Considerably more football fans than any reasonably intelligent person might have guessed have surprisingly inquired what teams I think will make the CFP (Formerly known as BCS) playoff this upcoming season.
Their wish, etc, etc . . . so, after the following bit of introductory tomfoolery, Seedy K’s Pigskin Final Four shall be revealed.
My original intent for a hook was to co-opt a term oft used by Louisville’s first Heisman winner Paul Hornung back in the early days of cable when he had a weekly wagering show.
That term is “unbuckle.” Which was his way of saying he felt a pick was a lock against the spread, a sure thing, a no way the game will come out any other way.
There are two reasons why I’m not using that term, though I’m certainly killing time here advising you why.
One, “unbuckle” took on a whole new meaning vis a vis Hornung when in October ’06, while he was delivering a pep rally speech before his alma mammy Notre Dame battled UCLA, his pants fell to his ankles. Literally. Fortunately he was behind a rostrum, though those sitting behind him took it in, which we know from a photo displaying their muffled but obvious bemusement.
(In case it might come up on Trivia Night, the answer to the question that’s crossed your mind is “boxers.”)
The second reason for not using the term is that my personal counselor at the bar (who FYI has taped every one of our conversations to cover his buttocks) advises I don’t have enough insurance to pay any potential claims, should an unwitting reader rely on my prognostications to his/her financial detriment.
Which is to say to you loyal readers, “caveat emptor.”
Legal counsel now having confirmed that with the above disclaimer, I have effectively covered my own ass, let’s have at it.
Presented hereinafter, in alphabetical order, the four schools that shall, one guy’s shaky opinion, be competing in the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl on December 29, with the victors competing for the “national championship” ten days later.
CLEMSON. Dabo Swinney, verifiably a much more likable dude, appears by most accounts to be the next Nick Saban. (Unless it’s the coach of one of the other contenders to be mentioned in a moment.) The school’s colors are purple and orange, which is not only a unique combo but pretty damn cool. The team’s home stadium is legitimately monikered Death Valley, though there’s that other school making the same claim about its playing venue. In one of college pigskin’s great traditions, the Tiger players enter before games by running down to the field from the top at the end of the stadium after touching Howard’s Rock — the gift from a fan used as a door stop until the late 60s by former Clemson coach Frank Howard.
Of greater significance, the Tigers have a fire breathing gang of 6-4, 325 lb. defensive lineman — Lawrence, Bryant, Ferrell and Wilkins — who will not only whomp a foe up the side of the head if it helps getting to the other team’s QB or trapping a RB behind the line, but can hang with the wideouts in the forty surprisingly well.
Swinney’s obviously the deal. So too, hyper intense D coordinator Brent Venables, who recently signed a five year contract extension for over $2 mill/ year.
Clemson’s chances of nabbing the selection committee’s nod are enhanced by serious preseason buzz. That comes with its confirmed on the field of play redefinition of the term “clemsoning,” after going 61-9 over the last five seasons. It helps that the Tigers are competing in a solid but less than stellar ACC. If Clemson takes care of biz against the 12th Man in College Station on September 8, it should be relatively easy peasy the rest of the campaign.
GEORGIA. Yes, I know. More than likely the Bulldogs, coached by Kirby Smart, the other guy who may be the Next Nick, will have to beat You Know Whom in the SEC title game to make the four team playdown. But it’s gonna happen because the law of averages has to come in play sooner or later, and that other team which shall not be named has six new assistant coaches, too many questions on the defense, and a QB battle that shall, it says here, split the team.
This is the year that “Goooooooooooo Dawgs! Sic ’em! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!” rings louder than “Roll Tide!” A bigger hit locally than any of R.E.M.’s, “The Battle Hymn of Bulldog Nation” will resonate throughout autumn and through the New Year.
Trying to beat UGa “between the hedges” — yet another of Grantland Rice’s many designations that have become part of pigskin vernacular — has become increasingly problematic for visiting SEC rivals. Only a journey to the Bayou Death Valley on October 13 appears troublesome for these Dawgs.
Let’s face it, Georgia has the most focus among the legit contenders after what happened last year. The Bulldogs came oh so very very very close to that trophy, only to be thwarted by a can you believe this frosh is ready for this moment miracle.
RBs Chubb and Michel are gone, you might say. Well, yeah, but Georgia’s RB stable is deeper than Bob Baffert’s, even after Justify’s retirement. Remember this name: D’Andre Swift. And he’s got plenty of ***** help. Team leader Jake Fromm’s a year older, and he’ll be pushed just enough by Justin Fields.
The rich get richer. They be partaying by The Arch.
WASHINGTON. U Dub fans are especially proud of two traditions. The Air Raid siren that heralds big moments on Pigskin Saturdays. And that Husky Stadium is one of only two in the land where fans can sailgate. since the venue is hard by Lake Washington, allowing diehards to arrive game day by sea.
I mean it’s not like those are the most heralded and boola boola of pigskin customs, but, hey, it’s all I could find. (Especially since Captain Husky, U Dub’s equivalent of the ‘Cuse’s Dome Ranger, is also a thing of the past.)
It will not take long for the nation to know if the Jake Browning-led, Chris Petersen-mentored Huskies are for real. They open against Auburn in Atlanta. A W there and pencil ’em in for the Final Four. Which is to say, the Alaskan Malamutes will benefit from no Southern Cal on the schedule and Stanford at home.
Obsessively hard working Browning’s the deal. So too RB Myles Gaskin.
Eight starters return on offense. Nine starters are back on D.
The Pac12 doesn’t get a lot of dap, so that may hurt Washington’s sense of legitimacy, but this is the year UDub draws some spotlight and makes the cut.
WISCONSIN. It’s not like the Badgers haven’t been in rarified air before, it’s just they haven’t been all the way there. They’ve spent New Year’s in Pasadena nine times with three Ws, though they came away empty handed the last three trips in ’11 (TCU), ’12 (Oregon) and ’13 (Stanford).
Suffice it to say making the Final Four, which yours truly is predicting they shall, will garner the biggest celebration since, oh, October 11, 1969. That was the Saturday the Badgers, a hapless bunch under less than stellar mentor John Coatta (the school unfortunately named him coach instead of a guy at Miami Ohio by the name of Glenn Edward Schembechler Jr.) broke a 23 game winless streak, coming from behind to best Iowa’s Hawkeyes, 23-17. So dizzy with exultation was the Parent’s Weekend throng, thousands marched out of Camp Randall Stadium to University Avenue. Where they were led in cheers and “On Wisconsin” by none other than school AD and former All-American Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, who was stirring up the celebrants while standing on the roof of iconic Rennebohm Drug Store.
Recall that Wisconsin coulda woulda shoulda last season. The only blemish — a fatal one for BCS hopes it turned out — was that 21-27 setback to the Buckeyes in the Big 10 title game. QB Alex Hornibrook, a might schizzy all season given his penchant for throwing picks, finished strong in the Orange Bowl.
What the Badgers really have going for them is the nation’s best offensive line, and arguably America’s most underrated coach in Paul Chryst. Very quietly Wisconsin has gone 46-10 over the last four campaigns, with post season Ws in the Outback, Holiday, Cotton and Orange Bowls.
Yes, they have to survive a gauntlet of sorts, facing the Wolverines, Nittany Lions and Boilermakers all on the road. But it says here they shall overcome.
And I am so sure that one of my Wisconsin guys — either Badger Billy or Badger Bunny, who was there to sing along with Crazy Legs — will find their way to Rennie’s for the celebration.
There ya go. Tigers, Bulldogs, Badgers and Huskies.
Unbuckle at your own risk.
— Seedy K