Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time to kickoff the fourth-annual Obligatory Predictions Competition. For those of you that are new around these parts, each year we host a season-long predictions contest for bragging rights. In the past, we've run things entirely in house, but (in light of the competition's popularity) we're going to do things a little differently in 2011.
This year, the OPC will be powered by Yahoo! Sports' College Football Pick'Em. The fine folks at Yahoo! have put together a terrific predictions engine that will allow us to pick more games each week and will automatically generate standings in real time. That means there will be no more waiting for my hand tally, and no more mistakes.
Better yet, thanks to the generosity of our partner, Gameday Depot, we'll be offering regular cash prizes in the form of $10.00 gift certificates to our weekly winners, and a $50.00 gift certificate to the winner of the season-long competition. Hopefully that creates an incentive to keep playing, even if you miss a week.
Ready to play? Here's how to get in on the action:
1. Read the College Football Pick 'Em Rules for prize eligibility.
2. Head over to Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, and click on the "Join a Group" link. The Group ID for Off Tackle Empire is 14739 and the password is "sherman" (Note: You can use your Yahoo, Facebook, or Google ID to sign in. If you don't have any of those, or would prefer not to use your personal account, you can create a new Yahoo ID from scratch.)
3. Create a name for your predictions set (I recommend just using your SB Nation handle), and make and submit your predictions for Week 1 five minutes before the start of the first listed game.
That's it. I will announce a weekly winner each Sunday on the site, and will occasionally post leaderboard updates. Every Thursday we will post a reminder to log in and enter your picks for the upcoming week.
Additionally, just like always, Graham and I will identify the five most interesting matchups each week and will fearlessly forecast the winners. This week's analysis is after the jump...
1. UNLV @ No. 11 WISCONSIN, 8:00 p.m. EST (9/1)
GRAHAM predicts WISCONSIN
I really respect anyone who would pick UNLV here. Only one reason why - 2010 Arizona State. Wisconsin was a great team in 2010, a Rose Bowl team, but they struggled early in the season, nearly blowing the ASU game. Wisky wins; let's keep Russell Wilson healthy, James White healthy, and Chris Borland healthy...Move on.
JON predicts WISCONSIN
Graham makes a great point about last year's slow start in Madison, but UNLV isn't Arizona State. I'm watching this one to see Russell Wilson's debut, and I'm hoping he's in past the second quarter.
2. NORTHWESTERN @ BOSTON COLLEGE, 12:00 p.m. EST (9/3)
GRAHAM predicts NORTHWESTERN
NU...has been slow starters the past few years, never hitting their stride until defeating Iowa. /snickers. Having a locked and loaded Dan Persa will help so much this year, but hell, Persa was ready to go last year and the Wildcats barely survived Vandy, CMU, and Minnesota. So sure, Northwestern wins, but yeah, expect some underperforming for a 10-2 squad RIGHT CHAD RIGHT??!!
JON predicts NORTHWESTERN
One thing Pat Fitzgerald has taught me the past three seasons is that given enough time, he is capable of putting together a solid game plan against anybody. Sure, the Wildcats haven't won a bowl since 1949, but they've hung tough and scored a ton of points in consecutive post season thrillers against Missouri, Auburn, and Texas Tech. They also proved they're capable of winning an opener on the road last season at Vandy. There's a lot of potential with this Wildcat team, and I think they start off on the right foot.
3. MINNESOTA @ No. 25 USC, 3:30 p.m. EST (9/3)
GRAHAM predicts USC
Put two fingers in the air, man, because the Trojans are going to the Rose Bowl! Just kidding. But the tremendous talent across the board will, of course, be too much for the Gophs to handle. Here's what I'm watching though, here's what I really care about: How does Mini come out? Disorganized? Intimidated? Scared all to hell? It's very possible, but I would love LOVE LOVEEE to see a nice methodical drive with a few first downs and maybe an end around or two just to let Kiffy and the B1G, hey, we're not going to suck (that badly) this year.
JON predicts USC
Something tells me a few of you will call the upset here -- a reflection of the good feelings emanating from Minneapolis about Jerry Kill. And I agree that two, three years from now Minnesota might be the kind of team that is capable of pounding the ball down a more athletic team's throat. But not yet. USC may struggle with mobile quarterbacks, but Marqueis Gray is no Darron Thomas, and the Trojans have way too much talent to be sacked by the Gophers at home.
4. No. 5 BOISE STATE @ No. 19 GEORGIA 8:00 p.m. EST (9/3)
GRAHAM predicts BOISE STATE
Remember that Georgia Hawaii game a few years ago where I picked Hawaii and heard about it from a gloating Jon for the entire offseason because it was a 40 point blowout? Yeah this game is nothing like that. Boise State, while featuring all the passing process of Hawaii, also features a power run game and defensive toughness in the trenches. In fact, Bill Connelly from SBN called 2010 BSU the best mid-major of all time. But they're away...against an SEC foe...who everyone is hyping. I don't care. I don't like the SEC. Go big early or go home. Boise State wins.
JON predicts GEORGIA
Well, well well. So we finally break rank. This pick is less about my confidence in Georgia and more about my belief in the law of large numbers. Sure, I know that Chris Petersen has made BCS program after program look silly over the past five years. But let's face it, no one is perfect. Boise loses a close one. Not because they don't deserve to be on the same field as Georgia, but because the Bulldogs just have a better night.
5. No. 3 OREGON vs. No. 4 LSU 8:00 p.m. EST (9/3)
GRAHAM predicts OREGON
You know I don't like the SEC. But I think...Jordan Jefferson is going to miss this game. And I'm not sure LSU can grind out drives and slow the game down without him. Oregon, fully loaded Oregon...wins on the road.
JON predicts OREGON
Those of you who have read the site for a few years know that I'm not terribly impressed with Oregon's vaunted misdirection offense. That, of course, is because every time the Ducks face a team with ample time to scheme they get shut down. I know defensive coordinators at Boise State, Ohio State, and Auburn that snicker every time someone talks about Kelly's unflappable no huddle. The problem, of course, is at the line of scrimmage. Past incarnations of the Ducks haven't been strong enough, or athletic enough at the point of attack to bait elite defenses. Chip Kelly knows this, and I'm betting he's installed a few wrinkles to bail his boys out. Throw in the distractions and suspensions on the other sideline, and I'll give a slight edge to Eugene.