pondered a few years ago and ultimately decided against for various reasons, but there are so many intriguing games on the schedule this feels like a good time to shake things up and cover as much ground as possible. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming next week. Enjoy.
My Season: 15-14
Zach’s Season: 17-12
Utah State at BYU(-24)
I ranked the Cougars 6th, and at 3-1 I believe they still have a chance to climb that high if they pull off a couple of upsets & get to 10 wins. The Aggies seem to be a force in the Mountain West with some regularity, but at 1-3 this might be an off year. The points are a bit much…especially for an in-state rivalry…but I have faith in the home team.
My Pick: BYU
Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina (-10)
They may have inexplicably lost two straight after the biggest victory in school history (at Notre Dame), but I’m thankful my Marshall Thundering Herd are now in the much more entertaining Sun Belt instead of the pedestrian C-USA. The 3-1 Eagles scored a win over Nebraska a few weeks ago, which is impressive no matter what kind of sad shape that legendary program is in. The Chanticleers might not have that sort of signature win this year, but they’ve won 11 games in each of the past two seasons. I like the home team to score alot of points and get an important triumph.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
San Diego State at Boise State (-6)
Unlike previous years no one seems to be talking about the Broncos. Perhaps that’s because they’ve just been average the past two seasons, and at 2-2 that might not change in 2022. The Aztecs are also 2-2, so somebody is waking up Sunday morning with a winning record while the other team…well…isn’t. It’s hard to go against the infamous blue turf, so I’m picking the home team.
My Pick: Boise St.
Tennessee at Indianapolis (-3)
Something has been off with the 1-2 Titans, who I thought would win their division comfortably. And now left tackle Taylor Lewan is gone for the season with a knee injury, which will make life that much harder for RB Derrick Henry, who’s already off to a slow start. The Colts could easily be 0-3, but have lucked into a 1-1-1 record. I normally have a lot of faith in the home field advantage, but The Vibes are telling me this is the week Tennessee wakes up and remembers that they’re supposed to be a playoff team.
My Pick: Tennessee
Jacksonville at Philadelphia (-6.5)
I told you the Jags could be headed in the right direction, and right now they sit atop their division. I don’t expect that to last, but their improvement is undeniable. Meanwhile, the Eagles are 3-0 and look like they could cruise to a division title. I’m hoping for an entertaining contest, but I believe Philly wins this one easily.
My Pick: Philadelphia
Kentucky at Ole Miss (-6.5)
Isn’t Kentucky supposed to be a basketball school?? I guess the 4-0 Wildcats didn’t get that memo, especially when you consider they were 10-3 a season ago. The Rebels are also 4-0 and could launch themselves into the Top 10 with a victory. Zach likes Kentucky’s defense to keep things close and they’re running attack to eat clock. He’s not sure who might come out on top, but feels like it’ll be closer than a touchdown either way.
Z’s Pick: Kentucky
Texas Tech at Kansas State (-7.5)
This might be the sleeper game of the weekend. Both teams are 3-1, with the Red Raiders coming off a thrill overtime win over Texas, while the Wildcats upset conference foe Oklahoma. Can both teams channel that momentum into another positive outcome, or will one fall prey to a giant letdown?? Zach isn’t comfortable with the points & foresees another close contest.
Z’s Pick: Texas Tech
North Carolina State at Clemson (-6.5)
In my preseason poll I predicted the Wolfpack would continue their winning ways and finish as a ranked team, while I had Clemson finishing outside the Top 10. Thus far both teams are unbeaten, but the Tigers had to go into overtime to defeat Wake Forest last week while NC St. hasn’t broken a sweat since the second half of their season opener when they took their foot off the gas pedal and scored a closer than it should’ve been victory. Zach opines that Clemson’s defense is terrible and NC St. is a sneaky good team, but in the end he thinks the home team will get the job done.
Z’s Pick: Clemson
New England at Green Bay (-10.5)
Is the tundra frozen yet?? Probably not…it’s only October. The divorce of the Packers & receiver Davante Adams hasn’t worked out well for anybody at this point. I thought The Pack would win their division with ease, but it’s been a dogfight. The Pats look like they’re being coached by Cleveland Browns Era Belichick instead of six time Super Bowl winner Belichick, which makes me happy. I’ll hate those bastards til my last breath. Zach still has faith in Belichick and believes they’ll grind it out well enough to atleast keep things interesting.
Z’s Pick: New England
Kansas City (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
It’s a battle of alleged legends…ageless Tom Brady vs. still in his prime Patrick Mahomes. Hurricane Ian has been reeking havoc on the Gulf Coast of Florida, but at the moment it doesn’t look like the game will be moved out of Tampa to a neutral site or to Monday night instead of Sunday night, both of which had been floated as possibilities. Zach doesn’t believe Brady will lose two in a row and predicts late game heroics by Tampa Tom will secure a win for the underdogs.
As has become our annual tradition I want to encourage any non-sports fans in The Manoverse to stick with me. These picks dominate the landscape each autumn, and it doesn’t help that I’ve not been as prolific for…well, awhile. I have lots of things in my head, but motivation has been a huge problem for various reasons. I’ll try to do better going forward. In football related matters you’ll notice that we’re light on college action and leaning more into the NFL, which is unusual for September. I expect that’ll change next week though.
My Season: 11-13
Zach’s Season: 14-10
Baylor at Iowa State (-2.5)
In my preseason poll I ranked Baylor 7th but noted that they’d need to be road warriors to get there, and now here we are. The Bears have beaten up two cupcakes and narrowly lost to BYU in overtime, while the Cyclones are 3-0 with a close win over in-state rival Iowa. This is probably going down to the wire with special teams & turnovers playing a key role in the outcome, and I’ve got to stick to my earlier thought process. I think Baylor gets a tight road victory. Zach foresees a defensive slug fest, and he likes State’s defense just a little better.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Iowa St.
Florida at Tennessee (-11)
I consulted multiple sources because I just couldn’t believe the points, but what you see is accurate. The Vols are 3-0 and ranked 11th, scoring two blowout wins against MAC competition & an impressive overtime road victory over the Pitt Panthers. Conversely, the 2-1 Gators appear to be riding a roller coaster, with a huge season opening upset of Utah, a loss to SEC rival Kentucky, and a tougher than it should’ve been escape against in-state challenger South Florida. Still, as impressive as Tennessee has been & as many questions as there may be about Florida, eleven points seems a bit much, even with the game being played in Knoxville. Zach thinks Florida had looked sluggish, but he agrees the points are too much.
My Pick: Florida
Z’s Pick: Florida
Buffalo (-4) at Miami
The Bills are firing on all cylinders right now, and are certainly one of the two or three best teams in the NFL. However, the Dolphins have been impressive as well. Receiver Tyreek Hill has breathed new life into Miami’s offense, and I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for awhile now that it’s way too soon to give up on QB Tua Tagovailoa. The home crowd is going to be jacked for this one, and it would be a major statement win for a Fins team that hasn’t played in the postseason since 2016. Not only is Zach also picking the upset, but he thinks this could be an AFC Championship preview.
My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami
Detroit at Minnesota (-6.5)
I told y’all that the Lions would be the surprise of the NFC North, and so far they’ve looked as good as a 1-1 team can. As a matter of fact, all four teams in the division…including the Vikings…are tied. This will be the beginning of the separation, when we differentiate the contenders from the pretenders. I don’t believe that either club will be playoff bound or even finish with a winning record, but I do think Detroit is the better team. Zach isn’t totally sure he knows the outcome, but he definitely thinks it’ll be closer than a touchdown.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Detroit
San Francisco (-1) at Denver
‘Frisco lost starting QB Trey Lance to a broken ankle, but, while that’d be a season killer for most teams, I don’t believe it makes all that much difference in this case. Lance may end up being a decent NFL quarterback, but I have my doubts and don’t think he was ready yet anyway. Jimmy Garoppolo might not be the next Joe Montana, but he’s capable enough to step right back into the starter role without the team missing a beat. The Niners should count their lucky stars they didn’t trade him. On the flip side the Broncos haven’t looked as impressive as I expected with Russell Wilson behind center. I feel like both teams are going to need their defenses to carry them, and to that end I foresee a low scoring contest decided by field goals, time of possession, field position, & penalties. Something like a 15-13 kind of game, with the visiting favorites escaping with a win. Zach likes the Jimmy G. story and thinks he’ll lead his team to victory.
So let’s talk about the new 12 team College Football Playoff. It will be implemented sometime between 2024 & 2026 and feature the six highest ranked conference champions & six at large teams. One can assume that all of the Power 5 conference champs (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, PAC 12, & Big 12) will almost always be in, as well as atleast one champ from the Other 5 conferences (AAC, C-USA, Mountain West, MAC, & Sun Belt). Occasionally a second of those other conference champions might snag a spot, but it is likely that most of the time the at large berths will be given to teams (most often conference runners up) in the Power 5 (and Notre Dame if they remain independent). The dynamics of the debate will change, but we’ll probably still argue about whether a spot should go to the MAC Champion or the 3rd place team in the Big Ten. The top four teams will receive a first round bye, and both the quarter & semi finals will incorporate existing bowl games. There’s a lot to unpack, but this isn’t the time because that’s not why you’re here.
My Season: 8-11
Zach’s Season: 11-8
Oklahoma (-11.5) at Nebraska
I’m old enough to remember the Big 8 Conference, which won 11 national titles in less than a half century. Six of those championships were won by the Sooners, four by the Cornhuskers. Oklahoma has mostly maintained a high level of success, although an imminent move to the SEC may change that. Conversely, Nebraska has gotten lost in the shuffle since joining the Big Ten over a decade ago, and now they just fired their head coach after an embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern. I’m not expecting this to be much of a contest, although the home team might put up a fight for awhile. Ultimately I believe it’ll be a blowout. Zach notes that Oklahoma doesn’t seem to be as good as they’ve been in the recent past, but agrees they should win this game easily.
My Pick: Oklahoma
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
BYU at Oregon (-3.5)
Typically I like to choose games involving different teams from week to week, but we’re going back to back with BYU because their schedule is really interesting. The Cougars got the overtime victory over Baylor last weekend, but things don’t get any easier. The Ducks have the home field and rebounded from getting crushed in the season opener at Georgia by beating up Eastern Washington. One of these teams will solidify their position in the Top 20, while the loser may fall from the rankings altogether for the time being. In my preseason poll I ranked BYU 6th & Oregon 22nd, but specifically stated that I didn’t expect BYU to beat Oregon on the road. Zach believes Oregon might be a bit overrated & thinks the underdogs can get the job done.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: BYU
Miami (FL) at Texas A&M (-5.5)
I am admittedly biased and still basking in the glow of my Marshall Thundering Herd going into South Bend and defeating Notre Dame in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. However, there was another huge upset that we shouldn’t overlook…Appalachian St. overcoming The 12th Man in College Station and making A&M boosters question if that ten year, $75 million contract they gave to Jimbo Fisher a few years ago was a good idea. As I mentioned in the preseason, “finishing third in the division simply isn’t good enough”, so his seat is pretty damn hot…to the point that this almost feels like a must win. Conversely, the ‘Canes have cruised in the first two games, but now they venture out of Florida and into the fire. Will the Aggies be pissed off and take out their frustrations on Miami?? Or will the visitors put another nail in Jimbo’s maroon coffin?? Nothing would surprise me, but I think A&M is the safe pick. Zach thinks last week’s debacle will motivate rather than demoralize the Aggies and likes then to get the job done.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Indianapolis(-4.5) at Jacksonville
The Colts came out of their season opener at Houston with a tie, but it sure feels more like a loss. Meanwhile, the Jags lost to Washington but likely saw a lot of positives to hang onto going forward. I don’t have big expectations for either team this season, but Indy probably wins this game if they control time of possession & Jonathan Taylor racks up anywhere close to the 161 yards rushing he had last week. Zach foresees a close game and thinks Jax will atleast cover the points or maybe win outright.
My Pick: Indianapolis
Z’s Pick: Jacksonville
Cincinnati (-8) at Dallas
Let’s be honest…the Bengals outplayed my Steelers, but they still lost. Cincy had more passing yards, more rushing yards, half as many penalty yards, three times as many first downs, and dominated time of possession, but lost because of five turnovers & Joe Burrow being sacked seven times. They allegedly fixed their offensive line in the offseason, but it sure didn’t seem like it last weekend. The Cowboys not only lost to Tampa, but QB Dak Prescott is out with an injured thumb. Dallas has the home field, and the points concern me a bit (I could see this being one of those 12-6 games where both offenses are completely impotent), but it’s a go big or go home moment for me, and I’ve got to lean toward the road favorites. Zach thinks Joe Burrow will rebound nicely and have a big game.
The season hasn’t even really begun and I’m already in a hole. Kudos to Zach, who pretty much nailed almost every game last week in going 4-1, while I struggled to a 1-4 mark. I watched as much as I could of a couple of games, but had other things going on. This weekend is pretty much the same. I’ll catch some of the early action, then head to our local Italian Heritage Festival Saturday night. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. There are a few intriguing matchups, and some potential playoff contenders could have their hopes negatively impacted right off the bat. I know there are fans that don’t particularly care for the College Football Playoff, but one positive byproduct has been marquee games in the first week or two. Teams can no longer get away with destroying glorified high school opponents by five touchdowns for the first three weeks of the season and hope to impress voters, and fans are the winners.
My Season: 1-4
Zach’s Season: 4-1
West Virginia at Pitt (-7)
The Backyard Brawl returns from hiatus after a decade+ (thanks conference realignment 🙄) and I’m pretty psyched. The Panthers are coming off a successful 2021 campaign in which they won the ACC Championship & went 11-3. USC transfer Kedon Slovis takes over the quarterbacking duties from new Steelers backup Kenny Pickett, but wide receiver Jordan Addison (who transferred to USC…the carousel is redonkulous) will be more difficult to replace. My Mountaineers are entering their fourth year under head coach Neal Brown, and if he wants fans to continue to “trust the climb” we’re going to need to see some progress. We understand that going undefeated, winning the Big 12, and being a legit playoff contender is not something to be expected, but winning 8 or 9 games shouldn’t feel as out of reach as it has the past few seasons. Georgia transfer QB JT Daniels will be under center, so if the offensive line has improved and the defense is solid there is reason for optimism. We’ll see. This is a Thursday night game on ESPN. Zach has confidence in Slovis & thinks WVU consistently falls short in big games.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Cincinnati at Arkansas (-6.5)
The Bearcats had nine players drafted into the NFL, including five picks in the Top 100. Replacing that amount of talent won’t be easy, so I don’t expect them to be nearly as successful. Conversely, the Razorbacks won nine games a year ago after a few lean seasons, and I believe they’ll maintain that. Certainly playing in the SEC is a brutal task, making it all the more vital that they win non-conference battles. They have the home field in Fayetteville and I think it’ll be a solid victory. Conversely, Zach doesn’t foresee Cincy falling off that much from last season’s success & thinks they’ll score the close win this week.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Utah (-2.5) at Florida
I assume it is rare for a visiting team to be favored at The Swamp. Many “experts” believe Utah can contend for the PAC 12 title, and I agree. Actually, I think they can do even better. That being said, if the Utes want to make a statement and put themselves in the playoff conversation right off the bat they must seize this opportunity. The Gators have been on a downward trend the past couple of seasons and made a change last November. Can new head coach Billy Napier, who was 40-12 in four seasons at Louisiana, right the ship?? The SEC is a huge step up from the Sun Belt, but this is a big test even before Napier gets to the conference grind. Perhaps he’ll be successful in the long run, but I don’t foresee things beginning too well. Zach likes Utah’s superior team speed to lead them to victory.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: Utah
Oregon at Georgia (-17.5)
Credit where it is due…the defending champion Bulldogs aren’t taking the easy way out to begin the new season. The Ducks were 10-4 a year ago & played in the PAC 12 title game. However, head coach Dan Lanning is new in town after former coach Mario Cristobal moved on to the Miami Hurricanes. What makes this matchup interesting is that Lanning spent the past three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. The champs return 13 starters, but lost 15 players to the NFL, including a record breaking five defensive players in the first round. Most of the time when we see those kind of numbers I assume a total rebuild is happening and have few expectations for that team, but I don’t feel that way about Georgia. I believe they’ll contend for another national championship & be as good or better than last season. Admittedly the points scare me a little, but this is a fantastic chance for Georgia to make a statement & show that they’re here to stay. Zach concurs, opining that Georgia’s size & experience in big games will make the difference.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
Notre Dame at Ohio State (-17)
The Buckeyes have been consistent playoff contenders since the new system began in 2014, but only have two appearances & one national title to show for it. Will anything short of hoisting the big gold trophy on January 9 be a failure?? I think it just might be. The Irish are one of college football’s most fabled programs, but they haven’t won a national title since 1988. They’ve appeared in the playoff twice, losing in the semifinal both times. I realize Ohio St. has the home field, but it is strange seeing Notre Dame as a double digit underdog. I have good vibes about new head coach Marcus Freeman and believe he’ll lead his team back to prominence one day…but not this day. As a die hard Michigan fan Zach rarely has any positive opinions about Ohio St., so he’s picking Notre Dame to atleast cover the points.
They’re calling this Week 0 in college football circles, probably because it’s not a full schedule and none of the matchups are that appealing. However, we play by our own rules here, and I choose to believe that a few games might turn out to be more entertaining than anyone thought they’d be. Ultimately any football is better than no football at all, right?? We are glad to be back for another season, and in case y’all need your memory refreshed I scored the overall victory last year with a 57-69 mark, while Zach was 49-77. Obviously we’d both like to improve this season, but we’ll see how it goes. Enjoy.
Nebraska (-12) vs. Northwestern
When I was a kid the Cornhuskers were a force to be reckoned with, winning three national titles as recently as the mid 1990’s. However, they haven’t had a ten win season in a decade and haven’t posted a winning record since 2016. Moving to the Big Ten in 2011 probably wasn’t the smartest decision. Head coach Scott Frost is 15-29 in four years at the helm, and I have to think he needs to do much better this season. Conversely, the Wildcats has had some solid years since Pat Fitgerald became the coach in 2006, although they’ve finished 3-9 two of the past three seasons. I’m intrigued by the fact that the game is being played in Dublin. It’s a 12:30pm kickoff here, meaning that it’ll be 5:30pm in Ireland. The points scare me a bit, but I’m rolling with the favorites. Zach agrees that Frost is on the hot seat and thinks Nebraska will win, but foresees a close contest.
My Pick: Nebraska
Z’s Pick: Northwestern
Charlotte at Florida Atlantic (-7.5)
It’s a battle of C-USA foes, which doesn’t matter to me anymore since my Thundering Herd has migrated to the Sun Belt Conference. I suppose I’ll still watch the game though if I’m not doing anything more exciting Saturday night. The 49ers have only had one winning season since resurrecting the football program in 2013, while the Owls had a couple of good years under Lane Kiffin until he bolted for greener pastures. Willie Taggart enters his third year with only a 10-14 overall record in Boca Raton. Atlantic has the home field, and I think they’ll win…by less than a touchdown. Conversely, Zach thinks the home team’s high powered offense will lead them to a decisive victory.
My Pick: Charlotte
Z’s Pick: Florida Atlantic
Wyoming at Illinois (-10)
Occasionally these two programs will have a successful campaign, but they’ve both been mediocre at best in recent years. The Cowboys have won ten games since 1996, while the Illini last achieved that mark in 2001. I foresee a close, hard fought game decided late in the 4th quarter by a turnover or fantastic special teams play. Zach thinks Wyoming will win easily.
My Pick: Illinois
Z’s Pick: Wyoming
North Texas (-1) at Texas-El Paso
Don’t be fooled…they may both be located in the state of Texas, but the two schools are about a nine hour drive apart. Does that matter?? Not really…I just thought it was interesting. The Mean Green had a couple of nine win seasons not long ago, but have had losing records three years in a row. The Miners have only won more than six games twice in the past decade. I will not be watching this game since it is only available on an obscure streaming platform I won’t bother downloading. It’s essentially a pick ‘em and in those situations I like the home team. Zach likes North’s passing game to rack up the points.
My Pick: UTEP
Z’s Pick: North Texas
Vanderbilt (-6.5) at Hawaii
A few years ago I would have been pumped for this game because it kicks off at 10:30pm on the CBS Sports Network. Sadly it seems that I am far less of a night owl than I once was, so whether or not I make it thru the entire contest is a real toss up. At any rate, the Commodores are the forgotten member of the SEC for a reason…they’ve only had a winning record twice in the past decade and won five games total in the previous three seasons. The Rainbow Warriors aren’t great either, but they did have a ten win season as recently as 2019. Perhaps the oddsmakers know something the rest of us don’t, but I’m going with the home underdogs. Conversely, Zach doesn’t like Hawaii’s terrible defense and sees Vandy getting the easy win.
As we head into a new football season I will admit to having mixed feelings. Things like conference realignment & NIL have exposed college athletics as the big business that it is, which has eroded much of its charm & virtue. Tradition means nothing when billions of dollars are at stake. That being said, for the next four months I’ll be spending most of my Saturdays vegged out in front of the TV from the time the pregame shows start at 9am until the final west coast games end around 1am, and I’ll love every second of it. I’m a pretty low key guy who is easily entertained, and there’s nothing better than autumn weekends & hours upon hours of gridiron action. So, as we have done for more than a decade now, let us take a peek into the ol’ crystal ball and see if we can predict with some degree of accuracy what may unfold between now & the end of the year. As always I discourage any kind of gambling based on what you read here. I’m not an expert and sometimes have no idea what I’m talking about, so enjoy my pontification in the spirit in which it is intended.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/15 vs. Penn St., 10/29 vs. Michigan St., 11/26 at Ohio St.
Jim Harbaugh allegedly flirted with some NFL teams this offseason but ultimately returned to Ann Arbor. I do not think that will affect the season, but I also don’t believe the Wolverines will be a playoff contender in 2022.
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 10/8 vs. Texas, 10/29 at Iowa St, 11/5 vs. Baylor, 11/19 vs. Oklahoma St.
The Sooners lost their head coach & multiple players, including two star quarterbacks. That’s alot to overcome, and I think we’ll see a slight drop under new head coach Brent Venables. This may or may not be their final season in the Big 12, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/10 at Texas Tech, 10/22 at Navy
Can Dana Holgorsen continue last year’s success and keep on winning?? The Cougars will be joining the Big 12 in a season or two, so it would behoove them not only to build momentum, but also take advantage of playing lesser competition while they still can. The September clash in Lubbock against the Red Raiders will provide an indication of how Houston stacks up against their future conference brethren, and it’s also a must win for this year.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Georgia, 9/17 vs. BYU, 11/19 vs. Utah
Head coach Mario Cristobal bolted to return to his alma mater Miami (FL), so former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is in charge now. That makes the season opener against the Bulldogs even more interesting. The PAC 12 eliminated divisions, so the top two teams will play in the conference title game, meaning the Ducks will need to be better than Utah or USC. They go head to head with the Utes in Eugene in mid-November.
21 North Carolina State
Last Season: 9-3
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Texas Tech, 10/27 vs. Virginia Tech, 11/25 at North Carolina
The ACC has become a muddled mess of mediocrity. Only one team is considered playoff worthy…the rest are jockeying for bowl position. Of course only half of the league are likely to find themselves in that hunt, so the question becomes which teams will rise?? 4 out of the past 5 seasons have had the Wolfpack winning eight or more games, and I think we’ll see more of that in 2022.
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/1 vs. West Virginia, 9/10 vs. Tennessee, 11/26 at Miami (FL)
Quarterback Kenny Pickett is now plying his trade with my Steelers, and such a key loss would normally be cause for concern. However, thanks to the transfer portal the Panthers will now have former Southern Cal QB Kaden Slovis under center. I don’t believe they’ll be quite as successful as a year ago, but 8 or 9 wins seems achievable. I’m really looking forward to the long awaited renewal of the Backyard Brawl to open the season.
19 Michigan State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 10/8 vs. Ohio St., 10/15 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 at Michigan, 11/26 at Penn St.
I’m never quite sure what to make of the Spartans. In the past six seasons they’ve been 3-9, 10-3, 7-6 (twice), 2-5 (in the Covid shortened year), and 11-2. The Big Ten is stacked, so it’s pretty easy to get lost in the shuffle. They’ll need to win atleast a couple of the key games noted above, which won’t be easy, and may go into Happy Valley at the end of November in a must win situation.
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/10 at Pitt, 10/24 vs. Florida, 10/15 vs. Alabama, 11/5 at Georgia
It’s time. I remember when the Vols were consistently one of the top teams in the SEC, but that hasn’t been the case since the late 90’s. Occasionally they’ll show signs of life with a 9 or 10 win season, but that has not happened in about five years. I have no evidence to support my optimism. I may look back at this prediction in shame. However, I believe they’ll pull off atleast one stunning upset this season.
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Cincinnati, 9/24 vs. Texas A&M, 10/1 vs. Alabama, 11/12 vs. LSU
Not every SEC team will finish ranked, but more of them will receive benefit of the doubt than programs from other conferences. Can the Razorbacks continue their momentum from last year, or will they fall back into the abyss they’d been in the four seasons before that?? They can get things off to a good start by beating last year’s favorite underdog story, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and hosting other key games on the schedule at home could prove beneficial.
Last Season: 6-7
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Florida St., 10/1 at Auburn, 10/8 vs. Tennessee, 10/15 at Florida, 11/5 vs. Alabama, 11/26 at Texas A&M
The Ed Orgeron Era is over in Baton Rouge, and former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has taken the reins. Keep in mind Kelly was not fired…he chose to make the move, and I assume he believes this team can be elite. Certainly it’s a tough road in the SEC, but we can’t overlook the fact that the Bayou Bengals won a national championship as recently as 2019. I don’t think it’ll take long to turn things around.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/10 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Michigan, 10/22 at Ohio St., 11/12 vs. Wisconsin
It seems like the Hawkeyes are always good. They’ve won 8+ games in seven of the past nine years, and that’s including the Covid shortened season of 2020. Unlike the PAC 12 the Big Ten has not abandoned its divisional setup, so Iowa doesn’t have to be better than Ohio St., Penn St., or Michigan to get into the conference title game. Eight wins & a Rose Bowl berth is certainly possible.
14 South Carolina
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Georgia, 10/22 vs. Texas A&M, 11/26 at Clemson
This is a big wildcard. Shane Beamer enters his second season in Columbia with a little more familiarity of the SEC, and I expect to see some maturation. They’ll need to score atleast one huge upset, but that’s not out of the question.
13 Southern California
Last Season: 4-8
Key Games: 10/15 at Utah, 11/19 vs. UCLA, 11/26 vs. Notre Dame
I toyed with placing the Trojans much higher, but decided to be conservative. Lincoln Riley’s defection from Oklahoma along with QB Caleb Williams and the transfer of former Pitt receiver Jordan Addison grabbed a lot of headlines in the past several months, and expectations are high. However, perhaps it’d be wise to pump the brakes just a bit. Games at Utah and against Notre Dame in L.A. won’t be easy, and I expect USC to lose atleast once…maybe twice. Fear not Trojan fans…Riley will have his team in the playoff discussion soon…but not quite yet.
12 Notre Dame
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/3 at Ohio St., 11/5 vs. Clemson, 11/26 at USC
Credit where it is due…the Irish don’t have an easy path. Oh sure, they play a couple of gimmes (one of which will be the season opener against my alma mater…Go Herd), but they’ll need to win atleast one & maybe two of the key games noted above to climb this close to the Top 10, and that’s not going to be a a walk in the park. I am impressed with new head coach Marcus Freeman thus far, but he’s going to have to prove his worth with some big victories.
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/15 at Florida St., 11/5 at Notre Dame, 11/19 vs. Miami (FL)
After winning two national championships in six traight playoff appearances the Tigers fell off just a bit last year. And by that I mean they still had ten victories but didn’t win the ACC title and finished 14th in the final rankings. It’s the hallmark of an elite program when that is considered disappointing. Will they be back in the playoff picture this season?? I don’t think so. No one respects the ACC anymore, and I won’t be surprised if two SEC teams & two Big Ten teams are in the playoff. The only shot Clemson has is to go undefeated in convincing fashion & lay a smackdown on Notre Dame in South Bend.
10 Texas A&M
Last Season: 8-4
Key Games: 9/17 vs. Miami (FL), 10/24 vs. Arkansas, 10/8 at Alabama, 11/5 vs. Florida, 11/26 vs. LSU
Head coach Jimbo Fisher talks a good game, but can his team get it done on the field?? When you sign a ten year contract worth $75 million finishing third in the division simply isn’t good enough. Fisher’s feud” with Nick Saban has been a highlight of this offseason, but what matters is what happens between the lines. I don’t expect A&M to defeat ‘Bama in Tuscaloosa, but anything less than ten wins will be a huge disappointment, and that seat might start to get pretty hot for my man Jimbo.
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/24 at Ohio St., 10/15 at Michigan St., 11/12 at Iowa
I’ve always been a big fan of Badger football. They’re not flashy, but they are fundamentally sound and win in the trenches. Having said that, the Big Ten is looking awfully difficult, and it is entirely possibly that Wisconsin could be a middle-of-the-pack program right now. All three of the key games I’ve noted are on the road, which is a daunting task. I’m going to venture way out on a limb though and predict they’ll pull off massive upsets in two of those games, paving the way for double digit victories & a Top 10 finish.
8 Penn State
Last Season: 7-6
Key Games: 9/17 at Auburn, 10/15 at Michigan, 10/29 vs. Ohio St., 11/26 vs. Michigan St.
Is it likely that two Big Ten teams outside the state of Ohio finish in the Top 10?? No. So I guess I’m hedging my bets. An out of conference battle at Auburn & a home game against Michigan St. are must wins for the Nittany Lions.
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/10 at BYU, 9/24 at Iowa St., 10/1 vs. Oklahoma St., 11/5 at Oklahoma, 11/25 at Texas
The Bears won the Big 12 title and were victorious in the Sugar Bowl a season ago, and I believe it is entirely possible they’ll be just as good in 2022. However, they’ll need be road warriors to achieve that level of success. With Texas & Oklahoma ditching the Big 12 in the not-so-distant future there is a vacuum at the top of the conference, and Baylor has an opportunity to become the new standard bearer (pun unavoidable). Don’t miss their visit to Norman, OK in early November…I think it’ll be a really great game.
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/10 vs. Baylor, 10/15 vs. Arkansas
This is BYU’s final year as an Independent before joining the Big 12, and they’re ending their independence with a bang. It’s a hell of a schedule. I do not expect them to beat Notre Dame or Oregon on the road, but if they can upset Baylor & Arkansas, win all the games they’re supposed to win, and get to ten victories once again they might actually be in the playoff discussion. There’s no chance they’ll actually be invited to participate, but sometimes getting the respect of simply being mentioned is enough.
Last Season: 13-2
Key Games: 9/10 at Texas, 10/1 at Arkansas, 10/8 vs. Texas A&M, 10/15 at Tennessee, 11/5 at LSU, 11/26 vs. Auburn
Freakin’ Nick Saban actually had the nerve to say that 2021 was a rebuilding year for the Tide…a season that saw them win 13 games, beat the snot out of Georgia in the SEC title game, and inexplicably fall by two TDs in the National Championship Game. The sad part is he might be right. Still, the fact is that ‘Bama always receives every opponent’s best shot, and things happen in such a scenario. I don’t know which one it’ll be, but I have a feeling an opponent listed above will have everything fall into place just perfectly, and Alabama will have a rare off day. Will that be enough to derail their playoff aspirations?? God I hope so.
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/3 at Florida, 10/15 vs. USC, 11/19 at Oregon
USC has gotten all the PAC 12 attention the past several months, but Utah might be the team to beat right now. We’ll learn a lot when the Utes venture into The Swamp, and playing the Trojans in the cozy confines of Salt Lake City could be quite beneficial. I expect the winner of the mid-November clash in Eugene, OR to take one spot in the conference title game.
3 Ohio State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Notre Dame, 10/8 at Michigan St., 10/29 at Penn St., 11/26 vs. Michigan
The Buckeyes have essentially become an NFL farm team. Quarterback CJ Stroud returns for his sophomore season after finishing 4th on the Heisman ballot last year. He’ll be considered a front runner for that award as long as his team is winning. I don’t believe the season opener against Notre Dame will be much of a challenge, and they have Michigan at The Horseshoe, so anything less than a playoff berth would be a huge disappointment.
2 Oklahoma State
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/1 at Baylor, 10/22 vs. Texas, 11/12 vs. Iowa St., 11/19 at Oklahoma
The “experts” all seem to slot the Cowboys about ten spots lower than this, so I’m really rolling the dice. The two biggest games on the schedule are both on the road, which makes the task that much harder. QB Spencer Sanders is a senior, which is good, but there was also some turnover in the coaching staff, which makes me nervous. It’s a “go big or go home” kind of thing really. Despite the fact that the TV folks (who really run the business of college sports, in case you didn’t know 😉) would undoubtedly love to see a playoff totally comprised of SEC & Big Ten teams (or USC if they can win the PAC 12), I think a Big 12 team will be in the mix, and given all of the offseason drama don’t believe it’ll be the Oklahoma Sooners. Keep an eye on the October 1st game at Baylor…the winner of that one might have an inside track to a playoff berth.
Last Season: 14-1
Key Games: 9/3 vs. Oregon, 10/29 vs. Florida, 11/5 vs. Tennessee
“To be The Man you’ve got to beat The Man”. That’s what wrasslin’ legend Ric Flair always said, and I think it’s good advice. The Bulldogs defeated Alabama to win the National Championship, and I don’t know of any reason to expect a decline. If Georgia comes out of the gate fast and beats Oregon badly then it’s on like Donkey Kong. Most people are likely expecting a rematch against The Tide in the SEC title game, and they’re probably right. I think Georgia wins that game, which will cost ‘Bama a playoff opportunity.
Annnndddd we’re back!!!! After a COVID-induced hiatus a year ago we have returned to make mostly uninformed & generally random picks of bowl games involving a bunch of teams about which neither of us know all that much. I read a quote years ago something akin to “golf & sex are the only things one can enjoy without being very good”, but I would include picking football games as well. As noted a couple of years ago, I have evolved from being one of those cranky old dudes ranting about too many bowl games to rather enjoying obscure & totally inconsequential weekday afternoon gridiron battles. These picks are separate from our weekly Picks of Profundity, no point spreads are used, & we don’t pretend like we have any clue what we’re talking about for the most part. I’ll leave it to The Manoverse to find the dates, times, & specific locations of these games. Most of them will be on the ESPN “family of networks”, though there are exceptions. As always I discourage wagering of any kind. I have broken down the games into three tiers: Bronze are the games that I have very little interest in and may or may not watch, Silver are games for which I have a modest level of enthusiasm and will probably try to check out, and Gold are the Must See contests. Sadly there are way too many in the first group and far too few in the last, but the cool thing about Bowl Season is that there are always surprises…games that’ll be tied in the fourth quarter and you suddenly find yourself invested for no apparent reason. I love that, and I appreciate the fact that we have once again been able to enjoy such compelling yet ultimately meaningless entertainment in 2021. I hope The Manoverse is staying safe & warm, enjoying the holiday season, and appreciating every second of this amazing life.
Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo
How cool is it that these college kids get to travel to The Bahamas for free?? That alone is worth the blood, sweat, & tears of playing football. It’s an experience they’ll truly appreciate two or three decades from now. I’m not sure how many fans can afford to make the trek, but hey…life isn’t perfect, right?? The Blue Raiders represent C-USA and are 6-6, while the Rockets are out of the MAC and come into this game 7-5.
My Pick: Toledo
Z’s Pick: Toledo
South Carolina State vs. Jackson State
This is a game specifically for “historically black” colleges, which seems like kind of an outdated concept in the 21st Century, but whatever. The SC St. Bulldogs are 6-5, while the Jackson St. Tigers (from Mississippi in case you are curious) are 11-1 and coached by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. On paper it really looks like kind of a mismatch. Zach feels like momentum is on the Tigers’ side.
My Pick: Jackson State
Z’s Pick: Jackson State
New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State vs. UTEP
The 9-3 Bulldogs faced some pretty stiff competition in the Mountain West and went toe to toe with the Oregon Ducks, while the Miners were 7-5 out of C-USA. I don’t think this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.
My Pick: Fresno State
Z’s Pick: Fresno State
BYU vs. UAB
I had high hopes for the Cougars, and they did go 10-2. September victories over Arizona St. & Utah seem especially impressive. Unfortunately, playing as an independent and having no direct access to conference bowl affiliations means you end up playing the 8-4 Blazers on a Saturday afternoon in Shreveport a week before Christmas. Perhaps I’m selling this game short, but I don’t believe it will be all that competitive. Zach likes the game to be a little closer but ultimately believes BYU will get the victory.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan
This is the old GMAC Bowl, aka Dollar General Bowl, aka GoDaddy Bowl. Y’all know I despise corporate bowl names. Anyway, the 7-5 Flames dipped significantly from their 10-1 season a year ago, which saw them finish in the Top 20. Meanwhile, the 7-5 Eagles out of the MAC are appearing in their fourth bowl game since 2016 (they are 0-3 in previous efforts). I don’t foresee this being close or interesting at all. Zach agrees, opining that Liberty might win by 40 points.
My Pick: Liberty
Z’s Pick: Liberty
SMU vs. Virginia
It’s like people in Boston were whining “Hey…there’s a bowl game at Yankee Stadium!! We want one too!!”, and someone somewhere acquiesced. Honestly though…is playing football in Boston at the end of December a reward for these players?? I’d much rather go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. At any rate, the Mustangs are out of the AAC and currently sit at 8-4, while the ACC’s Cavaliers are 6-6. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has already announced his departure after the game, having been at the helm in Charlottesville for six years. He’s only 55 years old so one has to assume he’ll have a final act somewhere, but for now his exit provides a motivational storyline. Zach predicts both offenses will put up big numbers, with SMU ultimately prevailing.
My Pick: Virginia
Z’s Pick: SMU
Washington State vs. Miami (FL)
ESPN dominates bowl coverage, but the Sun Bowl remains on CBS, which is kind of refreshing. It is one of the oldest bowl games, having first been played way back in 1935. The 7-5 Hurricanes underachieved tremendously in three seasons under head coach Manny Diaz, who has already been shown the door. The 7-5 Cougars faced coaching turmoil themselves back in October when their head coach & several assistants were fired for refusing to kneel & bow to Nazi-esque vaccine mandates, which means there is no way in hell I can cheer for a school that engages in that kind of foolishness. Zach is rolling the dice on State.
My Pick: Miami (FL)
Z’s Pick: Washington State
Boise State vs. Central Michigan
It was an off year for the 7-5 Broncos, who were competitive against UCF & Oklahoma St. and actually beat BYU, but nevertheless failed to live up to previously set lofty standards. Conversely, the 8-4 Chippewas out of the MAC continue to bounce back from the nadir of a 1-11 season in 2018. I don’t know why, but I feel like this game could exceed expectations. Conversely, Zach predicts an easy Boise win.
My Pick: Central Michigan
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Tulsa vs. Old Dominion
The Golden Hurricanes out of the AAC are 6-6, as are C-USA’s Monarchs. This is one of those 2:30pm Monday afternoon kickoffs that theoretically no one will be watching, but who knows…perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suppose I’ll pick Old Dominion in a coin flip. Zach notes that Tulsa suffered several close losses and is probably a better team than the record shows.
My Pick: Old Dominion
Z’s Pick: Tulsa
Kent State vs. Wyoming
Potatoes may not be the sexiest vegetable, but I can dig a game named after spuds instead of some mortgage broker. The 7-6 Golden Flashes lost the MAC title game, while the 6-6 Cowboys started strong but went 2-6 in the back end of their Mountain West schedule. I’m guessing the folks in Vegas would favor Kent, but I’ve got to go with the upset. Zach foresees a dominant defensive effort leading to a convincing Wyoming win.
My Pick: Wyoming
Z’s Pick: Wyoming
Frisco Football Classic
North Texas vs. Miami (OH)
Once upon a time there was something called the Redbox Bowl, which was cancelled in 2020 because of The Sickness then scrapped again this year. Actually it wasn’t a new game, having formerly been known as the Emerald Bowl & Fight Hunger Bowl, amongst other things. At any rate, the NCAA was left with too many bowl eligible teams for the available slots, so they literally created this game last week. I’m not even kidding. Making things even weirder is the fact that there is already a Frisco Bowl, so I’m not sure how this little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb is being awarded a second post-season matchup, but whatever…we’ll just go with it. Both teams are 6-6, and it is essentially a home game for the Mean Green since their campus is a half hour down the road. Credit to the RedHawks for making the trek, but it’s gonna be a tough day for them. Conversely, Zach likes Miami to snag the victory.
My Pick: North Texas
Z’s Pick: Miami (OH)
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. Missouri
To clarify, the Armed Forces Bowl is played in Fort Worth, TX, while the Military Bowl is contested in Annapolis, MD. I take no issue with the redundancy since our folks in uniform deserve all the kudos they get & more. The 8-4 Black Knights are going for their fourth season of 9+ wins in the past five years, while the SEC’s Tigers are 6-6 and probably wishing they wouldn’t have left the Big 12 a decade ago. I can’t go against our soldiers, although I realize it’ll be an uphill climb. Zach loves Army’s triple option and believes Missouri’s defense will have a difficult time stopping it.
My Pick: Army
Z’s Pick: Army
Hawaii vs. Memphis
Is it fair that the 6-7 Rainbow Warriors get a home game during bowl season, or that they’re playing in the postseason despite a losing record?? Probably not, but I assume the 6-6 Tigers won’t complain about a free trip to paradise. The home team is 2-1 in the past four years in this game, and I don’t think Memphis is remarkable enough to overcome the advantages their opponents will enjoy. Zach predicts a close game with Memphis winning with a late field goal.
My Pick: Hawaii
Z’s Pick: Memphis
Ball State vs. Georgia State
I know I’ve taught y’all this before, but it’s been a couple of years, so…a camellia is the state flower of Alabama, which is why this game is contested in the state’s capital of Montgomery. The 6-6 Cardinals represent the MAC as well as talk show legend David Letterman’s alma mater. The 7-5 Panthers are out of the Sun Belt and have only been playing football since 2008. I might be undervaluing this game a bit, and I’m hoping it’s a Christmas Day surprise that’ll tear me away from Ralphie’s pursuit of the elusive BB gun for a couple of hours. Zach likes Georgia St. to score a late 4th quarter win.
My Pick: Georgia State
Z’s Pick: Georgia State
Quick Lane Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Nevada
Quick Lane is exactly what you’d imagine it to be…a auto store where you can get your vehicle inspected, have the oil changed, & get your tires rotated. The game was previously known as the Motor City Bowl & Little Caesar’s Bowl and is still played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. It may not be The Bahamas or sunny Florida, but perhaps it’s a step up from Boise, ID, home of the Potato Bowl. Atleast the venue has a roof so weather won’t be an issue. Anyway, the 7-5 Broncos out of the MAC only have to travel a couple of hours from Kalamazoo, while the 8-4 Wolfpack obviously have a much more significant trek. I don’t know how much of a difference that kind of thing makes in bowl games, but it’s got to mean something, right?? Conversely, Zach thinks Nevada wins big and the game will essentially be over by halftime.
My Pick: Western Michigan
Z’s Pick: Nevada
Boston College vs. East Carolina
The 6-6 Eagles have always bored me, as far back as the 80’s when they played in the Big East and faced my WV Mountaineers annually. There were those few years when they had QB Doug Flutie, but other than that a BC game is similar to watching paint dry. The 7-5 Pirates have cool purple uniforms, but kind of get lost in the shuffle since no one gives a damn about the AAC. Kickoff is 2:30pm on a Monday, but it’s two days after Christmas so maybe there won’t be any better options on TV since all the holiday films will be over. Honestly just thinking about this game makes me want to lay down and go to sleep. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: East Carolina
Z’s Pick: East Carolina
First Responder Bowl
Air Force vs. Louisville
Okay, so honoring first responders with a bowl game is cool. The matchup?? Ehhhh. The Falcons are 9-3 with competitive losses to San Diego St. & Utah St. and a win over Boise St., while the 6-6 Cardinals have dropped off considerably since QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 before heading to the NFL. Fingers crossed that this will be a great game, but I’m not assuming anything. Zach is optimistic that it will be close & exciting and likes Air Force to win.
My Pick: Air Force
Z’s Pick: Air Force
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
This is the game I wanted WVU to play in, but that didn’t happen. The 6-6 Red Raiders are playing for an interim coach since they fired their head coach in October, while the 7-5 Bulldogs beat Kentucky & Auburn this year but faced an uphill climb in the SEC. I suppose I’m a little bitter about the ‘Eers’ exclusion because this is probably going to be more fun than I’m giving it credit for. Zach thinks depth might be an issue for Tech and likes State to win fairly easily.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Z’s Pick: Mississippi State
Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois
The Cure Bowl is so named to promote awareness & research of breast cancer, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Chanticleers are 10-2 (the second straight year they’ve won 10 games) but didn’t even win their division, which says a lot about the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskies are the 9-4 MAC Champions. This is a 6pm Friday kickoff, and I’ll be watching. We both expect a high scoring shootout and like Coastal to secure victory late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina
Z’s Pick: Coastal Carolina
Boca Raton Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
My Marshall Thundering Herd might’ve been playing in this game if they’d made it to the C-USA title game, but kudos to the 8-5 Hilltoppers for doing that instead. The 10-3 Mountaineers lost the Sun Belt title game but won 9+ games for the seventh consecutive season. This one kicks off at 11am on Saturday a week before Christmas, and I’m glad because I have plans that night. I feel like this is one of those times when everyone will be expecting a shootout but instead we’ll be treated to a hard hitting defensive struggle, probably decided by a late field goal. Zach thinks the Mountaineers are more experienced in big games.
My Pick: Appalachian State
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
Oregon State vs. Utah State
This game has the potential to be sneaky good. It is the inaugural contest and will be played on the home field of the NFL’s Rams & Chargers. The 7-5 Beavers almost slid in the back door of the PAC 12 title game, but a loss to their in-state rivals doomed those chances. Meanwhile, the 10-3 Aggies are the surprising Mountain West Champions. It’s a 7:30pm kickoff on 12/18 so unfortunately I will miss it. Ah well…c’est la vie. I’d like to think it’ll be a close & exciting contest, but it could just as easily be a blowout. I have no idea what to expect. Zach likes Utah St.‘s running attack behind a stout offensive line.
My Pick: Utah State
Z’s Pick: Utah State
New Orleans Bowl
Marshall vs. Louisiana
This is what the 7-5 Herd gets for not making it to their conference title game. It is essentially a home game for the 12-1 Ragin’ Cajuns, winners of the Sun Belt. Marshall will be joining that conference in the not-so-distant future, so we’ll see plenty of rematches. It’s another game on the crowded 12/18 schedule, but kickoff isn’t until 9:15pm so I’ll actually get to see most of the action, which is cool. I can’t pretend to be unbiased, but to be honest the only thing that gives me hope is the fact that Louisiana will be playing for an interim coach making me somewhat hopeful for an upset. Zach thinks my alma mater comes into this game disappointed with the ending of the regular season and believes that hangover will lead to a Louisiana blowout.
My Pick: Marshall
Z’s Pick: Louisiana
UTSA vs. San Diego State
Earlier I referred to Frisco, TX as a “little Dallas/Fort Worth suburb”. To put that in context, the population of Frisco is 177k, making it about triple the size of West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston. Everything is bigger in Texas. The 12-1 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners won the C-USA title, while the 11-2 Aztecs were beaten soundly in the Mountain West Championship Game. It’s nearly a five hour haul from San Antonio to Frisco, but UTSA should still enjoy a notable home field-esque kind of advantage. Kickoff is at 7:30pm EST on the Tuesday before Christmas, so it’ll be an evening of channel flipping between Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Scrooge, & football. That’s a fun night in my world. I hope it’s a competitive game, but with battles against Utah & Boise St. (both games that they won) under their belt, it feels like SD St. is probably the superior squad. Conversely, Zach likes UTSA’s offense a little better and thinks they’ll get the job done.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: Texas-San Antonio
Florida vs. Central Florida
I’ve explained this is previous years, but it’s a cool story. This game is named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. “The Last of the Buccaneers” allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century, amassing a huge fortune by taking prizes & ransoming hostages, and died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind an enormous and as-yet undiscovered treasure. That tale alone makes this a badass bowl game no matter who is playing in it. The 6-6 Gators had high hopes but encountered choppy waters this season, ending with firing their coach last month. 8-4 UCF’s “uncrowned national championship” from a few years back is about as spurious as the story of Jose Gaspar, but head coach Gus Malzahn (who previously had tremendous success at Auburn) has kept them in the conversation as one of the best Group of Five programs and will soon lead them into the Big 12. This would be a huge win for the Knights, an opportunity to defeat an in-state “rival” that’ll always receive more respect whether they deserve it or not. Zach isn’t sure the Gators will be into this one mentally as much as their opponents.
My Pick: Central Florida
Z’s Pick: Central Florida
Houston vs. Auburn
Rarely will I be all that complimentary toward former WVU Mountaineers’ head coach Dana Holgorsen, but credit where it is due…he has the 11-2 Cougars headed in the right direction in his third season at the helm. They’ll be a problem in the Big 12 soon enough. Conversely, the 6-6 Tigers didn’t fare as well in head coach Bryan Harsin’s first season as they would have liked, but there’s no reason to think they can’t be good again in the near future. Kickoff is at Noon on a Tuesday, which is unfortunate because this matchup probably deserves better. I think the talent disparity between a mid-level SEC program and the AAC will be apparent, and it helps that Auburn is playing only two hours away from home, so they’ll have a lot of fans in the stands. Zach thinks Houston is solid but not spectacular, while Auburn is inconsistent. He likes Auburn’s defense to be the difference maker.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: Auburn
North Carolina State vs. UCLA
It looks good on paper, but will it be as interesting in reality?? The Wolfpack went 9-3 with wins over Clemson, Florida St., and in-state rival UNC, while the 8-4 Bruins would like to have a redo on a couple of early season stumbles. This is a prime time game during that week between Christmas & New Year’s when no one really knows where they are, what day it is, or what exactly is going on. I think UCLA probably has a deeper bench, so they’ll pull away in the 4th quarter. It’s a tossup for Zach but he feels like NC St. has dealt with a tougher schedule and that experience will pay off.
My Pick: UCLA
Z’s Pick: North Carolina State
Kansas State vs. LSU
Ed Orgeron won’t be on the sidelines for the 6-6 Bayou Bengals, who’ll be led by an interim coach before Brian Kelly takes the reins. In comparison the 7-5 Wildcats are rather stable, which is a difference maker in my eyes. Zach feels like all the upheaval might actually provide motivation for LSU.
My Pick: Kansas State
Z’s Pick: LSU
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
West Virginia vs. Minnesota
As a Mountaineer fan this is kind of a letdown. A mediocre Big Ten opponent & a 10:15pm EST kickoff on a Tuesday night isn’t much to get excited about. This game was formerly known as the Copper Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, Cactus Bowl, & Cheez-It Bowl, but now bears the name of a Chicago based mortgage company, which is indicative of everything wrong with collegiate sports. The last time WVU played in it about five years ago they snagged a thrilling win over Arizona St., but I was in the hospital and fast asleep before the action heated up. Perhaps I can manage to stay awake this time. Zach thinks Minnesota will run the ball easily against the WV defense and win big.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
They’ve been playing a bowl game at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it except the time in 2012 when WV got embarrassed by Syracuse. In a college football world that had an ounce of sense this matchup would be an annual rivalry between two East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools, but in reality they play in different conferences and haven’t met on the football field since 2013. The 6-6 Hokies fired their head coach last month so they’ll be led by an interim coach, while Maryland is also 6-6 having lost 4 games in the second half of the season. I feel like it should be a much more compelling game than it is, but the 2pm Wednesday kickoff sort of characterizes the general interest level most will likely have for it. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Maryland
Z’s Pick: Maryland
Iowa State vs. Clemson
Okay, stick with me here. Once upon a time the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix was known as the Cheez-It Bowl, but sponsorships changed as they often do. This game, emanating from Orlando, FL, used to be the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, & Camping World Bowl. Anyway, we all know that it’s been an odd season for the 9-3 Tigers. Let’s be honest, that’s a record so many teams would give anything to have, but for a program that’s used to going undefeated & being in the playoff it is a disappointing year. The 7-5 Cyclones had higher expectations as well, but the Big 12 ended up being pretty competitive. This could be the sleeper game of the entire postseason, and with a 5:45pm Wednesday evening kickoff it is situated perfectly to provide ample entertainment value. I have a lot of faith in Dabo Swinney and believe his team will end their campaign on a high note. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Clemson
Oklahoma vs. Oregon
They could called this the What Might’ve Been Bowl or the Dashed Hopes Bowl, as both teams were in the playoff conversation right up until the end. The Sooners are 10-2, but head coach Lincoln Riley has already bolted for USC. Similarly, the Ducks finished 10-3 and also lost their coach Mario Cristobal, who has returned to his hometown & alma mater Miami Hurricanes. I’m not familiar enough with the inner workings of a college football team to know exactly what kind of chaos such upheaval causes, but it has to be unsettling. Nevertheless, I am expecting a fun game with lots of big plays & offense, and I think Oregon will win by a touchdown. Zach, on the other hand, thinks Oregon is overrated and their defense lacking. He likes Oklahoma, under the temporary guidance of former head coach Bob Stoops, to win easily.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
I’ve never tasted Dukes, although I’ve heard it’s good. I’m a lifelong Miracle Whip guy. This is the Charlotte based game formerly known as the Continental Tire Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, & Belk Bowl, and seems tailor made for a Battle of the Carolinas. The Gamecocks were 6-6 against a rather challenging schedule, while the 6-6 Tar Heels failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations. This will be the swan song for UNC quarterback Sam Howell, who is likely to be a first round NFL Draft pick. I am expecting a close game decided by a late turnover or special teams play, and I give the edge to Mack Brown’s guys. Zach thinks there is a possibility that Howell won’t even play on the game, but still believes UNC can get the job done.
My Pick: North Carolina
Z’s Pick: North Carolina
Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Tennessee
I have to think that both teams will come into the game with a chip on their shoulder seeking to gain attention & build momentum for next year. The 8-4 Boilermakers get lost in the shuffle of a stacked Big Ten, while the 7-5 Volunteers continue trying to get back to enjoying the kind of success they had during the Peyton Manning era 25 years ago. This is damn near a home game for the Vols, as Knoxville is less than three hours from Nashville. That’s enough for me to pick Tennessee to win comfortably. Conversely, Zach believes Purdue’s defense will shine and lead the team to victory.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Perspective is a word that pops into my mind. I wonder how differently these teams might be viewing the same opportunity. The 10-2 Spartans won eight games before losing two of their last four, all while watching in-state rival Michigan (who they beat at the end of October) win the Big Ten and end up in the College Football Playoff. Conversely, the 11-2 Panthers just won the ACC title & quarterback Kenny Pickett was a Heisman finalist. This feels like a consolation prize for State and the culmination of an immensely successful comeback for Pitt. Zach doesn’t have much faith in State’s defense and thinks Pickett will put up big numbers in victory, while I believe Sparty has something to prove.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
I expected so much more from both teams. The 8-4 Badgers simply faced too much supremely talented opposition in the Big Ten, losing 3 out of 4 to begin the season. The 8-4 Sun Devils had similar problems in the PAC 12. This is a 10:30pm EST kickoff on New Year’s Eve Eve, which is a tough proposition. I suppose I could stay up for it then snooze most of the next day in preparation for the festivities. Anyway, it feels like a pretty even matchup that’ll end up being a hard hitting, low scoring defensive struggle decided by penalties & turnovers, and in that scenario I can’t go against my guy Herm Edwards. Conversely, Zach thinks Wisconsin’s ground game makes the difference.
My Pick: Arizona State
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Now that LSU has put all those Jimbo Fisher rumors to rest he can concentrate on coaching the team that’s actually paying him to do so. It’s probably unfair to call an 8-4 season disappointing, but when someone is making bank like Fisher the fact is that anything less than a playoff berth isn’t good enough. Conversely, though they lost the ACC title, no one in Winston-Salem is going to complain about 10-3 & a New Year’s Eve bowl game for the Demon Deacons, a team that’s only won 9 or more games in a season twice before now. I think Wake will give a great effort, but the talent disparity will show itself in the second half. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Arkansas vs. Penn State
Originally known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, it feels like this is a game that’s been around longer than it’s 1986 debut. The 8-4 Razorbacks started strong before losing three straight October games, while the 7-5 Nittany Lions did pretty much the same thing. If it were possible I might be tempted to predict that both teams could lose this one, but someone’s got to come out on top. I’m going to venture out on a limb and say that this will be one of those games where something screwy or controversial occurs…a penalty, turnover, blocked kick…that decides the outcome and becomes the subject of much debate on all the sports talk shows. Zach likes Penn St.’s defense to be a difference maker.
My Pick: Arkansas
Z’s Pick: Penn State
Kentucky vs. Iowa
Congrats to the Wildcats on a stellar season. Kentucky has always been a basketball school, but after going 9-3 with wins over LSU & Florida they’ve got the attention of football fans everywhere. Conversely, the 10-3 Hawkeyes are probably a bit disappointed after dropping two consecutive contests in October that torpedoed their playoff hopes then getting obliterated by Michigan in the Big Ten Championship. I feel like most “experts” would say Iowa is the more talented team, but it seems like Kentucky has come up big when it really counted this year. Conversely, Zach predicts Iowa will win a close game.
My Pick: Kentucky
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Baylor vs. Ole Miss
11-2 Baylor won the Big 12 title, but an inexplicable November loss at TCU cost them a playoff berth. The 10-2 Rebels have quarterback Matt Corral, whose Heisman invite got lost in the mail, something he’ll feel better about when his name is called very early in next spring’s NFL Draft. This game has the potential to be great, but I think the Bears have more athletes across the board at more positions, and they will assert their dominance in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach really likes Corral and thinks Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffen might have a few tricks up his sleeve.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State
I really thought the 11-1 Irish would be a playoff team, but that October loss to Cincinnati was a killer. The 11-2 Cowboys had a legit playoff shot as well, but Baylor was just too tough in the Big 12 title game. I’m probably selling this game short…it should be a Gold Tier level matchup, but it just seems like both teams underachieved. I think State will have more big plays and snag a 5-10 point victory, while Zach believes Notre Dame will be motivated & inspired to win a close one.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Notre Dame
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Cincinnati
I admit that it is unfair to not have a playoff semifinal in the Gold Tier. Having said that, I have been clear about my opinion of the Bearcats. They deserve all the kudos for going undefeated. The fact that they went into South Bend and beat Notre Dame cannot be overlooked. However, the rest of their schedule being opponents like Temple, Tulsa, & South Florida shouldn’t be glossed over either. The NCAA needs to consider separating the Power 5 and the Group of 5 into different divisions, each with its own National Championship. The 12-1 Crimson Tide just beat Georgia by 17 points to win the SEC Championship…what do you think they’re going to do to Cincinnati?? I would love to be wrong, but I think ‘Bama will win this game by four TD’s, and that’s after Saban calls off the dogs in the second half, which is why I can’t get too excited about it. Zach has a bit more respect for Cincy, but still thinks they lose by 10 points.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Ohio State vs. Utah
I don’t care if the Buckeyes lost two games…they should be in the playoff. I get it. I know the committee couldn’t put them in with two losses ahead of undefeated Cincinnati. It would’ve been the ballsy move, but a PR nightmare. It didn’t help that Michigan absolutely trucked their archrivals by two touchdowns. Still, I believe if Ohio St. played Cincy five times they’d win atleast four games quite easily. It is what it is though, and the consolation prize for fans is pretty great because 10-3 Utah might be the hottest team in the country. Two of their three losses came in September, and they’re riding a six game win streak that includes annihilating Oregon to win the PAC 12 Championship. Honestly, I think the Utes would beat the snot out of Cincinnati too. At any rate, this should be a fantastic game, but I think Ohio St. might be too fast & athletic for Utah to overcome. Zach hates Ohio St. so obviously he’s picking against them 😂.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Utah
(2) Michigan vs. (3) Georgia
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Alabama does, but I did not expect them to beat Georgia by 17 points in the SEC title game. Having said that, it is a testament to the 12-1 Bulldogs and the immense respect they’ve earned that they’re still amongst the Final Four. The 12-1 Wolverines only have a late October loss to in-state rival Michigan St. as a blemish on their record, but it seemed to have awakened them because they’ve been on fire ever since. I’m not sure even the most passionate Michigan fans would’ve considered them a playoff contender a month ago. This is The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object and has Game of the Year written all over it. As far as predictions, one can’t help but allow a little wishful thinking into the process. Would you rather see an Alabama-Georgia rematch or an Alabama-Michigan wet dream for all the marbles?? I know which one I prefer. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. Zach knows Georgia’s defense is extremely tough, but he thinks his Wolverines have what it takes to push the game into overtime and get a victory.
My Pick: Michigan
Z’s Pick: Michigan
Alabama/Cincinnati vs. Michigan/Georgia
So we are both predicting and/or wishing for an Alabama-Michigan National Championship Game. When Jim Harbaugh got the job in Ann Arbor in 2015 I said he’d have them in title contention in three years. It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but here we are. I think ‘Bama will beat Cincinnati easily to get to this point, while it’ll be much more difficult for the Wolverines to overcome Georgia. How will that affect the Championship Game?? I don’t know. There are just so many variables that can make a difference and alter the entire landscape in the space of a month. Given what we know at this moment in time I will predict a very close, very exciting, rather historic Michigan upset to win the title…their first since 1997, back when the National Championship was “mythical”, a quaint notion nowadays. Zach thinks Michigan has what it takes to compete, but in a Saban vs. Harbaugh coaching duel he simply has more faith in Saban.
After last weekend’s craziness the playoff committee released their rankings as follows: Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St., Notre Dame, & Ohio St.. That’s the Top 7 and no one else really matters. Barring any upsets in the conference title games (a huge IF if there ever was one) the essential questions are these: a) how far will the loser of the SEC Championship fall?? & b) can Oklahoma St. leapfrog Cincinnati if they win the Big 12 title?? Notre Dame is screwed because they’re sitting at home while these other teams are still playing. They need Cincinnati AND Oklahoma St. to lose, and even then the 4th playoff spot could go to Ohio St.. At any rate, our marathon of picks during Rivalry Week turned out slightly better for me (6-3) than Zach (2-7), and the lineup is even more packed this weekend. Unfortunately I have plans Friday & Saturday so I probably won’t be watching much of the action. I should be able to keep up with the scores frequently though.
My Season: 43-43
Zach’s Season: 32-54
Western Kentucky at UTSA (-2.5)
The first time these teams met on October 9 in Bowling Green, KY the Roadrunners won a high scoring shootout, so the rematch has the potential to be a lot of fun. I’m pretty pissed that my Marshall Thundering Herd isn’t playing in this one, but they blew their chance in spectacular fashion. Texas-San Antonio has the home field and that’s enough for me. Conversely, Zach feels like momentum favors the Hilltoppers and he thinks they’ll eek out a close win.
My Pick: UTSA
Z’s Pick: Western Kentucky
PAC 12 (Las Vegas, NV)
Utah (-3) vs. Oregon
I am intrigued. When these teams met on November 20 in Salt Lake City the Utes scored a huge 38-7 victory and ended Oregon’s playoff aspirations. Will the Ducks face a similar fate on a neutral field?? I don’t think so. It’ll be much closer this time, and I think the underdogs have what it takes to pull off the mild Friday night upset. Zach, on the other hand, believes Utah is firing on all cylinders right now and has a better team with superior athletes. He agrees that it’ll be closer than the first contest between these two, but thinks the favorites will win again.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Utah
Big 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oklahoma State (-7) vs. Baylor
On October 2 the Bears went into Stillwater and were defeated 24-14, but this game is being played at Jerry World, aka The Palace in Dallas, so there is no home field advantage. The Cowboys could earn a playoff spot if Cincinnati loses, and a convincing win could make the debate interesting even if Cincy wins. I don’t expect anything to be drastically different than the first meeting, and with (potentially) so much at stake I believe we’re looking at another solid OK St. triumph. Zach is impressed by State’s defense and likes their offensive line, but foresees a tight ballgame that could be decided by a late or overtime field goal.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Utah State at San Diego State (-3.5)
I don’t know who makes the schedule, but c’mon man!! I should be able to hunker down in my warm bed late at night and watch a fun west coast battle, but instead we’re getting a 3pm EST kickoff. Anyway, these teams have not previously met this season, which is a rarity in conference title games. The 9-3 Aggies face a tough task going into hostile territory against the 11-1 Aztecs, who are riding a four game win streak. I don’t expect anything too crazy and believe the home team will win comfortably. Zach likes Utah St.’s ground game but feels like San Diego St.’s defense will come alive in the second half to secure a win.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: San Diego State
Houston at Cincinnati (-11)
The Bearcats are causing me a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog guy. Always have been, always will be. That being said, I am just not sure Cincinnati belongs in the playoff. They deserve kudos for going thru their schedule undefeated, but are they truly on the level of any Power 5 opponent they’d face in the semifinal?? I have serious doubts. My feelings about this game are further complicated by the presence of current Cougars & former WVU Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. We expected big things from him in the Mountain State, and he was a fairly decent 51-38 in seven seasons at the helm. However, Holgorsen clearly wasn’t happy here and jumped at the chance to take the Houston job. Both of these teams will be members of the Big 12 in the near future, so the rivalry will continue to grow. This particular contest isn’t hard to pick for me because the points are just too much. Cincy will probably win, but it won’t be a double digit victory. Zach doesn’t think Cincinnati belongs in the playoff but doesn’t believe the committee will deny them if they win this game. However, he foresees Holgorsen having his team ready to pull off the upset. If that happens no one will be happier than the CFP committee.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Houston
MAC (Detroit, MI)
Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (-5.5)
I used to be a big fan of MACtion. Their random Tuesday or Wednesday night games were a treat. To be honest though, it’s been a few years since I’ve paid any attention to the conference. I vaguely recall when the Huskies went 12-2 in 2012 and lost to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in Heisman voting in 2013 behind Alabama QB AJ McCarron & winner Jameis Winston, the quarterback at Florida St. As far as this game, the Golden Flashes are 7-5 and led a rather weak field in the MAC West, while NIU is a solid but unspectacular 8-4 and were beaten by three TDs in their last game. When these teams met just a few weeks ago Kent won a 52-47 shootout, although NIU scored 20 fourth quarter points as their spirited comeback fell short. I suppose there’s a chance it could be a sneakily entertaining contest, but I’m leaning toward Kent winning by double digits. Conversely, Zach likes NIU to pound the rock and score the upset.
My Pick: Kent State
Z’s Pick: Northern Illinois
Appalachian State (-3.5) at Louisiana
This is my sleeper pick for best game of the week. On October 12 the Mountaineers traveled to Lafayette and suffered a 41-13 loss, so I’m a bit surprised by the odds. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t tasted defeat since losing the season opener at Texas, but it seems like they’re not getting much respect. Perhaps the impending departure of head coach Billy Napier to the Florida Gators is a factor. Otherwise, do the oddsmakers have some inside info, or are they simply making assumptions?? I don’t know. Given the current circumstances and taking what we know at face value I have to lean toward the home team scoring a mild “upset”. Zach predicts special teams will play an important role in an App. St. victory.
My Pick: Louisiana
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
SEC (Atlanta, GA)
Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama
As a certain former President might say, this game is YUUUGGGEEE. Not only will an SEC Champion be crowned, but there are major playoff implications. If Georgia wins they’re in, but it is entirely possible that they could lose yet not fall out of the Top 4. And what about ‘Bama?? Obviously they’d be in with a victory, but what happens if they lose?? Will the committee twist themselves in knots trying to justify only dropping the Tide to #4?? The simplest outcome is also the most likely…the Bulldogs win & cover and remain #1, while Alabama drops to #5 and is denied another National Championship opportunity. That’s what I’m hoping to see. As much as Zach respects Nick Saban he just doesn’t think this Alabama team measures up to their predecessors. He thinks Georgia has the best defense in the country and the offense is pretty good too. He’s predicting a big Bulldogs victory.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
ACC (Charlotte, NC)
Pitt vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)
Good Lord, could there be a more underwhelming matchup?? The ACC really needs Clemson & Florida St. to figure things out because the rest of the conference is a snoozefest. Credit where it is due though, as the 10-2 Panthers have won four straight, while the Demon Deacons lost two of their final four games but still finished 10-2. The game is theoretically being played at a neutral site, but Wake will enjoy a quasi-home field advantage since their campus is only an hour away. That’s enough for me to predict a mundane & unremarkable victory for the favorites. Zach likes Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and believes he will have a great day picking apart Wake’s defense.
My Pick: Wake Forest
Z’s Pick: Pitt
Big Ten (Indianapolis, IN)
Michigan (-9) vs. Iowa
I’m not a mental health expert, but I know that folks with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs followed by extraordinary lows. I also understand that it is sometimes difficult for athletes to sustain a high level of intensity. Therefore, my question is what do the 11-1 Wolverines have left in the tank after their magnificent beatdown of Ohio St.?? This game isn’t at The Big House against their archrivals, but they are playing for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a playoff berth that could lead to their first National Championship since 1997. Theoretically that should be ample motivation, right?? The 10-2 Hawkeyes fell off the radar after two consecutive October losses, yet here they are on a four game winning streak. Closer examination reveals that they won those four games by an average of less than 5 points against teams that are collectively 19-29. In other words their schedule was frontloaded, and they didn’t face Michigan or Ohio St.. Iowa’s most impressive victory was a home game against Penn St., a 7-5 team that lost four out of six games in the second half of the season. I don’t think there’s any way Michigan loses this game. However, I can see a dropoff in energy leading to the final margin of victory being a touchdown or less. Zach is also concerned about an emotional letdown for his beloved Wolverines, as well as the enormous pressure they face in restoring the program to its former glory. He points out that Iowa has won 5 out of the last 7 matchups between the two schools. Having said all of that, he isn’t picking against Michigan again (although it did work a week ago).
Happy Thanksgiving Manoverse!! I will spare you a long preamble today because we are closing in on the crescendo of the college football portion of our season with a super-sized, heaping helping of picks, mostly rivalry games that are a huge part of what makes collegiate sports special, and all of which could potentially be great games. Last week I (3-2) edged Zach (1-4) to extend the season lead, but with six weeks to go things can change quickly so I’m not going to get too cocky. I send all my friends out there in cyberspace the warmest of wishes as you sit down to break bread & spend time with loved ones this week. Don’t ever take those opportunities for granted.
My Season: 37-40
Zach’s Season: 30-47
Ole Miss at Mississippi State (-1.5)
They call this the Egg Bowl because the winner receives a golden egg trophy. The idea to present a trophy was hatched after a post-game brawl in 1926, although I don’t know if the concept was poached from somewhere or if they were just scrambling for anything to prevent future hard boiled feelings. The 9-2 Rebels lead the all-time series 63-45-6, but the 7-4 Bulldogs have won two of the last three meetings. It is essentially a pick ‘em game, and I think the home team will get the job done. Zach is anticipating a shootout and likes Rebels’ QB & future NFL first round pick Matt Corral to lead his team to victory.
My Pick: Mississippi State
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss
Boise State (-2.5) at San Diego State
I’m a little bit surprised by the odds. Not only are the 10-1 Aztecs at home, but they’ve won three games in a row and locked up a berth in the Mountain West Championship. The 7-4 Broncos have won four straight, but I just don’t understand why they’d be favored on the road against a Top 25 team. I’m not buying it, so I will pick the “upset”. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive struggle and likes the visitors to get the win.
My Pick: San Diego State
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Georgia Southern at Appalachian St. (-24.5)
I am excited because my Marshall Thundering Herd will be moving from Conference USA to the Sun Belt in the near future, enabling them to renew old rivalries against these & other schools. When I was in college all three teams were powerhouses in what was then known as Division 1-AA and have played several fun games thru the years. Anyway, the heavily favored Mountaineers are 9-2 and riding a five game winning streak, while the 3-8 Eagles are already looking ahead to 2022 after hiring former USC head coach Clay Helton. App. St. will win, but by how much?? This is a rivalry game, so I have to assume Southern will play with some level of pride & determination, and they may catch the home team looking past them to the conference title game. Therefore I am predicting that the margin of victory will not exceed three TDs. Zach is a little nervous about the points and the fact that App. St. really has nothing to play for since they’re already locked into the conference title game. However, he is a riverboat gambler and thinks the home team can win big & cover.
My Pick: Georgia Southern
Z’s Pick: Appalachian State
Florida St. at Florida (-2)
Well, the Gators have already fired their coach, so there is that. At 5-6 they’ll need to win this game to become bowl eligible, which should provide ample motivation. Meanwhile, the rebuilding continues in Tallahassee, with the Seminoles also sitting at 5-6 and a victory away from bowl eligibility. This isn’t what we’re used to getting from this matchup, as both teams have typically been much more successful in the past. However, don’t underestimate the incentive of playing in a bowl game for two programs in what one might call a construction phase. The Swamp is notoriously hostile territory for opposing teams, but I’m going against conventional wisdom and picking the upset. Zach thinks it’ll be a close game but also thinks an upset could be on the horizon.
My Pick: Florida State
Z’s Pick: Florida State
Texas A&M (-6.5) at LSU
Aggies’ coach Jimbo Fisher may or may not be the future coach for the Bayou Bengals, but the storyline provides fascinating subtext heading into this game. At 8-3 A&M isn’t winning the conference, but they should land somewhere warm & fun for the post-season. Conversely, LSU is 5-6 and needs to win to get invited somewhere warm & fun themselves. We all know that head coach Ed Orgeron is gone after the season, but does his team have what it takes to extend his stay a little while longer?? I think maybe they do, especially with this game being played in Baton Rouge. Zach would like to see a happy ending for Orgeron (no…not that…get your mind out of the gutter), but at the end of the day he thinks A&M will do enough to win & cover.
My Pick: LSU
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (-4)
There is a real possibility that these teams could meet again in the Big 12 title game. Baylor has the tiebreaker over the Sooners, but the Cowboys defeated Baylor back in early October. So the Bears will be cheering for State to win and set up a rematch of the game they lost, while an Oklahoma victory would mean we get Bedlam Part 2 next week. I’d much rather see Baylor/OK St. for the conference championship, and I think we will. Conversely, Zach believes the Sooners have enough offensive firepower to score the low key upset.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma
Oregon St. at Oregon (-7.5)
They refer to this as The Civil War, or atleast that’s what it used to be called. Because leftists ruin everything and there are a lot of those in the state of Oregon it was announced a year ago that they no longer wanted to use that terminology. Screw that. I’ll call it what I damn well please, and I’m not going to let a bunch of tree hugging assclowns water down a 127 year old rivalry. Anyway, the Ducks screwed themselves out of playoff contention with a loss to Utah last weekend, while the 7-4 Beavers still have an opportunity to surprise everyone by getting into the PAC 12 title game where they’d get a shot at the Utes. They’ll need to win this game and hope the Washington Huskies can upset the Washington St. Cougars in the Apple Cup. I’m disappointed that this is a 3:30pm kickoff on ESPN, because it would’ve been excellent late night viewing. Ah well…c’est la vie. I have to go with the favorites here, if only because it sets up a really interesting rematch for the conference championship. Zach won’t predict an outright upset, but he does think State will keep it close and stay within a touchdown.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oregon State
Ohio State (-8) at Michigan
College football is always better when this game means something, and it potentially means a whole hell of a lot right now. The winner will earn a spot in the Big Ten title game, while the Buckeyes will certainly be in the playoff if they win out. Can #6 Michigan still get into the playoff?? It’s possible, although I’m not going to break down those scenarios here. Let’s just say several dominoes have to fall just right. But can we legitimately expect a competitive contest?? A week ago I confidently called Ohio St. being favored over Michigan St. by 19 & a half points crazy and Zach agreed. Then the Buckeyes went out and jumped to a 49-0 halftime lead before ultimately handing the Spartans a 56-7 beatdown. Can they go into The Big House and dominate the Wolverines in similar fashion?? I don’t know about that, but 8 points doesn’t seem so outlandish in comparison. At 10-1 Michigan has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but I just feel like their opponents are on another level. Zach points out that Jim Harbaugh is 3-9 against Michigan’s two biggest rivals…the Buckeyes & the Spartans…but they would control their destiny by winning this game. As has become tradition he is utilizing the reverse psychology method to motivate his beloved Wolverines by predicting that the visitors will have backups playing in the second half, may score 70+ points, and could win by 5+ touchdowns. It’s a bold strategy Cotton…let’s see how it works out for ‘em.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Ohio State
Alabama (-19.5) at Auburn
The Iron Bowl is always entertaining, right?? ‘Bama comes into the game 10-1 and in solid playoff contention, while Auburn is in the midst of a underwhelmingly prosaic campaign. As a matter of fact, despite the fact that the 6-5 Tigers will be invited to a pleasant enough post-season affair, THIS is their true bowl game. Discussion in the next couple of weeks may focus on whether or not the Tide deserves to be in the playoff. If they lose to Georgia in the SEC title game but keep it respectable does a two loss Alabama get in over one loss teams that might be in the mix?? Auburn can put an end to the debate with an upset, but clearly it’s a challenging task. The good news is the game is at Jordan–Hare Stadium, the bad news is I don’t think that means diddly squat. As much as I hate to admit it, ‘Bama, like Ohio St., is simply on another level. They aren’t losing this game. However, I do believe the home team will muster enough gumption to not lose by more than a couple of TDs. Zach thinks Alabama is overrated and may be caught looking ahead to their showdown with Georgia. He’s not going so far out on a limb as to predict an Auburn win, but he does think they’ll keep it close.
The college football playoff…at this moment…would be Georgia vs. Ohio St. & Alabama vs. Oregon. However, we know that Georgia & Alabama are playing each other in the SEC title game so things will change. Undefeated Cincinnati sits at #5, but even if they finish unbeaten I don’t know if they’ll be included, and quite honestly I am not so sure they’d deserve to be anyway. As far as the Heisman, I like RB Kenneth Walker from Michigan St., QB Matt Corral of the Ole Miss Rebels, & Ohio St. RB Treyveon Henderson. Let’s see who grabs the opportunity to shine when Walker & Henderson go head to head this weekend. Okay, so…Zach (0-5) had a pretty bad week, while I (3-2) was average, meaning I’ve extended the season lead to five games (I’m still below .500 though). We’ll probably be doing some extra picks in the next few weeks as college football reaches its regular season climax and the NFL rounds the turn into its second half.
My Season: 34-38
Zach’s Season: 29-43
Michigan State at Ohio State (-19.5)
I really don’t understand the points. These are two Top 10 teams that are in the playoff conversation. The advantage the Buckeyes have is their one loss came way back in September to Oregon, while the Spartans stumbled just a couple of weeks ago at Purdue. Timing matters, in life and in college football. Let’s not overlook the fact that the winner here most likely secures a spot in the Big Ten title game, and with a victory Michigan St. would hold head-to-head tiebreakers over Michigan & Ohio St. ESPN’s College Gameday will be on the scene just in case anyone didn’t get the memo that it’s a rather huge matchup. I think the home team will win, and they may even do it comfortably…but by almost three TDs?? Nah!! That’s crazy. Zach thinks Ohio St. is building momentum & peaking at the right time, but he also considers Michigan St. running back Kenneth Walker to be the Heisman frontrunner. Ultimately the points are just too much for him too.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Michigan State
UCLA (-3) at Southern Cal
The Battle of Los Angeles has definitely lost its luster hasn’t it?? The Bruins initially looked like they might be pretty good this year, but have lost two of their last three games and sit at 6-4. Everyone keeps waiting for head coach Chip Kelly to turn things around, and to his credit this is his first winning season at UCLA in his fourth year, but mediocre isn’t going to cut it so his seat may be a bit warm. The 4-5 Trojans already fired their head coach back in September and are probably under the delusion that they can make a big splash with whomever they hire next. Perhaps they will, I don’t know. At any rate, once upon a time this would’ve been the prime time game on ESPN/ABC or Fox, but instead we’re getting a 4pm kickoff, and I have no idea what to expect. There is no significant home advantage since the two schools are less than an hour apart. It’s a coin flip for me, and in that scenario I always pull for the underdog. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe it’ll be much of a game and likes the visitors to win big.
My Pick: Southern Cal
Z’s Pick: UCLA
Oregon at Utah (-3)
There is a lot at stake here. The Ducks are all but locked into the PAC 12 title game, but they’re also in the playoff conversation and cannot afford a misstep. The Utes are battling Arizona St. for a berth in the conference title game, so we could see these two in a rematch next month. This is the prime time game on ABC, and I’m happy I don’t have any plans so I can stay home to watch. Y’all know I love me some playoff chaos, but you may also recall that I predicted Oregon would be in the Final Four, so my pride is contending with my preference as a fan. At the end of the day I feel like the home field plays a significant role in games like this, which is why I’m leaning toward Utah. Zach foresees a fun, high scoring game and thinks Oregon will do enough to win and remain in the playoff hunt.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: Oregon
Detroit at Cleveland(-10)
The damn Lions somehow managed to tie our Steelers last week!! I know Pittsburgh was playing with a backup quarterback, but still…it was embarrassing. Can Detroit take things a step further & get over the hump this week?? Meanwhile, as I predicted, the 5-5 Browns haven’t met their unreasonably high expectations. QB Baker Mayfield has never lived up to the hype that comes with winning the Heisman Trophy and being the #1 overall draft pick, although, to be fair, it is rare that anyone justifies those lofty expectations. However, the AFC North is up for grabs and everything can change in the second half of the season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Detroit score the upset & get their first win since December 6, 2020, but I’m not counting on it. I do think they’ll keep it close though. Zach’s opinion of both teams is pretty low, but after an embarrassing beatdown by the Patriots he believes Cleveland will rebound.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Cleveland
Dallas at Kansas City (-2.5)
Are the Chiefs back?? Everyone had kind of given up on them until they beat the Rodgers-less Packers & followed that up with a proper thrashing of the Raiders on Sunday night. Now the bandwagon seems to be full again. Meanwhile, the 7-2 Cowboys have had a stumble or two but otherwise they’ve mostly taken care of business throughout the season. Did you know that the Chiefs actually used to be the Cowboys?? Well, okay, not really. In the old days, when the AFL was a thing in the 1960s, one of their franchises was the Dallas Texans. At the same time the NFL expanded and the Cowboys were born. I guess Dallas wasn’t big enough for both teams, so the Texans relocated to Missouri (not Kansas) and became the Chiefs. At any rate, I think the home field is important and believe KC will get just enough big plays out of their high powered offense to score a close victory. Zach likes Dallas in a high scoring upset.