2021 NFL Preview & Prognostications

Just a few days ago I was pretty excited about the return of football with capacity crowds and business as usual, but now The Sickness has grabbed headlines again and it seems as though that sense of normalcy could be in jeopardy. At the moment no sweeping proclamations have been made, but stay tuned. In the meantime we shall proceed.

The biggest news outside of Covid related chaos is the NFL’s expansion to a 17 game regular season. To achieve that teams played one less pre-season game, so the only people really affected are the fringe players trying to make a team’s roster. There are always old faces in new places, teams with new coaches, and overhyped rookies looking to become the next Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Randy Moss, or Lawrence Taylor, and we’ll have a much better idea in a few months how all of that might shake out. For now it’s all guesswork, but atleast it’s fun, and I am glad that I feel encouraged enough to bring back this preview after a one year hiatus. As always the team’s record from the previous season is in parentheses, with the predicted record for this season following it. And remember…no wagering. I am not a professional and most of the time I’m not very good at this.

North

Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) 10-7

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) 10-7

Cleveland Browns (11-5) 9-8

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) 8-9

I think Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow is the real deal, and he’s going to surprise a lot of people. The Browns might be a bit of a surprise too, but I don’t believe it will be in a good way. Everyone assuming they are the presumed division champs will likely be wrong. Am I undervaluing the Ravens?? Perhaps. But every team can’t have a winning record and make the playoffs, and in a highly competitive division my vibe is that Baltimore will run into some problems and fall short of expectations (actually those problems have already began with the loss of starting tailback JK Dobbins to a torn ACL).

East

Buffalo Bills (13-3) 11-6

New York Jets (2-14) 8-9

New England Patriots (7-9) 8-9

Miami Dolphins (10-6) 7-10

The Bills have to be considered amongst the favorites in the conference. To be honest I thought QB Josh Allen was a bad choice as the 7th overall pick in the draft a few years ago, but he’s doing a pretty good job of proving me wrong thus far. There’s no reason to believe Buffalo won’t dominate a division that is a mess otherwise. I think the Jets may have finally found a decent quarterback, and they also added some other pieces on both sides of the ball that make me think they won’t be the dumpster fire we’ve come to expect. The Patriots aren’t the same team without Tom Brady, and I’m not as confident in their rookie signal caller Mac Jones as I am in New York’s rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Dolphins might take a step back this season, but I hope they aren’t dumb enough to give up on second year QB Tua Tagavailoa. I believe they are building a solid team around him and good things are ahead, but it might take another year to gel.

West

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) 11-6

Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) 10-7

Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) 7-10

Denver Broncos (5-11) 7-10

No one has been talking about the Chargers this offseason, and that might be a good thing. I always prefer to sneak up on people rather than have the pressure of lofty expectations. QB Justin Herbert acquitted himself quite well in his rookie campaign and there’s no reason to expect anything less this year. The Raiders & Broncos aren’t going to be any better than they were a year ago. I expect both teams to utilize multiple quarterbacks and need their defense to lead them to some victories. The stunner here is the KC Chiefs. Most talking heads will consider them legit Super Bowl contenders, but I think they’ll lose a dogfight for the division, sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard, and be watching the Super Bowl at home like the rest of us.

South

Tennessee Titans (11-5) 12-5

Indianapolis Colts (11-5) 11-6

Houston Texans (4-12) 5-12

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) 5-12

The Colts acquired QB Carson Wentz from Philly in the offseason, but will that do them any good?? Wentz can’t seem to stay healthy, and at the moment it’s a tossup as to whether he’ll be ready to go Week 1. That leaves the door open for Tennessee. RB Derrick Henry is a stud & receiver Julio Jones came over from Atlanta a few months ago. He’s 32 years old, but with AJ Brown in the lineup Jones won’t have the pressure of being the top wideout. Replacing tight end Jonnu Smith won’t be easy, and that may be the chink in the armor of the Titans’ offense. I’m not sure what to make of the Titans’ defense, although they did add former Steelers’ linebacker Bud Dupree. Watch time of possession in their games. I think they’ll dominate that and win a bunch of low scoring grinders. Everyone has heard more than enough about the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston and there are still a ton of questions. Will they trade him?? Will he be suspended for a big chunk of the season?? If Tyrod Taylor takes most of the snaps I think the Texans are in for a long season. I don’t have much faith in the Jags either, although I think new head coach Urban Meyer will build around rookie QB Trevor Lawrence and have his team in the playoff conversation a year or two from now, but losing first round draft pick Travis Etienne in the preseason doesn’t bode well for this season.

Playoff Teams: Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Steelers

AFC Champion: Tennessee Titans

East

Washington Redskins (7-9) 10-7

Dallas Cowboys (6-10) 9-8

New York Giants (6-10) 7-10

Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) 5-12

I’m still not buying the Cowboys as legit Super Bowl contenders, although I believe QB Dak Prescott will be just fine returning from the ankle injury that torpedoed his season last year. I suppose the Giants could surprise me and be much better than they were a season ago, but my vibe is that they are just kind of treading water. It blows my mind to see how far the Eagles have fallen since winning the Super Bowl less than five years ago. Can Jalen Hurts make the leap from excellent college quarterback to solid NFL starter?? I think Philadelphia has a bunch of very good players on both sides of the ball, but they have lacked cohesion the past few seasons and I’m not sure that’s going to change. That leaves Washington as the favorite. Is their enough FitzMagic left in the 38 year old signal caller now playing for his ninth NFL team?? Having an elite defense led by Chase Young, Montez Sweat, & Landon Collins will certainly help.

West

Arizona Cardinals (8-8) 11-6

Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 10-7

Seattle Seahawks (12-4) 9-8

San Francisco 49ers (6-10) 7-10

This race is going to be fun to watch. Arizona & the Rams both made moves this summer, and whether or not they work out well one has to give them credit for not standing pat. Los Angeles thinks they have a better chance of advancing in the playoffs with 33 year old veteran QB Matthew Stafford than with 2016 top overall pick Jared Goff, who they shipped to Detroit. I think it might be a positive chain of events (eventually) for both guys. The Rams lost starting RB Cam Akers to injury but traded for former Patriot Sony Michel so I don’t believe the team will be negatively affected all that much. The defense, led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, should be stout. Having said that, I am giving a slight edge to the Cardinals, who added receivers DeAndre Hopkins & AJ Green and have a defensive unit featuring newly acquired defensive end JJ Watt, first round LB Zaven Collins, and a very talented secondary. Seattle has won 10+ games seven out of the past eight years and Russell Wilson is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but I feel like they’ll drop off just enough to miss the playoffs. ‘Frisco needs to decide on a quarterback, and once they do that I think they can get back on track, but that might be a couple of years from now.

North

Minnesota Vikings (7-9) 9-8

Green Bay Packers (13-3) 9-8

Chicago Bears (8-8) 6-11

Detroit Lions (5-11) 1-16

Or as ESPN’s Chris Berman used to call it, The Norris Division. I am sure I don’t have to rehash the Packers/Aaron Rodgers drama that has dominated offseason news, but I think it might be just enough of a distraction to cost them the division. The Lions have stunk most of my nearly five decades on the planet and I don’t think that will suddenly change in 2021. Much like the 49ers the Bears have a quarterback conundrum. Conventional wisdom says the smart thing to do is start either journeyman Andy Dalton or former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles under center, but we all know the pressure from fans & the media will lead to rookie Justin Fields being handed the keys to the kingdom. That decision will likely pay off down the road, but it creates chaos right now. So why am I so high on the Vikings?? I don’t know to be honest. Kirk Cousins isn’t spectacular, but he can be a very good quarterback at times and he has solid weapons at receiver & running back. The secondary could be one of the best in the NFL, and guys like Danielle Hunter & Anthony Barr should disrupt opposing offenses often. It won’t be pretty, but I think the Norris goes to the Vikes by a nose.


South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 13-4

New Orleans Saints (12-4) 8-9

Atlanta Falcons (4-12) 6-11

Carolina Panthers (5-11) 5-12

I’ve stopped waiting for Tom Brady to fall of a cliff. That whole regimen of 25 glasses of water per day, fruit smoothies, fish, and lots of veggies apparently works because he proved a year ago that he deserves much more credit for the Patriots “dynasty” than Bill Belichick. I don’t expect much to change this season, and it helps that the rest of the division will probably struggle. New Orleans has named Jameis Winston as their new starting QB after the retirement of Drew Brees, and Winston is going to have to prove himself before I start to believe in him. I don’t anticipate much improvement by the Falcons or Panthers. Carolina must stop opposing defenses from stacking the box to stifle premier RB Christian McCaffery, and for that to happen former Jets first rounder Sam Darnold will need to finally live up to his potential. Atlanta got rid of receiver Julio Jones and I’m just not impressed by what remains.

Playoff Teams: Redskins, Cardinals, Vikings, Bucs, Cowboys, Rams, Packers

NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers

Tennessee Titans 24

Green Bay Packers 19

Top Five Picks in 2022 NFL Draft

1 Detroit Lions

2 Houston Texans

3 Jacksonville Jaguars

4 Carolina Panthers

5 Philadelphia Eagles

2019 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

25        Virginia Tech

Last Season:     6-7

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

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

 

 

24        Auburn

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

23        Michigan State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

22        Central Florida

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

21        Army

Last Season:     11-2

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

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

 

 

20        Northwestern

Last Season:             9-5                             

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

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

 

 

19        Fresno State

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

18        Michigan

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Arizona State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

16        Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

15        Stanford

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Nebraska

Last Season:     4-8

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

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

 

 

13        LSU

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

12        Utah

Last Season:     9-5

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

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

 

 

11        Iowa State

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

10        Wisconsin

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Southern California

Last Season:     5-7

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

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

 

 

8          Texas

Last Season:     10-4

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

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

 

 

7          Notre Dame

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

6          Ohio State

Last Season:    13-1

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

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

 

 

5             Oregon

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

4             Alabama

Last Season:     14-1

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

2          Georgia

Last Season:     11-3

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

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

 

 

1          Clemson

Last Season:     15-0

Key Games:     9/7 vs. Texas A&M

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

The 2018 Sammy Awards – Part III

Greetings Manoverse, and welcome to the exciting conclusion of the 2018 Sammy Awards. If you haven’t already done so, please go back and check out parts 1 & 2, then we’ll meet back here.

 

 

 

All caught up?? Awesome. Please welcome back the host of our show, British comedian & talk show host Michael McIntyre!!

 

 

 

 

After some side-splitting comedy from our host it’s time to present our next award. It is a privilege for this show to reunite what ESPN never should have separated. For nearly two decades they made early morning weekday hours fun & informative for sports fans everywhere, and along the way they picked up five Sammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award a year ago. They’re still on TV & radio, but the magic is gone, so it is wonderful to have them together again on our stage. Please welcome author, vociferous New York Jets fan, & the host of ESPN’s Get Up, Mike Greenberg, and former NFL defensive lineman & host of ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Mike Golic!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Sports Story

 

The Tide Rolls Again

The 2017-18 Alabama Crimson Tide went 11-1 in the regular season and failed to even make it to the SEC title game…but it didn’t matter. The powers-that-be handed them a spot in the College Football Playoff anyway, and the Tide rolled to their 17th National Championship, their fifth in nine years with head coach Nick Saban at the helm.

 

Dr. Larry Nassar

Dr. Nassar was a physician at Michigan State University and for about 15 years served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. During that time he sexually abused over 200 young people, and after being sent to prison in 2017 for child pornography in 2018 he was convicted of sexual assault to minors, so he’ll be spending the rest of his life in jail and one can assume eternity in Hell.

 

Philly Wins The Super Bowl

The 2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles went 13-3 in the regular season, easily winning their division. They proceeded to cruise thru the playoffs and clash with the dastardly New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for all you non-Romans out there). What makes the story interesting is that starting quarterback Carson Wentz was lost to a torn ACL late in the season, so the Eagles ended their regular season and faced the playoffs with journeyman backup QB Nick Foles under center. Fortunately for Philly fans Foles was up to the task, and he even caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

 

The Olympics

There was a Winter Olympics in South Korea last February. Did anyone notice?? Does anyone remember a single solitary thing that happened?? I didn’t think so.

 

The Madness of a 16 Over a 1

Villanova beat Michigan to win the NCAA basketball tournament (aka March Madness), but that wasn’t the most interesting part of the event. Two other things stood out. Probably the most enduring image of the tournament is the 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, with their Gryffindor-esque scarves & 98 year old nun Sister Jean cheering them on, making it to the Final Four. But before that history was made in the first round when the 16th seed UMBC Retrievers upset the #1 seed Virginia Cavaliers…the first time a 16 has ever beat a 1.

 

Tiger Woods

Once upon a time Tiger Woods was not only the best golfer in the world, he was probably the top athlete overall. Of course we all know that health problems & personal issues knocked him off that perch nearly ten years ago, and it’s been a long road back. At one time it was a foregone conclusion that Woods would surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships, but in the past several years most began to question whether he would ever win another major…or even a tournament. However, in 2018 Woods began to somewhat resemble his old self on the course, winning the Tour Championship in September, placing sixth at the British Open, & finishing as the runner up at the PGA Championship.

 

Ovechkin Wins The Cup

Alex Ovechkin has been considered one of the best hockey players in the world since debuting with the Washington Capitals more than a decade ago. However, his talent had not translated into post-season success, with the Caps being ousted early year after year. That all changed in 2018, as Ovechkin led his team to their first Stanley Cup.

 

The Warriors Beat Lebron…Again

The Golden State Warriors have faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals for four straight seasons. In 2015 & 2017 the Warriors won pretty easily. In 2016 Lebron James willed the Cavaliers to a Game 7 victory. What would happen in 2018?? Well…a sweep for Golden St. It wasn’t pretty, and really not that interesting.

 

France Wins The World Cup

Look, I realize that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. I know we Americans march to the beat of a different drummer. I have tried to develop an interest in soccer, but I just can’t do it. At any rate, Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup, and France defeated Croatia in the final. The United States failed to even qualify for the tournament, so any infinitesimal interest some of us might have had pretty much died before the event even began.

 

LA-Bron

After another crushing defeat in the NBA Finals it became clear that Lebron James wouldn’t be spending the last few years of his basketball career wasting away in Cleveland. The fact that he ever returned in the first place is a miracle because it is obvious that James’ relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wasn’t great, and that Gilbert doesn’t really have the means or the alacrity to put together a championship caliber team. Thankfully James’ didn’t make the same mistakes he made back when he initially ditched the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010. There was no “Decision” on TV. Whether it is the glitz & glamor of Hollywood, the history of Showtime, Kareem, Magic, Kobe, et al, planning ahead for a future after basketball, or the allure of working with team President Magic Johnson, it came as no surprise when Lebron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers. After a shaky start the Lakers are in playoff contention, although they probably can’t be considered legit title contenders at the moment.

 

Urban Meyer

2018 was quite the roller coaster ride for Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer. He was suspended for the first three games of the season after mishandling domestic violence allegations against a former assistant coach. The team fared well without him and looked like solid playoff contenders, but an October loss to Purdue doomed the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes. Meyer announced that he’d retire following the team’s bowl game due to a cyst on his brain that he’s been battling for years. From what I understand the cyst is not life threatening and isn’t usually a big deal for those that have them, but Meyer’s situation seems to be a bit more than a minor annoyance. He ended his career (for now) with a big Rose Bowl victory, and since he’s only 54 years old who knows what the future may hold for him.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

The Philadelphia Eagles. It’d be tempting to give Philly the award simply for beating the hated Patriots in the Super Bowl, but the fact that they did it with a backup quarterback (who was named Super Bowl MVP) and used a fun little trick play called The Philly Special to secure the victory just made the story even cooler. Can history repeat itself this year?? Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Before we hand out the final award of the evening it is our pleasure to welcome one of the most talented singers in the world. His wheelhouse is old jazz standards made popular by crooners like Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, Dean Martin, & others, but he has produced some lovely original pop tunes and is a must listen during the Christmas season. To sing a medley of his hits & personal favorites please welcome Michael Bublè!!

 

 

Thank you Michael!! That was tremendous!!

 

 

To present our final award The Sammys are honored to welcome the oldest presenter in our brief history. At 96 years of age she is still making us laugh, as she has consistently done during a career that has spanned eight decades. She has starred in beloved television programs like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, & Mama’s Family, made frequent appearances on game shows like Match Game, The $25,000 Pyramid, & Password, and is a reliably funny guest on talk shows for many years. It is a sincere honor to welcome Betty White to the Sammy Awards. And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

North Korean Summit

Back in June President Trump traveled to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It was the first ever summit between leaders of the two nations. The two men discussed Korean denuclearization and signed an agreement meant to lead to lasting peace between their countries.

 

Another Royal Wedding

In May Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles & Princess Diana, married American actress Meghan Markle. I’ll give the Brits this much…they know how to make a spectacle out of just about anything.

 

Illegal Immigration, Border Security, & The Migrant Caravan

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”. So goes the poem that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It is true that the United States is a nation of immigrants. No one is disputing that. The issue is how & where such immigration takes place. There has to be a system. There have to be rules. There must be accountability. America is a melting pot, and when people come here we expect them to adhere to our laws, pay taxes, become productive members of society, and embrace our culture & way of life. You can’t just sneak in, live anonymously, & take take take take without contributing while breaking any rules you don’t feel like following. President Trump’s promise to build a “big beautiful wall” along the southern border was a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign, and now Democrats refuse to greenlight funding for the project. The majority of Americans are in favor of border security, but it sure seems like certain politicians in DC are putting their hatred of the President ahead of the will of the people, and for a very long time it has felt like those same bureaucrats have cared a lot more about folks from other countries…like the thousands in the “Migrant Caravan” that have been heading for the United States from Central America for several months…than they do about the Americans they allegedly represent.

 

Thai Cave Rescue

In June a team of teenage soccer players toured a cave in Thailand and became trapped when heavy rains flooded the cave, trapping the entire team inside. For more than two weeks the youngsters & their coach were in the cave while a massive rescue effort involving thousands of people took shape. The entire group was eventually rescued, although one diver…a former Thai Navy SEAL…died in the process.

 

Trump-Putin Meetings

Just a few weeks after his historic summit with Kim Jong-un President Trump went to Finland for a similar get-together with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I’m not sure what was accomplished except reigniting media accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

 

Justice Kavanaugh

When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his intention to retire at the end of July speculation immediately began about his possible replacement. After President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals it appeared that there would be the typical political posturing but a confirmation was assumed. However, what followed captured the attention of our entire nation for weeks. 52 year old professor & psychologist Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party almost four decades ago. Though her recollections are fuzzy, the story has more holes than Sonny Corleone on the causeway in The Godfather, & she appears to be about as credible as Milli Vanilli, the news media treated Blasey Ford like the star witness at a mafia trial. What should have been a slam dunk confirmation turned into an edge-of-your-seat drama, all based on specious allegations of what Kavanaugh may or may not have done when he was a kid forty years ago. I don’t believe for a second that Kavanaugh did anything to Dr. Minnie Mouse, but even if he made a pass at her or got a bit handsy, a) how come such allegations hadn’t become a thing as he was ascending the professional ladder, & b) should we really focus that much attention on something that a person did in high school?? At the end of the day the United States Senate decided that either they didn’t believe the accusations or that it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of life. Whatever their thought process may have been Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed and now sits on The Supreme Court.

 

Parkland High School & Pittsburgh Synagogue Shootings

On Valentine’s Day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, killing 17 students & staff members and injuring 17 others. The gunman was a 19 year old former student who had made numerous threats in the past, but everyone from local law enforcement to the FBI completely dropped the ball. In October a mass shooting occurred at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. 11 people were killed, 7 were injured, and the gunman was a 46 year old man who had posted anti-Semitic rants on social media.

 

Hurricanes Florence & Michael

Hurricane Florence was a Category 4 storm that hammered The Carolinas in September. Flooding was a bigger issue than high winds. 55 deaths occurred and the hurricane caused atleast $15 billion in damage. Hurricane Michael was a Category 4 storm that hit the Florida Panhandle in early October. More than 50 deaths resulted, and more than $4 billion in damage was reported in Florida & Georgia.

 

Mid-Term Elections

The 2018 mid-term elections saw the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and Republicans retain their majority in the Senate. Overall, considering the relentless pummeling President Trump has taken from the leftist media & Hollywood elite since the day he took office it is somewhat surprising that the Republicans fared as well as they did. The next couple of years should be loads of fun.

 

California Wildfires

The 2018 wildfire season is the deadliest & most destructive wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 8527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres. The fires caused more than $3.5 billion in damages and over 100 people died.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Justice Kavanaugh. I have said from Day 1 that the biggest reason I voted for Donald Trump was because I trusted him to make Supreme Court nominations more than Hillary Clinton. Nearly everything else a President does can be changed with the stroke of a pen by Congress or the next President, but the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment that can shape our country for decades. There are oftentimes arguments & battles over nominees, but I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything like what happened to Brett Kavanaugh. Only two people know what exactly happened at that party back in 1982…if anything happened at all. I didn’t find Christine Blasey Ford to be the least bit believable, and I am convinced that the whole debacle was a political hit job designed to destroy Trump’s nominee. However, IF something did happen to Ms. Ford and Kavanaugh was involved, then questions have to be asked. Why wasn’t this made public many years ago?? How had Kavanaugh gotten this far in his career if he is really such a scoundrel?? Should a middle-aged person be punished for being a creep when they were a teenager?? These are discussions worth having, because we need to decide acceptable parameters for destroying peoples’ lives. The Senate decided…for whatever reason…that, whether or not Brett Kavanaugh did something wrong forty years ago, he deserved an opportunity, based on his professional track record of success, to sit on the highest Court in the land, and now we prepare for the next skirmish.

 

 

 

 

 

evangelist Billy Graham…former President & First Lady George HW Bush & Barbara Bush…physicist Stephen Hawking…legendary sportscaster Keith Jackson… The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin…Hall of Fame pro wrestler Bruno Sammartino…comic book creator Stan Lee (Spider-Man, The X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man)…actress (Laverne & Shirley) and director (Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own) Penny Marshall… TV chef Anthony Bourdain… retired NBA coaches Jack McKinney (LA Lakers, Indiana Pacers) & Tex Winter (Chicago Bulls) and players Hal Greer (Philadelphia 76ers), Jo Jo White (Boston Celtics), Clifford Rozier (Golden St. Warriors), & Lonnie Shelton (NY Knicks)…TV host Robin Leach (Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous)…retired NFL players Jim Taylor (Green Bay Packers), Bennie Cunningham (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tommy McDonald (Philadelphia Eagles), Dwight Clark (San Francisco 49ers), Wes Hopkins (Philadelphia Eagles), Gabe Rivera (Pittsburgh Steelers), Billy Cannon (Houston Oilers), Bill Fralic (Atlanta Falcons), & Ron Johnson (Pittsburgh Steelers)…former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne…Pittsburgh, PA meteorologist Joe DeNardo & sportscaster Sam Nover….actors Burt Reynolds (Smokey & The Bandit, Hooper, The Longest Yard, The Cannonball Run), Jerry Van Dyke (Coach, My Mother the Car), John Mahoney (Frasier, Say Anything, Striking Distance), Harry Anderson (Night Court), Bill Daily (I Dream of Jeannie, The Bob Newhart Show), Donnelly Rhodes (Soap, Double Trouble), Louis Zorich (Mad About You), Frank Parker (Days of Our Lives), Mickey Jones (National Lampoon’s Vacation, Tin Cup, Home Improvement), David Ogden Stiers (MASH), Chuck McCann (mostly know for TV commercials), R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket), Verne Troyer (the Austin Powers series), Donald Moffett (The Right Stuff , The Bonfire of the Vanities, Trapped in Paradise), Herb Ellis (The Andy Griffith Show), Tab Hunter (Grease 2), Daniel Pilon (Dallas, Guiding Light), Robert Mandan (Soap, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Three’s a Crowd), Joseph Campanella (Days of Our Lives), & Ken Berry (Mayberry RFD, F-Troop, Mama’s Family) …authors Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities), William Goldman  (The Princess Bride, screenwriter of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men), Harlan Ellison (Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”), & Philip Roth (American Pastoral, Portnoy’s Complaint)…retired MLB umpire Doug Harvey…Hugh Wilson (creator of WKRP in Cincinnati)…infamous gangster Whitey Bulger…Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman…NFL player Edwin Jackson (Indianapolis Colts)…actresses Margot Kidder (Superman), Charlotte Rae (Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life), Peggie McCay (Days of Our Lives, The Andy Griffith Show), Connie Sawyer (When Harry Met Sally, Dumb & Dumber), Lari White (Cast Away), Nanette Fabray (One Day at a Time), Katherine MacGregor (Little House on the Prairie), Sondra Locke (The Outlaw Josey Wales, Sudden Impact)….former MLB general manager Kevin Towers (San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks)…cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey, Hi & Lois)…retired pro golfers Bruce Lietzke & Hubert Green…musicians/singers Michael White (Thompson Twins), Vic Damone, Dean Webb (The Dillards aka The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show), DJ Fontana, Vinnie Paul (Pantera), Daryle Singletary, Roy Clark (Hee Haw), Otis Rush, Matt “Guitar” Murphy (The Blues Brothers)…retired NFL coach Chuck Knox (Seattle Seahawks)…Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man)…former MLB players Willie McCovey San Francisco Giants), Ken Howell (LA Dodgers), Red Schoendienst (St. Louis Cardinals), Tony Bartirome (Pittsburgh Pirates), Tito Francona (Cleveland Indians), Bruce Kison (Pittsburgh Pirates), & Rusty Staub (NY Mets)…fashion designer Kate Spade…British distance runner Sir Roger Bannister (ran the first sub-4-minute mile)…disc jockey Adrian Cronauer (the inspiration for Good Morning Vietnam)…UNC Tar Heels basketball announcer Woody Durham…Pulitzer Prize winning political pundit Charles Krauthammer…professional sports franchise owners Tom Benson (New Orleans Saints & Pelicans), Paul Allen (Portland Trailblazers, Seattle Seahawks, also co-founder of Microsoft), Bob McNair (Houston Texans), Wayne Huizenga (Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers, & Miami Marlins, also the founder of Blockbuster Video), & Alex Spanos (Los Angeles Chargers)… former U.S. Senator & Governor of Georgia Zell Miller and U.S. Senator & former Presidential candidate John McCain… television producers Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser MD), John Conboy (Capitol, Guiding Light), & Paul Junger Witt (The Golden Girls, Soap, Benson, Empty Nest, Blossom)…retired pro wrestlers/managers Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, The Dynamite Kid, Big Van Vader, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Jones, Brickhouse Brown, Brian Christopher, Matt Cappotelli, Chris Champion, Jose Lothario, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, & Big Bully Busick…comedy club entrepreneur Mitzi Shore…Pulitzer Prize winning sportswriter Dave Anderson…talk radio host Art Bell…Oscar winning director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Man on the Moon)…retired college football coaches Earle Bruce (Ohio St.) & Billy Brewer (Ole Miss) and basketball coach/AD CM Newton (Kentucky)…political commentator Ed Schultz…NFL coach Tony Sparano (Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins)…Tony Award winning playwright & screenwriter Neil Simon…former Marshall Thundering Herd QB Michael Payton…brewery executive William Coors (grandson of company founder Adolph Coors)…renowned sportswriter Paul Zimmerman (Sports Illustrated, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football)… Audrey Geisel (widow of “Dr. Seuss” Theodore Geisel)…NASCAR Hall-of-Famer David Pearson… infamous brothel owner Dennis Hof (Las Vegas’ Bunny Ranch)… former WV Mountaineers assistant basketball coach Gary McPherson

The 2018 Sammy Claus Wish List

In the 1974 Rankin/Bass stop motion classic The Year Without a Santa Claus the Jolly Old Elf isn’t feeling quite so jolly and decides that he’s going to take a vacation from delivering gifts. In much the same way Sammy Claus seriously pondered cancelling this year’s wish list, not due to any kind of illness or cynicism, but…well…for no real reason outside of a general malaise. Sammy Claus isn’t feeling ill nor particularly depressed, but does experience the occasional funk. Unfortunately there is no Mrs. Sammy Claus to broker a deal with the Miser Brothers, and neither is there access to elves to go out & drum up some Christmas spirit. Having said all of that, Sammy Claus has decided to power thru and deliver the Ninth Annual Wish List. As always, being Sammy Claus wields no special power. I will not be flying around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer on Christmas Eve. I will be spending the evening with family and then put in a bit of quality time with Ralphie Parker & George Bailey. However, my fervent hope is that a certain inhabitant of The North Pole reads The Manofesto on occasion and might see fit to…at some point in the future…bestow these gifts upon the entities named here. And of course my biggest & deepest wish is that everyone will step away from the gifts & the food & the movies & all of the wonderful merriment accompanying this most wonderful season to praise The One True Reason that we even celebrate Christmas to begin with:

 

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”! So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into Heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  –  2nd Chapter of The Book of Luke

 

 

 

 

The State of Florida: Remedial Voting in Elections & Counting Ballots 101

 

 

 

 

CNN reporter Jim Acosta:       an ounce of class & professionalism

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:          an ounce of common sense

 

 

 

Valerie Jarrett:  all nine original seasons of Roseanne on DVD, and a Planet of the Apes boxed set

 

 

soon-to-be former Ohio St. football coach Urban Meyer:

improved health & a happy retirement

 

 

David Hogg:      a conceal carry permit & a 9mm

 

 

 

President Trump’s Border Wall:

proper funding and beginning of construction

 

 

Facebook:                   legit competition…we’ve had just about enough of their shenanigans

 

 

Harry & Meghan:        a healthy baby

 

 

 

 

 

James Shaw Jr.:        free waffles for life

 

 

soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:         a big bottle of skunk pee

 

 

 

Star Wars:                    a fitting conclusion, and once & for all an end to the franchise…leave the memories alone

 

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

good health, but also the good sense to finally retire (it’s way past time)

 

 

SNL’s Pete Davidson:

improved mental health, maturity, & a better idea of what is actually funny

 

 

 

United States Unemployment:

a continued lowering trend (the current unemployment rate of 3.7% is the lowest in almost fifty years)

 

 

 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford:

an adult voice, restraint is spending the huge amount of money she was undoubtedly paid to destroy Bret Kavanaugh, & a window to truth & honesty right beside that second front door on her house

Justice Brett Kavanaugh:

a voice of reason that opposes any attempt to destroy Constitutional rights and judicial restraint in deciding such cases

 

 

Michael Rotondo:      a job & a place to live…you’re 31 years old – time to grow up & be a man

 

 

Southern California:  deforestation

 

 

 

Stormy Daniels:                   dolla dolla bills y’all

 

 

#MeToo:   an end…it has outlived its usefulness & become a joke

 

 

former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens:                 

much happiness & success with any opportunities that come his way

 

 

The Conners:    cancellation…ABC knows they made a mess out of the whole situation, so do the humane & intelligent thing and put the wounded bird out of its misery

The Big Bang Theory:        a fun & well-written conclusion to 12 wonderful seasons, and long life in syndication

 

 

 

Per established custom I shall end with the traditional quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

 

“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

2018-19 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

So…college football’s bowl season kind of snuck up on me y’all!! The games actually begin today. At the moment I am hoping I get this up on the website in time, but rest assured that even if I’m running a little late these picks were made in advance…no shenanigans. I’m feeling a little more ambivalent than usual about these games…for a variety of reasons. However, I will try to refrain from my normal kvetching about stupid (i.e. corporate) bowl names, teams with only six wins being bowl eligible, & the schedule containing far too many pointless games. There are those that embrace the idea of as many bowl games as possible because a bad football game is like bad sex…still not a bad way to spend some downtime, and I suppose I see their point. At any rate, as always these games do not count toward our season long Pigskin Picks of Profundity, we don’t bother with point spreads, & for the most part we understand that a variety of elements that we may know nothing about can have an effect on the outcomes. I’ve decided not to break everything down into tiers this year, so we’ll just go in chronological order. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cure

Orlando, FL

Saturday 12/15 at 1:30pm on CBS Sports Network

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (7–6)   vs.    Tulane Green Wave (6–6)

The proceeds from the game are donated to breast cancer research, which is nice. I suppose the NCAA wouldn’t have approved of naming it the Boobies Bowl. Having no real knowledge about either team I’m going with the Green Wave because I like waves & the color green. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Tulane

Z’s Pick:     Tulane

 

 

New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM

Saturday 12/15 at 2pm on ESPN

Utah State Aggies (10–2)   vs.    North Texas Mean Green (9–3)

This might actually be a fun game. Both teams have obviously had a successful season and are well deserving of a bowl bid. Sticking with a theme I’m picking North Texas because their green is mean. Conversely, Zach likes the rushing attack for the Aggies.

My Pick:     North Texas

Z’s Pick:     Utah St.

 

 

Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV

Saturday 12/15 at 3:30pm on ABC

Arizona State Sun Devils (7–5)  vs.    Fresno State Bulldogs (11–2)   

Vegas baby!! Vegas!!!! I envy these kids for getting to spend a few days in Sin City. I am sure that, despite all the potential distractions, Herm Edwards will have his Sun Devils ready to play. The Bulldogs defeated Boise St. to win the Mountain West title game, and this is their reward. It should be another fun game, and I gotta go with my man Herm to score the upset. Zach likes ol’ Herm well enough, but he just can’t be all in on the Sun Devils at this point.

My Pick:     Arizona St.

Z’s Pick:     Fresno St.

 

 

Camellia

Montgomery, AL

Saturday 12/15 at 5:30pm on ESPN

Eastern Michigan Eagles (7–5)  vs.    Georgia Southern Eagles (9–3)

A camellia is a type of flower. Fans of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird might recognize it as the flower grown by mean old Mrs. Dubose that was destroyed by an angry Jem Finch. I know zero about the teams involved, so I’m just going with the favorites. Zach believes it’ll be an easy win for Georgia Southern.

My Pick:     Georgia Southern

Z’s Pick:     Georgia Southern

 

 

New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

Saturday 12/15 at 9pm on ESPN

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8–5)         vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (10–2)       

It’s a great location for a bowl game, but I have to wonder how many folks from Murfreesboro, TN (located about 30 miles from Nashville) & Boone, NC (named for pioneer Daniel Boone) will be making the trek to The Big Easy. The Blue Raiders beat my Marshall Thundering Herd back in October (on my birthday!!), so I’ve got to root against them. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Appalachian St.

Z’s Pick:     Appalachian St.

 

 

Boca Raton       

Boca Raton, FL

Tuesday 12/18 at 7pm on ESPN

Northern Illinois Huskies (8–5)  vs.    UAB Blazers (10–3)  

UAB shut down their football program for a couple of seasons awhile back, so it’s great to see the team revived & successful.  Northern Illinois played Florida St. in the Orange Bowl back in 2012, so they’ve had their share of success over the years. I really like UAB’s comeback story so I always cheer for the Blazers. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     UAB

Z’s Pick:     UAB

 

 

Frisco

Frisco, TX

Wednesday 12/19 at 8pm on ESPN

San Diego State Aztecs (7–5)              vs.              Ohio Bobcats (8–4)  

No, the game is not in San Francisco…it’s in Frisco, TX, a Dallas suburb. I think the Aztecs have too much speed & firepower for the Bobcats to overcome, so I’m looking for a fairly comfortable victory for SD State. Zach likes State’s rushing attack to lead the way.

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Z’s Pick:     San Diego St.

 

 

Gasparilla 

Tampa, FL

Thursday 12/20 at 8pm on ESPN

South Florida Bulls (7–5)            vs.              Marshall Thundering Herd (8–4)         

This is how you name a bowl game. At first glance you might think that gasparilla is some kind of flower or plant along the lines of a camellia, but the game is actually named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. As the story goes, 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. It’s a cool story even if it is probably fictional. Anyway, I can’t pick against my alma mater, even though I did rank their opponent 12th in my pre-season poll. I’m happy this game is on a non-work night for me because I think it’ll be fun to watch. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Marshall

Z’s Pick:     Marshall

 

 

Bahamas  

Nassau, Bahamas

Friday 12/21 at 12:30pm on ESPN

FIU Panthers (8–4)              vs.              Toledo Rockets (7–5)         

I’m not sure how many fans of either team will be making the trip, but for those able to afford it and for the players, coaches, & staff of each program going to The Bahamas seems like a rather splendid Christmas gift.  I think this is another game where speed & athleticism will make a huge difference. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Florida International

Z’s Pick:     Florida International

 

 

Potato       

Boise, ID

Friday 12/21 at 4pm on        ESPN

Western Michigan Broncos (7–5)                 vs.              BYU Cougars (6–6)  

I will be eternally bemused that Boise was deemed by somebody somewhere as an appropriate bowl location. Perhaps the folks at The Mothership in Bristol, CT thought the blue turf would mesmerize television viewers. The Cougars come into the game having been battle tested against opponents like Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, & Utah. Conversely, the Broncos have played…well okay, Syracuse & Michigan. Gotta give them credit for playing two legit out-of-conference opponents. I think this will be a high scoring affair…something like 42-35…and I’m picking BYU to come out on top. Zach thinks BYU’s rushing attack will lead them to victory.

My Pick:     BYU

Z’s Pick:     BYU

 

 

Birmingham

Birmingham, AL

Saturday 12/22 at Noon on ESPN

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6–6)            vs.              Memphis Tigers (8–5)         

Memphis beat Houston a few weeks ago then played UCF tough in the AAC title game before losing, so I think they are a pretty decent team. Zach likes Memphis to win a shootout.

My Pick:     Memphis

Z’s Pick:     Memphis

 

 

Armed Forces   

Fort Worth, TX

Saturday 12/22 at 3:30pm on ESPN

Army Black Knights (9–2)           vs.              Houston Cougars (8–4)    

I’m actually looking forward to this game and believe it could be sneaky good. There are always a few of those this time of year. I’d love to pick Army, but I think Houston will have a size advantage in the trenches and wear down their opponent by the fourth quarter. Zach sees things the opposite way. He believes that Army’s offense will wear out the Houston defense and win in the final quarter.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Army

 

Dollar General

Mobile, AL

Saturday 12/22 at 7pm on ESPN

Buffalo Bulls (10–3)            vs.              Troy Trojans (9–3)    

I’m tempted to call this another sneaky good game, but if y’all have been sleeping on these two teams that’s your own fault. Buffalo beat Temple & Rutgers, and Troy played Nebraska tough, so they are both pretty good. Obviously neither team is going to walk into a “power” conference and compete on a weekly basis with Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio St., etc., but on their own level they have both built respectable programs. I’ve been really impressed with the Bulls when I’ve watched them play, so I’ll lean in that direction. Zach has a gut feeling, and he’s picking Troy.

My Pick:     Buffalo

Z’s Pick:     Troy

 

 

 

Hawaii

Honolulu, HI

Saturday 12/22 at 10:30pm on ESPN

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7–5)           vs.              Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (8–5)

Everything I said about the Bahamas Bowl applies to this game as well. I don’t know how much Tech support the Bulldogs will have (sorry…I just couldn’t resist) but for those who do make the trip it’ll surely be a fun vacation. It is basically another home game for the Rainbow Warriors, so I think that gives them a big edge. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Hawaii

Z’s Pick:     Hawaii

 

 


First Responder

Dallas, TX

Wednesday 12/26 at 1:30pm on ESPN

Boston College Eagles (7–5)               vs.              Boise State Broncos (10–3)       

This was known the past few years as the Heart of Dallas Bowl, so kudos for the name change. It may not be a New Year’s Bowl against a traditional football elite, but this is still an opportunity for Boise to prove that they can compete with “power” conference foes, and I’d like to see them take advantage of it. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Boise St.

 

 

Quick Lane        

Detroit, MI

Wednesday 12/26 at 5:15pm on ESPN

Minnesota Golden Gophers (6–6)       vs.    Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7–5) 

On paper this is one of the least appealing games being played. I probably won’t watch. You probably won’t watch. I’m going to pick Minnesota just because I think gophers are cooler than yellow jackets. Zach doesn’t think Minnesota can deal with Tech’s triple option.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Georgia Tech

 

 

Cheez-It    

Phoenix, AZ

Wednesday 12/26 at 9pm on ESPN

TCU Horned Frogs (6–6)             vs.              California Golden Bears (7–5)   

Back in the day it was the Copper Bowl, then the Insight.com Bowl, then the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and finally the Cactus Bowl for a few years until now. I like to dip Cheez-its in chicken salad for a tasty snack. I like these west coast games on non-work nights, so I suppose I’ll watch & hope for a fun contest. TCU was apre-season playoff team for me, but obviously they fell far short of that goal. Cal beat Washington, USC, & Colorado during the season, so they can be randomly good. The Vibes are telling me to go with the Golden Bears, and so I shall. Zach has picked against Cal four times this season and is 0-4, so now he’s coming on over to the other side.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Independence

Shreveport, LA

Thursday 12/27 at 1:30pm on ESPN

Temple Owls (8–4)              vs.              Duke Blue Devils (7–5)      

The Independence Bowl has been around since 1976, and has grown from one of the lesser games to being respected as one of the old guard traditional games. Unfortunately it still doesn’t get many great matchups, and I don’t believe this will be a pleasantly surprising exception. I have a soft spot for the Owls since I fondly recall them as a Big East doormat when I was a kid (although at the time they had a highly touted basketball program). Duke is still a basketball school for the most part, but the football program has been pretty good for several years. My expectations are low, and Temple is the pick. Conversely, Zach likes Duke to get a close win.

My Pick:     Temple

Z’s Pick:     Duke

 

 

Pinstripe   

NY, NY

Thursday 12/27 at 5:15pm on ESPN

Wisconsin Badgers (7–5)            vs.              Miami Hurricanes (7–5)     

The Badgers were my pre-season #1 because…well, I’m sure my reasons seemed perfectly valid at the time. Needless to say, things didn’t quite work out as I had envisioned. The Hurricanes underperformed as well, falling off steeply from their 10-3 record a year ago. However, in spite of both squads having disappointing seasons I think this might be an entertaining game, and I am riding with my top team. I’m loyal like that. Zach feels like Miami has been too inconsistent offensively this season, and likes Wisconsin to use old-fashioned smashmouth football to score the victory.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:      Wisconsin

 

 

 

Texas       

Houston, TX

Thursday 12/27 at 9pm on ESPN

Baylor Bears (6–6)              vs.              Vanderbilt Commodores (6–6)   

Ehhh. I can’t imagine that anyone outside the two fanbases will have any interest in this game. I’ll pick Vanderbilt because the school is known as The Harvard of The South and I really like smart people. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Vanderbilt

Z’s Pick:     Vanderbilt

 

 

Music City

Nashville, TN

Friday 12/28 at 1:30pm on ESPN

Auburn Tigers (7–5)            vs.              Purdue Boilermakers (6–6)        

The Auburn folks might be disappointed in their season, but I’m not totally shocked that they went from a ten win team a year ago to where they find themselves currently. The SEC is tough anyway, and Tennessee, Kentucky, & LSU were all better than expected, so someone is going to fall thru the cracks and this year it was Auburn. The highlight of Purdue’s season was a beatdown of Ohio St. in October, which ultimately cost the Buckeyes a playoff spot. Otherwise there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about for Boilermaker fans. This will be portrayed as important for bragging rights between the SEC and Big Ten, and I think we all know who usually draws the short straw in that competition. Zach doesn’t think Auburn will be into the game on an emotional level, so that tips the scales to Purdue.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     Purdue

 

 

Camping World

Orlando, FL

Friday 12/28 at 5:15pm on ESPN

Syracuse Orange (9–3)                vs.              West Virginia Mountaineers (8–3)      

As a Mountaineers fan I am beyond disappointed by this game. There were such high hopes coming into the season, but poor coaching and other bad decisions doomed the team to just another run-of-the-mill record, ending up in a run-of-the-mill bowl game against a run-of-the-mill opponent. I have no issue with WVU QB Will Grier’s decision to skip the game and get a head start in preparing for the NFL Draft. The dude is a potential first round draft pick…why should he risk injury is this meaningless game?? Credit where it is due to ‘Cuse for a nice season, but I’m sorry…the ‘Eers were expecting better than this. I suppose the smart money is on WVU not being all that motivated to be in the game and a bit behind the eight ball with their starting quarterback not playing. I get it…but I just can’t pick against them. Given Grier’s absence and WVU’s poor bowl record over the years Zach is going in the opposite direction.

My Pick:     West Virginia

Z’s Pick:     Syracuse

 

 

Alamo       

San Antonio, TX

Friday 12/28 at 9pm on ESPN

Iowa State Cyclones (8–4)          vs.              Washington State Cougars (10–2)      

This is the game West Virginia should be playing in, but since they didn’t bother to show up during a road loss to the Cyclones in October and probably because the games organizers can read a map and know that Iowa is a skosh closer than West Virginia to San Antonio this is how things ended up. Cougars’ QB Gardner Minshew will be looking to improve his draft stock, but he’ll be facing a tough defense. On paper the Cougars look like a heavy favorite…but they better not take the opponent lightly. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Washington St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington St.

 

 

Belk

Charlotte, NC

Saturday 12/29 at Noon on ABC

South Carolina Gamecocks (7–5)                vs.              Virginia Cavaliers (7–5)      

Could it be a sneaky good game?? Maybe, but no one is expecting much from two middle-of-the-road teams playing in a middle-of-the-road bowl game. The Vibes are telling me to pick Virginia, and I always listen to The Vibes. Zach likes the Cocks.

My Pick:     Virginia

Z’s Pick:     South Carolina

 

 

Arizona     

Tucson, AZ

Saturday 12/29 at 1:15pm on CBS Sports Network

Nevada Wolf Pack (7–5)              vs.              Arkansas State Red Wolves (8–4)     

I actually have CBSSN on my channel lineup, so I guess I’ll check in to see if this game is worth watching. I won’t hold my breath though. The Wolfpack have been on my radar for several years and have been known to play in some entertaining games. Zach is going in the opposite direction and picking the Red Wolves.

My Pick:     Nevada

Z’s Pick:     Arkansas St.

 

 

 

Peach       

Atlanta, GA

Saturday 12/29 at Noon on ESPN

Florida Gators (9–3)            vs.              Michigan Wolverines (10–2)      

Oh what might have been. Both teams had opportunities during the season to end up in a better spot, but the Gators fell to Kentucky & Missouri…two teams they’d beat in any “normal” year…and the Wolverines once again couldn’t get past archrival Ohio St. I suppose this is a rather decent consolation prize, especially for fans who can probably look forward to a competitive & engaging contest. I expect Jim Harbaugh will have his team ready, and I look for Michigan to prevail. Zach is worried about Michigan’s offense and thinks they may fall short.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Cotton (Playoff Semifinal Game)

Arlington, TX

Saturday 12/29 4pm on ESPN

Clemson Tigers (13–0)                          vs.              Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12–0)          

I wish I could get more excited about the playoff, but since ¾ of the field has pretty much been a foregone conclusion for weeks the whole thing has lost much of its charm. This is why the NCAA basketball tournament…aka March Madness…is a superior postseason show, because even if we think we know who the top teams are there are always upsets and surprises along the way. If we end up with the teams we perceived all along as the best battling for the title that’s okay because there has been some excitement leading up to it. With football the playoff just feels…anticlimactic. At any rate, of the two semifinal games I guess this is the one I’m most interested in. A few months ago I thought Clemson may get left out in the cold due to a rather weak schedule, but Syracuse, Boston College, & Pitt all ended up being better than anticipated, or atleast good enough for the powers-that-be to overlook Clemson’s out-of-conference games against Furman & Georgia Southern. It doesn’t hurt that the Tigers are loaded with NFL caliber talent, especially on defense. The Irish had a relatively soft schedule as well in my humble opinion, but both teams deserve credit for mowing down whatever competition was put in front of them and finishing undefeated. I think Clemson’s defense is just too damn good, so I look for them to pull out a close victory. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

 

Orange (Playoff Semifinal Game)

Miami, FL

Saturday 12/29 at 8pm on ESPN

Alabama Crimson Tide (13–0)             vs.              Oklahoma Sooners (12–1)         

I know Nick Saban is from West Virginia. I know that means I’m supposed to root for him. But Charles Manson was born in WV too, and no one was cheering him on. No, I’m not comparing Saban to Manson, but I’m just tired of Alabama. As awesome as college football is it needs some parity. It needs for some great teams to have a few bad years and a few bad teams to challenge for championships. That’s one reason why we love the NFL…it isn’t uncommon for a team to finish at the bottom of their division one year and make the playoffs the following season. That kind of unpredictability is good. I would have rather seen Ohio St. get the final spot instead of the Sooners, but I understand why it worked out the way it did. As far this game is concerned, I think ‘Bama’s defense is good enough to slow down Heisman winning QB Kyler Murray just a little, and their offense can go toe to toe with Oklahoma. Zach thinks the score might top 100 points collectively, and he likes Saban to make the right moves at the right time to lead his team to victory.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

Military

Annapolis, MD

New Year’s Eve at Noon on ESPN

Virginia Tech Hokies (6–6)                             vs.                        Cincinnati Bearcats (10–2)       

The Hokies owe a huge thank you to my Marshall Thundering Herd for sacrificing themselves so that Tech could become bowl eligible. I think that’s where the good news ends for them though because for possibly the first & only time Cincinnati is clearly the better team. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Cincinnati

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

Sun  

El Paso, TX

New Year’s Eve at 2pm on CBS

Stanford Cardinal (8–4)               vs.              Pittsburgh Panthers (7–6)          

The Sun Bowl is one of the oldest bowl games, and one of the few that doesn’t air on the ESPN “family of networks”. This could be a decent game, although in my humble opinion Pitt isn’t as good as some seem to think. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive battle.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

Redbox     

Santa Clara, CA

New Year’s Eve at 3pm on Fox

Michigan State Spartans (7–5)            vs.                        Oregon Ducks (8–4)

This game has had a few names over the years…the Walnut Bowl, the Emerald Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, the Foster Farms Bowl. It’s amusing to me that Redbox has obtained naming rights because Redbox is about as outdated as Blockbuster. Does anyone actually go out and rent DVDs anymore?? My money is on this game becoming the Roku Bowl or the Amazon Firestick bowl within a year or two. The matchup is mildly compelling…two teams who probably had higher expectations but who probably ended up about where they should’ve given the competitiveness of their conferences. I think the crowd will be significantly in Oregon’s corner, and I like the Ducks’ offense to get the job done. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

Liberty       

Memphis, TN

New Year’s Eve at 3:45pm on ESPN

Oklahoma State Cowboys (6–6)                   vs.              Missouri Tigers (8–4)         

I wouldn’t have minded seeing my Mountaineers play in this game, but they screwed the pooch against the Cowboys in November. Missouri should have never left the Big 12…they are a forgotten team in the SEC. Tigers’ QB Drew Lock is a potential first round draft pick, so this could be a great opportunity for him to solidify that status. Conversely, Zach likes OK State.

My Pick:     Missouri

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma St.

 

 

Holiday     

San Diego, CA

New Year’s Eve at 7pm on FS1

Northwestern Wildcats (8–5)                vs.              Utah Utes (9–4)          

I’m going to climb out on a limb and predict that this will be one of the best bowl games of the entire schedule. Both teams fell short in their conference title games, so this is an opportunity for redemption. I really like Northwestern, and I think they’ll grind out a hard fought, low scoring defensive battle and snag the win. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Z’s Pick:     Northwestern

 

 

Gator  

Jacksonville, FL

New Year’s Eve at 7:30pm on ESPN

Texas A&M Aggies (8–4)             vs.              NC State Wolfpack (9–3) 

The Aggies are another team that should still be in the Big 12 instead of the SEC. That move never made much sense to me. Having said that, there’s no doubt that Jimbo Fisher is building something special there, and I just don’t see the Wolfpack being able to compete. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

Outback

Tampa, FL

New Year’s Day at Noon on          ESPN2

Mississippi State Bulldogs (8–4)                  vs.                        Iowa Hawkeyes (8–4)          

Both teams are overlooked in conferences that are loaded with great teams. This is a chance for them to shine and hog the spotlight for once. I like the Hawkeyes to win another low scoring defensive battle, with turnovers & special teams playing a key role in the outcome. Zach is predicting a big game from Iowa tight end Noah Fant, who might be a first round draft pick next spring.

My Pick:     Iowa

Z’s Pick:     Iowa

 

 

Citrus        

Orlando, FL

New Year’s Day at 1pm on ABC

Penn State Nittany Lions (9–3)            vs.                        Kentucky Wildcats (9–3)    

I never would have predicted a few months ago that the Wildcats would be playing football on New Year’s Day. They’ve had an outstanding season and deserve praise for their accomplishments. However, the Nittany Lions have been here before and are used to success. I think Kentucky can hang tough for three quarters, but Penn St. will pull away and win comfortably. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

Fiesta        

Glendale, AZ

New Year’s Day at 1pm on ESPN

LSU Tigers (9–3)                           vs.                        UCF Knights (12–0)  

I didn’t think either team would be as good as they’ve been this season, despite past success. UCF hasn’t lost a game in two years, which is amazing, and they proved a year ago that they can hang with the big boys when they defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Can they do the same thing without injured starting QB McKenzie Milton?? I’d love to see it. Zach thinks UCF might win in a blowout.

My Pick:     Central Florida

Z’s Pick:     Central Florida.

 

 

Rose

Pasadena, CA

New Year’s Day at 5pm on ESPN

Washington Huskies (10–3)                 vs.              Ohio State Buckeyes (12–1)       

I know both teams wanted to be in the playoff, and I thought the Buckeyes might have been able to sneak in, but I suppose the Rose Bowl is one hell of a fallback option. This is the last hurrah for Ohio St. head coach Urban Meyer before he “retires” (for now), and I expect his team to use his departure and anger about being left out of the playoff as fuel to spark a big win. Conversely…and to absolutely no one’s surprise…Zach is picking Washington.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Sugar        

New Orleans, LA

New Year’s Day at 8:45pm on ESPN

Texas Longhorns (9–4)               vs.              Georgia Bulldogs (11–2)    

I knew Texas would be back in the spotlight eventually, and I expect that they’ll be huge favorites to win the Big 12 next season. Georgia is probably disappointed about not making the playoff, but they received a fair shot and couldn’t overcome Alabama in the SEC title game. Both squads have their fair share of NFL caliber talent, so this will probably be a really good game to watch. Going forward I think you’ll see the Longhorns ascending and the Bulldogs descending, but in this game I’m looking for Georgia to score a tight victory. Zach actually likes Georgia to win big.

My Pick:     Georgia

Z’s Pick:     Georgia

 

 

 

College Football Playoff National Championship

Santa Clara, CA

Monday, January 7 at 8pm on ESPN

Alabama/Oklahoma              vs.              Clemson/Notre Dame

We both have predicted an Alabama vs. Clemson title game. I think Clemson is the only team good enough on both sides of the ball to give ‘Bama a fight. If this is the matchup the focus will be on QB Tua Tagovailoa & the Tide offense versus a Clemson defense that is stacked with NFL talent. But what about the other side of the coin?? Can Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence & RB Travis Etienne overcome ‘Bama’s stout defense??       It might just be wishful thinking on my part, but I really like Dabo Swinney, and I think he can lead his team to another title. Zach just can’t go against saban, and he believes Alabama will win yet another championship.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 4

There’s no way to sugarcoat it…we both (2-6) did horrible last week. We are far enough into the football season now that I’ve begun to realize that many of my predictions & prognostications may have been a bit off base. I will need to reevaluate several of my preconceived notions, like not having much faith in a freshman quarterback or assuming certain personnel losses or changes may have a deleterious effect on a team. Perhaps a few of my assumptions will pan out in the long run, but this isn’t the start for which I’d hoped. At any rate, we move forward during a week when the schedule isn’t all that appealing. I do my best not to be repetitive with the teams we pick and try to spread the love, but there is no denying that the most interesting college games are ones pitting top ranked opponents against one another or that out of 32 NFL teams there are about a dozen that stand out as eminently more watchable. We are further limited by our own biases because it is difficult to be objective when it comes to certain teams so we do our best to avoid those games. Having said all that, we’ve done this for several years now and found a way to muddle thru, and so we shall continue.

My Season:        8-10

Z’s Season:        7-11

 

 

 

 

 

Florida (-5)                   at                Tennessee

These days when people gush about the vaunted SEC it’s all about Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, and whichever Mississippi school happens to be having a good year, but not that long ago the Gators and the Vols were sitting atop the mountain. Florida won national championships under Steve Spurrier then Urban Meyer in the late 90’s & early 2K’s, but they’ve only won 10+ games three times in the past decade and haven’t won the conference title since 2008. Tennessee hasn’t laid claim to any championships of any kind since the late 90’s when a young man named Peyton Manning was under center in Knoxville, and they haven’t won ten games in a season since 2007. Both teams come into this weekend 2-1, but I’m not sure anything of value can be learned from those games. It is interesting that Florida is favored despite the game being played at the massive Neyland Stadium. I’m sure there will be over 100k in attendance treating this like a playoff game, and I think that may work in Tennessee’s favor. Zach isn’t sure what to think about this game, but he’s rolling the dice on the Gators.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Stanford (-1.5)             at                Oregon

The Ducks snuck into my pre-season poll and I thought there might be a chance they’d get to eight victories and win a couple of games they aren’t supposed to win. So far so good, as they’re 3-0, although this will be their first real test. Stanford is also 3-0, including an impressive win over USC. Heisman hopeful Bryce Love will be toting the rock after missing last week’s game with an apparent concussion. It’s a total vibe game for me, and The Voices are quacking. Zach believes it’ll be a close game for three quarters but Stanford will eventually pull away.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Cincinnati  (-3)              at                Carolina

I predicted that the Bengals would win five games, finish in last place, and head coach Marvin Lewis would be fired. Right now they are 2-0 and atop the AFC North, so I may have been slightly wrong. Conversely, I had Carolina winning 12 games and easily capturing the NFC South. They are 1-1 so that prediction may work out eventually. Anyway, I’m not sure what kind of hurricane damage Charlotte suffered or if the storm’s aftermath will have an effect on attendance, but I do find it interesting that Cincy is favored. The injury bug seems to have bitten the Bengals, including RBs Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard. Even if both are good to go on Sunday that’s enough for me to lean in the other direction. Zach thinks the Bungles will screw things up if/when they make it to the playoffs, but he likes them in this game.

My Pick:     Carolina

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

LA Chargers                at                LA Rams (-7)

It’s the Battle of Los Angeles, featuring teams that were playing in San Diego & St. Louis just a couple of years ago. I suppose there is no real home field advantage. The Rams are 2-0 while the Chargers are 1-1, but that doesn’t really tell us much. I predicted both would win their division, although it looks like the road may be somewhat tougher for the Chargers. Here’s what I’m thinking: a high scoring game that goes down to the wire (maybe even OT) and is decided by a field goal. If that’s the case the pick has to be the Chargers. Zach thinks the Rams’ offense is just too overwhelming and will lead their team to an easy win.

My Pick:     LA Chargers

Z’s Pick:     LA Rams

 

 

 

Dallas                           at                Seattle (-1.5)

Having this game on the docket says more about the lack of exciting games on the schedule than it does my interest in watching. As predicted the 0-2 Seahawks are a shell of their former selves and look to be headed for a dismal season. The Cowboys are 1-1 and I still maintain that they’ll end up with a losing record as well. The home field advantage has to be respected for Seattle, as CenturyLink Field is usually one of the loudest in the NFL. I’m going out on a limb and forecasting QB Russell Wilson to have a big game and lead his team to one of the few victories they’ll have all year. Zach is putting all the pressure on RB Zeke Elliot to lead the Cowboys to victory.

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

Thus far I haven’t heard of any NFL games being affected by Hurricane Florence, but there were a few college games postponed or cancelled, including my alma mater Marshall Thundering Herd at South Carolina and my West Virginia Mountaineers at NC State. Fortunately none of the games that have been shut down because of the storm were ones that we were going to pick, so that’s good. Godspeed to all those in The Carolinas battling the hurricane. We don’t really have to deal with that sort of thing here in Appalachia, but I can’t imagine that it’s an easy thing to go through. At any rate, Zach rebounded nicely last week (4-1) with the addition of NFL games, while I didn’t do so well (2-3). I’m still happy that football is back though, so in that spirit we’re doing some bonus picks this week. Enjoy.

 

My Season:        6-4

Z’s Season:        5-5

 

 

 

 

 

BYU                     at                Wisconsin (-21.5)

The Badgers were #1 in my pre-season poll and are off to a 2-0 start, though they haven’t played anyone…notable…as of yet. I don’t foresee the 1-1 Cougars being all that much better as far as competition, although they did beat Arizona and only lost by three points to California. I don’t doubt that Wisconsin will win, but the points are a bit much. Y’all know my philosophy though…go big or go home. Zach isn’t comfortable with the points either, especially since Wisconsin’s offense is typically a grinding, smash mouth kind of deal…but the kid is a riverboat gambler just like his uncle, so he’s taking a chance.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Boise St.            at                Oklahoma St. (-3)

When doing the pre-season poll I anticipated that the Broncos could possibly go into Stillwater and beat the Cowboys. Boise St. has done nothing to discourage my high opinion of them, getting off to a 2-0 start and averaging 59 points/game and barely breaking a sweat. Oklahoma St. is also 2-0, has scored a lot of points, and has easily beaten inferior opponents. They get the nominal home field bump, but Boise has to be more than aware that this is their opportunity to really earn some respect amongst the college football glitterati. They’ve done it before in high profile bowl games, and I think they can do it again. Zach really likes Cowboys’ head coach Mike Gundy and thinks they’ll take care of business at home.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma St.

 

 

Alabama (-21)              at                Ole Miss

The Tide is rolling with two effortless wins and scoring over 50 points/game. The Rebels are 2-0 as well and dropped 76 points on Southern Illinois last week. This game is being played in Oxford, MS and is the ESPN prime time feature presentation on Saturday night, so the crowd should be fired up. I don’t think ‘Bama will lose, but I think it is possible that Ole Miss keeps it respectable in front of their home fans, losing by only 15-20 points. Zach points out that Ole Miss is ineligible for the post-season due to NCAA sanctions, so this is their bowl game. He doesn’t think they’ll win, but agrees that they will cover the points.

My Pick:     Ole Miss

Z’s Pick:     Ole Miss

 

 

 

Arizona St. (-4.5)                  at      San Diego St.

I kind of miss Herm Edwards on my ESPN chat shows, but it’s great that he got an opportunity to coach again after nearly a decade away from the sidelines. He has the Sun Devils off to a 2-0 start, and I don’t anticipate that changing this week against the 1-1 Aztecs, even playing in hostile territory. It’s too bad I don’t have access to the CBS Sports Network at my job and won’t be able to follow this game late Saturday night. Zach shares my affection for Coach Edwards, who he thinks is a genius. He is a bit concerned that this could be a trap game, but is rolling with the Sun Devils anyway.

My Pick:     Arizona St.

Z’s Pick:     Arizona St.

 

 

 

Ohio St. (-12.5)            at                TCU

When I did the pre-season poll I ranked the Buckeyes 15th and the Horned Frogs 3rd. Furthermore, I said that “I think they’ll upset Ohio St. in an early season non-conference “neutral site” game at The Palace in Dallas…the Buckeyes have had too many distractions this summer and are ripe for the picking”. Now, I grant you that Ohio St. has looked damn good under interim head coach Ryan Day so far. They completely dismantled Oregon St. & Rutgers, and sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins has been impressive. Meanwhile, TCU has easily gotten to 2-0 by beating up mediocre (at best) competition. I’m pretty stubborn, so I’m going to ride or die with my summertime prophecy, although admittedly I’m not at all confident in it. Zach is a major Buckeye hater, so if I go down he’s going down with me.

My Pick:     TCU

Z’s Pick:     TCU

 

 

Cleveland                    at      New Orleans (-9)

Ugh…the Browns. I’m not really familiar with the ins & outs of sports psychology, but I have to imagine that Cleveland is feeling pretty good about that tie they got against my Steelers last weekend. Will that…momentum…carry over into a battle against the Saints?? New Orleans fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what was easily one of the biggest surprises in the first week of NFL action. It seems like there may be some issues with the New Orleans defense. I try not to overreact to unexpected results until a trend develops, and even though I went against the majority of those assuming New Orleans will be a playoff team again this season by predicting a 6-10 record for them, I still believe they are better than Cleveland. Zach shares my trepidation about the Saints’ defense but agrees that their offense should be good enough to outscore the Browns.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

 

 

 

Minnesota          (-1.5)           at      Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers had his big moment las week, returning from some kind of leg injury to lead a comeback victory for the Packers on Sunday night. He has been diagnosed with a knee sprain and may or may not play against the Vikings. If he plays perhaps the game will be competitive. If he doesn’t play Green Bay is toast. Minnesota beat the 49ers last week, and whether Rodgers plays or not I think the better defense will win this game. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

Oakland             at      Denver (-4.5)

Coming into the season I thought the Raiders would be mediocre and the Broncos outright terrible, but perhaps I had that reversed…we’re about to find out. Oakland just couldn’t get their offense in gear on Monday night against the Rams, while Denver and starting QB Case Keenum didn’t look half bad in defeating Seattle. I’m not really sure what to expect out of this game. One team needs to turn things around, while the other just wants to keep the positive energy percolating. I suppose I’ll stay consistent and go with the Raiders, but I could be wrong. Zach thinks the Broncos will win easily.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Denver

2018 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

24     LSU 

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

23     Michigan

Last Season:      8-5

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

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

 

 

22     West Virginia

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

21     Penn State        

Last Season:      11-2

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

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

 

 

20     Texas       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

19     Florida State                       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

18     Florida Atlantic

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

17     Stanford

Last Season:      9-5

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

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

 

 

16     Oklahoma

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

15     Ohio State         

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

14     Auburn              

Last Season:      10-4

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

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

 

 

13     Notre Dame     

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

12     South Florida

Last Season:      10-2

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

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

 

 

11     Boise State                

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 at Oklahoma St.

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

 

 

10     Southern Cal   

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

9       Michigan State 

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

8       Virginia Tech    

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

7       Georgia

Last Season:      13-2

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

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

 

 

6       Miami (FL)

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

5       Clemson  

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Florida St.

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

 

 

4       Washington      

Last Season:      10-3 

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

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

 

 

3       TCU 

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

2       Alabama                               

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

 

 

1       Wisconsin        

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

2017 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

With the exception of the Thanksgiving-Christmas corridor this might be my favorite time of year. Anticipation is at its zenith and the possibilities are endless. Just looking at the schedules has me amped up, especially for two or three weekends when the lineup looks to be especially loaded. Whenever I begin this process I almost always get The Vibes, and the word that keeps popping into my head at the moment is parity. It is unlikely that any team gets thru their season unbeaten, and it’s entirely possible that a team with 2 or 3 losses sneaks into the playoff. Saturdays are going to be as glorious as usual this autumn, if only I can stay awake to watch the games. 16 of the 25 teams I have ranked here had 10 or more victories last season, and a few more won 9 games. Who will shockingly fall off the map?? Who will do a complete turnaround and climb out of the abyss of losing seasons into the Top 25?? Only time will tell, and what follows represents my best guess based solely on minimal research & decades as a dedicated fan, not any sort of insider knowledge. Perhaps we’ll look back in a few months and laugh at my foolishness, or maybe…just maybe…I will prove my worth as a bona fide guru. Who knows??

 

 

 

 

 

1          USC

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Stanford, 10/21 at Notre Dame, 11/18 vs. UCLA

Honestly, the schedule doesn’t look all that daunting for a top tier team, and with Heisman Trophy contender Sam Darnold behind center I don’t think we’ll see the Trojans go backward. Clay Helton is firmly entrenched as the head coach, providing consistency that the program has been lacking in recent years. If any big time powerhouse has a legit chance to go undefeated this is the one, and at the very least anything short of a playoff appearance will be a huge disappointment.

 

 

2          Penn State

Last Season:             11-3

Key Games:              10/21 vs. Michigan, 10/28 at Ohio St.

Last season’s Rose Bowl was probably the best post-season game other than the national championship. USC bested the Nittany Lions 52-49 on a last second field goal, and in many people’s minds it was a harbinger of fantastic things to come for both teams. The Sandusky/Paterno kerfuffle seems to be in the rear view mirror for Penn St., and while we could engage in endless sociopolitical commentary about all of that there is no doubt that moving past the fallout is good for the football program. There are two Heisman contenders in Happy Valley…QB Trace McSorely & RB Saquon Barkley…and, while I’m no expert, I have to believe that bodes well for the team’s chances of success. They’ll have to face the Buckeyes in Columbus, but Michigan will be a home game. If the Lions can split those two huge games I think they just might be national title contenders.

 

 

3          Oklahoma State

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              10/21 at Texas, 11/4 vs. Oklahoma

Surprise!! While the other team in Oklahoma usually gets all of the attention (and still will this year) the Cowboys have been pretty successful, racking up 10 or more wins in five of the past seven seasons. QB Mason Rudolph returns for his senior season, and it feels like he may be flying under the radar just like his team. That’s probably fine with the folks in Stillwater. Don’t be surprised if this is the team that comes out on the positive end of Bedlam, and I think they might even have an outside shot at perfection.

 

 

4          Florida State

Last Season:             10-3   

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Alabama, 9/16 vs. Miami (FL), 11/11 at Clemson

The season opener against Alabama will obviously set a tone for the season. That game is a neutral site contest in Atlanta and is the highlight of college football’s first weekend. A win would set the Seminoles on a course for a playoff appearance, but I don’t think a loss would be fatal. They’re still the favorites to win the ACC.

 

 

5          Ohio State

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Oklahoma, 10/28 vs. Penn St., 11/25 at Michigan

The Buckeyes still have JT Barrett behind center, and that gives them an immediate advantage. They did lose seven players to the NFL, but that’s nothing to an elite program. The second weekend of games will be highlighted by Ohio St. against Oklahoma, but it’s in Columbus and, while the talking heads will do their best to pump up the hype machine, I really don’t think it’ll be much of a contest. Penn St. will visit Columbus right before Halloween & a showdown in The Big House wraps up the regular season, and it is in one of these games that I expect Ohio St.’s playoff dreams to be dashed.

 

 

6          Alabama

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Florida St., 11/4 vs. LSU, 11/25 at Auburn

I’m a non-conformist so I rarely do what everybody else does…rank ‘Bama #1. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. They may win or they may lose the season opener against Florida St., but The Voices are telling me that the true waterloo for the Tide will come in November against an archrival…either LSU or Auburn. Maybe both. A one or two loss Alabama would almost certainly still be in the playoff conversation, but I think they’ll fall short of the goal.

 

 

7          South Florida

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/15 vs. Illinois, 11/4 vs. Houston

Charlie Strong wasn’t deemed good enough to get the job done for Texas, but he’s moved on and found himself in a good situation. The American Athletic Conference doesn’t get much respect, but someone’s going to win it and the Bulls seem to be receiving all the buzz despite a coaching change that would normally be cause for apprehension. They’ll need to go undefeated to rank this high, and I don’t believe that to be an unreasonable expectation.

 

 

8          Georgia

Last Season:             8-5

Key Games:              9/9 at Notre Dame, 9/30 at Tennessee, 10/28 vs. Florida

It’s season 2 for Kirby Smart as the head coach in Athens, and I think his team will be more successful than they were last year. Obviously the SEC is extremely competitive, but if the Bulldogs can win a couple of the noted key games a Top 10 finish isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Running back Nick Chubb passed up being a likely first round NFL Draft pick to return for his senior season, a huge positive. A Georgia-Alabama conference title game could be really fun.

 

 

9          Wisconsin

Last Season:             11-3

Key Games:              10/7 at Nebraska, 11/18 vs. Michigan

I’m a little nervous about this one because the Big Ten is so tough. Can they really land three teams in the Top 10? And if so, is this the right third team?? I’ve left Nebraska, Northwestern, & Iowa out of this Top 25 altogether, but they’re always dangerous opponents. I’m betting that the Badgers get by all of them, meaning that a mid-November clash with Michigan…in Wisconsin…might decide a spot in the conference title game.

 

 

10        Auburn

Last Season:             8-5

Key Games:              9/9 at Clemson, 10/14 at LSU, 11/11 vs. Georgia, 11/25 vs. Alabama

The Tigers have been a bit off the radar the past few years since winning the national championship in 2010 and losing the title game in 2013. They are 23-16 over the past three seasons. Not bad, but not remarkable either. Exceeding mediocrity will be a tall order this season. They’ll need to pull off upsets in a couple of the games I have noted, but doing so would surely make them a solid Top 10 team.

 

 

11        Oklahoma

Last Season:             11-2

Key Games:              9/9 at Ohio St., 10/14 vs. Texas, 11/4 at Oklahoma St.

QB Baker Mayfield will get a lot of Heisman hype early in the season, but I’m just a bit uneasy about the sudden departure of head coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners will have superior talent on the field as they always do, and all indications are that new coach Lincoln Riley is a bright young mind who probably would’ve been a head coach somewhere sooner rather than later anyway, but I just don’t foresee a team undergoing such a coaching change contending for a national championship, especially with a daunting early season battle on the road in Columbus, OH. There’s also the fact that the Big 12 is expected to be as competitive this season as it’s been in awhile. Oklahoma will be a good team, but I think they’ll be on the losing end of one or two games that most wouldn’t expect them to lose.

 

 

12        Washington

Last Season:             12-2

Key Games:              9/23 at Colorado, 10/28 vs. UCLA, 11/25 vs. Washington St.

The Huskies were a playoff team last season and QB Jake Browning returns for his junior year. That’s good enough for me to take this team seriously. Barring any surprising losses it feels like Washington should be the favorite in their division to get a shot at the Pac 12 title, but I think that’s the ceiling. Any unexpected stumbles along the way could cause a rapid tumble down the rankings.

 

 

13        Louisville

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/16 vs. Clemson, 10/21 at Florida St.

Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson returns under center, and while there’s no denying that he’s a dynamic player the fact is that he’s not going to sneak up on anyone this year. Even going back to last season it seems like opponents began to figure him out since the Cardinals lost three straight to end the year, including a beatdown in the Citrus Bowl at the hands of LSU. Having said all of that, I think a 9 win season is possible. Keep an eye on the games against Clemson & Florida State. I expect both to be losses, but if they’re competitive contests it’ll go a long way toward earning Louisville respect.

 

 

14        Clemson

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              11/11 vs. Florida St.

Replacing a starting quarterback might be just as daunting as rebooting things under a new head coach. I am a huge fan of Deshaun Watson, who is now plying his trade in the NFL with the Houston Texans, and I don’t believe he’ll be easily forgotten (he should’ve won the Heisman Trophy last year). I have no doubt that the defending national champions will just reload at most positions, and head coach Dabo Sweeney is the real deal, but I think the Tigers will taste bitter defeat at the hands of archrival Florida St., and will probably be upset in atleast one other game.

 

 

15        Michigan

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Florida, 10/21 at Penn St., 11/25 vs. Ohio St.

When Jim Harbaugh was hired as the Wolverines’ head coach back in 2015 I predicted that they’d be “legitimate national championship contenders within three years”. However, faced with the task of replacing about 75% of the starting rotations on both sides of the ball I think it might be wise to dial back expectations just a bit. They have Ohio St. at The Big House in Ann Arbor, but must travel to Happy Valley to face Penn St. Another 10 win season would be phenomenal in a stacked Big Ten…anything more than that is probably wishful thinking.

 

 

16        West Virginia

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/3 vs. Virginia Tech, 10/28 vs. Oklahoma St., 11/18 vs. Texas, 11/25 at Oklahoma

Expectations are high for the Mountaineers, atleast here in West Virginia. The long awaited debut of QB Will Grier, a transfer from Florida who had to sit out last season, is imminent, and he’ll have no shortage of weapons, including RBs Kennedy McCoy & Justin Crawford and WRs Juvon Durante & KaRaun White. The X factor is the defense, which must replace the entire front line and cornerback Rasul Douglas, who has moved on to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. The optimism probably doesn’t spread too far outside the Mountain State, but that’s alright…we’re used to everyone underestimating us in all walks of life. West Virginia MUST beat archrival Virginia Tech in the season opener, and then pull off atleast one upset in big games against celebrated conference rivals.

 

 

17        Boise St.

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              10/6 at BYU, 11/11 at Colorado St.

The Broncos are what they are. They’ll win 9 or 10 games, play for the conference title, and try to surprise everyone by upsetting a team from a “power” conference in a bowl game. But wait…Boise HASN’T played for the Mountain West championship or in a bowl game that people actually watch since 2014. Can they rebound this year?? I think so.

 

 

18        Virginia Tech

Last Season:             10-4

Key Games:              9/3 vs. West Virginia, 9/30 vs. Clemson, 11/4 at Miami (FL)

In his first season as the Hokies’ head coach Justin Fuente led his team to 10 wins and spot in the conference title game. Can that success be duplicated in 2017?? Maybe. The ACC isn’t a cakewalk by any stretch, and a neutral site season opener against my WV Mountaineers won’t be an automatic win. The difference in Tech’s season will be whether they win 7/8 games or 9/10 games. Either is possible.

 

 

19        Florida

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/2 vs. Michigan, 10/7 vs. LSU, 10/28 vs. Georgia, 11/25 vs. Florida St.

It wasn’t that long ago that almost every team would open the season with a couple of easy games against cupcake opponents, the result usually being a 65-10 snoozefest that accomplished nothing except filling the coffers of the overmatched losing team. However, with the advent of the four team playoff strength of schedule has become a point of emphasis. One wouldn’t think that teams from the heralded SEC would need to concern themselves with such matters, but it looks like they’re not taking any chances. The Gators begin their season at The Palace in Dallas against Michigan. The winner will probably be vaulted into the Top 10, the loser will have to battle back. Either way Florida will have a tough road after that first game, and they’ll need to upset a couple of conference opponents to finish as a ranked team.

 

 

20        Texas

Last Season:             5-7

Key Games:              9/16 at USC, 10/14 vs. Oklahoma, 10/21 vs. Oklahoma St.

Here’s what I find interesting. IF the South Florida Bulls do as well as most are predicting in Charlie Strong’s first year as head coach there, what does it say about his ability?? And IF the Longhorns bounce back from a long stretch of mediocrity as well, does credit have to be given to new head coach Tom Herman, or will it be because Strong recruited well and the suits in Austin pulled the plug on him too soon?? It’s a conversation I’ll be looking forward to throughout the season. I don’t think Texas is going to suddenly be a threat to win 10 games or compete for the Big 12 title, but if they can pull off an upset or two, play Southern Cal tough in the opener, and ultimately win 8 games I think this spot would be well earned.

 

 

21        Stanford

Last Season:             10-3

Key Games:              9/9 at USC, 9/23 vs. UCLA, 11/10 vs. Washington, 11/25 vs. Notre Dame

Contrary to what the folks in SEC territory would have us believe I happen to think that the Big Ten & Pac 12 are the toughest football conferences in America. Stanford always seems to be in the mix near the top, and I have no reason to foresee anything different this season. They’ll need to score a couple of big upsets, and the fact that 3 of the 4 key games I have noted are being played in Palo Alto should certainly help the cause. Look for an 8 or 9 win season and a ranking somewhere in the lower portion of the Top 25.

 

 

22        LSU

Last Season:             8-4

Key Games:              10/7 at Florida, 10/14 vs. Auburn, 11/4 at Alabama

Allow me to say something controversial. I think Leonard Fournette was an overrated college running back that will have a relatively short and very average NFL career. There…I said it!! At any rate, I don’t believe Fournette’s departure will have that much of an impact on the Bayou Bengals. Actually it may help not having him as a distraction. What doesn’t help is a schedule that includes trips to The Swamp and Tuscaloosa. 9 wins and a 3rd place finish in their division looks like the ceiling, and that’d be good enough to finish as a ranked team. Head coach Ed Orgeron is firmly entrenched as the head coach for now, but I have to believe that he’s on a short leash. He’ll get two seasons to prove his worth, and probably needs to win 8 or 9 games each year.

 

 

23        Miami (FL)

Last Season:             9-4

Key Games:              9/16 at Florida St., 11/4 vs. Virginia Tech, 11/11 vs. Notre Dame

Head coach Mark Richt acquitted himself quite nicely in his first season in Coral Gables, as the ‘Canes continue to hover on the fringes of their former glory. With the ACC raising the bar and being one of the better conferences I have a difficult time seeing them making any kind of significant leap in 2017. However, if they can win a couple of key games and beat all of the teams they’re supposed to defeat I don’t think equaling last year’s success is an unreasonable expectation.

 

 

24        UCLA

Last Season:             4-8    

Key Games:              9/23 at Stanford, 10/28 at Washington, 11/18 at USC

Despite recent comments that “football and school don’t go together” (a statement that might contain a kernel of truth but should never be verbalized) I like QB Josh Rosen. He’ll be a first round NFL draft pick next spring, and his importance became clear when the Bruins lost 4 out of their final 5 games when Rosen suffered a season ending shoulder injury last year. The Pac 12 is super tough, but I think UCLA flips the script and wins 8 games.

 

 

25          Notre Dame

Last Season:             4-8

Key Games:              9/9 vs. Georgia, 10/21 vs. USC, 11/11 at Miami (FL), 11/25 at Stanford

Surely the beloved Fighting Irish won’t finish with a losing record two years in a row?? If they could pull off one…or two…upsets sneaking into the rankings seems like a solid possibility. Conversely, another bad year might mean the end of the road for head coach Brian Kelly.

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2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

football_goalFirst things first. Last week both Zach and I went 2-3. We would’ve done better if the Bengals would’ve score another couple of points or if Texas Tech had played anything resembling defense. At any rate we move on. The college schedule is a little more appetizing this week, and atleast we now have some evidence on which to base NFL picks, so I am hoping we improve our accuracy from now on.

My Season:     6-6

Z’s Season:     4-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida St. (-2.5)           at      Louisville
Florida_State_SeminolesThe Seminoles are 2-0 but haven’t really been tested yet. The Cardinals are also 2-0 but haven’t played anyone. This is a matchup of Louisville-Cardinalstwo Top 10 teams and Louisville has the home field, but I think they are probably overrated. I don’t believe Florida St. will have any problems winning easily. Conversely, Zach really likes Louisville’s big play QB and thinks he’ll get the job done in a shootout.

My Pick:     Florida State

Z’s Pick:     Louisville

 

 

Michigan St.                at      Notre Dame (-7.5)

A year ago this was a marquee matchup, and while it is still interesting I don’t think anyone will deny that neither team is as good as they were in Michigan_State_Spartans2015. The Spartans have only played one game, beating Furman by just two TDs. The Irish are 1-1 and have the home field. Despite that fact I’m going to pick the upset. I think it’ll be a tight game decided in the final five minutes. Zach agrees that Michigan St. will win, although he believes they’ll put a 17 point beatdown on Notre Dame. I’d be okay with that.

My Pick:     Michigan State

Z’s Pick:     Michigan State

 

 

Ohio St.     (-2)             at      Oklahoma

Ohio_State_BuckeyesThe Sooners are still slapping themselves upside the head trying to figure out what went wrong in the season opening loss to oklahomaHouston. They rebounded by beating up a speck of dust last week but that means nothing. Meanwhile, after losing half their team to the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes look like they haven’t missed a beat, although they haven’t played an opponent worthy of their best effort yet. That all changes this week. If it were just about any other team I might pick the upset, but I don’t believe Urban Meyer will allow Ohio St. to let their foot off the gas. As a matter of fact they might actually play better against good competition. Zach has an irrational animosity toward Ohio St. that clouds his judgment.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma

 

 

Seattle                at                LA Rams

I can’t find odds for this game, but does it really matter?? The Seahawks can, should, & will win easily. Zach concurs.seattle-seahawks1

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Seattle

 

 

Green Bay (-2.5)                   at      Minnesota

Both teams are off to a 1-0 start, with the Vikings having defeated the Titans on the road and the Packers squeaking by the Jags, also on the road. This Green_Bay_Packers_Helmetis the Sunday night game on NBC and will be the inaugural game played in Minnesota’s fancy new stadium. I had pretty much given up on the Vikes after QB Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season to a knee injury, but their defense bailed them out in the season opener. It’s just a matter of time before newly acquired Sam Bradford replaces journeyman Shaun Hill behind center, but I’m not sure that is all that much of a confidence booster. As much as I’d love to see Minnesota christen their new digs with a victory I’d be shocked if it actually happened. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay