It’s Thursday, and it’s Labor Day Weekend. That only means one thing: college football season. These games start tonight, and they all count.
Once again, this blog will host some fearless football predictions. All games involving Big 12 schools will be picked, along with games of national interest and other games that are worthy of a pick.
This week will see several perceived mismatches between BCS teams and Football Championship Subdivision (1-AA) teams. Though most of these games are a waste of time and money, there is always the chance of a lightning strike and an upset of Appalachian State-Michigan proportions.
On with the picks….
Tennessee-Chattanooga at Oklahoma: The Sooners were scrambling for an opponent for a 12th game after two other schools bailed on them, and came up with the Mocs of Chattanooga. This is not Tennessee-Knoxville, so there is only one obvious pick here. Pick: Oklahoma
Colorado State vs. Colorado at Denver (Sunday): Barack Obama’s Greek temple stage will be long gone from Invesco Field, and football returns. The Rams are rebuilding under a new coach, while the Buffs are headed upward. This is a grudge match, but the Buffs should be able to handle this one. Pick: CU
South Dakota State at Iowa State (Thursday): Puhleeze. Pick: Iowa State
Florida International at Kansas: FIU was the worst team in the FBS last year. KU schedules a win here. Pick: KU
North Texas at Kansas State: Another yawner. North Texas could win a championship…in Texas Class 5A. Pick: K-State
Illinois vs. Missouri at St. Louis: One of the better games of the week. Both teams played on New Year’s Day last season. Missouri returns a lot more talent. Pick: Missouri
Western Michigan at Nebraska: The Bo Pelini era begins at Nebraska. Pick: Huskers
Wake Forest at Baylor (Thursday): Battle of the Baptists, sort of. Wake Forest used to be a Baptist school, while Baylor still is. Wake Forest has a much better football team. Pick: Demon Deacons
Oklahoma State vs. Washington State at Seattle: Cowboys go to the Great Northwest to take on Wazzu. OSU ought to be able to win, but you never know with either of these teams. Pick: OSU
Florida Atlantic at Texas: Watch out, Texas. FAU is a good team from the Sun Belt, coached by Oklahoma’s favorite, Howard Schnellenberger. Texas will win, but it will be tougher than most think. Pick: Texas
Arkansas State at Texas A&M: The Mike Sherman era begins with a win. Pick: A&M
Eastern Washington at Texas Tech: Tech will score at will in this one. Pick: Tech
Alabama vs. Clemson at Atlanta: Great matchup guaranteed to draw lots and lots of people to Atlanta on Labor Day weekend. This should be Clemson’s best team in the last 20 years. Pick: Clemson
Michigan State at California: MSU is turning the corner, while Cal should never be overlooked. This one is out West. Pick: Cal
Utah at Michigan: The Rich Rodriguez era begins at Meatchicken after an eventful off-season. Utah is not chopped liver, and is favored by some to win the Mountain West Conference. This is a tough pick, but Michigan learned something last year from the Appalachian State disaster. Pick: Michigan
USC at Virginia: East Coast, West Coast, it doesn’t matter. USC rolls on. Pick: SC
N.C. State at South Carolina (Thursday): Competing against the Obama Show on Thursday night is opening night for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. The ‘Cocks get win #1 against the Wolfpack. Pick: USC-East
Oregon State at Stanford: Late night West Coast game is tough to pick. OSU-West has built a pretty good program. Stanford is capable of damage, as was done to USC last year. Go with the Trees at home. Pick: Stanford
Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina at Charlotte: ECU gave the Hokies all they wanted last year in Blacksburg. They might finish the job this time. I’m not going to bite on this one, though. Pick: VT
TCU at New Mexico: Frogs visit Los Lobos in Mountain West opener. New Mexico is never bad, but TCU is a little better, even in Albuquerque. Pick: TCU
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Last, but definitely not least, is the Big 12.
The Big XII last season saw a slight shift in power from the South to the North. Oklahoma won the conference title, but Kansas and Missouri both finished in the top 10 in the nation. KU won the Orange Bowl over Virginia Tech, while Missouri should have been in a BCS bowl ahead of KU based on their head-to-head win and North division championship. Oklahoma and Missouri should be good once again.
In the North, many observers believe that Missouri may have their best team ever. This is Missouri we’re dealing with here, so anything could happen. But, they have a good chance to be favored in every game they play, including road trips to Nebraska and Texas. Plus, if they make it that far, the Big XII championship game is on the frozen tundra of Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Nebraska begins the Bo Pelini era four years too late. But, it’s better late than never. The Huskers will be vastly improved.
Kansas caught lightning in a bottle last year and went 11-1 with a win in the Orange Bowl. This year, the Jayhawks should be pretty good, but they will be hardpressed to top last year’s success.
Colorado is the victim of a brutal non-conference schedule, with matchups against West Virginia and Florida State. Good luck with all that. The Buffs will probably have a better team this year with a worse record to show for it.
It’s really hard to predict Kansas State or Iowa State. K-State is pining for the days of Bill Snyder. They could finish anywhere between 4-8 and 8-4. My guess is the former. ISU is in the second year of a rebuilding project under Gene Chizik. It’ll be another long year in Ames.
In the South, Oklahoma is the team to beat until notified otherwise. The Sooners look strong on offense and will be favored in every game. With a break or two, they could be in Miami for the BCS National Championship Game. They will outlast the Texas schools.
Another team looking to have a breakout year is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders return a load of weapons on offense and have a favorable schedule, including Texas at home. Tech has a chance to be undefeated before visiting Oklahoma in November.
The Texas Longhorns will win 9 games on talent alone. Problem is, they will play at least three teams that are better than them. 9-3 would be an awesome season in a lot of places, but it won’t be good enough in Austin.
Texas A&M hired former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman to lead the Aggies to more delusions of grandeur. The Aggies fashion themselves as a national powerhouse. In reality, they’re the fourth best program in the Big 12 South. That is where they will remain this year.
Speaking of delusions of grandeur, the Oklahoma State Cowboys move into freshly renovated Boone Pickens Stadium this year. While the stadium will be state of the art, it’s still OSU, and it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. OSU is lucky Baylor is in this division. Still, the Cowboys should finish at or over .500 and make it to a bowl game.
Taking their traditional place in last place are the Baylor Bears. Art Briles is the latest coach to try to make the Bears successful. Good luck with all that.
Missouri 11-1, 7-1
Nebraska 9-3, 6-2
Kansas 7-5, 4-4
Colorado 5-7, 3-5
Kansas State 4-8, 1-7
Iowa State 3-9, 1-7
Oklahoma 12-0, 8-0
Texas Tech 10-2, 6-2
Texas 9-3, 5-3
Texas A&M 6-6, 4-4
Oklahoma State 7-5, 3-5
Baylor 3-9, 1-7
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The world’s greatest college football conference resides in Dixie. Not only is it the home of the last two national champions (Florida, LSU), but it is must-see TV every week, no matter who is playing. CBS and ESPN recognize this, as the SEC just renewed their television contract with them for an extra 15 years. In ESPN’s case, they are paying the Confederate Conference $2.25 billion over the next 15 years. This is money well spent. Nowhere is there a greater combination of quality of play, athletic ability, atmosphere, and passion than in the SEC. This makes the SEC worth watching, no matter who is playing over on the other network.
This season, the Georgia Bulldogs come off a strong finish in 2007 and are the #1 team in the nation in pre-season polls. I like this team a lot. However, their schedule is too tough to cruise through undefeated. The Bulldogs make a rare non-conference road trip to Arizona State, along with SEC tilts at South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn, along with the No-Longer-Officially-Cocktail Party against Florida.
Speaking of Florida, the Gators return a Heisman Trophy winner. They should also be favored in every game except one: the No-Longer-Officially-Cocktail Party against Georgia. The Gators make it to the SEC Championship Game Presented By Dr Pepper.
This is make-it-or-break-it time in South Carolina. The Gamecocks were ranked in the Top 10 at mid-season last year, only to crash to a 6-6 record, missing out on a bowl trip. Steve Spurrier should have his best season in Columbia, but it won’t be good enough to pass Florida and Georgia. However, he’ll finish ahead of his old nemesis, Phil Fulmer at Tennessee. Kentucky will rebuild, and Vanderbilt will be Vanderbilt: first in SATs, last in football.
The West holds claim to the defending national champion LSU Tigers. The Tigers, like Georgia, have a tough schedule with road trips to Auburn, Florida, and South Carolina. This works against the Tigers, and will be the difference between the BCS and someplace like the Citrus Bowl. Auburn, in the meantime, is loaded for a national championship run, and should win the West to appear in the SECCG.
Alabama, in their second year under Nick Saban, isn’t quite ready for conference championship contention. The Tide will make a bowl game, though. Ole Miss will surprise some people under new coach Houston Nutt, formerly of Arkansas. Mississippi State will also be respectable. Arkansas will struggle in their first year in the system of new coach Bobby Petrino.
Florida 11-1, 7-1
Georgia 10-2, 6-2
South Carolina 9-3, 6-2
Tennessee 8-4, 4-4
Kentucky 5-7, 2-6
Vanderbilt 2-10, 0-8
Auburn 11-1, 8-0
LSU 9-3, 5-3
Alabama 7-5, 4-4
Ole Miss 6-6, 3-5
Mississippi State 6-6, 3-5
Arkansas 2-10, 0-8
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Flying two or three hours behind the rest of the country, thus under the radar, is the Pac-10 Conference. The Pac-10 takes advantage of the location of California to spread talent throughout the West and to hold their own against the rest of the country. Actually, this conference has a great idea. When the NCAA allowed schools to add a 12th regular season game, the Pac-10 decided to make the extra game a conference game. Therefore, instead of flying a team like Tennessee-Chattanooga across the country to get waxed by a Pac-10 team for a check, the extra game becomes a tough conference game against a team like Oregon or Oregon State. This does wonders for the conference’s strength of schedule. It also determines a true champion, as every team plays every other team in the conference in a true round-robin.
Until further notice, the Pac-10 is the domain of the USC Trojans. SC has spent this decade returning to glory as a factory of championships and NFL draft picks. This season will be no different. The road to the Rose Bowl and/or the BCS Championship Game goes through the L.A. Coliseum. The Trojans will be better than every team they play, but they will stumble somewhere this season, similar to last season’s home loss to 4-8 Stanford.
Cal and Oregon will both be pretty good, but won’t have enough in the tank to finish ahead of USC. UCLA is the team to look out for in the future, but they won’t win the conference in this, the first year of the Rick Neuheisel era. Arizona will save coach Mike Stoops’ job with a bowl trip. Arizona State could finish anywhere from the middle to the top of the conference.
At the bottom of the conference, Oregon State will slip from previous years of success. However, they will not be nearly as bad as the Beavers were infamous for being in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Stanford is still building their program under Jim Harbaugh, but won’t quite get over the hump. In Seattle, an agent better get busy with buyout negotiations, because Tyrone Willingham is not long for Washington. The schedule is too tough and the team is too mediocre to save him. Across the state, Washington State will play people tough, but fall short in the win column this season.
USC 11-1, 8-1
California 9-3, 6-3
Oregon 9-3, 6-3
UCLA 7-5, 6-3
Arizona 7-5, 5-4
Arizona State 6-6, 4-5
Oregon State 4-8, 3-6
Stanford 3-9, 3-6
Washington 3-9, 3-6
Washington State 2-11, 1-8
Monday, August 25, 2008
The Conference That Can’t Count, aka the Big Ten, enters this season with a questionable national reputation, as Ohio State has dominated the conference for two seasons in a row only to be plastered by SEC teams in the BCS National Championship Game. But, as people in Columbus will tell you, it’s better to lose the National Championship Game than to win the Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn Bowl. Actually, I don’t know if anyone in Columbus would say that, but it’s true.
Ohio State will be the king of the mountain in this conference once again. They should be favored in every game except a September trip to the Coliseum in Los Angeles, where USC awaits. I do not see them going undefeated, but they will win the conference. This would send the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl, where they have not appeared in over a decade.
The rest of the conference is anyone’s guess. Wisconsin should be good enough to finish second. After that, Penn State and Michigan should be respectable, as usual. In addition, Michigan State and Iowa should be able to contend for a first division finish. Illinois and Purdue will be decent as well, though the Illini should take a step back from last year’s Rose Bowl appearance.
Dragging bottom in the Big Ten will be Minnesota, Indiana, and Northwestern. Northwestern has an unfavorable schedule, but has a chance to outperform expectations. Indiana will crash back to earth after last season’s bowl appearance. Minnesota can’t help but improve over last season’s victory total: one.
Ohio State 11-1, 8-0
Wisconsin 10-2, 6-2
Penn State 9-3, 5-3
Iowa 8-4, 5-3
Michigan State 8-4, 5-3
Michigan 8-4, 4-4
Illinois 7-5, 4-4
Purdue 7-5, 4-4
Minnesota 5-7, 2-6
Indiana 4-8, 1-7
Northwestern 3-9, 0-8