Post-NBA Draft Lottery Mock Draft

I haven’t gotten a chance to REALLY break down what each top prospect can and can’t do yet so my explanations for this are going to be brief and I’m only going to focus on the Lottery Picks, which is really about as much depth as I’ve gone into on this rookie class so far. So with that intro, let’s get to the mock.

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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The Suns won the NBA Draft Lottery last night in the last year where the team with the worst record in the league has the best odds (starting next year, the three worst teams will have equal odds). Devin Booker is a good scorer but he’s going to need some help out there. Enter DeAndre Ayton, who is probably the most polished player in this class. Alex Len is their only big man of note as Dragan Bender has yet to make a serious impact. Ayton reminds me of DeMarcus Cousins in that he’s a big, muscular, genetic freak who you can pretty much pencil in for 20 points 10 boards every game. He’s also a decent mid-range shooter to boot. His defense isn’t great but he’s athletic enough that he can use that to overcome some of his defensive inefficiencies.

2. Sacramento Kings-Jaren Jackson-C-Michigan State

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Jackson is 6’11 240 pounds and is more projection than finished product, but damn is his ceiling high. The Kings could really use a boost. If you only ever watched college hoops, you’d think that the Kings were the best team in the league on paper given the success their players had in college. But aside from De’Aaron Fox, who looks like a budding star, there really hasn’t been a ton of production from their recent slew of draft picks. Jackson might not be the safest pick in the world, as he’s pretty skinny for his size and struggles when engaged with physical players, but he’s an excellent shot blocker and he did shoot 39% from 3.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Luka Doncic-G-Slovenia

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Doncic is this year’s “can’t miss” foreign star, which has included guys like Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja of late (very hit or miss) and this is a guy I admittedly have not gotten to see much of. But he’s 6’8 with handles and is a matchup nightmare. He’s not super explosive but he’s an excellent distributor and is one of those guys that elevates the play of those around him. The Hawks have been rolling with Dennis Schroder as their primary ball-handler and while he doesn’t suck, per se, he is probably better suited coming off the bench. Doncic at the very least can become the team’s primary distributor.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Marvin Bagley III-F-Duke

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Bagley was the preseason consensus number 1 player but questions arose about his jump shot and his being very lanky. I got to see him live and he very quietly had a 20-10 double-double. The Grizzlies were at their best when Zach Randolph was dominating the low post and if Bagley can put on a few pounds of muscle he can become that type of player.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I was actually more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley when Duke visited Indiana. Carter was just bullying IU defenders below the hoop and that type of physicality make him troublesome for opponents at the next level. The Mavericks have a nice point guard in Dennis Smith Jr, now they just need someone for him to pass to, especially considering Dirk Nowitzki is up there in age.

6. Orlando Magic-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Mo Bamba has one of the most fun names to say in all of sports and he’s a Hell of a basketball player to boot. He’s 7′ with a 7’9 wingspan and he plays with a lot of intensity. He’s still a work in progress but he could become the big man the Magic have lacked since losing Dwight Howard.

7. Chicago Bulls-Michael Porter Jr-F-Missouri

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A back injury derailed Porter’s season and potentially cost him being a top-3 pick. Nonetheless, as long as his back checks out, the Bulls will be chomping at the bit to land a talent like him. He was the #1 recruit in the nation and unfortunately for Missouri, they never really got to reap the benefits of his all-around game. The Bulls could have a potential star on their hands.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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This is the Nets pick the Cavaliers acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade. For Villanova’s championship-winning team, Jalen Brunson was the guy who got a lot of the credit (his winning Player of the Year would be a good indicator of that) but Mikal Bridges is actually the better prospect. Bridges might be the best defender in the class and is a pretty good 3-point shooter. His ceiling is limited but he’s a guy who can contribute right away and be a quality starter for years to come. The Cavaliers lack any really great defenders right now and Bridges can do that and perhaps keep Cleveland from being blown out in playoff games.

9. New York Knicks-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Trae Young is perhaps the most boom-or-bust player in this class. He put up absolutely STAGGERING numbers for Oklahoma but by the end of the season he was looking so streaky that teams began to wonder if he didn’t just get hot early in the season. He’s a good shooter and a good passer but he’s not an elite athlete. However it’s a weak guard class so a guy with his upside will easily make him more enticing to teams. The Knicks have Kristaps Porzingis and if he and Young can develop good chemistry, it could become a Durant-Westbrook type relationship (until one eventually leaves the team).

10. Philadelphia 76ers-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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I think Collin Sexton could be a dark horse to be a really good player in this class. He reminds me a lot of the underrated Elfrid Payton (and no, it’s not JUST because of the hair). He’s a good distributor and basically carried Alabama to the Round of 32 all by himself. He’d be a luxury pick for the 76ers, who still don’t really know what they have in last year’s #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz but they can get creative with their lineups with a guy like Sexton around.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Robert Williams III-C-Texas A&M

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Full disclosure, I actually hadn’t heard of this guy prior to writing up this mock, but scouts seem to be really high on him. He’s an excellent rebounder and a very physical defender, which is something the Hornets sorely lack outside of Dwight Howard, whose effort can be inconsistent at times. His offensive game could use some work but he’ll be an enforcer under the basket.

12. Los Angeles Clippers-Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

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Miles Bridges is pretty raw but he can take over a game if you’re not careful. He’s an exciting dunker and a pretty good defender. The problem is that his best position is probably power forward but he plays more like a shooting guard which kind of makes teams unsure of what to do with him. If put in a system like the Clippers with Doc Rivers, Bridges could find a role that best suits him.

13. Los Angeles Clippers-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Another pick for the Clippers, who sorely need more playmakers after we saw how they struggled without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Knox is really raw and he never really realized his full potential with Kentucky. However he has a good shot and he can be a real mismatch if he can continue to develop it.

14. Denver Nuggets-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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The Nuggets are a team that suddenly feels like they’re on the cusp, they just need to knock a couple picks out of the park. Gilgeous-Alexander is a good distributor, which is good because he’s not a great shooter. But he’s a very unselfish player whose confidence grows with every game. As long as you have a good scoring option to go along with him, Gilegeous-Alexander could be the distributor to take him to the next level.

So that’s going to do it with the Lottery Mock Draft. I’ll do another mock the day of the Draft at the end of June, I haven’t decided if I’ll do the entire first round or just stick to Lottery Picks like I did today. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Bowl Picks

Regular Season Record: 86-34       Conference Title Record: 8-0        Army-Navy: 0-1

This is going to get interesting. Bowl season is totally unpredictable but I’m going to do my damndest to try. I nailed the conference championship games but the task is a little more daunting this time around, as I’ve got about 40 games to do. For that reason, I’m going to keep this intro short. Let’s get to it.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-6) vs North Texas

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Troy is best remembered this season for beating LSU at their Homecoming but they really were a lot better than just that. These guys won the Sun Belt Conference this year and while that’s probably the least impressive conference in all of college football, it still says a lot about the success you’ve had this season. They face a tough offense in North Texas, led by quarterback Mason Fine, who could eclipse 4000 yards passing on the season in this game, which would be the first time in school history that has happened. He’s already CRUSHED the previous school record set back in 1994. I’m going with Troy in this one. They’ve shown they’re capable of winning the big game, North Texas hasn’t (their only win that can be deemed as quality is Army).

Projected Score: Troy 31 North Texas 27

Autonation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky (-4.5) vs Georgia State

Despite losing former head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue before the start of the season, Western Kentucky hasn’t lost much of a step in terms of the passing game. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White should eclipse 4000 yards on the season barring an unbelievable performance from the Georgia State defense, which has been pretty inconsistent this season. They shut out Charlotte for their first win of the season but that came a week after losing to Penn State 56-0. Now yes, it’s Penn State, but that’s still not a good look to have a score like that on your resume. They also only barely beat god-awful Georgia Southern 21-17 towards the end of the season. I’ve got Western Kentucky big in this.

Projected Score: Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 17

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State vs Oregon (-6.5)

I find the Las Vegas Bowl often has some pretty good matchups and this year is no exception. Boise State is the first ranked team to play their bowl game this year and they’re playing an Oregon team that’s just a couple years removed from appearing in the National Championship game. Now granted, a LOT has changed for the Ducks in that time, but there are still some players from that team on the current roster. However, not on the roster is head coach Willie Taggart, who was hired away by Florida State. His interim will be Mario Cristobal, who does have some head coaching experience, as he was the head man at FIU from 2007-2012. I don’t think it will help a whole lot, though, I think Boise State is going to come away with this one.

Projected Score: Boise State 28 Oregon 24

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs Colorado State (-5.5)

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If you do manage to catch this game, look out for Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup. He’s among the best there is in the country and doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the fact he plays for Colorado State. 94 catches for 1345 yards and 7 TDs on the year for the senior from Monroe, GA. I don’t care what your level of competition was, that’s impressive. They face a Marshall team that is ice cold right now, losing 4 of their last 5 games, though 3 of those 4 games were decided by 5 or fewer points and the one that wasn’t was decided by 11. I’m giving the edge to Colorado State, I just think they have too many weapons on offense for Marshall to keep up with.

Projected Score: Colorado State 35 Marshall 28

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs Arkansas State (-4)

What’s Camellia? I’ve never heard that word in my life, but my autocorrect seems to think it’s fine. Seems like an odd thing to name your bowl game, but I’m sure Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State aren’t complaining, as MTSU had to win their final game of the season to become bowl eligible while Arkansas State had their game against Miami (FL) cancelled due to Hurricane Irma and were put at a slight disadvantage in having to reach the required 6 wins in 11 games. Well they got 7 and will try and carry that season-long success into back-to-back bowl wins. I think they’ll do it, too. They’ve had a lot of success throwing the ball this season and I think MTSU will have some problems defending the plethora of receivers they have.

Projected Score: Arkansas State 38 Middle Tennessee State 27

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs Florida Atlantic (-18.5)

I’m not going to get too deep into this one. Akron is a team that kind of lucked into a bowl appearance while Florida Atlantic has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. I think they’re going to stampeded the Zips. This is one of the few bowl lines that is in double digits and there’s a reason for that, Lane Kiffin’s ground attack is too dominant.

Projected Score: Florida Atlantic 45 Akron 14

DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs SMU (-5.5)

Louisiana Tech is a pretty average team and that’s going to be a problem when you face an offense as potent as SMU’s. Not only can quarterback Ben Hicks sling it, but he’s got two of the best receivers in the nation in Trey Quinn and potential first round draft pick Courtland Sutton. The Mustangs are going to score a ton of points as they also have an effective ground game, as Xavier Jones is over 1000 yards rushing on the season. I’ve actually got SMU in a blowout.

Projected Score: SMU 52 Louisiana Tech 24

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7) vs Florida International

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. What a name for a bowl game. I’d argue it’s an even better name than the now-defunct Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. This game will also be played at my least favorite baseball stadium in Tropicana Field, so that’s about as perfect a combination of complete crap as you could ask for. Classic random-ass bowl games. Oh and there’s a football game that’s going to be played between Temple and Florida International. Temple has very little going for them offensively and defensively they’re not much better. Looking at their overall stats, I’m amazed they made it to 6-6. I think Florida International is going to come away with this one relatively handily.

Projected Score: Florida International 34 Temple 21

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-8)

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What a journey it’s been for UAB. A few years back they got their football program cut despite going 6-6, which resulted in an exodus from many top players, including Jordan Howard to my Indiana Hoosiers, who as you may know is currently tearing it up in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. There was enough backlash from the UAB faithful that the school brought the program back. Now, in their first year back after a 2-year hiatus, the Blazers are bowl eligible for only the second time in school history. This is probably going to wind up being my favorite storyline of the college football season when the Blazers lift that Bahamas Bowl trophy in their victory over Ohio. Also UAB’s logo is a fire-breathing dragon and that’s awesome. Can’t not subconsciously root for them.

Projected Score: UAB 27 Ohio 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (pick ’em)

This is going to be a battle between two talented quarterbacks. Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris showed all the talent in the world at Michigan but just couldn’t put it together before transferring to the Chippewas while Wyoming features potential top-10 draft pick Josh Allen. Despite being as talented as he is, Allen didn’t really have that great of a season. That can be due in part to a lack of real talent around him and in part due to the fact that Wyoming didn’t throw it a whole lot. But it is also most likely due to the fact that Allen has been playing on a bum shoulder for much of the season, which of course is a pretty big deal for a quarterback. I’m still looking for that one big performance that tells me that Allen is going to be a successful NFL QB but I just don’t know if that’s going to be in the cards. That shoulder injury is going to hurt Wyoming’s chances.

Projected Score: Central Michigan 31 Wyoming 24

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs South Florida (-2)

This could be the highest-scoring game of the bowl season. We all know how much Texas Tech likes to throw the ball, it’s been pretty well-documented, but USF’s Quinten Flowers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and has the ability to score on anybody at any time. Add in the fact that the Red Raiders can’t defend for shit and you’ve got the makings of a 5-hour game that ends with both teams over 50 points. I think that’s what we’re going to get and I’ve got South Florida taking home the trophy.

Projected Score: South Florida 55 Texas Tech 52

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs Army (no line)

If Army’s going to have any shot at this game, they need to keep Rashaad Penny off the field. Penny is a monster with the ball in his hands and Army will need to dominate the time of possession if they’re going to stop him. If any team can do it, though, it’s the men at West Point. Their offense is built around the ground game and controlling the tempo. I think they’ll have some success early, but I think they will struggle to contain Penny and the Aztecs will pull away late.

Projected Score: San Diego State 31 Army 20

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo (-8)

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Toledo is among the best mid-major teams in all of college football. Quarterback Logan Woodside is one of the more underrated passers in the game today and while the Appalachian State Mountaineers have a pretty good defense, they’re going to struggle to contain all of Toledo’s weapons. Appalachian State won a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy and it was on the strength of an effective ground game. They’re going to struggle to keep up with Toledo, though.

Projected Score: Toledo 35 Appalachian State 30

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs Houston (-2)

I don’t know why this game is a Christmas Eve tradition, but it is. Usually it’s kind of a shitty matchup but this year it pits two of the best mid-major teams in the country. Fresno State nearly won the Mountain West a year after going 1-11 and Houston has continued to play well despite losing Tom Herman to (arguably) greener pastures in Texas. It’s going to be a defensive battle as Fresno State has one of the toughest defenses in the nation while Houston features perhaps the nation’s best overall defensive player in defensive tackle Ed Oliver. I’m going to give the edge to Houston in this one, as it’s more of a gut feeling than anything at this point.

Projected Score: Houston 17 Fresno State 10

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-5) vs West Virginia

Utah started out the season so nicely but then face-planted so hard. They started the year 4-0 but finished the season losing 6 of their last 8 and had to win the season finale over Colorado in order to even be bowl eligible. Normally, I would say they’re screwed for their game, but West Virginia isn’t sure if they will have quarterback Will Grier, who is nursing a broken finger on his throwing hand. Had it been his left hand, you could probably wrap it up with another finger and have him go out there, but not when it’s on your right hand where it will directly affect how you throw. But to be honest, his replacement, Chris Chugunov (what a name) didn’t play that badly against Oklahoma in his start. Was he particularly good? No, but he kept West Virginia reasonably in the game. They still ended up losing by 28, but that’s because Oklahoma scored 59 points. Leading your team to 31 points against the second best team in the country isn’t half bad. That’s why I’m going with the Mountaineers in this game, with or without Grier.

Projected Score: West Virginia 38 Utah 24

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-3.5) vs Northern Illinois

Duke’s offensive line is going to have their hands full with Northern Illinois. The Huskies have arguably the best pass rusher in the nation in Sutton Smith, who led all of college football with 14 sacks to go along with 28 tackles for loss. Duke started the year 4-0 before losing 6 straight and had to win their last two in order to become bowl eligible, but they were able to pull it off, beating two pretty good teams in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. But I think Duke is going to struggle to protect quarterback Daniel Jones in this one. They were 80th in the nation in sacks allowed and they go up against the team that led the nation in sacks. I’ve got Northern Illinois taking this one.

Projected Score: Northern Illinois 20 Duke 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA

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Kansas State is going to struggle to throw the football in this one. They used three different quarterbacks this year and none of them were particularly successful. Despite this, they have one of the better defenses in the Big 12, which is saying nothing.  This team is going to get eaten alive by Josh Rosen, though. They simply can’t keep up with him on offense and I think this is going to be the game that solidifies him as the number 1 pick in the Draft.

Projected Score: UCLA 42 Kansas State 24

Walk On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs Florida State (-15)

Normally, I would wonder how in the Hell this matchup is even legal. But losing Deondre Francois in Week 1 derailed Florida State’s season so hard, Jimbo Fisher skipped town for Texas A&M. They’ve still managed to become bowl eligible, though and will look to try and pick up the win against Southern Miss. Southern Miss has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, led by Ito Smith and his 1300 yards on the ground. The defense has also been solid this year, as they’ve pitched two shutouts. But I’m going with Florida State here, but I don’t think it will be nearly as big a blowout as the line might suggest.

Projected Score: Florida State 27 Southern Miss 24

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3) vs Boston College

This is the one bowl I’ve ever attended, when Indiana played Duke and Indiana lost in OT after a Griffin Oakes field goal was incorrectly called no good. It traditionally has some pretty good games in their Big Ten-ACC matchup. Iowa has perhaps one of the most damaging victories all season in that their 31-point win over Ohio State most certainly knocked the Big Ten out of the playoff picture. Boston College, meanwhile, has been one of the more up-and-down teams I’ve seen in a while. One week they’ll absolutely DESTROY Florida State and then the next they’ll lose to NC State (not a knock against the Wolfpack, but BC’s offense in particular can’t seem to find a consistent rhythm). I’m going with Boston College for this one, as aside from that one performance against the Buckeyes, Iowa hasn’t been that impressive this year.

Projected Score: Boston College 24 Iowa 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue

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So as you may have read, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is my favorite to win the Heisman next season because of the dominant stretches he displayed. However he does need to improve as a passer if he’s going to reach those heights. Purdue is a pretty solid run defense, especially with Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker. Tate might need to whip out that passing ability if Arizona is going to keep pace, but I think they will. Tate is such a talented runner that I think overall he’s going to overpower Purdue and Arizona will get the win.

Projected Score: Arizona 28 Purdue 21

Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs Missouri (-1)

Both teams were quietly pretty solid this season mainly because it was below their traditional standards, but definitely better than the last couple years. Texas showed some promise under Tom Herman but it may be a couple of years before they return to the Longhorns of old. Missouri’s Drew Lock had a fantastic season throwing the football, as he led the nation in passing touchdowns this season. I’m going to give the edge to Texas in this one. It’s a toss up but the game is being played in Houston, where the Longhorns will essentially have a home field advantage, which is big in college sports.

Projected Score: Texas 30 Missouri 27

Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (no line)

Virginia actually had a pretty good season this year. After going 2-10 in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at the helm, the Cavaliers turned it around nicely and find themselves in a bowl game. Also, quarterback Kurt Benkert is getting some looks from the NFL as a result of his successful season. They face a Navy team that lost a heart breaker to Army in the snow and I just don’t know if they have what it takes to take down this surprisingly talented Virginia squad. I’ve got the other Cavs in this one.

Projected Score: Virginia 24 Navy 14

Camping World Bowl: #22 Virginia Tech vs #19 Oklahoma State (-6.5)

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This is too good a matchup to be relegated to the likes of the Camping World Bowl, but at least in most cases by the time the game actually kicks off, you kind of forget which bowl you’re playing in. The number 3 scoring offense in Oklahoma State vs the number 5 scoring defense in Virginia Tech. Something’s gotta give. I think I’m going to give the edge to Oklahoma State here. Yes, I know, a matchup of this type usually ends up favoring the defense, but the Cowboys have far too many weapons that the Hokies have to compete with.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Virginia Tech 30

Valero Alamo Bowl: #13 Stanford vs #15 TCU (-2.5)

This is going to be a really close game as both teams have the ability to be really explosive on offense while also featuring some of the best defenses in their respective conferences. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love leads the Cardinal to face TCU and their duo of talented defensive ends in Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen. While I do think Love is going to have a big game for the Cardinal, I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the TCU offense. Kenny Hill’s been having a tremendous season for the Horned Frogs and I think he leads them to an Alamo Bowl victory over Stanford.

Projected Score: TCU 28 Stanford 23

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: #18 Washington State (-2.5) vs #16 Michigan State

Like the Oklahoma State-Virginia Tech matchup, this game features one of the top offenses in the country in Washington State vs one of the top defenses in Michigan State. The Cougars are the second best passing offense in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Oklahoma State while the Spartans allowed under 200 passing yards per game this season. It’s going to be a tough matchup but I think Washington State is going to come out on top. Michigan State has been too careless with the football offensively, as they’ve fumbled it more than any team in the country that doesn’t run a run-only offense, which I think the Cougars will find ways to capitalize on.

Projected Score: Washington State 31 Michigan State 24

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M

Wake Forest was quietly a pretty good team this season, as they went 7-5 this season, including wins over a Lamar Jackson-led Louisville team and a late-season win over then-#19 NC State. They take on a Texas A&M team that is getting a major face lift, as they fired Kevin Sumlin only to turn around and hire Jimbo Fisher away from the Florida State Seminoles. Fisher, however, will not be leading the Aggies in this game, as that task will fall on Jeff Banks. I’m actually going to go with the Demon Deacons in this game. There’s too much turmoil going on with the Aggies in this game and I think it could become a distraction, which is the last thing you want when you face a pesky team like this.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 24 Texas A&M 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl: #24 NC State (-6.5) vs Arizona State

Like Texas A&M, Arizona State also hired a new head coach in Herm Edwards, who has previously coached in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs. It’s an odd situation because despite firing the incumbent Todd Graham, Graham will still be coaching this game for the Sun Devils. This could go one of two ways: Graham could be salty and sabotage this game for his former employer, or he could try and go out with a bang and give his best performance. I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot what he ends up doing because I think NC State’s Bradley Chubb is going to give a similar performance to what we saw Solomon Thomas give for Stanford in their bowl game last year: a performance that will solidify him in the Top-5 pick discussion. I’ve got the Wolfpack in this game.

Projected Score: NC State 27 Arizona State 20

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs #21 Northwestern (-8.5)

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Kentucky is quietly a pretty good team this year as they went 7-5, including wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee. Mark Stoops has done a Hell of a job with his team this year, but I think they’re going to run into some problems against Northwestern. The Wildcats had one of the best seasons in school history, as they went 9-3, including winning each of their last 7 games, including an OT win over Michigan State. Northwestern plays some really sound and fundamental football and I think they’re going to frustrate this Kentucky offense that is predicated on being able to run the football. I’ve got Northwestern in this game.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Kentucky 13

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs Utah State (-3)

The battle of the Aggies, this game might slip under the radar a bit because it’s not a matchup of household names. Which is a shame, because when they’re on, they can be two of the most exciting offenses in college football. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers ranked among the best passers in the game with his 3825 passing yards this season while Utah State preferred a more balanced attack that spreads the ball around to various different options. I’m going to go with New Mexico State for this game. Utah State’s defense has had its struggles this season and I think Rogers is going to have a field day.

Projected Score: New Mexico State 38 Utah State 27

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 USC vs #5 Ohio State (-7)

So in an 8-team playoff format, this would be the 4 vs 5 matchup and dammit if I’m not pumped for it. Getting a chance to watch Ohio State live twice this season, I was able to see firsthand just how much better this team got over the course of the season. Their defense, which struggled to contain Indiana’s Richard Lagow and Simmie Cobbs, were lights out in the Big Ten championship, absolutely shutting down Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor. Their defense will put potential top pick Sam Darnold to the test, as this will be by far the toughest defense he faces all year. How he performs in this game will go a long way in determining whether he really is the top quarterback everybody projected him to be. I think he will have his struggles, though I don’t think it will necessarily be because of him. I think USC’s offensive line will struggle to protect him against the monster of a front that Ohio State has and they will wreak havoc on the Trojans.

Projected Score: Ohio State 30 USC 20

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-6) vs #23 Mississippi State

Lamar Jackson may have finished third in the Heisman voting this year, but I would argue that he actually played better in 2017 than he did in his banner 2016 season. Louisville wasn’t quite as good as they were last year and that’s really what hurt Jackson’s Heisman chances. They face a Mississippi State team that can be very dangerous, as they came the closest to beating Alabama before Auburn was able to pull it off in the Iron Bowl. But I think they will struggle to contain Lamar Jackson. Limiting Jalen Hurts is one thing, but Jackson is so much better a passer that it’s going to be too much for the Bulldogs to keep track of.

Projected Score: Louisville 38 Mississippi State 30

Autozona Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs #20 Memphis (-3)

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Memphis’ Riley Ferguson can sling it with the best of them, as he showed in Memphis’ early-season win over Josh Rosen’s UCLA Bruins, where Ferguson was able to outduel the potential top draft pick. He’s also got a lot of weapons on offense that will cause Iowa State a lot of problems, however if anybody is up to the task, it’s the Cyclones. Iowa State is the only team to beat Oklahoma this season and they also were able to hand TCU their first loss of the season. Both teams ended up playing in the Big 12 title game, so Iowa State does a great job of playing up to their competition. However I think the combination of Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller is going to be too much for Iowa State to handle and I think Memphis will come away with this one.

Projected Score: Memphis 42 Iowa State 38

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #11 Washington vs #9 Penn State (-3)

This is a matchup made in heaven. Two teams that boast not only talented offenses, but talented defenses as well. They each had a couple of rough goes, Penn State likely would have played for the Big Ten Title game had JT Barrett not pulled off a miraculous comeback to knock off the then-second-ranked Nittany Lions. Then they lost to Michigan State after a 3-and-a-half-hour storm delay midway through the contest that likely threw off their groove. Washington also had a couple of ugly defeats, as they were upset by Arizona State midway through the season, then a loss to Stanford that effectively eliminated them from Pac 12 title contention. Both teams will be looking for a bit of redemption for their once promising seasons and I think this will go down to the wire. I’m going to go with Penn State to get the win, though. I think their offense is too explosive for Washington to keep up with for four quarters.

Projected Score: Penn State 31 Washington 28

Capital One Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin (-6.5) vs #10 Miami (FL)

The Turnover Chain is dead. Clemson buried it.

The Hurricanes are suddenly ice cold as they’ve delivered back-to-back duds to close out their schedule. They lost in embarrassing fashion to Pittsburgh, then got obliterated by Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a playoff berth on the line. Then Dabo Swinney’s bunch destroyed what had been the emblem of the Hurricanes’ season in the Turnover Chain and Miami fans can’t be feeling much lower right now. They take on a Wisconsin team that may have been exposed a little bit in their loss to Ohio State. While the Badgers did manage to keep the game close, it was mainly because Ohio State shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions. That being said, I think this defense is going to cause a lot of problems for Malik Rosier and company and Wisconsin will come away with the victory.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Miami (FL) 10

Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8.5) vs South Carolina

These two teams have met in the Outback Bowl before.

However South Carolina doesn’t have anybody who evenly remotely resembles JaDeveon Clowney this year. Michigan has had their struggles at the quarterback position this year but if they can get the ground game working, then I think they will be okay. Defensively they’re so good they can practically take over games. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 South Carolina 17

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #12 UCF vs #7 Auburn (-10)

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Why Auburn is ranked 7th despite being a 3-loss team is beyond me, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as long as they aren’t in the playoff. They looked good to start the SEC Championship game, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first possession. Then Georgia unraveled them and scored 28 unanswered. They face the lone unbeaten team in college football in UCF. Despite being hired by Nebraska, UCF head coach Scott Frost will coach the Knights in this game to close out the season, which I wish more coaches would do. It is for that reason that I think UCF will compete with Auburn, even give them a scare for most of the game, but I think the Tigers will outlast them. Eventually, talent often wins out, though if any team were to be on upset alert for this bowl season, I’d say it’s Auburn.

Projected Score: Auburn 20 UCF 17

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s: #14 Notre Dame vs #17 LSU (-2.5)

These are two teams that like to run the ball and play physical defense and on paper are pretty evenly matched. LSU has recovered really well after their homecoming debacle against Troy, as they’ve won 6 of 7 games since that loss, their one defeat being Alabama. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, ended the season rather meekly, losing 2 of their last 3 after having been in the playoff hunt for much of the season. Granted, those two losses were Miami and Stanford, but both teams ended up getting beaten in their conference title games, Miami pretty soundly while Stanford kept it close. Notre Dame is capable of beating up on good teams, though, and I think the difference is going to be quarterback play. I trust Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush more than I do LSU’s Danny Etling and for that reason, I’m picking the Irish.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 31 LSU 27

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia vs #2 Oklahoma (-1)

The first of the two playoff games, this will be Baker Mayfield’s first game after winning the Heisman Trophy. It will also be an opportunity for him to increase his draft stock even further, as he goes up against a really tough Georgia defense. If he can have a big game, then I think NFL teams will be far more intrigued by the possibility of drafting him high. As for Georgia, they look to break the 3-seed curse, as the team in that slot has yet to win a playoff game (Florida State, Michigan State, and Ohio State have all failed to get the job done). It’s going to be an uphill battle for them, as they will have to ask Jake Fromm to outduel the Heisman-winning Mayfield. It won’t be impossible, as Oklahoma will likely be without stud runningback Rodney Anderson as he faces domestic assault charges, but I don’t see that happening, and I’m picking the Sooners reaching the National Championship for the first time since the 2008 season, when Sam Bradford was outplayed by Tim Tebow.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 31 Georgia 26

All State Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama (-2) vs #1 Clemson

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Part 3 of this CFP rivalry, though it’s the first matchup in this series that won’t be taking place with the National Championship on the line. Alabama will be very thankful it’s not Deshaun Watson under center for Clemson, as he absolutely lit them up in each of the previous matchups. Kelly Bryant will be tasked with taking on the Crimson Tide defense. He’s not Watson, but he has proven capable of winning big games, as he led Clemson to wins over the likes of Auburn, Virginia Tech, and a blowout of Miami for the ACC title. Offensively, Alabama will have to compete with the most efficient defense in the country in Clemson, as their defensive front that includes the likes of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clellin Ferrell will make it tough to move the ball. Having seen eachother each of the last few years, I think both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney will have made the adjustments they will need to come away with the victory. In the end, I think Clemson will come away as the winner of this best-of-3 series and will take on Oklahoma for the National Championship.

Projected Score: Clemson 34 Alabama 31

*Exhales.* Finally, I’ve made all the picks and it only took me 5530 words, more than doubling my previous high word count (which I think was an NFL picks segment). I’m going to wait to do the National Championship game until the night before, as I don’t want to predict a matchup that hasn’t been set up yet. But based on what I’ve predicted, I think that Clemson will beat Oklahoma to win back-to-back championships. I just think they’re more well-rounded than Oklahoma is and I think the Sooners’ deficiencies on defense will come back to haunt them in this one. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

My Heisman Favorites for 2018

Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, which I’m sure you’re all aware of. I’ve had a lot on my plate these last few days, including finals (which I’m just coming back from two-a-days). So these are coming out a little later than I had intended, but they’re out. So let’s get a look at who I think are the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Now, there may be some guys you think I’m missing even though they’ll have eligibility next year. For example, Lamar Jackson will not be on this list mainly because I think he is going to declare for the NFL Draft. Same with Saquon Barkley. Same with Bryce Love. Because I don’t think any of those guys’ draft stock will be any higher than they are right now. So with that in mind, let’s get into my rankings.

5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston

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I’m opening up with a bit of a long shot here. Don’t get me wrong, Ed Oliver is a PHENOMENAL player. In fact, he’s the best collegiate defensive tackle I’ve seen since Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, and Suh, in my opinion, is the best defensive tackle college football has ever seen. In his senior season, he had 12 sacks from the defensive tackle position, a position where he was always facing double teams with opponents knowing what kind of threat he was going in. Ed Oliver isn’t quite Suh, but he’s probably the closest we’ve seen since Suh was a Heisman finalist in 2009. Oliver is always living in opposing backfields and has been getting All-American recognition the moment he set foot on campus last year. He was the first ESPN 5-star recruit to ever sign with a non-Power 5 team and although the coach who signed him, Tom Herman, is at Texas now, Oliver continued to dominate. There are two big knocks against him: the fact he plays defense and he plays outside the power 5 conferences. While Houston is a good mid-major program, they still don’t face the same competition and that matters in the eyes of the voters. He also plays defense, which has only ever had 1 Heisman winner, Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997, and even then Woodson played on offense and special teams as well. I think that’s a crime, but it is an obstacle regardless. Try and watch the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, where Houston plays Fresno State. Watch and see what #10 does, I think you’ll see why I have him in the Heisman discussion for next season.

4. Jalen Hurts-QB-Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

Hurts is kind of a dark horse. He’s basically a runningback playing quarterback, but the quarterback of college football’s best team is always going to be in the running for the Heisman in some form. Team success is a factor that Heisman voters take into consideration. We’ve also seen some Heisman-caliber moments out of Hurts in the past, such as his 31-yard run for a score in the national championship that would have won the Tide a title had it not been for Deshaun Watson. Which he did as a true freshman. If Hurts takes a step forward as a passer, I don’t think it’s farfetched to think that Hurts could be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. We’ve seen running quarterbacks take the next step in throwing the ball before, Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III being prime examples of that. With a coach like Nick Saban, I wouldn’t put it past Hurts to take that step.

3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State

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JK Dobbins really exploded on the scene and I had a front row seat for two of the biggest games of his career. I was there when he set an Ohio State freshman debut record with 181 rushing yards against Indiana on opening night, then when he won Big Ten Championship MVP with his 174 yards on 17 carries against Wisconsin, which has arguably the toughest defense in the nation. Watching this guy hit the hole, it’s amazing anyone can ever catch this guy, he has that good a burst of speed. He’s shifty, too. He had one of the best freshman seasons ever by a runningback and I am more than confident in his ability to build on that early success and turn it into a Heisman-caliber campaign.

2. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

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Taylor was basically Dobbins, but on a bigger scale. Taylor was a legitimate Heisman contender this season and was the focal point of the Wisconsin offense despite being a true freshman. With a strong performance in the Orange Bowl, Taylor could not only break the freshman rushing record, but he could become the first freshman to ever rush for 2000 yards. Now imagine the fact that he could get better. Wisconsin will need to get a little better in the passing game to try and take some of the pressure off of Taylor, or else teams will be able to wisen up and start loading the box on them. Taylor himself also needs to improve in the receiving game, though he never got too many opportunities. I think if Wisconsin found a way to open up their offense a little bit, then it could really jumpstart Taylor’s potential Heisman candidacy, which is already really high, as he finished sixth in the final voting and 4th in my rankings.

1. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

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So this is a guy you may not be as aware of, as he was a bit under the radar on the national scene, but he really started gaining notoriety as the season went along. He didn’t become the starter until Arizona’s fifth game of the season against Colorado. In that starting debut he only rushed for 327 yards, no big deal. He rushed for over 200 yards on three separate occasions this season and finished with 1353 yards on 133 carries. Oh and did I mention he’s the quarterback? Granted, Tate’s passing game is practically non-existent, as he rushed for more yards than he threw for (1353 vs 1289). He only threw for over 200 yards once and attempted more than 20 passes only twice. If he can develop more as a passer this offseason, we could see a runaway Heisman performance with how skilled he is as a runner. 1353 yards in only 10 games and 7 starts? That’s pretty damn incredible. He has shown that he is capable of being a good passer, in his starting debut he had a perfect QBR, completing 12 of 13 passes for 154 yards to along with his 327 rushing yards. He just needs to be more consistent.

So those are my premature Heisman rankings for next season. I wouldn’t hold my breath on there being a blog tomorrow, but there’s a reason for that. I’m doing a picks segment for ALL of the bowl games and it may take me a while to do them all. It will likely end up being a two-day process. Doing my usual 12-game blogs usually takes me a little while. This one is about 40. So that’ll be fun. That word count is going to get interesting. So what did you think of my way-too-early Heisman rankings? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman 10 and contribute to my Patreon.

College Football Picks: Rivalry Week

Last Week: 10-2                  Season Record: 79-29

My misses last week were Texas against West Virginia and Kansas State against Oklahoma State, though my upset pick of Wake Forest over NC State came through (even though Wake was favored by 1.5, I still consider it an upset because the Wolfpack were ranked). Miami (FL) losing to Pitt is HUGE and I’m going to have an interesting playoff blog for Tuesday. So for the last time in the regular season, let’s get picking.

Indiana vs Purdue (-2.5)

As an Indiana student, I’m a little nervous for this one. Purdue isn’t the pushover of years’ past and even when they did suck, they still played the Hoosiers tough. For that reason, I’m not surprised the Boilermakers are favored at home. Both teams are 5-6 so the winner of this game goes bowling and the loser’s season is over. Naturally I’m going to be pretty anxious. I am going to go with Indiana, the Hoosiers have won 4 in a row in this matchup and Purdue will be without gunslinging quarterback David Blough. If Blough were playing, I’d likely give the edge to Purdue, but I think the Boilermakers will struggle to score on this tough Indiana defense.

Projected Score: Indiana 24 Purdue 20

#7 Georgia (-10.5) vs Georgia Tech

Georgia still controls their own destiny if they want to make it to the playoff for the first time in school history. They have to beat Georgia Tech and the winner of the Iron Bowl. I think for that reason, head coach Kirby Smart is going to have his guys ready and it wouldn’t shock me if the Bulldogs come out guns blazing for this game against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is always a tricky team to play against, given their wishbone offense and their highly-ranked defense this season, but they’ve lost 3 of their last 4 games and need this win if they are to become bowl eligible. To me, that type of cold play does not bode well if you’re trying to beat a potentially playoff-bound team. I’ve got the Bulldogs winning this pretty handily.

Projected Score: Georgia 38 Georgia Tech 17

Louisville (-10.5) vs Kentucky

Things haven’t gone the way Louisville would’ve liked, while Kentucky has exceeded all expectations this season. Last year, the Cardinals were 26.5-point favorites, yet still lost to the Wildcats despite Lamar Jackson being in the midst of his Heisman trophy-winning campaign. I think this game will be close, Mark Stoops’ bunch have been tough beats this season and both teams enter the game at 7-4. The one thing about Kentucky is that they seem to let bad teams stay close, as they’ve had tight contests with the likes of Southern Miss and Eastern Kentucky. But I don’t know. I’ve got a feeling about this one. I think the Kentucky Wildcats will make it two in a row for no reason. Because that’s rivalry week.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Kentucky

Can Stephen Johnson lead Kentucky to back-to-back upset wins over Louisville? (photo credit: Gridiron Now)

Projected Score: Kentucky 38 Louisville 35

#9 Ohio State (-12) vs Michigan

Ohio State has already won the Big Ten East and the only time they’ve lost to Michigan since 2003 was in 2011 after Jim Tressel was fired over that whole tattoos thing and Luke Fickell was interim head coach. And even then the Wolverines only won by 6. So being a Michigan fan hasn’t been fun for a while. The game is in Ann Arbor this year but I don’t expect that to matter a whole lot. Last time this game was at Michigan, Ohio State won 42-13. To the chagrin of Michigan fans, I don’t expect a whole lot to change. Michigan lacks consistency on offense and JT Barrett is playing too well right now for Michigan’s all-world defense to hold him down for too long.

Projected Score: Ohio State 29 Michigan 16

#1 Alabama (-4.5) vs #6 Auburn

This is probably the matchup of the day right here. Amazingly enough, Alabama misses the SEC championship game and possibly the playoff if they lose this game to Auburn. Interesting tidbit, the winner of this game in every year since 2008 was ranked in the top 4 at the time of their victory. This is probably the biggest rivalry in college football right now as both teams are fantastic and this year in particular, the stakes are very high. Auburn could get into the college football playoff if they win this game and the SEC title. I laid out their path earlier this week, which you can read here. I really am torn about who I have winning this. My brain is telling me Alabama, but my heart is telling me Auburn. Both are wrong just as often as the other, so I’m going to trust the number 1 ranking and go the route that would cause the least amount of chaos and pick Alabama here. But Auburn winning would be pandemonium for the CFP.

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The Crimson Tide will have their hands full with Auburn in the Iron Bowl (photo credit: Roll ‘Bama Roll)

Projected Score: Alabama 31 Auburn 30

#5 Wisconsin (-17.5) vs Minnesota

Every game is about as must-win as they come if Wisconsin wants to stay alive in the playoff hunt. One slip-up and its over, given how easy their schedule is. Minnesota has been pretty inconsistent this season. There are some weeks where they look like they can compete with the Badgers in the Big Ten West, then there are others where they look like the worst team in the conference. Wisconsin’s defense has a tendency to make good teams look painfully average and the Golden Gophers don’t have the weapons to overcome that dominance. I’ve got the Badgers entering their Big Ten title date with Ohio State at 12-0.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 35 Minnesota 17

West Virginia vs #4 Oklahoma (-22.5)

Baker Mayfield is on fire right now, but because the camera caught him yelling obscenities while grabbing his nuts at the Kansas bench last week, he will be suspended for an unknown amount of time in this game, but he will play. I wonder if he gets suspended had the camera not caught him. Quite frankly, I love the intensity, but since you can’t exactly fine the kid because he has no money, you kind of have to keep him out for a few plays. Even without Mayfield for a small portion of this game, Oklahoma is still heavily favored, and that’s pretty well justified. Will Grier being injured is going to be fatal for the Mountaineers’ chances of pulling off the upset. Were he healthy, I’d give them a much better shot at winning. But without him, this line seems a little low.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 49 West Virginia 21

Arizona (-2.5) vs Arizona State

This game could get really exciting. Arizona’s Khalil Tate might be leading the Heisman race had it not taken him until October to earn the starting job. He’s been a MONSTER this season, especially on the ground. He was on the bench for the first month and he still has 1325 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Did I mention he’s the quarterback? Arizona State isn’t going to stop him, so they’re going to just have to try and outscore him, something they’re very capable of. The Sun Devils have scored at least 30 points in each of their last 3 games this season and they’re going to need more of the same if they want to keep pace with Tate and the Wildcats. I’m going with Arizona to win this game. Tate is too explosive for the Sun Devils to keep up with.

Projected Score: Arizona 45 Arizona State 38

#3 Clemson (-13.5) vs #24 South Carolina

Miami losing really doesn’t affect the ACC picture, only now it’s pretty much a guarantee we won’t get two ACC teams in the playoff, just so long as Clemson wins this game. The Gamecocks are no slouches. They’re 8-3 this season, including a win over NC State and they’ve played good teams like Georgia and Texas A&M close. I think the Tigers will be okay for this one, though. They’re just too talented for South Carolina to keep up with for 60 minutes, but I wouldn’t put it past South Carolina to make this game interesting. They’re a very balanced team that could create some issues.

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Deon Cain is one of the most explosive receivers in the nation (photo credit: Athlon Sports)

Projected Score: Clemson 34 South Carolina 24

Texas A&M vs #18 LSU (-9.5)

I wouldn’t necessarily call this a big rivalry game, but it’s a matchup that will be worth watching as these are two quality teams that can hang with the best of them. Hell, these are probably the two teams that gave Alabama their best fights of the season (along with Mississippi State). Kevin Sumlin might be coaching for his job at this point as the expectations at A&M have been pretty high the last few seasons and a loss here would drop the Aggies to a 7-5 finish and a mediocre bowl game. Amazing how different 7-5 and 8-4 really look. I’m going to give the edge to LSU. Texas A&M is too inconsistent at quarterback and LSU’s defense feeds on those types of teams.

Projected Score: LSU 24 Texas A&M 14

#8 Notre Dame (-2.5) vs #21 Stanford

Notre Dame has some slim odds if they want to make the playoff, which I detailed in the link in my Iron Bowl pick. But they still have a chance and they have to beat Stanford to stay alive. This is pretty much guaranteed to be a close game, as this matchup has been decided by 1 score every year starting in 2012. Stanford has won 3 of those 5 games. The key to this game for Notre Dame is going to be stopping Bryce Love. Yes that’s pretty damn obvious, but Stanford is so unsettled at quarterback that the passing game can never seem to get in a consistent rhythm. Honestly, if they hold Love to 120 yards of total offense, they should be fine. I’m taking Notre Dame to win this game. Defensively I trust them to find ways to limit Love.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 28 Stanford 21

#13 Washington State vs #17 Washington (-10.5)

The winner of this game likely faces USC for the Pac-12 title, adding a little more incentive to an already intense rivalry. Both teams have had their ups and downs this season and have spent time in the Top 10. Both offenses have the ability to light up the scoreboard, but that could be limited because it is expected to rain in this game. For that reason, I’m going to give the edge to the Washington Huskies. A weapon like Myles Gaskin in the run game will be huge against the elements and I think he’s going to be in for a heck of a game.

Projected Score: Washington 30 Washington State 27

Those are the final picks of the regular season, I want to thank everyone for reading these every week. Fret not, I’m not done doing these, but my regular season is over upon the conclusion of these games. I will still be doing conference championship games, Army-Navy, and bowl games so I’ve still got plenty of material on the way. Are there any other rivalry games you want my thoughts on? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

College basketball is always one of the tougher sports to predict typically because it is ALWAYS experiencing turnover, with all the one-and-dones that enter and leave the league before we really get a chance to see what they can do. It’s hard to blame them, with how messy the NCAA can get it’s no wonder these players jump to the NBA first chance they get. So that being said, I’m anticipating a fun year of college basketball. In this preview, I will try and project who will win each of the Power 5 conferences as well as putting in my own Top 25 and my preseason All Americans. I will not be predicting who I think will be the champs, as March Madness is so insane every year that I feel like trying to predict how it’s going to go in November doesn’t give the tournament its full due. I will, however, give who I think will be the number 1 overall seed, if that helps. Let’s get to the conference champs.

ACC: Duke Blue Devils

Duke Countdown To Craziness

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

The ACC is probably the best conference in college hoops right now. You’ve got the blue bloods such as Duke and reigning champs North Carolina, but the second tier of this conference is typically super competitive as well, such as Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Louisville (though with the whole Rick Pitino situation, Louisville may be removing themselves from this discussion). I’m going with Duke to win the ACC this year for two main reasons: Coach K and the recruiting class. Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the best college basketball coach on the planet right now and he always turns out a plethora of NBA talent, whether that be from one-and-dones or guys who stay all four years. This year he has a particularly talented group to go with Grayson Allen. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr are all in the TOP EIGHT of ESPN’s Top 100 Recruits for the class of 2021 (whether these guys are here that long is another story). Bagley is the highlight here as he is a big time recruit who was able to reclassify in order to be a part of this Duke roster. He’s 6’11 with all the tools you can look for in a player: athleticism, shooting, and post moves being major positives with this kid. The one thing that may hold this team back is Grayson Allen. Yes he is a supremely talented point guard, but his emotional outbursts are more renowned than his game is and that can become a distraction. He’s got to be the leader of this young team, being a senior this year, and if he’s having hissy fits on the bench then it could do a lot of damage to this team.

SEC: Kentucky Wildcats

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photo credit: A Sea of Blue

Was there really any other choice here? While the SEC may be a dominant conference in football, they are essentially a one-man race in basketball, with Kentucky having won the conference each of the last 3 years (feels like it should be more than that). John Calipari rivals Coach K as the best coach in the game but the main challenge Kentucky deals with every year is the one-and-done. Kentucky goes through these types of players more often than seemingly any team in the country, but Cal also encourages it. He feels that his guys should take the opportunity to go to the NBA as soon as they feel they’re ready, but has all his guys declare for the NBA Draft anyway so they can all get a sense of their draft stock before deciding whether they want to go forward or return to school. And with his coaching prowess and skills as a recruiter, he has no problem finding replacements for the guys he lost the year prior. This season, Kentucky’s top players are Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Nick Richardson, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt, joining a roster that returns very little from last year’s SEC champs. Kentucky’s only real competition this season will likely come from Florida, Texas A&M, or Alabama, but I think the gap between these schools are big enough that everyone else is playing for second place in the SEC.

Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Tom Izzo’s Spartan squad has never been one that typically deals with the one-and-dones, as Deyonta Davis is the only player in recent memory to leave for the NBA after one season in East Lansing. That bodes well for Michigan State because they’ve got a lot of good returning talent, particularly Miles Bridges (who may be my favorite player in all of college basketball) and Lourawls “Tumtum” Nairn. Michigan State also landed Jaren Jackson, ESPN’s #9 recruit, who looks to be a major contributor for this season. In the Big Ten, Michigan State’s main competition will likely come from Wisconsin, Purdue or even  quietly good Minnesota and Northwestern teams. Indiana’s potentially a wild card because it’ll be interesting to see how Archie Miller transitions to major college basketball after great success at the University of Dayton. But Michigan State is so loaded and have a Hall of Fame head coach, making it awfully difficult to pick against them.

Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

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photo credit: KUSports.com

Do I really even need to do this one? The Big 12 has been OWNED by Kansas of late, as the Jayhawks have won the Big 12 every year since 2005. That’s THIRTEEN STRAIGHT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS! Despite this, Kansas only has one national championship victory to show for it (2008) but they will be looking for another run this year. They lose Player of the Year Frank Mason to the NBA, but they do have Devonte Graham returning, which was huge for Bill Self’s squad, as Kansas’ recruiting class was a little light this season. Billy Preston was their only recruit in ESPN’s Top 50. But having another season of Devonte Graham will likely be good enough for the Jayhawks to hold off such competition as West Virginia, Baylor, and possibly Iowa State for a fourteenth straight conference title.

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats

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photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are back for Arizona and they’ll be running this offense with one new toy to play with: DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot 250-pounder out of Phoenix. Ayton is the #3 overall recruit according to ESPN, trailing only Bagley and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr (both guys are in the discussion for number 1 pick in the NBA Draft). Ayton is arguably as good as either of these guys and will be key to replacing Lauri Markkanen. Head Coach Sean Miller (older brother of Indiana coach Archie Miller) has had Arizona playing some really good basketball these last few years and it wouldn’t shock me to see these guys unseat UCLA as best in a weak conference, as only the Bruins and USC are expected to be competitive in this conference.

Preseason Top 25:

1.Duke Blue Devils

2.Michigan State Spartans

3.Kentucky Wildcats

4.Kansas Jayhawks

5.Arizona Wildcats

6.Villanova Wildcats

7.North Carolina Tar Heels

8.Florida Gators

9.Wichita State Shockers

10.West Virginia Mountaineers

11.Miami (FL) Hurricanes

12.USC Trojans

13.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.Cincinnati Bearcats

15.Minnesota Golden Gophers

16.Louisville Cardinals

17.Purdue Boilermakers

18.Gonzaga Bulldogs

19.Xavier Musketeers

20.Wisconsin Badgers

21.Northwestern Wildcats

22.UCLA Bruins

23.Baylor Bears

24.St. Mary’s Gaels

25.Seton Hall Pirates

Preseason All Americans

First Team:

G-Collin Sexton-Alabama

G-Devonte Graham-Kansas

F-Miles Bridges-Michigan State

F-Marvin Bagley-Duke

C-DeAndre Ayton-Arizona

Second Team:

G-Joel Berry-North Carolina

G-Trevon Bluiett-Xavier

F-Michael Porter Jr-Missouri

F-Johnathan Williams-Gonzaga

C-Mohamed Bamba-Texas

Projected Player of the Year: Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

Mississippi Valley State v Michigan State

photo credit: CBS Detroit

Bridges is one of the most exciting players in the game and as a freshman last year, he scored 16.9 points per game with 8.3 rebounds while shooting almost 50% from the field and 39% from 3. He’s got another year under his belt and I think given his abilities, we are in for a tremendous season from the sophomore forward from Flint, Michigan.

Projected #1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is just too stacked on paper for it to be anyone else at this point in the year. As I mentioned, in a sport typically dominated by freshman, Duke has 4 of the 8 best, including the number 1 overall player as well as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. However, we often see these super teams fall apart under the weight of media expectations, as teams with this much hype rarely ever live up to it, so while I am super high on Duke, it also wouldn’t shock me to see them underwhelm.

Those are my predictions for this college basketball season. Probably going to look WAY different when I do the postseason edition. Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 10

Last Week: 7-5                   Season Record: 52-20

Ouch, rough week for my college football picks. 7-5 might not look so bad but it was my worst week since I started doing this segment. The games I missed were Indiana against Maryland, Washington State against Arizona, Ohio State against Penn State, Iowa State against TCU, and Mississippi State against Texas A&M. Rough week. So before I drown my sadness in candy, let’s get picking. The rankings on this blog no longer represent the AP Poll, but now the CFP Rankings since those are the only rankings that matter.

#9 Wisconsin (-13.5) vs Indiana

I’m a little surprised Wisconsin is ranked this low despite being undefeated, but it just goes to show how a weak schedule can really hurt in the eyes of the voters. Indiana’s one of the better teams Wisconsin will face, even though their 3-5 record might suggest otherwise, but the Hoosiers play good opponents tough. They were hanging with Ohio State for most of the game, they held their own against Penn State after falling behind big early, and they nearly beat Michigan and Michigan State. The one bad loss for Indiana is Maryland and in that game they just repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. I think Wisconsin will win again, but this has the potential to be a trap game for the Badgers coming into Bloomington.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 27 Indiana 20

#7 Penn State (-10) vs #24 Michigan State

Penn State’s loss to Ohio State could be a killer. Despite both teams having the same records, OSU’s loss was to a non-conference opponent, which doesn’t hurt their chances at the Big Ten championship. Penn State, on the other hand, will need Ohio State to lose twice as well as win out themselves in order to have a crack at a repeat title. But they’re as good as any team in the country and it took an amazing performance by JT Barrett to beat them. Michigan State doesn’t have anyone near Barrett’s caliber so I don’t think their stingy defense will be enough to stop the Nittany Lions.

Projected Score: Penn State 35 Michigan State 20

#14 Auburn (-15) vs Texas A&M

Texas A&M really let me down last week against Mississippi State. I had high hopes for them in that game and they got throttled by the Bulldogs. Now they face a dangerous Auburn team that can not only score on anybody, but stop anybody as well. The Aggies are going to have their work cut out for them and I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t beat the spread in this one.

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Kerryon Johnson is part of a prolific backfield duo with Kamryn Pettway (photo credit: AL.com)

Projected Score: Auburn 45 Texas A&M 21

South Carolina vs #1 Georgia (-23.5)

I was a little surprised to see Georgia take the number 1 spot in the initial playoff rankings, even though I will admit they have the most impressive resume. But I thought Alabama passed the eye test better and I feel like if these two teams were to meet, Alabama would win 8 times out of 10. That’s not a knock against Georgia, that’s just how good I think the Crimson Tide are. They face a South Carolina team that I think is underrated. They beat NC State at the start of the season (a win that looks REALLY good right now) and I think Jake Bentley is one of the more underrated passers in the country. They won’t beat Georgia, but I do think they beat the spread (a rather large one at that).

Projected Score: Georgia 28 South Carolina 17

Wake Forest vs #3 Notre Dame (-14)

Notre Dame at #3 doesn’t really shock me. They have an impressive resume to go with their good record. My reasoning for putting them at #4 behind Ohio State in my playoff projections was because I felt that the Buckeyes would win in a head-to-head matchup. The voters felt differently, obviously, because Notre Dame is 3 and OSU is 6. The Fighting Irish take on a Wake Forest team that is pretty scrappy. They’ve been competitive in their three losses to Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech and are coming off a 10-point victory over Louisville. I have Notre Dame in this, but I think the Demon Deacons make it interesting for a while.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 34 Wake Forest 20

#4 Clemson (-8.5) vs #20 NC State

I was a little surprised to see Clemson crack the playoff in the first rankings at #4. I figured their loss to a team like Syracuse and Kelly Bryant’s questionable health would scare the committee. But they seem to be okay with it because if the season ended today, Clemson would be facing Georgia in the first round of the Playoff. They have an opportunity to boost that resume this week against a good NC State team, who is coming off a tough loss to Notre Dame. Bradley Chubb continues to be a menace for the Wolfpack and I think he will give the Tigers a lot of problems. But Clemson’s also got some beasts on defense and I think theirs win out.

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If Kelly Bryant can return to full health, Clemson is a DANGEROUS team (photo credit: The State)

Projected Score: Clemson 38 NC State 30

#21 Stanford vs #25 Washington State (-1)

The key for this game is going to be the health of Bryce Love for Stanford. He missed last week’s game against Oregon State with an ankle injury and the Cardinal narrowly escaped with a 15-14 victory. Washington State is coming off a rough loss to Arizona in which the Cougars were TORCHED on the ground by Arizona dual-threat QB Khalil Tate. It has been announced that Love will be able to play in this game. It will be interesting to see how well he is able to make his cuts on that ankle. But I think he will be at enough strength where he will be able to do damage to the Wazzu defense.

Projected Score: Stanford 42 Washington State 35

#5 Oklahoma vs #11 Oklahoma State (-1.5)

The Bedlam Game has a lot more on the line this week than usual. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are 1-loss Big 12 teams vying for a playoff spot, the loser likely being eliminated. Oklahoma’s loss was to Iowa State (which looks better and better each week) and OK State got burned by TCU, whom Iowa State recently topped. It’s going to be a battle between two of the best quarterbacks in college football in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph and I think whichever defense can make a stop will be the winner. I have more faith in the Sooners to get this done.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 49 Oklahoma State 45

Minnesota vs Michigan (-15)

Michigan is in a weird position right now. Sure the defense is terrific, but Wilton Speight won’t be seeing the field anytime soon and they just had to bench John O’Korn for their third string quarterback Brandon Peters. Sure, Peters looked good last week, but it was against Rutgers. That’s like saying he played well against folding chairs. Minnesota’s defense isn’t exactly the ’85 Bears, but they’ve been decent, not allowing more than 31 points this season. I think this will be a close game for 3 quarters but I think Michigan’s talented ground game will pull away in the fourth.

Projected Score: Michigan 31 Minnesota 24

#19 LSU vs #2 Alabama (-21.5)

Alabama head coach Nick Saban (whom I consider to be the greatest college football coach of all time) has often stated that he doesn’t care about the polls, but that’s easy for him to say because he’s always #1. However, the first CFP polls came out and Alabama is #2 for the first time in the regular season since 2015. Considering how badly they’ve beaten some teams, I’m sure the Crimson Tide players have to be asking themselves “what more do you want from us?” Well, decimating this LSU team would be a start. The Tigers have been playing well since getting embarrassed by Troy but I think they ran into Alabama at the worst possible time. We could be seeing Bama’s reserves long before this game ends.

Projected Score: Alabama 52 LSU 21

#13 Virginia Tech (-1) vs #10 Miami (FL)

Like Wisconsin, Miami (FL) is also undefeated yet finds itself barely within the top 10. This is mainly because not only have they not beaten anybody good (Florida State does not count as a good team this season), but they’ve barely beaten these not good teams. They face their first real test in Virginia Tech, whose only loss was to Clemson a few weeks ago. Since then, their defense has been absolutely DOMINANT, not allowing more than 10 points in any of their last 3 games (which includes a 59-7 drubbing of North Carolina). I think Virginia Tech wins this one and I think they’ll expose the Hurricanes’ shortcomings.

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Tremaine Edmunds and the Hokies defense have been unstoppable in their last 3 games (photo credit: 247 Sports)

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 48 Miami (FL) 24

#22 Arizona vs #17 USC (-7)

Khalil Tate was a MONSTER against Washington State, rushing for 146 yards and throwing for 275 more. He’s approaching 1000 yards on the ground this season and he has the Arizona Wildcats looking their best since 2014. They face a USC team that has been really inconsistent this season. Sam Darnold has been pretty good but he has underwhelmed given the expectations set for him at the beginning of the year (which were unfairly high, but 10 interceptions at this stage of the season isn’t where a top draft pick wants to be). Speaking of Darnold, he reportedly will return to school if the Cleveland Browns end up with the #1 overall pick, that’s how badly he doesn’t want to play for them. Hard to blame him, but I’m also not so sure he would be the top pick anyway at this point. But anyways, back to the game, I think Khalil Tate puts on another show and leads Arizona to the big win over USC.

Projected Score: Arizona 42 USC 39

Those are my picks for this week. If there are any other games you want my thoughts on, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 9

Last Week: 10-2                                 Season Record: 45-15

I once again had a strong showing in my picks last week. My two misses were Boston College against Virginia (which I missed BADLY) and Arizona State vs Utah, which I admitted in the blog was a big toss up. So with that, let’s get picking.

#11 Oklahoma State (-7.5) vs #22 West Virginia

This has the potential to be a shootout and quite frankly is the only 12:00 game I have any real interest in (hence it being the only 12:00 game on my picks today). Mason Rudolph and Will Grier have been two of the best quarterbacks in college football this season and we can expect them to put up a massive amount of points between them. It’s going to come down to which defense can make a stop and based on what I saw last week, I have to give that edge to OK State.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 48 West Virginia 41

#2 Penn State vs #6 Ohio State (-6.5)

Ohio State is favored by almost a touchdown in this game? Seriously? I mean I know they’re good but have you seen Penn State this season? The last time I ripped a line was the Michigan State vs Iowa game and it came back to bite me in the ass. This is going to be a really tight game as both JT Barrett and Trace McSorley are having really strong seasons and are probably the two best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Ohio State’s defensive line is arguably the most dangerous unit at any position in football, with two potential first round picks this year (Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard) and another next year (Nick Bosa). But after watching Saquon Barkley dice up the 2nd best defense in the nation in Michigan last week, I have to think that Ohio State’s defense will also struggle to contain the Heisman frontrunner. Penn State wins.

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Trace McSorley has Penn State in the hunt for a second consecutive Big Ten title (photo credit: PennLive.com)

Projected Score: Penn State 24 Ohio State 21

#3 Georgia (-14) vs Florida

I don’t know what to make of Florida. Their offense is so inconsistent it makes it nearly impossible to predict their games. The defense has been tough, though, and I think they’re going to keep this interesting because Georgia is clearly the better team. Their ground game is a sight to behold and their defense has been reminiscent of head coach Kirby Smart’s Alabama days. Georgia will win fairly handily but the scoreboard will suggest it was a closer game than it actually was.

Projected Score: Georgia 27 Florida 19

#4 TCU (-7) vs #25 Iowa State

TCU has been a juggernaut this season and it came to a head last week against Kansas. They won the game 43-0, outgained the Jayhawks 475-21, and held them to -25 rushing yards. You read that right. They’re going to face a much better Iowa State team, which in the past that wasn’t always the case, but Iowa State has played really well this season, highlighted by their upset victory over Oklahoma a few weeks ago. I actually think they will hang with TCU for a while in this game even though TCU has only played in a single one-score game all season (a 31-24 win over West Virginia). TCU will win, but Iowa State will put up a fight.

Projected Score: TCU 34 Iowa State 24

#14 NC State vs #9 Notre Dame (-7.5)

Bradley Chubb has been a MONSTER this season for the Wolfpack. He is second in the nation in tackles for loss and seventh in sacks and is a big reason why NC State has won 6 in a row after losing on the opening weekend. He’s going to face a tough offensive line in Notre Dame, as Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson are two of the best O-Linemen in the country that block for a top rushing attack. Brandon Wimbush and Josh Adams are about as explosive a QB-RB rushing duo as their is in the country and this NC State defense is going to have their hands full. I’m going to give this one to Notre Dame, as they get another big win to add to their playoff resume.

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Bradley Chubb has arguably been the best defensive player in the country this season (photo credit: Pro Football Focus)

Projected Score: Notre Dame 27 NC State 23

UCLA vs #12 Washington (-18)

Washington is coming off a stunning loss to Arizona State and they’ve had two weeks to sit on it. I think that works as motivation in their favor and I think the offense is going to come out guns blazing. However defensively they will struggle against Josh Rosen, who only trails Mason Rudolph by 30 passing yards for the national lead. I think UCLA easily beats the spread, but Washington still comes out on top in the end.

Projected Score: Washington 38 UCLA 34

#16 Michigan State (-2.5) vs Northwestern

This game is going to be miserable. It’s expected to be 46 degrees and raining for this tilt between to stout defenses. Ball security is going to be key here and that’s something that Michigan State has struggled with all season. Only Air Force, Georgia Southern, and San Jose State fumble more often than the Spartans and the former two run wishbone offenses that heavily feature the run. You can bet Pat Fitzgerald’s team is going to be gunning for that football and I think they will create the takeaways. I’ve got Northwestern with the upset.

Projected Score: Northwestern 14 Michigan State 10

Indiana (-4.5) vs Maryland 

Indiana has yet to win a game in the Big Ten this season but their schedule hasn’t done them any favors. They’ve faced Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State, all of which have been ranked at some point this season (they have a date with #5 Wisconsin next week) and 3 of them have been in the top 10. It gets easier against Maryland, a team that IU thrashed on the ground last season with the Big Bacon package (they subbed out Richard Lagow and Devine Redding for the speedy Zander Diamont and the 270 pound Tyler “Big Bacon” Natee). Maryland has been without quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome for most of the season and his backup Max Bortenschlager has completed fewer than 50% of his passes (was going to say “less than” but that would’ve been grammatically incorrect. Thanks, Stannis). I think Indiana’s stingy defense is going to have a field day and make Maryland completely one dimensional and get on the board this Big Ten Season.

Projected Score: Indiana 27 Maryland 17

Mississippi State (-1) vs Texas A&M

Both teams have been pretty good in the SEC this season and it’s going to be a tightly contested ballgame. Defensively, Mississippi State has been relatively consistent in that they’re bad against good teams (Auburn and Georgia) and good against bad teams and LSU. So it’s tough to say what we’ll get out of them when they take on Christian Kirk and the Texas A&M offense, which has been pretty solid all season to go with a defense which, aside from two outliers against UCLA and Arkansas, has been exceptional this season. I’m going to give the advantage to the Aggies for this.

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Christian Kirk is the biggest threat on the A&M offense (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Projected Score: Texas A&M 35 Mississippi State 24

Georgia Tech vs #7 Clemson (-14)

Clemson is coming off a SHOCKING loss to Syracuse, a game that saw Kelly Bryant leave with an injury. He’s expected to be ready to go for this game against one of the top defenses in the nation in Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets would likely be ranked had they been able to hold on late against the U and I think they’re going to give Clemson a run for their money. Clemson knows that if they lose this game, their bid for a third straight playoff trip is dead, so I think they come out with a little more intensity this week than they did against Syracuse.

Projected Score: Clemson 28 Georgia Tech 17

#15 Washington State (-7) vs Arizona

Washington State is coming off a big bounceback win over Colorado after getting wrecked by California. They shut out the Buffaloes 28-0 and will try and do something similar against a scrappy Arizona team. The Wildcats are 5-2 on the season and 3-1 in Pac12 play after very low expectations to start the season. Khalil Tate has been an animal, with 780 rushing yards on only 56 carries (10.2 ypc) and Wazzu is going to have their hands full with him. I think this will be a high scoring game and the Cougars are better built for those types of games than Arizona is.

Projected Score: Washington State 42 Arizona 28

#21 USC (-3.5) vs Arizona State

This could be a real trap game for USC. Arizona State has been playing spoiler all season, beating the likes of Washington, Utah, and Oregon despite a mediocre record (4-3). USC has yet to play up to its potential all season and if they aren’t careful they could find themselves dropping out of the rankings. I think they will win this one, but the Sun Devils will give them quite the scare.

Projected Score: USC 28 Arizona 27

Those are my picks for this week, I’m in search of that perfect week now after a pretty solid overall record on the season. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10