The Illini General's Football Picks

Last week, I was all excited to follow up a strong first week of college picks (8-3) with the first weekend of the NFL season. However, I let the folks from ESPN make a lot of picks and we went down in flames: 3-7-1 in college and 5-11 in the NFL. This week it's all me as I try and rebound from a week that would've gotten my legs broken in Vegas. Read here for more.

Western Michigan Broncos (1-1) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1)
Saturday, September 18th, 2004
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
1:00 PM Central (No TV)
Illini by 8.5

If you like the Illini being a favorite, soak it up this weekend because it might not happen again until next season. Western Michigan is the last non-conference opponent of the year before the Illini kickoff Big Eleven conference play against Purdue on Saturday, September 25th.

Illinois starting quarterback Jon Buetjer left the UCLA game right before halftime with a bruised sternum and was replaced by redshirt freshman Brad Bower. As of Thursday, it's still unsure who will get the start for the Illini against the Broncos. But that's not the important thing in all this.

The News-Gazette reported that Illinois' offensive linemen were referring to Bower as "Mox", after "Varsity Blues" quarterback Jonathon Moxon. That's a good call by the players. This team needs as many references to "Varsity Blues" as possible.

Imagine if the players had a teacher who stripped at The Silver Bullet and they ran into her. Wouldn't that be funny and lighten the mood of this team who seems to go into a funk as soon as something goes wrong? The kids in "Varsity Blues" had fun playing football, for the most part, and that's what this Illini team needs to do.

Make one of the offensive lineman have a pig as a pet. Somebody's girlfriend should wear a whipped cream bikini. I'd say that somebody should steal a cop car and ride around with naked sophomores like Tweeder did, but we probably don't need that kind of trouble.

As for the conservative offense, borrow some plays from the movie. Install the "oopty-oop" offense or run the "hook and ladder" play. Do anything besides going straight up the middle on every running play.

Illinois Fighting Illini 31, Western Michigan Broncos 21. I'm afraid that watching the DVD of "Varsity Blues" might be more entertaining than sitting through this game.


San Diego State Aztecs (1-0) vs. #17 Michigan Wolverines (1-1)
Wolverines by 21

Back in the comfortable surroundings of the Big House, Michigan looks to get back on the winning track after their embarrassing performance against Notre Dame. Since the Wolverines have lost their last five straight road openers, I suggest they consult the Minnesota handbook of schedule making and start playing all three non-conference games at home.

Michigan Wolverines 42, San Diego State Aztecs 14. I suggest the Aztecs try and smuggle LaDainian Tomlinson and Phillip Rivers out of Chargers camp and onto the plane to Michigan.


Central Florida Golden Knights (0-2) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-1)
Nittany Lions by 21.5

If you look at Golden Knights coach George O'Leary's resume, you will see a few interesting facts. First, he invented the game of football. Second, he once scored 14 touchdowns as a high school freshman in a game against Oklahoma. Finally, he was the one who hired Joe Paterno as the coach at Penn State. Those all seem sort of far-fetched, but I don't think O'Leary would lie on his resume.

Penn State Nittany Lions 34, Central Florida Golden Knights 17. If O'Leary would have known that he would be coaching against Paterno one day, he might not have picked him to coach in Happy Valley.


Indiana Hoosiers (2-0) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (0-1)
Wildcats by 1.5

Hoosiers fans shouldn't get their hopes up this week. I think Indiana used up all their energy in winning at Oregon last Saturday. The Hoosiers win a game on the road as an underdog once every 63 years, so keep an eye on their schedule in 2067.

Kentucky Wildcats 23, Indiana Hoosiers 20. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that UK basketball supporter Ashley Judd won't be in attendance for this barnburner. Maybe if the fans are lucky, her sister Wynonna will show up.


Kansas Jayhawks (2-0) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (0-2)
Wildcats by 3

There's nothing like the historic rivalry between these two traditional powerhouses. Wow, I can't even type that with a straight face. At least Kansas has a basketball program to brag about. What does Northwestern have? Math?

Northwestern Wildcats 28, Kansas Jayhawks 26. Education beats athletics, but not by enough points to cover. There's your math lesson for today, gang!


#7 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (1-0)
Buckeyes by 2.5

It's a sad day in Columbus, OH and Raleigh, NC. The NHL lockout has taken away the pride of these two cities. There's nothing people in Columbus love more than Blue Jackets hockey. Ohio State football plays second banana. Fans in Raleigh would've traded the last four years with Phillip Rivers to get just one more year of Carolina Hurricanes hockey. Saturday's game will be little consolation for two heartbroken cities.

Ohio State Buckeyes 19, North Carolina State Wolfpack 16. They might as well just cancel this one. Nobody will be excited about this game.


#21 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) vs. Arizona Wildcats (1-1)
Badgers by 10

At least the Badgers are playing Arizona this week and not Illinois. Last year when the Bears played Green Bay for the first time, Wisconsin had just beat Illinois on Saturday. This year we don't have to put up with a doubleheader against the cheese heads. As for this game, I'd give Arizona a shot, but they have the wrong Stoops brother as coach.

Wisconsin Badgers 28, Arizona Wildcats 15. See my thoughts below about the Iowa-Arizona State game.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-1) vs. Michigan State Spartans (1-1)
Fighting Irish by 3.5

The "College Gameday" crew pulls into East Lansing as the Irish look to pull to the head of the pack in the State of Michigan Challenge. The Irish and the Spartans shouldn't feel bad that they weren't the first choice for games for Chris, Kirk and the Coach to attend. ESPN was going to go to the LSU-Auburn game, but there is going to be a hurricane there. They thought about going to West Virginia-Maryland, Ohio State-N.C. State or Florida-Tennessee games, but it's supposed to be wet at those games, too. Finally, they settled on the Florida A&M-Temple contest. But, it might be too windy there. So, this game was an obvious choice. Congrats guys!

Michigan State Spartans 23, Notre Dame Fighting Irish 20. It's not often that ESPN sends its' crew to cover a team who lost to a team that lost to New Hampshire.


#22 Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0) vs. Colorado State Rams (0-2)
Golden Gophers by 3.5

Somebody send the cast of one of those TV detective shows to Minneapolis and find out how the Gophers got tricked into playing a non-conference game on the road. This would make a good story for one of those "Law and Order" shows or "CSI: Minneapolis-St. Paul."

Minnesota Golden Gophers 33, Colorado State Rams 27. Colorado State is no Illinois State, but they hang with the Gophers anyway.


#12 Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0)
Sun Devils by 1

Arizona State continues their push to be the 12th team in the Big Eleven. The Sun Devils already have one victory against a Big Eleven team (Northwestern), which might be more than Illinois gets against Big Eleven teams. However, Iowa's a little different caliber of opponent than Northwestern. They're dumber than the Wildcats, but they're better at football.

Iowa Hawkeyes 21, Arizona State Sun Devils 14. If I'm one of the Iowa players, after getting a taste of the greater Phoenix area, I don't get on the plane back to campus. Of course, that plane has to land in Illinois, because there are no airports in Iowa.


Chicago Bears (0-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Sunday, September 19th, 2004
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
12:00 PM Central (FOX)
Packers by 9

Ugh! I needed to get that out of my system before I started this section.

For some reason, Brett Favre gets all jacked up to play the Bears. It might have something to do with his medication. Regardless, he brings his A-game against the Bears year in and year out. Why doesn't he save this for the Vikings? He could use some help at the Metrodome. Whatever the case is, he kills the Bears and I'm sick and tired of him.

Since Favre took over in Green Bay, the Packers have gone 20-4 against the Bears. If you don't remember that stat, I'm sure it will be repeated about 100 times during Sunday's game. Also, I'm sure that the announcers will constantly mention all the great Bears quarterbacks who have started games during the Favre era in Green Bay.

Since I'm on the topic of announcers, if FOX decides to send Kenny Albert and Brian Baldinger to Green Bay to call the game, I'm going to jump out my bedroom window. Of course, my bedroom is on the ground level, but I could land wrong on my arm or something.

I was optimistic for the Bears this year, I really was. Last year, the Bears went 7-9 with Dick Jauron, John Shoop, Greg Blache and Kordell Stewart all prominently involved. They upgraded at all those positions, so I talked myself into think 9-7 was a possibility. In the span of one week, I've lowered my optimism.

I know it's a long season and all, but Jauron's teams could usually handle the Lions at home. Heck, everybody could handle the Lions at home. Detroit hadn't won on the road since Mongo from "Blazing Saddles" was playing for them. Two of their best players even left the game and the Bears didn't capitalize.

I'm going to try and calm down and realize that this is only week two and there is still a lot of football left to be played. But, with trips to Green Bay and Minnesota followed by a home date with the Eagles, I might need to borrow some of Favre's medication to get me through the first month of the season.

Green Bay Packers 27, Chicago Bears 17. I gave Favre some goodwill after his performance in "There's Something About Mary," but that was a long time ago. Retire already!


Denver Broncos (1-0) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
Broncos by 3

A lot of people scoffed when Denver traded away RB Clinton Portis, but the Broncos just keep churning out strong running backs. Last week, Broncos RB Quentin Griffith rushed for 156 yards in his first game as Portis' replacement. Heck, I bet even Broncos fan Eric Cartman could pick up 1,000 yards in a full season in Denver's system.

Denver Broncos 28, Jacksonville Jaguars 21. Well, maybe not Cartman, but Stan probably could. I think Kenny would just end up dead.


Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
' Ravens by 4

In the off-season when Terrell Owens refused his trade to Baltimore due to their quarterback situation, I thought that was a crappy move by Owens. Don't get me wrong, I still think Owens is a jerk, but after seeing Baltimore score only 3 points against Cleveland, I can't really say I blame him.

Baltimore Ravens 19, Pittsburgh Steelers 13. Last week, the over/under on tackles made by Deion Sanders was 1. If you took the under, you win. Take the under again this week.


Houston Texans (0-1) vs. Detroit Lions (1-0)
Lions by 3

After sitting through last week's Lions victory over the Bears, Detroit is now my least favorite team in the league. I am going to make it my personal quest to see that they don't win another game all year. I don't know how I'm going to do that, but I will. Maybe I'll put a voodoo curse of Detroit safety Bracy Walker.

Detroit Lions 24, Houston Texans 18. I'll make it my goal that they don't win another game, but by betting on them that shows I'm not real confident in my voodoo skills.


Indianapolis Colts (0-1) vs. Tennessee Titans (1-0)
Titans by 2

I think Peyton Manning might be having an affair with the wife of the guy who makes up the NFL schedule. First, they open up on Thursday night on the road against defending champ, New England. Then, they have to go to Nashville and play division rival Tennessee. In week three they finally get to go home and play Green Bay and Brett Favre. I think in week four they have to go on the road and play the inmates at the Fort Wayne Correctional Facility.

Tennessee Titans 22, Indianapolis Colts 19. The real shame in all this is that the Colts don't have any time to hang around Tennessee and visit Dollywood. I hear it's lovely this time of year.


Washington Redskins (1-0) vs. New York Giants (0-1)
Redskins by 3

It's a throwback to the 80's and early 90's with Joe Gibbs back as the Redskins head coach. This rivalry would be better with Bill Parcells coaching the Giants, instead of the drill sergeant Tom Coughlin. In the 80's and 90's, if the Giants won the Super Bowl, the Redskins were guaranteed to win it the next year. If I were the Redskins, I wouldn't wait on the Giants to win a Super Bowl anytime soon.

Washington Redskins 18, New York Giants 10. The Redskins smack around the Giants much like Gibbs' Nascar driver Tony Stewart smacks people around at the racetrack.


San Francisco 49ers (0-1) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-1)
Saints by 7

Does anybody else miss the good old days when these two teams played twice a year in the NFC West? I don't miss them either. It's not often that a quarterback has a better surrounding team in college than they do in the NFL, but I would bet on Ken Dorsey's Miami Hurricanes against Ken Dorsey's San Francisco 49ers.

New Orleans Saints 21, San Francisco 49ers 13. If New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks can keep from throwing interceptions, the Saints might go marching into the end zone more than three times.


St. Louis Rams (1-0) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

Falcons by 2.5

Does anybody else miss the good old days when these two teams played twice a year in the NFC West? Wait, I used that one in the last section. How these teams were in the west, I have no idea. I'm not great with directions, but I think Atlanta is close to the east coast and St. Louis is the Gateway to the West, not in the actual west. I'm babbling now. I shouldn't drink when I write these picks.

St. Louis Rams 26, Atlanta Falcons 23. Everybody talks about how bad it is to put Mike Vick in the West Coast offense, but nobody talks about putting Marc Bulger in the Midwest Coast offense. In the Midwest Coast offense you burn all your timeouts early and throw interceptions constantly, but still find a way to win.


Carolina Panthers (0-1) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)
Chiefs by 6

Two teams that many people picked to go to the Super Bowl and lost in their opening game meet up in K.C. on Sunday. Kansas City's defense was supposed to be bad and it was. Carolina's defense was supposed to be good and it wasn't. The first team to hold their opponent to a 3-and out will win this one.

Kansas City Chiefs 25, Carolina Panthers 21. Ahman Green treated the Panthers like a high school team and I would venture a guess that Priest Holmes will too. At least he better, for my fantasy football team's sake.


Seattle Seahawks (1-0) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
No Line

There was a time when these two teams were each known for the same things: ugly uniforms and uglier football. The uniforms are different (but still pretty ugly) and the teams are actually pretty good these days. Major League Baseball should really follow the NFL's model so that one day a game between the Mariners and the Devil Rays might mean something.

Seattle Seahawks 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17. If the Seahawks hit as much as Ichiro does, they can already reserve rooms in Jacksonville for the Super Bowl.


Cleveland Browns (1-0) vs. Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
Cowboys by 4

Somehow the Browns were able to put aside the pain from the cancellation of "The Drew Carey Show" and upset the Ravens last week. I heard that they dedicated their win to Drew, Oswald, Mimi and the rest of the gang. If the Cowboys win this week, J.R. Ewing from "Dallas" gets a game ball.

Dallas Cowboys 17, Cleveland Browns 14. If the Cowboys lose again, Jerry Jones might want to start showing reruns of last year's team.


New England Patriots (1-0) vs. Arizona Cardinals (0-1)
Patriots by 8

This just in: the Patriots have won 16 straight games. This just in: the Cardinals aren't very good. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to figure out that New England wins this one.

New England Patriots 31, Arizona Cardinals 17. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this won't be a preview of the Super Bowl. Just a hunch I've got.


Buffalo Bills (0-1) vs. Oakland Raiders (0-1)
Raiders by 3.5

I can think of absolutely nothing interesting or entertaining to say about this game. I've tried and tried and came up with nothing. If you're a fan of these two teams, I suggest you go for a walk or ride your bike. Do anything but watch three hours of these two playing football against each other.

Buffalo Bills 23, Oakland Raiders 20. I suggest the Bills stay away from the Oakland fans. They might make you so mad that you'll want to throw a chair into the stands.


New York Jets (1-0) vs. San Diego Chargers (1-0)
Jets by 3

Last week, Jets RB Curtis Martin proved that players over 55 still have a place in the NFL. The Chargers should try and take advantage of the fact that this game is being played on the west coast. Since the game is in California, it will start at 4:15 PM Eastern time, which is when old guys like Martin usually eat dinner.

New York Jets 24, San Diego Chargers 16. Somehow, Martin fights off the urge to check out some of the best early bird specials that San Diego has to offer and the Jets win again.


Miami Dolphins (0-1) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
Bengals by 4.5

In a move that only he could have done, Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt has already switched starting quarterbacks. A.J. Feeley takes over the terrible Dolphins offense from Jay Fiedler. When asked why he was making the switch, Wannstedt said, "I thought I had to give Jay time off between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He would've gotten hurt trying to wear that little beanie thing instead of a helmet."

Cincinnati Bengals 21, Miami Dolphins 7. Look for other former Wannstedt favorites like P.T. Willis, Steve Stenstrom and Moses Moreno to start for the Dolphins in upcoming weeks.


Minnesota Vikings (1-0) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
Eagles by 3.5

These two teams are very similar. Athletic quarterback who can run and pass: check. Talented receiver who is overly mouthy: check. Beefy head coach: check. A victory on Monday night: sorry Vikings.

Philadelphia Eagles 28, Minnesota Vikings 24. Something tells me that Al Michaels and John Madden might talk a little bit, just a little bit, about Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Something tells me that Owens and Moss might talk a little bit, just a little bit, about themselves.


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