Oh yeah, when we last looked in on college pigskin, the WKU Hilltoppers coughed up a 72 point or so lead in the Bahamas Bowl, gave up what coulda woulda shoulda been a tying TD on the last play with :01 on the clock at snap, then survived when Central Michigan coach Dan Enos went for two and failed.
It was Enos last game on the Chippewa sideline, though it’s hard to say if the two are connected.
More important it was Lou Holtz’s last game in the booth. Sayonara, Lou, don’t let the door bang you in the ass on the way out.
Pope Urban’s Buckeyes battered Bucky Badger in the Big Ten title game, then, as the four seed, blitzkrieged its way to the first Football Final Four title. (What a shame former Wisconsin mentor Bret Bielema had already left Madison, otherwise the previous sentence would have been even more alliterative.)
Speaking of Bs, there was the bust of the Big B in the Big 12 (Which, with only ten universities, remains as arithmetically dysfunctional as the 14-member Big Ten.). That would be Baylor, who bested Top Ten K State in the regular season closer, then, when out to prove it was jilted by the Final Four selection oligarchy, frittered away a 20 point fourth quarter advantage to Sparty, losing the Cotton Bowl.
When we last looked, QB Vernon Adams was still in the shotgun at Eastern Washington. Everett Golson was still in Brian Kelly’s doghouse in South Bend.
And Jake Coker was still the Swen Nater of college pigskiin, adorned with a head set on the University of Houndstooth sideline. Where, in the stands, the fans are now on suicide alert, since Roll Tide hasn’t conquered the big one in almost three years now.
So, what’s new?
Adams is now the future of the Quack at Oregon. Golson is the The Next Big Thang in Tallahassee, where academic improprieties are looked at with a wink, accompanied by Benjamin handshake. Jim Harbaugh is walking on the waters of Ann Arbor’s Huron River.
The Big 12, the Big Five league shut out of the first Final Four is looking for two entrants this season. Meanwhile football fans across the land are starting to wish for an Elite Eight to end the season.
So, though kickoff is still too many prevarications of coachspeak away, and some teams — they know who they are — haven’t named a starting QB yet, I’m here to advise which institution of higher learning shall wear the crown next January.
After running the stats through myriads of algorithmic hypotheses, spending hours in the film room breaking down key plays, perusing the predictions of others in the biz, consulting the Ouija Board, here are the four that I predict will make the playoff. Along with four more capable of slipping in, should my calculations be a bit off.
At any rate, hear me now and believe me later, one of these eight teams is your next national champ.
Before you guffaw, remember you’re reading the two-time defending champ of Joey the Vig’s Bowl Pool.
Michigan State. They’re gonna do it for Biggie Munn.
I loved Biggie’s successor, Duffy Daugherty. His Michigan State Spartans of the mid 50s won two Rose Bowls in two tries during the decade. And my allegiance.
In my youth, I tried to collect sports programs as a hobby. One of my older brother’s good buddies went to Michigan State, and promised that he’d get me a program from that second Rose Bowl.
Which he did not. Much to the chagrin of this 8 year old.
Which didn’t in any way lessen my ardor for Clarence Peaks, Walt Kowalczyk and Sparty.
They’ve been waiting a long time in East Lansing. The Green’s time is now.
I know, I know, the third most talked about squad in the Big Ten has a schedule even Bill Belichick couldn’t trickerate his way through. At Michigan. At Nebraska. At Ohio State. Along with a visit from The Quack.1
But my addled outlook says it’s the season for folks to take note what Mark Dantonio has done, and continues to do in East Lansing. If they just weren’t dazzled so much by the maize and blue, and scarlet and gray, they’d realize it already.
Sparty is 24-3 over the last two campaigns, including Ws in the Rose and Cotton Bowls against Top 5 teams. In ’13, they handed Pope Urban his first Ohio State L in the Big Ten title battle.
They showed grit and guile against Baylor in their finale last year in Dallas, coming from way back to beat the Bears.2
QB Connor Cook’s a legit Heisman hopeful. His O line is one of the best in the land. The D is always decisive.
So, Burt, I trust you’ll be following your alma mater to the title game. Bring me a program.
TCU. Alright, here’s another tale from when I was a kid — yeah, back when I was lamenting being jilted on that Rose Bowl game program. I craved every bit of info on football Saturdays.
When they’d go through the scores on TV late in the afternoon, they’d do it by region. There just seemed to be something exotic, otherworldly about schools with initials. TCU. SMU. UCLA.
I like purple. And Horned Frogs.
Yes, it took a couple of seasons for Ft. Worthians to adjust to life in the Big 12. But the 7-6 campaign in ’12, and the 4-8 under performance in ’13 were aberrations.
Last season, the Horned Frogs were the giggor, not giggee. Plain and simple. Their one L was a 58-61 shootout at Baylor, a Top 5 team. Sitting in one of the selection committee’s first four in slots, the Purple finished the year with a 48-10 shellacking of the Longhorns, and a 55-3 decimation of Iowa State.
For which scintillating showings, they were relegated to the Peach Bowl. Where, it must be noted, they took out their frustrations on one time Darling of the Season, Ole Miss, 42-3.
QB Trevon Boykin is a legit Heisman hopeful. His O line is one of the best in the land. Gary Patterson’s D is always decisive.
Is there an echo in here?
Apparently so. TCU has a killer conference road schedule. At Texas Tech. At Okie State. At Oklahoma. At Bill Snyder State.
I am not dissuaded.
Go Horned Frogs.
Clemson. Love the name Dabo Swinney. Love to say it. Love to write it.
Plus he’s not a bad coach.
Unlike my first two picks, the Tigers get their main league foes at home. The Seminoles and the Ramblin’ Wreck come to Carolina. Visits to Louisville and N.C. State could be tricky.
But Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have been on the verge for several seasons now with Ws over Ohio State and Oklahoma as bowl game underdogs the last two years.
QB Deshaun Watson is a legit Heisman hopeful.3
In most seasons, there’s a school that’s been on the verge for awhile, that rises from the mire of its previous misfortune to unexpected heights. Only the most prescient can see it coming. Only the most foolish say it’s going to be so in writing.
Count me among the latter.
Auburn. I mean really you’ve got to at least somewhat admire a fan base that celebrates victories by adorning Toomer’s Corner with toilet paper.
The corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue has been refurbished, and is verdant once again, foiling the felonious assault of Crimson Tide acolyte Harvey Updyke.
And the eagle-eyed among you will be able to immediately tell me what these Tigers have in common this season with the aforementioned Tigers?
That’s right, kids, a trap game against Bobby P’s Louisville Cardinals.[/ref]Should the Cards somehow pull off that double, they’ll rocket into the Top Ten three games into the season.[/ref]
Rest easy, whoever shall be calling Gus Malzahn’s signals will not be a Heisman candidate. At least not at the season’s kickoff.
But these deep and fast and strong Tigers — not that the previously mentioned Tigers aren’t also — get the Crimson Tide, Ole Miss, Cowbell State and Georgia at home. If they survive the Cardinals and a trip to Death Valley in Week 3, watch out.
They’ve had a 1000 yard rusher for six straight years. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be hearing the name Jeremy Johnson more and more as the season progresses. And Will Muschamp may not have been worth a hoot as a head coach, but he knows his D.
Praise the Plainsmen and pass the Charmin Ultra Soft.
And Fo’ Mo’. Ranked in alphabetical order and by weight.
Ohio State. In the summer of 2012, a pal of mine was traveling through mid Ohio, the bastion of Buckeye Country. The guys on the sports radio show he was tuned into were arguing over what if any school on the upcoming Ohio State schedule could possibly beat their team?
When he related the story to me, we got a good laugh. How obsessive we thought, talking about the upcoming pigskin season when swimming pools were just being filled with chlorine and water.4 Not to mention that The Ohio State University had been 6-7 the previous year.
Well, Urban Meyer has proved to be the Second Coming. 12-0 was their record, though they sat at home for the Big Ten title game and the bowl season, thanks to the less than exemplary ethical standards of their previous coach, whom we shall call The Vest.
In fact, the Buckeyes completed the ’13 regular season slate without a blemish. Until that is, they were upended by Sparty in the league championship game, and by the Dabo Swinneys in the Orange Bowl. They fell again in ’14’s second battle to Virginia Tech, but survived to, well, to you know what.
There’s a reason the Buckeyes have been voted the first unanimous preseason #1 in AP history.
Essentially they’ve got it all. Not only equipment managers who could start at QB for half the schools in the land.
There’s Ezekiel Elliott, who is — Yes, I’m going to say it — a legit Heisman hopeful. And calling signals, either Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett, either of whom can be considered a — Oh, Lord help me — legit Heisman hopeful.
And the best coach in college football.
Southern Cal. The Trojans coach shows up drunk at a fat cat meet, greet, drink and eat, wishing to prove his prowess at #3. He cusses, abuses his foes, and generally makes an ass out of himself.
Which as an aberrant but considerable offshoot of the Pakistani Graduate Student Theory proves Steve Sarkisian’s Men of Troy stand on the precipice of prowess.5
The Trojans are another team on the verge. I’m looking for a breakout year by receiver John “JuJu” Smith. The D line is stellar. They’re deep all around.
Despite my obsession with Oregon, USC is the best team in the Pac 12, a very, very, very competitive league.
Georgia Tech. I know what you’re thinking, “SeedyK, what are you thinking? Have you lost your mind?”
Everything is stacked against the Ramblin’ Wreck. Trips to Notre Dame, Duke, Clemson and Miami. A squad filled with less starred recruits than any other school mentioned here. A generally mid level Power 5 history. An run first, run second, run third, hardly ever throw offense that struggles if it falls behind.
Ah, but . . .
. . . but iconoclastic coach Paul Johnson has never had a returning QB like Justin Thomas, who had connected on more than half of his pass attempts the previous season. Not that the Yellow Jackets are going West Coast O or anything, but they shall open it up a bit this campaign.
GT has no Heisman hopefuls. Just lots of real good, well schooled football players. In a system that’s hard to prepare for.
Tech’s a long shot for the Final Four — Duh!!! — but, should the Wreck wreck enough havoc to make it, remember where you read it first.
— Seedy K