Season review: I can't pick winners but, hey, I can pick games

You don’t want to go to Las Vegas with me, or the race track, or have me pick your bowl winners.

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Refuse any overture, or invite, to become a minority investment owner in any of my fantasy enterprises.

I joined the ESPN college football "Pick 'em" contest this year and bailed out mid-year after realizing I was picking my “confidence pick” winners in the wrong order.

Oops.

My TMG weekly offerings were so upside-down and ass-backward I had to bring in my second son to take over the overs, the unders and the in-betweens. “Child Lock” did post a winning record and that improved the family to somewhere around 10 games under .500.

I finished t-26, out of 36, in the TMG bowl-picking contest which, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, left me four light years away from ESPN’s contest winner.

I wrote Five Reasons why Oklahoma would win the Rose Bowl, and Georgia won, then Five Reasons Georgia would win Monday’s national title game, and Alabama won.

I went to a state college that dropped football 20 years ago and now cover the Pac 12, which didn’t place a team in the top 10 of the final AP, USA Today or Rasmussen polls.

I’m bad at math, directions and, to save my life, can’t sew a button on a shirt.

But here’s one thing I did great in the last year, from January to January: I picked TERRIFIC college football games to cover for you, my loyal TMG subscribers.

I’ve been certified and credentialed for seven games since the Rose Bowl parade that kicked off 2017. Those games were decided by the final average score of 38.5714 to 35.2857.

Four of the seven games were decided on the final play and one was decided with one second left, with the number of total overtime periods checking in at FIVE!

Holy smokes am I on a hot streak and I must also add that several of these games rank with the greatest I witnessed in more than three decades as a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times.

The WORST game of the seven was USC’s 31-28 win over Stanford in this year’s Pac 12 title game. That game was merely fantastic because it only featured a dramatic fourth-and-goal stop by USC and wasn’t decided until the Trojans recovered an on-sides kick.

Here’s a recap of my Magnificent 7:

1: Jan. 2, 2017, Rose Bowl. USC 52, Penn State 49.

Decided on: Matt Boermeester’s 46-yard field goal as time expired.

It was the best Rose Bowl I would see…until the next one. Little did I know this would be the first jewel in my seven-game crown.

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It was the prettiest of the seven, the Rose Bowl never looking more beautiful under cloudy skies that threatened, but dared not, rain.

Selected story quote: PASADENA—Some games are great and some games are ridiculous but sometimes, if you get lucky, you can walk into ridiculously great. Monday’s Rose Bowl was that.

2: Jan. 9, 2017, College Football Playoff national title game in Tampa: Clemson 35, Alabama 31. 

Decided on: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson's two-yard scoring pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left.

Selected story quote:  It was good to see a made-up verb, Clemson-ing, finally expunged from the annals. It was time for Webster’s to find a new word, or just go back to “Rutgers-ing.” They were lost, and gone forever, but no more. Oh my darling, Clemson Time. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

3: Sept. 3, 2017. UCLA 45, Texas A&M 44 at the Rose Bowl

Decided on: Josh Rosen's 10-yard scoring pass, to Jordan Lasley, with 43 seconds left.

I decided to attend this opener at the Rose Bowl because it seemed a critical, hot-seat game for both coaches, Jim Mora and Kevin Sumlin. Turns out both coaches got fired, although the worm really turned for Sumlin after his team blew a 34-point lead. I went to the field with TAMU leading, 44-24, not imagining for a minute I was going to witness the biggest comeback in UCLA football history.

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Selected story quote:  PASADENA, Ca.—You should have seen the story I left on my press box computer screen before racing down to the Rose Bowl sideline Sunday night to catch the end of Texas A&M’s rear-end kicking of UCLA.

4: Sept. 17, 2017, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC 27, Texas 24 (Double OT).

Decided on: Chase McGrath's field goal in second overtime.

The logic for my attendance was simple. I went to make fun of people trying to compare this Texas-USC game to the classic played for the 2005 national championship. Darned if this one didn't knock me in the teeth. I watched the ending near the Texas sideline, standing close to actor Matthew McConaughey, wearing a brown, leather jacket.

Selected story quote: LOS ANGELES--What’s not to like about a game that featured a score at 0:00 three times: at the end first half, the end of the second and the end of the second OT? Count me in for any game in which a freshman kicker badly misses his first college attempt, but then makes the game-winner to push home a life-affirming, season-saving, 27-24 win.

5: Dec. 1, 2017, Pac 12 Championship Game in Santa Clara. USC 31, Stanford 28.

Decided on: USC's recovered on-sides kick in final minute.

This was the "bastard child" of the seven great games I covered, though it was really, really good.

Selected story quote:  Friday night summed up, neatly, the plight of this Pacific Coast league. The Pac 12 put on a good show in an atmosphere of ambivalence. The game was mostly compelling, the stadium was mostly filled (48, 031), with seats mostly not covered up in tarp. And we can assume a nation was mostly watching.

6: Jan. 1, 2018, Rose Bowl: Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48 (Double OT)

Decided on: Sony Michel's 27-yard touchdown run in the second OT.

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I never thought I'd see another Rose Bowl as good as USC over Penn State but only had to wait a year. This had everything you want, including Oklahoma blowing a 31-17 halftime lead.

Selected story quote: What a game, what an atmosphere, what a scoring fest, what a nightmare for the stats crew. These are different Rose Bowl experiences for me, however, no longer under the gun of a newspaper deadline. I can literally, now, smell the Roses.

7: Jan. 8, 2018, College Football Playoff national title game, Atlanta. Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT)

Decided on: Tua Tagovailoa's scoring pass to DeVonta Smith in the second overtime.

No need to explain the greatness of this one, ya'll just saw it.

Selected story quote: In the Mercedes-Benz Stadium press box, I looked over to my TMG colleague Mark Blaudschun and smugly offered, “See? This is why you don’t play freshmen.” On the next play, though, Tagovailoa did something left-handed that took Steve Young about 10 years to do.

So there you have it, a streak of seven covered games that may never be equaled in sports journalism.

Or, as I was saying: I don't know how to pick 'em, but I sure know how to pick 'em. [/membership]

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