2020 Season: 131-81
2020 Mortal Lock: 18-1
Bowl Season: 18-8
Memories of the 2020 season have set sail upon us like a last call hookup — taking the metaphorical cab and those fond memories into the ether. We turn our attention now good sirs, ladies, and others of less grammatical distinction to the 2021 season.
It is is a season that I believe will wind up being almost as disrupted as the 2020 season too. Forfeits shall be had because of outbreaks, that much is certain. But aside from that, there is much uncertainty with realignment, with campuses breaking the seal on normalcy, with multiple NCAA investigations dogging teams, with rosters completely reshuffled during the transferpocalypse of 2020, and with locker rooms adjusting (in varying hues of success) to the effects of NIL deals.
Coaching will still matter. And like the 2020 season, I suspect those who can most lay down the law and maintain cohesion will ultimately fare the best week-in and week-out. Talent alone won’t be the determinant this season; much like it was last season. Program builders and program maintainers and programs that are a self-licking ice cream cone are apt to fare well. So while a team like Notre Dame for instance may not have as much native talent, it does have a very dominant sideline presence, and that will reflect itself on the field.
That said, it look at the giant plate of #butt being served up this weekend to open season. And, man, the Big 10 just dove feet-first into some unwatchable slop — a talentless Illinois team with a new coach hosting a talentless Nebraska team with a bozo under NCAA investigation. That’s our “highlight” of the week.
While most picks are made algorithmically, I have a preseason analytics checklist that I must use for these early games. There simply is not enough data yet. Therefore, the early season picks tend to be all over the place, and especially for programs in turmoil, so take that for what it’s worth.
I heard you like underdogs?
Nebraska -7.5 at Illinois — This is not your ordinary rebuild in Champaign. Last year the Illini were down to their 4th QB and had lost all three RBs at times to injury. This season, nine players return on each side of the ball including a competent QB and a very healthy, very deep RB corps and four starters on the OL. Guess who likes to hear that? New coach Bret Bielema. And with him bringing in App State’s Tony Peterson, expect to see a lot of backs platooned and a ball-control PA attack — just the very sort of thing that has given NU fits. The Nubber DL is also experienced, but it is a three-man front without any standouts, and last year was prone to being gashed. At least they have a bunch of freshmen at tailback, two returning OL, are under NCAA investigation, Scott Frost who has proven he can’t coach at this level, and are helmed by the turnover prone Adrian Martinez...when he’s healthy?
I really like Bert being back in the Midwest at a place with relatively low expectations. That’s when he’s most dangerous. And I suspect he’ll put a lot of the mid-tier Big 10 on notice this week. Take the Illini to cover, perhaps even the outright W. Illinois 27 Nebraska 24
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money
Hawaii -18.5 at UCLA — Both teams return a lot of experience, and I particularly like Todd Graham’s approach to slowing down the game to cut down on turnovers, without making the Warriors just another team. It paid off in spades last year too, as UH was significantly more competitive on the road especially. The problem is still lack of talent and lack of deoth. And UCLA is returning a ton of it. Still, is UCLA really almost 3 TDs better than a mid-road MWC team at this point? They could be. And I have no doubt that they’ll win this game. But 18.5 seems like an artifact of past performances and names on the jerseys...and at the end of the day, it’s too many points. Skip it.
UTEP -10 at NMSU — Road game featuring two of the worst teams in college football? And a rivalry, no less? With the visitor being favored by two scores? Absolutely not. This is toxic. Don’t spend your money on this trash, and certainly don’t watch this trash.
Ginormous Spread That Will Probably Cover
Fresno State -27.5 vs. UConn — The Huskies are absolutely pitiful, terrible against the spread, missed all of last season with the Rona, start a freshman walk-on QB and freshman RB, have just two returning OL, and can’t hang on to the ball. The defensive line should be the bright spot of the team, but the LBs and DBs are awful. Former Tide analyst DeBoer inherits 18 starters in the Central Valley, has a prebuilt offensive and defensive system, and they’re not traveling 3000 miles for a season opener. Let’s call it a romp? FSU 56 UConn 20
No Mortal Lock this week, but when we get to the normal opening weekend over Labor Day, we’ll be back as scheduled.