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 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.

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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.