That feeling is in the air yet again. We are officially less than two days from Week Zero kickoff and I’m ready to throw on my Irish tam and watch Northwestern and Nebraska play to a 13-6 snoozefest more than anything else in the world.
I’ll admit it – last year’s picks were bad. None of the six plays really came down to the wire, but four of those six were in the “losing” category. So, this year I’m out for blood and the preservation of my good name. I learned my lesson by missing both the unders I played last year, so these will be strictly overs. Who likes betting on losses anyways? Let’s get started!
Penn State o8.5 wins (+115) *HEART PICK*
Week 1 @ Purdue
Week 2 vs Ohio
Week 3 @ Auburn
Week 4 vs Central Michigan
Week 5 vs Northwestern
Week 6 @ Michigan
Week 7 vs Minnesota
Week 8 vs Ohio State
Week 9 @ Indiana
Week 10 vs Maryland
Week 11 @ Rutgers
Week 12 vs Michigan State
Key Losses: WR Jahan Dotson, S Jaquan Brisker, DE Arnold Ebeketie
Key Returners: QB Sean Clifford, DT PJ Mustipher, CB Joey Porter Jr.
Key Additions: RB Nick Singleton, DE Chop Robinson, WR Mitchell Tinsley
“”There’s an old saying in Tennesse, I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.” – George W. Bush” – ME.
After the pain and suffering last year caused me with a dream 5-0 start and then one of the most pitiful closing stretches you’ll ever see, I’m back for more – and I’d even say the thrill of the ride is more fun than being consistently good.
The Nittany Lions are rolling with Sean Clifford at the helm for his fourth year as a starter, but with #1 2022 QB recruit Drew Allar waiting in the wings, a rocky start could send Cliff to the Smeal College of Business job fair early. The two biggest keys for the PSU offense this year are replacing WR Jahan Dotson’s production and re-establishing a run game. The combo of Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Western Kentucky transfer Mitchell Tinsley should give Clifford great targets out wide, and five-star freshman RB Nick Singleton has been lighting up camp and is expected to get touches early and often.
The defense is very deep and will compete to be one of the best in the Big Ten, highlighted by big PJ Mustipher in the middle and Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter Jr. in the defensive backfield. Keep an eye out for DE Adisa Isaac and DT Hakeem Beamon who are both returning from season long absences in 2021.
Six key games are on this schedule including early trips to Purdue and Auburn, and back-to-back home tilts with Minnesota and Ohio State. If the Lions get hot early and can stay healthy this year, this could be a scary team down the stretch.
West Virginia o5.5 wins (-115)
Week 1 @ Pittsburgh
Week 2 vs Kansas
Week 3 vs Towson
Week 4 @ Virginia Tech
Week 5 @ Texas
Week 6 vs Baylor
Week 7 @ Texas Tech
Week 8 vs TCU
Week 9 @ Iowa State
Week 10 vs Oklahoma
Week 11 vs Kansas State
Week 12 @ Oklahoma State
Key Losses: RB Leddie Brown, WR Winston Wright, DL Akeem Mesidor
Key Returners: DT Dante Stills, WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton, RB Tony Mathis
Key Additions: QB JT Daniels, LB Lee Kpogba, LB Jasir Cox
WVU is a team that should be really fun offensively in 2022. Former five-star QB JT Daniels comes to campus as the starter after transferring from Georgia and he’ll be reunited with his old USC OC Graham Harrell in Morgantown. Leading receiver Winston Wright is gone, but Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James both return after 500+ yard seasons in 2021. The running game is the catalyst, as last season’s worst Big 12 rushing offense’s top rusher Leddie Brown is off to the NFL. No back on the current WVU roster has scored a touchdown, but Tony Mathis and Justin Johnson look to pick up the slack with a very experienced offensive line.
The defense is led by First-Team All-Big 12 DT Dante Sills, who is one of the nation’s best interior linemen. The back seven returns key CB Charles Woods and LB Lance Dixon, but will ultimately rely on transfer talent for the rest of the spots. Jasir Cox and Lee Kpogba join the linebacker corps from North Dakota State and East Mississippi CC respectively, and four defensive back transfers will fight for spots alongside Woods.
The defense will be spotty at best, but the Daniels/Harrell combo should have the Mountaineer offense scoring a ton of points. The first matchup of the year is a really good one as the Backyard Brawl is back and will be a great measuring stick for WVU against the re-tooling ACC champs. I expect the high-powered offense to at least get West Virginia back to a bowl game and potentially be a dark-horse team in the mix for the Big 12.
Virginia o7 wins (+105)
Week 1 vs Richmond
Week 2 @ Illinois
Week 3 vs Old Dominion
Week 4 @ Syracuse
Week 5 @ Duke
Week 6 vs Louisville
Week 7 @ Georgia Tech
Week 8 vs Miami
Week 9 vs North Carolina
Week 10 vs Pittsburgh
Week 11 vs Coastal Carolina
Week 12 @ Virginia Tech
Key Losses: C Olusengun Oluwatimi, LT Bobby Haskins, S Joey Blount
Key Returners: QB Brennan Armstrong, WR Dontayvion Wicks, LB Nick Jackson
Key Additions: DE Kam Butler
There’s a new head coach in Charlottesville, as former Clemson co-OC Tony Elliot takes over a team that had 2021’s second-ranked passing offense in the nation. Lefty gunslinger Brennan Armstrong returns after throwing for nearly 4,500 yard and 31 touchdowns last season. His top three receiving targets are back with him, including 1,200 yard WR Dontayvion Wicks. The biggest question mark is the offensive line that saw FOUR starters transfer this offseason. A true running back committee will need to produce, as Armstrong is the team’s returning leading rusher.
On the defensive side of the ball, leading tackler Nick Taylor returns for his senior year, but he’s going to need some help from last year’s 121st-ranked total defense. Veteran safeties Coen King and Antonio Clary hold down the defensive backfield and Miami (OH) grad transfer Kam Butler will have to lead the charge to generate some pressure for a pass defense that allowed 466 yards per game in 2021.
The ACC is gonna be so fun this year and is really unpredictable, but an easy first five games should give Elliott and company enough time to work out some growing pains before the schedule heats up. A stretch of Miami, UNC and Pitt will be the X-factor, but getting all three at home is a huge plus. The Cavaliers should rely heavily on Armstrong and if they can work out some semblance of a defense, they could find themselves in the ACC title game before it’s all said and done.
Utah o9.5 wins (-105)
Week 1 @ Florida
Week 2 vs Southern Utah
Week 3 vs San Diego State
Week 4 @ Arizona State
Week 5 vs Oregon State
Week 6 @ UCLA
Week 7 vs USC
Week 8 @ Washington State
Week 9 vs Arizona
Week 10 vs Stanford
Week 11 @ Oregon
Week 12 @ Colorado
Key Losses: LB Devin Lloyd, WR Britain Covey, LB Nephi Sewell
Key Returners: QB Cameron Rising, RB Tavion Thomas, CB Clark Phillips
Key Additions: LB Mahamoud Diabate, LB Lander Barton, S Clayton Isbell
The 2021 PAC-12 Champs are back to defend their crown and they look very poised to do so. First-Team All-Pac 12 duo returns on offense in the form of QB Cameron Rising and RB Tavion Thomas. The two-headed tight end monster of Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid also return after combining for 14 TDs in 2021. Don’t expect any regression from this offense that averaged 431 yards and 36 points per game last season.
The defense will be another story. The Utes will have to replace five of their top seven tacklers from last year, including star LBs Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell who are both off to the NFL. Florida transfer LB Mahamoud Diabate will try to fill the void, and four-star freshman Lander Barton is poised to fill the other spot. Star corner Clark Phillips returns from a true freshman season where he racked up 62 tackled and two picks, and safety Cole Bishop is the next leading returning tackler. On the line, sophomore edge Van Fillinger is the leading sack man on the roster, and Junior Tafuna will be the big man in the middle.
A Week One trip to The Swamp will be a pulse check for the defense, but if they come away with a win there, it’s smooth sailing before a mid-season tilt with USC and a penultimate trip to Oregon. The Utes should challenge heavily for another PAC 12 title and be an under-the-radar CFP hopeful.
Ohio State o11 wins (-125)
Week 1 vs Notre Dame
Week 2 vs Arkansas State
Week 3 vs Toledo
Week 4 vs Wisconsin
Week 5 vs Rutgers
Week 6 @ Michigan State
Week 7 vs Iowa
Week 8 @ Penn State
Week 9 @ Northwestern
Week 10 vs Indiana
Week 11 @ Maryland
Week 12 vs Michigan
Key Losses: WR Chris Olave, WR Garrett Wilson, DT Haskell Garrett
Key Returners: QB CJ Stroud, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, S Ronnie Hickman
Key Additions: DB Tanner McCallister
This one is gonna be short and sweet. I hate Ohio State more than the next guy, but man this team is poised to be championship caliber if they can stay healthy. All-American QB CJ Stroud returns to his unit that was #1 in scoring and total offense. Losing 25 TDs in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson will hurt, but stud Jaxon Smith-Njigba and rising star Marvin Harrison Jr. will pick up right where they left off. 1,200 yard running back Treyveon Henderson is also back to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles takes over a unit that was rough by Buckeye standards, but the talent is overwhelming. JT Tuimoloau and Zach Harrison are still on the edges, leading tackler Ronnie Hickman is back at his safety spot, and young corner Denzel Burke looks to take the next step.
The Bucks are unfortunately my pick to win it all, and it starts September 3 when they host Notre Dame in a huge opening game. Avenging last year’s loss to Michigan will be #1 on the list, and trips to East Lansing and State College will be tough ones, but I’m foreseeing an unscathed regular season. BONUS PICK: Jaxon Smith-Njigba to win the Heisman (+3300).
Football is back ladies and gents. Let’s have some fun and win some money in the process!