Afternoon, all. After a successful trip to the IU/WKU game, it’s time to update the scores and my record as the games end. Hope your Labor Day weekend is off to as fantastic a start as mine. Cheers.
Finally! Finallyfinallyfinallyfinallyfinally! McD’s Quest For .500 begins! Again!
I actually don’t know why I’m celebrating. It’s been just seven short months since I flamed out during the bowl season and finished the 2007 season under .500. Since that time, I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I spent a lot of time “working on me” in the offseason and I’m back ready and refreshed to give you the best games of each weekend. We’re going to get this thing on track, people! This has to be what it was like to be Brian Billick the last few seasons.
This might be the last time I feel like this all year. If the picks go well this week, I’ll be even more euphoric next Saturday. If they go in the shitter again like last season, I could very well end up just another program-killing quarterback at Rumors and Rants. We’d be a more effective offensive football blog, but we titter like 12 year olds whenever some one says “spread offense.”
I’ll be spending the weekend watching my beloved Indiana University (hopefully) take it to D-1 infants Western Kentucky on Saturday, but we’ll be updating the site with scores and snarky commentary all weekend. I am SO ready for 12 straight hours of football on Saturdays again. Completely unrelated note: for some reason, I keep getting dumped during football season. Guess it’s just a weird coincidence.
Western Kentucky at Indiana (-20.5)
The Season After starts Saturday for the Hoosiers. In 2007, they buried a coach and played 13 in Tempe. Now they’re faced with the expectations of Hoosier Fan, and I, for one, expect at least a repeat of last season’s bowl trip. An absurdly easy schedule and a down conference means no excuses for the Hoosiers.
Western Kentucky continues their tour of Indiana football (they played Ball State and Indiana State last season) and their transition into Division I as well. Maybe they’ll have something for the Hoosiers on Saturday, but this game is still firmly in the hands of the Indiana football team. It’s the first game of the season, the crowd at The Rock is going to be crazy, so all that’s left is for the Hoosiers to show there’s more to them than James Hardy. This game sets the tone, boys.
Update: Indiana 31 Western Kentucky 13. The Baker and I were in the crowd and Kellen Lewis looked fantastic all game, except for a few inaccurate throws sprinkled in there. Without those, he could have been like 23-27. The Hilltoppers and their fantastic mascot just couldn’t stop him.
The Hoosiers’ new no-huddle offense (you know, since everyone is doing it now) looked pretty decent too. Two things I want changed, however. First, the no-huddle spread makes games take for-fucking-ever and both IU and WKU were running it. Second, the Hoosiers need a moratorium on running the zone-read with Marcus Thigpen. He’s a great returner and he’s really fast, so I see what they’re thinking, but he has absolutely no instincts as a running back. The other backs would all gain four or five yards with it, but he is always losing yards. He’s just not a running back. IU should use him more in the role they use Ray Fisher (who gets The Baker hard) than as a running back. But in the big picture, it was nice to see an IU game we were supposed to win and then we actually won. Still not used to the feeling.
Record: 1-0 (0-1 against the spread)
(17) Virginia Tech at East Carolina (+9.5)
I like to make fun of Sean Glennon for sucking and everything, but his stats last season really were pretty good considering he’s a Hokie and has to run that offense. They aren’t what you’d call “wide open” with their offensive attack. And as long as Glennon doesn’t screw the pooch, he’s got a job in Frank Beamer’s offense and we don’t need to hear Tyrod Taylor’s name until the spring.
I also realize East Carolina is an up and coming team who’s playing at home in basically their biggest game of the season, but…oh…yeah that kind of makes sense why all the experts think this is a close game waiting to happen. Defensive team with a lot of offensive question marks on the road against a fired up team? It’s trendy pick time! God I hope Lou Holtz gives one of his “pep talks” for this game. Skip! You’ve gotta go out there and win this one!
Pick: East Carolina
Update: East Carolina 27 Virginia Tech 22. Didn’t see a second of this game since I was in Bloomington, but I love that the Hokies were undone by a big play on special teams. Oh, and by Sean Glennon. That Tyrod Taylor redshirt isn’t happening. I also have to marvel that the experts’ trendy pick actually was right. Doesn’t usually happen when that many people are on a particular underdog’s bandwagon. Good day for Skip Holtz and his team. Not gonna lie, I’m a bit distracted by the USC Song Girls as I type this, so I’m gonna cut this short. See you when the 3:30 games end.
Record: 2-0 (1-1 A.S.)
Utah at Michigan (-3.5)
I bet Utah comes out in the old-school I-formation for most of the game, just to lessen the shock of having two spread teams play each other inside Michigan Stadium. It’s, uh, called Michigan Stadium, right? Apparently, the oddsmakers have no idea how the Wolverines are going to come out either, since they’re giving us the 3.5 point spread: the universal signal for “we have no idea.”
Maybe Utah really does come into Michigan and whoop some ass, but I seriously doubt it, no matter how many freshman Rodriguez has to Barwis-ize. I don’t really care if Michigan has no idea who will be throwing, running, or catching the ball for them this season, and I’m probably going to regret this pick by Saturday afternoon, but….
Pick: Michigan. Couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t live with myself picking a Mountain West team on the road in the Big Ten.
Update: Utah 25 Michigan 23. At least Michigan has an excuse for losing at home to open the season this time. They just couldn’t get anything going on offense at any point except for when it was too late. Hopefully, two years from now Michigan fan will be able to laugh about not moving the ball at all. Wait, why would I hope for that? Screw Michigan and their new “system.” I look forward to another season of excuses.
Good for Utah too. They did all they could to win this game and then they did all they could to nearly blow the game too. Winning at Michigan is never easy no matter how much the Wolverines suck.
Record: 2-1 (1-2 AS)
(3) Southern California at Virginia (+19.5)
That’s a big spread for a road team against a major-conference opponent. USC will have to come out firing on all cylinders in a way we haven’t seen since the halcyon days of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. The Trojans are just so hard to trust offensively since those two left. They’ve kept bringing in talent, but no one is a playmaker anymore. Maybe it was just program-killer John David Booty making things seem worse than they were, or maybe Joe McKnight will stay healthy long enough to scare the living shit out of defensive coordinators. Either way, USC has a lot to prove this season on that side of the ball.
Defensively, they’re as good as most NFL teams, so the only way an opponent is beating them is in one of those 17-14, “hey, look Emeril is on Food Network” games. All that said, this game feels like a blowout. Virginia will play close, but they’re Virginia. They’re not even a good ACC team. Their only hope is USC is looking two weeks ahead to the Ohio State collision of universes back in L.A. Otherwise, much like Perez Hilton, this bitch is over.
Update: USC 52 Virginia 7. Now THAT was a beating worthy of the hype the Trojans always seem to receive. Everyone scored. I think even OJ Mayo scored for the Trojans again, just for old times’ sake. I know Virginia sucks, but USC still looked great.
Completely unrelated note: It serves Ohio State right for playing such terrible competition that Chris Wells would get hurt. I’m glad his foot isn’t broken, but only because I don’t want Buckeye fan to have excuses when USC kicks their ass in two weeks.
Record: 3-1 (2-2 AS)
Oklahoma State at Washington State (+7)
After seeing him pick apart IU at the Insight Bowl last December, I have to admit I’m intrigued by Zac Robinson and Oklahoma State. They’re one of those spread teams that can really light it up when they’re on. They’re still going to get shut down by the big guys, but teams like Wazzu better watch out. I’m also picking this game because the spread seems awfully close. Virginia gets 19.5 points at home against USC, but the vastly overmatched Cougars only get seven? That ain’t right. Blowout city, baby.
Pick: Oklahoma State
Update: Oklahoma State 39 Wazzu 13. I thought that spread was ludicrous from the beginning. Actually, this game was a lot closer than that for a lot of the game before the Cougars simply couldn’t keep up.
Another completely unrelated note: I hope the Legion of Croom doesn’t commit suicide if the Bulldogs drop their game to Louisiana Tech. Shit, Tech is barely D-1. Hard to Croom anyone when you’re losing to WAC teams not named Fresno or Boise State.
Record: 4-1 (3-2 AS)
Michigan State at California (-5)
Nate Longshore is back, but not too many others are for the Bears. They do return the tree-hippies who are trying to keep the team and athletic department from having nicer facilities too. Those guys have to be practically family around the football program, right? Hey Berkeley, this is why no one likes you. Well that and that patchouli stench everywhere. I realize it’s a home game for the Bears, but I really think Michigan State will come in and run over them. Actually, that’s pretty much their only option since Devin Thomas left town. Gotta love teams that are re-tooling.
Update: Cal 38 MSU 31. Darn those tree hippies and their late touchdowns. Kevin Riley didn’t play too badly in place of Nate Longshore, though Longshore did a hell of a job trying to hand the job to help the Spartans get a non-conference road win. Sadly, MSU couldn’t quite pull it out, which is a shame. I hate it when teams I pick lose AND fail to cover. Lose by a field goal, idiots!
Record: 4-2 (3-3 AS)
(24) Alabama at (9) Clemson (-4.5)
The game o’ the night for Saturday. I know Clemson is loaded, but we all know what happens when Clemson is giving points. They lose, just in case you didn’t know. I really don’t trust Clemson, but I really, really don’t trust John Parker Wilson and the Alabama offense. They weren’t that talented to begin with, but now they’re switching coordinators for the third time in three seasons. Hey, I wouldn’t want to coach them either. So when both teams’ weaknesses are going to be exposed, I say it means some one wins by a field goal.
Update: Alabama 34 Clemson 10. This game is not really a statement as to how good Alabama will be, but rather a general indictment of Clemson football and the ACC. And let me just say, you had to see it coming a mile down the road. Whether it’s because Tommy Bowden can’t lead his team the way they need or because Clemson football just sucks in general, that team came out soft and then quit. In the first game of the season. Even the announcers were saying how bad it would look for the ACC if this highly-rated a team lost to a mediocre SEC team and then still did well in the ACC. Speaking of the ACC, I’m beginning to re-think making fun of the Big East instead of the ACC because the ACC looked like shit Saturday.
Record: 5-2 (4-3 AS)
(20) Illinois at (6) Missouri (-9)
This game might actually be a better matchup than Clemson/Alabama. Two spread teams can always make things interesting, and even more so when they’re rivals. This isn’t on a Kansas/Mizzou level (because what is?) but there’ll be some energy at this game. The problem for Illinois is they have less than they did last season on offense and defense. Some would argue it means they’re deeper and relying on talent Zook had recruited, but I say it really means they’ve lost their best offensive player and the heart and soul of their defense in the same off-season. Juice Williams is good and everything, but with no Mendenhall to give the ball to, he’s just another quarterback who can’t throw.
This has to be an interesting change for Mizzou. The average college football fan can actually name two of their players without the help of the internets, and they even have a Heisman candidate. They’re all technically Heisman candidates at this point, though, aren’t they? As much as I respect Illinois (ha-ha), this is a much more important game for Missouri. They have to prove last season wasn’t a freak year. I mean, what are they going to do, let Kansas dominate the Big 12 in football too? Some one save us! Wait, Missouri was the slave state, wasn’t it? Forget all that stuff.
Update: Missouri 52 Illinois 42. I don’t know what part is worse for Missouri. That they nearly blew a 31-10 halftime lead or that they let Juice Williams throw for 451 yards. The best way I can put Juice Williams throwing for 451 yards into perspective is to compare it to the scene in Happy Gilmore when he finally learns how to putt. Uh-oh, Juice learned how to throw! Nervous is probably an understatement for the Mizzou defense and their fans at the end of that game.
Record: 6-2 (5-3 AS)
Washington at (21) Oregon (-13.5)
I like this game because of the implications for both teams if they lose. If Washington goes down and looks bad doing it, Ty Willingham is on his way out for certain. If Oregon goes down, it’s proof last season was a fluke and their new spread offense only works with Dennis Dixon or similarly mobile quarterbacks. Plus, Oregon is starting their second-string quarterback because Nathan Costa went down already. They’re just like USC only with no lucky breaks and a coach who actually IS overrated in Mike Bellotti. I’m going to put my faith into Jake Locker to keep the Huskies close. 13.5 points is a lot, even on the road, in a conference as tight as the Pac-10. Jake Locker will lead the way for Washington. Jake Locker is an American hero. Jake Locker kicked Chuck Norris’ ass.
Update: Oregon 44 Washington 10. At this point, I’m pretty sure Oregon’s quarterbacks are cursed. They lost their original starter, Nathan Costa, to season-ending surgery a few weeks ago. Then the starter for this game, Justin Roper, got himself concussed against Washington. That left them with JC transfer Jeremiah Masoli and freshman Chris Harper. Luckily, Washington sucks, so Bellotti and Oregon were able to run the score up a bit. Seriously, who runs a quarterback sneak with under a minute left in a blowout? Whatever. Ty Willingham is officially on his way out. It’s just a question whether he’ll last the season or be gone before then.
Record: 6-3 (5-4)
Sunday, August 31
Kentucky at Louisville (-3.5)
Not to steal material from anyone, but you know you’re a redneck when….you’re a Kentucky or Louisville fan. This is a great game because it’s two teams coming from opposite directions back to mediocrity. Louisville outright sucked last year during all the turmoil of losing their head coach and having thousands of discipline problems. Then this offseason they lost their quarterback and their best receivers. Despite all that, they actually might improve this season now that some of the Petrino-craziness has subsided. Kentucky, on the other hand, is on the way back down after a great season with Andre’ Woodson at the helm. They’ll be Kentucky again, as it were, in no time.
Update: Kentucky 27 Louisville 2. Good God did I get that game wrong. What the hell happened to Louisville? Sure they lost a whole bunch of players, but only two points against Kentucky? It’s only the first game, so there’s no reason to overreact, but Steve Kragthorpe has a shit storm on his hands in Louisville. He’ll only be able to blame Bobby Petrino’s evilness (and rightly so) for so much longer before he replaces Ty Willingham as the “coach most likely to be canned before the end of the season.” Christ, Louisville, even Indiana could score more than two points on Kentucky’s defense. This is two games in a row I’ve taken a solid beating by a seemingly not-so-solid team. Thanks a lot Oregon and Kentucky. I was cruising along, but now I’m back to hovering around .500.
Record: 6-4 (5-5)
Monday, September 1
Fresno State at Rutgers (-5)
After all the ragging on the Big East I did, I can’t very well pick a Big East team to beat the trendy non-BCS squad for 2008 now can I? Plus Mike Teel is both the quarterback that got Rutgers back to respectability AND a program-killer at the same time. That’s f*cking rare. He basically hasn’t improved at all since he first began starting in 2006, but he led them through that great season at the same time. Take away Ray Rice from that team and there goes any reason to believe they’ll move the ball effectively against a motivated Fresno State. The Bulldogs do have to watch out for the “one bad game” syndrome that eats Cinderellas like them alive. They can’t come out soft, bad, or flat in any game all season. That’s a pretty small margin for error for a football team.
Pick: Fresno State
(18) Tennessee at UCLA (+7.5)
I will never trust a Phil Fulmer team to do anything that it’s supposed to do. If they have a great running back, I’ll expect the running game to melt down all season. Same with a good quarterback and a good defense. It’s just how the Vols work these days. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of a painful season for the Bruins. Actually, that started a few weeks ago when essentially their entire offense got hurt all at once. Will Kevin Craft lead the Bruins to glory? Um, no. But I do expect them to play close this week because, hell, Tennessee plays close with everyone. For the record, Cowan was my favorite Bruin, but I think he’s legally dead from all his injuries. The position’s available and I’m open to suggestions from Bruin-fan.