Watching the Razorbacks weekly and scouting their upcoming opponents regularly produced predictions of Arkansas 24, Auburn 21; Florida 21, Arkansas 20; Arkansas 20, LSU 17, and Arkansas 42, Missouri 31.
With those guesses vs. reality in mind, blind faith in a system is the approach to the final round of Poolsville, a season-long competition in which 165 people paid $10 each to pursue bragging rights, prize money, and a small statue painted gold.
Tied for 21st after the regular season and clueless about many games in the finale labeled “30 for 30: Pick the Postseason,” the idea is to avoid homework on most games and concentrate on the eight with built-in bonus points.
Identifying the winners of the playoff semifinals is worth double points and those who pick the national champion bank triple points. In addition, the czar of Poolsville identifies the best bowl matchups and bestows on them the designation of “Big Five Bonus” game. This season, the Alamo, Citrus, Orange, Rose, and Sugar Bowl earned the coveted honor.
To clarify for pool participants, the czar eliminated 11 games, blackballing contests with such perennial football powers as Old Dominion, Colorado State, and UT-San Antonio.
Almost half the 30 minutes set aside to pick the 30 games was dedicated to figuring an easy-to-apply formula for 22 bowls. As a result, the underdog will be the choice in the 14 games where the line is four points or less. That approach includes reluctantly picking Louisiana Tech over Navy, West Virginia over Miami, and Kansas State over Texas A&M, but deviating from a fixed plan comes with regret as a friend once learned.
Obsessed with statistics, he concluded that, for years, thoroughbreds in the 10, 11, and 12 post positions at Oaklawn Park had been overlooked in the wagering for various reasons. Pursuing that theory in 1971, he set aside $18 per day to play the daily double pairing the 10, 11, and 12 in the first race with the same numbers in the second race. Because bookies only paid $100 on a $2 double, the wager had to be on-track to cash for big bucks.
Religiously, he made the bet, occasionally handing the $18 to somebody headed to Hot Springs, but usually making the roundtrip himself. He didn't miss a day until late in March when the No. 12 horse won the first race at 87-to-1 and the No. 10 won the second at 22-to-1 for a daily double of $6,902 — about $41,000 in 2016 dollars and still the Oaklawn record.
In a sad attempt to offer consolation, a friend pointed out that another winning ticket would have reduced the payout to about $6,300. The man who missed out did not smile.
Sticking with the systematic approach to picking the postseason, in the eight games with a line of five or more, the choice is the favorite, well aware that seven-point underdog Arkansas can beat Virginia Tech and eight-point favorite Wisconsin can lose to Western Michigan.
Devoting a total of 10 minutes to the bonus games, the conclusions:
—Alamo: Colorado by 3 over Oklahoma State. OSU scored 31 or more while winning seven straight Big 12 games. OSU.
—Orange: Michigan by 7 over Florida State. The Big Ten has more good teams than any other conference. MICHIGAN
—Rose: USC by 7 over Penn State. A trip to Pasadena is a nice consolation prize for the Big Ten champion. PENN STATE
—Sugar: Oklahoma by 4 over Auburn. Two Heisman Trophy finalists on the same team should suffice vs. the SEC's third best team. OKLAHOMA.
—Citrus: LSU by 3 over Louisville. Lamar Jackson's campaign for a second Heisman Trophy starts slowly. LSU
In the CFP semifinals, the picks are heavily favored Alabama and slight underdog Clemson with the quarterback who was No. 1 on my Heisman ballot. Forced to pick the championship game 25 days out and needing a gaggle of bonus points to crack Poolsville's top five. CLEMSON
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media's Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org