Might as well make the first day of the college football season (sorry week 0 fans), the date that I re-relaunch the blog. I can't even begin to illustrate for you how difficult it's been to make this particular space much of a priority since I attempted the first re-launch in late spring/early summer.
And I'd be lying if I told you I had complete confidence in being able to fill this space with new content every day, moving foward.
Alas, we'll try, starting with tonight's UC tilt and the college football weekend ahead. My thoughts will be less than extensive, for the sake of efficiency.
*I've got the Bearcats going 9-3. Here's an excerpt from a lengthy email exchange Justin Williams and I did that was published in The Athletic....
I have them finishing 9-3 in the regular season. It’s probably not a good enough record for a conference championship game appearance or for those who want to hold up this UC team against the one from 10 years ago, but a satisfactory enough mark to solidify the foundation already in place. It’s also likely a good enough record to make athletic directors at other schools take an even closer look at the head coach who’s built it.
9-3 is a very, very good record, particularly given how much more difficult Cincinnati's schedule is this season, tougher than last year both in and out of conference. Yet when I mentioned this on air yesterday, I got some pushback for being too pessimistic, which is fine. Think of where we've gotten to: a year ago, if I would've said UC was going 6-6, I'd have been accused of being unreasonably optimistic. Now, a nine-win season forecast has me cast as the bad guy.
I think the losses come against Ohio State, UCF, and Memphis. The Tigers are my bet to win the league, largely because they don't have to play the Knights and because they have the Bearcats in their own building. With UCF, I need to see them not be as good as they have been before I assume they won't be as good as they have been. I believe Cincinnati can beat both, but if the schedule is going to catch up to them a bit (which we also covered here), then the three games I have them losing are the ones most likely to be problematic.
The mechanics of the roster have been beaten to death, so I'm not going to go position-by-position. My faith in this team resides in the coaching staff continuing to do its stellar work from a year ago, an offense that should be able to do more at the season's outset than 12 months ago, a deep backfield, a more seasoned Des Ridder, a great tight end, and one of the best punters in the country (James Smith will be the key tonight), as well as an exceptionally well-coached defense that takes a big blow with James Wiggins out, but still possess capability on the back end.
*As for tonight, give me the home team with what I think should be the better defense, and even if this sounds lame, the better punter. I have James Smith - maybe college football's best punter, making a huge difference tonight. Desmond Ridder's improvements shine through as well, and in an effort to show that the offense will possess a little more explosiveness this season, I say we get some big plays tonight from a receiver group that's at least a little more well-rounded than it was when these two teams met at the Rose Bowl.
I'm not as unwavering in my confidence in many who think Cincinnati drubbing UCLA is an inevitability, and I think we're in for a pretty good, entertaining game to start a pretty good, entertaining season.
Bearcats 34 Bruins 28 (Cincinnati -2.5)
*Obligatory local guesses in tomorrow's version of the site, if that's okay, which I'm sure it is.
*Some preseason props I love...
Georgia Tech under 3.5 wins....new coach with a scheme that doesn't match the personnel, brutally tough schedule even though the Yellow Jackets don't play in a brutal league.
Michigan State over 8 wins. When Mark Dantonio teams are bad one year, they're not bad the next. One of the better defenses in the country, and history on the Sparty bettor's side.
Penn State under 8.5 wins. No Trace McSorley, and the confernce schedule is has the Nittany Lions on the road more than home.
Alabama under 11.5 wins. You have to shop around to get this, but if you buy it, the Crimson Tide need to go 11-1 for you to win.
Alabama to not make the College Football Playoff. At some point it's gonna happen, right? They lose a lot on defense, and even more with no Dylan Moses, and 129 starts have departed from their offensive line. Tua Tagovailoa wasn't exactly the picture of perfect health a year ago.
Kentucky under 6.5 wins. If it was 5.5, I'd take the over. Too many departures. Too many coinflip games.
Georgia winning the SEC at +275. If it ain't gonna be Alabama, it's gotta be someone. Hi Bruce!
Ohio to win the MAC. Toughest games are at home, and if they played Toledo in the title game, it'd be close to a pick 'em. I'll side with the value.
And now, for the AAC....
ECU over 4.5 wins. Two very easy non-league cupcakes and a new coach.
Houston under 7.5 wins. Formidable team and they have the smart bet for league player of the year, but the Coogs have an exceptionally bad defensive line.
USF under 6.5 wins. Schedule includes Wisconsin, Memphis, UC, UCF, and BYU. Bulls defense was abhorrent toward the end of the season last year.
Memphis +350 to win the league. They don't play UCF, they get UC at their place, and the Tigers are 12-2 against everyone not named UCF in league play over the last two years. A good bet to host the AAC Championship Game, and at +350, really good value.
FWIW, most books have UC's win total at 7.5 At 5.5, I loved the over. At 6.5, I liked the over. At 7.5, I'm walking away.
*Tonight's tilts I like...
Clemson/Georgia Tech under 60.5. The Yellow Jackets have a bad offense, but a good punter. That adds up to an under.
South Dakota State +14.5 over Minnesota. Prove me wrong, PJ.
And for your College Football Playoff.....
I'll bet Clemson at 5/2 because it's free money.
Georgia at 6/1 paired with Alabama to not make the CFP.
Oklahoma at 14/1.
Ohio State at 14/1.
Value worth considering....Oregon at 40/1, Utah at 40/1, but since 2000, every national champion has had at least 50 percent 4-5 star recruits. Neither the Ducks or Utes can say that. Auburn, at 50/1 to make the College Football Playoff, can.
More important, Go Bearcats.