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.





2018 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

24     LSU 

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

23     Michigan

Last Season:      8-5

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

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

 

 

22     West Virginia

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

21     Penn State        

Last Season:      11-2

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

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

 

 

20     Texas       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

19     Florida State                       

Last Season:      7-6

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

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

 

 

18     Florida Atlantic

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

17     Stanford

Last Season:      9-5

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

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

 

 

16     Oklahoma

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

15     Ohio State         

Last Season:      12-2

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

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

 

 

14     Auburn              

Last Season:      10-4

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

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

 

 

13     Notre Dame     

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

12     South Florida

Last Season:      10-2

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

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

 

 

11     Boise State                

Last Season:      11-3

Key Games:       9/15 at Oklahoma St.

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

 

 

10     Southern Cal   

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

9       Michigan State 

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

8       Virginia Tech    

Last Season:      9-4

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

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

 

 

7       Georgia

Last Season:      13-2

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

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

 

 

6       Miami (FL)

Last Season:      10-3

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

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

 

 

5       Clemson  

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/27 at Florida St.

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

 

 

4       Washington      

Last Season:      10-3 

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

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

 

 

3       TCU 

Last Season:      11-3

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

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

 

 

2       Alabama                               

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

 

 

1       Wisconsin        

Last Season:      13-1

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

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

2017 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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

 

 

 

 

 

1          USC

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

2          Penn State

Last Season:             11-3

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

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

 

 

3          Oklahoma State

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

4          Florida State

Last Season:             10-3   

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

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

 

 

5          Ohio State

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

6          Alabama

Last Season:             14-1

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

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

 

 

7          South Florida

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

8          Georgia

Last Season:             8-5

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

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

 

 

9          Wisconsin

Last Season:             11-3

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

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

 

 

10        Auburn

Last Season:             8-5

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

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

 

 

11        Oklahoma

Last Season:             11-2

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

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

 

 

12        Washington

Last Season:             12-2

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

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

 

 

13        Louisville

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

14        Clemson

Last Season:             14-1

Key Games:              11/11 vs. Florida St.

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

 

 

15        Michigan

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

16        West Virginia

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

17        Boise St.

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

18        Virginia Tech

Last Season:             10-4

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

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

 

 

19        Florida

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

20        Texas

Last Season:             5-7

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

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

 

 

21        Stanford

Last Season:             10-3

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

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

 

 

22        LSU

Last Season:             8-4

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

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

 

 

23        Miami (FL)

Last Season:             9-4

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

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

 

 

24        UCLA

Last Season:             4-8    

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

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

 

 

25          Notre Dame

Last Season:             4-8

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

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

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Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.13

Welcome to the first W&M in nearly 6 months and the first edition of 2013. There are a few loose ends to tie up, plus some football playoff action to cover. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

laces-football-grassI went 3-4 in the last week of the Pigskin Picks of Profundity, making my final overall record 46-71-1. That’s a 39% winning percentage. In baseball that’d get me a batting title & a probable MVP, but in football it makes me about as successful as the Buffalo Bills. I’m already looking forward to next season when there’s nowhere to go but up.

 

 

I did slightly better with my college bowl picks, going 18-17 for a 51% winning percentage. Heck, 51% would get me elected President of the United States!!

 

 

p1_brentMuch too much has been made of ESPN talking head Brent Musberger katherine-webb-aj-mccarron-girlfriendfawning over Alabama QB AJ McCarron’s beauty queen girlfriend during the national title game. I happened to catch Musberger’s comments (Monday Night Raw was in commercial), and didn’t think he came across as anything remotely close to a creepy old man. He simply pointed out a lovely young lady. Have we gotten so eaten up by political correctness that we cannot give proper recognition to beauty when we observe it?? Shame on ESPN for “apologizing” for the comments. I got your back Brent…even if your employer doesn’t.

 

 

I have no issue with no one being voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. The fact is that guys010311_HoF like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, & Edgar Martinez were very good players but not Hall-of-Famers, and there was no way in Hell that known cheaters like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, & Mark McGwire were going to get voted in. Maybe someday…but not now. A case could conceivably be made for Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, & Dale Murphy, and I think that most if not all of that foursome will get elected eventually, but I won’t lose any sleep over them not getting in this time.

 

 

So I guess they resolved the NHL labor dispute and an abbreviated season will begin shortly. I still don’t care.

 

 

The NCAA football playoff cannot get here fast enough for me. I hadn’t planned on watching much of the BCS (emphasis on the BS) national championship game between Alabama & Notre Dame anyway because I generally need an underdog to root for and that game didn’t provide one, and as it turned out I certainly didn’t miss much. In contrast, just think of what might have occurred if we’d had a 4 team playoff between those two teams, Oregon, and either Florida or Kansas State. Surely Oregon would have given Alabama a little bit more of a fight in the title game…maybe.

 

 

I would be remiss if I did not address the huge letdown that was the 7-6 season for my hometown West Virginia Mountaineers. I hesitate to say the following but it is the honest truth. Before the season I told my Dad and I believe my nephew Zach that I thought the step up in competition from the Big East to the Big 12 would be a bigger deal for the Mountaineers than most seemed to be expecting and that I wouldn’t be surprised if they went 6-6. I kept that opinion on the down low because most folks in my orbit were caught up in the hype of a possible national championship run and a strong WV-Logo-and-Mountaineer2Heisman candidacy for QB Geno Smith. You may have noticed that the ‘Eers were not ranked in my pre-season Top 25, but other than that I just kind of kept my negative vibes to myself. Hindsight is 20/20 and I regret not shouting my prediction from the rooftops because I would have looked like a genius. I must admit that I was sincerely hoping I might be wrong and it looked like I could be after WVU began the season 5-0, including an impressive win at Texas. However, it is difficult to overcome a horrendous defense that ranks 117th in points allowed and makes every opponent’s pedestrian QB look like Johnny Unitas. Even after all that though I thought the Mountaineers would crush Syracuse in their bowl game for a variety of reasons, but I was way off base. Getting out of the Big East was surely a necessity, but in retrospect it might have behooved the powers-that-be to be a little more patient and wait for an eventual ACC invite, because it looks like it’s going to be a rough road for WVU in the Big 12.

 

 

The NFL coaching carousel is always entertaining. I think the KC Chiefs made a great hire in Andy Reid, who is a solid head coach who just needed a change of scenery. The firing of Lovie Smith by the Chicago Bears was mildly surprising, especially since the truth is that it doesn’t matter who the head coach is while headcase Jay Cutler is the QB. Cutler simply does not have what it takes to lead an NFL team to greatness. Lovie will land on his feet just like Reid did, and whoever hires him will instantly become better.

 

 

Speaking of the Chiefs…

They are “on the clock” with the first pick in April’s NFL Draft and all the “experts” seem to think they TCU v West Virginiajust won’t be able to pass up WV Mountaineer QB Geno Smith. As a lifelong Mountaineer fan I am here to give a friendly warning to the Chiefs…run. Trade the pick, choose a can’t miss offensive lineman, or roll the dice on USC signal caller Matt Barkley. Geno has bust written all over him. He reminds me a little bit of Akili Smith, who wowed scouts during his senior year at Oregon in 1998 with 3700 yards passing & 32 TDs, was taken 3rd overall in the 1999 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals (ahead of guys like Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, & Ricky Williams), then proceeded to only throw for 2200 yards & 5 touchdowns over the course of the next four years. Yes most of the disappointment of this past WVU season can be laid at the feet of the Mountaineer’s porous defense, but Geno came up small in a lot of games and in some important moments. I have a strong suspicion that he’ll be a huge regret to any team that picks him very high in the draft.

 

 

I chose only half of the NFL’s playoff field correctly in my season preview last fall, but we still may be on track for my predicted Super Bowl matchup of Green Bay vs. New England, although at this point I would actually much prefer a Denver vs. Seattle game.

 

 

Superfluous 7 – Things I Am Thankful For

I briefly pondered the idea of doing a heartfelt, introspective, profound piece on the history and meaning of Thanksgiving and all the blessings in my life. However, at the moment I am just not feeling the inclination to dive that deep. Anyone who knows me or has read The Manofesto should know that I am not the type of person who takes things for granted. My faith journey has not always been smooth, but I feel like I have drawn closer to God in the last couple of years and continue to experience growth in that aspect of my life. At the same time, if I am being honest, there are things that still drag me down. My Dad has always said that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely, and I feel like I cross the threshold into loneliness all too often these days. I am human, so I do sometimes envy the perceived happiness and success of others. For some reason this has been a bigger issue in 2010 than I can ever remember. I try to get past it, and I understand that there is some reason, some lesson that I am supposed to be learning. At any rate, the following list may seem a bit superficial on some level, and I am approaching it from a fun & lighthearted perspective, but these are things that I truly am thankful that I have in my life. So, as I wish everyone out there in cyberspace a Happy Thanksgiving, please enjoy…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Things I Am Thankful For:

 

 

 

7 Football

And I don’t just mean the football that is played on Thanksgiving. After all, those games always include the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, and who in their right mind would consider that a blessing?? No, I am talking about the entirety of the college and NFL football seasons. I am specifically a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marshall Thundering Herd, and West Virginia Mountaineers, but I can watch just about any football game. Whereas baseball is a little too slow paced & plodding and the season far too long, and basketball only gets really interesting when the post-season draws near, football is engaging from the pre-game show until the final zero ticks off the clock and the season is the perfect length. And I find that with baseball I am not the least bit interested unless my Pittsburgh Pirates are playing while I have never really had a favorite NBA team, yet I don’t care who is playing football because I will watch no matter what. I am thankful though that the aforementioned Cowboys and Lions do not play each other on Thanksgiving because that may be a vortex of ineptitude that I could not let myself get sucked into.

 

 

 

6 Facebook

Yes, I said it…I am thankful for Facebook. Am I a bit too addicted?? Probably. Could I be spending my time more wisely?? I suppose. But Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with literally hundreds of people from my past and enables me to easily stay in touch with good friends from various far away locales. It is harmless fun, and at the very least probably a better way to be entertained than watching most of the drivel on television these days.

 

 

 

5 The Manofesto

I don’t want to be self-serving, but I suppose I will for a moment. I am not getting paid to write this blog, and I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to make money on it anyway. I suppose one would need to attract advertisers of some sort, and for that to happen there would have to be a fairly sizeable and consistent readership. Maybe one day all that will happen. However, I am not really all that concerned about it at this point in time. I began The Manofesto about a year & a half ago because I felt like I had some things to say and have always been pretty confident in my writing skills. Maybe if I had pursued that career path and been given better guidance by educators and others in my environment my circumstances would be much different today. As it stands though I enjoy writing this stuff more than anyone will ever know. I have no idea how many people come here on a regular basis (I know of one…thanks Don 🙂 ), nor do I know how many people may have read one or two things here & there. Nearly all the comments I receive are spam. Maybe I am writing all this for a smaller audience than you’ll see at a Denny’s at 3am on a Tuesday, and maybe someday that might change. But for now The Manofesto is extremely therapeutic and entertaining for me and I am so very glad for the continuing journey.

 

 

 

4 Rocco

My sister & I had a dog when we were just small tikes. He was a mutt named Rags who eventually went nuts and had to be taken away by the dog catcher. However, in essence he was my father’s dog and I think Dad considered him more of a burden than a pet. As I got older we could not have a dog in the house because of my mother’s health. Then for years I lived in places that didn’t allow pets. One day a few years ago the rules in my building changed and we were allowed to have pets as long as they do not exceed a certain size, which is fine with me because I would not want a huge dog that one day may turn against me and smite me in my sleep. Neither would I want a girlie dog, the kind you see airheads like Paris Hilton carrying in their purse. At some point I fixated on pugs because they are small but tough, manly dogs. I got my chance to get one in the summer of 2008 and I named him Rocco. He & I have had our moments. I made a lot of mistakes in training him mostly because I had no clue what I was doing. But Rocco is absolutely the sweetest, most adorable puppy in the universe. He does not bite, just licks a lot. He licks everything. He loves to eat and sleep, and he loves to snuggle with his Daddy. I suppose Caesar Milan would say that I spoil Rocco and that I assign human, childlike qualities to him instead of maintaining a master/dog relationship. So be it. I don’t have a wife or girlfriend, have no children, and my friends mostly live far away. If that means I treat my dog as a substitute to fill the emptiness in other areas of my life then that is just fine by me.

 

 

 

3 Memories

My good friend The Owl posted a rather wistful, nostalgic status update on his Facebook on Thanksgiving eve. It was an ode to his mother and childhood Thanksgivings of yesteryear. I was reminded of my own mother, who we lost 10 years ago. I fondly recall the Thanksgivings of my own youth. My maternal Grandma lived not too far away but she didn’t drive, so someone always went to fetch her on the day before Thanksgiving. She and Mom would spend the evening getting food prepped, and then would get the turkey in the oven sometime in the wee hours of the late night. By the time I woke up around 7 or 8-ish (probably a bit later in my teen years) the aromas that filled our home were heavenly. I always enjoyed watching the Macy’s Parade, and still do, although now I tend to lean toward mocking the overall cheesiness and kitsch. Football games would come on in the early afternoon, and at some point my paternal grandparents, who lived about a mile up the road, would arrive. By mid-afternoon dinner was ready and it was always awesome. We never had cranberry sauce for some reason, but we had about everything else…turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, green beans, rolls. Yum. My Mom always made pumpkin pie, and my Grandma Mano always made chocolate cream pie. After dinner we’d all sit in the living room and shoot the breeze, just enjoying each others’ company. As a child I would mostly just sit there and listen as the adults talked about a variety of things. Families have a certain…rhythm…whenever they talk amongst themselves. A stranger coming into the midst of the conversation probably wouldn’t give a rat’s petoot about the topics being tossed about to & fro, but if you’re in the inner circle you get it. Even kids, who probably don’t understand most of what is being said, have a comfort level with the group. It’s like a cold winter night that all the sudden becomes cozy once one slips under the warmth of a soft blanket. I miss that warmth & comfort, but I will always have the memories. There is a fine line that one must be careful not to cross. Living in the past can be crippling. But to embrace memories of a wondrous time that cannot ever be replicated is okay, and I am thankful that I have those memories to reflect upon.

 

 

 

2 Food

I have spoken elsewhere here at The Manofesto about my “skilled” nursing facility experience. In 2006, at the age of 33, I was a patient at one of those places for six months. During those 6 months I lost 30 pounds. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I have always been overweight and it was probably a good thing for me to lose those pounds. However, I would not recommend the nursing home weight loss program. Obviously any kind of institutional food is usually not good, but honestly…I can eat hospital food. It is atleast average. But the nursing home food was…well…indescribably bad. I would not have fed that stuff to my worst enemy. Thank God my Dad brought me in food…a Wendy’s cheeseburger, leftovers from his supper, maybe a pizza sometimes…every night and my cousin Robert usually brought me something almost daily. Even then I STILL lost weight. And I wasn’t even exercising. I was literally laying in bed for months. My point is, I learned from that experience to appreciate food. I gained all that weight back and more, and I am currently in the process of trying to lose it, but this time it is my choice. I just know I would feel healthier and better about myself if I shed some pounds. But I will not deny myself completely. I will not starve. I appreciate a good meal (appropriate on Thanksgiving) and sympathize with those who are truly hungry. We live in the greatest, wealthiest nation on Earth. No one in America should ever experience hunger. I am not naïve though…I know it occurs, which is why I am thankful that I always have access to food and usually enjoy whatever I eat.

 

 

 

1 Freedom

The aforementioned “skilled” nursing facility experience encompassed only part of what I refer to as my Unfortunate Incarceration. After I was released from that godforsaken hellhole I was still not healed up, which meant that I spent the next year at home before the medical establishment FINALLY decided I needed surgery, which then took several more months by the time one factors in the hospital stay and post-op healing. All told my Unfortunate Incarceration stole away 2 years of my life. During that time I was not able to do a whole slew of things that most take for granted…grocery shopping, going to the movies, attending church, driving. My life is not exactly glamorous, which is why I self-deprecatingly refer to myself as Mr. Excitement. But I now appreciate the freedom to do those simple things. As a child much of my focus as well as that of my parents was for me to be as self sufficient and independent as possible. I think I did a pretty good job of achieving that goal through most of my adulthood, but for two years I lost that freedom. Having it back has meant the world to me and it is the thing for which I am most thankful.

Random Thoughts 19

Congratulations to my West Virginia Mountaineers, who are headed to The Final Four after an improbable defeat of the mighty Kentucky Wildcats. And to all my Marshall peeps out there, please understand…I grew up in the shadow of WVU, less than an hour from Morgantown, and have been a loyal fan all my life. Just as some Mountaineer fans have delusions of grandeur, thinking the football team will ever be on the same level as USC, Ohio State, or Texas, so do many of my fellow Herd supporters have an irrational dislike for the Old Gold & Blue. To some degree I understand it, but on many levels I find it rather frustrating. There is a hierarchy in college sports, whether we like it or not…and sometimes we just need to understand our place in that pecking order and learn to embrace the rare occasions when our teams overachieve.

This is not the place to dive too deeply into the topic of nationalized health care, but suffice to say that I believe dark days are ahead for our nation. I just cannot fathom why otherwise intelligent people are unable to grasp how dangerous Barack Hussein Obama is or refuse to see how he is systematically tearing down our country.

Both Lost and 24 are ending in a few weeks. There hasn’t been this much grief in parents’ basements since the inventor of Dungeons & Dragons died two years ago.

I want to be very very clear about this: I am not being flippant, I am not joking. I am calling on ESPN to do the right thing and fire college basketball analyst Digger Phelps. The man is an embarrassment. He has no business doing prognostications on anything. Atleast Dick Vitale’s schtick is entertaining and he seems to be genuinely passionate about his job and the sport he loves. Digger is just smug, arrogant, and most of the time way way way off base on what he says. The man has ZERO credibility and as long as ESPN continues to give him a forum neither do they.

Changing of seasons, from cold to warm or vice versa, seems to really mess with my body. Two times a year…when summer segues into autumn and when winter makes way for spring…there is about a 3 week adjustment period when I just don’t feel right.

Speaking of my Marshall peeps – Ok, not really…but let’s talk about my adopted hometown and home of Marshall University, Huntington WV. The town is apparently The Unhealthiest City In America, and ABC has decided to use that for a reality show starring Food Network chef Jamie Oliver. As you may know, I dig The Food Network. I can’t say I have ever been a huge fan of Englishman Oliver, but he’s okay in my book…a little manic but atleast more genuine and less forced than Emeril Lagasse. Anyway, in his Food Revolution, Oliver is attempting to teach old dogs in Huntington new eating tricks. The show just premiered, so it’s way too early to really give it a thorough examination, but I am intrigued to see where things are headed. So far the usual West Virginia stereotypes have been avoided and the producers don’t seem to be going out of their way to reinforce that erroneous hillbilly image. The sad part is that the folks featured have not needed any help to make themselves look like uneducated assclowns. The lunch ladies at the elementary school are particularly grating. Pizza for breakfast?? I will admit that as a bachelor I have succumbed all too often to such bad choices, but it is embarrassing to think that our tax dollars are paying for an official government program that provides such a meal to children and no one in the chain seems to see anything wrong with the situation.

As a fan and as a rather cynical person who sincerely thinks it is always…always…about the money, I do not truly believe that Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted anyone. However, it seems obvious that Ben is missing something in his life that money and fame aren’t providing, and he is trying to fill that void with booze, women, and a party boy lifestyle. Friends and family need to get ahold of Big Ben and get him to church. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to get rid of the emptiness.

If atleast 50% of incumbents in House and Senate races are not defeated this November I will have absolutely no faith left in the American voting public.

Speaking of ESPN and Hussein Obama – I DON’T CARE what his March Madness bracket looks like!! SHUT UP!! For God’s sake when is the “mainstream” media in this country going to stop embarrassing themselves by constantly fellatiating this ghetto thug??

Movies should not be remade or “reimagined” for atleast 40 years after the original and even then only if the original has fallen out of vogue. For example, why were Halloween and…coming soon to a theater near you…A Nightmare On Elm Street, Red Dawn, Footloose, and The Karate Kid needlessly redone so soon??

Dammit!! Just when we were on the cusp of getting rid of Oprah (who, as some of you may know, I sincerely believe is an agent of Satan), there is word that freakin’ Rosie O’Donnell is coming back to television. We need to find the bastards who thought that was a good idea and beat them into unconsciousness.

 

The Sammy Claus Wish List

Being Sammy Claus is kind of like being Frank Sinatra Jr. or the Vice-President…it’s a nice name that wields no real authority. However, in hopes that the real Santa may take a break from supervising the elves and doing important flight prep by surfing The Internet and being a faithful reader of The Manofesto, I have prepared my own list. Go ahead Big Guy…check it twice, verify who has been naughty or nice. But I am pretty sure my own reconnaissance has been thorough and you’ll find everything here in order. And since it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) I am not asking for anything myself…well, atleast not much. My focus here is on the needs and desires of others.

 

The Marshall Thundering Herd…..a new football coach that will lead my alma mater’s gladiators of the gridiron back to the success we had in the 1990’s. I grant you there was some good fortune back then with future NFL players Chad Pennington, Troy Brown, Randy Moss, and Byron Leftwich…and there may have even been some minor cheating. But there’s nothing that says that level of achievement cannot be attained again and more future pro caliber players can’t make a stop in Huntington.


John & Kate and Heidi & Spencer…..sterility and a complete lack of media coverage


The Economy…..tax cuts & job growth. I know it’s a long shot with a socialist President and a liberal Congress, but we’ll deal with those issues in the coming years.


Kanye West…..the most spectacular career crash and burn of all time!!


The WV Mountaineers…..a new special teams coach. I have softened my stance on canning head coach Bill Stewart, but Stew doubles as the special teams coach and it hasn’t worked. A 9-3 finish was surprisingly decent given the lack of energy, skill, and discipline shown at times this season, but a few special teams plays probably cost the Eers atleast 1, possibly 2 additional victories.


The Republican Party…..a triumphant return to conservative values and the emergence of a formidable group of candidates for the 2012 Presidential campaign. Unfortunately I am not talking about Sarah Palin, who is damaged goods and I believe unelectable.


Adam Lambert…..irrelevance. Really dude, get the hell off my TV.


Myself, The Owl, Greg, Sealey, and Slack…..a memorable and dare I say legen…wait for it…wait for it…dary trip to Vegas this summer. This is the year gentlemen. Seriously…I mean it this time!!


Ford Motor Company…..continued success as a non-government run business


Michael Jackson’s children…..a happy, healthy, normal life while enjoying the boatload of cash your freak of a father left you


Carrie Underwood…..the love of a good man…a man that is single, has his own blog, and lives in northcentral WV. Call me. Please.


Algore…..complete , irrefutable, 100% proof that global warming is poppycock


Susan Boyle…..a musical repertoire that goes beyond I Dreamed A Dream


Coach Rich Fraudriguez…..continued ineptitude and complete failure not only at Michigan but wherever you go and in whatever you do professionally and personally. You are the lowest form of excrement the human race has ever produced and not worthy of sharing the same oxygen as even the most vile and wicked piece of dung imaginable.


Universal Health Care…..complete and total defeat


Tiger Woods…..a case of condoms, a good lawyer, and a full time chauffeur


David Letterman…..cancellation


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi…..facial movement. Seriously lady, lay off the botox.


Tim Tebow, soon-to-be former Florida Gators QB…..a case of tissues, because the crying will likely continue at the NFL Draft and on into your rookie season there when you figure out you’re really not THAT good (as if Alabama didn’t drive that point home already)


Jay Leno…..better ratings


Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, & Glen Beck…..continued success teaching the masses about conservatism


Phil Mickelson…..success in overtaking that dirtbag Tiger Woods as the worlds #1 golfer

Count Your Blessings

Today is Thanksgiving. And while on the surface that may mean turkey, football, and parades, it should and does mean a whole lot more. Some form of Thanksgiving, even before the Pilgrims, was observed as early as the 16th century in various parts of the world as a way to thank God for the many blessings He bestows. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think it’d be a bad idea if we could steer things back in that direction. However, it’s not my intention to pontificate on the failures and foibles of our 21st century secular, anything goes, if it feels good do it society…atleast not today. My present purpose is to express my heartfelt thanks for all the positive things in my life.

I am thankful for a pretty fantastic family that I can always count on. My Mom left us 9 years ago, but I still have my Dad, my sister, 1 living grandparent, and two nephews, as well as assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’m very fortunate.

I am thankful for my job. I’ve been jobless, I’ve had good jobs, I’ve had bad jobs, I’ve been fired…I’ve seen it all. With an economy that seems more and more headed toward socialism and no new jobs being created I am happy that I have a job that I like. It doesn’t pay enough (really though, what job does?) and as with anything there are occasional bumps in the road, but all in all it’s pretty okay.

I am thankful for my friends. I don’t use the term “friend” flippantly. Most of us have an assortment of acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, church folk, and classmates…but how many true friends do we really have?? I have been blessed with several people in my life that I know are there when I need them and I can only hope they feel the same way about me. So thanks to Greg, who always makes me look at things from a new and unique perspective…The Owl, who always makes me think…and Slack, who always makes me laugh. There are others, but I don’t want to dive too deep and unintentionally leave someone out.

I am thankful for my church. Sunday mornings (and sometimes into the afternoon if the preacher is really in fine form) are a necessary refuge, a home base that reminds me of what’s really important. Wednesday night Bible study is a much needed mid-week pit stop. Our men’s group is small but mighty. I’ll never understand why more people don’t feel the urge to participate, but to the guys I know I can count on…Rod, Bart, Steve R., Steve H….and to the ladies who help us out so much even though they aren’t men and are therefore under no obligation…Sandie, Becky, Patricia, Bonnie…thank you doesn’t seem to really be big enough.

I am thankful for Facebook. I know that sounds silly and frivolous, and to a degree it is. But you know what…life doesn’t always need to be serious. Sometimes we need to loosen up and have fun. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with a lot of old pals from grade school, high school, former places of employment, and especially college. It has provided me numerous hours of mindless entertainment, and I’m okay with that. So thank you to my little Facebook family…Becky, Heather, Tony V., Julia, Noelle, Vicki, Erin, FunDorkO, Deidra, Denny, and probably a few I am forgetting…for making this wonderful, crazy concept called Facebook even more wonderful and crazy.

I am thankful for my puppy. Even though he peed in my bed yesterday forcing me to trash a pillow, and even though he aggravates the living crap out of me sometimes, he’s still pretty cool. Thanks Rocco…Daddy loves you (and yes, I’m aware he’s a dog and therefore cannot read).

Speaking of frivolity, I am thankful to be a diehard sports fan and an unapologetic lover of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marshall Thundering Herd, West Virginia Mountaineers, and Pittsburgh Penguins. Being a rather zealous sports fan can be infuriating, aggravating, frustrating, and rife with disappointment…but it can also be exhilarating, thrilling, and emotional. If we would channel some of the energy we spend on cheering on our teams into more meaningful activities what a wonderful world it would be. I am not an athlete, but I am an athletic supporter. You’ll notice I left out the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are limits.

I am thankful for good books and the ability to read them. I’ve been a bookworm for years and reading has provided me countless hours of pleasure and given me knowledge, both useful and useless. I am a Literacy Volunteer and very aware that there are way too many people out there who cannot read a street sign or a job application let alone Shakespeare or Dickens.

And finally, I am so very thankful for a loving but just God who loves me much more than I deserve and a Savior, Jesus Christ, who died to pay the price for my sins. Intellectually I cannot even wrap my head around it, so I let faith be my guide and just accept the free gift that I can never earn.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Eat, drink, love, laugh, and be grateful for blessings large and small.

Top 5′s (Thanks For The Inspiration Facebook)

Ok…so…the rage on Facebook these days seems to be listing one’s Top 5 this and that. However, because I am a nonconformist, and in an effort to bring new readers to The Manofesto so they may have the privilege of discovering my brilliance, I am just going to do all my Top 5’s here at the same time. This also affords me an opportunity to pontificate on my choices, and if there’s one talent in the universe I have (atleast one that I can discuss publicly) it is most certainly pontification.

Movies – I’m not going into that right now. I’m doing a whole series on my Top 100 Favorite Movies, so you’ll just have to read that.

Books – The Bible, The Sherlock Holmes Canon, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer, Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Animal Farm. I could go on all day. I’m a bookworm. Love to read. I like classic literature, biographies, nonfiction…..it’s all good. I did not include the works of Shakespeare because I think Shakespeare is better experienced in a live performance. I also did not include The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Godfather because, while the books are outstanding, they are the rare case where the movie actually outshines the book. I’ve tossed around the idea of doing a Top 100 Books series, but I take reading much more seriously than I do movies so it would take much more critical thought and consideration, more effort than I’m willing to put forth at the moment. Besides, there is The Bookshelf feature here at The Manofesto.

Sports Teams – Pittsburgh Steelers, West Virginia Mountaineers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ve been a diehard Steelers and Pirates fan since before I even started kindergarten. I grew up in northcentral WV, which is Mountaineer country. Marshall University is my alma mater. I include the Penguins only to get to five. I’m not really much of a hockey fan.

Singers/Musicians/Groups – Frank Sinatra, Van Halen, The Eagles, REO Speedwagon, Boston. I could very easily list atleast a dozen more. I’ve seen all of these five in concert with the exception of Sinatra. I was born probably a decade too late to really appreciate his brilliance while he was still doing live shows. My musical tastes are very eclectic and vary widely depending upon my mood.

Candy – If chocolate is involved it’s all good. No need to narrow it down to a Top 5. However, let me take this opportunity to express my deep affection for some candy bars that aren’t produced anymore or are very difficult to find, making my love for them all the more heartbreaking in a “you always want what you can’t have” kind of way. The first is Bar None, a chocolate bar produced by Hershey’s in the mid 80’s. It was a chocolate wafer, some chocolate ganache-like filling, and peanuts all covered in chocolate. At some point they re-did it so it was two smaller bars in the package instead of one bigger bar. The original was outstanding, the revision still very tasty. Bar None was discontinued in the mid 90’s and I’d pay just about any amount of money for a case of those babies. Mallo Cups are shaped and packaged like Reese’s Cups, only instead of peanut butter the chocolate encases soft creamy marshmallow filling. Mallo Cups are still around, but they are far from ubiquitous. I actually took the step of ordering a case online directly from the company a few years ago, but it’s rather pricey. And finally I want to give some attention to Chunky bars. Chunky is a trapezoid shaped hunk of chocolate with peanuts and raisins. Very unique. And it comes in a shiny silver foil wrapper. Chunkys are still around, but they are even harder to find than Mallo Cups. I used to stumble across Chunky at my local video store, but renting movies is an archaic 20th century task, so I haven’t had one in ages.

Fast Food Joints – Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Rally’s, Hardee’s. You’ll notice the absence of McDonald’s. That’s because when examining their menu every single item is done better at other places, with the exception of french fries. McDonald’s fries can’t be beat. Anyway, I love love love Wendy’s and eat there way too much. We didn’t have a BK in my area until I was in high school so I felt deprived and put it up on a pedestal of expectation. Then in college my fraternity house was right beside a BK and I have a lot of great memories. Ditto for Taco Bell…..it has a nostalgic place in my heart dating back to the fantastic college years. We had a Rally’s here when I was a kid but it disappeared when I was in high school and I miss it. In & Out and Sonic are two places I‘ve heard great things about but haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing.

Beers – Killian’s Irish Red, Dos Equis, Rolling Rock, Heineken, Corona. I’m kind of a beer snob, eschewing blue collar brews like Budweiser and Miller Lite for the most part. But at the same time I don’t really drink a lot of beer and haven’t been exposed to much of what is out there.

Cereals – Rice Krispies, Honey Bunches of Oats, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Wheaties. I’m not exactly Mr. Excitement when it comes to cereal. I like it basic and old fashioned. Not too sweet, not too cute.

All Time Athletes – Michael Jordan, Terry Bradshaw, “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Dale Earnhardt, Willie Stargell. I’m not a huge NBA guy. The closest team in proximity to my home is in Cleveland, and until recently they were an afterthought. So for me the NBA has always been more about individuals that I enjoyed watching, and in my book there were none better than Jordan and Dr. J. I cheered for the Sixers when Erving was with them and I was a Bulls fan during Jordan’s reign. That’s the closest times I’ve ever come to having a favorite NBA team. Earnhardt was one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen and his tragic death was very upsetting. Bradshaw and Stargell were the faces of the Steelers and Pirates during the glory years of the late 70’s, my formative as a sports fan. I limited this to athletes who I’ve actually had the privilege of seeing perform in my lifetime, which is why you don’t see people like Jim Brown or Babe Ruth.

TV Shows – Cheers, Seinfeld, Dallas, The Andy Griffith Show, Taxi. Another case where I could list many many more. I watched a lot of television as a kid. Probably too much. But atleast I can say with confidence that the shows that were on back then were really really good, unlike today where so much is pedestrian and uninspired.

Random Thoughts 1

  • Have you ever noticed that when you are trying to be the most quiet is when you are apt to make the most noise??
  • I’m usually a BIG sucker for the underdog unless one of my favorite teams (Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Marshall Thundering Herd, WV Mountaineers) are playing. But for some reason I get immense pleasure out of seeing the greatest golfer in the world, Tiger Woods, kick ass and take names.
  • When someone uses terms like “that’s crazy” or “that’s wild” or the 70’s term “far out” during a conversation, it basically means they’ve tuned you out and no longer have any interest in what you’re saying.
  • It’s funny how George W. Bush was CRUCIFIED for not reacting fast enough to Hurricane Katrina but NO ONE is criticizing Hussein Obama for not sending in the cavalry to save Fargo. I guess there aren’t enough minorities in the Dakotas.
  • An early opinion of Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show  –  Ehhhh…..it’s okay. He’s pleasant enough. It’s certainly not must see TV. But let us remember, Conan O’Brien really sucked when he first started but eventually found his comfort zone. Besides, what does one expect at 12:30 at night, Shakespeare??
  • I really like root beer.
  • The NCAA basketball tournament hasn’t really frosted my cupcake this year.
  • I don’t care what political party you support or what your opinion is on various issues…if the government taking over private businesses like General Motors or forcing private citizens to give back earned bonus moneys like in the case of AIG doesn’t scare the living daylights out of you then you’re crazy.