Game of the Week Football

September 23, 2006

My Week for Game 4: Notre Dame at Michigan State

Destination: East Lansing, Michigan.

Spartan Stadium

My pick: Notre Dame 33 - Michigan State 28

In today's other "big" game, Penn State-Ohio State, I'm picking the Bucks 42-3.

September 15, 2006

Showdown Saturday

Tomorrow is Showdown Saturday. There are seven games that feature AP Top 25 teams going head-to-head. Teams from seven conferences plus Notre Dame will take part in those games. For some odd reason (or perhaps because it's the best game on ABC tomorrow), ESPN College GameDay is headed to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Nebraska-USC showdown, even though it was voted as the 3rd most popular game this week in an ESPN user poll. I suppose they didn't want to hype a game on CBS (LSU-Auburn) or NBC (Michigan-Notre Dame). It's a shame that they can't go to a better game though. Anyway, here are the games with my score picks (with rankings in parentheses):

(2) Notre Dame 21 - (11) Michigan 20
(3) Auburn 15 - (6) LSU 9
(12) Louisville 27 - (17) Miami 24
(18) Oregon 31 - (15) Oklahoma 17
(20) TCU 38 - (24) Texas Tech 31
(4) USC 42 - (19) Nebraska 21
(7) Florida 20 - (13) Tennessee 14

September 08, 2006

Games for Week 2

Oh boy, we had some technical difficulties over the last few days, so I'll have to get up my GT summary and photos when I get back on Sunday. But right now, I'm out the door for South Bend to see Penn State vs. Notre Dame, the first meeting since the famed Snow Bowl of 1992. Weather looks like it should be in the mid-70s with a chance of rain this time around. No snow, sadly.

Anyway, onto the predictions for Week 2:

In my game... Notre Dame 27 - Penn State 20
In the big game... Texas 34 - Ohio State 31

I'll be back Sunday.

November 12, 2005

Week 11: GameDay Picks

It's Showdown Saturday in the SEC. Between the hedges tonight, #15 Auburn takes on #9 Georgia for the 109th time in the Deep South's oldest rivalry. But even that's not where the hype is today because earlier in the afternoon #5 LSU comes to Tuscaloosa to face #4 Alabama in a game that may decide control of the SEC West, if not have national championship implications for both teams.

College GameDay is in Tuscaloosa for the big showdown. Following last Saturday's Miami win over VT, the standings through ten weeks are:

Jimbo 6-4
Lee Corso 6-4
Kirk Herbstreit 5-5

Today, Corso picked LSU, while Herbstreit picked home underdog Alabama. I'm with Corso on this one. Alabama has not faced any really tough competition this year, and they've struggled to win some of the games that they have. One offensive touchdown in the last three games is not the confidence you want to have when you go up against #5 LSU if you're a Tide fan. The Tigers will be the only ones rolling today. Their defense shuts out Alabama's meager offense.

Jimbo's Pick: LSU 20 - Alabama 0

November 05, 2005

Week 10: GameDay Picks

Heading into week 10, the standings are:

Jimbo 6-3
Kirk Herbstreit 5-4
Lee Corso 5-4

This weekend, the College GameDay crew is in Blackburg, Virginia for Miami - Virginia Tech. Today is the day for the Hokies to make a statement if they want to have any say in the BCS title picture. Corso's got the 'Canes in a mild upset; Herbstreit's got the Hokies. I'm also taking Virginia Tech in this one. Their defense clamps down and stuffs Miami.

Jimbo's Pick: Virginia Tech 20 - Miami 10

October 29, 2005

Week 9: GameDay Picks

Corso, Herbstreit, and I are knotted up at 5-3 after we all correctly picked Texas over Texs Tech last week. This week, I'm looking to take the lead. Corso and Herbstreit both picked underdog Georgia to remain unbeaten when they face Florida later today in Jacksonville. I'm going with the Gators to end the Bulldogs' perfect season. Without DJ Shockley, this is not the same Georgia team.

Jimbo's Pick: Florida 17 - Georgia 13

October 22, 2005

Week 8: GameDay Picks

Both Kirk Herbstreit and I took Notre Dame last week, while Lee Corso improved his record by taking the Trojans. So, through seven weeks, the three of us are tied at 4-3. (I've now lost my last three games!)

Today, College GameDay is in Austin, Texas for the game between Texas Tech and Texas. This will be the last matchups of unbeatens until potentially December 3, when there could be two games of unbeatens (UCLA-USC and Georgia-Alabama). Of all the seven remaining unbeaten teams, the Red Raiders have the most to prove. Although they are 6-0, three of those wins came against Division I-AA schools. The Longhorns are no Division I-AA program. Today, the Texas defense, ranked 3rd in the nation, steps up and slows down the high-powered Red Raider attack. Vince Young rolls and Texas wins.

Jimbo's Pick: Texas 35 - Texas Tech 27

On the GameDay set, Herbstreit picked Texas "big" over Texas Tech and Corso donned a Bevo head. One way or another, we'll all be tied for at least one more week.

October 18, 2005

Trojans Sneak Past Irish, 34-31

It's taken me a few days to recover. And while I am very disappointed in the outcome, a 34-31 USC win over Notre Dame, I appreciate that I attended the greatest college football game of the season, and perhaps one of the greatest college football games of our time. Had the Irish stopped USC on that fourth and nine or had Matt Leinart come up short on that final quarterback sneak, this certainly would have been my favorite game I've ever witnessed. Greater than the 1993 UCLA-USC game that ended with Marvin Goodwin's end zone interception. Greater than the 1996 USC-UCLA overtime game that featured a 17-point Bruin comeback. Greater than either the 2002 or 2004 Michigan-ND games.

I've been to 162 college football games in my life. I've seen ND-USC and UCLA-USC countless times. I've been to 13 Rose Bowl games and have seen teams crowned national champions six times. But no football game in my memory received as much hype and lived up to the hype as much as this one did. The atmosphere was electric. This was college football pageantry at its best. And even the weather cooperated: it was a perfect fall day with clear skies, moderate winds, a crispness in the air and the temperature in the mid-60s. The game was hard fought by both teams for a full four quarters. Big plays were made (Tom Zbikowski's 59-yard punt return in the second quarter; Dwayne Jarrett's 61-yard pass reception on fourth and nine late in the fourth quarter). The Irish came out in their green uniforms. And the officials, even without the aid of instant replay, did a fine job of officiating.

Simply put, there is no one to blame for Notre Dame's loss. I can't single out one individual who blew it or claim that the officials made a string of bad calls. USC just beat them. Simple as that. A great game to win for USC. A tough pill to swallow for Notre Dame, knowing that they played their absolute best and still could not get the job done. USC is just that good.

Well, in any event, here are some photos that I took on that fateful day, Saturday, October 15, 2005:

The College GameDay set in front of the stadium:
College GameDay at Notre Dame

Touchdown Jesus:
Touchdown Jesus

Irish take the field in green jerseys:
Notre Dame football team in green jerseys

Opening kickoff:
Opening kickoff

Jeff Samardzija's 32-yard touchdown reception:
Jeff Samardzija

Fourth quarter view from section 16, row 48:
USC vs. Notre Dame, 4th quarter

October 12, 2005

Why Notre Dame Will Beat USC

Being a ND '04 grad, It's no secret that I'm an avid Notre Dame football fan. So it should come as no surprise that I'm picking the Irish to upset the Trojans this Saturday in South Bend. Here are my reasons why and how Notre Dame can beat USC:

1. Timing

In their last 16 games that follow a bye week, Notre Dame is a remarkable 15-1. This year's bye week could not have come at a more favorable time. The Irish were originally scheduled to play Pittsburgh last week. But during the offseason, the decision was made to move that game up to the front of the schedule to give Notre Dame one extra week to prepare against the defending national champions. USC on the other hand spent last week playing a closer-than-the-experts-predicted game against Arizona. A Notre Dame bye week gives the team a healthy rest and the coaching staff an extra week of prepare time.

2. Confidence

Notre Dame's confidence has suffered terribly since losing to Boston College in 2002. After surging to an 8-0 start, the Eagles win over the Irish that season dampened any national championship aspirations and the Irish have not been the same since. A few weeks later, #7 Notre Dame faced #6 USC. This is where the destiny of the two teams diverged sharply. After a 41-10 Trojan whipping of the Irish, Notre Dame was sent into a two-year downward spiral, while USC went on to win back-to-back national championships. In the 2003 and 2004 games, the Irish probably never even thought they had a chance to beat the Trojans. And it showed. Two more 31-point losses only proved that Notre Dame didn't even belong on the same field as USC. Enter Charlie Weis and Notre Dame's 4-1 start. The team is playing with a confidence not witnessed since they rushed out to that 8-0 start in 2002 by defeating Florida State on the road. This is a team, unlike Tyrone Willingham's squads, that believes they can win. And the student body and alumni are buying into it as well.

3. Overconfidence

While restored confidence benefits Notre Dame, overconfidence could plague USC. After three games of mediocre play, the Trojans have lulled themselves into overconfident laziness. They've proved to themselves against Oregon, Arizona State, and Arizona that they don't have to work hard, can underachieve, and still win whenever they want to. This may have worked against these opponents, but to defeat Notre Dame in South Bend, USC will have to play much better than they have the past three weeks.

3. This ain't last year's Trojans

Last year's Trojans were a nightmare for opponents because they were literally unstoppable offensively and their defense did not budge. This season, while performing well in the second half, the USC offense has been very shaky at times in the first half. Matt Leinart has been rattled. Reggie Bush has been stuffed. The offensive line has been porous at times. Wide receivers have dropped balls. What's more surprising is how mistake-prone the Trojans have been: penalties have taken their toll as have slow starts and poor special teams play. The Trojan defense also has left much to be desired.

4. This ain't last year's Irish

With a senior offensive line and numerous receiving targets, Brady Quinn is proving himself to be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and just may be invited to New York come December. In the past three seasons, Notre Dame has only mustered only four touchdowns against USC, and those have all come in the first half. Expect more from the Weis-run offense in this meeting. Unlike the past three meetings against USC, Notre Dame will not be outcoached in this one. As the LA Times points out, Pete Carroll may have finally met his match.

5. Mystique

The Golden Dome that tops the administration building on Notre Dame's campus was recently re-guilded over the summer. The last re-guilding occurred in 1988, the year that Notre Dame faced #1 Miami at home. In the past three meetings, Miami had defeated Notre Dame by a total of 93 points. But 1988 was Lou Holtz's first home game against the Hurricanes. The Irish went on to win 31-30. Hmmm... 93 points, re-guilding, #1 ranking. Sound familiar? Okay, so it's just an historical comparison. But what's Notre Dame without a bit of mystique thrown in the mix?

The Bottom Line

For the first time in a long time, this game will mean something. Long regarded as one of the greatest rivalries in college football, this game has been competitively dormant, meaningless, or both for over a decade. Now, for the first time since 1990, both teams are ranked in the top 10. With they pre-game excitement at fever pitch, the big bulls-eye on USC's #1 ranking, and Notre Dame's momentum and confidence in themselves, I predict a Notre Dame win on Saturday to propel the Irish firmly back among the nation's elite. As USC's 23-game win streak in 1973 ended in South Bend, so too will USC's 26-game win streak in 2005.

Jimbo's Pick: Notre Dame 38 - USC 37

October 11, 2005

My Game for Week 7: USC at Notre Dame

After taking last week off, I am headed out to South Bend this weekend and will cover the USC - Notre Dame game. I will arrive in South Bend on Thursday afternoon to get ready for the biggest football weekend to hit the ND campus in several years. Friday night, I will be at the pep rally in Notre Dame Stadium. For those of you who cannot make it, ESPNEWS will televise it beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Early Saturday morning, I plan to stake out a front-row spot for ESPN's College GameDay broadcast live from the Library Quad. (Look for the biggest ND flag; that'll be me!) And of course Saturday afternoon, I will be in the stadium for the game between #1 USC and #9 Notre Dame.

October 08, 2005

Week 6: GameDay Picks

Following my first loss last week when USC defeated Arizona State, the current standings are as follows:

Jimbo 4-1
Kirk Herbstreit 4-1
Lee Corso 3-2

This week is pretty vanilla with both Corso and Herbstreit picking the Buckeyes over the Nittany Lions in State College, Pennsylvania. I am also taking Ohio State this weekend. Their defense will be too much for Penn State to overcome.

Ohio State 24 - Penn State 13

October 01, 2005

Trojans Wear Down Sun Devils, 38-28

Well, I was close, but wrong. Arizona State was outscored 35-7 in the second half and was defeated by USC 38-28. Credit goes to the Trojan offensive line for turning the game around. They simply wore down Purdue's front seven and opened up huge holes for LenDale White and Reggie Bush, who finished with 197 and 158 yards, respectively.

Trojans in Trouble

USC is demoralized right now as they head into the locker room at halftime, trailing the Arizona State Sun Devils 21-3. Never in the past three seasons have I seen the Trojans look so mediocre for an entire half. USC committed seven penalties in the first quarter alone; their offense has not been able to get into any kind of rhythm and have been stopped twice on fourth down attempts. Matt Leinart looks average at best. Reggie Smith has been held in check.

The Sun Devils deserve a lot of credit. Their defense is playing huge right now, knocking Leinart on his back several times (once illegally). They have stuffed USC's run game and kept the passing game in front of them, only allowing completions underneath: the longest USC pass play was a 23-yard Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett completion early in the first quarter. On the other side, the Sun Devils offense hasn't done anything really impressive. But they've methodically moved the ball down the field and have avoided any big mistakes.

Last week when USC went into halftime down 13-10 against the Ducks, they had momentum and confidence. Anyone can tell that they outplayed Oregon toward the end of the first half. This week is much different: ASU has all of the momentum and confidence and I expect that they will hold onto their lead and come out on top after the next 30 minutes. Bottom line: they are simply outplaying USC right now.

Week 5: GameDay Picks

I'm off to an impressive 4-0 start after the Hokies blew out the Yellow Jackets last weekend. But on this Saturday, I'm really going out on a limb. We'll see what happens... The current standings are as follows:

Jimbo 4-0
Kirk Herbstreit 3-1
Lee Corso 2-2

The Trojans head into Tempe, Arizona with a 25-game winning streak and arguably the greatest offense ever seen. The Sun Devils will need something special today if they are to slow down USC. Both Herbstreit and Corso are picking the Trojans. I am picking an upset special: Arizona State will defeat USC. Sam Keller is the real deal and he'll prove it today in front of a sellout crowd and a national television audience.

Jimbo's pick: Arizona State 31 - USC 30

September 24, 2005

Week 4: GameDay Picks

After all picking Florida State last weekend, the overall College GameDay pick standings are as follows:

Jimbo 3-0
Kirk Herbstreit: 2-1
Lee Corso: 1-2

This week, the GameDay crew is in Blacksburg for the Tech War between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Both Corso and Herbstreit are picking the Hokies this week. Corso even donned the vintage Hokie gobbler head.

Jimbo's pick: Virginia Tech 38 - Georgia Tech 31

September 17, 2005

Week 3: GameDay Picks

In week two, both of the ESPN GameDay analysts lost by picking the Buckeyes. I was correct in picking the Longhorns. The standings are as follows:

Jimbo 2-0
Kirk Herbstreit 1-1
Lee Corso 0-2

This week, we're all picking the Seminoles to knock off the Eagles.

Jimbo's pick: Florida State 13 - Boston College 6

September 10, 2005

Week 2: GameDay Picks

After last week, Kirk Herbstreit and I are tied with 1-0 records. Lee Corso is 0-1.

Picks on tonight's Texas - Ohio State game from the College GameDay crew and me:

Kirk Herbstreit: Ohio State
Lee Corso: Ohio State
Jimmy Atkinson: Texas (28-24)

My bonus pick: Notre Dame 34 - Michigan 31

September 03, 2005

GameDay Picks

Picks on the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game from the College GameDay crew and me:

Kirk Herbstreit: Notre Dame
Lee Corso: Pittsburgh
Jimmy Atkinson: Notre Dame

GameDay Game of the Week: Notre Dame at Pittsburgh

ESPN College GameDay is live in Pittsburgh right now to preview many of today's college football games, highlighting tonight's Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh matchup at Heinz Field.

The last times we saw each of these teams in action were in their respective bowl games. Each team was handed an embarassing defeat, with Notre Dame losing in the Insight Bowl to Oregon State, 38-21, and Pittsburgh losing to Utah in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-7.

Fast-forward eight months: each team has a new head coach returning to his alma mater from an NFL coaching career. The Charlie Weis vs. Dave Wanstedt matchup certainly makes an intriguing story line. But personally, I'm more interested in seeing what Notre Dame's defense can do to slow down Panthers quarterback Tyler Palko, who threw for five touchdowns in last year's 41-38 Pitt win at Notre Dame Stadium. I'm also interested in seeing just how explosive the Irish offense can be. Ten starters return, including quarterback Brady Quinn. And with Weis being the offensive mastermind that he is, the Irish certainly will score a lot this season.

Last year's Pitt-ND game was a scoring fiesta. Tonight's game will feature many points once again, but this year under Weis is different. Notre Dame's talent will be too much.

My Pick: Notre Dame 38 - Pittsburgh 31