• Tailgating: Letters of Note, or Your Week 2 College Football Discussion Thread

    MK: Most weeks, Brian Williams--no, not that Brian Williams--and I get together to break down the upcoming college football Saturday in all its idiosyncratic glory. This is not one of those weeks, though, as Brian is a bit under the weather. He should return next week, but this weekend Tailgating welcomes guest columnist Evan Vracar, whom you may remember from such websites as this one, where he is our resident expert on the NFL Draft. He'll be joining me today to discuss the biggest moments and biggest disappointments of the first week in college football, as well as to evaluate the power conferences and to forecast this pivotal weekend for the Big Ten. Grab a cup of coffee if you haven't clocked out yet on Friday--or a Bloody Mary if it's a true Saturday morning tailgate for you--and let's get started.


    Click here if, after your first read, you would rather comment in the FootballPros forum interface.

    FIVE GOOD QUESTIONS

    1.) Evan, you've said you're a fan of the column before and I can't tell you how much that means to me and Brian. Really. You know what's coming up first, then. If you could pick any one college football game to attend this weekend, which one would it be and why?

    EV: First of all let me just say how much of a privilege I consider it to be allowed to pinch hit this week in place of Brian, who I of course wish a speedy recovery to as well. I'll do everything within my power to convince you all that I know what I'm actually talking about.

    MK: I'm sure it will be fine. People seem to think I know what I'm talking about, so there's that.

    EV: As for which game I'd be most inclined to attend if I could only choose one? The Autzen Zoo is bound to be absolutely electrifying this Sunday when the Ducks host Michigan State, but that seems like too obvious a pick to me. So instead, I'm going to go ahead and pick Michigan-Notre Dame for the very last game in their rivalry - for now at least.

    MK:

    EV: It might not necessarily be the most storied or legendary rivalry in the annals of college football history, but these two fanbases really seem to despise each other, and that's good enough for me. I'd be almost as interested in the interaction in the stands between members of the opposing fanbases as I would in what's actually taking place on the field. I mean, have we already forgotten this outstanding display of class?


    MK: Oy. That's brutal. One of the things that much of the rest of the college football universe despises about Notre Dame and Notre Dame fans is their insistence that things are somehow different there, that the same problems that plague the rest of college football and the rest of the world somehow stop at the edges of Notre Dame's campus. (The rest of the Big Ten might make the same complaint about Michigan, to be fair. I think we should say here, though, that sexual assault on college campuses is far too common, a national disgrace, and not peculiar to any one institution.) That may have been true once, though I doubt it, and it's obviously not true today, as that awful episode and that time head coach Brian Kelly and the university as a whole had to be investigated for negligence in the wake of a student's death while filming a football practice on a hydraulic lift in sixty-plus mile per hour winds surely prove. I'm not saying this because I want to beat up on Notre Dame or because I'm interested in demolishing myths. History and myth cannot do without each other, and the former would find itself completely soulless if cleaved apart from it but the latter completely baseless.

    The story of the Notre Dame and Michigan rivalry is actually one of the most charming in all of college football. As the story goes, Michigan traveled from Ann Arbor to South Bend to teach the Fighting Irish to play football. It began with a letter very much like this one, dated to 1894 and obtained via the University of Michigan's Bentley Library.


    Since reading old handwriting is actually one of my professional skills, I'll do that for you guys. Ahem:

    Notre Dame, Ind. Sept. 24, 1894
    Mr. Charles Baird

    Dear Sir,

    Some time ago a letter was received from you but by accident it was mislaid. That must be our excuse for failing to communicate with you sooner. We would be glad to have you come down here and coach our team, say for a period of ten days. The time to be about Oct. 1st.

    We will pay all your expenses whilst here, write and let us know what terms you desire besides this consideration.

    We have good material and only require the services of a good coach to make a first-class team. Believing that you can fill the requirements we address ourselves to you.

    An early reply would oblige.

    Yours Truly,
    T.D. Matt, Jr.
    Foot ball manager


    The rest--and the nearly 1800 wins between the two schools since--as they say, is history. And as I said, what started with a letter like is ending, at least for now, because of another letter handed by Jack Swarbrick to David Brandon just before kickoff of their game two years ago, opting out of this series due to their quasi-move to the ACC. And yes, Notre Dame and Michigan will only be meeting for the forty-second time on Saturday night, so it's not as though we're losing the Wolverines' annual tilt with Ohio State or even Notre Dame's date with USC. I dislike both of these teams, but I hate-respect them both and I can't help but feel like I'm saying goodbye to an honorable enemy for the last time, even though both schools will still be there and Ohio State will continue to play one of them and sometimes both.

    I don't know where else I'd want to be, I suppose I should pick something. The Michigan State--Oregon game out in Eugene is the other obvious answer this week. In the absence of something extraordinarily compelling, my picks for this don't often venture west of the Rockies, even though Pac-12 football's time has come as a force in the national title chase. This an enormous weekend for the Big Ten, and the Spartans need to come away with a solid showing if a Midwestern side is to have any hope of qualifying for the first playoff in college football history. Plus, as you may have heard, Autzen--despite only having 53,000 seats or so, or about half of what you'd find at Ohio State or Michigan or Tennessee--is still really loud. And the beer is pretty good in Portland, which isn't so far way, too.

    2.) I'm really looking forward to this weekend, but I want to jump back to last Saturday for a second here. No matter how the opening weekend looks on the surface, I think we all know we're heading into the Labor Day holiday flying blind. Whose performance made the biggest impression on you last week, and why?

    MK: I picked Georgia to win the national championship in our preview last week, so it feels like a cop out--or maybe a bit of self-promotion--to answer this question with the Bulldogs. That said, Georgia and Clemson was one of the best matchups of Labor Day weekend, one of only two featuring top-sixteen teams, and I don't know how you could fail to be impressed by a team that rushed for 328 yards and averaged 8.0 yards per carry as a team or with their kneel-before-Zod fourth quarter against the Tigers.


    Mason Hutson and Todd Gurley, to me, have a little bit of a Craig Krenzel and Maurice Clarrett in 2002 feel to them. It should be noted, though, that Hutson's 131 passing yards came with a number of Bulldog wide receivers suspended, which is something of an annual tradition in Athens, so he may be capable of more than we've seen so far.

    Also, this allegedly happened, via Deadspin. A Clemson fan who sent a trash-talking letter to Mark Richt in the offseason received this in the mail a few days ago:


    Richt claims that he didn't send this, and I'm inclined to believe him. Not because I think or want Mark Richt to be above this--really, this is so awesome that I want it to be true--but because I've looked at the envelope and seen that it's postmarked from Augusta, Georgia. (It's torn, but you can still pretty clearly make out Augusta in this image.)


    That's two hours away from Athens. I doubt Mark Richt drove all the way to the South Carolina border to mail a letter, but let's pretend that he did anyway.

    EV: As is always the case with the first week of the season, there will be teams who just come out of the gates on full throttle and blow people away. We saw it this week with Texas A&M and USC, among others; and there will also be teams that put up a much bigger fight than maybe we anticipated, such as Oklahoma State. I think that if I had to pick one team that I'd say impressed me the most though, it would be Tennessee. The Vols are still supposed to be in the middle of a rebuilding process, and they wiped the floor with a Utah State team last Sunday that was really good last season. Obviously this year's Utah State isn't last year's Utah State, but for their losses the Aggies got back star quarterback Chuckie Keeton. This game wasn't supposed to be anywhere close to the 38-7 laugher it ended up being, and I wouldn't be shocked if Tennessee made a run in what looks to be a muddled SEC East this year.

    3.) Looking at the other side of the coin, then, whom are you most disappointed in following the season's first games?

    EV: The obvious pick here is Florida State, but I'm more inclined to say that Oklahoma State might just be a bit better than we thought than I am to say that FSU is worse. You know who I'm pretty sure isn't that good though? Virginia. Which is why I'm picking UCLA as my most disappointing team of the first week. Yes, the Cavaliers are fielding a defense that isn't too shabby at all; but a team that's being led by a future first-round pick at quarterback, and is being considered a dark horse Championship contender, should be able to muster more than one measly, stinkin', offensive touchdown. The good news is that Mike London can use this on his résumé when he's looking for a job this winter.

    MK: I think you're being more than fair to Florida State, although I'm inclined to attribute their poor play to the punishment of the football gods for trading in one of the best uniforms in all of college football, especially among teams that are not hallowed powers who were winning national championships before my father was born (which was in 1954, guys), for these atrocities.


    Atrocities may be a bit strong, as they're clearly not the worst things I've ever seen, but their problems are compounded by the fact that their previous red-on-gold looks were just so glorious and beautiful.


    Anyway, that's enough about uniforms. Jameis Winston had a fairly humbling night, though not quite as humbling as true believers in karma may have allowed for. What's more, Oklahoma State--and Tyreek Hill, especially--made plays on offense and sustained three drives of seventy-five yards or greater; that doesn't happen to the Seminoles very often in the ACC.

    I have to agree on UCLA, though, who struggled mightily against a Virginia team that's bad enough that I was shocked--truly shocked--when Brian picked them to finish fourth in the ACC's Coastal Division. That kind of travel is always difficult on a college football team, as maybe I'm confusing correlation and causation here but I've seen plenty of teams self-destruct when they cross the Mississippi River.

    Staying in the top two, I was underwhelmed by Alabama, who played a de facto home in Atlanta game against a West Virginia squad I think isn't likely to be very good in the Big XII this season and surrendered a passing yard for every day of the year despite holding onto the ball for nearly thirty-eight minutes. (Seriously, why are all these neutral site games in places like Atlanta and Houston and Dallas in September when it's absolutely insufferable down there at that time of year?) Really, though, the team I'm most disappointed in is Wisconsin. They played the night without their starting quarterback, Joel Stave, but it's inexcusable to take a 24-7 lead in the third quarter and give up twenty unanswered to an LSU squad with uninspired quarterback play. Further, it's absolutely unbelievable that Melvin Gordon only had three second-half touches--THREE! LESS THAN FOUR AND MORE THAN TWO! THREE!--after his sixty-three yard run set up Wisconsin's final touchdown of the night and their seventeen point lead. I mean, why give the ball to the best offensive player in the Big Ten who's not out of the season with a shoulder injury, and maybe the best runningback in the country not named Todd Gurley, when you can roll out your second-string quarterback and have him lob the ball into the teeth of the LSU defense? I'm not blaming Tanner McEvoy, I'm blaming the Wisconsin staff for coaching malpractice costing the Badger players a very winnable game.

    4.) Sticking with expectations, last week we gave a rundown of the Power Five. While we're hoping to give little more coverage to the rest of the pack in the coming weeks, how do you rate the five premier conferences right now and what does that mean for this season?

    EV: I'm personally of the belief that the Pac-12 is the best conference in the country this year.

    MK: You hear that, Dixieland? SHOTS. FIRED.


    EV: I think that their sheer weight at the top with Oregon, Stanford, USC, and UCLA (allegedly) is just enough to nudge them ahead of the SEC for 2014 at least. After Alabama, I don't think that the SEC contains another team that's on that same level yet. Georgia and Texas A&M certainly looked impressive this past week, but Georgia still really couldn't pass and A&M's defense still looked exploitable.

    MK: Um...


    Yes.

    EV: Maybe they fix up those problems as the season goes along, and maybe a team like Florida or Ole Miss surges to join them, but for now I'd say the Pac-12 is #1 and the SEC is #1-A.

    MK: Even I was saying just a minute ago that I thought Alabama's performance against West Virginia wasn't all that impressive, and somehow despite what you see in the above .gif, South Carolina's pass defense looked even worse than A&M's. (By 'somehow' I mean 'lost three NFL-caliber DBs,' but still...) I still have the SEC in my poll position because of what they've accomplished in the past decade, but the Pac-12 is very close and may overtake them sooner than later.

    EV: After that I would probably say that the Big Ten is the next best of the power conferences. They don't boast the same number of headlining teams as the Pac-12 or SEC, but outside of Purdue their aren't any bottom-dwellers either.

    MK: Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... I'm a Big Ten guy by my roots, and even I think Illinois is pretty bad.


    EV: Heck, even Indiana and Rutgers look like solid, middle-of-the-pack squads this year if nothing else. It's hard to say that any Big Ten teams have legitimate Championship aspirations outside of Michigan State and maybe Ohio State or Michigan, but up and down the conference there are no easy wins and any one of those teams could end up playing spoiler.

    MK: To be fair, Rutgers impressed me a little in their win over Washington State last Thursday, but it's a fair question to ask if these teams (who are probably about #10 or so in the conference) can compete with their counterparts in the SEC and Pac-12. That'd put them up against... maybe a Mississippi State or a Missouri, or a Utah or a Washington State? Those are probably competitive games.

    EV: Next, I've got the Big XII closely following the Big Ten, mostly because they lack the same kind of depth that the Big Ten has in terms of teams in that upper-mid-tier where Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska always seem to be located. Baylor and Oklahoma are the obvious teams to watch here, but Oklahoma State also showed their gumption against FSU; and I would personally recommend that you keep an eye on Kansas State this year, mostly because Bill Snyder is an actual sorcerer.

    MK: There's sure depth across the board in the Big XII, even if none of that depth appears to be located on the defensive side of the ball. I renew my objections to Oklahoma on the basis that we're still way too excited about last year's Sugar Bowl. And Bill Snyder is a sorcerer, you say? Did you just casually drop a Mike Leach reference in here like it was no big deal? We might have to invite you back, Evan.

    EV: Then there's the ACC in all of its opulent mediocrity.

    MK: A great phrase.

    EV: Thank God that Louisville looks like a formidable opponent again this year, otherwise they might as well have just given Florida State a ticket to be redeemed which takes them straight to the Playoffs. Clemson might not be any good, and unless North Carolina ever decides to make good on their potential then there's really nobody else of note in the conference. Although I will say that one team I think you and Brian may have underrated going into the year is Pitt. Yes, I know, it is Pitt, but they dismantled an FCS opponent like they were supposed to do, and if they look strong against Boston College this week I might be buying in. In fact, I'll predict right now that Pitt wins the Coastal Division. See ACC? This is what happens when you lose Maryland.

    MK: Back when Brian and I were prepping for the season, he said the new Big Ten is where tradition meets this.


    Anyway, even the good teams in this league aren't all that much. The most significant victory in Virginia Tech's football history is probably an Orange Bowl win against Cincinnati about five years ago. North Carolina is nothing but potential, but what I find interesting is that you didn't even mention Miami, and the ACC desperately needs them to be good if they want to climb out of the basement of the Power Five. Of course, there's a gigantic structural problem for this, in that Miami and Florida State are in separate divisions yet play each other every year, making it more difficult for the loser to compete for a division crown; it's not a coincidence that, as I said last week, in spite of the fact that the divisions were rigged for Hurricanes--Seminoles conference title game, it's never actually happened. Miami, in fact, hasn't even qualified! It's a pretty accurate indictment of the conference's power that Wake Forest and Duke have made it to the ACC's football championship, yet Miami (and also North Carolina) haven't.

    5.) The majority of the best games this weekend involve either Big Ten teams, Pac-12 teams, or both. While the Pac-12's place as at least the solid, second-best conference in the country is almost assured--and, as you argued, possibly the best conference in the country--how much is at stake for the Big Ten this weekend and what needs to happen for the most ancient and venerable of the Power Five to win back its reputation?

    EV: Coming out of the week with a winning record in the three big games on the slate would certainly help. If the Big Ten can take just two wins out of VaTech @ Ohio State, Michigan @ Notre Dame, and Michigan State @ Oregon, then that's something to be proud of. I think it's definitely possible for them to accomplish that too. The worst possible thing that could happen though would be MSU getting walloped by Oregon, primarily if they're made to look slow and sputtering by comparison. It will only add more fuel to the fire of general consensus being that the Big Ten doesn't have the same caliber of athletes as the SEC or Pac-12.

    MK: I think two-out-of-three, as Meatloaf would say, ain't bad. In fact, at the risk of giving away the ending, I think we're both predicting that outcome, we just differ on which two. A game like Wisconsin's last week certainly didn't help, either.

    Something that I think is often overlooked about the Big Ten is that it's never been a particularly deep league, at least in terms of football. There's strength across the board in both academic rankings and basketball, but decades ago when the Big Ten actually had ten teams it was referred to as the Big Two and the Little Eight. And I will give all of you three guesses who those two were...


    The emerging depth at the lower levels of the conference is good--it's encouraging to see Minnesota and Indiana become relevant--but apart from the initial expansion to Penn State, which at least has produced some conference championships (including even one we're not supposed to forget about), Nebraska has brought very little credit to the league, while most remain skeptical about Rutgers and Maryland. They've gotten the Big Ten Network on more television sets, but I don't see how it's likely to improve the conference's post-season record. Despite how much I complained about Wisconsin, the Badgers are a strong power and they're here to stay, and Michigan State is almost there, too; that's all to the good for the league, especially if the Iowa Hawkeyes keep their heads above water, the Penn State Nittany Lions return from their sanctions without permanent damage done, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers or Minnesota Golden Gophers can provide further balance to the strength of Wisconsin in the West. It's still not good enough, though.

    The only thing that will redeem the Big Ten is for Ohio State and Michigan to reassert themselves on the national stage. All of this evil began when, following Ohio State and Michigan's historic Game of the Century in 2006, one was drubbed by USC in the Rose Bowl and the other by Florida in the National Championship Game. Michigan, then-ranked #2 in the country to open the next season, lost to Appalachian State and Ohio State suffered a brutal defeat to LSU in the 2008 National Championship, and the country has forgiven neither of them for it. Ohio State has recovered better than Michigan. The Wolverines have struggled mightily for the better part of a decade now and aside from a solid, 11-2 season in 2011; their recent campaigns under Brady Hoke have produced eight and seven wins each, which are nothing to sneeze at, but those would have been classified as disappointing or rebuilding seasons in Ann Arbor only ten years ago. Ohio State has, since the start of 2009, fought then-powerful Texas to a draw in the Fiesta Bowl only to lose in the final seconds and defeated potent Oregon and Arkansas teams in the Rose and Sugar Bowls, even if one of them has been vacated, but the country still looks at the Buckeyes skeptically. The only thing that will redeem the Big Ten--and I do mean only--is for Michigan to right the ship and get back to winning nine-to-eleven games every season, whether under Brady Hoke or somebody else, and for Ohio State to go into the heart of the South in January and pummel the SEC Champions in a playoff game. (And in the interest of doing this quickly, it makes Braxton Miller's injury all the more devastating this season.) You may be right that the Pac-12 has overtaken the Southeastern Conference, but only the SEC will do here, because the country and especially the South perceives it as the more dominant league.

    Sure, the Spartans, Buckeyes, and Wolverines can't strike out this weekend, either, but even if they succeed, it's no cure for what ails the Big Ten.

    EV: Also, relegate Purdue. That would help too.

    MK: ...but who else will provide a mascot to terrify all the small children east of the Mississippi River?


    Anyway, I'm filing this one away for future use. I'm definitely building a hypothetical regional relegation system for the Power Five in a future week of Tailgating.

    GAMES OF THE WEEK

    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. Despite Brian having the weekend off, he still managed to submit his picks for publication, though Evan will be taking his place in the game capsules and providing his own predictions, as well.

    All games listed take place Saturday, September 6, 2014.


    #14 Southern Cal at #10 Stanford
    3:30 ET, ABC

    MK: The Trojans travel up to The Farm this weekend for a game both of these teams are likely to desperately need down the stretch of their conference schedule. Most preseason publications have the Trojans and the Cardinal each as the presumptive #2 in the South or North Divisions of the Pac-12, and while a loss won't snuff out conference title hopes for either team, it will dim them considerably. Since the Harbaughs massacred the Carrolls in 2009, 55-21, the last four meetings have been decided by a total of points (Stanford 37-35 in '10; Stanford 56-48 in '11 in 3OT; Stanford 21-14 in '12; USC 20-17 in '13). USC's victory last season is also what gave us ED ORGERON WAVING A SWORD!


    It figures that this is also the game that we, collectively, are the least certain about. Brian and Evan expect Cody Kessler to the better of Kevin Hogan in this battle of junior quarterbacks, while I expect Stanford to make it five out of the last six for the Cardinal against the Trojans.

    EV's pick: Southern Cal, 23-17. Confidence points: 1.
    MK's pick: Stanford, 24-21. Confidence points: 2.
    BW's pick: Southern Cal, 24-14. Confidence points: 2.

    #6 Michigan State at #4 Oregon
    6:30 ET, Fox

    EV: The all-time series between these two teams is tied at 2-2, so call this the rubber game!! The last time they met was the opening week of the 1999 season, when A.J. Feeley's Ducks fell to Plaxico Burress's Spartans. I expect the game to be well-fought, but I just don't think that MSU has quite enough to keep up with Oregon in Autzen. If there's any quarterback in college football who can unlock Pat Narduzzi's defense, it's probably Marcus Mariota.

    EV's pick: Oregon, 31-21. Confidence points: 4.
    MK's pick: Michigan State, 26-20. Confidence points: 1.
    BW's pick: Oregon, 33-20. Confidence points: 4.

    Michigan at #15 Notre Dame
    7:30 ET, NBC

    MK: Just like the first two games, I'm alone on this one and it's starting to make me nervous. This one has gone to the home team in the last three meetings, and the return of Everett Golson, the quarterback of their 2012 national runner-up team, from an academic suspension in 2013 is a welcome one for the Irish faithful. Despite Brian's expectations for Devin Gardner this season, the strength of both of these teams is on the defensive side of the ball, with the Wolverines boasting one of the best units of linebackers in the nation (led by #47, Jake Ryan) and the Fighting Irish contributing an outstanding secondary. Still, we all expect points in this Saturday night matchup in South Bend, and the last installation of Michigan--Notre Dame for the foreseeable future.

    EV's pick: Michigan, 31-24. Confidence points: 2.
    MK's pick: Notre Dame, 34-28. Confidence points: 5.
    BW's pick: Michigan, 27-24. Confidence points: 3.

    BYU at #24 Texas
    7:30 ET, FS1

    EV: If I hadn't seen him playing last week against UConn, I wouldn't be entirely sure that Taysom Hill wasn't still running all over Texas's defense like it was going out of style. I might have picked the Longhorns to come out victorious here, but that was before it was announced that David Ash would not be playing due to another concussion he suffered last week against North Texas. Even then, Tyroone Swoopes was going to be a tough pill to swallow considering that Charlie Strong suspended both of UT's starting offensive tackles for an "unspecified violation of team rules." The Longhorns will now have an offensive line in this game with a combined four career starts. Hook 'em.

    EV's pick: BYU, 31-17. Confidence points: 3.
    MK's pick: BYU, 37-21. Confidence points: 4.
    BW's pick: Texas, 31-17. Confidence points: 5.

    Virginia Tech at #7 Ohio State
    8:00 ET, ESPN

    MK: Ohio State, under redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, sputtered early last week against, before taking over in the fourth quarter and extending the lead to produce a twenty-point victory in Baltimore; despite how close the game was until the final ten minutes, this was an outcome that was bubbling below surface well before then, even though Navy had chances to build a lead and make Ohio State fans sweat. All the same, we should be reluctant to draw too many conclusions about Barrett and the Miller-less Buckeyes this season, as they debuted against Navy and I'll guarantee you that Ohio State will see no team that resembles the Midshipmen in size and system for the rest of the season. In the much same vein, J.T. Barrett threw to wide open receivers all game, and Virginia Tech's outstanding defensive backfield will doubtless be harder for the new quarterback to manage. The Hokies rolled over William & Mary last week, but 6-29 all-time under Frank Beamer against Top 10 teams. Virginia Tech travels to Ohio Stadium, where Urban Meyer still has not lost. Evan and I just see too many weapons in scarlet and gray, while Brian has pulled the lever the upset in Columbus.

    EV's pick: Ohio State, 28-17. Confidence points: 5.
    MK's pick: Ohio State, 26-10. Confidence points: 3.
    BW's pick: Virginia Tech, 22-19. Confidence points: 1.

    UPSET SPECIAL

    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.

    EV:There are quite a few ranked teams that are traveling on the road this week to play some unranked teams, and I think one of them in particular is ripe for an upset. That's why I'm calling my shot and saying that the #24 Missouri Tigers will fall this week to the Toledo Rockets by a score of something like 27-23. Mizzou struggled for a while at home last week to South Dakota State; and while SDSU is a really good FCS team that's more than capable of beating quite a few FBS squads, they shouldn't have been able to hang around as long as they did against a team that's as good as Missouri is supposed to be. I predict that Kareem Hunt has a big day on the ground for Toledo and he pushes the team to victory.

    MK: Hey, everybody, Evan is going with some #MACtion! I'm tempted to do the same, as I see the Akron Zips--under coach Terry Bowden, legitimate contenders for the Mid-American Conference and with the experience of playing Michigan within an inch of their lives last year--heading into Happy Valley as two-touchdown underdogs against a Penn State team fresh off a last-second victory over Central Florida and trans-Atlantic flight from Dublin! Things are really lining up for the Zips! On the negative side of the ledger, Akron hasn't beaten a Big Ten team since 1894, back when Michigan was still teaching Notre Dame how to play football. I think Akron will petrify Penn State but come up just short again, so give me the experienced and athletic East Carolina Pirates, who under the leadership of former Texas Tech assistants Ruffin McNeil and Lincoln Riley, have been running the Air Raid for four years going on five. I like them to exploit the #21 South Carolina Gamecocks' awful pass defense in Columbia and hand the other USC their second straight loss at home.

    Brian, by the way, was not as impressed with Tennessee as Evan (or I) was in their performance against Utah State, and is tabbing the Arkansas State Red Wolves to upend the freshman-heavy Vols in Knoxville.

    OVERALL RECORDS (Games of the Week record; Upset Special record; total points)

    BW: 5-0; 0-1; 15 points overall
    MK: 4-1; 0-1; 14 points overall

    Evan Vracar and Matt Kocsan are both staff writers at FootballPros.com. Evan, our resident Ravens fan, has yet to publicly comment on what exactly Ray Lewis is doing in his new statue outside M&T Bank Stadium, while Matt is wondering how he ended up trading in a Steelers fan for a Ravens fan this week. Brian will be back next week, provided he can show his face here after the Browns humiliate his beloved SteePFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, I'm sorry, I couldn't finish it. You can follow us on twitter @roca_star (Evan), @kocsan (Matt), and @FPCommish (Brian).

    Comments 97 Comments
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      This is actually a really good week for Friday Night Football and late-night football in general. Tonight you have a doubleheader on ESPN, Pittsburgh--Boston College at seven o'clock (which may not be great, but hey, two bowl-eligible teams from last year playing a conference game!) and Washington State at Nevada in the nightcap (obligatory Mike Leach reference).

      Tomorrow night there's a flurry of Mountain West action for a late-night snack, with four games kicking off at 10:15 or later, including:

      --Air Force at Wyoming, 10:15 ET (ESPNU)
      --Colorado State at Boise State, 10:15 ET (ESPN2)
      --Oregon State at Hawaii, 10:30 ET (CBSSN)
      --Texas Tech at UTEP, 11:00 ET (FS1)
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      On the Michigan-Notre Dame fan feud: it exists sure. It can get ugly at times. But the more bitter Big Ten school hate-fest with the Irish belongs to the Michigan State Spartans. Those two fanbases despise each other.

      Still, the night the David Brandt received the letter from Jack Swarbrick announcing the end of the storied rivalry, Michigan beat the Domers and serenaded them with this:



      Nice call, BTW, on Toledo gettin all MACDaddy on Mizzou and former Rockets head coach Gary Pinkel. If you are ever in Northwest Ohio on the right fall Saturday night, make your way to the Toledo-Bowling Green game (especially if it will be played at BG). Awesome atmosphere.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      The sense I get of Michigan State, and their position in the Big Ten, is kind of like Texas Tech's in the Big XII. They have plenty of natural rivals, but each one seems to have a bigger game against someone else every year, so they just kind of end up hating everyone.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Also this:

    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Mark May picked Virginia Tech tonight. I'm not sure anyone has successfully and consistently trolled an entire fanbase the way he has with Ohio State.
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      I think May just does it for fun anymore. He's a joke.

      Not surprising that ESPN condones it though.
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      Pitt is currently up 30-14 on Boston College at the time of this post.

      Remember this when they stand alone as ACC Coastal Champions!!
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
      I think May just does it for fun anymore. He's a joke.

      Not surprising that ESPN condones it though.
      It riles up a huge fanbase, gets valuable clicks and tweets... what's not for them to like? No one thinks it's a coincidence that and Holtz (or whoever he's on with) almost always disagree when they the games of the week that don't have a clear winner, do they?
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by KabaModernFan View Post
      Pitt is currently up 30-14 on Boston College at the time of this post.

      Remember this when they stand alone as ACC Coastal Champions!!
      There needs to be a #BeforeMiamiWinsTheCoastal hashtag on twitter...

      I didn't get to see this game, but I'm going to be up and offering comments on the Washington State--Nevada game.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Well, Nevada is clearly an early contender for the Kocsan for the Most Hilariously Disastrous Fake Punt of the Season. Yes, I'm starting a college football award and I'm naming it after myself.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      This is Nevada's best player, by the way. His name is Brock Hekking and he's winning a Kocsan for something.

    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Connor Halliday (QB, Washington State, for the uninitiated) is Derek Anderson-ing. I think you should all know what that means.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      "The Kocsans" sound so much more award like than "The Williamseszzz" or however you pluralize my last name. So yes, I think we can all agree to cede naming rights to you.

      And 2014 Boz is awesome.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Most Boz could be a category, or maybe Most '80s?

      I also want to open the nominations early for this year's Rudy Carpenter Award, which is presented annually to the quarterback who's been starting at a program of some significance for what feels like forever while also not being all that good. Last year's award went to Taylor Martinez (Nebraska).

      I'm the biggest Mike Leach booster on the planet, but Washington State has looked fairly terrible so far tonight.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      There's a real drive from Washington State. Five plays--four passes and one run--all of them greater than 11 yards, with Halliday finishing the drive with a beautiful fade on a free play after Nevada jumped offside. It's 14-7 in the second quarter, and we could have a ballgame.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Great, great work guys, and Evan, thanks for pinch hitting this week. It's always nice to have some pop on the bench when you're down 2 late, and have a slappy due up like me. Very nicely done.

      That said, I'll be back next week in all my Darwin Barney-like glory. If I may chime in with some quick thoughts...

      -Those hats were all snapbacks, for what it's worth. It was interesting trying to explain to my wife why we couldn't leave before I got a pic of those hats. They are either the worst or best hats I've ever seen, and there's no in-between.

      -Evan's dead on with his Toledo pick. And I thought Matt was going Akron for sure. I'd never make that pick, but I have a feeling Akron does pull that game out. Not scheduling a bye for this week was poor planning by previous coach/admins that current coach/admins get to deal with.

      -Also, good call on sPitt. They certainly do look much better than I was giving them credit for.

      -The fact that you guys were all gaga over Tennessee's performance over Utah State shows exactly how far Tennessee has fallen. Considering the path of the past 3 Arkansas State one-and-done HCs-- Hugh Freeze 2011 (Ole Miss), Gus Malzahn 2012 (Auburn), and Bryan Harsin 2013 (Boise State)-- there is a roughly 37% chance that if (when) the Red Wolves beat Tennessee tomorrow, Blake Anderson will be their new HC in 2015.

      -I'm not sure there's a coach or a team (outside of PSU) that I enjoy watching more than David Shaw and Stanford. The fact that I'm picking against them at home should be telling.

      -Yes Texas is a bit banged up. No, they're not losing to BYU.

      -As much as it hurts me to say it, I see a rough week for the Big Ten. There's a legit chance that OSU, MSU, all lose. Add in a possible PSU loss to a supposed inferior MAC opponent, and that may be a hole the Big Ten can't recover from for a long time when it comes to their tarnished national perception. That said, I do think Michigan salvages something for the conference, and as noted last week, I think they're riding their sneaky good defense, and experienced leader on offense to a B1G title (but not a berth in the playoff).

      -It's a shame that Braxton Miller got hurt, because we deserved to see a full-throttle Ohio State team this year. But without him at QB, I just feel like this Va Tech defense provides a bad matchup for the Buckeyes. As a Penn State fan, I'm actually not a Buckeye hater at all, and I hope they prove me wrong, but I'm smelling an upset.

      -The Pac-12 can compete with the SEC at the top, but I feel like the SEC has so much more depth. Yes, a few teams appear to be down, but I'm a big believer in both Georgia and Florida in the East, and while we all know how good the West is (Bama, Auburn, LSU, A&M), it's the emergence of my pick for top sleeper team in the country, Ole Miss that shows off the SEC's depth. Let's line up the perceived top 7 of each conference.

      1. Oregon vs. Alabama (good game, and this year, maybe a toss-up)
      2. UCLA vs. Auburn (I like UCLA, although they need to show a lot more than last week)
      3. Stanford vs. Georgia (Georgia)
      4. USC vs. LSU (LSU)
      5. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (A&M)
      6. Washington vs. Ole Miss (Ole Miss by a mile)
      7. Arizona (or Oregon State) vs. South Carolina (or Mizzou) (SEC in any and all scenarios)

      and I didn't even mention Florida, who I think finishes 2nd to Georgia in the East, and has a double-digit win season.

      -Yes, Ole Miss was sloppy at times last week, but on a national stage, they destroyed a Boise State team that I still expect to have a good season. With their legit defense, explosive weapons, and an experienced QB, Ole Miss has all the tools in place to end the Western dominance of Bama/Aub/LSU.

      -If you can't tell, my darkhorse hunch teams this year (that don't quite make the playoff) are Ole Miss, Florida, Texas, and Michigan.

      -{I'm 100% certain that "M Richt from Athens, GA" sent that letter.} Although, all of my mail is postmarked as being Baltimore, even though I'm an hour away. So I suppose that aspect would be possible.

      -Message to UCLA- WAKE UP!!!!
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      A couple quick thoughts in response:

      --The Toledo upset special is a great pick. As much as I like the idea of an Akron upset--and situationally I think it lines up very well--I thought East Carolina's passing attack versus South Carolina's young (and last week atrocious) pass defense provided a better football reason than one I could find for Akron/Penn State. Maybe I'll regret it.

      --Brian, I think you're way too high on Michigan in general this season.

      --Virginia Tech's defense is very good. I'm hearing way too much about Michael Brewer, though. He's a decent quarterback at Virginia Tech, but if he was really that good, he would have been able to beat out Davis Webb at Texas Tech and wouldn't have transferred to Blacksburg in the first place. Against a more traditional offense, I expect Ohio State's defense to assert itself and I just see too much speed and power at Ohio State's skill positions for the Hokies to contain the Buckeyes all game. All that and a night game in Columbus? Call me a homer, but I think we'll be okay.

      --The question underlying the Pac-12 and the SEC debate basically boils down to, 'Do you value experienced quarterback play or solid defense and running?'

      --I just can't call Florida, Texas, or Michigan a dark horse. Like, ever. How many other programs could parlay a 38-7 win over North Texas into a ranking?

      --It would depend on the zip codes (which I'm too lazy to look up) to see which orbit Athens is in, but it's closer to Atlanta than to Augusta.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      I can't argue with your Texas, Florida, Michigan point, but I also think that because each are fun to kick when they're down, sometimes we overlook the fact that they're all still well-stocked, with Florida/Michigan each in desperation mode seasons (usually ends really well or horribly wrong), and Texas is in a rejuvenation year after playing in the defacto Big 12 Conference Championship game just last year

      I like the odds for all 3 to win double figures this year, and I'm near guaranteeing that I'll hit on at least2 of them.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      A home night game with great atmosphere is tough to beat. It usually takes an early explosion play on defense or special teams to trigger an upset in that scenario.

      Enter Beamer Ball.
    1. hobbes27's Avatar
      I think the sec is still the better overall conference. But it's close with the pac 12. Both conferences would be given the benefit of the doubt for the playoff.

      If the big ten loses all three big games tomorrow than its going to be near impossible for their conference champ to make the playoff. Ohio State should win tomorrow. But you never know about Virginia tech.

      Michigan Notre Dame is a nice grudge match. But it isn't a rivalry. We are losing some good grudge matches with realignment and it's a shame the ptb can't try to.make things work.