Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and (sometimes) what to drink while doing it. This week: #wakemewhenitscollegehoops

By Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen

kmI

AJ,

I’ve spent a lot of time in this space talking about the Western Michigan University football team. The 9-0 Broncos are—after Boise State’s loss to Wyoming this weekend—the last undefeated mid-major standing in college football.

From here, the season goes one of two ways.

  • The Chuck Yeager season
  • Western wins out in MAC regular season play, cleans up in the title game and presents the most compelling case it can—by controlling the controllables—to gain entry to one of the Big 5 Bowl games. Like the Brigadier General, they blow past the sound barrier and keep going.
  • The Icarus season:
  • Like every other mid-major this season (Houston, Boise, SDSU) Western’s wings melts under the spotlight of the national media, the self-imposed pressure, or just the really friggin’ hard task that is closing out a football season undefeated. The one-or-two loss Broncos settle for the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit in front of 20,000 less-than-jacked faithful.

For so many people, AJ, I’m openly rooting for the former. Western’s alums, fans, and the city of Kalamazoo deserve the spotlight. The university and the people it attracts—professors, professionals, researchers, grads who stay in Kalamazoo to raise their kids in a college town—have been absolute assets to my life.

I grew up in Kalamazoo, where my dad earned a degree from Western and owns his small business. I grew up with kids who got a leg up, like me, from proximity to the people, services, sports and arts scene provided by a state college. Where other Southwestern Michigan towns struggled in the post-industrial landscape, Kalamazoo managed, to some extent, to thrive as a white-collar enclave, largely thanks to the school. It supports a public radio station and a performing arts scene, which in turn supports the kind of people who appreciate that sort of thing. Those people, in turn, end up supporting an established craft beer culture and one of the best-maintained bike trails in the state—the things that make a place worth living rather than just another American town to look forward something else in.

Many of the friends I grew up with—seemingly half my high school’s graduating class—went off to what is sometimes not-so-nicely referred to as ‘Wastern,’ owing to its party-school reputation. Doubtless, if you’re around the school long enough, you’ll hear your fair share of stories about bros throwing beer bottles tied with strings into the pool at the old Knollwood apartments to ‘fish’ for girls, St. Patrick’s Day ragers that resulted in a commandeered scissor lift and all manner of late-night shenanigans you’ll find in any college town. What you’ll also hear about are the deep connections that people form when they attend a school that fosters the rest of their lives by fostering the careers, friendships and networks in such a supportive way.

This fall, I went to a wedding for my friend Nick, who is a Western grad, class of ‘09. He’s since moved to North Carolina, but holds a special place for WMU in his heart—a familial bond to the school his grandfather played football for. He lost that grandfather, whom he was close with, before his wedding. The death didn’t escape the notice of Western’s President John Dunn, who sent flowers to the funeral. Nick’s little brother, Eric (also an alum, ‘12), reached out to President Dunn to explain the impact of the loss and the importance of their grandfather. Dunn, along with help from WMU’s athletic department, worked some behind-the-scenes magic to give Eric the ultimate kicker for his best man’s speech—at the end of his toast, he reached into a box and pulled out a 1955 replica of their grandfather’s—Charles “The Worm” Nidiffer’s—number 36 WMU jersey to hand to Nick. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after the presentation, and the retelling gives me goosebumps every time.

AJ, I took the long road to saying that this is a school that means so much to its community because of the people who make it up. I hope the school’s football team finds success this fall for my football coaches and teachers, my publisher here in San Diego, my friends and dad and uncle, Nick and Eric and President Dunn.

On the turnaround, I’ll have picks for Nebraska-Ohio State, Alabama-LSU, Hawaii-SDSU and Michigan State-Illinois.

apI

Hey Kyle,

Sorry. For a minute there my screen got a little foggy.

I guess to me you touched on a little bit of college football that I’ve been missing, for years. We often talk offline (rather, I make you listen to me) about Oregon’s PROGRAM’s collapse and what that means for not only its fans and alums, but what it means for the small college town Eugene, which is very much still a little slice of slick sidewalk heaven with a gurgling river running through it tucked into the Willamette Valley. Many, M-A-N-Y Duck faithful have been priced out or otherwise pushed out of one of their favorite and family history-rich past times, Oregon football, as the corporatization of the program has taken hold over the last decade and a half.

And not all of those folks, casual observers to former boosters, are exactly remorseful that the program is gliding back down for a landing in the Hendricks Park pond. In fact, some are downright happy to have Eugene returned to its rightful docents: Saturday Market soap-makers, crazy kid-allergy moms, Green Party fabulists and nihilist craft beer connoisseurs.

I would say maaaaay-be beware of success on the gridiron, but I don’t believe Western and greater Kalamazoo needs to heed those kind of warnings. As you mentioned above, they are a home-grown, multi-generational and deserving of any moments in the sun.

And I do hope the general populace of your hometown is enjoying this current renaissance as the last, best and maybe only good story to come out of college football this decade as much as I did you writing about it.

As for me, Kyle, I was pondering this week while skipping stones on the rarified yet receding shores of North Lake Tahoe where the rest of the year will take us.

We are, after all, in college football’s last official month. The last two weeks have been lackluster and two of my worst win-wise picking since we started this column three seasons ago. Even while visiting my favorite sportsbook this week I couldn’t help but letting my eyes wander to the blackjack table or the Kitty Glitter machine. Something, in other words, has just felt a little “off” for me when it comes to college football.

And so, Kyle, I must say with hopeful regard to the kind readers of this space, that I am a little burned out on big time college football in general. I know offline we’ve talked much about how ever-shrinking the world of sports seems to be around us. Hardly anywhere do we find real joy on the pitch or court or field. Baseball is still the game of record in this country, and only seems to be improving. This latest World Series an all-time classic and proof that no fan base should ever give up and no common man should ever stop watching. Regretfully, there is a steep cliff after that when it comes to my attention. The NFL made its final appearance in my home 18+ months ago, MLS hasn’t quite taken yet. The NBA come playoff time can be compelling but too few teams worth the sneaks they put on their feet and refs and a front office that control the tempo and sometimes outcome of the game put it in the sports-entertainment stratosphere. Hockey may be something I pick up when Vegas has its moment and there’s always my last hold-out hope for a professional cross country league.

…But there is, as Yoda said, another.

I’ll have the reveal…and my first pick from it on the other side along with a pair of lopsided matchups, because if I don’t nobody will…want to.

All yours!

kmI

AJ,

I agree that this season hasn’t quite stoked my fire yet. Also, in comparison to watching literally the greatest baseball game and World Series in recent memory, I can’t fathom a sports event ever really getting me excited again. Short and sweet:

Nebraska-Ohio State, Hawaii-SDSU and Michigan State-Illinois.

Michigan State @ Illinois +8

Dear reader,

I swear I don’t despise you. I’m picking in this game because life is sometimes bad and you need to accept that to enjoy the good times.

-Kyle

Illinois is 2-6 and Michigan State is 2-6. Illinois has covered once at home this season, Michigan State has covered 0 times on the road. The Spartans’ defense showed a few signs of life in a just really fucking awful loss to Michigan last, but are now without Brian Lewerke, the QB who led them to any offensive competence they discovered in a 32-23 loss. The Illini lost by 33 and 23, respectively, in the games leading up to this weekend. I think they get a bump from being at home and from bearing some pride in their souls as men and athletes. Sparty may win, but it won’t be by a competent margin.

Hawaii @ SDSU OVER 54

Hawaii’s D is more permissive than your high school newspaper teacher come June. The 4-5 Warrior’s D gives up 36+ points per game because they want nothing more than to throw the everliving shit out of the football every. single. time. they get the chance. SDSU is good but not great against the pass (190 ypg) so this should be a fairly enjoyable affair for Qualcomm’s future only tennant.

Alabama -8 @ LSU UNDER 45

Dear reader,

The SEC DOES despise you. Nobody has scored more than 30 points when this game has been contested in Baton Rouge in 14 years, and even that was only the second time since the Bush I administration. Together, the two teams have covered Saturday’s 45-point O/U line just twice this century at LSU. ‘Bama could be tried for committing literal strangulation with their defense and LSU’s strategy against the two good opponents it has faced (and lost to in Wisconsin and Auburn), has been to gum up the works and trade blows with the Leonard Fournette-led running game. This will be an unwatchable battle of attrition.

-Kyle

Nebraska +17 @ Ohio State

My God, this game on ABC will be the antidote to the Big Bang Theory advertisement vehicle that is the above-mentioned SEC game of the week in the 5 p.m. PST time slot. Both teams are 7-1 and fairly prolific on offense and stingy on defense. Nebraska plays ball-control and I just don’t see them giving OSU enough runway to get out to a 2.5 touchdown lead.

Alright AJ, take us home.

apI

Hey Kyle,

Home you shall be, at least as far as the hero image up top is concerned.

Also, your notes to the reader are too kind. I might not be so nice.

You see, my marquee matchup this week was set to be UCLA/Colorado—but I too was still basking in the afterglow of the greatest Game 7 of this century thus far (and maybe the last 50 years) to notice that the Bruins and Buffs were squaring up on Thursday.

For the record, Colorado won by 10 and I had them winning by a touchdown. Who would’ve thought the bowl-bound Buffs (7-2) would make it look so easy against the ever-disappointing 3-6 Bruins?

Good on you Colorado, now get your shit together with this effing election, unless you think federal agents going house to house in three months breaking up families because of ethnicity and religion is a good thing.

My general hope, Kyle, is that Tuesday goes smoothly and we can move on to college hoops. With Dylan Ennis-led Oregon ranked a heady pre-season no. 5 and Izzo’s young Spartans looking similarly hungry at no. 12 to avenge last year’s first-round bounce, there is much promise on hard court to be had. Besides, for all the reasons we’ve discussed in this column this year, college hoops is something I can emotionally and rationally get behind. College football, to be sure, for me is going the way of the NFL. Nonexistent as One Day at a Time reruns in my house.

But even in the waning days of my fandom and captivation, there is still money to be made out there. Here than, are my picks:

Boston College +25 vs. Louisville

Spreads this big this late in the season are usually for a reason. But Louisville has been somewhat earthbound the last four weeks and BC is a respectable 4-4 and could make a statement at home. Besides, BC in November and December does nothing but play spoiler. Take the points and hope that Louisville doesn’t get anything in garbage time.

Final prediction: Louisville 38, BC 27

Michigan -25.5 vs. Maryland

Now the inverse of the big-spread equation. Harbaugh wants his Wolverines to be playing playoff-ready/statement football starting right about now and you’ll see him barking as if they’re down by 20 through the beginning of the fourth quarter. I think a 44-3 final is what’s happening in Ann Arbor tomorrow.

Final prediction: Michigan 44, Maryland 3

Oregon +14 @ USC

Oregon has been showing flashes of, well, something with the emergence of freshman QB Justin Herbert and the emergence of Tony Brooks-James who has made a lot of folks forget about the season that could have been for NFL-bound junior Royce Freeman. Oregon’s Brady Hoke 4-3 defense is going to look mighty anemic against the arm and legs of USC mid-season replacement QB Sam Darnold, who looks to restore the bowl-bound Trojans to former glories in the years to come. Though it’ll be a slow-starter-turned-shootout, look for Oregon to keep it within at least 10 at the Coliseum.

Final prediction: USC 41, Oregon 33

‘K everyone, have a great weekend and remember, only 105 days till pitchers and catchers.

PNP Recap:

Kyle Magin

kmI

Last Week: 1 for 4

Overall: 15 for 31

This week:

Michigan State @ Illinois +8

Hawaii @ SDSU OVER 54

Alabama -8 @ LSU UNDER 45

Nebraska +17 @ Ohio State

AJ Pridgen

apI

Last Week: 1 for 4

Overall: 21 for 37

Boston College +25 vs. Louisville

Michigan -25.5 vs. Maryland

Oregon +14 @ USC

Image: Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce

 

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