What would your generic college football blog be without the author's weekly picks? In an effort to reward our dedicated fan base, Homerism has set up a sibling showdown with The Skin in a head-to-head handicap-off. The loser buys the winner a world famous chocolate martini
from The Brook (Peoria) on Christmas Day, a long-standing family tradition.
The plan is for each of us to pick our five favorite games on the board each week. On top of that, we'll each offer our weekly "Lee Greenwood
Special:" a pick for one game featuring a service academy. (Because the idea of gambling on our armed forces makes me proud to be an American.) The competitor with the best record when all is said and done will be sucking down one of Tulsa's true culinary delights this holiday season.
The Skin refused to participate unless I gave him an open mic, so I'll turn it over to him and then follow up with my picks.
WEEK ONE--The Skin
Let me start out with the ground rules:
1.) The Skin does not give out advice on "skin." There are plenty of places on the 'net that can handle this topic better than myself. That doesn't mean I won't give the occasional shout out to a deserving starlet or co-ed.
2.) The Skin makes no guarantees regarding the success of his handicapping strategy. Let's be honest, we are all probably in the red with Vegas. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, or, even worse, they count their "woulda, coulda, shoulda" bets.
3.) I'm a huge Oklahoma Sooners fan, and I will never gamble on an OU game. Bad, bad karma.
4.) Each week The Skin will include a nugget of unsolicitied advice in the arena of life.
Advice: If you're considering picking up this month's copy of Playboy, save your $6.99. Super hot Anna Farris adorns the cover. Sounds good, right? As long as you don't mind the fact that she doesn't show any "skin" in the mag. Give Skinny some love!
(Bonus) Advice: For those of you who have yet to participate in your fantasy draft, steer clear of "stockpiling talent regardless of position." Afterwards, every owner is out to prove he's a master negotiator. You won't be able to make trades unless you are willing to give up a lot of value.
Alabama at Clemson (-5)
The Skin is dubbing this one the "Herbstreit Bowl" based on Herbie's affinity for coeds from the Deep South. It pains The Skinny to say it, but Nick Saban is an elite coach. He'll return the Tide to elite form. Still, Bama fans will have to demonstrate a quality they're not known for: patience. Mike Shula left the cupboard pretty bare, and while Saban has recruited well, those recruits are young. While Bama has been consistently average lately, Clemson has been a complete enigma, looking like world beaters in early games, only to lose to lesser opponents later in the season. No one questions Clemson’s talent at the skill positions with Cullen Harper, CJ Spiller and James Davis in the backfield. Bama has some nice players, too, including OT Andre Smith, QB John Parker Wilson and S Rashad Johnson. Unfortunately for inpatient Tide fans they don’t have enough upfront on D to stop Davis and Spiller.
Skin Says: Clemson by 10, Herbie scores two.
Tennessee (-7) at UCLA
There is no bigger fallacy in college football prognostication than basing preseason predictions on last year’s accomplishments, but it's hard to forget that Tennessee won the SEC East in 2007. (Despite a successful 2007 campaign, The Skin questions why Tennessee has been so patient with Phil Fulmer? Where is the program going? Seemingly nowhere.) Tennessee has eight returning starters on offense and will rely on bruising tailback Arian Foster to pound a weak UCLA defense. No question UCLA’s hopes for this season were seriously diminished with the season-ending injury to QB Ben Olson. To win this one, Neuhesial needs to push the tempo and create a Pac-10 style shootout. Vols CB Brent Vinson's suspension is worrisome, but I still don’t think the Bruins have the weapons to get it done against a good-but-not-great Tennessee defense.
Skin Says: Tennessee by 2 touchdowns.
Syracuse at Northwestern (-12)
This battle of powerhouses should draw 10,000 to north shore of Lake Michigan. The Skin could make a very strong argument that the ‘Cuse has been the worst team in major college football over the past two seasons. Not that Northwestern has been a juggernaut--they lost to Duke last year. But are they 12 points better than Syracuse? Actually, Skinny thinks so. The Mildcats run a nice spread offense and have enough talent at the skill position to put points on the board against most defenses this side of SC. Northwestern’s defense won’t have to do much to shut down an offensive attack less potent than Hugh Hefner.
Skin Says: Northwestern by 24. Pop the Vuevue in Evanston!
Wake Forest (-12) @ Baylor
The Skin hates bandwagoning on to the latest hot thing in college football, but the preseason love for Wake Forest is well deserved. Jim Grobe is proving he is an elite coach with his success at Wake the past two seasons. (Are you paying attention Irish fans?) The Skin loves Riley Skinner (no relation) at QB, and ACC Rookie of the Year tailback Josh Adams gives the Demon Deacons some fire power in the backfield. On defense, Wake returns its entire secondary, a group that led the nation in INTs returned for touchdowns. That spells trouble for Baylor starting QB Blake Szymanski, who threw 18 picks last season. The Bears made a solid choice by bringing in Art Briles. He is not a national name, but he will bring a Mike Leach-type offensive style to Waco, which might be the Bear’s only hope of ever being competitive in the Big 12. Briles’ Bears are no match for Wake this year.
Skin Says: Wake by 30.
LGS: Temple (-7) at Army
Army closed spring practice to run a covert op, installing the wishbone. Unfortunately, someone in the media blew the Black Knights' cover. It's hard to believe there's a journalist out there that intent on covering Army football! All indications are that Army doesn’t have the personnel to run the bone. The wishbone, an offense predicated on timing and precision, takes time to perfect. Army will struggle offensively to start the season; then again can’t you say that about Army every year? Temple returns every starter from a defense that led the MAC in total defense last season. Army won’t be able to put enough points on the board to keep this one close.
Skin Says: Temple by 21.
Oklahoma State (-7) at Washington State
On paper Mike Gundy’s boys are clearly the better team here. Gundy has developed a solid offensive system at OSU, while his defense returns an experienced core of LBs and DBs. The rub here is that OSU seems to lack some intangible under Gundy. The Pokes have struggled on the road under Gundy. (See: Troy last year.) Washington State is not a good team, but Pullman the Pokes will be lucky to make it out of the Pacific Northwest with a win. This one isn’t about Wazzu, it’s about whether Gundy’s boys can be “men.”
Skin Pick: Pistols fire, but only by 3.
WEEK ONE--Blatant Homerism
In case you're wondering about the origin of this column's title... OK, I realize you're probably not. Anyway, all Homerism and The Skin are saying is, That's the best you can hope for when you go up against Sin City.
Let's hit the picks. Like the favorites for the most part this week. Never feel good about that one.
Alabama @ Clemson (-5)
Two of the more intriguing teams in the country meeting opening week makes for one of the year's most intriguing games. Looking at Clemson's talented backfield, it easy to see why the Tigers seem to be everyone's ACC favorite this year. But do you really want to go with Tommy Bowden over Nick Saban in a primetime game? On the other hand, last year proved that Saban is no miracle worker, especially without his own players. The Crimson Tide coach is still stuck with holdovers from the Shula reign this year, making it difficult to get a good handle on this team. I'm betting that an exuberant Bama nation is out in force at the Georgia Dome, and the major coaching edge tips this one to the Tide. Let's open the picks with an upset.
Homerism Says: Bama by 8.
LGS: Temple (-7) @ Army
Quick, name Army's coach. I can't either.
Homerism Says: Temple by 10.
USC (-19.5) @ Virginia
Homerism defies any of you Wahoo fans to give me one thing to like about UVa this year? OK, something other than the fact that this year's line of J. Crew critter pants
are stunning. Having suffered through more televised noon kickoff games like Duke-Virginia than I ever thought imaginable, I feel pretty confident saying that last year's Virginia squad managed to turn in one of the worst 9-4 seasons in college football history. The 'hoos somehow managed to pull out five wins by two points or less. Granted, escaping Murfreesboro with a victory is nothing to sneeze at, but I think that is a sign of a 3-9 team in 2008, especially with a starting quarterback hitting the books for a year. Looks like Al Groh has prepared to take his own year-long sabbatical after all of 2007's hard work. USC has been ruthless in early-season games out of conference under Carroll. Doesn't matter if Sanchez is healthy or not. Keep the appletinis on ice, Virginia fans, because you won't be in the stadium too long.
Homerism Says: USC, 30-3.
Kentucky @ Louisville (-3.5)
As down as I am on UVa this year, I'm whatever the opposite is on Louisville. If you haven't noticed, Bobby Petrino tends to leave a scorched earth path in his wake wherever he goes. At this point, I'm betting that the Cardinals' struggles last year had something to do with "creative differences" between new coach Steve Kragthorpe and Petrino's holdovers. The Louisville D can't be any worse this year, especially with defensive coordinator Ron English coming in to shake things up. On the other sideline, is there a cooler name in college football than Kentucky head-coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips
? With the success of The Dark Knight
this summer, does that add to his cool factor? Or, does it mean a few relentless months of lame Brokeback--and even more tasteless--jokes?
Homerism Says: Louisville by 6.
W. Michigan @ Nebraska (-14.5)
Normally, Homerism detests playing games involving a new coach. In this case, however, the good vibes around Nebraska are just too strong. Lincoln should be back to its old self on opening day. Keep in mind that Husker fans were fixated on getting Bo Pelini once the ax mercifully fell on Bill Callahan. I can see that joint rocking with the enthusiasm that only an unproven coordinator taking over as head coach can provide. However, Pelini might be the perfect choice for a quick fix at Nebraska, given the blackshirts' disarray under Callahan. Optimism fuels a Nebraska cover.
Homerism Says: Nebraska, 27-10.
Oklahoma St. (-7) @ Washington St.
The Cougars are a depressing mess at this point. Speaking of Cougars... Heading into this game, OSU is like an 18-year-old Sigma Chi pledge with frosted tips (let's call him Zack) headed out for his first night at the local boom-boom bar, hoping like hell he'll be able to use the fake ID of his pledge brother Troy, who has the tips plus about 30 extra pounds. Once safely inside, it's time for as many long island ice teas as $40 will buy (assuming a 3.5 percent gratuity, of course). Then, he spots Shana (read: Washington St.) making eyes at him across the room. Funny, he doesn't remember seeing her around campus. After telling Troy and AJ, another pledge brother who just finished off some hazing back at the house, that he's going to "totally take that chick to Poundtown," he makes his move. Luckily for Zack, it's a lot easier than he imagined. (I mean, A LOT.) As he smokes a cigarette on the back deck of Shana's "off-campus" apartment, Zack's telling himself he's going to be a force to be reckoned with. (That symbolizes an impressive win in the Pokes' opener.) Next week, Zack's back hitting the club. He hasn't called Shana all week, playing it cool and banking she knows where to be on Friday night if she wants a good time. This time, though, when Zack spots Shana, she's making time with Chad, who's pledging the hated Delts. As Shana heads for the door, ready for a vanquishing from his rival, Zack catches a a glimpse of a half-erased tattoo on her shoulder. The cold reality of his supposedly triumphant conquest sets in: Zack has been cougared. That's what OSU's season will be like this year.
Homerism Says: OSU by 14.