Almost every year since I arrived at The Daily Tribune News in 2006, I have been part of our Pigskin Predictions panel. Although the number of times I have been victorious is up for debate, this season was the first year I have received feedback from the community.
People — OK, a handful of men — have asked me throughout the season if I’m just lucky or if I have help or if I have something of an inside track. Each time I have smiled sweetly and said, “I pick based on who has the cuter quarterback.” Gets them everytime.
I have never been athletically inclined myself, although I played tight end for three years on my high school’s powder puff football team.
At the University of Georgia I fell in love with football. There is something about the atmosphere on game day that can’t be beat. The only thing in the world of sports that comes close, for me, is a good hockey game.
The buildup to the national championship begins Saturday with the first of 35 bowl games. That means 70 of the 120 Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision teams eligible for a bowl game will receive an invitation, albeit to a game with a title no one remembers played in some obscure city halfway across the country.
If you are planning a little wager or just good-natured trash talking, may I offer the following picks:
• Hyundai Sun Bowl
USC vs. Georgia Tech, Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. on CBS
2012 has been a disappointing season for both the Trojans and the Yellow Jackets. Matt Barkley will leave USC after a standout run as quarterback, while Paul Johnson hopes to hang onto his job in Atlanta. Meeting in El Paso, Texas, these two teams have a lot on the line. Barkley and the Trojans should walk away with the win.
Pick: USC 42, GA Tech 24
• Capital One Bowl
Georgia vs. Nebraska, Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. on ABC
University of Georgia football is still a sensitive subject for me following the loss in the Dome. And about the only thing I know of Nebraska football is they are the Cornhuskers and they play in Nebraska. Played in Orlando, this should be an easier win for the Bulldogs, should be being the operative words. Georgia has a history of losing ugly in bowl games — see last year’s loss to Michigan State.
Pick: Georgia 45, Nebraska 28
• Discover BCS National Championship
Notre Dame vs. Alabama, Jan. 7 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
For me, this comes down to SEC football versus everyone else’s football. Those outside the SEC will argue they are as tough, as big, as bad, as bold as our version of smashmouth pigskin play, but six SEC national champions in a row do not lie. Notre Dame played four ranked opponents to Alabama’s five. I am interested to see if the Fighting Irish can stem the Tide; in the end, I just can’t see it.
Pick: Alabama 34, Notre Dame 17
While I tend to do much better in the realm of college football — see my fluke, glitch pick of Texas A&M over Alabama, the Atlanta Falcons have clinched the NFC South and will look to head toward the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons hold the best record in the NFC — take that for what it’s worth. Atlanta has been inconsistent at times, pulling out wins way too late for my comfort.
As much as I’d love to see an Atlanta-Houston matchup, I think the too-close-for-comfort wins and lack of dominating play by the Dirty Birds will end their season midway through the playoffs.
If my picks shake out for the remainder of the season, perhaps I’ll look into offering tips on how to play like a girl in 2013.
Jessica Loeding is the managing editor of The Daily Tribune News.