And Now for Some REALly Good News The lesson for today is taken from the Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 9, Verse 1:
For God so loved the world that he gave us Football. That whoesoever followeth it shall not be bored stiff on fall afternoons (and evenings) but, after having wandering aimlessly for five months through the sporting wilderness, shall reside three months in the Promised Land, feasting on the greatest sport in the history of human-kind; nay, the greatest human endeavor of all time. Screw Neil Armstrong.
Or, to paraphrase Ben Franklin: "Football is God's way of saying that He loves us and wants us to be happy." Well, at least a few weeks a year.
Franklin, of course, was referring to beer, but his was a time when Notre Dame had more to do with hunchbacks than running backs. Still, he was prescient, as a Founding Father should be, because what goes better with football than a pre-game brew or two? True, he could have added "brats," but he was writing as a Massachusettsian-Wisconsin not being even a territory at the time.
But enough scripture, history, culinary, and other academic talk. As Bocephus is wont to say:
"ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL"?
Actually, it's a rhetorical question, so feel free to mentally envision the question mark as an exclamation point.
And if it is football season, it is, not coincidentally, time for the Phog Blog take it to the Bank Picks.
The picks will include virtually all Big 12 contests, games involving KU's non-conference opponents (well, maybe not so much this year considering the motley assortment of KU's non-con foes), and other national games of interest, which will generally include games from each of the five major conferences (Big 12, Big 11, PAC-10, ACC whatever number of teams they have this week, and the Supreme Conference in all the land down in Redneck Country). Not to mention the Notre Dame Fighting Hunchbacks--errrr, Irish.
Games that will generally not be included are those played before Saturday, unless the game is too huge to pass on, or it is Thanksgiving weekend. Also, games with point spreads of 30+ will generally not be included, because whether the point spread is covered by such a prohibitive favorite is a matter of choice rather than ability; but an occasional exception will be made-e.g., if KU is involved or there is some other good reason to do so.
If a game is not finished-as happened a few years back-it will count only if recognized by Vegas as a completed game for point spread purposes.
Week 1's games:
1. Central Michigan +7.5 @ KU
No, this is not a gimme, either against the spread or straight up. After losing four games last year that were in the Hawks' grasp with the execution of one routine play or one sound piece of game management, KU needs to demonstrate that it can close out opponents before any game can be considered won or any spread considered covered before it is played. And, although the Jayhawks generally play well against good teams at home, they were within one play of losing to both Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Florida in Lawrence last season.
The key to this game will be first time QB starter Touchdown Todd Reesing. He is a talent. Forget his height, which is just shy of 6'0". He has the instincts of a play-maker and a coach's understanding of offensive football. Not to mention an arm that can hit his receiver in the hands 40 yards down field while buying time with his feet when his protection breaks down. His talent level is at least comparable to that of the Big 12's two most talked about QB's.
But Colt McCoy and Chase Daniel have, as the Wizard of Oz would say, one thing that Reesing does not have: game experience. A lot of game experience. The kind of game experience that teaches you when to accept the fact that a play is not going to work and take your lumps. The type of game experience that teaches you, as Clint Eastwood would say, to "know your limitations." Reesing is sharp enough to learn these things. He will have them down pat by this time next year and, if he stays healthy and holds of Kerry Meier's challenge for playing time, will give Jayhawk fans two years better than those of the man he is most likened to, Bill Whittemore. He may even invite a legitimate comparison or two to the man for whom Flutie Flakes were christened.
But T.D. Todd has not yet had a chance to show he is either Bill or Doug. Here is hoping that he can do a reasonable imitation of one or the other Saturday night. If he does, the Hawks will cover this spread handily. If not, especially if he turns it over a couple of times in a way that creates quick TD's for Central Michigan, it could be a nail biter both as to the point spread and the outcome.
And need I add that this might be the most important opening game in KU football history? A loss here, and the Hawks have a huge hurdle to climb to get back in the bowl picture. And the Big M can start shopping his resume. It is that sense of urgency-that understanding that this first game of the season is a "must win" game, that will ensure a relatively comfortable KU victory.
2. Colorado St +2.5 @ CU
I always miss this game. You would be well-advised to place your money on the team I don't pick. CU is bound to be better than last year, when they lost their season opener to Montana State before succumbing to CSU. My guess is that they are improved enough to take care of the Rams by 7-10 points. Therefore, my pick is:
3. k-state +13.5 @ Auburn
I would give this number some thought if the game were in Manhattan. Since it is not, I expect a royal purple manhandling.
4, Nevada +21 @ Nebraska
I am not sold on all the Nebraska hype. This is not the Big Red of old, even if it has had a couple of nice recruiting classes. For one thing, Callahan is neither Devaney nor Osborne. The Huskers will be a good team, though. Maybe even a Top 20 team. But good enough to take down Nevada by more than 3 TD's?
The game is in Lincoln, so a mild thumbs up for the Huskers.
5. Mizzou -5 @ Illinois
This is a telling year for Mizzou. Will they get over the hump and attain permanent lower second-tier status (not a slam-that is exactly the star that KU is reaching for), or will Gary Pinkel prove that he is permanently stuck in mid-major mode? Their offense, led by the resourceful Chase Daniel will be very good. The question is whether their defense rise above last year's mediocre edition.
Regardless, they would cover this spread handily at home. But Ron Zook has had some recruiting success since arriving in Champagne, and he is out to prove that he is a cut above his Mizzou counterpart.
6. Baylor +21 @ TCU
You know who REALly sucks on the road?
Baylor. Even when they are not faced with the task of replacing half their starters.
7. Okie St +6.5 @ Georgia
Okie St will be dynamite offensively this year. They should not be strong enough to win between the hedges, but they will score enough points to keep it interesting.
8. Montana St +27.5 @ A&M
Can Montana St take out a Big 12 team two years in a row? Not a chance according to my Big Sky source: See Kellis Robinett's Blog for the Idaho State Journal More importantly, can they stay within 27 and ½ points? They have some talent, and A&M scores methodically, not quickly. The deciding factor in this pick is that MSU has a new coach, which is never a good sign, especially on the road.
9. Washington St +14 @ Wisconsin
As a general rule, I like PAC-10 teams plus the points against the invariably overrated Big 10 "powers." WSU has an experienced, savvy QB. A W would be a major upset. Staying within 2 TD's would not.
10. GT +2.5 @ N.D.
How can you go against Notre Dame early in the season? At home? Touchdown Jesus says you can't
11. UCLA -17 @ Stanford
UCLA is a dark horse for a BCS Bowl. Stanford is portraying the wrong part of the horse.
12. Tennessee +5.5 at Cal
Make no mistake about it: Tennessee will be one of many tough SEC teams this year. Cal is out to avenge last season's season opening loss in Knoxville-and the Bears are explosive at home.
13. Purdue -7 @ Toledo
Purdue is not likely to emulate KU's generosity at Toledo last year. Sorry, Rockets.
14. Texas Tech -9 @ SMU
Tech is not likely to emulate KU's performance at SMU in Terry Allen's final season. Sorry, Mustangs.
15. Florida St -3 @ Clemson
Bowden vs. Bowden. National TV. Monday Night Football. Labor Day. It will be a wild night in Death Valley. And because the game is in Death Valley, I am taking:
Did I mention this is a big game for the Jayhawks?