Football Picks: Week 2

Last week, I went 8-3 against the spread for all the Big Eleven games. With the NFL starting this week, I felt the need to pull out all the stops and make my picks even better. Due to the increased workload, I called in some backup. In honor of ESPN's 25th Anniversary, past and present employees of the worldwide leader in sports will make some of this week's selections.

UCLA Bruins (0-1) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0)
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
11:00 AM Central (ABC)
UCLA by 4

NBA Analyst Bill Walton: Driving that train, high on cocaine. Casey Jones, you'd better watch your speed. That has nothing to do with this game, but I always feel the need to ramble on about Grateful Dead lyrics.

I watched some of the highlights of the Fighting Illini's game against Florida A&M. I was appalled by what I saw. Their players were actually tackling some of the Rattlers. That reminds me of a game I announced when the Illinois basketball team was tackling my son and the rest of the Arizona Wildcats. That is just terrible!

Of course you might think there would be a conflict of interest if I announced a game that my son was playing in, but that decision was made by CBS and not ESPN. However, the decision to have me pick a winner in a game that my alma mater plays in was made by ESPN.

I also saw the highlights from the Bruins game against Oklahoma State and I liked what I saw out of them. Unlike Illinois, UCLA didn't tackle anybody. That's the way that sports should be played. There's no place for hitting someone in the sport of football!

Bruin coach Karl Dorrell reminds me of a young John Wooden. Except that Coach Wooden coached basketball and Coach Dorrell runs the football program. Plus, Coach Wooden won games and Coach Dorrell has trouble with that.

Illinois Fighting Illini 35, UCLA Bruins 28. I might be high, but even I know that the Bruins defense shouldn't be able to stop E.B. Halsey. But, I expect all the Illini defenders to foul out of the game.

UNLV Rebels (0-1) vs. #22 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0)
Wisconsin by 15

SportsCenter Anchor Kenny Mayne: As a former UNLV tackle football player, I was behind Randall Cunningham at QB on the depth chart; I might not be able to judge this game fairly. This game is a blowout on paper, but games aren't played on paper, they're played inside television sets. I couldn't decide who to chose, so I talked to the bookies who took bets for some of the old Runnin' Rebels basketball players and they picked the Badgers.

Wisconsin Badgers 33, UNLV Rebels 10. The Badgers are the kings of the football field! Let there be a post game spread of the finest meats and cheeses for all the team!

Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (0-1)
Northwestern by 2.5

I'm going to handle this selection. In a story ripped right out of "Revenge of the Nerds", the brains from Northwestern take on the jocks from Arizona State. I think members of the Tri Lams and the Alpha Betas have been invited to handle the coin toss at the beginning of the game. Northwestern should win (but not cover) as long as they don't have to kick any field goals.

Northwestern Wildcats 35, Arizona State Sun Devils 33. In a reversal of life long fortunes, the nerds give the wedgies and swirlies to the jocks after this game.

Central Michigan Chippewas (0-1) vs. Michigan State Spartans (0-1)
Michigan State by 25.5

I couldn't let the ESPN folks handle this dog of a game. Heck, they might not even realize this game is being played. Good luck trying to find highlights of this one on SportsCenter or the scoreboard show. Central Michigan might want to just call in a fake score to Bristol and see if they buy it. Apparently the Spartans didn't get the memo that the Big 11-MAC Challenge was last week, but they join in on the fun Saturday.

Michigan State Spartans 42, Central Michigan Chippewas 15. The Spartans take an early lead in the State of Michigan Round Robin Tournament.

Iowa State Cyclones (1-0) vs. #13 Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0)
Iowa by 24.5

It's a Big 12-Big 11 battle for supremacy in the state of Iowa. The original plan was to boot the losing team out of the state for the rest of the year. That plan was changed when they realized that would be a better prize than having to finish the season in Iowa.

Iowa Hawkeyes 44, Iowa State Cyclones 17. There's a reason that Iowa is known as the Hawkeye State and not the Cyclone State. This loss could lead to ISU coach Dan McCarney drinking like Larry Eustachy.

Ball State Cardinals (0-1) vs. #25 Purdue Boilermakers (1-0)
Purdue by 30

I thought about honoring former Ball State student David Letterman by creating the top ten reasons why Purdue would cover the spread against the Cardinals. Then I realized that would be a lot of work for a game where a team is favored by 30 points. So, I figured I would do a top two list. From the home office in West Lafayette, IN, here are the "Top Two Reasons Why Purdue Will Cover the Spread Against Ball State":

2. Ball State isn't as good as Purdue
1. Purdue is much better than Ball State

Purdue Boilermakers 51, Ball State Cardinals 10. You don't get college football coverage like that from ESPN, do you?

#7 Michigan Wolverines (1-0) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-1)
Michigan by 13.5

College Football Analyst Beano Cook: I remember the first game I ever saw between the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish. The year was 1915 and I had just turned 60 years old. The forward pass had not yet been invented and the leather helmets were banging against each other. Michigan won that game 7-6 and they'll win this one.

Michigan Wolverines 35, Notre Dame Fighting Irish 14. Notre Dame needs to bring Ron Powlus back to campus. He was a good quarterback and was robbed of those two Heisman Trophies I predicted he would win.

Marshall Thundering Herd (0-1) vs. #9 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0)
Ohio State by 16.5

The Buckeyes continue their march to the MAC Championship through the Marshall football team. Ohio State is protesting to get their game against Michigan changed to a contest against Eastern Michigan. Good luck with that!

Ohio State Buckeyes 21, Marshall Thundering Herd 3. Marshall lost at home to Troy last Saturday. That's just one guy; imagine what a full Ohio State team will do to them.

Illinois State Redbirds (0-1) vs. #23 Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0)
No line

Apparently the folks at ESPN don't cover Division 1-AA teams until their tournament championship, so I'll be handling this one. Minnesota steps up to the plate to face another one of their fierce non-conference opponents. Illinois State head coach and part-time cowboy Denver Johnson is known for wearing red boots on the sideline. All of the Gophers could wear cowboy boots instead of football shoes and they would still run for about 900 yards against ISU.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 49, Illinois State Redbirds 13. At the end of this season, Johnson's boots might be made for walking the unemployment line.

Indiana Hoosiers (1-0) vs. #24 Oregon Ducks
Oregon by 20

College Gameday's Lee Corso: Yo, it's the Sunshine Scooter, Lee Corso. Did you know that I played football at Florida State with Burt Reynolds? I also coached football at Indiana. I wonder what ever happened to that guy I used to work with who coached basketball there? He threw a chair at me once during a heated game of euchre. What does all this have to do with Indiana and Oregon? Absolutely nothing, but the viewers love it when I go off on tangents.

Oregon Ducks 34, Indiana Hoosiers 7. If you thought I was going to pick the Hoosiers, not so fast my friend! If you could see me right now, I've already put on the Ducks mascot head.

Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0) vs. Boston College Eagles (1-0)
Boston College by 2.5

The Sports Guy Bill Simmons: Unfortunately, ESPN picked Stuart Scott over me to pick the Patriots game and I get stuck with the Boston College selection. Don't they know I love everything about Boston, except for Boston College? I could've gone on and on about past Patriots like Irving Fryar, Craig James and Ben Coates. I could've compared this Patriots dynasty to the Celtics of the 80's. I could've written 3,000 words comparing Peyton Manning to Roger Clemens. Instead, all I've got to do is pick the winner for a college game.

Penn State Nittany Lions 17, Boston College Eagles 15. It's an upset much like Daniel LaRusso over Johnny Lawrence. If you think about it, Joe Paterno is a lot like Mr. Miyagi.

Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
12:00 PM Central (FOX)
Bears by 3

SportsCenter Anchor Chris Berman: What a long, strange trip it's been! It seems like it can't be 25 years since I started work at ESPN. Sure, I've had it on cruise control for the past 8 years and all I do anymore is quote classic rock lyrics. But, there was a time when I had hair and credibility. To borrow a line from Rod Stewart, it's early September and we should be back in school. The Swami is back and ready to make his picks.

The first year of the Lovie Smith era kicks off in Chicago and the Bears hope that Sunday in the park will be like the Fourth of July. QB Rex Grossman takes the reigns of the Bears offense and hopes to drive them to the Super Bowl. Hopefully, they won't be stranded on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. However, the defense should be a fine sight to see.

Coach Mooch leads the Motor City Kitties, but with the new influx of talent, the Motor City Kiddies would be a more fitting name. If QB Joey Harrington can get the ball to WR's Charles "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" and Roy "Williams and Mary", the Lions could surprise some people. Matt "Wind-Millen" might finally get some credit after taking the heat for many bad personnel decisions early in his tenure.

Chicago Bears 24, Detroit Lions 20. Both teams could be big winners in 2005, but for the 19th consecutive year, I pick the 49ers to beat the Bills in the Super Bowl.

Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
Patriots by 3.5

SportsCenter Anchor Stuart Scott: Booyah! Since ESPN loves me so much and they think everybody in the country loves my rap stylings, I get to pick the winner of the most anticipated game of the week. Thursday night in Beantown, Al and John will be in the hizzouse and the players will be hyped, amped and any other word that I can come up with that means excited. The Patriots should change their name to butter 'cause they're on a roll, but Peyton Manning is cooler than the other side of the pillow. This is one game I'm keeping my eye on. Booyah!

New England Patriots 31, Indianapolis Colts 27. I just get the feeling that Eugene Wilson and the rest of the Pats defense are gonna be hating against playas like Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. This game is gonna be BYOB - bring your own booyah!

Seattle Seahawks vs. New Orleans Saints
Seahawks by 2

SportsCenter Commentator Nick Bakay: You may know me from my "Tale of the Tape" segments or my gambling segments with my wife, Robin. Or you may know me as the voice of the cat on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Most likely, you don't know me at all. Anyway, I'm going to break down the Seattle and New Orleans game.

Music: Seattle-grunge, New Orleans-jazz. Advantage: Seattle

Flashing in the streets: Seattle-illegal, New Orleans-required. Advantage: New Orleans

Drink of Choice: Seattle-coffee, New Orleans-hurricanes. Advantage: New Orleans

Super Bowl wins: Seattle-none, New Orleans-none. Advantage: push

Real World: Seattle-Irene gets slapped, New Orleans-Mormon Julie. Advantage: Seattle

Does the head coach have a mustache: Seattle-yes, New Orleans-no. Advantage: Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks 23, New Orleans Saints 18. There you have it. It's so easy when you break it down scientifically. Seattle beats New Orleans, but not by a latte.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets
Jets by 4.5

Former SportsCenter Anchor Rich Eisen: Seeing as I don't even work for ESPN anymore, it was nice of them to ask me to do this. After years of struggles, the Cincinnati Bengals are on the verge of making it to the playoffs for the first time in many years. In honor of the occasion, I wrote a poem I would like to share with all of you:

It's easy to grin, when your ship comes in
And you've got the stock market beat,
But the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile
When his shorts are too tight in the seat.

Cincinnati Bengals 27, New York Jets 20. I work for the NFL Network. All these games are fixed. Trust me on this one!

Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Rams by 11

It's Relocation Revenge Game #1 in The Lou this weekend. Dennis Green, who by the way earns extra money in the off season as a Gary Coleman impersonator, tries to breathe life into the Cardinals for the first time since 1998. Green and his band of former Illini players should improve this year and the Rams should decline this year. But, the Rams should win and cover in this one.

St. Louis Rams 34, Arizona Cardinals 17. The Rams open up a St. Louis baseball Cardinals lead over the football version of the Cardinals.

Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins
Titans by 3

One eccentric sports superstar left Miami (Ricky Williams), while one eccentric sports superstar came to Miami (Shaquille O'Neal). Unfortunately for Wanny and crew, Shaq is going to party in the city where the heat is on as a member of the Heat and not the Dolphins. Unless the Dolphins can get Shaq to play running back, they're going to be in trouble.

Tennessee Titans 28, Miami Dolphins 13. Maybe Shaq can just stand on the goal line and try and block field goals and extra points?

Oakland Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers by 4

I don't really know where to begin with this game. Steelers QB Tommy Maddox and RB Jerome Bettis would be better off collecting social security with the rest of the Raiders. They would fit in better in the Oakland locker room, where they wouldn't have to listen to all that loud rap and could sit back and enjoy the sounds of singers from their era like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Oakland Raiders 14. Unfortunately for Norv Turner, he can't start his season against Florida A&M to build confidence in his team.

San Diego Chargers vs. Houston Texans
Texans by 5

What did LaDainian Tomlinson ever do to upset the football gods? He's stuck on the Chargers, trying to run behind their inadequate line. They get the first pick in this year's draft and Eli Manning says he won't play for them. The Chargers orchestrate a deal to send Manning to New York and get Phillip Rivers to be their QB of the future. To cap it all off, the organization offers Rivers a contract worthy of an undrafted free agent in the Canadian Football League. Rivers finally got to camp, but former Chargers QB of the future, Drew Brees, gets the start in this one. The Texans might be one year away from something big.

Houston Texans 27, San Diego Chargers 17. The Chargers are one year away from missing the playoffs, again.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills
Bills by 3

Jacksonville starts the long NFL season with hopes of ending up in Jacksonville in February. No, they aren't going to throw games so they can stay home and play more golf in the off season. The Super Bowl heads to Jacksonville for the first time ever this year and the Jags would like to be the first team to play in a Super Bowl at their home stadium. If I was Buffalo, I would be upset that there is no way that a Super Bowl will ever be played in northern New York.

Buffalo Bills 22, Jacksonville Jaguars 21. The over/under on quarters before Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor's groin tears is 3. Take the under!

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
Ravens by 3

It's Relocation Revenge Game #2 in The Mistake by the Lake on Sunday. That's not important. What is important is that new Browns QB Jeff Garcia is dating Playboy Playmate of the Year Carmella DeCesare. I've given Jeff a lot of flack in the past for the rumors that float around about him, but I must applaud him on his catch. Of course, after Ray Lewis treats him like a rag doll, she might skip town on him.

Baltimore Ravens 17, Cleveland Browns 9. Do you hate offense and love field goals? This is your game of the week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington Redskins
Redskins by 1.5

This game is a meeting of two truly different coaches. Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden resembles a character from a horror movie. Washington's Joe Gibbs could pass for a Sunday school teacher, not someone who coaches in the NFL on Sunday afternoons. Pray for help for Gibbs' team. They lost their best lineman in the first quarter of the first preseason game and might need some divine intervention in this game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24, Washington Redskins 21. The Redskins might want to borrow a page from the Yankees and ask for a forfeit against a Tampa Bay.

Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers
Falcons by 3.5



Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings
Vikings by 4.5

NFL Analyst Michael Irvin: Dog, back when The Playmaker used to wear the star for the Cowboys, we was going to Super Bowl's and we thrashed chumps like the Vikings. I remember one game where we had all been chillin' in Nate Newton's van and then I had like 862 yards receiving while wearing my finest pinstripe suit.

Dallas Cowboys 19, Minnesota Vikings 17. I'm taking the 'Boys, but I really like that Randy Moss. He reminds me of a player I really like from back when I was in the league: me.

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles by 9

I was going to have former NFL Countdown commentator Rush Limbaugh pick the winner of this game, but he sent me a paragraph that contained some weird statements about Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and the media. I guess I'll just tell everybody that the Giants are going to get smoked.

Philadelphia Eagles 33, New York Giants 20. If Kurt Warner thought the Giants defensive line treated him roughly when he played for the Rams, wait and see how roughly the Giants offensive line treats him.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos
Broncos by 3

SportsCenter Anchor Dan Patrick: Before I make my picks for this game, I'm just going to drop a few names of the people I'm close with: Charles Barkley, Tiger Woods, Will Ferrell, Michael Jordan and Denzel Washington. Ok, I got that out of my system. Priest Holmes is, dare I say it, simply en fuego. However, I think this year that teams will not be able to stop Jake Plummer; they can only hope to contain him.

Denver Broncos 30, Kansas City Chiefs 24. I like both teams, but not as much as I like name dropping the famous people I talk with: Barry Bonds, Nick Lachey and Phil Mickelson.

Green Bay Packers vs. Carolina Panthers
Carolina by 3

College Basketball Analyst Dick Vitale: Oh, let's go to Tobacco Road! They'll be partying on Monday night in Charlotte, just like they do every March in Durham and Chapel Hill! The defense of Carolina is the three S's: super, scintillating and sensational! Led by Mr. May and Coach Williams, I pick Carolina, as usual!

Carolina Panthers 24, Green Bay Packers 17. Wait, this is a football game? I hear the word Carolina and I automatically think of college hoops, baby! That doesn't change anything, though. I'll always pick a team from ACC country!

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