From a college football standpoint, my 2014 was mostly frustration mixed with disappointment. I had a great time writing and interacting with readers, but the results on the field left much to be desired. The Hurricanes finished 6-7, my picks continued to be mediocre, and there were few signs that bowl season would mark a turnaround. After a hot start in the early bowl games, I defiantly proclaimed I was moving into "overconfidence mode" and essentially laughed in the face of what you have come to know as the "Pickens Jinx." The ACC games last weekend were a disaster and I lost two out of three games yesterday as well. Entering today, my record sits at 12-12 and gods of karma had their revenge, but I didn't know my bad luck would carry over into real life.
I still can't believe I picked Maryland to keep things close against Stanford. Games often appear obvious in hindsight, but this one made me feel especially stupid. By halftime, I had vowed to not make this mistake again and forced myself to watch every play of the second half, despite the lopsided score and the late kickoff. The real insult to injury occurred this morning when I woke up to a broken refrigerator and large pools of water throughout my kitchen and living room. There is only one thing harder and more demoralizing than accurately picking college football games: Home Ownership. In an effort to save my wood floors and cabinets, I am officially announcing my apology for being overconfident (at least for now).
2015 offers the chance for a new beginning. I'll start the year undefeated and feel great about my picks for the 1st College Football Playoff. Let's hope these games live up to the hype. These match-ups have been previewed extensively for a month now, so I'll keep these thoughts short.
FLORIDA STATE +8 vs Oregon 5pm - ESPN
Both teams have Heisman quarterbacks, but Jameis Winston has been here before. I can't pick against a guy who is undefeated in his career. Florida State has dealt with all the challenges of having a target on their back this season. The Noles know how to win close games, something that Oregon doesn't have much experience with. Oregon will miss star CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu who is out with an injury. Jameis will find WR Rashad Greene early and often and RB Dalvin Cook will have success against Oregon's front 7. Florida State's defense is healthier than they've been in months. I have a ton of respect for the amazing career Marcus Mariota had in the Pac 12, but his team will come up short tomorrow. I expect the Noles to pull the upset and advance to the Title game.
OHIO STATE +9 vs Alabama 830pm - ESPN
Urban Meyer and Ohio State aren't getting enough respect. The Buckeyes will keep this game close on Thursday night. Alabama and WR Amari Cooper have been explosive on offense, but Nick Saban's defense isn't as talented as we've seen in years past. OSU RB Ezekiel Elliot had a huge year and QB Cardale Jones is capable of making plays if Alabama crowds the line of scrimmage. While I don't like him or root for him, I believe Urban Meyer is one of the best coaches in America. He knows Nick Saban from his time spent at Florida and OSU will be well prepared. Bama QB Blake Sims has excelled under Lane Kiffin and in the end, I think he'll win the game for his team in the fourth quarter. The margin will be just 3-7 points.
AUBURN -6.5 vs Wisconsin 12pm - ESPN2
Barry Alvarez will be coaching Wisconsin tomorrow afternoon, which is a clear disadvantage for the Badgers. Wisconsin's players are still surprised by Gary Andersen's departure and will have their hands full trying to stop Gus Malzahn's explosive offense. Auburn will be without WR Duke Williams, but QB Nick Marshall, WR Sammie Coates, and RB Cameron Artis-Payne will put up big numbers against the Badgers. Wisconsin has one of the nation's best in RB Melvin Gordon, but the QB situation is still questionable. It's hard to have confidence in the inconsistent Joel Stave. The Tigers have too much talent and pull away in the 4th quarter.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl
BAYLOR -2.5 vs Michigan State 1230pm - ESPN
Baylor and QB Bryce Petty are out to prove they deserved a spot in the Playoff. Michigan State's offense made a significant jump in 2014, led by QB Connor Cook and RB Jeremy Langford, but Tony Lippett is the only reliable WR for the Spartans. Michigan State's defense is talented, but isn't nearly as good as last year's unit. DC Pat Narduzzi will be coaching his final game with the Spartans after taking over the head job at Pitt. I expect Baylor's speed on offense to be a problem for MSU. Petty has four WR's that finished with 590+ yards and at least 6 touchdowns each. Look for Baylor to win by two scores. One key factor - MSU only faced 2 teams that will end the season ranked, and lost both games (Ohio State and Oregon).
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
MISSOURI -4.5 vs Minnesota 1pm - ABC
Missouri's defense carried the Tigers in the SEC East. Minnesota relies almost solely on the ground game of RB David Cobb and QB Mitch Leidner. The Tigers strong front 7, led by All-American DL Shane Ray, should be able to take advantage of Minnesota being one-dimensional. Missouri will be without WR Jimmie Hunt, but Bud Sasser is a reliable target for QB Maty Mauk. While Minnesota went 8-4 this season, none of the Gophers wins are particularly impressive. Missouri dealt with a tougher schedule and has more talent on both sides of the ball. The Tigers win by 10.