Week 5 Picks

The State Press

Hopefully none of you are actually putting any money down based on my bets. Last week I was 3-4, which drops me to 13-15 for the year.

No doubt this is the week that things turn around. Probably not. Either way, hopefully I’ll have no idea after having my mind blown to pieces by Outkast on Friday night.

No. 11 UCLA (3-0) at No. 15 Arizona State (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12)- Thursday 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1: Nothing like a pair of ranked conference opponents kicking off the week with their back-up quarterbacks.

Well maybe it will be with their back-up signal callers. UCLA hasn’t said whether or not Brett Hundley will play after injuring his elbow two weeks ago against Texas.

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The Sun Devils are going with Mike Bercovici as Taylor Kelly sits with a foot injury.

Bercovici has played in all three games this season, completing 9 of his 17 pass attempts for 79 yards and TD. Bruins’ No. 2 signal caller Jerry Neuheisel lead UCLA to a 20-17 win over the Longhorns, as he threw for 178 yards and two TDs.

Inexperience may show up early with the two QBs, but the key to the game will come down to Arizona State’s ability to run the ball.  UCLA is giving up just 3.8 yards per carry on the ground, and has allowed only three rushing TDs all year. Junior Arizona State tailback D.J. Foster has fun for 510 yards and five TDs, which ranks eighth in the country.

Prediction: Even with all the will he or won’t he regarding Hundley, UCLA is favored by four points on the road. I think this is  the week that the Bruins’ struggling offensive line finally costs them. I’m going with Arizona State 20-14.

Tennessee (2-1) at No. 12 Georgia (2-1, 0-1 SEC)- Saturday Noon ET on ESPN: It’s the SEC opener for the Vols, while Georgia looks to stay in contention in the East division after losing to South Carolina two weeks ago.

After two straight wins to open the year, Tennessee was shredded by Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Sooners racked up 454 yards of total offense, including 308 yards passing.

Justin Worley looks much-improved under center this season. He’s completed 58.3 percent of his passes this season, and already thrown for 721 yards (after tallying up just 1,239 all last year).

Even with an improved offense, I’m just not sure Tennessee has the defensive personnel to slow Georgia’s offensive attack. Georgia is averaging 471 yards per game, and Todd Gurley has racked up 402 yards rushing.

Prediction: Georgia is a 17-point favorite at home in this one. I think Georgia runs wild against the Volunteers 42-23.

Arkansas (3-1, 0-1 SEC) at No. 6 Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0 SEC)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Here’s what we know about these two teams- Arkansas is going to run the ball. Texas A&M is going to throw it.

The Hogs average 324.5 yards per game on the ground (seventh best in the nation), and the Aggies average 405 yards passing.

In Kenny Hill TAMU has another quarterback that could end the season in New York. The trillest signal caller in all the land is completing 69.8 percent of his passes with 13 TDs and an interception.

Arkansas should have a blue print to follow on defense for how to slow down the Aggies spread offense. The Hogs have already faced Auburn and Texas Tech this season. Auburn did rack up 595 yards, but the Red Raiders and Kevin Sumlin protege Kliff Kingsbury were held to just 353 yards in a 49-28 Arkansas win.

Prediction: Texas A&M is favored by nine points. I think Arkansas’ rushing attack will be tough enough for the Aggies to stop that they cover. I’m going Texas A&M 38-31.

No. 1 Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC) at North Carolina State (4-0)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN 2: After escaping Clemson 23-17 in over time with a back-up quarterback, Florida State looks to make it 20-straight wins this weekend in a place they’ve struggled over the years.

Tallahasse.com

Tallahassee.com

Jameis Winston will return to the huddle after watching from the sidelines last weekend following his suspension for lacking self-awareness.

After a slow start, N.C. State has looked much better the last two weeks in wins over South Florida and Presbyterian. Former Florida QB Jacoby Brissett is completing 69.7 percent of his passes for 10 TDs and one interception. N.C. State is averaging 248.8 yards per game rushing, good for 24th best in the country.

The Seminoles’ defense still needs better play from its linebackers, and it may need to adjust some of the roles the secondary is playing, but they looked pretty darn good against Clemson. Eddie Goldman played his best game in garnet and gold, and Mario Edwards continues to hold the edge.

Prediction: Florida State is favored by 19 points on the road. I think Winston and the Seminoles go scorched earth on N.C. State 42-17.

Missouri (3-1) at No. 13 South Carolina (3-1, 2-1 SEC)- Saturday 7 p.m. ET on ESPN: Both teams enter Saturday following a disappointing performance last weekend.

Missouri brought shame to the whole SEC with a 31-27 loss to Indiana, and South Carolina needed 21-fourth quarter points to put away lowly Vanderbilt. A Tigers’ win could really throw a wrench into an already chaotic division race.

Despite being ranked 13th in the polls, South Carolina is giving up an average of 480 yards per game this year. Missouri’s offense is averaging 430 yards per game. Maty Mauk has thrown 14 touchdown passes and 978 yards.

Dylan Thompson had his first turnover free game of the year against Vanderbilt last weekend. The Senior QB is completing 62% of his passes, has 11 touchdowns and just three picks.

Prediction: South Carolina is favored by six points at home. I’m still not sure how the Hoosier beat the Tigers last weekend, but I’m going to overlook and go with Missouri. The Tigers beat South Carolina 24-17.

Duke (4-0) at Miami (2-2, 0-1 ACC): Through four games, Duke has been flat-out dominant (albeit it against Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane). The Blue Devils are giving up just an average of 11.5 points per game, while putting up 43.5.

Jamison Crowder has 22 grabs for 296 yards and two scores to pace the offense.

Due to injuries and off-the-field issues Miami has been forced to play true freshman Brad Kaaya earlier than expected. The Californian has thrown for 1,052 yards with 10 TDs, but he’s been intercepted seven times.

The Hurricanes real issues have been on the defensive side of the ball. Opponents are averaging 308 yards per game, and 24.8 points. Last week Nebraska reeled off 343 yards rushing in a 41-31 victory. The Blue Devils are averaging 261 yards per game, and 6.4 yards per attempt.

Prediction: For some reason Miami is a seven-point favorite in this one. I think Duke opens up conference play with a 35-24 win.

Oregon State (3-0) at No. 18 Southern Cal (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12)- Saturday 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: This is a pretty good way to cap off the college football weekend.

The Trojans are looking to bounce back from a 37-31 upset loss at Boston College, while Oregon State is undefeated with weak schedule thus far.

USC allowed 452 yards rushing to the Eagles two weeks ago. The Beavers top two rushers are averaging more than five yards per carry, but the passing game is what makes the offense go. Quarterback Sean Mannion has completed over 70 percent of his pass attempts in his last two games, and racked up 903 yards passing already this year.

Mannion will be without his top target on Saturday as Victor Bolden (18 grabs for 192 yards) is out with a dislocated pinkie finger.

The Beavers defense is giving up just 113 yards per game on the ground (30th best in the country), but USC is running for an average of 151 yards per game. Buck Allen is leading the way with 318 yards, but had just 31 against BC.

Prediction: USC is a nine-point favorite at home. With a week to lick their wounds, I think USC bounces back with a 35-21 win.

Week 4 picks

The Augusta Chronicle

A second straight 4-3 week moves me to 10-11 on the year with my college football picks. Like I said last weekend’s slate of games didn’t look that appealing on paper, but it was a heck of a football weekend.

This weekend’s schedule should leave us more satisfied than the double-brisket cheeseburger with slab bacon and a fired egg I had on Sunday at Big Tex in Decatur.

No. 5 Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 20 Kansas State (2-0, 1-0 Big 12)- Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: Auburn is the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to come into the Little Apple since second-ranked Penn State defeated Kansas State 17-14 in 1969.

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Through two games the big cats are averaging 43.5 (KSU) and 52 points (AU) per game. Kansas State has done it with a balanced attack as quarterback Jake Waters has thrown for 462 yards and two scores, while running for 193 yards and four TDs.

Auburn’s bread and butter is its rushing attack. The Tigers average 330 yards per game on the ground (sixth best in the NCAA) and 6.7 yards per attempt. Senior Cameron Artis-Payne leads the way with 289 yards and four touchdowns. Nick Marshall has been lethal at quarterback with 122 yards rushing, including a 50-yard TD run against San Jose State, and 151 yards passing.

The passing game will get a boost as Sammie Coates is predicted to return against KSU.

Both teams are giving up over 300 yards of total offense per game, but both have five sacks through two games. Elijah Lee has 2.5 for KSU, and Montravious Adams has a sack to go with four tackles for loss for Auburn. The Tigers will be without suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead, who leads the team with two interceptions.

Prediction: Auburn is a 7.5-point favorite on the road in this one. I think Kansas State is a solid team, and you can never count Bill Snyder out of it, but Auburn is just too good on offense. The Tigers win 42-31.

Iowa (2-1) at Pittsburgh (3-0, 1-0 ACC)- Noon ET on ESPNU: Wake up and get ready for some physical football in this one. Iowa is coming off a 20-17 loss to Iowa State, while the Panthers have been able to run away from everyone on their schedule thus far.

Pitt is averaging 344.3 yards per game (fourth best in the country) on the ground, with an average of 6.4 yards per attempt. The Hawkeyes are giving up just 65.7 yards per game on the ground.

Every game has been a grind for Iowa, including its opener against Northern Iowa. Despite Jake Ruddock playing well at quarterback, the Hawkeyes are averaging just 21.7 points per game this year.

Prediction: The Panthers are favored by a touchdown at home. I think that’s about right and I’m going with a 24-13 win for Pitt over Iowa.

Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 3 Alabama- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Florida escaped Kentucky in triple overtime last weekend to remain unbeaten heading into Saturday.

Alabama’s offense has cruised, scoring at least 33 points in every game this season, including 52 last week against Southern Miss. Blake Sims continues to be the team’s starter, with 646 yards passing and four TDs, but Jacob Coker has shown flashes during his playing time with 248 yards passing and a TD.

It doesn’t matter who throws it though, because Amari Cooper will catch it. The Miami native has 33 catches for 454 yards and two TDs this year.

He’ll face his toughest match-up of the year on Saturday in Vernon Hargraves III, who is credited with five pass-break ups already this year, and has allowed just one reception per ESPN Stats and Info. Cooper is going to get receptions, but if Hargraves can eliminate the big play in the passing game it could give Florida’s front seven a chance to slow down ‘Bama’s rushing attack.

The Crimson Tide average 6.2 yards per carry on the ground, while Florida has allowed just 2.4 yards per rush. Dante Fowler has been a big part of the Gators’ defensive success with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Prediction: Florida didn’t look very good against Kentucky, which has prompted Vegas to make Alabama a 14.5-point favorite at home. I think the Gators’ defense will have some success against Alabama early, but will eventually get worn down because I don’t expect the Florida offense to do much against the Crimson Tide (even with a struggling secondary). I think Alabama wins 27-10.

North Carolina (2-0) at East Carolina (2-1)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU: If it wasn’t for a handful of missed opportunities against South Carolina, the Pirates could have been 3-0 with a win over a pair of ranked opponents entering Saturday’s clash with UNC. Instead ECU has just one win over a ranked opponent, after hanging on last weekend on the road for a 28-21 win over Virginia Tech.

UNC dropped out of the polls after struggling with San Diego State two weeks ago.

ECU can put up points, and has a legitimate star in quarterback Shan Carden. The Texan has thrown for 1,031 yards already this year and ran for the game-winner last weekend against the Hokies.

UNC can also score, averaging 43.5 points per game, but the Tar Heels gave up 509 yards of total offense against SDSU in a 31-27 win.

Prediction: ECU is a three-point favorite and the Purple Pirates certainly have all the momentum entering this one. That’s why I’m going with UNC. The Tar Heels win this one 42-38.

Mississippi State (3-0) at No. 8 LSU (3-0)- Saturday 7 pm. ET on ESPN: The good news for Mississippi State is they started the year off with three straight wins.

The bad news is Saturday’s SEC opener in Baton Rouge, La. is the first of three-straight games against Top-1o SEC West foes.

After an impressive comeback win over Wisconsin to start the year, LSU hasn’t allowed another point this year in wins over Sam Houston and Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers have a heck of rushing attack, averaging 226.3 yards per game on the ground.

The Bulldogs have been balanced on offense with an average of 266.3 yards passing and 260.3 yards rushing per game. If they’re going to have a chance against LSU they’ll have to show more than short screens in the passing game to move the ball.

Prediction: LSU is favored by 9.5 points. I don’t think Mississippi State is ready for the Tigers and LSU wins 24-7.

No. 4 Oklahoma (3-0) at West Virginia (2-1)- Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX: This will be the second top-four opponent for the Mountaineers in 2014.

West Virgina rode Clint Trickett’s arm to a 40-37 victory last weekend against Maryland. Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns.

The Sooners made quick work of Tennessee in a 34-10 victory.

West Virgina is averaging 410 yard passing per game (fifth best in the country) this year, but they haven’t faced a defense as explosive as Oklahoma’s (yeah I said it ‘Bama). OU has six interceptions and nine sacks this year, while giving up just 295.3 yards of total offense per game.

Prediction: I guess because they’re on the road and it’s the Big 12 OU is favored by just 7.5 in this one. While Trickett will be able to put some points up for the home team, I just don’t see West Virginia holding Trevor Knight back at all. Another big win for OU  35-21.

No. 22 Clemson (1-1) at No. 1 Florida State (2-0)- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ABC: This game has taken on some added intrigue with Jameis Winston being suspended for the first half after failing to realize that he truly does live in a bubble and even the slightest misstep will bring scrutiny and embarrassment to Florida State.

Independent Mail.

Sean Maguire will lead the Seminoles’ offense as Winston is on the sidelines. The redshirt sophomore is just 3 of 5 passing this year for 28 yards, but he did attempt 21 passes last season as the third-string QB. Head coach Jimbo Fisher won’t be afraid to let Maguire take his shots against Clemson, but he’ll also rely heavily on a rushing attack that’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry with a senior offensive line.

Clemson will also likely play two QBs in the game. Senior Cole Stoudt is the starter, but freshman DeShaun Watson has come on fast and could unseat the veteran as the starter by the end of the season.

Clemson gave up 45 points to Georgia in its opener, with 21 points coming in the fourth quarter. If the offense can have some success early against an FSU defense that allows just 4.9 yards per play this year, then Clemson has the athletes on defense to make Maguire uncomfortable.

But here’s the thing- Jimbo Fisher has owned Clemson since arriving in Tallahassee. As the offensive coordinator and the head coach (he still calls the plays), FSU has scored an average of 35 points per game in the seven games, and scored at least 30 points the in the last three, including last year’s 51-14 smack-down.

Prediction: Even with Winston suspended for a half, FSU is still favored by 16.5 points at home. Fisher will put up points on Clemson, but I don’t know if the Seminoles’ defense is 17-points better than Clemson this year. I think FSU makes it 19-straight wins with a 28-24 victory.

Week 3 Picks

gogamecocks.com

I bounced back with a 4-3 week two to bring the picks to 6-8 for the year. This week’s slate of games doesn’t exactly jump off the screen, which means it will likely be one of the more wild weekends of the season.

Georgia Southern (1-1) at Georgia Tech (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on FOX Sports South: The Yellow Jackets have had a pair of slow starts that look much better on paper than they did on film. Wofford trailed by just five points in the fourth quarter before Tech pulled away for a 38-19 victory.

USA Today Sports

Last week on the road the Yellow Jackets kicked a field just before halftime for its first lead of the game. The second half was all Georgia Tech though, as it went on for a 38-21 win over Tulane.

Georgia Southern is 1-1 after putting up 83 points last weekend against Savannah State (seriously why does this school play football?).

The Eagles ended last year with a big win over Florida in Gainesville and very nearly had another Power 5 victory to start 2014. North Carolina State needed a Jacoby Brissett touchdown pass with 1:37 to escape the opener with a 24-23 win.

Prediction: Vegas is giving the Yellow Jackets 17 points. I think that’s awfully generous and I like the Eagles to not only cover, but I think they come to Atlanta and win. I’ll take Georgia Southern 24-21.

Central Florida (0-1) at No. 20 Missouri (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on SEC Network: Missouri dominated Toledo early last week and never looked back at is moved to 2-0 with a 49-24 win on the road. The Tigers racked up more than 500 yards of total offense in the game.

Quarterback Maty Mauk is completing 64.2 percent of his passes, and has tossed eight touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Still the Tigers haven’t faced a team as good as UCF.

UCF fell to Penn State 26-24 in Ireland in its season opener. The Kinghts offense stalled early in the game, but was sparked when Justin Holman entered the game. Holman completed 9 of 14 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns and is now the starter.

Prediction: Home-field advantage has Missouri as a 10-point favorite in this one. While I think Holman makes UCF much more dynamic on offense than it was with Pete DeNivo under center, I still can’t overlook the Nittany Lions’ 511 yards of total offense in the game. I think Missouri’s offense will be too much for UCF, and the Tigers win 35-20.

West Virginia (1-1) at Maryland (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on Big Ten Network: The Terrapins make their Big Ten Network debut against a geographical rival, who of course plays in conference made up of southwestern teams because… College Football that’s why.

The Mountaineers are 1-1 after hanging with Alabama and shutting out Towson. Clint Trickett is completing a whopping 75.3 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The former FSU signal-caller even has a rushing TD this year as well. West Virginia’s inability to stop the run was the difference against Alabama in the Georgia Dome as the Crimson Tide racked up 288 yards on the ground.

Maryland had a strong start against James Madison and escaped South Florida with a 24-17 win last weekend. Turnovers have been the Terrapins big bugaboo early this season. C.J. Brown has thrown two interceptions this year, while back-up Caleb Rowe has also thrown a pick. USF’s first points last week came courtesy of a fumble return for a touchdown.

Prediction: Maryland is a three-point favorite in this one. I think Brown and the rest of Maryland’s rushing attack will give West Virgina problems, but I still think the Mountaineers pull it off. I’m going West Virgina 35-28.

No. 6 Georgia (1-0) at No. 24 South Carolina (1-1)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Obviously this is Saturday’s main course.

USA Today Sports

Columbia, S.C. has been a bit of a house of horrors for the Bulldogs lately with the Gamecocks winning the last two, including a 35-7 drubbing in 2012 that’s still fresh in both fan bases’ memories. UGA avenged the loss last year in Athens with a 41-30 win.

Todd Gurley racked up 132 yards in last year’s win, and looks to be even better this year as the fully-healthy junior piled up 198 yards rushing, three rushing TDs and a 100-yard kickoff return for a fourth score in a 45-21 win over Clemson in the opener.

South Carolina bounced back with a win over ECU last weekend, after Texas A&M scored 52 points in win over South Carolina in Columbia. Even with a win over the Purple Pirates the defense gave up 453 yards of offense in the 33-23 victory.

The good news was that Mike Davis did look healthy as he rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Prediction: Georgia is a favored by 6.5 points on the road. With South Carolina giving up an average of 6.8 yards per play, and Georgia looking potent offensively despite its off-season losses this one looks like it could be a Bulldogs’ blowout. I’m sure the Ole Ball Coach has mentioned this more than a few teams to his club this week, but I just don’t think South Carolina has the personnel on defense to stop UGA. I think Todd Gurley has another big day and Georgia rolls 42-23.

Tennessee (2-0) at No. 4 Oklahoma (2-0) – Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ABC: Time for Bob Stoops to back up all that SEC smack talk he’s been spewing since last summer.

The Sooners have rolled over a couple of cupcakes early in the year, averaging 508 yards of total offense per game. Trevor Knight has been impressive with 552 yards passing, three TDs and a rushing TD as well.

Oklahoma’s defense has been lights out, giving up just 3.8 yards per play against Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. OU has four sacks, and has forced five turnovers in the blowout victories, including four interceptions.

The Volunteers are also 2-0 on the year, but they haven’t been quite as impressive. Tennessee did blow by Utah Sate on Labor Day weekend, but didn’t pull away from Arkansas State until the second half, and even trailed much of the first quarter.

Justin Worely has looked good under center, with a 64.5 completion percentage, 520 yards passing and five touchdowns. Despite the lack of a running game to keep defenses honest.

Prediction: Oklahoma is favored by 21 points. Tennessee is going to look ridiculous next week against Florida thanks to Adidas, but this week they’ll only have themselves to blame. Boomer Sooner rolls 42-17.

No. 9 USC (2-0) at Boston College (1-1)- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: The Trojans enter this one after an emotional 13-10 win over Stanford last weekend. Boston College is coming off a 10-point loss to Pitt.

USA Today Sports

Pitt ran it down the Eagles’ throat for 303 yards last week. USC is averaging 496 yards per game on offense, including 216 yards rushing. Buck Allen is leading the way with 287 yards.

The Eagles have had their own success running the ball, with an average of 5.1 yards per rush. Quarterback Tyler Murphy is the leading rusher with 210 yards. USC showed it can stop a physical rushing attack last week, limiting Stanford to 128 yards on 38 carries.

Prediction: Despite a cross-country flight, the Trojans are a 17-point favorite. I think BC is going to surprise some teams this year, but USC isn’t one of them. USC takes down the dudes 31-10.

Texas (1-1) at No. 12 UCLA (2-0)- Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET on FOX: When FOX saw they had UCLA at Texas with this week’s slate of games they had to be ecstatic. A national title contender with a pair of Heisman hopefuls, against Charlie Strong as he rebuilds one of the game’s biggest brands.

Instead what they’ve got is a pair of perhaps the most disappointing teams in college football.

Texas was embarrassed at home by BYU (yes again) 41-7 last weekend. The Cougars racked up 429 yards of total offense, including 248 yards rushing. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was 20 of 31 for 176 yards, a TD and an interception as BYU loaded the box and dared him to beat him with his arm.

UCLA hasn’t lost a game in 2014, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. A struggling offensive line has led to narrow victories over Virgina (28-20) and Memphis (42-35). Bruins’ fans may have been able to chalk the UVA game up to a noon game on the East Coast, but the Memphis win came in Los Angeles.

Still the Bruins have a pair of dynamic play-makers in Brett Hundley and Myles Jack. Hundley has thrown for 638 yards, three TDs and a pick, while also rushing for 65 yards and TD. Jack is again playing both ways for UCLA. The sophomore has 19 tackles, one for loss and two pass break-ups on defense. He’s only carried the ball three times on offense, but did have a four-yard TD run against Memphis.

Prediction: UCLA is an eight-point favorite at home in this one. I have no doubt that Strong will have Texas playing better this week, but he still will be missing his starting quarterback and three offensive line starters. UCLA will win this one, but we’ll find out more about them in two weeks in Tempe, Ariz. UCLA wins 24-12.

No need to sideline Pat Haden

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This has been a strange few days for the sports world. Saturday’s bizarre outburst from USC Athletic Director Pat Haden during the third quarter of a win against Stanford seems like eons ago.

Yet I’m not sure people overreacted more to a story than this one.

Don’t get me wrong, what Haden did was inexcusable. ADs have no place calling a meeting with officials during a game to discuss their calls and treatment of a head coach.

But to suggest that Haden should resign from his spot on College Football’s Selection Committee like Dan Wolken of USA Today and others did, is a bit extreme.

To give a brief synopsis of the video above and the incident, Haden was summoned to the Trojans’ sideline by a USC staff member because head coach Steve Sarkisian after the coach was flagged for arguing the refs. Sarkisian’s penalty came after linebacker Hayes Pullard was ejected for targeting.

Haden jogged down from the press box and had a very animated discussion with the officials just before the fourth quarter. It was a heck of a job by ABC’s cameras to have a camera on him the moment he entered the field, and an even better job by Heather Cox who was able to get Haden to explain what the heck he was doing.

All this was going on while a pair of top-15 conference rivals went back and forth, before USC was able to escape with a 13-10 victory.

Almost instantly Haden was the story in college football. The debate began as to whether or not Haden should resign from his spot on the selection committee. I’m just not sure what the connection between him arguing with refs and his ability to judge the sport’s landscape have to do with one another.

It’s certainly not a good look, but it’s not a reason for him to get the boot. Hell, he wasn’t even the only AD on the selection committee to get after an official on Saturday, as Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin was also photographed yelling at a referee.

 

Haden was rightfully fined $25K for his outburst, and he is imposing a two-game ban from the sidelines on himself.

Haden’s outburst didn’t show everyone that he’s incapable of unbiasedly picking the best four teams in the country by any stretch. Last time I checked the selection committee gig was an unpaid one, and he gets paid handsomely by USC to be their AD.

Of course Haden is biased towards USC, but that’s why the committee members are recused from discussing their teams. Everyone on that committee is biased towards a certain school, which leads me to believe they’ll just cancel each other out.

Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock issued a statement on Monday saying the incident wouldn’t affect Haden’s standing on the committee at all.

“Emotional outbursts at games are not a matter for the playoff selection committee to deal with,” he said. “This does not affect Pat Haden’s capability as a committee member. We recognize that athletics directors cannot be dispassionate about their own teams, and that’s why we have the recusal policy.”

Now can we get back to discussing the important issues in college football, like why hasn’t Ed Orgeron been named the head coach at SMU yet?

Week 2 Picks

Goducks.com

It wasn’t the greatest start to the 2014 season for the old picks column. I went 2-5 in week 1 against the spread. The good news is that the only straight-up pick I would have missed was Texas A&M over South Carolina, which went the opposite of how everyone but Kevin Sumlin thought it would.

This week’s games have a distinct West Coast flavor as the Pac-12 hosts the two best week two match-ups.

Pittsburgh (1-0) at Boston College (1-0)- Friday 7 p.m. ET on ESPN: This won’t be a particularly compelling match-up in my opinion, but apparently Vegas knows something I don’t. Pitt is just a 4.5-point favorite over BC.

The two teams ran the ball a combined 117 times in their openers, with Pitt racking up 409 yards rushing to BC’s 338.

Prediction: The coastal is wide open, but I think Pitt could be a surprise team in the ACC. Tyler Murphy played well last week for BC, but I like Pitt 28-14.

No. 14 USC (1-0) at No. 13 Stanford (1-0) – Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC: Both teams cruised in their openers last weekend. Head coaches David Shaw (Stanford) and Steve Sarkisian (USC) claim they’ve buried the hatchet after a tiff following last year when Sarkisian was Washington’s head coach and he claimed Stanford was faking injuries in an effort to curb the Huskies’ hurry-up offense.

AP Photo

Against Fresno State the Trojans put up 701 yards of total offense in week one. Redshirt junior Cody Kessler tossed four touchdown passes, and 10 different players caught a pass in the game.

Stanford meanwhile posted a shutout against UC Davis, allowing just 115 total yards. Quarterback Kevin Hogan completed 75 percent of his pass attempts, with three touchdowns and one interception. The Cardinal are still looking for a featured tailback as nine different running backs carried the ball in the first game.

The best match-up in this game will be in the trenches, as Stanford’s offensive line looks to try and hold USC defensive end Leonard Williams at bay. Last week Williams had seven tackles and an interception.

Prediction: Being at home has given Stanford just a 2.5-point advantage according to Vegas. I think Stanford gets revenge on USC for last year’s upset thanks to their offensive line. USC did give up an average of 4.8 yards per rush last week. I think Stanford’s physicality is the difference in this game and they win 24-13.

No. 7 Michigan State (1-0) at No. 3 Oregon (1-0)- Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX: This is obviously the creme of the crop for week two’s slate of games.

It could turn out to be an elimination game for these two playoff contenders, and if you read by my playoff picks, then you know I think that Michigan State can win this one.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Autzen Stadium is an incredible atmosphere, and that’s why Vegas has the Ducks as a 12.5-point favorite. Both teams cruised in their openers over lesser competition.

Even if it was against Jacksonville State, Connor Cook showed in week one that the Spartans have more firepower on offense than last year’s unit that often failed to provide any sort of a spark. The junior QB completed 12 of 13 pass attempts for 285 yards and three touchdowns.

Marcus Mariota was equally impressive, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another. The Ducks racked up 673 yards of total offense, and averaged 7.7 yards per rushing attempt.

Prediction: I think Michigan State’s defense is the difference here. Oregon traditionally struggles with physical defenses like the Spartans, and despite the fact that Mariota is the best passer the Ducks have had, I think Michigan State wins 28-24.

East Carolina (1-0) at No. 21 South Carolina (0-1)- Saturday 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU: No rest for the Gamecocks as they lick their wounds from the Texas A&M thrashing.

ECU put up 52 points last week and South Carolina obviously has some issues on defense. The injury to Mike Davis’ ribs is another obstacle for Steve Spurrier to work around after a deflating loss.

Prediction: This pick is 100% influenced by years of listening to @MikeMcCall talk about the Purple Pirates and Bojangles being some of the South’s true treasures. South Carolina is favored by 16. I don’t think ECU actually wins this game, but they cover. I’m going South Carolina 42, ECU 31.

Michigan (1-0) at No. 16 Notre Dame (1-0)- Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC: Other than potential bowl games, this could be the last meeting between the two rivals for quite some time. The Fighting Irish claim the series is ending because of its new agreement with the ACC, but then they turned around and announced a home-and-home with Ohio State for 2022 and 2023 on Thursday.

Michigan’s offense looked impressive against Appalachian State with 52 points on 560 total yards. Both App State touchdowns came in the second half.

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson certainly doesn’t look like a guy who went a year without playing football, passing for 295 yards and two touchdowns against Rice.

Prediction: Vegas has Notre Dame as a four-point favorite. I’m inclined to go with that line, I’m just not convinced of Michigan just yet. I think Notre Dame wins the final match-up 28-17.

BYU (1-0) at Texas (1-0)- Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1: Sometimes you have to break something down to bring it back down.

Photo courtesy of BYU

Charlie Strong is burning it to the ground in Austin, Texas.

This week alone Strong has suspended (although some outlets are reporting it’s an indefinite suspension for the entire season) starting tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle.  Making matters worse, starting center Dominic Espinosa suffered a broken ankle against North Texas and is out for the year. Quarterback David Ash is also out this week after suffering a concussion.

Last year BYU defeated Texas 40-21, setting the gears in motion for Strong to take over at Texas. Cougars’ quarterback Taysom Hill ran wild last year, and last week he racked up 97 yards rushing with two TDs, but he did most of his damage through the air with 308 yards passing and three more TDs.

Prediction: Vegas has BYU as a one-point favorite with all the Longhorns’ turmoil. I think that Texas is still the better team in this one. I’m intrigued by Tyrone Swoopes and believe that Strong’s defensive principles will contain Hill. I think Texas wins 17-13.

Virginia Tech (1-0) at No. 8 Ohio State (1-0)- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: Ohio State had an impressive comeback victory over a good Navy team in week one. Yes you read that right. I think Navy is a good team and there’s no shame in how Ohio State played against the midshipmen.

The Hokies rolled by William & Mary 34-9. So in summation Ohio State may have learned something about itself in week one, while Virgina Tech is still a mystery.

One of the real mysteries is just how much of a difference quarterback Michael Brewer can be. The Texas Tech transfer was 23 of 30 for 251 yards, two touchdown and an interception in his Hokie debut.

The Buckeyes also have a new QB in J.T. Barret, who went 12 of 15 for 226 yards, a TD and an interception. He also added 50 yards rushing. While Navy is impressive, Bud Foster’s defense will be a better test for the redshirt freshman.

Prediction: Ohio State is favored by 11 points at home in this one. I think the Buckeyes are better, but wouldn’t be surprised to see VT keep it close. I’m going with an Ohio State win 21-16.

Week 1 Picks

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College Football is upon us once again. While the debut of Georgia State as a Fun Belt team was mere morsel of an appetizer,  Thursday it’s time to feast my friends.

There is a heck of a slate of games this weekend, beginning with 14 games on Thursday. I’m picking my top seven match-ups as I’ll do every week throughout the season (unless my honey-do list gets too long at home).

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina- 6p.m. ET on SEC Network: The Aggies begin life without Johnny Manziel, and South Carolina looks to find an identity on defense after Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina has won 17 straight games at home, and Steve Spurrier is 23-1 all-time in openers as a college coach.

The Augusta Chronicle

Sophomore Kenny Hill is the new Texas A&M quarterback. He attempted just 22 passes last season, but Kevin Sumlin has been able to put up big numbers no matter who his signal caller is. South Carolina also has a new starting QB in Dylan Thompson. Unlike Hill, Thompson has plenty of experience, including playing in 10 games last year as he completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 783 yards and four touchdowns.

Last year the Aggies showed no desire in playing defense against anyone giving up 32.2 points per game and an average of 475.8  yards per game. With an offense that features running back Mike Davis, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry en route to a 1,183-yard season, I think the Gamecocks take this one pretty easily.

Prediction: Most Las Vegas books have South Carolina as a 10.5-point favorite. I’m going with South Carolina 45, Texas A&M 24.

Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss- 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: Chris Petersen is gone. The BCS is gone. Thus it will be a long time before Boise State is able to prove to they truly are more than just a flash in the pan in the world of college football. A win over an up-and-coming SEC team would be a good start.

Ole Miss is favored by 11 in most books. That’s largely in part due to the fact that they’re led by senior quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw for 3,346 yards last season. Boise signal caller Grant Hedrick takes over full-time after splitting time with Joe Southwick last year.

The Rebels have a distinct advantage on defense with nine starters returning. Even though Boise State’s 6-2 record against ranked opponents since 2009 is an interesting tidbit, I don’t think this group of Broncos can hang.

Prediction: Look for Ole Miss and head coach Hugh Freeze to make statement in his third season opener. Ole Miss wins 28-14.

West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama- 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2: This game has an interesting sub-plot. Projected starting quarterbacks Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker were teammates at Florida State in 2012, before Trickett went to West Virginia last year and Coker enrolled at Alabama this summer.

AP Photo

Trickett has further taken the storyline off the field by telling reporters that his first kiss was actually Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s daughter when they were six.

As far as Vegas is concerned off the field stories are the only intriguing aspects of this Chic-fil-A Kickoff game, with the Crimson Tide as a 27-point favorite.

The Mountaineers spread offense will be a good test for an Alabama secondary that wasn’t up to Saban’s lofty standards a year ago.

Prediction: I think Alabama is one of the best teams in the country, but I’m thinking West Virginia will cover here. I’m going Alabama 35, West Virginia 17.

Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn- 4 p.m. ET on SEC Network: This is a game that Vegas really wants you to put your money on. Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall won’t start the game, and no one knows if he’ll play at all thanks to a marijuana citation this off-season.

The Tigers are a 19.5 favorite despite Marshall’s suspension, because Vegas wants you to bet on the Razorbacks. But don’t fall for it. Auburn’s No. 2 QB Jeremy Johnson can play. He was a four-star prospect out of Montgomery, Ala. and was named Mr. Football as a senior.

Arkansas has won three of its last four trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium, but I don’t have much faith in a fourth victory.

Prediction: I think Auburn wins this one in a boat race. I’m taking the Tigers 42-20.

No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia- 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: This was an awesome game last year, with two veteran quarterbacks battling it out as Clemson held on for a 38-35 win.

This year it looks like another great match-up, just with a pair of inexperienced QBs this time around. Georgia will start senior Hutson Mason who has waited his turn the last three years behind Aaron Murray. Clemson will also go with a senior to start year in Cole Stoudt, but true freshman Deshaun Watson could also see time this season.

Clemson’s defense has the edge in this one with Vic Beasley one of a handful of veteran defenders who returned, but UGA has the X-factor with Todd Gurley.

Prediction: Georgia is favored by 7.5 in this one. I think that the Bulldogs win, but in another thriller 27-21 over Clemson.

No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State- 8p.m. ET on ABC: Jimbo Fisher wants his team to display an attitude of dominance in 2014. Dominance is what Vegas expects in this one with FSU favored by 18.5 points.

The Seminoles are loaded again, and the big stage in Dallas will be nothing new to them. Oklahoma State returns just 10 total starters on offense and defense from a team that appeared in the Cotton Bowl last year.

Prediction: FSU rolls in this one I think. I’m taking the Seminoles 42-16 over the Cowboys.

No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU: This all smash-mouth football fan could ask for. Two big physical teams, with a pair of the best running backs in the country.

Madison.com

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ran for 1,609 yards last year and is considered by some to be a darkhorse Heisman candidate. LSU’s top tailback is a 6-foot-1, 224-pound freshman named Leonard Fournette, who has Jameis Winston-hype around him as he makes his collegiate debut in Houston on Saturday.

LSU will rotate quarterbacks with both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris both expected to play. Wisconsin will start Tanner McEvoy, who played safety for the Badgers last year. McEvoy brings a dual-threat element to the quarterback position that could make Wisconsin’s vaunted rushing attack even tougher to defend.

LSU is a five-point favorite in this one, and I think the Tigers athletes on defense get them by the Badgers.

Prediction: I’m going with LSU 21, Wisconsin 14.

Heisman Contenders

The Heisman Trophy is perhaps the hardest award in all of sports to project. Last year I predicted that Braxton Miller would win the award, while Jameis was mentioned in the few more for the road section of my other contenders post.

If he wasn’t out for the year with a shoulder injury, I would probably again tell you that Miller was my preseason favorite to win the award. But unfortunately for Ohio State and Miller he won’t be playing this season, so here are my top preseason Heisman contenders.

USA Today Sports Images

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State QB: Last year Winston became the third Florida State quarterback to win the award as he led the Seminoles to a national title win over Auburn. This season he’ll try to become the first player since Archie Griffin in 1974 and ’75 to win back-to-back Heismans.

This year Winston will face even more scrutiny than he did last year in the midst of a sexual assault allegation that ultimately never led to any charges being filed. Every stone in Winston’s past has been overturned by the media since his breakout year, and his little crab legs incident during baseball season will give voters even more Winston fatigue this year.

Last year Winston was unreal as he completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 4, 057 yards and 40 touchdowns. FSU is again loaded on offense, even with the departures of Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Winston could very well be just as good as he was a season ago, but it will be hard to statistically do as well. Still if FSU is dominant again in 2014, then voters will have a hard time punishing Winston’s on-filed performance because of what they perceive about him off the gridiron.

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jason Getz

2. Todd Gurley, Georgia RB: The Junior tailback is a different breed. He led Georgia in rushing despite playing in just 10 games as he battled an ankle injury. In those ten games Gurley averaged six yards per carry, ran for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Quarterback Aaron Murray is gone, and senior Hutson Mason takes over the reigns at quarterback, meaning the heavy lifting will belong to Gurley. Unlike last year, there isn’t much star power in the SEC at quarterback- which means Gurley could become the darling of the country’s most poplular conference if UGA gets off to a great start against Clemson and South Carolina early in the year.

The biggest thing that could hamper Gurley is Mason’s inexperience and lack of a deep threat. Until Mason proves otherwise, teams will likely stack the box assuming the senior QB can’t beat them and they’ll need the extra man power to stop the 6-foot-1, 226-pounder running back.

(Read: Which Heisman contenders will make the first College Football Playoff)

3. Marcus Mariotta, Oregon QB: Marcus Mariotta may have the school record for career rushing yards by a QB with 1,467, but make no mistake this Duck is mostly an aerial threat. The Hawaii native has completed .658 percent of his career pass attempts. Last year he tossed 31 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

Like Gurley, Mariotta suffered an injury last season that prevented him from reaching his full potential, as the QB sprained his MCL midway through the year. Mariotta will have a chance in week two to announce his 2014 Heisman candidacy as Oregon hosts Michigan State in Eugene, Ore.

If the redshirt junior can lead Oregon past Michigan State early in the year he could be in the driver’s seat for the award for much of the year.

Getty Images

4. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama RB: Anytime you’re the featured back in Nick Saban’s offense at Alabama, you’re in the Heisman discussion. In his first season as the No. 1 running back in Alabama’s offense Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged six yards per carry and 102.9 yards per game.

Despite not knowing who will start at quarterback, Alabama does have plenty of weapons at wideout that will prevent teams from stacking the box to contain Yeldon. Whether Jacob Coker or Blake Sims are under center, the offense will run through Yeldon.

Teammate Derrick Henry could pose a threat to Yeldon’s candidacy as he will have a large part in the offense this season too. The 241-pound sophomore could also play the role of touchdown vulture in goal-line situations that could make casual voters look past Yeldon’s overall role in the offense.

Associated Press

5. Myles Jack, UCLA LB/RB: Myles Jack is the most intriguing player in college football to me. Last year as a freshman he racked up 75 tackles on defense at linebacker, and ran for seven touchdowns on offense at running back. He was named Pac-12 freshman of the year on both offense and defense.

Jack had seven tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions, and averaged seven yards per carry. A defensive player hasn’t won the Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997. Jack will play mostly linebacker this season, but even if he just 38 total carriers on offense like he did last year it could be enough to get him in the conversation.

In addition to playing primarily on defense Jack’s other uphill battle will be getting the West Coast vote. Jack isn’t the Bruin’s only Heisman candidate as UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is actually a 10/1 favorite to win the award according to Bovada. Jack will also have to try and sway votes away from Mariotta.

The advantage he will have for voters deciding which West Coast candidate is Heisman worthy, is that he will actually go head-to-head with Mariotta this season. Voters will only be able to compare stats and composure between Hundley and Mariotta, but Jack will have the chance to physically stop Mariotta while on defense. A game-changing sack or an interception against the Ducks would not only put UCLA in great position to win the conference, but it could push Jack to the forefront of voter’s minds.