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The Obligatory Predictions Competition

The picks competition has become a lazy feature of the sports blog -- unintentionally illustrating the vanity, ego, and blind irrationality that binds an otherwise capable concept.

We at The Rivalry, Esq. are not above the sort of self-declared polity that comes with crowning ourselves psychic masters of the college football universe and certifying our predictions for your consumption each week.

Introducing Franz v. Filler.  The Second-Annual Obligatory Predictions Competition.

Our inaugural 2007 was an incredible contest -- after improvidently attempting to find love in upsets (Virginia Tech over Boston College, round 1, Cincinnati over WVU), Franz dropped six weeks in a row to Filler, only to saddle an impossible Gettysburg-style comeback in December by damn near perfectly sweeping all 32 bowl games.


Defeat at Gettysburg squandered Confederate confidences.  They would never again attempt to bring about a decisive battle on Union soil.

2007's big loser, Graham, had a somewhat less dramatic fallout.  He only had to stand at the corner of Stadium and Main wearing an Ohio State T-Shirt.

Here's how it works.  Each week we'll select the seven-best match-ups and make informed predictions about how they'll transpire.  For each game in play:

  • One (1) point is earned for a correctly picking the winning team.
  • An additional two (2) points are earned for correctly identifying the winning spread by seven points or less.
  • Lastly, two (2) bonus points are awarded for the "upset pick" -- an upset being defined as predicting: 1. Any AP/BCS Top 25 ranked team to defeat any opponent of higher rank, which in fact does occur, or 2. Any non-ranked AP/BCS Top 25 team to defeat any ranked opponent, which in fact does occur.

At the conclusion of each week we'll tally the results and award the party with the higher total a season point.  In the event of a tie, the point will be suspended in limbo through the following week, where the ultimate winner will earn double marks on the season. 

The series will run continuously in the winner-take-all format through the regular and bowl seasons where the prevailing party will be crowned laureate, and will have the privilege of watching the loser humiliate himself in a rivalry-related capacity.

Here's where you come in.  If you don't buy our "expert" opinions, or think you can do better -- enter your picks for all seven games in the comments section of the article at least an hour before kickoff (EST) of the first match in question.  At the end of the week we'll tally your predictions with our own and anyone who successfully outmatches both Franz and Filler will be given the chance to say anything they want on the main page of The Rivalry, Esq. (500 words maximum, limited to football-related musings).

It's not quite as good as Project: The Game -- where Yalie pranksters tricked 1,800 members of the Harvard student section into spelling out "We Suck" with cheer cards, but, unlike that short-lived caper, your (potentially damning) words will remain in perpetuity in the annals of The Rivalry.

Without further adieu, here are our Week 1 Predictions:

1. VANDERBILT at MIAMI (OH) 8/28, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN U


Filler predicts MIAMI by 12. 

No offensive explosion here; Miami's strength is its defense with a possible All American in Clayton Mullins.  Additionally, Vandy has lost most of its offensive starters from last year.  Yager will be rocking as the students return to Oxford for some football under the lights. Quick Fact here: All three starting LB's for Miami are on the Watch List for the Butkus Award.  That's the first time in history that's happened.

Franz predicts VANDY by 10.

With all apologies to my alma mater, sister (Redhawk varsity cheerleader), and sister's boyfriend (Redhawk Place Kicker), I'm simply not convinced Miami can pull off a win against an SEC conference opponent.  Sure, the Commodores start the season anew with an unripened offensive line, and green targets, but they return experience at the helm in senior quarterback Chris Nickson and Junior Makenzi Adams.  This game will come down to Vandy's defense -- a hot/cold confederation that played hard in early 2007, only to give up 25 or more points in every November contest.  They'll ease into the current of 2008 on primetime and on a learning curve against a Redhawk offense that managed only a single touchdown in the spring game.

2. UTAH at MICHIGAN 8/30, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC

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FILLER predicts MICHIGAN by 6.

Ever heard of the Mystery Spot Tourist Location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Around Grayling, signs keep instructing you to follow 75 to the Mystery Spot…

When we would drive to the UP when I was a kid, I always asked people about the Mystery Spot, but no one knew what it was. I began to think it didn't exist.

I feel the same way about Michigan football as I do about the Mystery Spot. Are they going to run 80% of the time? Are they going to pass vertically at all? Will the defense save the day for a non-functioning offense? I almost don't care anymore; I just want the suspense to be over…Michigan wins on Defensive merit

FRANZ predicts MICHIGAN by 10.

The Utes have a dangerous amount of potential in the hands of receivers Bradon Godfrey, David Reed, and Freddie Brown, and an experienced offensive line -- but skill play is compromised by a capable, but unproven nucleus in Quarterback Brian Johnson and running back Matt Asiata. 

Both Johnson and Asiata were injured in last year's opening game -- Johnson returned but never gained stride, Asiata stayed down for the count.  Both are healthy and confident coming into 2008 but they'll they'll face a Michigan defense that returns six seniors, and is especially robust up front -- with Defensive End Tim Jamison, Will Johnson, Terrance Taylor, and Austin Parker.

While many question the potency of the Wolverine offense Freshman Steven Threet has looked capable in practice, and UM's playbook is undoubtedly lethal under the command of Rich Rodriguez.  If Michigan executes -- which they can -- they'll keep the Utes and the demons of the 2007 opener at bay.

3. USC at VIRGINIA 8/30, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC

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FILLER predicts USC by 21.

Sanchez is hurt, you say. Virginia will be hyped at home, you say. I say: Watch for that moment in the 2nd quarter when Virginia realizes they are matched up against 22 future NFL players and the game just isn't going to go how the Cavaliers planned.

FRANZ predicts USC by 14.

The only reason this one will stay this close will be Pete Carroll's reluctance to unveil his arsenal en banc in the lead up to the Trojan's Sept. 13th match-up with Ohio State.  Watch for sophomore quarterback Peter Lalich to spend the afternoon flushed out and scrambling behind the fallen ruins of a virgin offensive line that's no match for USC.


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FILLER predicts California by 10.

The Bears started out hot last year, with a beatdown of Tennessee. Can Tedford calm the QB controversy waters long enough to overcome Javon Ringer and the power running attack of MSU? I say yes – plus I won't start picking MSU in big games until they actually win one.

FRANZ predicts Michigan State by 3.

I'll stand up for the Big 10 here.  Mark Dantonio will have his boys ready to go in Berkeley, led by a bruising Javon Ringer and stalwart offensive line.  Dantonio's smart defense should limit a Golden Bear offensive that's softer than Goldilocks when it comes to play making potential.  Still, nine returning starters on Cal's defense will keep things close.  Expect MSU to trail early on, but level out in Strawberry Canyon.

5. CLEMSON vs. ALABAMA 8/30, 8:00 p.m. EST, ABC

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FILLER predicts Clemson by 3.

Experienced, under performing 'Bama v studly, young Clemson. Bama has the #1 Frosh in America (Julio Jones), but Clemson is loaded. Since passing games aren't always polished early in the season, Clemson's rushing offense carries them through in a close one.

FRANZ predicts Clemson by 7.

Amicable trash-talking aside, Tommy Bowden has the skill advantage as well as a history of handling marquis contests.  And, he's got a famous frosh too... Expect Defensive End Da'Quan Bowers to beat the blocks and land in the backfield, on the shoulders of a killer defense that returns eight starters.  Bama's best effort to contain the Tigers must come against the run where tackle Lorenzo Washington needs to outclass Bowden's remedial offensive line.  This one lasts four quarters, at least.

6. ILLINOIS vs. MISSOURI 8/30, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN

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FILLER predicts MIZZOU by 17.

Juice Williams and Benn are studs, but can they match the experience of a team with BCS Bowl talent and a tried and tested offense? If Chase Daniel gets time to sit in the pocket, the Illini are doomed in St. Louis.

FRANZ predicts MIZZOU by 7.

While the Illini return a household name (Juice Williams) the Tigers return a household offense.  Heisman finalist QB Chase Daniel and quickfoot Jeremy Maclin will throw up rocket statistics for the black and gold against a UI defense that, with the loss of both strong and weak side linebackers and safety is sans its 2007 ability to tackle in space. 

Both teams are able-bodied competitors, an intangible that will keep this game close -- as well as a Tiger defense that lacks depth and development.  It's unrealistic to expect Zook's squad to win against the national championship contenders, but he should have his team ready to play strong in the wake of a dissapointing showing against USC in last year's Rose Bowl.

7. TENNESSEE at UCLA 9/1, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN

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FILLER predicts TENNESSEE by 3.

Tennessee showed their mettle last year by winning 10 games, but Ainge is gone and UCLA has a great, hard hitting defense. UCLA hasn't returned to its Gary Beban/Kenny Washington glory days though, and Tennessee can pull one out here.

FRANZ predicts TENNESSEE by 7.

Rick Neuheisel is bound to reinvent the Bruins from the bottom up, but his first run will be ill-fated with an underdeveloped quarterback in Ben Olson and a shaky secondary.  Expect Lucas Taylor and a solid receiver corps to take advantage in the Rose Bowl.  Trust the Vols to beat jet-lag and deliver in their second consecutive opener on the West Coast.