We were perfect for the year ... and then a game finished
Happy New Year everyone!
Like most of you, I’m happy about getting a columnist clean slate. Didn’t pick a ball game wrong all year … until Kentucky beat Penn State in the WhateverIt’sCalledThisYear Citrus Bowl. (I know it has a corporate sponsor, but since that company is being accused of price gouging travelers looking to Airbnb their way to the game, I won’t be mentioning it.)
Before I get in the football stuff, a moment of personal privilege. While writing the tribute story for recently-departed former Osceola High basketball star Frank Ford, I was brightened by the stories of those who were able to meet him. I’ve since talked to others who did not get that chance but understood his influence on those wherever he went. I wish I had been around town earlier and gotten to meet Frank, and to cover games in that AC-less gym packed with a thousand people. I guess last year’s Osceola-Oak Ridge regional final at Oak Ridge’s new gym packed so tight the crowd overwhelmed the air-conditioning was kinda-sorta that feel, but I can’t say for sure 35 years after that 37-0 Osceola season …
… Good for you Gators fans, on Florida’s curb-stomping of Michigan in the Peach Bowl. You made Ohio State fans happy, and you’re certainly in the discussion again — if Feleipe Franks keeps improving and finds even better QB form this spring and summer — as one of the best in the SEC. You’ve got about 11 months to find a solution for Alabama in the conference championship game …
… Despite their loss, good for you Knights fans. Tuesday’s Fiesta Bowl was a tough spot to be in as Public Enemy No. 1 among the SEC — if you don’t believe that, go read Twitter from LSU/Alabama/Auburn/Florida/Georgia fans from the past four days, although the hate about the “self proclaimed national title” is pretty far overboard, considering the NCAA recognizes it. UCF played poor-to-mediocre on both sides of the ball … and still scored 32 points and had the ball at the end with a shot to tie it at the end while playing with a backup QB against an upper-echelon SEC team …
… Speaking of Twitter, Alabama fans showed off their elite attitude, where they believe they exist on a different football plane than everyone else. After the Fiesta Bowl they hated on UCF (“Will you children now sit down, shut up and stay in your lane?”) and, at the same time, hated on LSU (“You only beat those guys by eight points?”).
As an LSU loyalist put it to me shortly after the Fiesta Bowl was put to bed: “Brace yourself UCF, here comes a wave of low-class ‘Bama fans. I deal with it every year.” …
… Normally this time of year the Mighty News-Gazette Divine Nine are my top New Year’s Resolutions, but why bother when I’ll just be back to my normal self by the time Valentine’s Day hits? Which reminds me … “Resolutions” would be a great name for a gym — that turns into a bar at the end of January.
So for this week’s list we turn to the playoff standings and such …
1. Alabama. 2. Clemson. 3. New Orleans. 4. Kansas City. 5. The L.A. Rams. 6. N’Winglin. 7. Da Bears. 8. UCF. 9. Purdue patron saint Tyler Trent (rest in peace, kid).
Here are the Picks of the Weak, Playoff Edition:
Indianapolis at Houston (-1.5): Andrew Luck against DeShaun Watson. Feels like the 13th time these two have met this year. Texans by 3.
Seattle at Dallas (-2): This isn’t the Eagle Green blood that flows through me talking — the Cowboys are just not that good, and the Seattle secondary will find an answer for Amari Cooper. Seahawks by 7 in Upset Special.
L.A. Chargers at Baltimore (-2.5): Two cases of “I know they’re pretty good, but how did they both get in the playoffs?” Better Chargers by 4 in “Who’s Any Good Anyway?” Upset Special.
Philadelphia at Chicago (-6): The reigning champs needed a season-ending rally and help to get into the playoffs again, but here’s where the statistics help: Philly has three wins over this year’s playoff field and the second-best Strength of Victory (record of the teams you beat) in the NFC. Eagles by 6 in “Statistics Don’t Lie, But Maybe It Is the Green Blood” Upset Special.
College Bowl Championship Game of the Universe, Again — Clemson vs. Alabama (-7): After all their high and mighty talk, you think I’m rooting for the Tigers to set ‘Bama fans into an offseason of discontent? You betcha! It won’t help though. Undisputed Champions do it, again, by 10.
Petey “The Gators Are Going To Win” Covino says: Hey, they won!
Brian “Big Man” McBride’s Super Sniffer of the Week: Colts by 3 over Houston.
That’s all I have this week. Besides, how can you all miss me if I won’t go away …