2022 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 3

The NFL season kicks off Thursday night, so y’all are getting bonus picks!! Honestly…it has nothing to do with the fact that I was 2-3 last week and Zach extended his season lead by going 3-2. Nothing at all. Really. There are intriguing matchups in the college ranks as well, despite the fact that many teams are still in the non-conference portion of their schedule. We’ll talk more about the college playoff next week, but atleast in this moment we’re all the beneficiaries of programs chasing those scant four spots by beefing up their early season slate. Enjoy it while you still can. 

My Season: 3-7

Zach’s Season: 7-3

Alabama (-20.5) at Texas 

A decade ago this would’ve been a marquee matchup. The talking heads will still try to sell it as such, relying on the history & tradition of both programs. However, the truth is that Texas has only had one ten win season since ‘Bama beat them in the 2010 National Championship Game. The Longhorns are pinning all their hopes on freshman QB Quinn Ewers and will be making an idiotic move to the SEC in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, Nick Saban opined awhile back that last season…in which they were 13-2 & lost the national title to Georgia…was a rebuilding year for the Tide. So despite any creative PR tactics the fact is that anything else besides Texas getting their ass handed to them would be a surprise. Having said that, the points are kind of eye opening, given the fact this game is being played in Austin (Alabama’s first trip there in 100 years). Can the home team atleast keep it respectable?? Sadly I don’t believe they will. Zach observes that ‘Bama is consistently well coached, disciplined, & fundamentally solid, while Texas is merely mediocre. He thinks that may change when QB Arch Manning arrives on campus next year, but for now believes this will be an easy win for the visitors. 

My Pick: Alabama 

Z’s Pick: Alabama 

Houston at Texas Tech (-3)

The Cougars went into three overtimes before defeating the UTSA Roadrunners in the season opener. Conversely, the Red Raiders beat the snot out of Murray St. Houston is better than what we saw last weekend, while Tech will be facing legit competition for the first time, so I expect an entertaining contest, but I think the home favorites get a solid victory. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Texas Tech

Z’s Pick: Texas Tech 

Iowa State at Iowa (-3.5)

With all the realignment hullabaloo one would think the powers-that-be could get these two in the same conference, but not thus far. The Cyclones beat up a glorified high school team to open the season (one reason why they’ll not be playoff contenders), while the Hawkeyes barely defeated South Dakota St. in an epic 7-3 battle that was either a masterpiece of defense or set the game of football back several decades. I didn’t see the game or any…highlights…so I cannot intelligently opine. At any rate, this is the first real test for both teams and I’m expecting good things. It’ll be on the Big Ten Network and I’ll certainly check it out. I think State will score the mild upset. Zach believes we’re in for a low scoring defensive battle that the home team will win.

My Pick: Iowa State 

Z’s Pick: Iowa

Arizona State at Oklahoma State (-11.5)

I have lofty expectations for the Cowboys, but it’s a bit alarming that they allowed Central Michigan to score 44 points last weekend. Will their offense need to score nearly 60 points in every game?? Conversely, the Sun Devils’ defense allowed only a field goal in their nearly 40 point season opening win. I love my guy Herm Edwards, but it’s way too early to abandon my bold preseason predictions, so I’m going with the home favorites. Zach notes that OK St. consistently underperforms & doesn’t seem to live up to their potential, which is true. However, he likes the home field in this one and foresees a big blowout win for the Cowboys.

My Pick: Oklahoma State 

Z’s Pick: Oklahoma State 

USC (-9) at Stanford 

Everybody is paying attention to the Trojans once again, and they got things started off right with a 66-14 beatdown of Rice. Stanford also won their prosaic season opener. And now, while some teams are pussyfooting around with clearly inferior opponents & others are trying to gain attention with aggressively scheduled non-conferences clashes, these teams are diving right into the conference scrum. Stanford has the home field, and I think that’s significant. Do I believe the home underdogs will win?? No. However, I foresee a closer than expected contest that Southern Cal wins by only a touchdown. Zach thinks USC will cover with a hard fought double digit victory. 

My Pick: Stanford 

Z’s Pick:  USC

Baylor at BYU (-3)

The Bears beat someone unimportant by nearly 60 points in the season opener. Obviously they’re not serious about being a playoff contender. BYU could go undefeated and still get left out of the playoff conversation, but kudos to them for scheduling decent competition to open the season and getting a solid victory. This could be the game of the week, so if you’re not doing anything on Saturday night at 10pm tune into ESPN & check it out. These were two Top 10 teams in my preseason poll, so I have high expectations. The Cougars have the home field and I predict that’ll matter late in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach thinks it’ll be Baylor’s defense that’ll come up big late in the game to secure a win.

My Pick: BYU

Z’s Pick: Baylor 

Buffalo (-2.5) at LA Rams 

The Bills are a solid Super Bowl favorite, while very few seem to be giving the defending champion Rams as much respect as they probably deserve. They aren’t even favored at home. Could this be a Super Bowl preview?? Maybe…maybe not. Either way it’s a hell of a way to kick off the season, and I think it’ll be a close game. Things might go differently in February, but for now I believe the underdogs will defend their turf & prove their title run wasn’t a fluke. Zach agrees, opining that the Bills may be a bit overrated. 

My Pick: LA Rams 

Z’s Pick: LA Rams 

Kansas City (-4.5) at Arizona 

It feels like both teams should be getting more love, but the fact that they compete in the two most stacked divisions in the NFL means they both have difficult paths to the Super Bowl. Have defenses figured Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes out after five seasons?? Perhaps, but the biggest reason people are doubting him right now is the departure of receiver Tyreek Hill. Can a pass catching corps of Mecole Hardman, former Steeler Juju Schuster, rookie Skyy Moore, & veteran tight end Travis Kelce pick up the slack & fill the void left by one of the most exciting players in the league?? The Cardinals are another team being disrespected on their home field, but there are reasonable doubts. Former Raven Hollywood Brown was a nice acquisition for the receiving corps, especially given the six game suspension of DeAndre Hopkins, but AJ Green is 34 years old & not the same receiver he used to be. Having said that, I’m more concerned with Arizona’s defense. JJ Watt has lost a step and Tyrann Matthieu signed with the Saints. I think this will be a shootout, but KC has a little too much firepower and will take over in the 4th quarter. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Kansas City

Z’s Pick: Kansas City

Las Vegas at LA Chargers (-3)

As previously mentioned, the AFC West is going to be a dogfight, and we might look back on this one a few months from now & realize it was more important than we realized. I’m a Derek Carr fan, and it’s going to be fun watching him throw passes to former Packer Davante Adams. Unfortunately I think Adams is going to face a lot of double coverage, so it’ll be up to the rest of a rather pedestrian receiving corps to step up, RB Josh Jacobs to fulfill his potential, & tight end Darren Waller to return to his Pro Bowl form of 2020 after a subpar, injury riddled season last year. Don’t sleep on their defense, which added former Cardinals’ pass rusher Chandler Jones. The Chargers fell into the abyss a few years ago but have slowly been rebuilding with the likes of QB Justin Herbert & linebacker Joey Bosa, and they’ve added former Raider & Bear Khalil Mack, who can still be a beast despite the fact he’s on the wrong side of 30. If the Chargers can avoid major injuries their defense will be a force and the team could surprise people. Having said that, I’m picking the mild upset this week. Zach agrees. 

My Pick: Las Vegas 

Z’s Pick: Las Vegas 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 12

A couple of random thoughts…

The college football playoff…at this moment…would be Georgia vs. Ohio St. & Alabama vs. Oregon. However, we know that Georgia & Alabama are playing each other in the SEC title game so things will change. Undefeated Cincinnati sits at #5, but even if they finish unbeaten I don’t know if they’ll be included, and quite honestly I am not so sure they’d deserve to be anyway. As far as the Heisman, I like RB Kenneth Walker from Michigan St., QB Matt Corral of the Ole Miss Rebels, & Ohio St. RB Treyveon Henderson. Let’s see who grabs the opportunity to shine when Walker & Henderson go head to head this weekend. Okay, so…Zach (0-5) had a pretty bad week, while I (3-2) was average, meaning I’ve extended the season lead to five games (I’m still below .500 though). We’ll probably be doing some extra picks in the next few weeks as college football reaches its regular season climax and the NFL rounds the turn into its second half. 

My Season: 34-38

Zach’s Season: 29-43

Michigan State at Ohio State (-19.5)

I really don’t understand the points. These are two Top 10 teams that are in the playoff conversation. The advantage the Buckeyes have is their one loss came way back in September to Oregon, while the Spartans stumbled just a couple of weeks ago at Purdue. Timing matters, in life and in college football. Let’s not overlook the fact that the winner here most likely secures a spot in the Big Ten title game, and with a victory Michigan St. would hold head-to-head tiebreakers over Michigan & Ohio St. ESPN’s College Gameday will be on the scene just in case anyone didn’t get the memo that it’s a rather huge matchup. I think the home team will win, and they may even do it comfortably…but by almost three TDs?? Nah!! That’s crazy. Zach thinks Ohio St. is building momentum & peaking at the right time, but he also considers Michigan St. running back Kenneth Walker to be the Heisman frontrunner. Ultimately the points are just too much for him too. 

My Pick: Michigan State 

Z’s Pick:  Michigan State

UCLA (-3) at Southern Cal

The Battle of Los Angeles has definitely lost its luster hasn’t it?? The Bruins initially looked like they might be pretty good this year, but have lost two of their last three games and sit at 6-4. Everyone keeps waiting for head coach Chip Kelly to turn things around, and to his credit this is his first winning season at UCLA in his fourth year, but mediocre isn’t going to cut it so his seat may be a bit warm. The 4-5 Trojans already fired their head coach back in September and are probably under the delusion that they can make a big splash with whomever they hire next. Perhaps they will, I don’t know. At any rate, once upon a time this would’ve been the prime time game on ESPN/ABC or Fox, but instead we’re getting a 4pm kickoff, and I have no idea what to expect. There is no significant home advantage since the two schools are less than an hour apart. It’s a coin flip for me, and in that scenario I always pull for the underdog. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe it’ll be much of a game and likes the visitors to win big.

My Pick: Southern Cal

Z’s Pick: UCLA

Oregon at Utah (-3)

There is a lot at stake here. The Ducks are all but locked into the PAC 12 title game, but they’re also in the playoff conversation and cannot afford a misstep. The Utes are battling Arizona St. for a berth in the conference title game, so we could see these two in a rematch next month. This is the prime time game on ABC, and I’m happy I don’t have any plans so I can stay home to watch. Y’all know I love me some playoff chaos, but you may also recall that I predicted Oregon would be in the Final Four, so my pride is contending with my preference as a fan. At the end of the day I feel like the home field plays a significant role in games like this, which is why I’m leaning toward Utah. Zach foresees a fun, high scoring game and thinks Oregon will do enough to win and remain in the playoff hunt. 

My Pick: Utah 

Z’s Pick: Oregon 

Detroit at Cleveland (-10)

The damn Lions somehow managed to tie our Steelers last week!! I know Pittsburgh was playing with a backup quarterback, but still…it was embarrassing. Can Detroit take things a step further & get over the hump this week?? Meanwhile, as I predicted, the 5-5 Browns haven’t met their unreasonably high expectations. QB Baker Mayfield has never lived up to the hype that comes with winning the Heisman Trophy and being the #1 overall draft pick, although, to be fair, it is rare that anyone justifies those lofty expectations. However, the AFC North is up for grabs and everything can change in the second half of the season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Detroit score the upset & get their first win since December 6, 2020, but I’m not counting on it. I do think they’ll keep it close though. Zach’s opinion of both teams is pretty low, but after an embarrassing beatdown by the Patriots he believes Cleveland will rebound.

My Pick: Detroit 

Z’s Pick: Cleveland 

Dallas at Kansas City (-2.5)

Are the Chiefs back?? Everyone had kind of given up on them until they beat the Rodgers-less Packers & followed that up with a proper thrashing of the Raiders on Sunday night. Now  the bandwagon seems to be full again. Meanwhile, the 7-2 Cowboys have had a stumble or two but otherwise they’ve mostly taken care of business throughout the season. Did you know that the Chiefs actually used to be the Cowboys?? Well, okay, not really. In the old days, when the AFL was a thing in the 1960s, one of their franchises was the Dallas Texans. At the same time the NFL expanded and the Cowboys were born. I guess Dallas wasn’t big enough for both teams, so the Texans relocated to Missouri (not Kansas) and became the Chiefs. At any rate, I think the home field is important and believe KC will get just enough big plays out of their high powered offense to score a close victory. Zach likes Dallas in a high scoring upset. 

My Pick: Kansas City 

Z’s Pick: Dallas 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 6

Frustrating. That’s the word I’d use to describe the football season thus far. Both my WV Mountaineers and alma mater’s Marshall Thundering Herd have struggled. My five fantasy teams are a combined 4-16. In hindsight both my NFL Preview & preseason poll were way off base. My picks here haven’t gone well at all. Obviously in the grand scheme of life none of it is important, but as a lifelong football fan I pride myself on a certain level of insight about the game, and not knowing diddly squat this year is…unpleasant. At any rate, both myself & Zach were 3-5 last week, so we’ll try to do better. I suppose we can’t do much worse. 

My Season: 14-20

Zach’s Season: 13-21

Oklahoma (-3.5) vs. Texas

The talking heads won’t call it the Red River Shootout anymore, but I still do. The Sooners are 5-0, but haven’t really been blowing anyone away. QB Spencer Rattler is no longer a Heisman favorite, although the team is still in playoff contention. The Longhorns are 4-1 and no one is really talking about them. Can they change that?? As always this is a neutral site game being played in Dallas, and ESPN College Gameday will be on the scene. The Vibes are speaking to me, so I’m picking an upset that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has really been paying attention. The SEC would then have a clear path to putting two teams in the playoff. Zach isn’t sold on Oklahoma and likes new Texas QB Casey Thompson, so he too is thinking upset. 

My Pick: Texas 

Z’s Pick: Texas

Utah at USC (-3.5)

I’m going to give y’all a little inside information. I don’t have much of a life. No wife or girlfriend. No kids. Not much money. I haven’t been a party animal for many years. So on crisp autumn Saturday nights, while others may be doing cool stuff like bonfires or something involving flannel & pumpkin spice, I’m curled up in front of the TV watching college football. And since I’m a night owl I love it when there are compelling west coast games. It’s even better when I have a stake in the outcome, which is why you oftentimes see such matchups here. The Utes are 2-2, and most probably expected better. That triple OT loss to San Diego St. had to sting. Meanwhile, the Trojans are 3-2 and already made a coaching change. This game will set the tone for both teams for the remainder of the season, so it’s pretty big. I know the favorites have the home field, but I smell an upset brewing. Zach believes both clubs are mediocre at best, but he likes the home team to win a close one.

My Pick: Utah 

Z’s Pick: USC

UCLA (-16) at Arizona

College football is just better when the PAC 12 is deep & competitive, and as much as I love underdogs I must admit it’s also more interesting when traditional powers like UCLA are winning games. The Bruins are 3-2 and look like they’re going to have an up & down, inconsistent season. Conversely, the Wildcats are quite consistent. At 0-4 they have been consistently bad. There’s no doubt that the favorites will win the game, but can Arizona muster enough moxy to not get blown out on their home field?? I think maybe they can. Zach really likes Bruins’ RB Zach Charbonnet, a Michigan transfer. He’s a little concerned about the points, but all in on UCLA winning big.

My Pick: Arizona 

Z’s Pick: UCLA

Penn St. at Iowa (-2)

I’m not sure anyone would have predicted a month ago that this would be a battle of two undefeated Top 5 teams, but that’s how things have shaken out. The winner isn’t guaranteed anything since Ohio St. & Michigan are still in the picture, but a victory sure wouldn’t hurt. This is a 4pm start on Fox, which means Gus Johnson will probably be doing play-by-play, and that dude could make paint drying or ice melting into an event. The Hawkeyes get the requisite home field bump, but essentially it’s a pick ‘em, and I think the Nittany Lions have more big play potential. Conversely, Zach believes the home field advantage at Kinnick Stadium is among the best in the nation and will contribute to the Hawkeyes grabbing a thrilling victory. 

My Pick: Penn St. 

Z’s Pick: Iowa 

Cleveland at LA Chargers (even)

As much as I hate to admit it the Browns look like they might live up to the hype. Maybe. At 3-1 they are in a logjam atop the AFC North, so this could be a rather important contest when it comes to playoffs, wild cards, and such. The 3-1 Chargers also find themselves tied for the lead in their division, though they’ve already beaten both the Chiefs & the Raiders. I haven’t gotten a lot right so far when it comes to my preseason prognostications, but the Chargers winning the AFC West is starting to look legit. I have to go with the home team in this one, because I just think Justin Herbert is a better quarterback than Baker Mayfield. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Los Angeles 

Z’s Pick: Los Angeles 

Buffalo at Kansas City (-3)

It’s going down at Arrowhead!! Look, KC hasn’t been as elite as usual in losses to Baltimore & the LA Chargers, but they’re still a dangerous playoff contender that absolutely no one wants to play. Having said that, Buffalo is the better team right now, with an inexplicable season opening loss to my fading Steelers being the only blemish on their record. This is the Sunday night game, and I know I’ll be glued to the television. I think the home field is huge in this one, so I have to believe the Chiefs will win by a touchdown. Zach, on the other hand, is boldly predicting a huge statement win for the Bills. 

My Pick: Kansas City 

Z’s Pick: Buffalo 

Indianapolis at Baltimore (-7)

Full disclosure…this game is on the docket because WWE wrasslin’ has been a real snoozefest lately and I like to have a reason to be invested in Monday Night Football. On paper Baltimore looks like the clear cut superior team. Injuries have torpedoed Indy’s season, although there is still time to rebound. If QB Carson Wentz can remain healthy 😬 he atleast gives his team a fighting chance, which is what I’m counting on. I’m not sure if the Colts can pull off the outright upset, but I think they can keep it close. Zach is a little concerned about the points so he’s on the same page. 

My Pick: Indianapolis 

Z’s Pick: Indianapolis 

2021 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

So…it took football to pull me out of the abyss. Y’all may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything here for about six months. There are reasons for that, but this isn’t the time for such a therapy session.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to college football. I am excited about its return, and so glad there will be crowded stadiums once again this season. Watching games just wasn’t the same a year ago, and it didn’t help that one never knew how things might be affected week to week by The Sickness. The chaos this offseason though hasn’t been virus related. There is talk of expanding the playoff. That’s not surprising, but I’m not a fan of a 16 team playoff…I like the idea of 6, or 8 at most. Players are also legally able to get paid now. I don’t know all the ins & outs so I’ll tread lightly and just say it is what it is and I’m not all that enthused about it. Conference realignment is back too, as Texas & Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 in a few years and heading the SEC. More dominoes will fall, and the landscape will change dramatically in the near future.

Having said all that, I am thrilled that football and the relative normalcy of enjoying it as a fan has come back into our lives. I’m happy to do this preseason poll, the upcoming NFL Preview, and weekly picks with my nephew. And I’m damn sure blessed to have this little corner of the info superhighway.

25 Liberty

Last Season: 10-1

Key Games:   9/24@ Syracuse, 11/6@ Ole Miss, 11/20 vs. Lousiana, 11/27 vs. Army

In just their second full season in the FBS division the Flames were 10-1, with road victories over Syracuse & Virginia Tech. Can they have similar success this year?? Maybe. They face the Orange again, then finish the regular season by traveling to Ole Miss then hosting Louisiana & Army. Liberty will need to win 10 games again to sneak into the rankings, but I think that’s doable if they split those four games.

24 West Virginia

Last Season:     6-4

Key Games:     9/18 vs. Virginia Tech, 9/25@ Oklahoma, 10/30 vs. Iowa St., 11/20 vs. Texas

Neal Brown enters his third season as the Mountaineers’ head coach, and it’s time to prove to fans that we really can “trust the climb”. As a lifelong resident of the Mountain State I’m looking for nine wins. As much as we’d love to be in the playoff conversation the truth is that most WVU fans are smart enough to not expect that on a regular basis, but winning 8 or 9 games and playing in a top tier bowl should never be out of reach. If Brown can pull off a couple of upsets and land in the rankings at the end we’ll be more inclined to give him our trust.

23 North Carolina

Last Season:     8-4

Key Games:  10/9 vs. Florida St., 10/16 vs. Miami (FL), 10/30@ Notre Dame

Most polls have the Tar Heels ranked much higher, but I’m just not buying it. I like head coach Mack Brown and I’m glad he’s re-energized his career after things fizzled out at Texas, but the ACC is sneaky tough. No one knows what to expect from Florida St. these days, but I’ll always consider that a tough game. UNC has the Hurricanes of Miami at home, which should be a great game, but I don’t believe they’ll beat the Irish in South Bend. This feels like another 8-ish win season. Not bad…but not elite.

22 Iowa

Last Season:     6-2

Key Games:    9/11@ Iowa St., 10/9 vs. Penn St., 10/30@ Wisconsin

I’m a big fan of good old fashioned smashmouth football, and we can usually count on Big Ten teams like the Hawkeyes to have a huge offensive line that makes that even more fun. While I do not believe that Iowa is a threat to win the conference I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull off an upset or two and win 8 or 9 games.

21 USC

Last Season:     5-1

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Utah, 11/6@ Arizona St., 11/27 vs. BYU

Southern Cal has been decent the past couple of years, but let’s face it…that’s not good enough for one of the premier programs in college football. Clay Helton enters his sixth season as the Trojans’ head coach, and I have to believe his seat might be getting a bit warm. The October game against Utah could make or break the season.

20 Coastal Carolina

Last Season:     11-1

Key Games:     9/10 vs. Kansas, 10/20@ Appalachian St.

A chanticleer, in case you’re curious, is a rooster. Why the powers-that-be have not booked a Coastal vs. South Carolina game is beyond me…I’ll let y’all figure out why that would be marketing nirvana. At any rate, Coastal was an overtime loss in the Cure Bowl against Liberty from going undefeated last season, and I don’t expect much of a dropoff. The Kansas Jayhawks are rarely very good in football, but a victory over a Big 12 team would be impressive for Coastal. If you’d have told me a few years ago that a Coastal Carolina/Appalachian State game would be intriguing I would not have believed it, but I have a feeling my eyes will be glued to the TV on October 20.

19 Miami (FL)

Last Season:    8-3

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Alabama, 9/18 vs. Michigan St., 10/16@ North Carolina

Much like USC the ‘Canes usually have higher goals than 8/9 wins and a Top 25 finish, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and after several lean years Miami is back to atleast being pretty good. Can they compete for an ACC title?? Ehhh…maybe, although I’d consider it a long shot. As much as I would love to see an upset of Alabama in the season opener I do not think that’ll happen, but wins over Michigan State & UNC are not out of the question.

18 Army

Last Season:     9-3

Key Games:     10/16@ Wisconsin, 11/27@ Liberty

I’ve always been a big fan of the service academies’ football games for a variety of reasons, and it has been fun to watch the Black Knights’ success, as they’ve won 9+ games three out of the past four years (I’m not sure what happened in 2019). Do I think they’ll go into Madison and upset the Badgers?? No. Do I think they can go into enemy territory and beat Liberty?? Absolutely. Another nine win season should assure an appearance in the final rankings, and I believe that’s exactly what we’ll see.

17 Arizona State

Last Season:     2-2

Key Games:     9/18@ BYU, 10/16@ Utah, 11/6 vs. USC, 11/13@ Washington

I have expressed my admiration for head coach Herm Edwards in the past. How can anyone not like Herm?? This will be his fourth year at the helm in Tempe, and they had winning records in the first two before last season’s weirdness. Can they kick it up a notch to the next level?? The Pac 12 is kind of a mystery. On paper the conference looks loaded, but inevitably someone is going to have a worse season than expected. If the Sun Devils lose all four of they key games noted above then…surprise…they are that team and the joke is on me, which is entirely possible. However, I’m betting on my man Herm to not let me down.

16 LSU

Last Season:     5-5

Key Games:   10/2 vs. Auburn, 10/16 vs. Florida, 11/6@ Alabama, 11/27 vs. Texas A&M

Which Bayou Bengals’ team will we see this year?? Will it be the one that won 10+ games six times in ten years and captured national championships in 2017 & 2019, or the one that finished .500 last season?? Since 2020 was such a strange year on multiple levels I’ll give LSU the benefit of the doubt and assume their season was an anomaly. However, I still don’t foresee them being in the conference title hunt or the playoff discussion. They will need to atleast split the key games noted to have a chance at a solid Top 25 finish.

15 Penn State

Last Season:    4-5

Key Games:     9/4@ Wisconsin, 9/18 vs. Auburn, 10/9@ Iowa, 10/30@ Ohio St.

Not only is the Big Ten stacked, but the Nittany Lions are coming off a losing season, so this prediction makes me a bit nervous. Before last year (which I won’t really take all that seriously given the circumstances) Penn St. had won 11 games in three out of the previous four seasons (they won nine in 2018), so there’s no reason to believe they’ll fall off a cliff. I don’t think they will beat Ohio St. at The Horseshoe, but if they can defeat Auburn at home then split road games at Wisconsin & Iowa they could be looking at a solid Top 25 finish.

14 Wisconsin

Last Season:     4-3

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Penn St., 9/25 vs. Notre Dame, 10/30 vs. Iowa

It’s not so much about including Wisconsin as much as the fact that I simply don’t see a way to leave them out. Other Big Ten teams will get more TV coverage and love from the talking heads, but the Badgers will still line up, ram the ball down opponents’ throats, and grind out ugly wins. That’s what they do, and at some point in late November folks will be looking at the polls and saying “Wisconsin?? Where’d they come from??”.

13 Texas

Last Season:     7-3

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Oklahoma, 11/6@ Iowa St.

The Longhorns still play in the Big 12 and they better enjoy it while they can because I believe they will be very average in the SEC. The winner of the Texas/Iowa St. game in early November will likely meet Oklahoma in the conference title game, although a Texas victory in the Red River Shootout could throw a monkey wrench into that scenario.

12 Cincinnati

Last Season:     9-1

Key Games:     9/18@ Indiana, 10/2@ Notre Dame

I get it, but then again I don’t. A year ago the Bearcats won nine games and finished as a Top 10 team. But that season included victories over Army, SMU, Tulsa, & Central Florida being considered the most impressive. A loss to Georgia in the Peach Bowl was close, but still a loss. So armed with that information I have to believe that a similar season, including another AAC title, could land Cincy back in the same general vicinity. Indiana doesn’t appear in this poll because I think the Big Ten is just too tough and they won’t repeat the same level of success they enjoyed last season, but it’s an important game for Cincinnati. I do not believe a win over Notre Dame is possible, but if the road team can keep it respectably close they could actually gain respect.

11 Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-1

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Alabama, 11/27@ LSU

I will continue to opine that moving from the Big 12 to the SEC was an error in judgment for the Aggies, atleast from a football perspective. God knows they’re enjoying the financial windfall. However, I have also stated that I think head coach Jimbo Fisher (who graduated from the same high school as me, just a few years earlier) is building something in College Station. Will they contend for an SEC title with so many elite teams standing in their way?? I wouldn’t hold my breath for that, but I don’t think an upset or two and a 10 win season is out of reach.

10 Iowa State

Last Season:     9-3

Key Games:     9/11 vs. Iowa, 11/6 vs. Texas, 11/20@ Oklahoma

The Cyclones have been a dangerous team for awhile, and with QB Brock Purdy entering his senior season now seems like a great time to fulfill all that potential. An out of conference game against in state foe Iowa looks intriguing, especially since it’s in Ames, and I think they’ll beat Texas.

9 BYU

Last Season:     11-1

Key Games:     9/11 vs. Utah, 9/18 vs. Arizona St., 10/9 vs. Boise St., 10/16@ Baylor

The Cougars intrigue me. When the aforementioned conference realignment dominoes begin to fall I think BYU will end up with a new home. Pac 12?? Big 12?? Who knows?? Until then part of the fun of them being independent is the schedule, which quite literally all over the map. I am particularly fascinated by the October contest against Boise, who I chose to leave out of this poll though I’m sure they’ll be as competitive as usual. Ranking BYU this high has been a mistake before, but ignoring them has been equally as wrong. They are quite the football enigma, and I dig that.

8 Florida

Last Season:     8-4

Key Games:    9/18 vs. Alabama, 10/16@ LSU, 10/30 vs. Georgia

I’m sure football fans in the deep south enjoy the hell out of the SEC’s dominance, but for the rest of us it has become exhausting. That being said, when doing a poll like this one must decide which teams to include and which ones to leave out, and the fact is I cannot avoid ranking less than five deserving programs. The Gators host ‘Bama but have to go to Death Valley to face LSU. A game against Georgia comes after a bye week which could be advantageous. I expect Florida to lose two of those three games, but they should win everything else with relative ease.

7 Clemson

Last Season:     10-2

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Georgia

Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been?? A loss to the likes of UNC or Miami in the conference title game might be enough to cost them a playoff spot. Am I brave enough to lay money down on that prospect?? Of course not. But it’s a fun scenario to ponder.

6 Alabama

Last Season:     13-0

Key Games:    9/18@ Florida, 10/9@ Texas A&M, 11/6 vs. LSU

I know it’s wrong, but I cannot help myself. With all due respect to Nick Saban & The Tide I will once again opine that I’m simply tired of them. Their dynasty has become tedious. It is likely that this prediction is way off base, that ‘Bama will inevitably find themselves in the playoff even if they lose the SEC title game. The truth is that television (specifically ESPN) controls the college football narrative, and Alabama is good for business. But this is my poll, so indulge me in a little wish fulfillment in which the almighty defending champs stumble once or twice and finish on the outside looking in.

5 Oklahoma

Last Season:     9-2

Key Games:     10/9 vs. Texas, 11/20 vs. Iowa St.

A decade from now I believe the Sooners will regret jumping from the Big 12 to the SEC, but that hasn’t occurred quite yet. For now their path to the playoff doesn’t seem all that tough outside of implicit disrespect of the Big 12, and that may bite them in the ass, especially if Notre Dame takes a playoff spot. The schedule lines up in their favor, with out of conference games they should win easily and Iowa State coming to Norman. The Red River Shootout is, as usual, a neutral site game in Dallas.

4 Notre Dame

Last Season:     10-2

Key Games:     9/25 vs. Wisconsin, 10/23 vs. USC, 10/30 vs. North Carolina

The Irish will always be in the playoff conversation as long as the team is winning games. I don’t know how conference realignment will affect them, but for now the status quo tilts in their favor. All of their key games are in South Bend, and we’ll know by the time November rolls around if they are serious championship contenders.

3 Oregon

Last Season:     4-3

Key Games:     9/11@ Ohio St., 11/20@ Utah

The Pac 12 really messed up last year by preemptively cancelling their season then reconsidering and ultimately having an abbreviated season. I assume there are too many indoctrinated Californians at the top of the conference management food chain. Anyway, the Ducks seem to be headed in the right direction after a rough go of it in 2016 & 2017. This will be the fourth year under head coach Mario Cristobal, and I foresee good things ahead, even assuming a season opening loss in Columbus.

2 Georgia

Last Season:     8-2

Key Games:     9/4 vs. Clemson, 10/30 vs. Florida

Can the Bulldogs upset the Crimson Tide and roll into the playoff themselves?? It won’t be easy. The SEC is stacked and that season opener against Clemson is brutal. That’s a neutral site game in Charlotte, and the winner certainly has a leg up on the competition. Having said that, I think it is entirely plausible that Georgia could lose that game, win every game afterward, defeat Alabama in the SEC title game, and still end up in the playoff.

1 Ohio State

Last Season:     7-1

Key Games:     9/11 vs. Oregon, 10/30 vs. Penn St., 11/27@ Michigan

Let me be clear…I didn’t think the Buckeyes should have been anywhere near the playoff last season. They only played six regular season games. Regardless of the circumstances I believe an eight game minimum threshold should have been in place to get into the Final Four. That did not happen, and I can’t blame them for taking full advantage. Every indication seems to point to another wildly successful campaign, as I don’t see any other Big Ten team capable of stopping them, unless Michigan shocks the world.





2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 2

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. – Robert Burns

 

I know what you’re thinking…”Week 2?? What happened to Week 1??”.  Well, your humble Potentate of Profundity made a slight miscalculation. We did actually make picks, but due to a new work schedule (well new since last football season anyway) for myself and a busier than usual weekend I just didn’t get anything written & posted. In years past I could hammer out something quick on Saturday morning before kickoff if necessary, but that’s not the case anymore and last weekend it just messed up the whole deal. At any rate, in life one must learn to occasionally adapt on the fly, so that’s what we’re doing. Zach & I made picks on the following games a week ago: South Carolina/North Carolina, Northwestern/Stanford, Boise St./Florida St., USC/Fresno St., & Oregon/Auburn. Zach went 1-4, while I fared slightly better at 2-3 (thank you Southern Cal for not covering the points). Not exactly the beginning either of us hoped for, but we’ll just move on. The NFL begins their season this week, so to celebrate that and to make up for my previous error it seems like a fine idea to do some bonus picks. Enjoy.

Sam’s Season:   2-3

Zach’s Season:  1-4

 

 

 

 

 

Syracuse           at                Maryland (-2)

So I guess…after almost two decades of futility (with occasional sprinkles of mediocrity)…the Orange is allegedly competitive again. To be fair, they did post a 10-3 record last season and easily handled my WV Mountaineers in a bowl game in which the WVU coaching staff clearly phoned it in. The Terrapins beat the snot out of some junior high team last week, but does that really tell us anything?? I’m not ready to buy into Syracuse being “back” quite yet, but neither do I believe Maryland should be favored…even at home…based on one dominating performance against clearly inferior competition. Where does that leave us?? Well, hopefully with a fairly entertaining game. Zach believes Maryland’s hot start is legit and will continue.

My Pick:     Syracuse

Z’s Pick:     Maryland

 

 

 

LSU (-6)               at                Texas

Neither team was challenged a week ago, but we’ll see what they’re really made of now. If this game was in Baton Rouge the pick would be easy, but at home I think the Longhorns might have a legit shot to win. Texas has a kicker named Cameron Dicker…Dicker the Kicker, which I find entertaining in a juvenile sort of way. My vision is a last second game winning field goal in which Dicker just can’t get the ball where he needs to and falls a bit short. It’s okay. It’s common. It happens to every kicker. It’s no big deal. But atleast in that scenario Texas would cover the points. Zach thinks Texas might be a bit overrated, but also feels like LSU often fails to win big games. He’s calling for the outright upset.

My Pick:     Texas

Z’s Pick:     Texas

 

 

 

Stanford             at                USC (-1)

The Trojans won a tough battle with Fresno St. a week ago, while Stanford beat Northwestern. This game is essentially a pick ‘em, which means the folks in Vegas seem to agree that USC’s abysmal 2018 was a blip on the radar. They have a chance to make a statement by defending their home field and getting a leg up in the Pac 12, and I believe that’s exactly what will happen. Zach likes Stanford’s defense, especially considering USC lost starting quarterback JT Daniels to a torn ACL and will now be led by a freshman QB.

My Pick:     Southern Cal

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Texas A&M                  at                Clemson (-18)

I’m really looking forward to this game. Fortunately it’s a 3:30pm kickoff, which fits into my day perfectly. A&M has a brutal schedule, and they’ll deserve respect for even becoming bowl eligible. However, I think they’ll do better than that and pull off a couple of upsets this season. Will that happen this week?? Well…no. Clemson is a well-oiled machine whose spot in the playoff is virtually guaranteed. Having said that, I’m a little taken aback by the points. I’m not sure if it indicates just how awesome the Tigers are, or possibly a lack of respect for the Aggies, which in my humble opinion would be a mistake. I don’t believe Clemson will lose, and the game might not be particularly close, but The Vibes are telling me it’ll be a 14-17 point victory. Zach likes Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence & RB Travis Etienne, but feels like A&M is also an improving team. Like me, he thinks the points are just too much.

My Pick:     Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

 

Kansas City (-3)                    at                Jacksonville

The oddsmakers have the Chiefs as one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl, and I don’t disagree. There is no question that QB Patrick Mahomes will lead the offense to some big numbers, so if KC’s defense evolves into something they could become almost unstoppable. The Jags usually have a solid defense, but they’ve been lacking where it counts most…behind center. Will QB Nick Foles change that?? Will he continue to be the quarterback that led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Lombardi trophy a couple of years ago?? Or faced with the task of being the unquestioned starter for an entire season will Foles be exposed as the journeyman backup many always thought him to be?? Those questions will be answered in due time, but in this specific contest I don’t believe Jacksonville has the firepower to keep up or a defense elite enough to stop the Chiefs offense. Zach doesn’t think Mahomes will put up MVP numbers like he did a year ago, but winning this game won’t be an issue.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

 

 

Indianapolis                at                LA Chargers (-6)

It’s been just another quiet, uneventful summer in Indianapolis. Well, except for the bombshell retirement of QB Andrew Luck before he even turns 30 years of age. Not to be outdone, the Chargers have been dealing with their own drama in the form of running back Melvin Gordon’s holdout. This game would probably be a lot more interesting with Luck & Gordon both playing, but their absence creates a sense of mystery & intrigue. The Colts’ coaching staff & front office can talk up new quarterback Jacoby Brissett all they want, but he’s got to prove it to me first. I’m rooting for the guy because wide receiver TY Hilton and RB Marlon Mack are integral pieces of my fantasy teams, but the reality is that it’s a huge change. The Chargers might have a bit of a dropoff without Gordon, but I think they’re equipped to weather the storm. Zach believes the Chargers are overrated, but Luck’s abrupt departure has doomed Indy’s season.

My Pick:     LA Chargers

Z’s Pick:     LA Chargers

 

 

 

NY Giants                       at                Dallas (-7)

I’m going to offer an opinion that some may find odd. I believe the Cowboys would have been better off had RB Zeke Elliott’s holdout lasted a few more weeks. I think Dallas will have a nice season and contend for a playoff spot, but in the end they’ll fall short like they always do. It might have been nice for Zeke to have fresher legs going into the last few games of the season. However, in regard to this game I don’t think any of that matters and the Cowboys will handle business easily. Zach concurs, predicting a three TD victory for the favorites.

My Pick:     Dallas

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

 

 

Houston                       at                New Orleans (-7)

This will be the earlier of two games on Monday night, and it should be really fun. My fondness for Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson is well-documented, and the team has made several moves in recent weeks that could prove to be helpful. The RB tandem of Duke Johnson & Carlos Hyde could be sneaky good, and JJ Watt will lead a stellar defense. The problem is that Houston is taking on my Super Bowl favorites in The Big Easy. A loss won’t destroy either team’s season, and I believe both will get into the playoffs. The home field is enough for me to go with the Saints, and Zach agrees, opining that New Orleans will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after being erroneously knocked out of a trip to the Super Bowl last season.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

2019 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

25        Virginia Tech

Last Season:     6-7

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

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

 

 

24        Auburn

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

23        Michigan State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

22        Central Florida

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

21        Army

Last Season:     11-2

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

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

 

 

20        Northwestern

Last Season:             9-5                             

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

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

 

 

19        Fresno State

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

18        Michigan

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Arizona State

Last Season:     7-6

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

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

 

 

16        Texas A&M

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

15        Stanford

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Nebraska

Last Season:     4-8

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

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

 

 

13        LSU

Last Season:     10-3

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

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

 

 

12        Utah

Last Season:     9-5

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

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

 

 

11        Iowa State

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

10        Wisconsin

Last Season:     8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Southern California

Last Season:     5-7

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

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

 

 

8          Texas

Last Season:     10-4

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

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

 

 

7          Notre Dame

Last Season:     12-1

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

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

 

 

6          Ohio State

Last Season:    13-1

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

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

 

 

5             Oregon

Last Season:     9-4

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

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

 

 

4             Alabama

Last Season:     14-1

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma

Last Season:     12-2

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

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

 

 

2          Georgia

Last Season:     11-3

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

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

 

 

1          Clemson

Last Season:     15-0

Key Games:     9/7 vs. Texas A&M

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

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 2

Wow, the beginning of the NFL season kind of snuck up on me. When choosing which games to pick I could not pass up the opener featuring the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, but it’s a Thursday nighter, and early games for this procrastinator are an issue. Fortunately I think we’re going to make it just in time. I got off to a pretty good start last week. Zach?? Not so much. We’ll see how adding pro football into the mix spices things up. This is going to be quick & dirty due to time constraints, so enjoy.

My Season:        4-1

Z’s Season:      1-4 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clemson (-12)   at      Texas A&M

The Tigers had no problem beating down Furman last weekend, and A&M easily defeated Northwestern State. I have no doubt that Jimbo Fisher will dramatically improve the Aggies in time, but it might take a season or two. Conversely, Clemson seems damn near unbeatable. This game is in College Station, which is traditionally a raucous crowd. That should give me pause, but it really doesn’t. Clemson might lose at some point this year, but it’s not going to be this week. Zach points out that A&M played on Thursday last week, meaning they’ve had an extra couple of days to prepare for this game. He likes the home field and thinks this will be a close game. The Aggies may not win, but Zach believes they’ll cover the points.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

 

USC                     at      Stanford (-4)

As good as Stanford has been the last several years it feels like it has been rare for them to be favored over the Trojans. Of course they do have the nominal home field advantage, which makes sense I suppose. Both teams had fairly effortless wins last week, so not much can be learned from those games. I feel like Southern Cal has been overlooked a bit in the offseason and no one is expecting much because they are trying to replace QB Sam Darnold, now plying his trade with the New York Jets. Conversely, Stanford running back Bryce Love is a Heisman frontrunner and getting all kinds of attention. The Vibes are telling me the script might get flipped this weekend. Contrary to what I’ve observed, Zach feels like USC is overhyped…but he thinks they’ll get a close victory.

My Pick:     USC

Z’s Pick:     USC

 

 

 

San Francisco at      Minnesota (-3)

Expectations are high for the 49ers, but perhaps we need to pump the brakes a bit. Sure, Jimmy G. looks like he’s going to be a good quarterback, but I’m not sure about the weapons he has surrounding him, a concern exacerbated by the loss of starting RB Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL just a few days ago. The defense could be quite good though, with the addition of Richard Sherman in the secondary being a solid move. But if we’re talking defense you can’t look past the best, and a season ago that was the Vikings. I don’t expect that to change this year, and new starting QB Kirk Cousins could push his team all the way to February. Zach doesn’t buy all the Cousins hype and thinks Garoppolo will emerge as the better quarterback, but he likes Minnesota to get the close win.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

Houston             at      New England (-6.5)

On paper this might look like a mismatch, but I am convinced that Houston’s 4-12 record in 2017 was an anomaly. QB Deshaun Watson and defensive lineman JJ Watt are both back & healthy, so I expect this season to be much different. The Patriots are what they are, and any perceived chinks in their armor haven’t shown up on the field. I think both teams will make the playoffs, but from a psychological perspective a win in this one would be huge for the Texans. Zach likes Houston well enough, but he just can’t pull the trigger against the Pats.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

 

Atlanta                at      Philadelphia (-2.5)

The NFL season kicks off on Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl Champs having the home field against the Falcons, who most of the experts are predicting will battle New Orleans for the NFC South. The offseason hasn’t been perfect for the Eagles, and traditionally it is difficult for defending champions to recapture that magic a season later. I believe that Atlanta might be a bit overrated, and I’m not necessarily sure what to make of Philly, but for now I think the afterglow of that Super Bowl win lingers on and make this another night to celebrate in the City of Brotherly Love. Zach concurs and thinks the Eagles will win by two TDs.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

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.

Save

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 9

pfootIt wasn’t my intention to do bonus picks again so soon, but both the college & NFL schedules are chockful of intriguing matchups and I just can’t resist. Last week was a rough one for yours truly, as I could only muster a record of 1-4, while Zach fared a little better at 2-3. Obviously neither of us have a bright future in the prognostication arts, but we’ll have fun trying.

My Season:        22-24

Z’s Season:        16-31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California                     at                USC (-15.5)

The Bears come into this game 4-3, but it must be noted that two of those losses were by 5 points or less, and they’ve split the last two games in overtime. Meanwhile,cal the Trojans have an identical 4-3 record but are riding a three game winning streak. This is a Thursday night contest, and while it is a home game for Southern Cal the 2 TD+ spread seems a bit much. I think it’ll be closer and Zach agrees.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Michigan (-24)             at                Michigan St.

A year ago the Spartans escaped with a thrilling last second victory after a touchdown on a fumbled punt. But that team was undefeated and would go on to play in the national Michigan_State_Spartansplayoff semifinal. In 2016 the tables have been turned. The Wolverines are undefeated and ranked #2 in the country while State has lost five straight to stand at 2-5. I am not quite sure what has happened in East Lansing outside of the normal ebb & flow of players graduating & new ones stepping up take those spots, but obviously things have taken a bad turn. Conversely, Jim Harbaugh has coached his alma mater back to relevancy much quicker than I anticipated, although few are really shocked that they have been successful. I’d be surprised if the favorites lost, but I’d be almost as surprised if Sparty didn’t show some pride in defending their home field. Zach is a big Michigan fan but he agrees.

My Pick:     Michigan St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Baylor (-3)          at                Texas

I thought that it’d be Baylor having a rough year given their…eventful…offseason, while Texas would show some life with Charlie Strong’s job on the line. However the bayloropposite has happened thus far. The Bears are 6-0 and have barely been tested. The Longhorns are 3-4 and probably already have a list of candidates to replace Strong. I’d LOVE to pick the upset…but I just can’t pull the trigger, even with the game being played in Austin. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Baylor

 

 

Washington (-10)       at                Utah

utah2The Huskies are a very quiet 7-0, ranked 4th in the polls, & look like a solid playoff team unless they stumble down the stretch. Could that washington2misstep come against the 7-1 Utes in Salt Lake City?? I think it is possible. At the very least I am uncomfortable with a double digit point spread.  Zach has no issues with the spread. He thinks it’ll be close for three quarters but Washington will take over in the end.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Nebraska           at                Wisconsin (-8.5)

nebraskaThis is the prime time game on ESPN Saturday night. The Huskers have rather quietly amassed a perfect 7-0 record, while the Badgers have lost WisconsinBadgerstwice…to Michigan & Ohio St….nothing to be ashamed about. Wisconsin gets the home field bump, which is understandable. But are the points too much?? I think they might be. Zach thinks Nebraska is overrated and he likes Wisconsin’s defense.

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

Clemson (-4.5)            at                Florida St.

Florida_State_SeminolesBefore the season began this game looked like it could decide a playoff spot. Unfortunately the Seminoles have dropped a couple of games and clemsonare unlikely to re-enter the playoff conversation. However the Tigers, despite a few close shaves, remain undefeated and very much in the playoff hunt. As much as I’d love to stick with my pre-season choice and pick Clemson The Vibes are reminding me that this game is in Tallahassee, that Florida St. is still a very good team, & that Clemson has been on the cusp of losing a couple of times and their luck can’t run on forever. Zach believes the Seminoles will put up a good fight but Clemson will be too much in the 4th quarter.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Kansas City (-2.5)      at                Indianapolis

The Chiefs were one of my pre-season Super Bowl picks, but thus far they are an underwhelming 4-2 and trailing both the Raiders & Broncos in the AFC West. The kc-chiefs-logoColts aren’t much better. At 3-4 they still have a chance to win their division as I predicted only because the Texans aren’t very good. It is interesting that Indy is a home underdog. If the folks in Vegas aren’t going to respect them why should I?? Zach likes the Chiefs to outcoach the opponent and snag a victory.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

 

Oakland             at                Tampa Bay (-1.5)

The Raiders have been fairly impressive in what seems to be the culmination of a decade long rebuild, leading their division at 5-2. The Bucs have been…alright. They raidersare 3-3 and occasionally show flashes of…something. Whatever it is they aren’t there yet and Oakland is ahead of their progress by a country mile. Zach notes that Tampa has suffered some key injuries and thinks the Raiders will be a playoff team.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

Arizona               at                Carolina (-2.5)

Many pundits thought the Cards were a Super Bowl favorite this season, but so far they’ve looked rather mediocre. The Panthers have been even worse, following in the footsteps of other Super Bowl losers of the past by stinking up the joint the following year. I have no idea what the problem is, but it is irrefutable that a problem exists.nflarizonacardinals Carolina is probably already out of playoff contention, but Arizona can still recover and win their division. This looks like a tossup on paper, but I’m gonna go with the visiting underdogs. Zach agrees. He likes the Cardinals’ defense to lead them to victory.

My Pick:     Arizona

Z’s Pick:     Arizona