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Monday, October 25, 2021

Sports boys and sports girls, it is time.

After months of waiting, weeks of anticipation and countless articles full of speculation, we’re proud to report that the season is upon us.

A handful of teams have already begun their schedules. The UCF Knights began their title defense with a thrashing of UConn and serious analysts had Hawaii in their College Football Playoff bracket after last weekend.

One thing you may not be anticipating is the return of the weekly alligatorSports Picks Column, and for good reason. These are terrible. Really, really awful takes.

Eight Gators writers will pick eight games — some relevant, some not as much — against the spread and see who comes out on top.

Before we meet our competitors for this season, writers Mark Stine and Alanis Thames will debate the highly anticipated matchup between Navy and Hawaii.

 

Navy (-10.5) will win because…

The triple option.

It’s one of the most difficult offenses to prepare for, and even though the Rainbow Warriors have probably dedicated this past week to prepare for the triple option with its scout team, there’s no way to emulate Navy’s speed and fluidity.

Hawaii ranked 111th against the run (210.2 yards per game) and 106th in scoring offense (33.9 points per game) in 2017. Those are not positive numbers for third-year coach Nick Rolovich, who will face the nation’s No. 2 rushing attack from a year ago (351.8 yards per game).

The Midshipmen also return their leading rusher, senior quarterback Zach Abey, who averaged 117.8 yards per game and scored 19 rushing touchdowns a season ago. Abey’s primary running back, junior Malcolm Perry also racked up 11 touchdowns in 2017, averaging 8.6 yards per carry.

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Abey and Perry will only get better as they’re spending another season under one of the masters of the option offense, Ken Niumatalolo, who’s making his homecoming. Niumatalolo quarterbacked the ‘Bows to their first major bowl game in 1989, the Aloha Bowl against Michigan State.

It’ll be a productive day running the football in a comfortable setting for the Navy head coach.

 

-- Mark Stine

 

Hawaii (+10.5) will win because…

Hawaii is still riding the upset wave after a 43-34 road win over Colorado State in last week’s season opener.

The Rainbow Warriors’ next victim? A Navy team that finished 2-4 in true road games last season and one that Hawaii has beaten two out of the teams’ three meetings.

The Rainbow Warriors will likely stick to the run-and-shoot offense that helped them pile on 617 total yards and score on six of their first seven possessions last week.

And even though quarterback Cole McDonald will make just his second career start on Saturday, he was really, really good against Colorado State. The sophomore recorded five touchdowns (three passing, two running) and went 26-of-37 for 418 yards, which was the most passing yards by a Hawaii quarterback in his first start.

He should thrive against the Midshipmen, who finished ninth in the AAC in defense efficiency against the pass last year.

Hawaii will also get a lift on defense with the return of leading tackler Jahlani Tavai, who missed the opener due to suspension.

Winning the defensive plays will be vital against the Midshipmen’s triple option offense, and Tavai will help cause disruption at the line of scrimmage.

Sure, Navy’s offense will be a test. But expect coach Nick Rolovich’s updated run-and-shoot to get the upset and have us scratching our heads at Hawaii for one more week.

 

-- Alanis Thames

 

Now, onto the picks!

 

First up is sports editor Morgan “I bless the rains down in Africa” McMullen, who has found at least 578 iterations of the popular song by Toto since he heard it for the first time at a Gators baseball game. We get it Morgan, it’s an amazing song. But playing a $1 piano version of it doesn’t make it any better.

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Ole Miss

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Notre Dame

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Arizona

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Auburn

Navy @ Hawaii: Navy

 

Second is the Alligator’s own Jake “I only like the bad New York sports franchises” Dreilinger. Jake may try and convince you he can pick college football, put his favorite teams are the Jets, the Mets AND the Knicks. Hey Jake, you’re not fooling anyone. I’d say just have your grandmother pick the games for you, but I’m sure she shares the same allegiances.

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Ole Miss

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Notre Dame

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Arizona

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Middle Tennessee State

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Auburn

Navy @ Hawaii: Navy

 

Next is staff writer Mark “Old man trapped in a 20-something’s body” Stine. A receding hairline and a love for classic rock and whiskey definitely betray the truth. We know this is a Benjamin Button-style problem, sir. You have our sympathies.

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Texas Tech

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Notre Dame

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Arizona

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Auburn

Navy @ Hawaii: Navy

 

After Mark is staff writer Alanis “Senior by credits” Thames. This is honestly a tough one because not a bad word could ever be said our Alanis. But for what it’s worth, she hates the nomenclature. So take THAT!

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Ole Miss

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Michigan

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Brigham Young

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Auburn

Navy @ Hawaii: Hawaii

 

Coming in fifth is the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar “Why can’t we get the sources we want” Thompson, who’d rather be playing golf then talking to some of the players provided on media days. Edgar, you concur with UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham that the only fun hobbies to have are fishing or golfing, you just chose the opposite from him.

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Texas Tech

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Michigan

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Arizona

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Auburn

Navy @ Hawaii: Hawaii

 

Next is the Gainesville Sun’s Graham “Expert Uber driver” Hall, who decided to leave the field of sports journalism and become an Uber driver after taking one to Dan Mullen’s press conference on Monday. It’s 2018 man, you gotta do what you gotta do to get by. Just don’t expect us to leave you five stars … or a tip.

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Ole Miss

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Notre Dame

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Arizona

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Auburn

Navy @ Hawaii: Navy

 

Following Graham is GatorCountry's Nick “I can eat a 64-ounce steak” de la Torre, who claims he ate a porterhouse so big it could feed a small village of needy children. However, it seems you fell from the graces of eating massive prime cuts to a pizza contest at the CiCi’s all-you-can-eat buffet. What happened, Nick?

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Ole Miss

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Michigan

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Brigham Young

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Washington

Navy @ Hawaii: Navy

 

Last is the AP’s Mark “I like to intimidate alligatorSports writers” Long. Our own Chris O’Brien filled in for some baseball and football coverage over the summer and got rubbed the wrong way by Long’s… ummm… we’ll call it a strong personality. He can be a bit abrasive, to say the least. Quit making our writers uncomfortable, sir.

Charleston Southern @ Florida: Florida

Oregon State @ Ohio State: Ohio State

Ole Miss @ Texas Tech: Ole Miss

Michigan @ Notre Dame: Notre Dame

Brigham Young @ Arizona: Arizona

Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: Middle Tennessee State

Washington @ Auburn (in Atlanta): Auburn

Navy @ Hawaii: Navy

 

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