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.

College Football Picks: Conference Title Week

Last Week: 7-5                    Final Regular Season Record: 86-34

So before I go into the picks, I need to express my absolute SHOCK that Jimbo Fisher is leaving Florida State for the Texas A&M opening. I’ll probably post another blog when more information comes out about this, but damn, I never thought the day would come. Fisher is one of the best coaches in the country coaching at one of the premiere college football programs. There must be something going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about, otherwise I can’t envision one down season being enough to make you want to leave that high profile job. Texas A&M got an absolute STEAL of a coach. Fisher’s 2013 Florida State squad won a national championship in the final year of the BCS so anytime you can land someone of that caliber, your outlook is going to be fantastic. So lord only knows how Florida State is going to replace him, but I’m sure they’re going to have candidates lining up for the opportunity. So now that I got my shock out of the way, let’s get to the picks for the conference championship games. I want to say that I picked USC to win the Pac 12, since that game is happening on Friday night and this blog will be finished and scheduled before that game starts.

American Athletic Conference Title Game: #20 Memphis vs #14 UCF (-7)

So despite this not being a Power-5 conference title game, I actually think this game could get really fun, and not just because both teams are ranked. There is some real firepower on both offenses. Memphis has quarterback Riley Ferguson, tailback Darrell Henderson (who ran for over 1000 yards on just 115 carries) and sleeper NFL Draft receiver Anthony Miller. UCF has McKenzie Milton at quarterback who has thrown 30 touchdowns with some solid weapons on offense, such as running back Adrian Killins Jr and receiver Tre’Quan Smith. These two teams did play earlier in the year and UCF kicked Memphis’ ass 40-13. Ferguson had arguably his worst game this season, tossing 3 interceptions against only 1 touchdown, though that could be attributed to Memphis falling behind UCF early. Eventually things just kind of got out of control for Memphis and it was 23-7 UCF at the half. Killins also had a fantastic game, as he ran for 115 yards on just 9 carries. UCF is the highest scoring offense in the country (47.6 points per game) and are a top third defense (33rd in points against at 22.5 per game). So I’m going to go with UCF to cap off a 12-0 season and earn themselves an at-large major bowl game. They’ve beaten Memphis before and if you watched that game against USF, they’ve only appeared to have gotten better.

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Projected Score: UCF 42 Memphis 28

MAC Title Game: Akron vs Toledo (-21)

I don’t expect this game to be great. I’m fully anticipating Toledo running away with it. They’ve got so many weapons on offense that Akron will struggle mightily to try and keep up with. Logan Woodside is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation and they have Terry Swanson at running back rushing for 1139 yards and Diontae Johnson at receiver with 1139 yards receiving (that’s not a typo, they both led their team in their respective categories with the same exact number of yards). Akron’s defense isn’t too bad, but their offense is so poor that there is absolutely no conceivable way they keep up with Toledo. I wish I could go more in depth with this, but the only teams that really have any shot at beating them in their conference are Central Michigan and Northern Illinois and they’re in Toledo’s division. Yes Toledo lost to Ohio 38-10, but Terry Swanson was hardly used at all in that game, being held to 9 yards on just 6 carries. Akron can’t do that. Toledo wins big.

Projected Score: Toledo 45 Akron 14

Conference USA Title Game: North Texas vs Florida Atlantic (-11.5)

This matchup is between two teams with COMPLETELY different philosophies on how to score points. North Texas is a gunslinging team with quarterback Mason Fine along with 3 receivers with over 500 yards and a fourth with 470. North Texas likes to spread the wealth around. Florida Atlantic under Lane Kiffin has been about as run-first a team as you can find. In fact, FAU’s leading rusher, Devin Singletary, has almost as many rushing yards (1632) as quarterback Jason Driskel has passing yards (1708). It has also led to FAU being the tenth-highest scoring team in the country. North Texas’ defense is ATROCIOUS so I have a feeling that the Owls are going to run all over them, no matter how many yards Mean Green throws for. I got Florida Atlantic winning this and Lane Kiffin sending off another Tweet that he would never send if Nick Saban had a Twitter.

Projected Score: FAU 38 North Texas 30

Mountain West Title Game: #25 Fresno State vs Boise State (-9.5)

I’m pretty surprised/impressed to find Fresno State in this situation. The Bulldogs had the worst record in the country last season at 1-11 and now they find themselves ranked and playing for a conference title game just a year later. Kind of a similar situation to UCF. UCF was winless two years ago and now they’re on the brink of being undefeated. Gotta love the parity amongst the mid-major schools. But the Bulldogs’ turnaround has been in large part due to a stellar defense. They’re 12th best in the country, allowing just 17.3 points per game and that includes allowing 41 and 48 to Alabama and Washington, respectively. Aside from those two games, they never allowed more than 26 points in a single game. I’m not so sure they’re quite good enough to deserve their #25 ranking, but their turnaround at least has been impressive. They face a Boise State team that they just beat last week 28-17. Boise State at the time was ranked 23rd. It’s Boise State’s one conference loss this season and they get an immediate shot at revenge. The Broncos’ other two losses are Washington State (only by 3 points) and Virginia, two pretty good Power 5 teams. I’m actually going to take Boise State in this one. This is more a gut feeling than anything because on paper this seems like a pretty even matchup.

Projected Score: Boise State 31 Fresno State 28

Big 12 Title Game: #11 TCU vs #3 Oklahoma (-7)

Now we get to the Power 5 matchups. This is a rematch from a few weeks ago when Oklahoma beat TCU 38-20. I mentioned in my Playoff rankings that holding TCU to 20 points is more impressive for Oklahoma’s defense than holding Kansas’ offense to 3 and I don’t think they’ll need to be quite that good this time around, simply because that’s how good Baker Mayfield has been of late. If TCU is going to beat Oklahoma, they’re going to have to be able to keep up with Oklahoma’s offense and they’re one of the few teams in the country that could actually pull this off. But they’re going to need to make a LOT of plays on the defensive side of the ball if they’re going to try and hold the Sooners to under 30 points, which is what I think they’ll have to do if they’re going to win. That’s a pretty tall task, as Oklahoma only scored under 30 points once all season, and they scored 29 in their Red River Rivalry win over Texas. I’ve got Oklahoma winning this one and punching their ticket to the Playoff.

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Projected Score: Oklahoma 35 TCU 31

SEC Title Game: #6 Georgia vs #2 Auburn (-1.5)

This is a rematch of the time Auburn absolutely slaughtered Georgia 40-17 for the Bulldogs’ lone loss on the season. Alabama is also going to be watching this game intently because an Auburn win coupled with a loss from either Wisconsin or Oklahoma (preferably both) would get them into the playoff. The winner of this game is getting in regardless, I think that’s a pretty safe statement to make. If Georgia wins, they essentially erase their one loss on the season. If Auburn wins, not only will they be the first 2-loss team to ever make the Playoff, but they will have done so by beating a top 10 team 3 times in one season, including the #1 team twice. Tigers runningback Kerryon Johnson was huge in their Iron Bowl victory over Alabama but he injured his shoulder in the victory and has been a limited participant all week in practice. Auburn is also without Kamryn Pettway, the other member of their superstar stable of runningbacks, so this could be an opportune time for a very tough Georgia defense to pounce. Jarrett Stidham will likely need to step up big time. I think Georgia is going to exact some revenge here. I think they will reestablish the ground game with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and will edge Auburn for the program’s first playoff appearance.

Projected Score: Georgia 27 Auburn 21

ACC Title Game: #7 Miami (FL) vs #1 Clemson (-9.5)

Like the SEC title game, the winner of this game will more than likely get into the playoff. Both are 1-loss teams and their losses came to what should have been far inferior opponents (Miami lost to Pitt and Clemson lost to Syracuse). A 1-loss ACC champ will get in pretty much every time. Miami looked terrible in their loss to Pitt and they’re going to need to change a few things if they’re going to have any chance of knocking off the defending champion Clemson Tigers. For one, Malik Rosier NEEDS to be better than his line of 15-34 for 187 yards. A poor passing performance like that will get you eaten alive by this Clemson defense, which is arguably the best in the nation. Secondly, Rosier cannot be your leading rusher, which he was against Pitt at only 31 yards. That’s not a knock against his rushing ability, but Travis Homer needs to be better. Yes, the Hurricanes have been without star back Mark Walton, who declared for the Draft already, but Homer has been good in his absence with the exception of the Pitt game, where he only ran for 12 yards on 7 carries. But even if they’re able to improve offensively like they need to, I doubt it will be enough to unseat Clemson as the kings of the ACC. The Tigers are just too well-rounded a team. I have Clemson winning this one.

Projected Score: Clemson 31 Miami (FL) 21

Big Ten Title Game: #8 Ohio State (-6) vs #4 Wisconsin

I’m actually going to be in attendance for this game at Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s my first ever championship game of any kind so I’m pretty excited. I’m getting a Hell of a matchup, too. Ohio State, despite having a couple of ugly losses, is still alive for the playoff, but they need to not only whip Wisconsin like they did a few years ago, but they will need a lot of help. JT Barrett will play in this game, which was a concern after an injury suffered in the Michigan game when an unknown cameraman ran into him, prompting Urban Meyer’s attempts to hunt him down. Barrett underwent surgery on his knee and is still playing in this game, which you have to respect the Hell out of, but it will lead to a lot of concerns over his mobility. Barrett’s at his best when the defense fears his ability to run the football, because he’s only mediocre at best as a thrower. Wisconsin’s elite defense will likely have one less element of Barrett’s game to worry about and this could be a long day for the Buckeyes’ signal caller. On the other side, I think Wisconsin is going to struggle to move the ball as well. The Badgers’ offense is predicated on a successful run game and Ohio State has about as good a defensive line as there is in the country with the likes of Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Nick Bosa, and Dre’Mont Jones. Jonathan Taylor is going to struggle to find running lanes. This is going to be a low-scoring game and I actually think Ohio State is going to escape with this one and win the Big Ten, though it may not matter for their playoff hopes depending on which other teams win.

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Projected Score: Ohio State 17 Wisconsin 13

Those are my picks for the conference title games. I did only 8 games versus the usual 12 so I tried to make them a little longer and more in-depth. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman 10 and contribute to my Patreon.

College Football Playoff Rankings: Conference Championship Week

Well that was one Hell of a shakeup of the college football hierarchy. Both Miami (FL) and Alabama went down over the weekend and the landscape of the college football playoff is suddenly entirely different than it was just a week ago. Here’s how the CFP rankings went vs what I had. I will remind you that I did not post a traditional Playoff rankings last week because I didn’t expect any change from week to week:

CFP                                                                       Me

1.Alabama                                                         Alabama

2.Miami (FL)                                                     Oklahoma

3.Clemson                                                          Clemson

4.Oklahoma                                                      Miami (FL)

The CFP did change things up a little bit, swapping Miami’s and Clemson’s spots, which came as a little bit of a surprise to me, but in all, there really is no advantage in the playoff between #2 and #3 except #2 gets to decide which jersey to wear. Now unless you were living under a rock this weekend, you saw that both Bama and the U went down this weekend, the Tide losing to in-state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl and Miami getting upset by Pittsburgh. Those losses change EVERYTHING as far as potential seeding goes. I’ll get into that a little bit more as I delve into my top 6 teams. A reminder once again that these aren’t my predictions on what I think the committee is going to do, but it’s what I would do if it came down to me.

#1. Oklahoma Sooners

Record: 11-1 (8-1)

Loss: Iowa State 38-31 on October 7

Notable Wins: #2 Ohio State, #11 Oklahoma State, #6 TCU

Conference Title Game: Against #12 TCU

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I do fully expect the CFP to disagree with me on the top ranking, as I think they will give that honor to Clemson. While that does make a lot of sense to me, I’m also all aboard the Baker Mayfield train and I think at this stage in the season, he is completely unstoppable right now. The man has only thrown 5 interceptions on the season and they all came in a four-game stretch from Texas-Oklahoma State. He hasn’t thrown a pick since that famed Bedlam game four weeks ago, which was when he threw for nearly 600 yards. The one concern I do have with Oklahoma is their defense, but they have shown some flashes at times. For example, they did hold Kansas to only 3 points. That’s not saying much because Kansas is about as bad a Power 5 football program as I’ve ever seen since I began following college football in 2007. But holding a Power 5 program to just 3 points is still very impressive, even if it is only Kansas. They also managed to hold a high-flying TCU offense to just 20 points, which if you ask me is even more impressive than holding Kansas to 3. Rookie head coach Lincoln Riley hasn’t missed a beat after the retirement of future Hall of Fame coach Bob Stoops and he has helped Baker Mayfield take the next step from interesting college football quarterback to a potential first round pick in the NFL Draft (I wouldn’t draft Mayfield that high, but I’ll get into that when draft season starts).

#2. Clemson Tigers

Record: 11-1 (7-1)

Loss: Syracuse 27-24 on October 14

Notable Wins: #13 Auburn, #14 Louisville, #12 Virginia Tech, #20 NC State, #24 South Carolina

Conference Title Game: Against #2 Miami (FL)

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As I mentioned in my Oklahoma segment, I fully expect the committee to have Clemson in the top spot. But that loss to Syracuse is still just too glaring for me to get over. At the time, Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State looked pretty bad but we have since learned that the Cyclones are actually pretty good, as they also defeated TCU and spent a few weeks in the rankings. Clemson does not have that benefit with Syracuse despite the fact that 5 of their 11 wins this season are against teams that were ranked at the time of their meetings. But regardless of my feelings about the loss to the Orange, there is no denying Clemson is a deadly team and a legitimate threat to repeat as national champs. They have the fourth best scoring defense in the nation and have allowed the seventh fewest yards. I’m not going to sit here and try and sell to you that this team is better than the one that won the title last year, I actually think the team that lost the title the year before could have beaten last year’s team. But Kelly Bryant has been just good enough to get the job done this season and he’s going to need to basically be Deshaun Watson come playoff time if this team is going to win a championship, which isn’t fair to ask of him since he’s not nearly the passer Watson was or is now. But we will have to see what he does when the lights are brightest and I think how he performs against Miami for the ACC championship will be a huge barometer in my confidence in his ability to take the Tigers to the top.

#3. Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 12-0 (9-0)

Notable Wins: #20 Iowa, #24 Michigan

Conference Title Game: Against #9 Ohio State

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Kind of hard to keep the Badgers out now, considering the teams that lost ahead of them. But they’ve also played some of their best football these last three weeks. It started with their demolition of an Iowa team that had just beaten Ohio State by 31 the week prior, then they outlasted Michigan in a battle of two of the best defenses in the country, then embarrassed arch rival Minnesota 31-0 last week. I’m fully confident that if Wisconsin beats Ohio State for the Big Ten title, which I will be in attendance for, they will get into the playoff no questions asked. However if the Buckeyes do manage to beat them, I’m not so sure Wisconsin gets in despite the fact they’d be one of the few 1-loss teams remaining. That strength of schedule really is a pariah on their playoff hopes. But I don’t think that’s totally fair. As a fan of the Big Ten, I’ve gotten the chance to watch Wisconsin quite a bit this year and there is one word that keeps coming back to me whenever I turn on their games: resilience. I’ve seen several instances where it appeared the Badgers were on the brink of an upset or had their backs against the wall and they were able to fight and claw their way back to a victory. Northwestern gave them a scare early in the season (I could technically include that in my notable wins category, since Northwestern has spent time in the rankings). They fell behind Indiana 10-0 early and only held a 24-17 lead entering the fourth quarter before scoring 21 unanswered. Michigan looked like they were going to hold on before the Badgers were able to sneak away with the win. Just like the animal that is their mascot, the Badgers are survivors and I have a feeling that they will get into the playoff.

#4. Auburn Tigers

Record: 10-2 (7-1)

Losses: #3 Clemson 13-6 on September 10, LSU 27-23 on October 16

Notable Wins: #24 Mississippi State, #1 Georgia, #1 Alabama

Conference Title Game: Against #7 Georgia

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

Welp, Auburn threw a monkey wrench into the whole playoff system. After beating Alabama 26-14 on Saturday, the Auburn Tigers may be in position to become the first 2-loss team to ever make it to the playoff. And quite frankly, I think I’d be okay with that. How many teams can say they knocked off the #1 team in the nation twice in one regular season? I’m genuinely asking, a google search did me no help. But not only did Auburn beat the #1 team twice, they did so in convincing fashion each time, beating Georgia by 23 and Alabama by 12. Watching their performance in the Iron Bowl, you would’ve thought Auburn was the best team in the nation, and they sure as Hell looked like it that night. Kerryon Johnson was sensational in that game and he may need a repeat performance if the Auburn Tigers are going to win the SEC against a vaunted Georgia defense. Kirby Smart is too smart a defensive coach to let Auburn rip them to shreds twice in one season so I have to imagine he will have his Georgia Bulldogs ready for anything the Tigers can throw at them, or at least more-so than the last time these two teams squared off.

Just Missed

Alabama Crimson Tide

Record: 11-1 (7-1)

Loss: Auburn 26-14 on Saturday

Notable Wins: #3 Florida State, #19 LSU, #16 Mississippi State

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

Alabama’s loss could not have come at much worse a time. Had their one loss been to, say, Florida State in Week 1 (assuming Deondre Francois doesn’t get hurt, torpedoing the Seminoles’ season), then I think they would still sit atop the rankings. But it came in the last week of the regular season which can sour many voters and now, because their loss came against Auburn, they aren’t even playing for the SEC championship. But there’s still hope for the Tide. First off, Auburn has to win the SEC. Not only does that make the Tide’s loss even more impressive, but it effectively knocks out Georgia, who would certainly get in if they were to avenge their loss to the Tigers. They will also need one or two more teams to help them out. The ACC title game is of no help to them, as the winner of that game is certainly getting into the playoff one way or another. But if Oklahoma and Wisconsin both lost, or Hell maybe even just one of them has to lose, then an Alabama team whose only loss was SEC champion Auburn would be hard to leave out. Ohio State made the playoff last year despite not playing for the Big Ten championship so we know that the voters may not necessarily hold it too harshly against you for losing to the wrong team. So really all is not lost for Alabama despite losing to Auburn in the final week of the regular season. But again, the Tide NEED to become fans of TCU, Ohio State, and (this is the hardest one) Auburn.

Georgia Bulldogs

Record: 11-1 (7-1)

Loss: #10 Auburn 40-17 on November 11

Notable Wins: #24 Notre Dame, #17 Mississippi State, also worth mentioning their performances against Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia Tech

Conference Title Game: Against #6 Auburn

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So Georgia gets a chance to exorcise their demons by getting their rematch with Auburn with the SEC title on the line. As you can see, Auburn is Georgia’s lone loss on the season and the Tigers beat the Bulldogs pretty handily 40-17. Since that game, Georgia has faced Kentucky and Georgia Tech, two pretty good teams, by scores of 42-13 and 38-7, respectively. So I’d say they’ve recovered nicely and are in a good position to exact revenge on Auburn. If Georgia wins, then I think they are guaranteed to get in, no matter what the score is. It will essentially erase their lone blemish on the season, which is an opportunity that doesn’t present itself too often in college football. I don’t have a lot more to add on Georgia that I haven’t already said in the past, but they will need to make some adjustments, find out what didn’t work last time, and rectify those mistakes.

Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Record: 10-1

Loss: Pittsburgh 24-14 on Friday

Notable Wins: #13 Virginia Tech, #3 Notre Dame

Conference Title Game: Against #3 Clemson

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I don’t normally do three “just missed” teams, but I would be doing Miami a huge injustice if I didn’t mention them here. Miami lost at a VERY bad time against a mediocre Pitt team and that all but clinched the fact that there will only be one ACC team in the playoff. But it could still yet be Miami. If they beat Clemson in the ACC title game, the CFP committee basically has no choice but to include the U in their final playoff rankings. Miami is another 1-loss team and despite the fact that they will have played one fewer game than all the other teams in the nation due to Hurricane Irma, it was a game they could afford to cancel against Arkansas State. It doesn’t really do anything for their resume if they win and would’ve been a HUGE dent if they lost. But this has been a huge season for the Hurricanes and if they were to make the playoff, that would be a gigantic step towards re-establishing their former glory.

Those are my picks for the college football playoff. You may notice with the photos I am using Getty images with the watermarks that cite the photographer. I think this is better for two reasons: one, I think it’s a more efficient way to give credit to the people who took the picture rather than just list the site the photo appeared on, and two, it allows for me to use the most recent photos which I think is far better than possibly using photos from a year or two ago. I would like to know which method you prefer. Do you want the photos with the watermarks? Or did you prefer the old method? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

College Football Playoff Week 12

Here is what the committee went with last week vs what I had

CFP                                                                                Me

1.Georgia                                                                     Alabama

2.Alabama                                                                   Georgia

3.Notre Dame                                                              Notre Dame

4.Clemson                                                                    Oklahoma

We had a pretty wild week in college football. Both Georgia and Notre Dame went down HARD, with each team losing big to Top-10 opponents. Notre Dame is pretty much eliminated from playoff contention now, as they have two losses and no conference title game to play for. Georgia still has a chance but they’re going to need to catch a break or two. Alabama is also looking vulnerable. So with that, let’s get to my rankings. A reminder once again that these are not my predictions as to what the CFP committee is going to do, but how I would vote.

#1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Record: 10-0 (7-0)

Notable Wins: #3 Florida State, #19 LSU, #16 Mississippi State

Remaining schedule: Mercer, #6 Auburn, Possibly SEC Championship Game

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With Rashaan Evans finally healthy, Alabama’s defense can finally reach its full potential (photo credit: Saturday Down South)

Alabama looked very vulnerable against Mississippi State on Saturday, but they managed to pull out a hard-fought victory, which tells me a lot about the character of this team. They were trailing 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter and Mississippi State was in the red zone, threatening to go up 2 scores, but the Bama defense was able to hold them to a field goal and the offense was able to march down the field and knot things up before winning the game with 25 seconds left. Their next opponent is Mercer, which is essentially the tune-up game for Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Believe it or not, Alabama could still miss the SEC title game. If Auburn wins the Iron Bowl, they go to the SEC title game against Georgia, not the Crimson Tide. Then the committee will REALLY have a problem. Auburn is coming off a dominating performance against the formerly top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs so they are fully capable of toppling Alabama. But for now, I still see the Crimson Tide as the team to beat in college football.

#2. Oklahoma Sooners

Record: 9-1 (6-1)

Loss: Iowa State 38-31 on October 7

Notable Wins: #2 Ohio State, #11 Oklahoma State, #6 TCU

Remaining Schedule: Kansas, West Virginia, Possible Big 12 Title Game

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (try saying that three times fast) has been dominant on the defensive side of the ball for the Sooners (photo credit: Stormin in Norman)

Baker Mayfield is starting to run away with the Heisman trophy after another fantastic performance against a high-quality opponent in TCU. In that 38-20 victory, Mayfield threw for 333 yards and 3 TD’s while completing two-thirds of his passes. Oklahoma’s defense has been shaky for most of the season but they looked really good against TCU, holding the high-flying Horned Frogs offense to just 20 points and disrupting Kenny Hill so much that he completed fewer than 50% of his passes. Kansas is going to be another warmup game before the Sooners take on West Virginia to close out the regular season. The Mountaineers are no slouches, but with the way Mayfield is playing right now, I don’t envision them beating Oklahoma and the Sooners should head into the first ever Big 12 championship game at 11-1.

#3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Record: 9-0 (6-0)

Notable Wins: #13 Virginia Tech, #3 Notre Dame

Remaining Schedule: Virginia, Pittsburgh, ACC Title Game against #4 Clemson

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With a prize like the Turnover Chain, it’s no surprise that the U has had a ball-hawking defense this season (photo credit: Sun Sentinel)

The U has finally earned my respect after an utter dismantling of Notre Dame. Miami (FL) is at a slight disadvantage because they will finish the regular season having only played 11 games instead of the usual 12 because their tilt with Arkansas State was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, but I think it’d be fair to assume that Miami would win that game, no? The Hurricanes had a pretty easy schedule up until this stage of the season, having not played a ranked opponent until Virginia Tech last week. They beat the Hokies relatively handily by a score of 28-10, then throttled Notre Dame on Saturday by a score of 41-8, proving to me that their undefeated record is no fluke. My reasoning for having Oklahoma over them is simple, I think Oklahoma would win a head-to-head matchup. But in the CFP, there really is no difference between who is #2 and who is #3, both teams will play each other regardless of who is where and since it’s a neutral site, home field advantage isn’t a thing. It’s mainly a deciding factor of who gets to wear their home uniforms. And I’d be doing a great injustice to the readers if I didn’t mention the Turnover Chain. That thing is awesome. If I had that kind of incentive in high school, I’d be trying to strip the ball every single play.

#4. Clemson Tigers

Record: 9-1 (7-1)

Loss: Syracuse 27-24 on October 14

Notable Wins: #13 Auburn, #14 Louisville, #12 Virginia Tech, #20 NC State

Remaining Schedule: The Citadel, South Carolina, ACC Title Game against #3 Miami (FL)

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Ray-Ray McCloud has been one of Kelly Bryant’s favorite targets this season (photo credit: Post and Courier)

Clemson gets in in my latest rankings as they continue to beat good teams. As you will notice above, they have the most populated notable wins section of any of the top 4 teams. My main beef with Clemson’s candidacy is the fact that their loss is to Syracuse, which is definitely the worst loss of any of the teams vying for a playoff spot. Their remaining schedule is pretty similar to the other schools on this list, a cupcake opponent leading up to a showdown with a good rival. South Carolina is one of the more underrated teams in the country in my opinion and I think they will put up a good fight against Clemson. As for the ACC Title Game, I think as long as both teams win their next two games, that contest between Clemson and Miami (FL) will decide who represents the ACC in the CFP. I don’t think both schools can get in.

Just Missed the Cut:

Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 10-0 (7-0)

Notable Wins: #20 Iowa

Remaining Schedule: Michigan, Minnesota, Big Ten Title Game against either Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, or Michigan State

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Brigham Young

Alex Hornibrook has been one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten since taking over for Bart Houston midway through last season (photo credit: Big Ten Network)

The Wisconsin Badgers finally got a win over a notable opponent. It took them 11 weeks to face a ranked team in Iowa and they were able to pull away with the convincing 38-14 victory. Michigan will likely enter this week ranked after dismantling each of their last three opponents since getting blown out by Penn State, which will be big for Wisconsin, especially if they can come away with the win. The Big Ten Title Game will also be a big opportunity for them as it’s another big resume-builder, no matter who comes away with the victory. I do think that Wisconsin has to win out in order to make the playoff, as their schedule is just too weak to justify them getting in as a 1-loss team, barring complete pandemonium from the teams ranked above them. But if they are unbeaten Big Ten champs, then I think you have to put them in the top 4.

Georgia Bulldogs

Record: 9-1 (6-1)

Loss: Auburn 40-17 on Saturday

Notable Wins: #24 Notre Dame, #17 Mississippi State

Remaining Schedule: Kentucky, Georgia Tech, SEC Title Game against either Alabama or Auburn

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One could argue that Jake Fromm has been Georgia’s MVP this season (photo credit: Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Despite getting absolutely ROCKED by Auburn on Saturday, Georgia’s playoff hopes are still alive, but they will have to win out, including the SEC Title Game. They shouldn’t have any problems with Kentucky. Georgia Tech could be a potential trap game, as they have an impressive defense and their wishbone offense is always difficult to prepare for. If they win those games and win the SEC, then I can see no reason to leave Georgia out of the playoff. You can bet they will be watching the Iron Bowl VERY closely, as winner of that game will certainly be their opponent. If I’m Georgia, I want Auburn more for the revenge factor than anything. Plus, if they were to beat Auburn for the SEC championship, then it may erase their loss to the Tigers in the minds of some voters. Though I’m sure they’ll be totally fine with a win over Alabama, which would make things very interesting for the committee.

Those are my thoughts on the rankings for the college football playoff this week. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 11

Last Week: 8-4                     Season Record: 60-24

My picks were a little bit better this week than last, as I improved by 1 victory. The games I missed were Michigan State vs Penn State (I like to think the 3 and a half hour weather delay in the middle of the game affected Penn State), Washington State against Stanford, Miami (FL) vs Virginia Tech, and USC vs Arizona. So let’s have another go at a perfect week, as I’m starting to run out of time with only a few weeks left in the regular season.

Indiana (-8) vs Illinois

Indiana has to win out if they want to make it to a bowl game for a third straight season, which has never happened in school history. They’ve got their easiest stretch yet, facing lowly Illinois, Rutgers, and an admittedly improved Purdue. The Hoosiers are finally done with the BRUTAL aspect of their Big Ten schedule, as five of their six losses have come against conference juggernauts Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State. They shouldn’t have any issues in Champagne, as the Fighting Illini have been a doormat this season. I anticipate Indiana ending their 4-game losing streak.

Projected Score: Indiana 38 Illinois 24

#12 Michigan State vs #13 Ohio State (-17)

Rarely does Ohio State lose under Urban Meyer, which made it all the more shocking to watch what Iowa did to the Buckeyes last week. 55-24 was the final at Kinnick Stadium and I can’t imagine Ohio State’s locker room having been very fun afterwards. That’s why I think they will come out like their asses are on fire in this one. A loss to Michigan State will effectively bury their chances at the Big Ten Championship game, as not only will they have 2 conference losses, but Michigan State will hold the tie breaker. The Spartans are coming off a shocking victory over Penn State that saw them jump TWELVE spots in this edition of the CFP rankings. I think Ohio State wins this and regains their stranglehold on the Big Ten East.

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Sam Hubbard (#6) and Tyquan Lewis (#59) form arguably the best pass rush duo in the nation (photo credit: Bucknuts)

Projected Score: Ohio State 27 Michigan State 24

#15 Oklahoma State (-6.5) vs #21 Iowa State

If you looked at the schedule at the beginning of the season, you would’ve probably pegged this game to be a bloodbath in Oklahoma State’s favor, however they are only 6.5 point favorites. That’s because Iowa State has played well beyond expectations this season, delivering shocking blows to the playoff resumes of both Oklahoma and TCU and have elevated themselves into the rankings these last few weeks. On the flip side, both of OK State’s losses are those two teams I just mentioned Iowa State having beaten. The Cyclones are coming off a tough loss to West Virginia but their victory against Oklahoma also came following a loss, so I wouldn’t put a ton of stake in that. I do think Oklahoma State prevails, however, as Mason Rudolph and company have been far too deadly on offense for most teams to keep up with. Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt isn’t exactly Baker Mayfield and won’t outscore a team that drops 52 points on them like what Oklahoma did to Oklahoma State last week.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 45 Iowa State 31

#23 NC State (-3) vs Boston College

NC State is coming off back-to-back losses, dropping to 6-3 on the year but still remain ranked because of who it was they lost to: #3 Notre Dame and #4 Clemson. Boston College is certainly a step down talent-wise, but don’t sleep on the Eagles either. BC has delivered punishing performances against Louisville, Florida State, and Virginia of late, that’s why the Wolfpack are only 3-point favorites. This is going to be a tricky game and I actually think BC pulls away in this one, which will be highly hyped for the battle between the two best defensive ends in the country: NC State’s Bradley Chubb and Boston College’s Harold Landry.

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2016’s sack leader Harold Landry has BC looking even better in 2017 (photo credit: Boston College Athletics)

Projected Score: Boston College 23 NC State 20

#1 Georgia (-2) vs #10 Auburn

This is the first of 3 matchups between Top 10 teams on the day and it pits two of the SEC’s best. Georgia is still #1 according to the CFP committee, which I do disagree with, but not enough to make a huge fuss over. Both teams have a fantastic 1-2 punch at runningback; Georgia having Nick Chubb and Sony Michel while Auburn has Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway. This game is going to come down to which defense can make the key stop, as I anticipate this being a low-scoring affair. I think Georgia’s linebacking stable of Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, and Davin Bellamy will be able to handle Auburn’s backs and Georgia comes out on top.

Projected Score: Georgia 20 Auburn 14

#20 Iowa vs #8 Wisconsin (-12)

Iowa is coming off a shocking blowout over Ohio State that has catapulted them into this week’s Top 20 teams. Cornerback Josh Jackson was sensational, picking off JT Barrett 3 times including this insanity:

Jackson’s play this past week also has NFL scouts going back to their reports on him and his stock is skyrocketing to the point where I read one analyst having him as the top corner in the nation. Lucky for Wisconsin, they don’t pass a whole lot so they don’t have to worry too much about Jackson, in theory. They managed to outlast Indiana last week 45-17 on the strength of 21 fourth quarter points and the defense looked really impressive as well, shutting down Indiana’s offense after giving up an early 10 points. Wisconsin does have to be pretty thankful for Iowa’s victory over Ohio State because a win here would finally get the analysts off their backs about not facing a ranked team. I think they get the job done this week.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 28 Iowa 20

Michigan (-17) vs Maryland

The Wolverines looked sharp again against Minnesota, as Brandon Peters has been a significant improvement over John O’Korn. Not only that, but his improved play has allowed the running game to regain its form, as Karan Higdon and Chris Evans were unstoppable last week. They face a Maryland team led by receiver DJ Moore, who has been a huge problem for defenses this season with 59 catches for 820 yards and 8 TD’s. Elsewhere, however, the Terrapins are pretty thin and I think Michigan’s world-class defense will be able to focus a little more energy on Moore without compromising their ability to stop other guys. I got the Wolverines in this one.

Projected Score: Michigan 30 Maryland 7

#11 USC (-14) vs Colorado

Sam Darnold was terrific in USC’s shootout victory over Arizona last week, though he did throw another interception, getting his total to 11 on the season. He’s only had two clean games this year but when he’s on, he’s dynamite. He went 20-26 with 311 yards and 2 TD’s in the win and he faces a lackluster Colorado team that does admittedly have a really talented cornerback in Isaiah Oliver. I watched a little bit of footage on him and he’s a big dude who moves really well and almost never gets beat. I’ll probably talk a little more about him when it’s draft season, but a lot of scouts say he’s the top corner in this class. But the rest of Colorado’s team is pretty underwhelming and I think USC will do just fine in this one.

Projected Score: USC 42 Colorado 17

#19 Washington State vs Utah

I’m admittedly a little surprised Washington State was able to defeat Stanford in a low-scoring affair, however the biggest reason they won was they were the first team all season to shut down Bryce Love, holding him to 69 yards (nice) on 16 carries. Luke Falk was also terrific in that game, throwing for 337 yards and 3 Touchdowns in the 24-21 victory. They face a Utah team that has lost 4 of its last 5 games and looks like a shell of the team that started 4-0. I think Wazzu will keep up its momentum and take this one as they head into their bye prior to their showdown with Washington.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Washington State

Despite battling nagging injuries, Luke Falk has been one of the best quarterbacks in the nation this season (photo credit: USA Today)

Projected Score: Washington State 49 Utah 27

#2 Alabama (-13.5) vs #16 Mississippi State

I still don’t know what more Alabama has to do to convince the CFP committee that they’re the best, but I’m sure that will all get itself sorted out on December 2 in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama can’t get caught looking ahead, though, as Mississippi State is pretty stiff competition despite trailing UMass at halftime last week. I don’t think we have to go too much into this, Alabama has virtually been untouchable in the regular season under Nick Saban and the Bulldogs simply don’t have the firepower to unseat them.

Projected Score: Alabama 35 Mississippi State 17

#3 Notre Dame (-3.5) vs #7 Miami (FL)

Catholics vs Convicts. Catholics vs Convicts. Catholics vs Convicts. Anyone who has followed this matchup is probably sick of seeing that tagline from the 1980’s, but one can be forgiven for thinking back to those days as Notre Dame vs Miami actually means something again. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot. While Notre Dame already has a pretty impressive resume, Miami needed a win over a good Virginia Tech team to finally get some respect despite being unbeaten. A win for the Hurricanes will likely catapult them into the Top 4, depending on how convincing the win is. However, Notre Dame’s defense and running game will give this Hurricanes’ team problems and they will struggle to hold off the Fighting Irish. Catholics take this round.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 24 Miami (FL) 20

#6 TCU vs #5 Oklahoma (-6.5)

If you thought Bedlam was fun, this has the potential to be even better. Oklahoma is coming off a 62-52 victory over in-state rival Oklahoma State in what was the most insane offensive shootout in a long time. These two teams come in with very similar resumes: identical records (both in conference and non-conference), both teams’ sole loss is Iowa State, both feature gun-slinging quarterbacks that transferred from another high-profile school, I could go on but I don’t want to. I’m going to give the edge to Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield has been as hot as any quarterback in the country and is drawing Russell Wilson comparisons as he gets ready for an NFL career. I’m going with the Sooners in this.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 55 TCU 52

Those are my picks for this week. Fingers crossed I can pull off the perfect week before this season gets out. Are there any other games you want my thoughts on? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

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

ACC: Duke Blue Devils

Duke Countdown To Craziness

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

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

SEC: Kentucky Wildcats

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photo credit: A Sea of Blue

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

Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

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

Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

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photo credit: KUSports.com

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

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats

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photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

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

Preseason Top 25:

1.Duke Blue Devils

2.Michigan State Spartans

3.Kentucky Wildcats

4.Kansas Jayhawks

5.Arizona Wildcats

6.Villanova Wildcats

7.North Carolina Tar Heels

8.Florida Gators

9.Wichita State Shockers

10.West Virginia Mountaineers

11.Miami (FL) Hurricanes

12.USC Trojans

13.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.Cincinnati Bearcats

15.Minnesota Golden Gophers

16.Louisville Cardinals

17.Purdue Boilermakers

18.Gonzaga Bulldogs

19.Xavier Musketeers

20.Wisconsin Badgers

21.Northwestern Wildcats

22.UCLA Bruins

23.Baylor Bears

24.St. Mary’s Gaels

25.Seton Hall Pirates

Preseason All Americans

First Team:

G-Collin Sexton-Alabama

G-Devonte Graham-Kansas

F-Miles Bridges-Michigan State

F-Marvin Bagley-Duke

C-DeAndre Ayton-Arizona

Second Team:

G-Joel Berry-North Carolina

G-Trevon Bluiett-Xavier

F-Michael Porter Jr-Missouri

F-Johnathan Williams-Gonzaga

C-Mohamed Bamba-Texas

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

Mississippi Valley State v Michigan State

photo credit: CBS Detroit

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

Projected #1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

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

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

College Football Picks: Week 10

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

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

#9 Wisconsin (-13.5) vs Indiana

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

Projected Score: Wisconsin 27 Indiana 20

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

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

Projected Score: Penn State 35 Michigan State 20

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

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

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

Projected Score: Auburn 45 Texas A&M 21

South Carolina vs #1 Georgia (-23.5)

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

Projected Score: Georgia 28 South Carolina 17

Wake Forest vs #3 Notre Dame (-14)

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

Projected Score: Notre Dame 34 Wake Forest 20

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

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

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

Projected Score: Clemson 38 NC State 30

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

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

Projected Score: Stanford 42 Washington State 35

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

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

Projected Score: Oklahoma 49 Oklahoma State 45

Minnesota vs Michigan (-15)

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

Projected Score: Michigan 31 Minnesota 24

#19 LSU vs #2 Alabama (-21.5)

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

Projected Score: Alabama 52 LSU 21

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

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

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

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 48 Miami (FL) 24

#22 Arizona vs #17 USC (-7)

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

Projected Score: Arizona 42 USC 39

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