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 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.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC): Kentucky played perhaps its best game of the season on Saturday as it scored 21 fourth-quarter points in a 35-28 loss to South Carolina. The Wildcats’ defense is still not up to par with head coach Mark Stoops’ standards but at least UK didn’t quit when USC went up 21-0. QB Jalen Whitlow accounted for 247 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. Kentucky hosts Alabama this weekend so any movement from the No. 14 spot isn’t happening this week.

13. Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2 SEC): For three quarters Mississippi State hung with LSU on Saturday, before losing 59-26. The Bulldogs ran the ball well, averaging six yards per carry en route to 216 yards rushing, but the secondary was torched by Zach Mettenberger. This weekend is a must-win game at home against Bowling Green (5-1), easier said than done.

12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC): Vandy fell to 0-3 in the SEC this weekend after a 51-28 loss at home to Missouri. The Commodores offense racked up 468 yards of total offense, 338 through the air, but couldn’t keep up with Missouri’s attack. Vanderbilt is off this week before hosting Georgia on the 19th.

11. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC): Butch Jones came awful close to getting his signature first-season win against Georgia, but a costly fumble in overtime allowed Georgia to escape 34-31. It was the best the Volunteers offense has looked all year, with 404 yards of total offense. Running back Rajion Neal racked up 148 yards and two TDs on 28 carries. The Vols get an off week before three straight games against ranked SEC teams.

10. Arkansas (3-3, 0-2 SEC): After a 3-0 start the Razorbacks have now dropped three straight, including Saturday’s 30-10 loss to Florida. Arkansas had just 275 yards of total offense against UF, and just 111 yards on the ground. Arkansas hosts South Carolina Saturday followed by a trip to Alabama, so the Hogs will likely have to bounce back from an 0-4 SEC start.

9. Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2 SEC): The Rebels took a step back on Saturday with a 30-22 loss to Auburn. The Rebels made a late run, but couldn’t catch Auburn after an early 20-3 deficit. Ole Miss really could have used a win last weekend as Texas A&M and LSU come to Oxford in consecutive weeks.

 

8. Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC): Missouri moved into the Top-25 with its win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, but I’m still skeptical of the Tigers. While quarterback James Franklin was impressive, throwing for four touchdowns, the defense allowed Vandy to rack up 468 yards of total offense. If Missouri wants more respect then they have to make a big statement against a vulnerable Georgia team in Athens on Saturday.

7. Auburn (4-1, 2-1 SEC): Auburn came up with a big win over Ole Miss last weekend. Quarterback Nick Marshall did most of his damage on the ground, with 140 yards rushing and two TDs. The Tigers defense wielded late in the game to the Rebels, but Auburn held on. The Tigers host Western Carolina Saturday before traveling to Texas A&M the following week.

6. South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 SEC): The Gamecocks season took a strange turn this week. First Steve Spurrier’s Coaches show was pulled because he said it was too negative, then Spurrier and the coaches blasted Jadeveon Clowney’s decision to not play against Kentucky. The future top-five pick is questionable for Saturday’s trip to Arkansas. The Gamecocks are the most dysfunctional 4-1 team in the nation.

5. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The Aggies were off this weekend as they gear up for a crucial run to end the season. Johnny Manziel is still the most electric player in the SEC and Texas A&M will have a chance to put up big numbers against Ole Miss on Saturday. After a visit from Auburn, TAMU should cruise until its trip to Baton Rouge, La. on November 23.

4. Florida (4-1, 3-0 SEC): Two straight weeks of Tyler Murphy have done the Gators’ offense good. In a 30-10 win over Arkansas, Murphy was 16 of 22 for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Solomon Patton emerged as his top target, bringing down six receptions for 124 yards and two TDs. Florida’s streak of holding 12 straight SEC opponents under 20 points will be put to the test this weekend at LSU.

3. LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC): LSU pulled away from Mississippi State late last weekend to improve to 5-1. Zach Mettenberger continues to be impressive. Against MSU he was 24 of 29 for 340 yards and two TDs. LSU still has questions on defense, but its offense is good enough to carry it in most shootouts. Saturday’s battle between LSU’s offense and UF’s defense is infinitely intriguing.

2. Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC): The Bulldogs narrowly escaped Tennessee 34-31 in overtime last weekend, but it paid the price. Back-up running back Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley were lost for the year to knee injuries, while Michael Bennett also went down with a knee injury but could return by Nov. 2. With the injuries piling up, Saturday’s home game against Missouri just became a lot tougher.

1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama fared well in its scrimmage against Georgia State Saturday, with a 45-3 win. Now the Crimson Tide travel to Kentucky before hosting Tennessee and Arkansas. Wake me up when November 9 gets here and Alabama hosts LSU, other than the SEC Championship game (should Bama make it), the Crimson Tide won’t be challenged much all year with the exception of the LSU game.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC): Changing the culture of a losing program is no easy task as Mark Stoops has found out. Stoops told the media today that his team will continue to get steamrolled if the finger pointing he saw during a 24-7 loss to Florida doesn’t stop. Wildcat fans should buckle up for a bumpy couple of weeks with a trip to No. 12 South Carolina this weekend followed by a visit from No. 1 Alabama.

13. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC): The Bulldogs had a week off to prepare for this weekend’s tilt with LSU. Mississippi State has had success on offense lately so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up against a team with the caliber of athletes that LSU has.  Dual-threat QB Dak Prescott could give State fans hope for the future, but it’s doubtful he can pull of an upset of this magnitude.

12. Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2 SEC): If James Franklin is going to make it two straight bowls for Vandy then Saturday is a must-win game at home against Missouri. The Commodores cruised by UAB 52-24 last weekend. Running back Jerron Seymour was impressive with 107 yards and two touchdowns, but the defense allowed the Blazers to average 5.4 yards per carry with its own rushing attack.

11. Tennessee (3-2, 0-1 SEC): The Volunteers were anything but impressive in their 31-24 win over South Alabama. It’s obvious they were looking ahead to this weekend’s match-up with Georgia, but there’s still no way USA should be within seven points of an SEC team on the road. Junior quarterback Justin Worley threw three picks in the game. If he turns it over that often this weekend it will be a long day for the Vols in front of a national TV audience.

10. Missouri (4-0, 0-0 SEC): Missouri improved to 4-0 over the weekend with a 41-19 win over Arkansas State. Yet due to the fact that the Tigers have so readily adopted the SEC out-of-conference scheduling approach they received just 21 votes in this week’s coaches poll. A win this weekend at Vanderbilt wouldn’t get them in the top 25, but it would at least get the ball rolling.

9. Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Auburn had the week off to prepare for a visit from Ole Miss this weekend. Alabama laid out the gameplan to stop the Rebels offensive attack. Quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions so far this season. I think the BYE week could be big for him to review the turnovers and his decision making as he adjust to playing quarterback at this level.

8. Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC): The Razorbacks put up a good fight in a 45-33 shootout with Texas A&M last weekend. Freshman Alex Collins rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth time this season and quarterback Bradnon Allen threw three touchdown passes. Allen also threw a pair of picks and the defense gave up 523 yards of total offense. Arkansas travels to No. 19 Florida this weekend for the second of its four-game SEC gauntlet.

7. Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Well it appears that Ole Miss should have just let sleeping dogs lie. Quarterback Bo Wallace boasted that his team could, and would, score on Alabama because they had better receivers than Texas A&M. Ole Miss fell 25-0 to the Crimson Tide. The Rebels turned it over twice and Wallace completed just 54 percent of his passes. A trip to Auburn this weekend would allow Ole Miss to regain the momentum it gained with a 3-0 start to the season.

6. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Despite a slow start the Gamecocks escaped Orlando with a 28-25 win over Central Florida this weekend. Quarterback Connor Shaw was injured early the game, but according to reports he will start this weekend against Kentucky. That’s good news because Dylan Thompson looked shaky when he was handed the keys to the offense, completing 15 of 32 pass attempts for 261 yards and an interception. Running back Mike Davis should be the focal point of the offense, he ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries Saturday.

5. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The ninth-ranked Aggies can’t stop anybody on defense, but it doesn’t matter because no one can stop Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense either. In win at Arkansas Saturday the Aggies showed a new dimension to the offense as sophomores Trey Williams (83 yards and a touchdown) and Tra Carson (64 yards) took the load off Manziel in the second half with a running game. Texas A&M has a BYE this weekend.

4. Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC): For the first time this season, Florida’s offense didn’t look eons behind its defense on Saturday in a 24-7 win over Kentucky. In his first-career start Tyler Murphy completed 15 of 18 pass attempts for 156 yards and a touchdown, and added 36 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Sophomore running back Matt Jones rumbled for 176 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Meanwhile the defense continued its dominance, allowing just 173 yards of total offense and 12 first downs. The defense gets a good test this weekend from Arkansas’ rushing attack.

3. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): The Tigers gave Georgia everything they had on Saturday as they came up short in a 44-41 instant-classic. Zach Mettenberger was sensational as he threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Jeremy Hill had to grind for 86 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Ultimately the defense just couldn’t get Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense off the field. LSU need a win this weekend over Mississippi State to get its confidence back before a big stretch to end the season in SEC play.

2. Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC): It really is remarkable what Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs have done this season. After a loss to Clemson, the Dawgs have taken down both South Carolina and LSU to remain firmly in the national championship picture. Aaron Murray has shed the big-game failure label in each of those wins. This time he threw for 298 yards with four touchdowns and an interception, while also scoring on a one-yard TD run. Making it even more impressive was that he did it with tailback Todd Gurley in street clothes for the second half thanks to a sprained ankle. Gurley is listed day-to-day, but with game a trip to Tennessee this weekend, followed by games against Missouri and Vanderbilt, it may be prudent to let Gurley rest up for the Cocktail Party.

1. Alabama (4-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama dominated Ole Miss on Saturday in a 25-0 shutout. It was the best the Crimson Tide’s defense has looked all season long. ‘Bama allowed just 205 yards of total offense, forced two turnovers, and gave up just 4 of 14 third-down conversions. Perhaps the best bit of news was that the running game got back on track. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown, while Kenyan Drake added 99 yards and a touchdown. The Crimson Tide will  host an open practice against Georgia State on Saturday.

Week 5 picks

Allen Sullivan / AJC.com

Last week didn’t turn out so hot for me and my picks. I went 3-4, but at least Fresno State stayed alive! We can all drift off to sleep with Derek Carr and the Bulldogs this weekend as they travel to Hawaii for a Midnight kickoff here on the east coast.

I’m now 17-11 for the year so go ahead and put your mortgage payment on this week’s picks.

Nathan Gray/ Independent Mail

No. 6 LSU at No. 10 Georgia- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS:

For the second time in three weeks Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC) puts its SEC (and National) title hopes on the line. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is coming off a 35-21 win over Auburn in its SEC opener, while special team miscues made a 45-21 win over North Texas seem closer than it was for UGA.

The Bulldogs offense is firing on all cylinders right now. Aaron Murray is completing 72 percent of his passes and has tossed seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. On the ground Todd Gurley still looks like the best back in the country, even though he’s banged up. The sophomore has 377 yards, four touchdowns and is averaging six yards per carry.

The young defense has come along slowly, but looked better in stretches against South Carolina and North Texas.

LSU is also off to a great start. Former UGA quarterback Zach Mettenberger (pictured at the top of the post alongside Murray) has been crisp this season. He’s thrown for 1,026 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. Odell Beckham (20 catches for 389 yards and four TDs) and Jarvis Landry (24 catches for 364 yards and six TDs) are a terrific receiving tandem, but no other Tiger has more than three catches this season.

Jermey Hill, who probably shouldn’t be allowed to suit up for LSU, is averaging 8.3 yards per carry on the ground. Teams are averaging 19.5 points against LSU’s revamped defense so far this season.

Vegas has Georgia as a three-point favorite at home.

Prediction: I’ve gone back and forth on this all week. I even told a UGA fan on Tuesday I wasn’t sure that LSU would even punt in the game because the Dawgs are so lackluster on defense. But the more I think about it I just can’t bring myself to go against Mark Richt in Athens.

Georgia has the advantage at quarterback and I think playing in the stadium where he was supposed to star (and his mom works at) will all be a bit much for Mettenberger. He’ll eventually try to do too much and turn the ball over. I think UGA wins another SEC shootout over LSU 35-31.

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech- Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN:

The Yellow Jackets (3-0, 2-0 ACC) are a seven-point favorite at home against Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0 ACC). Georgia Tech erased a 13-point deficit last weekend in a 28-20 win over North Carolina, while Virginia Tech needed triple overtime to defeat Marshall. The Hokies defense is one of the better units in the ACC, but unfortunately they don’t get the luxury of playing against Logan Thomas. The senior signal caller has thrown six interceptions and just four touchdowns so far this season.

Prediction: VT’s second trip to Atlanta this season goes a lot like its first (expect with out the moral victory for the defense) and Georgia Tech likely moves into the Top 25 with 24-10 victory.

No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 22 Notre Dame- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC:

For the second straight week Notre Dame had to grind out a victory last weekend, taking down Michigan State 17-13. Tommy Rees didn’t turn it over and the Fighting Irish took advantage of MSU’s mistakes with the football to move to 3-1 on the year.

Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) had the week off to prepare for its trip to South Bend, Ind. Blake Bell has changed the complexion of the Sooners offense since replacing Trevor Knight. Bell is completing close to 70 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown a pick yet. He’s been so impressive that OU is a 3.5-point favorite on the road this weekend.

Prediction: I just don’t know if Tommy Rees can stay turnover-free against the OU defense (which is giving up just nine points per game this year). I think that Blake Bell gets a big road win for the Sooners over Notre Dame 23-17.

No. 21 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama- Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN:

The Rebels (3-0, 1-0 SEC) are off to a great start this year with wins at Vanderbilt and Texas. Bo Wallace is an exciting quarterback and Jeff Scott is as slippery a player as there is in the county. Now things get real with a trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Alabama dismantled Colorado State 31-6 last weekend after an emotional win at Texas A&M two weeks earlier. The Crimson Tide look beatable this season, but Ole Miss is not the team to get it done, hence the 14.5 points Vegas is giving the Rebels.

Prediction: I really like Ole Miss, but the only thing they’re winning on Saturday is the tailgate. The Tide roles on 42-28.

No. 13 South Carolina at Central Florida- Saturday Noon ET on ABC:

It’s the biggest home game for UCF (3-0, 0-0 AAC) since the Knights hosted Texas to open up Bright House Networks Stadium in 2007. UCF enters Saturday following a BYE, and defeated Penn State on the road 34-31 two weeks ago. Blake Bortles is a terrific quarterback, he’s completing 71.4 percent of his passes and has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception.

South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) comes into the game off of a BYE as well. The Gamecocks have defeated UNC and Vanderbilt at home, and fallen to Georgia on the road, this season. Surprisingly the strength of the Gamecocks has been their balance on offense with running back Mike Davis and quarterback Connor Shaw.

Prediction: USC is favored by seven points and I’m feeling crazy. I don’t know if UCF can win outright but I think they can make South Carolina work for it. I’ll take USC 17-14 over UCF.

No. 24 Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State- Saturday 8 p.m ET on ABC:

The Badgers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) bounced back from a tough loss to Arizona State with a 41-10 thrashing of Purdue last weekend. Wisconsin is averaging 348.9 yards rushing per game this season and is giving up just 10.5 points per game.

Ohio State (4-0) is in a bit of a predicament as Braxton Miller has been cleared to play this weekend. In Miller’s absence Kenny Guiton has lit it up for the Buckeyes with 664 yards passing, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions against a handful of cupcakes. Guiton looks like a better passer but Miller’s athleticism is what made him the starter in the first place.

Prediction: Ohio State is favored by a touchdown at home and I think they’ll be able to cover that. Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten and I think they’ll show that no matter who plays quarterback on Saturday. Wisconsin goes down 28-17.

No. 9 Texas A&M at Arkansas- Saturday 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2:

62.5 points is the over in this one and I’d take it. The Aggies (3-1, 0-1 SEC) are up there with Oregon for the best offense in the country and the Razorbacks (3-1, 0-0 SEC) have a big-time rushing attack.

Texas A&M bounced back from its loss to Alabama last Saturday with a 42-13 win over SMU. All that Johnny Football kid did was generate 346 yards of total offense, run for two scores and throw another in the blowout win.

Arkansas let a win over Rutgers slip right through its fingers last weekend 28-24. Now it’s time for freshman Alex Collins and head coach Bret Bielema to make their SEC debuts.

Prediction: Texas A&M is getting 14.5 points on the road, and as much as I do like Arkansas rushing attack the Razorbacks gave up 28 points to Rutgers last weekend. TAMU rolls Arkansas at home 42-28.

SEC Power Rankings

Yesterday I gave you my power rankings for the ACC. Now here are my rankings for the SEC.

14. Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC): The Mark Stoops era is off to a hot start on the recruiting trail. Unfortunately none of those kids can suit up for Kentucky this season. The Wildcats opened the year with a 35-26 loss to Western Kentucky in Nashville. Things don’t get better this week with Florida visiting.

13. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC): I really do think Dan Mullen is a good coach. I’m just not sure if you can do much more than he has in Starkville. After a slow start on offense the Bulldogs are rolling now, scoring 62 points against Troy last weekend. Thanks to a 24-20 loss to Auburn, a bowl game looks like a tall task for Mississippi State this season/

12. Vanderbilt (2-2, 0-2 SEC): The Commodores started off the season with a heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss at home. They also have a pair of wins over two cupcakes and a ten-point loss to South Carolina. Jordan Matthews is one of the best receivers in the conference, but there’s really no running game to keep offenses off-balance. Vandy has to win it’s next two games to have any hope of bowling.

11. Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC): I’m not really sure how the Volunteers scored 45 points in its season opener and then 52 against Western Kentucky (Ok I know the defense actually did the scoring in this game). Tennessee looked putrid on Saturday, turning the ball over six times in a 31-17 loss at Florida. The Vols will get a chance to lick their wounds this weekend at home against South Alabama.

10. Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC): The Tigers are 3-0 to start their second season in the SEC. Missouri is averaging 47 points per game (eight best in the country) and giving up 21.7 points per game (50th best in the country). James Frankling has been inconsistent under center with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Dorial Green-Beckham is averaging 14.4 yards per catch. Still with an underwhelming schedule thus far I’m not willing to buy stock in Missouri just yet.

9. Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Auburn fell to LSU 35-21 on Saturday. Nick Marshall threw a pair of interceptions to bring his season total up to four. Running back Tre Mason was impressive with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. The offense looked pretty good in the second half, but the defense has work to do. LSU averaged 10 yards per pass play, and 16.4 yards per completion.

8. Arkansas (3-1, 0-0 SEC): The Razorbacks let 4-0 slip through their hands last weekend in a 28-24 loss to Rutgers, bringing shame to the SEC with a loss to an American Conference foe. Arkansas’ running attack looks stout with freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams. Saturday’s home game against Texas A&M starts a brutal four-game stretch that features trips to Florida and Alabama, with a home bout on October 12 against South Carolina. Shouldn’t have let Rutgers get away Arkansas, it could be a while before your next W.

7. Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Things are looking up in Oxford so far this season. The Rebels are 3-0, including a 44-23 win on the road at Texas, all those prized recruits from February are living up to the hype and Ole Miss is even ranked No. 21 in the nation. All that comes crashing down a bit this weekend as the Rebels travel to No. 1 Alabama. Still if Ole Miss can get by Auburn they could finish fourth in the SEC West.

6. South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC): In its conference opener South Carolina was drubbed by Georgia 41-30, but bounced back two weeks ago with a 35-25 win over Vanderbilt. USC has been pretty good on offense. Connor Shaw hasn’t thrown and interception yet and on the ground the Gamecocks average 224.7 yards per game. The defense has actually been the letdown, giving up 25.3 points per game as Jadevon Clowney has discovered teams are game-planning to go almost exclusively away form him. USC has a trap game this weekend at UCF on Saturday at Noon ET.

5. Florida (2-1, 1-0 SEC): The Gators rebounded nicely from a loss to in-state rival Miami with a 31-17 win over Tennessee on Saturday. Jeff Driskel was lost for the year with a broken leg, but Tyler Murphy looked comfortable under center, completing 8 of 14 passes for 134 yards and touchdown, to go with 84 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown. If he can make the Gator offense even mediocre, things could get scary since the best defense in the nation already resides in Gainesville.

4. Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC): Once again Mark Richt has his team back on track after an early season loss, this time a 38-35 loss on the road to No. 3 Clemson. Aaron Murray finnally won, and played well in a big-game as he defeated South Carolina for the first time ever in week two. Murray has completed 72 percent of his passes this season and has a QB’s best friend in the UGA rushing attack. Todd Gurley looks like a Heisman candidate and Keith Marshall has had some big runs as well. Still the special teams, defense and offensive line still have some questions to be answered if UGA is going to win the SEC East. They have a monster game this weekend at home against LSU on Saturday.

3. Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 SEC): The Aggies offense looks unreal again in 2013. Johnny Manziel has completed 70 percent of his passes, has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 1,228 yards and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry on the ground. Receiver Mike Evans showed defenses that he’s a problem with is massive game against Alabama. The defense is allowing 30.3 points per game and will be the only thing that could keep Texas A&M away from a BCS at-large bid this season.

2. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Thanks to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Zach Mettenberger looks like a different quarterback. He’s completing 64.8 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception through four games. Certainly Cameron is a big reason for that, but he receiving duo of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry deserve their due as well. Jeremy Hill was named SEC player of the week for his game against Auburn, and he’s averaging 8.3 yards per carry. LSU’s young defense will be tested in Athens this weekend by a potent Georgia offense.

1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The two-time defending national champions are of course No. 1 not just in the SEC, but in all the land. The defense was shredded by Manziel (who isn’t?) and has still allowed an average of just 19.3 points per game this season. The offensive line could be the only real chink in Alabama’s armor. A.J. McCarron struggled to get comfortable in the pocket against Virginia Tech and the rushing attack has picked up gain longer than 38 yards all season. Look for the Crimson Tide to send a message to Ole Miss and all the potential blue chippers thinking of heading to Oxford this weekend.

Mom doesn’t know best

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

It was the strangest story across the country on National Signing Day.

Plantation running back Alex Collins announced on television that he was going to sign with the Arkansas Raorbacks. His mother wanted him to stay closer to home and play for the University of Miami, the school he was once committed to. And rather than trust her son’s decision to play for the run-oriented Brett Bielema, she took off with Collins’ Letter of Intent.

Collins’ father signed the LOI for him the next day, causing his mother to hire an attorney in a last-ditch effort to keep Collins in South Florida. It was a sad situation that played out very publicly.

USA TODAY Sports

The worst part was that instead of talking about how talented of a player Arkansas was getting, the story was obviously all about the bizarre family spat. Collins was easily one of the best players in the state of Florida. I watched him put on an absolute show in Tallahassee during the Jimbo Fisher Camp last July.

Through three games this season, it would appear that perhaps Mom didn’t know best in this situation. Despite being the No. 2 running back behind sophomore Jonathan Williams, Collins has rushed for over 100 yards in all three games this season.

He debuted with 131 yards against Louisiana, then went for 172 yards against Samford and on Saturday he racked up 115 yards against Southern Mississippi. Collins is the first player in SEC history to rush for over 100 yards in his first three games and the first player to do it period since some guy named Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma.

Williams hasn’t been too shabby either, rushing for over 100 yard in each game as well. Williams has run for 396 yards and three touchdowns, while Collins leads the team with 422 yards and four touchdowns.

It would appear the running back duo has a chance to be a pretty good one for Bielema, who had a number of terrific tandems at Wisconsin (Monte Ball and James White, P.J. Hill and John Clay). Arkansas is no stranger to talented tailback tandems either, the Razorbacks once featured a backfield of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis.

If Collins can continue to produce once conference play begins (Arkansas travels to Rutgers on Saturday and then faces Texas A&M at home on September 28) then perhaps the conversation will no longer center around his mother’s signing day protest.

How ofter do people talk about Adrian Peterson’s father now that he’s become the best running back in the NFL? Not all that often. And that’s how it should be.

Peterson and Collins have worked hard to be recognized for their accomplishments on the field, not for the actions of their parents.