Welcome to the Addison Recorder‘s football Pick ‘Em column. Each week Alex and a guest writer will predict the outcome of the most intriguing games on the slate. He will try to be as expert as possible, but we make no guarantees for his guests.
Michigan at #16 Notre Dame
This is the last game scheduled in this rivalry for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame decided that it needed to drop to only two Big Ten games per year since it entered a scheduling agreement with the ACC. To which I say: to hell with Notre Dame! Michigan literally taught them how to play football and they’re gonna drop us in favor of more games against Purdue and North Carolina State? Go straight to hell, Domers. If there’s any vindication for Michigan fans it is that we should send the hated Irish off with another loss. Both teams looked good on their opening weekend, but Notre Dame is missing several starters and key contributors due to an academic fraud scandal. That should be enough to propel Michigan to victory behind a newly-coherent offense and aggressive defense. Wolverines by 10.
I’m sitting here writing my picks with — at my side — Bean’s “favorite” (note the quotation marks) drink of choice, a Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic. Take this as a sign that I’m going to be contrarian to the point where only one person will win this week’s pick ’em, and that starts right here, right now. Michigan indeed looked unstoppable against Appalachian State, but Notre Dame also handed a blowout to Rice behind Everett Golson’s pinpoint skills with epic passing and four receivers who caught fifty yards or more… all against an actual Division I school! With good defense and a confident offense, the Fighting Irish (whose mascot should be next to go once Chief Wahoo and the Redskins are finally consigned to history) will keep it competitive and ultimately win at home. Leprechauns by 7.
#14 Southern Cal at #13 Stanford
In terms of talent differential, Stanford’s upset of USC back in 2007 may have been even bigger than Appalachian State over Michigan. That difference no longer exists, since Stanford has been the most physically dominant team in the Pac-12 over the past five years. On the flip side, USC has been up-and-down since 2008 because of recruiting sanctions arising from the Reggie Bush scandal. But they are also free of the coaching scourge known as Lane Kiffin, and even though their depth is poor their lineup is stocked with blue-chippers, so this may be a pretty even fight. Since the Cardinal are at home I give them the nod. Cardinal by 5.
Again, we have to give allowances for the fact that both teams played first week games against easy foes, but still… USC ran 105 plays. ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE PLAYS! Are Cody Kessler, Darreus Rogers, Buck Allen, and the rest of the offense men, or androids field by plutonium and Powerbars? Stanford may have shut out Davis, but that was DAVIS, and as SB Nation points out, Kevin Hogan has a tendency to flop under pressure and USC has a knack for disrupting the rhythm. Plus, as much as I love Stanford, USC was the school at which I took the test that got me into UChicago. So in a way, USC was where the seed was sewn for me co-writing this column in the first place. Can’t root against them. Trojans by 14.
#7 Michigan State at #3 Oregon
I’m so annoyed by how exciting this game sounds. The Oregon offense has been unreal for over a half-decade now, wracking up an endless array of touchdowns by running from the spread at warp speed. The only teams that have flummoxed them in that time have been physical defensive teams that can own the line of scrimmage and dictate the game’s pace to the Ducks. That’s exactly the type of team that the Spartans have turned into over the past five years. Since 2011, MSU has fielded a suffocating defense that applies endless pressure via blitzing and press coverage. They rode that defense to a 13-1 record, Big Ten title, and Rose Bowl win last year. So we have rock meeting rocks here, and I choose… the rock playing at home. Oregon isn’t invincible at Autzen Stadium, but the homefield advantage counts for a lot there. Combine that with Sparty having to replace key starters on at all three levels of the defense (D-line, linebackers, and secondary), and I think Oregon escapes with a win. Barely. Ducks by 2.
I agree with everything written above, so I have to bring in a little knowledge known not to the Bean. Autzen Stadium was also the longtime Oregon home of a band who, like the Ducks offense, was built to last, unpredictable, and never quit until the last note of the bell rang: yes, the greatest American band of them all, the Grateful Dead. And this year happens to be the 20th anniversary of their final appearance at Autzen, enough time for all the energy of the incendiary “Scarlet-Fire-Samson and Delilah” combo they played in that show to mystically fuse itself with the chakras of Marcus Mariota and company. All in all, the Dead took over the gridiron of Eugene 10 times. That’s the number. Ducks by 10. (Editor’s Note: This is how Chip Kelly actually made decisions on offense whilst at Oregon. No joke. — Travis)
Virginia Tech at #8 Ohio State
Included this as a sop to my Buckeye guest-picker this week. Ohio State looked very shaky in their opening game against Navy. Replacing a Heisman favorite with a Freshman at QB ten days before the season will do that to you. But the issues went beyond just the quarterback play from J.T. Barrett. He was let down by an offensive line breaking in four new starters and was missing almost all of the rushing and receiving production from last year (graduation is a bitch). Luckily for the Buckeyes they are still way more talented than their opponents this early in the season. So while this game won’t be a shellacking, it should still be a solid win for Urban Meyer and company. New Buckeye starters > returning Hokie players at pretty much any position. Buckeyes by 13.
Be still my beating heart, but I am not as optimistic as Bean. Yes, my home state is going to take another victory. No, it’s not going to be this easy. Derek DiNardo, Chase Williams, and Kendall Fuller anchor a potent defense, and the offense has enough of a wide-ranging attack to give OSU’s shaky defense more issues. This game will not be decided until the last minute. And I’ll calm my nerves by imagining what designs the BDBITL can make that will strike terror into the Fightin’ Gobblers. Scarlet and Grey by 6.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
Our perfunctory NFL pick for their opening week. I’ll probably include a game or two from the No Fun League as its suits me going forward, so let’s start with the debut of the defending Super Bowl champs. My bold prediction: they will still be really good on defense and efficient on offense. Probably not as much as last season, because it’s hard to sustain that level of play, but still one of the best teams in the league. On the other side of the field, the Packers have been consistently good while still carrying some glaring flaws since their Super Bowl win in 2011. The offense orchestrated by Aaron Rodgers is still prolific, but the defense has been extremely leaky. They don’t enough talent on that side of the ball to beat Seattle on the road, though. Plus, another loss for the Packers in Seattle will cement the curse of the “Fail Mary.” Seahawks by 10.
ESPN is picking both teams to win their divisions, so the matchup should be really damn even. But there’s something else going on: according to Rob Demovksy, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have been holding double and closed practices to institute… cue some Bernard Herrmann stinging strings… A SECRET PLAN. Apparently it involves reconfiguring the 3-4, whatever that means and however you do whatever that means, but a) Russell Wilson does not respond well when defenses put pressure on him, and b) the writer in me LOVES secret plans that are just crazy enough to work! The Seahawks special teams, a focus of Pete Carroll’s coaching, will keep the game close, but another battle to the very end is in the works with the dramatic, feel-good finish we all crave. Packers by 7.
(Editor’s Note: The NFL and I may have drifted apart, but as someone who grew up less than an hour from Lambeau Field, I am required to have an opinion of this game. Here goes: Green Bay is without its anchors on the O-line (center J.C. Tretter) and the D-line (B.J. Raji). That said, the Packers have fewer holes in their team this year than in recent seasons — the safeties don’t seem like such a liability, and the running backs are rock-solid. If the lines can hold, the Packers have a chance to upset. Plus, Chris Berman is picking the Seahawks, so I have to spite his bloviating ass. Packers by 3. — -J.