College Football Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 86-34

Football’s back. And for that reason, it’s time for me to play spoiler to what’s going to happen week-by-week. I’m going to try and do this every week, but given my schedule, this might not always be possible, but again, I’ll do my best. So enough chit chat, let’s get to picks.

Texas Spring Game

#23 Texas (-13.5) vs Maryland

I think Texas is a little overrated again this year, as they seem to be every year by the preseason AP polls, but I do think they’ll come out with the victory against Maryland. However head coach Tom Herman might have some issues coming his way in the future, as he may have also known about the domestic abuse of a former Ohio State assistant while he was there. Who knows what the future holds?

Projected Score: Texas 38, Maryland 31

Ole Miss vs Texas Tech (-2.5)

Ole Miss got ravaged by the sanctions and aside from tackle Greg Little and receiver AJ Brown, all the talent recruited in the Hugh Freeze era is pretty much gone. Texas Tech will likely be a pushover defensively once again but you can pretty much throw anybody at quarterback there and they’ll throw for 5000 yards. This year, it’s a toss-up as to who will earn the job between JUCO transfer McLane Carter and Jett Duffey, but Texas Tech’s offense had the same success with Nic Shimonek (undrafted) as they did with Pat Mahomes (10th overall pick) so whomever it is, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Texas Tech wins.

Projected Score: Texas Tech 55 Ole Miss 38

#6 Auburn (-2) vs #9 Washington

This is going to be a slugfest. Auburn returns a lot of talent from a top-10 team last year so they’ll be in contention for the SEC crown again this year. Washington is the favorite to come out of the Pac 12 so this could be a potential CFP preview. I think Auburn comes away with this one, though. I think they have more weapons both offensively and defensively and I think this is the year that Jarrett Stidham takes the next step.

Projected Score: Auburn 31 Washington 27

West Virginia v Kansas State

#17 West Virginia (-9.5) vs Tennessee

Will Grier is in the conversation to be the top quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft but I think he’s got a little too much of a gunslinger mentality for me to trust him just yet. But I think he shows plenty of flashes as he takes apart the Volunteer defense.

Projected Score: West Virginia 35 Tennessee 24

North Carolina vs California (-7)

I never know what to expect out of North Carolina on a year-to-year basis. Some years, they’re competing for an ACC title. Others they’re struggling to win 3 games. I think this one leans towards the latter, unfortunately for Tar Heel fans, as they don’t have a quarterback like Mitch Trubisky or the defensive talent to compensate for that. Cal wins and I think they do it handily.

California 42 North Carolina 21

Cincinnati vs UCLA (-15)

The Chip Kelly era at UCLA begins and former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will get the start. Not sure how Speight fits Kelly’s system, but Nick Foles had success in it with the Eagles and he has even less mobility than Speight does so I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it work. I think there will be some growing pains, though, and I think I’m going to pick this game as my upset. Cincinnati is always a tricky team and can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Cincinnati edges UCLA as Kelly drops his debut.

Projected Score: Cincinnati 31 UCLA 30

Outback Bowl -  Michigan v South Carolina

#14 Michigan vs #12 Notre Dame (-1)

The rivalry is back on and it looks to be a defensive slugfest. Michigan has about as loaded a defense as there is in the country while there is some uncertainty on offense. Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson is getting the start and while he has shown flashes, he hasn’t quite materialized like everyone expected when he was a 5-star recruit. As for Notre Dame, there’s a little bit of uncertainty at quarterback. Brandon Wimbush showed a lot of ability but was inconsistent at times while Ian Book looked really sharp in relief. It’ll be interesting to see what Brian Kelly rolls out there Saturday night. But I think Michigan’s defense makes more plays and they win a low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Michigan 20 Notre Dame 17

Louisville vs #1 Alabama (-24)

Alabama has another high profile game to open their season against Louisville and I’m going to be perfectly honest, that line seems a little generous. ‘Bama is as loaded as ever and Louisville lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, who was the team the last few years. There is some uncertainty at quarterback for the Crimson Tide as Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa both are vying for the spot, but I think Bama wins the game handily with a steady dose of defense and the ground game with Damien Harris and Najee Harris (no relation).

Projected Score: Alabama 51 Louisville 17

BYU vs Arizona (-11.5)

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country and he’ll have a full season as the starter under his belt to cement himself as the most dynamic player in the country. I think he runs all over the BYU defense and Arizona wins handily.

Projected Score: Arizona 48 BYU 24

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#8 Miami (FL) (-3.5) vs #25 LSU

Miami had a breakout season last year thanks to the Turnover Chain but they finished pretty slowly, as they ended the season with losses to Pittsburgh, Clemson, and Wisconsin with the Turnover Chain getting destroyed and humiliated. I have a feeling that LSU is going to take this one in a low-scoring turnover-fest.

Projected Score: LSU 17 Miami (FL) 13

#20 Virginia Tech vs #19 Florida State (-7)

Last year could not have gone much worse for Florida State. They start the year ranked 4th, Deondre Francois goes down for the year in Week 1, they struggle to reach a bowl game, and Jimbo Fisher leaves for Texas A&M. On the other side, things could not have gone much better for Virginia Tech as Justin Jackson showed a lot of flashes as a true freshman quarterback. They will look to build on last year’s success as they try and take down the Seminoles and I think they do.

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 31 Florida State 24

BONUS GAME: Indiana (-10.5) vs Florida International

Only I care about this game but screw it, it’s my blog. FIU tends to play Indiana pretty tough for most of the game, as they nearly pulled off the upset each of the last two times they played (2015 and 16, 17 was cancelled due to hurricane). Peyton Ramsey has been named the starting quarterback and I think he’s an efficient passer, albeit limited in terms of skillset. Indiana will win, but it’ll be close.

Projected Score: Indiana 28 FIU 20

Are there any games I didn’t do that you want my thoughts on? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 College Football Preview

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but like I mentioned in the past, I’m a very busy man now. In addition to doing some work for Pro Football Focus, I’ve also landed a position with the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network as a Northeast Baseball Scout. So the blog has kind of gotten put on the backburner. However, with the college football season rapidly approaching (there will be some games on this weekend, including Colorado State vs Hawaii), I have found myself with a craving to get back into things. So let’s preview the college football season. I will be giving my preseason rankings, All Americans, Heisman winner, conference champs, and national champ. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Preseason Top 25

2018 University of Alabama Spring Football

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Clemson Tigers

3. Georgia Bulldogs

4. Wisconsin Badgers

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

6. Auburn Tigers

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

8. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

9. Washington Huskies

10. Oklahoma Sooners

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

12. Michigan State Spartans

13. Michigan Wolverines

14. UCF Knights

15. Stanford Cardinal

16. USC Trojans

17. West Virginia Mountaineers

18. Virginia Tech Hokies

19. TCU Horned Frogs

20. Florida State Seminoles

21. Oregon Ducks

22. Boise State Broncos

23. LSU Tigers

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

25. South Florida Bulls

A couple things to note about my rankings. Alabama mainly has the top spot again because they’re the reigning champs and I tend to lean towards the mantra of “you’re number 1 until someone proves otherwise.” But I actually think Clemson on paper is better. They’re basically returning everybody from the team that won the ACC and made the playoff last year. All they really lost were receivers Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud along with linebacker Dorian O’Daniel. Other than that, they’re returning QB Kelly Bryant, RB Wayne Etienne, OT Mitch Hyatt, DE’s Austin Bryant and Clellin Ferrell, and DT’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. They also landed 5-star QB recruit Trevor Lawrence, who has reportedly looked so good in training camp that Kelly Bryant’s starting job may not be all that safe. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see part 4 of Alabama v. Clemson but unlike Cavs-Warriors, this one wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion as to who the victor ought to be. But basically I’ve got Alabama and Clemson as 1A and 1B in my preseason rankings. I’ve got UCF as my top non-Power 5 team despite the fact they lost head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska. McKenzie Milton is back at quarterback and if he has another strong season like he did last year, UCF could find themselves as not only the champs of the AAC, but potentially as the first non-Power 5 school to make the playoff. Florida State is coming off a horrid season and lost Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M (who barely missed the cut in this top 25), but they still have plenty of talent. Deondre Francois is returning from the ACL injury he suffered in Week 1 and Cam Akers was a revelation as a freshman last season. New head coach Willie Taggart’s task may not be as difficult as some may suspect.

Preseason All Americans

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QB: Khalil Tate-Arizona

RB: Bryce Love-Stanford, Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

WR: AJ Brown-Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry-Arizona State

TE: Noah Fant-Iowa

OT: Jonah Williams-Alabama, David Edwards-Wisconsin

OG: Martez Ivey-Florida, Michael Jordan-Ohio State

C: Ross Pierschbacher-Alabama

DE: Nick Bosa-Ohio State, Rashan Gary-Michigan

DT: Ed Oliver-Houston, Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

LB: Devin White-LSU, Devin Bush-Michigan, Cameron Smith-USC

CB: Greedy Williams-LSU, David Long, Michigan

S: Khaleke Hudson-Michigan, Lukas Denis-Boston College

K: Rodrigo Blankenship-Georgia

P: Mitch Wishnowsky-Utah

Return Specialist-Kavonte Turpin-TCU

Heisman Standings:

Valero Alamo Bowl - Stanford v TCU

1. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford

2. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State

4. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston

6. Nick Bosa-DE-Ohio State

7. Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

8. Will Grier-QB-West Virginia

9. Trace McSorley-QB-Penn State

10. Rashan Gary-DE-Michigan

Bryce Love is the obvious favorite here. He was last year’s runner-up after exploding on the scene by rushing for over 2000 yards on 8.1 yards per carry. I actually anticipated Love to declare for the NFL Draft, which was why in my way-too-early Heisman rankings a few months ago, I picked Arizona QB Khalil Tate to take home the prize. But Love returned to Stanford and with Baker Mayfield now a member of the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be number 1 in most people’s initial rankings.

Conference Champs:

ACC: Clemson Tigers

Clemson University Defensive Line, 2018 College Football Preview Issue

 

As I mentioned before, Clemson lost very little from a team that made the playoff last season and they look primed for another National Championship run. I’m expecting a decline from Miami after the phenomena that was the Turnover Chain and while I do think Virginia Tech could sneak up on people, I don’t think they have the talent to unseat Clemson.

Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 24 Big Ten Football Media Days

This one could be very tricky, especially considering all the controversy surrounding Urban Meyer right now. If Meyer gets canned as a result of the investigation about his potential knowledge of an assistant’s domestic abuse, the Big 10 gets a LOT more interesting. The last time Ohio State lost a coach due to investigation, Jim Tressel, they went 6-6 under Luke Fickel despite the extremely talented roster. Meyer is probably the second-best coach in college football after Nick Saban at Alabama so losing him could be catastrophic for this Ohio State team despite all its talent. And there isn’t a huge dropoff from Ohio State to the next-best teams in the Big 10 like Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State so Meyer could make all the difference.

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

UTEP v Oklahoma

Losing Baker Mayfield is going to hurt but Oklahoma’s got Kyler Murray as his replacement for at least this season. Murray was a top-10 pick in the MLB Draft by the Oakland A’s and he has signed with the club, however they are allowing him to play out this season in Norman. Murray was a former 5-star recruit who transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma and has an abundance of talent. While he isn’t the passer Mayfield is, he’s a much better runner and the tandem of him and Rodney Anderson in the backfield could be deadly. After them, though, I don’t see a whole lot coming out of the Big 12. Oklahoma State lost a LOT in Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman while TCU is losing Kenny Hill at quarterback (though they’re returning plenty on defense). West Virginia seems to be everybody’s dark horse pick to win the conference but I’m not sold on them just yet. Overall I think TCU is Oklahoma’s biggest threat but they still have some work to do offensively.

PAC-12: Washington Huskies

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington

The PAC-12 is a crapshoot right now as there isn’t a clear best team in the mix. Washington on paper looks like the best but Stanford, USC, and even Oregon all have legitimate shots at taking home the title. Also keep an eye out for Arizona as we could see Khalil Tate have a similar impact on that squad that Lamar Jackson had on Louisville.

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia

While there are a ton of good teams in the SEC, it’s once again Alabama’s conference to lose. They did win the National Championship last season despite not winning the SEC (a poorly-timed loss to Auburn saw to that) but now they have an interesting quarterback situation on hand between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts had played well for most of the season but was struggling mightily in the National Championship game against Georgia. Enter Tua and he not only throws a better ball, but leads the comeback for the Alabama win. In truth, I think it would be better for everyone if Hurts move to runningback, not only for the depth chart situation but for his potential in the NFL. He’s not as good a thrower as Tua is but he can do a lot of damage with his legs, something he’ll have more opportunities to do as a runningback. Check out what happened with Braxton Miller when he took his name out of Ohio State’s QB battle a couple years ago. He goes from probably an undrafted quarterback to a third round pick as a wide receiver by the Houston Texans (hasn’t quite panned out yet, though). Hurts could see something similar. But as for the rest of the SEC, Georgia has a lot of production to replace in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are in the NFL with the Browns and Patriots, respectively, but Jake Fromm is back and so is much of the defense, though losing Roquan Smith is going to hurt.

Playoff/Championship Prediction:

1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs 4 Oklahoma Sooners

Alabama’s defense will suffocate Oklahoma’s high-flying offense and will lead the Tide to a surprisingly easy victory.

2 Clemson Tigers vs 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Again, Ohio State’s involvement in the playoff will hinge entirely on the Urban Meyer investigation. If he’s cleared, though, I expect Ohio State to be back in the playoff. However Clemson destroyed them in the playoff a couple years ago and while I do think it’ll be closer this time, it’ll be another Tigers victory.

National Championship: 1 Alabama vs 2 Clemson

The fourth straight year these teams will meet in the playoff and the third time they face off for the National Championship. Alabama won the first and third time while Clemson won the second. Clemson sorely missed Deshaun Watson in last year’s matchup and got beaten relatively easily. However I think they exact revenge and win their second title in three years, evening the rivalry to 2 wins apiece as Dabo Swinney cements himself as one of the best coaches of the last decade.

National Champion: Clemson Tigers

Clemson v Louisville

That’s going to do it for my college football preview. Please don’t save this to shove in my face in January, thanks. Let me know what your predictions for this season are in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Draft Reaction

So the NBA Draft came and went. Unlike the NFL Draft, which is a 3-day event, the NBA Draft lasts a single night and is only 2 rounds long. 60 young men saw their dreams realized and will take the first step towards what we all hope will be long NBA careers. And to those players who didn’t get drafted, here’s a list of players you’ll be joining:

Ben Wallace

Udonis Haslem

Bruce Bowen

Jeremy Lin

Raja Bell

Jose Calderon

Fred Van Fleet

Robert Covington

Kent Bazemore

Wesley Matthews

Aron Baynes

Timofey Mozgov

JJ Barea

All of these guys became good players in the NBA and heavily contributed to their teams’ success. Keep your heads up, your journey isn’t over.

With that being said, as I mentioned yesterday, I was working during most of the first round of the NBA Draft (I got home as the Celtics’ pick was being announced). So I couldn’t go pick-by-pick to chart my reactions. So instead, I’m going to do some winners and losers of the Draft.

Winner: Phoenix Suns

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When you’re picking first overall, you’d better nail your picks. The Suns finished with the worst record in the NBA last season, which included a game where Warriors head coach Steve Kerr took a game off and the Warriors still beat them by 40. They had to have a good draft and, on paper, they freaking nailed it. First they land DeAndre Ayton of Arizona #1 overall, the consensus top prospect and safest player in the Draft. That one was a no-brainer. Then they trade the 16th overall pick in Zhaire Smith of Texas Tech plus a first rounder next year (which originally belonged to the Miami Heat so the pick is based on how they do rather than how the Suns do) to the 76ers for Mikal Bridges of Villanova, one of the best prospects in this class. So the Suns load up on two top-10 prospects at areas of need and all it really cost them was a draft pick that’s probably going to end up being outside of the lottery next year anyway. Fantastic draft for Phoenix.

Loser: Michael Porter Jr

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I don’t know if anyone has had a worse draft process than Porter. Porter was so hyped coming out of high school that one analyst said that he would’ve been the top overall pick had he been eligible in last year’s draft. Porter originally committed to Washington until they fired their head coach, causing him to flip his commitment to Missouri. However, he suffered a season-ending back injury after just 3 career college games and 1 start, scoring a grand total of 10 points. This back injury caused him to go from potentially being the #1 overall pick to barely staying within the lottery. However, if you’re the Denver Nuggets, the team that got Porter, you have to be thrilled that he fell into your laps at pick #14. He’s a potentially franchise-altering talent that you didn’t even have to trade up in order to land.

Winner: Boston Celtics

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There were a million rumors surrounding what the Celtics wanted to do for this draft. There were some saying they wanted to trade into the top 5 to land Mo Bamba out of Texas (he ended up with the Orlando Magic). Instead, they land the next best thing: Texas A&M center Robert Williams with the 27th pick. Williams was a guy that was considered a lottery-talent (I had him as a lottery pick in my first mock and just outside the lottery in yesterday’s mock). He’s basically the same type of player as Bamba, minus the 7’10 wingspan. While his offense needs a lot of refinement, his defense is arguably the best in the class and there isn’t a better center to learn from than Al Horford, whom Williams will have 2 years to learn behind.

Loser: Mo Bamba

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As I mentioned above, the Orlando Magic landed Mo Bamba out of Texas, a genetic freak but raw as Hell. He has no idea just how good he can be, but the Orlando Magic are one of the worst teams in the league at developing talent. It took Victor Oladipo leaving Orlando for him to become the star he was supposed to be. Plus the Magic have a long track record of missed picks. Here’s each of their first rounders since they lost the NBA Finals in 2009:

2009: No Picks

2010: Daniel Orton-Kentucky (29th overall)

2012: Andrew Nicholson-St. Bonaventure (19th overall)

2013: Victor Oladipo-Indiana (2nd overall)

2014: Aaron Gordon-Arizona (4th overall), Dario Saric-Croatia (12th overall, traded to the 76ers)

2015: Mario Hezonja-Spain (5th overall)

2016: Domantas Sabonis-Gonzaga (11th overall, traded to the Thunder)

2017: Jonathan Isaac-Florida State (6th overall, Anzejs Pasecniks-Latvia (25th overall)

See what I mean? I’ve never even heard of Orton or Nicholson and Isaac basically did nothing despite having some impressive dimensions. I mean for god’s sake the man is 6’10 and he shot 38% from the floor in just 27 games! You’re standing right under the hoop all game! Hezonja basically doesn’t exist right now and the only reason Gordon has any relevance whatsoever is from a great performance at the Slam Dunk Contest a couple years ago. I’d have a little more confidence for Bamba if he had an established stud to learn behind but he doesn’t. Best of luck to you, kid, you’re going to need it.

Winner: Chicago Bulls

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I love Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr and I think the Bulls made a great pick selecting him here. As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, I love the way that he’s strong enough to just bully people down low and he will be a real presence for them down in the paint, which will allow Lauri Markkanen to stretch the floor a little better. Not much more to say about this pick that I haven’t already said in other blogs. They also landed Boise State swingman Chandler Hutchison, a more raw player but can do a lot with the basketball and could be a potentially exciting option off the bench.

Loser: My Data Bill

I may or may not have streamed the draft on my phone at work, killing a large portion of data on my plan. I’m just going to have to be careful the rest of the month. But it was totally worth it, work was pretty dead and the draft kept things a little livelier than they would’ve been otherwise.

Looking at these pictures, it’s got me thinking: exactly how freaking tall is Adam Silver that he’s at a reasonable height with all of these centers??? A quick google search says he’s 6’3, which kind of caught me off guard. I always pictured Silver as some tiny dorky-looking dude but I guess he’s got half a foot on me (I’m 5’9). Who’s the tiny dorky-looking dude now? That’s going to do it for this NBA Draft recap, let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

2018 Full NBA Mock Draft

So the NBA Draft is today and for you basketball fans out there, I apologize for not going nearly as in depth about this as I did with the NFL Draft but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m not nearly as good with basketball as football. Also, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t do nearly as much research before doing this as I should have. I’ve been VERY busy with some things that may or may not be in the works right now as well as being a cashier at a liquor store. So if you’ve been following this draft and my analysis is just flat out wrong, that’s why. But I’m going to do my best with this one and I’m going to do the entire 2-round NBA mock. I’m only doing explanations for the lottery picks (1-14) because really those are the only picks anyone cares about. So with that, let’s get to the mock.

Round 1

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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This is pretty much the only guarantee I can make with this draft because it’s basically a foregone conclusion that Ayton is going to be the top pick to the Suns. He’s the best prospect and probably the safest, too. I liken him to DeMarcus Cousins minus the mean streak (that we know of) and I think at worst he’s going to be a quality starter.

2. Sacramento Kings-Marvin Bagley-F-Duke

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Marvin Bagley was the preseason pick to be the top selection in the draft but with the rise of Ayton and Bagley not being as amazing as everybody thought (he was still really good, though). But Bagley’s potential is too high to pass on so I think the Kings will take their shot here.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Jaren Jackson-F-Michigan State

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The Hawks have nothing right now and Jaren Jackson is among the best prospects in this draft. Jackson needs to put on some muscle but his basketball skills are top-notch. He might get bullied in the paint a little bit at first but if he can fill out, there may not be a bigger threat in the post.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Luka Doncic-G/F-Slovenia

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This is the biggest question mark of the draft. Yeah, Doncic is 6’8 with really good handles, but his competition is trash. Also I guess he’s getting fat? I don’t know, like I said at the outset, I haven’t done as much due diligence as I probably should have. But from what I understand, Doncic could be another Ben Simmons, but he could also be another Andrea Bargnani.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Bamba’s potential is off the charts but he’s raw as all Hell. He’s going to need a year or two before he’s really ready for the big time. But he’s a 7-footer with a 7’9 wingspan, which at worst he’s just going to block every single shot. Dirk Nowitzki’s not getting any younger and there’s nobody better for Bamba to try and model his game after.

6. Orlando Magic-Michael Porter-F-Missouri

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We really don’t know anything about Porter since he missed basically his entire season at Missouri with a back injury. He was the number 1 recruit last year, though, and that doesn’t just get handed out for nothing so I think the Magic, who really have no marketable talent right now, should take a chance on him.

7. Chicago Bulls-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Young was the story of the college basketball world last year as his shooting numbers were just stupid. However he faded down the stretch and people are really wondering whether he’s another Jimmer Fredette. Quite frankly, I think he’s going to be another Monta Ellis but better passer (Young’s a better passer than people give him credit for).

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Boston Celtics through Brooklyn Nets)-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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Despite Jalen Brunson garnering all the attention, Bridges is the better prospect. With Cleveland expecting to lose LeBron James, they need to nail this pick in order to remain relevant. Bridges, of course, is far from being LeBron James, but he’s a similar style of player and has the potential to be a star in this league.

9. New York Knicks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I mentioned this the last time I did a mock, but when Duke came to Indiana last year, I actually came away more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley and I think he has the potential to be the steal of this draft. Aside from Kristaps Porzingis, who may not even want to be there much longer, the Knicks don’t have shit from a talent standpoint so adding a bruiser like Carter could give them a very dominant duo down low.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers)-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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Full disclosure, I actually like Collin Sexton a bit more than Trae Young, mainly because I think I trust Sexton a little more. I think he’s the safest of the two and he’s a better passer. He doesn’t have Young’s shooting ability, which is why I think Young will go higher, but Sexton is more of a traditional point guard that could be a real asset to the 76ers, especially if Markelle Fultz is as broken as everyone says he is.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Knox was a high-ranking recruit but he didn’t do as much at Kentucky as everyone expected. He’s a bit raw right now and pretty much everything we have on him is projection at this point. But there’s no doubting his talent and if developed properly, he could be the perfect sidekick for Kemba Walker in Charlotte.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (from Detroit Pistons)-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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This is a guy whose draft stock is rising a lot lately. In fact, there are rumors that the Raptors are so enamored with Gilgeous-Alexander that they are trying to trade into the top 10 to land him (the Raptors do not have a pick in this year’s draft). Since they don’t have a pick, a trade to land this guy would likely cost a star player such as Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan. If a team is that in love with a guy, there’s definitely more worth delving into.

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

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Miles Bridges was my favorite player in college basketball, but as far as NBA talents go, he’s a little raw. There is definitely something to work with, though, as he took over plenty of games while in East Lansing. If he can translate that over to the NBA, the Clippers could find themselves with a Hell of a player.

14. Denver Nuggets-Lonnie Walker-G-Miami (FL)

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Full disclosure, I know nothing about this guy, but that hair is so absurd that he has to be a lottery pick. Not as nuts as Elfrid Payton’s, but it’s pretty damn close But he’s rated pretty highly on all draft boards so he’s probably a guy who could help the Nuggets in the short and long term.

15. Washington Wizards-De’Anthony Melton-G-USC

16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami Heat)-Zhaire Smith-G-Texas Tech

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Robert Williams-C-Texas A&M

18. San Antonio Spurs-Kevin Huerter-F-Maryland

19. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota Timberwolves)-Troy Brown-F-Oregon

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City Thunder)-Elie Okobo-G-France

21. Utah Jazz-Jacob Evans-F-Cincinnati

22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans Pelicans)-Mitchell Robinson-F-N/A

23. Indiana Pacers-Keita Bates-Diop-F-Ohio State

24. Portland Trail Blazers-Melvin Frazier-G-Tulane

25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland Cavaliers)-Khyri Thomas-G-Creighton

26. Philadelphia 76ers-Shake Milton-G-SMU

27. Boston Celtics-Grayson Allen-G-Duke

28. Golden State Warriors-Donte Divincenzo-G-Villanova

29. Brooklyn Nets-Dzanan Musa-F-Bosnia and Herzegovina

30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets)-Jerome Robinson-G-Boston College

Round 2

31. Phoenix Suns-Jalen Brunson-G-Villanova

32. Memphis Grizzlies-Devonte Graham-G-Kansas

33. Atlanta Hawks-Chandler Hutchison-F-Boise State

34. Dallas Mavericks-Aaron Holiday-G-UCLA

35. Orlando Magic-Anfernee Simons-G-IMG

36. Sacramento Kings-Landry Shamet-G-Wichita State

37. New York Knicks (from Chicago Bulls)-Mo Wagner-F-Michigan

38. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn Nets)-Bruce Brown-F-Miami (FL)

39. Philadelphia 76ers (from New York Knicks)-Gary Trent Jr-G-Duke

40. Brooklyn Nets (from Los Angeles Lakers)-Jarred Vanderbilt-F-Kentucky

41. Orlando Magic (from Charlotte Hornets)-Rodions Kurucs-F-Latvia

42. Detroit Pistons-Gary Clark-F-Cincinnati

43. Denver Nuggets (from Los Angeles Clippers)-Josh Okogie-F-Georgia Tech

44. Washington Wizards-Trevon Duval-G-Duke

45. Brooklyn Nets (from Milwaukee Bucks)-Omari Spellman-C-Villanova

46. Houston Rockets (from Miami Heat)-Kenrich Williams-F-TCU

47. Los Angeles Lakers (from Denver Nuggets)-Hamidou Diallo-F-Kentucky

48. Minnesota Timberwolves-Justin Jackson-F-Maryland

49. San Antonio Spurs-Rawle Alkins-G-Arizona

50. Indiana Pacers-Ray Spalding-C-Louisville

51. New Orleans Pelicans-Tony Carr-G-Penn State

52. Utah Jazz-Malik Newman-G-Kansas

53. Oklahoma City Thunder-Vince Edwards-F-Purdue

54. Dallas Mavericks (from Portland Trail Blazers)-Isaac Bonga-F-Germany

55. Charlotte Hornets (from Cleveland Cavaliers)-Chimezie Metu-C-USC

56. Philadelphia 76ers-Devon Hall-G-Virginia

57. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Boston Celtics)-Svi Mykhailiuk-F-Kansas

58. Denver Nuggets (from Golden State Warriors)-Alize Johnson-F-Missouri State

59. Phoenix Suns (from Toronto Raptors)-Jevon Carter-G-West Virginia

60. Philadelphia 76ers (from Houston Rockets)-Kevin Hervey-F-UT Arlington

That’s going to do it for this NBA Mock Draft. I’ll try and get a recap out after the actual event is over, but I can’t promise anything since I’ll be working during it (I’m going to try and stream it on my phone but I won’t be able to get instant reactions onto paper like I did for the NFL Draft). Let me know how you think this draft is going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.