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.

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ACC Power Rankings

A little movement in the energy efficient ACC rankings this week. Virginia Tech makes the biggest jump going from No. 10 to 5 with a win over Georgia Tech. North Carolina brought shame on the conference by getting blown out by ECU, thus the Heels fall from 6 to 13.

14. Wake Forest (2-3 0-1 ACC): The Demon Deacons fell to Clemson 56-7 last weekend. Wake Forest gave up 573 yards of total offense. They gave up a 64-yard touchdown pass just 45 seconds into the game. Wake remains the worst team in the ACC.

 

13. North Carolina (1-3, 0-1 ACC): Really North Carolina? You let East Carolina come into Chapel Hill and put up 55 points on Homecoming? The Purple Pirates racked up 603 yards of total offense in the game. Afterwards the Tar Heels admitted they didn’t bring any energy because they were playing ECU. How does that happen Larry Fedora?

12. Duke (3-2, 0-2 ACC): The Blue Devils won a shootout at home with Troy 38-31 on Saturday. The defense has looked really bad for Duke the last three weeks, and while quarterback Brandon Connette has filled in nicely with 11 touchdown passes, there aren’t many surefire wins left on the schedule. Duke is scheduled to play Navy on Saturday but politics could get in the way.

11. Boston College (2-2, 1-1 ACC): Boston College put a scare into Florida State early, jumping out to a 17-3 lead. FSU looked like it was going to run away with it for a while, but the Dudes never gave up and made it closer than the 48-34 score indicates. With the government shutdown, the Eagles could be off this weekend with a visit from Army on the schedule.

10. Syracuse (2-2, 0-0 ACC): It’s time for Syracuse’s welcome to the ACC moment this weekend. They host the fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers. So far this season the Orange have looked over-matched against BCS AQ schools. I’ll be interested to see how the Carrier Dome reacts to its first ACC game, especially with a top-four opponent.

9. Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC): Virginia just looked sad on Saturday against Pitt. The Cavaliers fell 14-3 on the road. UVA’s offense just couldn’t get anything going. The defense allowed just 199 yards of total offense and eight yards rushing. UVA hosts Ball State on Saturday.

 

8. North Carolina State (3-1, 0-1 ACC): The Wolfpack scored in all three phases of the game on Saturday with a pick-six and a punt return for a touchdown in a 48-14 win over Central Michigan. Junior wide receiver Bryan Underwood had 190 yards of total offense, including 148 yards receiving.  Just have to avoid the road slip-up this weekend at Wake Forest.


7. Pittsburgh (3-1, 2-1 ACC): Talk about an ugly win. Neither team reached 200 yards of total offense. Pitt turned the ball over three times and yet still came out on top of UVA 14-3. The Cavs turned it over twice and the Panthers’ defense carried the team in the first off day of the year for Tom Savage really. Pitt has a chance to really make a statement at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

6. Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1 ACC): Remember when I said this was Paul Johnson’s most dynamic offense since he arrived at Tech? Yeah so maybe I’m partially to blame for the Yellow Jackets’ offensive ineptitude on Thursday in a 17-10 loss to VT. GT averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on the ground and turned it over three times. There’s no time to wallow on the loss for GT though, with a trip to Miami this weekend.

5. Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0 ACC): The Hokies make the biggest jump in the ACC poll this week going form 10 to 5. Logan Thomas looked almost like an actual quarterback on Thursday, completing 19 of 25 pass attempts for 221 yards and a touchdown. He also was VT’s leading rusher with 58 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. If he can just not be terrible, then VT could control the Coastal because it has the best defense in the conference (and maybe the country).

4. Maryland (4-0, 0-0 ACC): The Terps were off this week as they prepared for a trip to Tallahassee to face No. 8 Florida State. C.J. Brown has been impressive this season, completing 66.7 percent of his passes and rushing for 283 yards and six touchdowns already. I can’t wait to see what crazy helmets Maryland breaks out for one of the biggest games in Randy Edsall’s tenure.


3. Miami (4-0, 0-0 ACC): The Hurricanes open up ACC play against GT this weekend after a 49-21 win over South Florida last weekend. Still not sure what to make of this Miami team, but until they slip up they’ve earned the No. 3 spot in this poll and are No. 14 in the Coaches’ Poll. Stephen Morris was injured against USF but did practice on Monday.

2. Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC):  Florida State looked anything but crisp early against Boston College before Jameis Winston and the offense took over. The defense raised cause for concern, but the No. 8 Seminoles still won by 14 points. Saturday will be the fist time this season really that the offense will truly be tested as Maryland comes to town. FSU fans and ESPN execs will be holding their breath throughout the Noon tilt with the Terps.

1. Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC): Not much to update you with on the Tigers except that they’re still really good. Clemson cruised by Wake Forest 56-7 and shouldn’t have any trouble with Syracuse in its first trip to the Carrier Dome. Tajh Boyd is making a legitmate Heisman stake with his start to the year. The reigning ACC player of the year has already thrown for 994 yards, nine touchdowns and no picks, while rushing for four scores as well.

Week 4 Picks

Photo from N.C. State

Lets just be honest about this week’s slate of games. It’s not one that inspires much enthusiasm. I mean College Gameday is in Fargo, North Dakota for North Dakoka State and Delewarte State.

With that, I’m not going to bore you with the usual breakdown of the top three match-ups of the weekend and just give you seven short picks this week. Last week I was 6-1 against the spread, but I’m only giving myself credit for a 5-2 week since I said Texas A&M would win outright. That puts me at 14-7 for the season.

Now lets get into this week’s picks.

No. 3 Clemson at North Carolina State- Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: Clemson is a 13.5-point favorite on the road, on a Thursday night. That’s usually a recipe for disaster, but I think the Tigers are talented enough to win by two touchdowns in Carter-Finley Stadium. N.C. State hasn’t found much rhythm on offense since Brandon Mitchell went down in week one against Louisiana Tech. Junior Pete Thomas threw two picks as the Wolfpack escaped Richmond 23-21 last time out.

Prediction: Clemson rolls to a 35-17 victory.

SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily

No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford- Saturday 7 p.m. ET on FOX: This only the match-up of the weekend that features two ranked teams. Arizona State is fresh off a bizarre win over Wisconsin. Stanford again looks like it will battle with Oregon for Pac-12 supremacy. The spread is the Cardinal by six and I like them to cover that home.

Prediction: Standford wins 24-13 over Arizona State.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech: Saturday Noon ET on ESPN: The Yellow Jackets are 6.5-point favorites over the Tar Heels. Last year these two teams combined for 118 points as Tech won 68-50. GT looked impressive last weekend in its 38-14 win over Duke in Vad Lee’s homecoming. I think that UNC has to play better on defense if they’re going to challenge Tech and Miami for the Coastal Division title.

Prediction: Georgia Tech continues to roll at home and wins another shootout over UNC, this time 42-35.

Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC: Notre Dame just escaped Purdue last weekend with a comeback 31-24 victory. Michigan State has been a disaster on offense this season, but scored 55 points last week against Youngstown State. The Spartans have scored just nine offensive touchdowns this year, but the defense has scored four times in addition to allowing just 10 points per game. Tommy Rees avoided turning the ball over against Purdue, which allowed the Irish to come from behind. If he can do that again on Saturday then Notre Dame will be in good shape against Michigan State’s anemic offense.

Prediction: Notre Dame is favored by five points and I think the Irish win by less than that. I think Michigan State’s defense keeps it close in a 17-14 loss.

Tennessee at No. 19 Florida- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Both teams enter this SEC opener with bruised egos. Florida looked awful in a sloppy 21-16 loss to Miami two weeks ago, while Tennessee is fresh off a 59-14 thrashing from Oregon. Ultimately I think that Florida’s defense will be able to control this one. The Gators are favored by 17 points, but we’ll see if they can even put that many points on the board.

Prediction: Tennessee covers but it’s an ugly 17-10 victory for the Gators.

Utah at BYU- Saturday 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN: The Holy War should be an entertaining ending to the fourth week of the season. The Utes are averaging 49.3 points per game this year and are fresh off a 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State. BYU had last week off, but ended Manny Diaz’s career at Texas in a 40-21 win in week two. BYU is a 6.5-point favorite, and I think the Cougars rushing attack will be more than enough to cover that.

Prediction: Maybe I’m underselling Utah here but I think that Taysom Hill and BYU cruise to a 49-28 victory at home.

Boise State at Fresno State- Friday 9 p.m. ET on ESPN: This game likely will decide who wins the Mountain West. Boise State has bounced back nicely from a loss to Washington in the opener with wins over Tennessee-Martin and Air Force. Fresno State is 2-0 and I’ve already written this year that I think with Derek Carr the Bulldogs have a chance to be the final BCS-busters. Plus they ran the most amazing play of all-time (posted above) two weeks ago against Cal-Poly, allowing lineman Austin Wentworth to score. Fresno State is a 3.5-point favorite.Prediction: I’ve got to keep riding with Fresno here. I think the Bulldogs win 35-28.