As part of this football blog, I’ll be writing a weekly college football gambling blog on Fridays. The first edition will be posted next week, just in time for opening weekend. My goal, as with every year, is to make enough money to offset my bar tab for NFL Sundays.
I figured, if I’m going to write a college football column, it should begin with a season preview. We’ll get into my thoughts on point spreads, over/unders, and best gambling practices in future weeks. Right now, here are the teams that I think will have impressive, and disappointing, 2012 seasons.
USC starts the season ranked #1, but a trip to the National Championship Game is no given. They have a handful of losable games on their schedule, including at Stanford, Oregon, or Notre Dame. Even something like an away game at Utah could prove troublesome. The PAC 12 is no SEC, but it’s no joke either. That said, I understand why USC is the preseason #1. Matt Barkley is a great quarterback and, god-willing, he’ll be a future Buffalo Bill. (Note: The Bills will get the #1 pick after Ryan Fitzpatrick goes down in game 1, Vince Young kills a man with a trident and the team finishes 0-16 with Brad Smith at the helm). Also, USC, take it from a Penn State fan: Silas Redd is the real deal. You guys are lucky to have him. Unlike the other Penn State transfers, he’s going to make a big impact. You’ll be impressed with his quickness and ability to slip tackles. Finally, I’d just like to note that even though USC’s coach is a shifty Daniel Tosh look-a-like, I’m rooting for the Trojans this season. Besides the fact that they have Redd, who I think is great, I’m also proud of the way Matt Barkley stayed in school through sanctions and difficult seasons. He could’ve left but he stuck around to help save the program. This is his year to shine, and nobody in the country deserves it more.
I want to give Alabama credit for scheduling at least one strong out-of-conference opponent, unlike, say, Florida State. They didn’t need to do that. The SEC is tough enough. Bama could easily lose their week 1 match-up at Michigan. I don’t think they will, but it’s possible. I expect the 2012 Alabama team to be a lot like the 2011 squad; smart, overpowering and boring as hell to watch. I do not think they’ll repeat as champions, only because repeating is extremely difficult, but I do expect them to finish in the top 5.
I can’t tell if Zach Mettenberger is a great athlete, or if Jordan Jefferson was so terrible that anyone with a fully-functioning brain looks like a Hall of Famer compared to him. I hate to criticize 22-year old kids, but Jordan Jefferson was possibly the worst starting quarterback I’ve seen in 30 years of watching college football, and that includes JaMarcus Russell. The QB upgrade alone almost guarantees LSU a top 5 finish. Unfortunately they have a very difficult schedule, and losing Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t help at all. Don’t be fooled though. Even without the Honey Badger, the Tigers are loaded, and at gunpoint I think they would be my choice to win the National Championship Game. (We’ll get to that later).
I think this year’s Oregon team won’t lose a beat from last year. My biggest concern is the fact that they’re starting a freshman at QB, a guy from Hawaii named Marcus Mariota. Darron Thomas was never the best thrower, but his running skills were great and he was a team leader. Now, I know nothing about Mariota, but I do know that Brian Bennett is a capable QB, so if Mariota beat him out in the depth chart then I’m guessing he must be at least halfway decent. Meanwhile, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are the most dangerous 1-2 running back combo in the country. How many teams can lose a player as good as LaMichael James and not suffer whatsoever? Barner will carry the bulk of the load and Chip Kelly will find creative ways to get the ball into De’Anthony Thomas’ hands. If the Ducks can put together even a serviceable defense, they’ll end the year in the top ten easily. I’ll take Matt Barkley and USC at home over a freshman-led Oregon team, though.
Oklahoma has the talent to compete for a championship every year, but they also have a major problem with focus. In addition, they have a shortage of wide receivers, a position where the Sooners are usually stacked. And to top it off, the Big 12 is a surprisingly strong conference this year. I can see Oklahoma winning the conference, but I can’t see them going undefeated, and with one loss I doubt they would get into the National Championship game over the likes of Southern Cal or an SEC team.
Every time I’ve turned on ESPN over the past two weeks, I’ve seen some analyst talking about how this is Florida State’s year. At first glance it makes sense. Number one, they have a great defense, and number two, their schedule is a joke. Florida State’s 2012 schedule reminds me of a pre-BCS schedule, when strength of schedule didn’t factor into bowl games at all. Back then you could play Tennessee A&M, Bryant & Stratton and Phoenix Online as your out-of-conference schedule, go undefeated and play for the championship. That said, I still don’t think Florida State makes it through the year unbeaten. Why? Well, basically, how is this year’s team any different from the team that went 9-4 last year? Everyone says E.J. Manuel is a great quarterback, but none of that talk is based on his achievements, it’s only because he’s a physical beast with a strong arm. To me, an easy schedule isn’t reason enough to rank a team highly. I still have to believe in the team, and I don’t believe in Florida State. However, I absolutely will reconsider my position if they can come out and dominate the first few games of the year.
Other Teams with a Legitimate Chance to Win the Title
The ACC is like a wet t-shirt contest at a senior citizen home. It’s not pretty, but still, someone has to win. If the Hokies can succeed in big games against Clemson and Florida St., and I believe they will, they have a realistic shot at playing in the BCS.
The Mountaineers are one of my favorite teams to watch. I can’t remember ever being so enthralled with a 40-point blowout, but I watched every minute of that WVU-Clemson bowl game last year. West Virginia is basically Oregon East. They score nearly every drive and they never take their foot off the gas. If they can manage the transition to a new (inconveniently-located) conference, I think they could have a very strong year.
A lot of people didn’t notice, because LSU and Alabama were so dominant, but Arkansas had a fantastic team last year. This year they return much of their talent, including Kniles Davis, who, in case you can’t remember all the way back to 2010, is one of the premier backs in the country. They’ve had some turmoil, and even worse, they have a tremendously difficult schedule, but if someone besides Alabama or LSU is going to emerge out of the SEC, my money is on the Razorbacks.
No, not really.
Teams That Can’t Be Trusted
Georgia has a good quarterback, solid skill position players, and a tough defense. So why are they on this list? Mark Richt is still the coach, right? Yep, there you go.
I watch Big Ten football every weekend. Michigan State is not to be trusted under any circumstances. If Colombian refugees kidnapped my daughter and said, “You can have her back when Michigan State wins 4 straight games,” I’d be like, “nice knowing you, honey.” Like Georgia, Michigan State is a very inconsistent team. One week they’ll dominate Michigan, the next week they’ll lose to Purdue. There’s also been a lot of talk about their new quarterback and whether he can fill the shoes of Kirk Cousins. Michigan State has had the same quarterback for 15 years. It’s like how Gonzaga basketball had the same shaggy-haired guard forever. (I’m convinced Dan Dickau played on Gonzaga for 12 years straight and just kept changing his name to Blake Stepp, Adam Morrison, etc.) MSU quarterbacks are the same way. It’s always some six-foot-three stiff white guy who throws accurately and can’t run. I’m pretty sure they can find another one of those guys. Bottom line, it may be a new year, but it’s the same old Michigan State.
Stanford / Baylor
When a football team is terrible for decades, then they land an outstanding quarterback and suddenly become great for a couple years, then said quarterback leaves… adjust your expectations accordingly. Stanford has some decent players, and Barry Sanders’ son is supposedly Barry Part II. I still expect them to take a major step backwards this year. If they finish the year ranked in the top 25, that’s a successful season. Baylor, on the other hand, should just name the stadium RG3 Field right now and focus on field hockey. It’s going to be a long season.
The Big East
It’s easy to make fun of the Big East and talk about how the conference sucks. It’s a lot harder to pick a winner. Louisville and Rutgers are the favorites, with Pitt and Cincinnati lurking not far behind. If I were a gambling man, which of course I am, I would bet on a dark horse: Temple. They’re an up-and-coming team with some promising young players and a good head coach. Plus, they’re the feel-good story of the conference. They joined the suffering Big East just as others were scrambling to get out. I think Temple will go into Happy Valley and beat a depleted Penn State team in week three, giving them the confidence to tackle their Big East schedule. Am I right about this pick? Probably not. But hey, the conference sucks, so you might as well go out on a limb. Owls 2012!
Matt Barkley is my favorite for the Heisman, followed by Marcus Lattimore, Tyler Wilson, Montee Ball and Geno Smith, with apologies to Kenjon Barner and Denard Robinson.
As for dark horses, I like Ed Lacey of Alabama (great runner, overshadowed by Trent Richardson last year), Collin Klein of Kansas State (a “winner” a la RG3), Casey Pachall of TCU (as good as Andy Dalton, at least at the college level), Mike Glennon of NC State (will end up being a good NFL pick) and Silas Redd of USC (awesome talent whose Heisman chances are hampered by playing alongside Matt Barkley).
And one dark-dark-dark horse: QB Tyler Bray of Tennessee. The guy is tall, smart, strong-armed and extremely talented. What I’m saying is, I would definitely have sex with Tyler Bray. Unfortunately he plays for a lousy Volunteers team and that will most likely prevent him from being in the discussion.
Now, the important question: When the National Championship Game is played on January 7th, 2013, who will emerge victorious? At this point you’d be foolish to go against the SEC. Sure, their streak of championships will end eventually, but until that happens, I’m not betting against them. That’s why I’m predicting a one-loss LSU team to defeat an undefeated USC team and take this year’s title.
My other BCS picks are as follows: Wisconsin (Big Ten champs), Virginia Tech (ACC Champs), Oklahoma (Big 12 champs), Temple (Big East champs), Alabama (at large), West Virginia (at large), Oregon (at large) and Florida State (at large).
Hope you enjoyed my 2012 college football season preview. Next week we’ll get to the important stuff: money. Because after all, it’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about how much cash you make while getting drunk and gambling on the accomplishments of others.
Until next time.