• Tailgating, Part II: Bologna, Velveeta, and Your Opening Weekend's College Football Discussion Thread

    MK: Each week, Brian and I take on five questions and pick at least five games of quality to help prepare for the football weekend, which begins in earnest with college games all day Saturday. In addition, we try to spot one upset special for the week and have a little fun in the process. This week, we’re only taking on three, because really we’ve done eight, when you include both parts. Typically, this column will appear on Friday mornings and normally this column is peppered with pictures and .gifs and memes and all sorts of nonsense. But today, it's back to football and mostly basics.


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    1.) If you're new around here, we always begin with the same question: if you could attend any college football game in the country today, where are you going and why?

    MK: Well, Brian, our long national nightmare is over. We finally made it to football season. Like, real, actual football season. Of course, summer isn’t so bad and I’ve really been enjoying baseball season, but there’ll enough time to talk about what we did on our summer vacations when Andy gives us our annual homework assignment.

    Anyway, as glad as I am to have college football back every weekend for the next three months, I’m a little dismayed to see so many teams devouring cupcakes in Week 1 when there aren’t even any feelings to eat yet. It’s probably not that much worse than it’s ever been and maybe it’s made worse by the fact that a decent number of teams opened their seasons on Thursday and Friday night this week, but it feels like an inordinate number of school at the FBS (Div. I-A) level—both Power Five and outside it—are playing FCS (Div. I-AA) opponents this week.

    If we’re going to give the Power Five more autonomy and basically let them write their own rules, as they basically coerced the NCAA into agreeing to this offseason, I can live with that, but one of those rules had damn well better be ‘no more games against West Illinois Technical School for the Blind for you, Kentucky.’ Texas Tech is playing Central Arkansas. I’m pretty conversant in relatively obscure colleges, and I didn’t even know there was a Central Arkansas until a couple of days ago when I looked at the Red Raiders’ schedule more closely. Come on, guys. So, I applaud all of the athletic directors who sought out decent competition in Week 1, before the team has taken any snaps in a game, even if you decided to do it at a neutral site in order to ink a one-year deal and bring in maximum by profits by probably scheduling one of these FBS schools next year. We’ll deal with that later, Wisconsin and LSU, Oklahoma State and Florida State.

    Thanks for now. But it’s so long since we’ve seen a college football game that I just can’t sign off on a trip to JerryWorld or to some other neutral site. The best game, without question, on a college campus this weekend has to Clemson’s visit between the hedges against Georgia. I'm sure the weather in Athens would be stifling that’s exactly where I’d go. Last year, when these teams met, they combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense and Clemson signaled their arrival as a national title contender, eking out a 38-35 in Death Valley. (Well, a national title contender until they played Florida State, anyway. But still.) What have you got?

    BW: Week 1 has become almost like another bowl season, with all of the games that are played at neutral sites. Usually I’d agree with you, and I’d want to find a traditional venue, but to start the season, I’m looking for a unique experience. It helps, of course, that my favorite team happens to be there, but I’m heading to Dublin to catch Penn State vs. Central Florida. UCF is coming off that monster year last year, and while there will be some regression, it’s also quite possible that they’re still the best of the non Power 5 schools. As for Penn State, today is the start of the James Franklin era, and by now, I’m pretty much sold that James Franklin is the most important person in the state of Pennsylvania since Benjamin Franklin.

    Bill O’Brien added this game with his former mentor George O’Leary to compensate for the fact that this is the 3rd year of Penn State’s 4 year bowl ban. While reports indicate that it is highly likely that the ban is lifted following this season, planning a trip to a place like Ireland was a very interesting approach for O’Brien to make. Now gone, Franklin inherits this trip, and with this being a “reward” for the players who have committed to the program, even through the most difficult of circumstances, I feel like Penn State will be ready to play.

    Clemson-Georgia is almost certainly the right call. But after all that Penn State has been through over the past couple of years, and with the unabashed optimism surrounding the hiring of James Franklin, there’s no place I’d rather be this weekend than in Dublin. Even if that volcano in Iceland erupts, forcing me to extend my stay.

    2.) So, how much of the SEC Network have you watched and how much are you going to watch? Sub-question: what was the deal with that fried bologna and velveeta biscuit from Hardee's and was that the most SEC moment ever?

    BW: At least Hardee’s is no longer advertising a pork chop biscuit, so that has to be considered a positive. It seems that Hardee’s main initiative is to kill me in my own home, without the benefit of having actually tried any of their heart-attacks on bread. But yes, I’m picturing Paula Deen in her kitchen, Kentucky-Tennessee on in the background, inventing ways to slowly kill our nation with butter, then secretly leaking her ideas to Hardee’s as some sort of twisted revenge plot against all those that have ostracized her.

    To be honest, I’ve not had a chance to catch much on the SEC Network, other than the A&M/SC game the other night. I’ve checked the guide to see their offerings, but considering that my Big Ten Network viewing outside of games is minimal at best, I can’t imagine that I’ll be watching much of the SEC Network either.

    MK: I'm mostly there with you. I watched about half of the South Carolina—Texas A&M game on Thursday night. It was good to see that Texas A&M still had an offense, but it was kind of weird to find out that South Carolina played the entire game with cardboard cutouts as defensive backs. I’ve lived the Deep South for over three years, and I think I just have to accept that there are certain things about this region—about this conference—that I’m just never going to understand. And some things that I don’t really want to understand.

    For instance, the ultimate social media during that Aggies—Gamecocks fireworks display wasn’t really the play of Kenny Hill, but that commercial Hardee’s ran advertising for their FRIED BOLOGNA AND VELVEETA BISCUIT. How is this a thing that people eat? I’m never really afraid of food and I’ll try anything once, but this just looks and sounds like something the South invented to mess with the rest of the country, as if to say, ‘Can y’all believe we eat this? NOM, NOM, NOM, Yankee, go home! We don't mind if you visit but you don't wanna live here!’

    BW: Considering dude's name is "Kenny Hill", I should not have been nearly as surprised as I was to learn that he's the son of former MLBer Ken Hill, who was a pretty darned good pitcher back in the day.

    As with any conference-specific network, the most interesting thing they can offer is their vault. And with ESPN involved, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a 2 hour feature, followed by a complete re-airing of the original SEC Championship game between Alabama and Florida. Of all of the classic/transcendent games, this is the one that I’ve had the most trouble finding in its original form. With the SEC Network now in place, considering how this one game has reshaped the landscape of modern football more than any game save for 1987 Miami-Penn State, it should only be a matter of time before we get our vintage footage of a young Steve Spurrier, Bob Barker’s son playing QB for Bama, Shane Matthews, Errict Rhett, and one of the great DB duos in Antonio Langham and George Teague.

    MK: We've been talking about this game for the last couple of months, and I've just got to see it at this point. I was just about coming into my own as a sports fan in 1992, but I don't have much memory of that game, other than maybe an Alabama interception? (Gee, how specific, given that George Teague and Reggie Langhorne were the stars of the show!) I'm almost ready to head over to the abyss that is an Alabama message board and see if someone is selling bootleg copies because OF COURSE SOMEONE IS.

    BW: Also, I expect an hour long special on the origins of the Manning face.

    MK: Well, obviously that.

    3.) Is there a team you expect a major breakthrough from this season, even if it may go unnoticed or they won't win their conference?

    MK: See, what I’m really doing here is giving us one last chance to be a homer, but in a way that’s kind of safe.

    BW: I will start by warning everyone ahead of time that the 2015 answer to this question is Penn State. But the question does specifically state “this season”, so I guess I’ll play along.

    I’ve already stated that I think UCLA wins the National Title, but they’re a top 10 team, so I’m eliminating them from this discussion. Georgia is a great call by you, and one I whole-heartedly agree with considering I also have them making the college football version of the Final Four. But I want to go off the grid just a bit and say that this is the year that Mississippi makes some serious noise in the SEC. This biggest leap for a school often happens in year 3 of a new coaching regime, since that’s when much of the talent has been recruited by the current coach, and this is Hugh Freeze’s 3rd year at Ole Miss. Freeze has been bringing in monster recruiting classes ever since his arrival in Oxford, and while recruiting is clearly an inexact science, Mississippi now has the talent up and down their roster that is akin to the big time programs in the SEC West.

    If ever there was a perfect storm for Ole Miss to shock the SEC world, it’s this year. While Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU are all transitioning new QBs into their offense, Ole Miss has SEC OPOY candidate Bo Wallace returning for his senior season, after having followed Freeze from Arkansas State to Ole Miss, with a JuCo stop in between. Sophomore WR Laquan Treadwell was a 1st team Freshman AA last year, and is set to become one of the true breakout stars in college football this year. And that Ole Miss defense, which features Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s #1 recruit from 2013, is straight nasty, will battle Alabama and Florida as the best defense in the conference.

    Ole Miss features 15 returning starters, including 9 on defense, and their schedule sets up very favorably. They do have to travel to both Texas A&M and LSU, but I think they are plenty good enough to at least split those two games, and get both Alabama and Auburn at home. The October 4 meeting with Bama could very well be the SEC West decider. They also avoid the big boys in the East, facing only Vandy and Tennessee.

    As good as the SEC West is, Ole Miss could easily look impressive this year, and still finish 5th within their own division, with Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, and defending national runner-up Auburn also in the mix. But I’m a believer in Hugh Freeze, and with their talent and experience, I think Ole Miss gives Alabama a huge run for their money, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Rebels find themselves in their first SEC Championship game.

    MK: I can see it, but I'm going to take the question another direction, and one you alluded to. I think the best answer to this question last year would have been UCLA, and I'm trying to use that as a guide. Who’s the team that’s going to do something good this year, but is still really looking forward to 2015? Who’s going to build something?

    And I legitimately believe it’s Texas Tech. Things are happening in Lubbock, and not just, you know, Kliff Kingsbury getting in rap battles with his players and dancing and wearing Beyoncé shirts and just generally being the coolest guy ever. Last night, Texas Tech extended his contract through 2020. Earlier this offseason, Kingsbury signed Jarrett Stidham—the #1 dual-threat quarterback in the country, which the sort of thing that just doesn’t happen to a school in Lubbock, Texas—and scored transfer and former five-star linebacker recruit Mike Miller after he elected to leave Ohio State after one year.

    We know Kingsbury can coach offense. He runs what A&M runs, and they’re another team that may reap the benefits of the work during this campaign in 2015. Kenny Hill looked ready against South Carolina. I don’t think it’ll come that easy the rest of the year, but I think the Aggies are setting themselves up nicely for an SEC Title run in 2015. So much the same in Lubbock. Kingsbury gets another year with offense, but he’s fortified the defense in the short term with junior college transfers, to add depth and prevent one of those very Texas Tech stretches where they give up 300 rushing yards per game over five weeks.

    Something is happening in west Texas. And in College Station. And, yes, maybe even in University Park.


    Each week of the regular season, we'll be picking about five of the premier matchups on the slate. Instead of picking against the spread, to make things more interesting we will be wagering confidence points, a common method of scoring in bowl game pools. The more one of believes in his pick, the higher the confidence rating. For example, if five games are chosen, five is the highest rating, with one being the lowest. Each number can only be used once. The highest number of points wins, each week and at the end of the season.

    #5 Ohio State vs. Navy (at Baltimore)

    MK: Buckeye fans, breathe with me. It's going to be fine. Braxton Miller was a great loss, but JT Barrett is a redshirt freshman. The last two Heisman Trophy winners were redshirt freshmen; I'm in no way saying that is a reasonable expectation for Barrett, but they didn't exactly find this kid on the street, either. He's a highly recruit kid out of Texas and they'll score. That monstrous defensive line will force Navy option to flow to the outside, and then it's just assignment football for our linebackers and seconda... you know what, don't listen to me, it's just fine.

    MK's pick: Ohio State, 38-20. Confidence rating: 4.
    BW's pick: Ohio State 24-12. Confidence Rating: 2.

    #16 Clemson at #12 Georgia

    BW: With Matt and I both all-in on Georgia this year, that makes this game dangerous for us on the surface. There’s nothing more embarrassing than making a bold prediction on a team, then having them lose their first game. But while both offenses are transitioning new QBs into the system, I like that Hutson Mason was able to get some valuable experience last year when Aaron Murray went down toward the end of the season, and Georgia, led by pre-season AA Todd Gurley, is absolutely loaded at the skill positions. Plus, while Clemson’s defensive line should be among the best in the country, I like Georgia’s defense a little better. We both like Georgia, although I’m a little more confident that the Bulldogs are going to exert their dominance over the Tigers.

    MK's pick: Georgia, 37-31. Confidence rating: 3.
    BW's pick: Georgia 34-13. Confidence Rating: 4.

    #1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (at Dallas)

    MK: I'm not going to lie to you, this one is going to get ugly and not just because Florida State changed their uniforms this offseason. The gods must be angry, but I don't think they'll make Jameis and the Noles answer for their (various) crimes this week in Dallas.

    MK's pick: Florida State, 50-19. Confidence rating: 5.
    BW's pick: Florida State 45-13. Confidence Rating: 5.

    #14 Wisconsin vs. #13 LSU (at Houston)

    BW: Both Wisconsin (10 returning starters) and LSU (12 returning starters) are among the least experienced teams in the country. In such a high profile opening to the season, Wisconsin’s saving grace may be that they return starting QB Joel Stave, have Melvin Gordon and his 10 YPC avg from last year, and as always, feature one of the best OL in the country. However, LSU is loaded with talent, and do have a relatively experienced defense (7 returning starters). The Wisconsin defense is as weak as it’s been in years, and I can see freshman RB Leonard Fournette, the #1 recruit in the country, making a huge statement in his first game. Matt and I both like LSU to take down the Badgers, but I’m a little more confident, as in my mind, Wisconsin is a strong candidate to end the year as one of the biggest disappointments in the country.

    MK's pick: LSU, 33-27. Confidence rating: 2.
    BW's pick: LSU 38-17. Confidence Rating: 3.

    Miami (Fla.) at Louisville

    MK: Call me crazy, but I'm looking at this one like this: new coach and new quarterback versus new quarterback. I think Al Golden should adjust life after Stephen Morris better than Louisville will to life after Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater.

    MK's pick: Miami, 28-24. Confidence rating: 1.
    BW's pick: Louisville 31-27. Confidence Rating: 1.


    The upset special is an off-the-board pick which must meet one of two criteria: (1) a consensus gap in rankings of at least five places or (2) a point spread of at least a touchdown or greater. Games between ranked and unranked teams automatically qualify. The underdog cannot cover but must win outright. A correctly pegged upset earns three additional confidence points.

    BW: It is really hard to find an upset that stands out, as there are a ton of lopsided matchups. With that being the case, what better time to break out my annual 1-AA over 1-A upset special? I have no discernable reason for this, other than that I am not a believer in Pitt. On nothing more than a bit of a homer hunch, give me the Fighting Blue Hens of Delaware to storm out of Heinz Field this afternoon with a huge 22-20 victory.

    MK: While I'll take any of these FBS/FCS matchups over those awful NFL pre-season games we all just endured, it leaves slim pickings for this category. The likely FCS candidates—your North Dakota States and Georgia Southerns—either don't qualify or have head coaches who have moved on to bigger things or both. Let's throw the dice with Smart Guy Football—give me the Rice Owls (who went 10-4 last year but return not enough of those guys to actually do this) over Notre Dame in South Bend tomorrow, because who needs all those friends I have who went there?

    Brian Williams and Matt Kocsan are both still writers for FootballPros, just as they were in Part I. You can still follow them on twitter @FPCommish (Brian) and @kocsan (Matt).

    Comments 31 Comments
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Devin Funchess has been bestowed with the #! for Michigan.

      Moved from TE to WR.

      Also, QB Devin Gardner just passed Tom Brady on the all-time Michigan TDs thrown and all-time total offense lists.

      Yay, football!
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Penn State 26
      UCF 24

      James Franklin #1.

    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Navy has a lead, 7-3, after scoring a touchdown by a hair following a perfectly defenses goal line stand by Ohio State. Navy had 1st & Goal at the 2 and (I'm not complaining, but...) I'm still not entirely sure Navy scored.

      Point is, this Ohio State defensive line is legit. Buckeyes look shaky on offense, though. This is definitely a losable game.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Ohio State is moving the ball, but they're encountering two problems:

      (1) whenever Dontre Wilson (or whoever else, but especially him) is about one step away from a big play, someone from Navy emerges to put a shoulder to a knee and the man on the turf.

      (2) red zone efficiency. A pick off a play where Barrett avoided a sack and a dead play on a speed option on a 3rd and short to force a field goal.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Not a really big fan of Navy's coach's facial expressions. Jesus.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Why didn't I just stick with Georgia Southern?
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Well, 22-20 is the absolute value of the points Pitt has currently scored against Delaware.

      I thought about North Dakota State and Northern Iowa, who are both hanging tough with the Iowas. NDSU's coach who won their last three national championships moved on to Wyoming, though, and while I had faith a Kirk Ferentz Iowa team could keep a game with Northern Iowa close, I didn't know enough about them to actually pick them.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt Kocsan View Post
      Well, 22-20 is the absolute value of the points Pitt has currently scored against Delaware.

      I thought about North Dakota State and Northern Iowa, who are both hanging tough with the Iowas. NDSU's coach who won their last three national championships moved on to Wyoming, though, and while I had faith a Kirk Ferentz Iowa team could keep a game with Northern Iowa close, I didn't know enough about them to actually pick them.
      There wasn't a single upset I felt comfortable with, so I figured I'd go bold. Oops.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Joey Bosa just forced a Keenan Reynolds (QB, Navy) fumble on a disrupted pitch, which Ohio State picked up and ran sixty yards for a touchdown.

      Ohio exhales. Still almost all of the second half left, only 13-7 for the Buckeyes.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      I'm probably going to pull what's left of my hair out during this game. I said I wouldn't care that much this year...

      I'm actually more excited for Texas Tech, I think. Send help.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      UCLA is doing nothing today to make me feel confident in my high hopes for them this year. Maybe they're sleepwalking due to the 9 AM body clock start, but they've not looked good.

      If not for 3 defensive TDs, they would not be leaving Virginia with a win.
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      Ohio State waited too long to let Elliott play, and to let Barnett pass. Very conservative in the first half.
    1. xmenehune's Avatar
      'bama "inherited" 'the curse of kiffin'

      read more on cure/curse here... 'the curse of kiffin'

      so... A&M has a leg up on LSU atm,

      but I'm thinking maybe Auburn for the whole enchilada...
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      -Good to see our upset picks lost by a combined 110-17. {Good job by us.}

      -The first game of the day was the best game of the day, and I'm a very happy fan at the moment.

      -While your Ohio State pick was technically closer, based on the way the game unfolded, I feel like my prediction of an ugly performance by OSU was a little more on point.

      -It certainly seems like your scenario is much more likely to play out in this Clemson-Georgia game than mine, since I had it being a bit of a blowout.

      -The story of the day thus far is some closer than expected games for a few of the members of the top 10. Can Oklahoma State continue that trend tonight?

      -If the playoff system means that we get more week 1 matchups like Wisconsin vs. LSU, since teams will be less afraid to face other quality opponents, that becomes nothing but a win for college football fans.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
      Ohio State waited too long to let Elliott play, and to let Barnett pass. Very conservative in the first half.
      Agreed. I loved seeing Dontre Wilson get carries early, though, at least. Ohio State has a lot of guys who can carry the ball, but we were too reluctant to pound inside against Navy (which, given the size of the defensive tackles Navy is allowed to recruit, seems obvious) and to pass (which is more Barrett's strong suit, really).

      Urban Meyer's decision to hurry up on that 4th & 1--and if you watched the game, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talk about--in the third quarter was one of the dumbest coaching decisions I've seen in a while. Not great officiating, but terrible coaching.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Jeebus farking Christmas...

      OK State is doing all it can to gift the Seminoles a game...
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Sorry, guys, I had to nap this afternoon, so I couldn't comment a little bit more here, as I usually do. Also, the Tribe game tonight was excruciating but still managed to keep me from college football for a bit of the night.

      Oklahoma State played up. The Big 12 should take notice.

      Wisconsin had a 24-7 lead against LSU which it has totally squandered. LSU ahead, 27-24, with about ten minutes left in the fourth over on ESPN.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Excuse me, 28-24.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Getting past our epically bad upset picks, we're both 4-0 this week heading into tomorrow night's game with Louisville and Miami. I have Louisville, Matt has Miami, winner takes all for week 1.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      Getting past our epically bad upset picks, we're both 4-0 this week heading into tomorrow night's game with Louisville and Miami. I have Louisville, Matt has Miami, winner takes all for week 1.
      I know, I know. I'm just mad because I considered North Dakota State strongly and then set it aside.

      #25 Washington had a scare late last night in Hawaii.

      Utah State is playing at Tennessee this evening on SEC Network, which should be a very competitive game. Southern Methodist also travels to #7 Baylor over on ESPN.