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Episodic: TLC's Guide to Week One

The off season does things to a man. Makes one do things, things one doesn't mention in polite society, just to get by. Things one might do to, say, survive a prison stretch.

Things like...watching The Learning Channel. Non-stop. For seven months.

I am not proud of this, no, but prolonged exposure to TLC did provide a very specific benefit that in some small way mitigated the side effects (i.e. weight gain, pending divorce, a compulsion to horde pregnant cupcake-baking midgets, etc.) One might even call it a super power, albeit one that even Aquaman might find lame.

You see, it seems I can now predict the future with slightly-better-than-average accuracy...but only by interpreting the shenanigans of polygamists, flamboyantly gay lifestyle consultants and child beauty pageant contestants. This gift/curse would seem to have limited real-world applications, as reality seems to be conspicuously absent from any actual "reality show." What if, however, I applied this talent to some other arena where reason, civility and a believable storyline are as rare as the Amish in LA? Politics? Sure, but that way is fraught with spiders, and besides, watching C-SPAN is the kryptonite to the yellow sun powers of TLC. Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe....

#1 Alabama vs Virginia Tech: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, a fact well known by Nick Saban and the like-sized contestants of "Toddlers & Tiaras." College football is the Texas pageant circuit writ large...or perhaps it's the other way around...and its reigning beauty queen has no time for some charming little interloper from Virginia who says "just happy to be here," but who secretly plots to steal what is rightly the property of the overbearing, living-vicariously-through-it's-children mother that is the Bama fan base. Tastes Like Chicken Chick fi la Prediction: Alabama 30 Virginia Tech 13

Buffalo @ #2 Ohio State, UMass @ #23 Wisconsin, Nicholls State @ #3 Oregon, Temple @ #14 Notre Dame, New Mexico St @ #15 Texas, Central Michigan @ #17 Michigan, Wyoming @ #18 Nebraska, Eastern Washington @ #25 Oregon State: I'll be honest; I have yet to catch an episode of "DC Cupcakes." I assume the premise involves defensive coordinators and their struggle to maintain their unit's focus against gift-wrapped week one opponents. Or, you know, actual cupcakes. Mmmm, cuuuuupcakes. Inferior to cakes in every way, except that they're easily more devoured in one bite. You just have to live with the shame and guilt afterward. In a bold Tasty Little Cupcake Prediction: all of the home favorites lick the spoon.

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"Mmmmmmmm, Buffalo flavored!"

#5 Georgia @ #8 Clemson: Like the women of "My Teen is Pregnant and So Am I," both fan bases carry great expectations, no shortage of rage hormones, and perhaps a misplaced sense of entitlement into the game. Entitlement? No, that's not it. What's the word I'm looking for? Dread. A misplaced sense of dread, as if an opening loss will scuttle what would otherwise no doubt be a championship season and, let's not minimize this, a perfect ass. Look, girls, you're both pretty, you really are. Glowing, even. And you will bounce back. That said, when mama and daughter are in the same family way, mama's always going to get the attention. She may not seem like she's in control, but trust me, mama very much is. Take-out Late-night Cravings Prediction: Georgia 20 Clemson 16

UNC @ #6 S. Carolina: HBC is sooooo Jared of "Welcome to Myrtle Manor" (a TLC show set in a Carolina trailer park because of course there has to be a TLC show set in a Carolina trailer park.) Exuding confidence and often shirtless, things just seem to work out for Jared without any real apparent effort. Shit gets too real? Jared goes (miniature) golfing. Prettiest girl from a limited availability pool? Jared ups and marries the hell out of her. Not for love, or for any higher purpose, but for the conquest. UNC's a pretty girl. Tawdry Low Country Prediction: USC 27, UNC 13

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"Can't spell SUN BOWL without U-N.......aw hell, I'm goin' golfing."

Rice @ #7 Texas A&M: Fans of college football and "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" (Ed. Note:Venn diagram needed) no doubt see the parallels between its star and the Aggie's quarterback. From the stage name to the need for attention to the train wreck that are their family trees, these two are like peas and carrots. Things seem to be going pretty well for HBB, but you just know that at some point Mama June's indulgences of her child's behavior will have consequences. Not this week, of course. Texans Love Collies Prediction: TAMU 41 Rice 17

Ohio @ #9 Louisville: "My First Home" is another TLC show I haven't actually seen, but after about 2,000 hours logged on the network's formula I think I have a fairly good idea about each episode unfolds. Compelling subject with a great back story buys a fixer-up, the initial euphoria quickly evaporates when the extent of the necessary repairs becomes clear, yadda, yadda, DRAMA. Coach Strong is in the honeymoon phase now, but I just have a feeling (DRAMATIC MUSIC) that the home warranty is about to expire. Termite Lunch Ceaselessly Prediction: Ohio 33 Louisville 20

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One might say it's a "house of Cards"...I'll show myself out.

Toledo @ #10 Florida: Saban hordes crystal footballs. Jeremy Foley? Little Midwestern schools. For the 3rd time in 4 seasons the Gators open at home against a MAC squad, and while those trophies look pretty up on that teetering shelf, anyone who enjoys the "my life doesn't suck so bad" affirmation that comes with a "Hoarding: Buried Alive" viewing knows that this will all end in tears...Will Muschamp rage-tears, as he watches Toledo intervene and de-clutter his optimism regarding an improved passing game. Still, MAC, so...Throw Less Competently Prediction: Florida 30 Toledo 16

#11 FSU @ Pitt: How many wives are too many wives? That was rhetorical, unless you're the ACC I suppose. In that scenario Pitt would be Robyn, wife #4 on "Sister Wives" and FSU, I dunno, wife #2? Whatever. The point is that the courtship of Robyn was fine with the existing wives precisely because it was an abstract event, but once she moved in? Draaaaama. Maryland ran away screaming, and even Florida State starting questioning if the whole arrangement was even legal. Sure, things have settled down since, but is the newcomer entirely accepted. No, no she is not. Tabernacle Loving Choir Prediction: FSU 38 Pitt 10.

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Pictured: a Latter Day Saint if ever there was one.

#12 LSU vs #20 TCU: Oh, Les Miles, how you are "My Strange Addiction." I think I speak for everyone when I say "I Eat Grass" would be the highest-rated episode in the series history, but until that glorious day my favorite, for completely for scientific reasons, is "My 38KKK Bust Size." After 113 viewings the lesson I ultimately gleaned from the show is that replacing two perfectly serviceable entities (say, Baton Rouge and Fort Worth) with two ridiculously over-sized ones (Cowboys Stadium and Jerry Jones' ego) does not come without some sagging downsides. The Hatter is no boob, but haters will titter when a SEC power is exposed as overinflated. Breasts. Tremendous Lung Capacity Prediction: TCU 23 LSU 20

Mississippi State @ #13 Oklahoma State: Fun fact: "Cake Boss" is the highest-rated show in both Mississippi AND Oklahoma. Well, it sounds like it should be true, anyway. Each week Buddy and family are faced with a seemingly impossible confectionery challenge that the skills, and the audience's tolerance for the massacre of the English language, to the test. For the CLANGA gang, the Cowboys are a eleven-tiered interpretation of T. Boone's ego constructed entirely of flour, marzipan and natural gas that shoots out cash when sliced. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? Um, yes. T. Boone Likes Chocolate Prediction: Oklahoma State 34 Mississippi State 20

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The most Oklahoma State cake ever.

Louisiana-Monroe @ #16 Oklahoma: Regrets? Like the walking examples of poor life choices on"America's Worst Tattoos," Bob Stoops has a few. Most involve BCS game preparation, but some unkind comments about the ESSEEESEE made in the off-season are probably filed away in Big Game Bob's "possible poor decisions" cabinet. ULM doesn't have a dog in that fight, but after last year's "upset"(?) of Arkansas and OT loss to Auburn they very well may consider themselves members of the SEC's "lower half." Is that stretching the Warhawks motivation like Mexican jail tattoo on a sagging thigh? Perhaps. No, wait. It totally is. Tattooed Like Cattle Prediction: Oklahoma 40 Louisiana-Monroe 13

#19 Boise State @ Washington: "Extreme Couponing," like "Boise" and "State," are words that just don't seem to belong together...like "Boise State" and "Big East," I suppose. That said, the folks on the show always get more for less, as the Broncos do with the PAC 12's recruiting leftovers. Does one really need a gross of toilet sanitizing tablets? Or a win over what will probably be a barely-bowl eligible BSC team? No and no, but damn, it's soooo hard to pass up what's in the bargain basement bin. Triple Level Coupon Prediction: Boise State 27 Washington 19

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Blue turf is always "buy one yard get nine free"

Nevada @ #21 UCLA: Expectations for the brides on "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" are as fat as Big Auntie Rosa, and so it is with the Bruins. It's their special day, and everyone present is willing to suspend belief and agree that the sparkly home whites can wash away the sins of a, um, questionable past. Eventually the bride will reveal her true, garish colors, but not today: Tons of Lace and Cologne Prediction: UCLA 35 Nevada 14

#22 Northwestern @ Cal: I'm sure that every bride-to-be who walks into a bridal shop feels some level of certainty regarding the dress she'll wear on the big day. Then BAM! Randy Fenoli of "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Randy to the Rescue" happens. Randy is stylish chaos, a whirlwind of activity and an agent of spectacular change. Does Sonny Dykes have a little Randy in him. Oh, oh God no, no he doesn't. But Northwestern is coming in with certain expectations, and Cal is going to Randy all over them. Totally, Like, California Prediction: Cal 36 Northwestern 17

#24 USC @ Hawaii: Josh Duggar isn't going to measure up. He just isn't. Dad's got 19 kids, Josh has 3, and such pitiful results probably has Jim Bob worrying his eldest might have caught "the gay." Dad's a successful and respected member of the community. Josh, again, has only 3 children. Probably weak sperm. In a lame attempt to prove he's his own man, Josh flees his Southern base for the glory that awaits in The Big City. Nice try, Lane, but daddy is not impressed. Try Leg Crossing Upset Special Prediction: Hawaii 30 USC 23

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Man the f*ck up, Lane Josh!

Like the "Long Island Medium," I am exhausted by my special gift, and also by my choice in television entertainment. If only there were some other mindless form of televised distraction that could cleanse my mental palate from today through Monday, and on every weekend from now through January. It'll come to me.

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