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.

College World Series picks

Lee Celano, The Advocate

The 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament has been crazy so far to say the least.

AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Eric Christian Smith

Of the 16 regional hosts, just seven advanced to the Super Regional round. Only three of the top eight national seeds made it to the Super Regional round, and just TCU and Virginia have made it to the College World Series.

As you can see, this tournament has been a bit unpredictable thus fa. So that’s why I’m going to go ahead and give you some sure-to-fail picks for Omaha this weekend.

Bracket A is composed of UC Irvine (a three-seed), Texas, Louisville and Vanderbilt. Of this group I really like the Longhorns to advance to the CWS finals. Louisville has enough depth on the mound that they could give Texas a run for its money.

Bracket B is made up of Texas Tech, TCU, Virginia and Ole Miss. The Rebels are making their first trip to Omaha since 1972. Virginia bounced back from a loss to Maryland in the Super Regional opener to punch its ticket to the CWS.

UVA Sports Info

I think the Cavaliers are the best team of this group and ultimately I think they’ll advance. Texas Tech’s pitching has posted four shutouts in seven tournament games thus far, including two 1-0 wins over College of Charleston in Supers, so the Red Raiders could continue their improbable run.

In the finals I think that Virginia will finally end the ACC’s title drought and bring home the conference’s first title since 1955. I think it will take all three games for UVA to beat Texas, bu the Cavs pitching depth will prevail.

The CWS in Omaha is one of the great events in all of sports, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be there for it twice, so buckle up and enjoy the ride college fans this wild tournament has only just begun.

National Seed Projections

Tom Kessler

We’re a little more than halfway through the college baseball season.

I got a chance to take in Florida State and Georgia Tech over the weekend for the Tallahassee Democrat (you can read Sunday’s story here, and click the baseball tab to see the rest). I was impressed with both teams, especially Georgia Tech, who is doing a nice job of playing itself back into postseason contention after a slow start.

FSU once again looks like a top-eight national seed for the NCAA Tournament.

Here is my best shot at projecting who else will join FSU as a national seed this summer.

1. Virginia, 30-6 and 14-4 ACC. RPI No. 8: The Cavaliers are off to an incredible start in 2014 with 30 wins. UVA currently boasts the fourth-best ERA in the country with a 2.06. The Cavs have taken two of three from both Miami and Clemson this year. All three weekend starters have an ERA below three runs, and closer Nick Howard (1.56 ERA, 11 saves) has been sensational. The biggest concern for Brian O’Connor’s squad is the offense. UVA averages just 5.6 runs per game. Mike Papi does provide a power presence with a .319 average, 31 RBI and six homers.

2. Texas, 30-8 and 9-3 Big 12. RPI No. 3: Texas split its opening series with California, and dropped an early series with Kansas, but the Longhorns have been on a tear lately. UT swept Oklahoma over the weekend and has a big series against TCU this weekend. The Longhorns have taken 2 of 4 from Rice this season, and defeated Houston in their only match-up. Texas has the fifth-best ERA in the country at 2.12. In 1,221 at-bats this season, Texas’ opponents have recorded just one home run and 43 extra-base hits. Offensively Texas averages five runs per game, but has scored at least seven runs in four straight games.

3. South Carolina, 28-8 and 8-7 SEC. RPI No. 2: South Carolina ripped off 16 straight wins to start the season, but is in a bit of a tailspin right now. The Gamecocks dropped 2 of 3 to Florida over the weekend and lost 4-1 to Charleston Southern on Tuesday. Pitching is USC’s strength, with a team ERA of 1.88 (good for second-best in the country), and all three weekend starters have at least five wins. In half of the Gamecocks’ losses their opponents have scored four runs or less. Only Grayson Greiner has more than 23 RBI for USC. If they don’t find some more offense soon it could be short postseason run for the Gamecocks.

4. Florida State, 28-8, 14-4 ACC. RPI No. 4: Florida State dropped its first weekend series of the year this weekend in Atlanta, losing two of three to Georgia Tech just days after Florida completed its season sweep over the Seminoles. Still FSU has an impressive resume with two wins at Clemson, two at home against Miami and an 11-4 record overall on the road. DJ Stewart has been a monster this year with a .374 average, 30 RBI and seven homeruns. John Nogowski has developed as a solid run-producer too for the Seminoles with 36 RBI for a team averaging 7.3 runs per game. Luke Weaver is an electric Friday night starter, but if Brandon Leibrandt (knee injury) doesn’t return soon then starting pitching could become a real worry for FSU. Gage Smith (4-0, 1.17 ERA) is as good a set-up man as there is in college baseball and it will take a lot to get to closer Jameis Winston (1.56 ERA, five saves).

5. Oregon State, 27-7 and 11-4 PAC-12. RPI No.24: Oregon State dropped a pair of early games to Nebraska and Michigan State, but didn’t lose consecutive games again until Arizona State took two of three on March 22 and 23. Starter Ben Wetzler is 6-1 in his seven starts with a 0.69 ERA (fourth best in the NCAA). The Beavers as a staff have an ERA of  2.20 (8th best in the country) and have allowed just one homerun. The duo of Dylan Davis (.296 avg., three HRs and 40 RBI) and Michael Conforto (.395 avg., two HRs and 38 RBI) power the offense. Remaining weekend sets against Oregon and Washington will go a long way towards determining the Beavers seeding.

6. Cal Poly, 31-5 and 8-1 Big West. RPI No. 12: In the footsteps of Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, Cal Poly belongs in the national seed discussion after its start in the Big West. Cal Poly has series victories over Kansas State, UCLA, California and UC Santa Barbara (RPI No. 33). As a team the Mustangs are hitting .301 with an on-base percentage of .391. Five players have driven in 26 runs or more. Starting pitchers Casey Bloomquist (8-0, 1.58 ERA), Matt Imhof (7-2, 2.07 ERA) and Justin Calomeni (7-1, 3.40 ERA) have been more than good thus far. A three-game series beginning on Thursday with Cal State Fullerton (18-13) could firmly put the Mustangs in the top eight.

7. Florida, 24-13 and 9-6 SEC. RPI No. 1: The Gators have been a hard team to figure out in 2014. UF dropped an early series to Miami, and three of four in a three-team round robin with Florida Gulf Coast and Illinois. They bounced back with a series win at Texas A&M, but then dropped a series to Kentucky. The Gators are now trending upwards once again after completing the season sweep of Florida State, sweeping LSU and taking two of three from South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.. Florida has used 12 different starting pitchers so far this season. Logan Shore (3-2, 1.67 ERA) is the only one to make more than five starts. UF as a team has an ERA of 3.44. Offensively Taylor Gushue carries the load for a team that averages just 4.5 runs per game with a .338 average, 32 RBI and four homeruns. The two biggest remaining series for UF are at Alabama May 2-4 and at home against Vanderbilt the following weekend. The Gators can’t afford to drop to both of those three-game sets if they’re going to be a top-eight team, even with their strength of schedule and RPI.

8. Louisiana-Lafayette, 34-4 and 14-1 Sun Belt. RPI No. 7: What a start for the Rajin Cajuns. After dropping their season opener ULL won 10 straight, including a mid-week win at LSU and taking two of three from Alabama. The team’s .327 batting average is the fourth-best in the country and second baseman Jace Conrad’s 42 RBI put him in a tie for the the ninth-most in the nation. Louisiana-Lafayette’s weekend rotation is a combined 17-2 with three complete games. With an RPI that will continually drop due to Sun Belt-play, ULL has to avoid dropping any remaining weekend series and mid-week games to remain a top-eight seed. A more-than-feasible request with its remaining schedule.

Others in the hunt: Ole Miss (29-9, RPI No. 5), Houston (26-9, RPI No. 6), Washington (24-7, RPI No. 13), LSU (27-9-1, RPI No. 21), and Vanderbilt (27-10, RPI No. 14).

*Stats and RPI rankings are as of April 15.

Five Strange Signing Day Stories

Every year National Signing Day provides us with almost as much drama as an entire college football season. 2014 was no different.

Personally I didn’t get a chance to cover any of the drama this time around. I spent the morning at Georgia Tech, who’s class was all but wrapped up by 10:30 am. Paul Johnson did have a nice rant about how he feels about recruiting rankings though.

Here is a look at five of the stranger Signing Day stories I came across.

5. Premature Profiles:

Two schools posted signee profiles of prospects who ultimately signed with other schools. Auburn, Ala. linebacker Rashaan Evans got the most attention as the Auburn Tigers posted his signee profile, only to have Evans announce on ESPNU that he was actually headed to the University of Alabama.

Auburn wasn’t the only school quick on the trigger. LSU posted a profile for Adoree’ Jackson, who ended up signing with Southern Cal instead of the Tigers.

Here is a full story from CBS on the premature profiles: Oops: Auburn posts Rashaan Evans profile, but five-star picks Tide

4. Eastern Michigan gets the Lion King:

Eastern Michigan signed a defensive end from Southfield, Mich. named Lion King Conway. There are reports that he has changed his name to just Lion King, because it would be silly to not to at this point.

Full Story: Eastern Michigan Signs DE Named ‘Lion King’

3. James Willis leaves UL for less than 24 hours:

Paul Kieu, The Advertiser

UL Defensive Coordinator James Willis told his players on Wednesday night (after all the faxes had been received of course) that he was leaving the school to take a position as the linebackers’ coach at Florida State.

But after sleeping on it, Willis decided on Thursday morning to not leave for FSU and stay put as the Ragin’ Cajuns defensive coordinator.

That’s a strange case of buyer’s remorse, but perhaps Seminole fans will now forget just how short Billy Napier’s stay in Tallahassee was.

Full Story: James Willis changes his mind, will stay at UL

2. Mother of top Michigan State recruit won’t sign LOI

This seems to happen at least once every year.

Last year it was Arkansas running back Alex Collins’ mother who ran off with his letter of intent, and the year before that Josh Harvey-Clemons’ grandfather didn’t want his grandson to sign with Georgia so he withheld his signature.

This year Malik McDowell’s mother won’t sign the five-star defensive end’s’ LOI to Michigan State. As of 7 p.m. ET on Thursday this matter still hasn’t been resolved.

I always hate situations like this. Picking a school should be the kid’s choice with the parents serving as a sounding board more than anything. McDowell’s mother, Joya Crowe, has been rather vocal during the whole recruiting process on social media and even doing local radio interviews.

Hopefully the kids gets to be a Spartan, since you know that’s what he wants and all.

Full Story: Southfield lineman Malik McDowell commits to Michigan State, but mother still hasn’t signed letter

1. D.J. Law signs with three schools:

BayNews9.com

Haines City running back D.J. Law signed with not one, but three schools on Wednesday. Ole Miss, Utah and East Mississippi Community College all received letters of intent from Law.

Ole Miss reported the LOI at 9:22 a.m., while Utah announced it later in the day. The Rebels have decided to release Law from the LOI and he will be free to play at Utah.

“Our compliance department is cooperating fully with the NLI office on this matter,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said in a release. “We are completely certain no wrongdoing occurred by our coaching or compliance staff. Regardless of the outcome of the findings, we want the young man to attend the school he wants. After talking with D.J. and his family, we are releasing him from his NLI and wish him the best. We have put this matter behind us and plan to make best use of that scholarship.”

If your sad this story appears to be over- don’t be.

From the sounds of things Law has some academic issues that will make him playing at Utah an unlikely scenario, which means he’ll head to JUCO and get to do the recruiting process all over again. That is assuming he makes it out of the Bermuda Triangle that is East Mississippi C.C.

Power Rankings

SEC-ACCAfter a one-week hiatus let’s check back in on the SEC and ACC power rankings.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC): After falling in an early hole, the Wildcats almost came up with their first SEC-win of the year, only to fall short to Mississippi State 28-22. Mark Stoops’ defense continues to be the weak link. The Bulldogs racked up 447 yards of offense and converted 10 of 18 times third down. Alabama State comes to town just in time.

13. Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2 SEC): I hope Bulldog fans enjoyed the last weeks, because starting on Saturday Mississippi State faces South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama all in row. Not good news for a team that let Kentucky hang around.

 

12. Arkansas (3-4, 0-3 SEC): After a BYE week the Hogs face their fifth straight ranked opponent on Saturday. In its last two losses Arkansas gave up 52 points, and Auburn is averaging 37 points per game. Brett Bielma should probably just lay low for a while, but now he’s questioning the tapes that Auburn provided him. His baptism to the SEC continues this weekend.

11. Tennessee (4-4, 1-3 SEC): After a big win over South Carolina two weeks ago, the Volunteers were dismantled by the Alabama machine last weekend. Rajion Neal is on a roll at running back, but that likely ends this week with a trip to Missouri on Saturday.

10. Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC): Like Tennessee, Vanderbilt came back down to earth this weekend in a 56-24 loss to Texas A&M after beating Georgia two weeks earlier. Vandy takes a week off before a four game stretch to end the year. The Commodores have a chance to win three of those four en route to second straight bowl game.

9. Florida (4-3, 3-2 SEC): Florida’s offense is still a pile of hot garbage and last week’s 36-17 loss to a Missouri team playing with its second-string QB really showed just how much of a toll injuries have taken on the Gators’ defense. A loss on Saturday to Georgia could really put Will Muschamp’s job in jeopardy.

8. Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 SEC): Thanks to a win over LSU two weeks ago, The Rebels have a really good shot at getting to eight wins this season. It’s late in the season and you can see Hugh Freeze’ young and talented roster is finally starting to click a little bit. These aren’t your daddy’s Rebels.

7. Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC): With the exception of perhaps this weekend’s opponent, no team’s season has taken a nose-dive quite like Georgia’s. Mark Richt’s team comes into the Cocktail Party with virtually no chance at a repeat trip to Atlanta. The good news is the return of Todd Gurley could spurn a strong finish for a young UGA team.

6. LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC): After stumbling against Ole Miss, LSU made quick work of Furman 48-16 last weekend. LSU’s young defense should benefit from a week off before traveling to Alabama in two weeks. Zach Mettenberger’s legacy as a Tiger will likely be defined by how he performs against the Tide.

5. Missouri (7-1, 3-1 SEC): Just as Gary Pinkel and Missouri got the whole country ready to buy in on this team, the Tigers lose in double-overtime to South Carolina. Missouri still controls it’s own destiny in the division formerly known as the SEC East. The Tigers should get back on track the next two weeks against Tennessee and Kentucky before a defining final two weeks of the season.

4. South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC): After losing to Tennessee two weeks ago, the Gamecocks kept their season alive with a big double-overtime win against Missouri. South Carolina just needs to take care of business against Mississippi State and Florida and they will have a great shot at an SEC East title with Missouri facing Texas A&M to end the regular season.

3. Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC): The Aggies bounced back from its loss to Auburn with a convincing win over Vanderbilt. Texas A&M’s defense continues to struggle, but with Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans that won’t matter much until the final two weeks of the season. They finish their horrid non-conference slate this week against UTEP.

2. Auburn (7-1, 3-1 SEC): Is Auburn really the second-best team in the SEC? Probably not, but after Alabama the whole conference is a whole lot of average. Gus Malzahn and Nick Marshall get most of the attention in Auburn’s quick turnaround this season, but the defense has come up with big stops lately. If that continues Auburn might have a shot at knocking off Bama.

1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC): The Crimson Tide’s methodical march towards a third-straight national title has gone exactly as planned this season. Alabama has only been tested by Johnny Manziel, and they now have a week off before facing LSU on November 9. There’s really no one in the SEC on Alabama’s level this season.

ACC Power Rankings

14. Virginia (2-6, 0-4 ACC): Let’s just face the facts, Virgina won’t win a game in the ACC this season. As bad as North Carolina is, I think the Tar Heels will win in two weeks and the Cavaliers aren’t taking down Clemson, Miami or Virginia Tech. Seriously BYU, what the hell happened?

13. North Carolina (2-5, 1-3 ACC): Don’t call it a comeback. No really don’t. North Carolina finally got back in the win column Saturday with a 34-10 trouncing of Boston College, but it was more exception than the rule. UNC finishes the year with four wins is my guess.

12. North Carolina State (3-4, 0-4 ACC): Look on the bright side N.C. State, you finished strong against FSU. The bad news- all recruits and fans changed the channel when you went down 35-0 13 minutes in. The Wolfpack are bad, but they have a chance to secure some bragging rights to end the season with a game against UNC this weekend and Duke and ECU still on the slate.

11. Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC): Steve Addazio just needs to convince his team ever game is the first half against Florida State or Clemson, because outside of that things haven’t been very pretty for the Eagles this season. BC fell to lowly UNC 34-10 this weekend. They face Virginia Tech on Saturday.

10. Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC): After defeating N.C. State, Syracuse looked poised to have a solid debut season in the ACC. Then the Orange lost to Georgia Tech 56-0. To that GT team. After a week off Syracuse looks to salvage its dignity against Wake Forest this weekend.

9. Wake Forest (4-4 2-3 ACC): Wake Forest has looked like a different team the last three weeks. The Demon Deacons came up just short in a last-minute 24-21 loss to Miami on Saturday, but Wake has picked up wins over N.C. State and Maryland. It’s still going to be an uphill battle to get bowl eligible.

8. Pittsburgh (4-3, 2-2 ACC): Losing to Navy the week before facing Georgia Tech is never a good sign. Pitt’s defense is a decent one, but they didn’t look good against Navy. Quarterback Tom Savage had a nice day. Pitt fans may be longing for the Compass Bowl by the end of the year.

7. Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2 ACC): The Yellow Jackets have bounced back wit ha couple nice wins the last two weeks. They’ll face a tough test in Pitt on Saturday, before a Thursday night trip to Clemson. A loss on Saturday would really make Tech boosters take a long hard look at Paul Johnson’s buyout (they should anyway but that’s besides the point).

6. Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC): Duke has rattled off four straight wins and has a legitimate shot at representing the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game thanks to last weekends 13-10 win over Virginia Tech. Aaron Boone just has to not turn it over in the last four weeks of the season and the Blue Devils will share the North Carolina State Championship with ECU.

5. Maryland (5-3, 1-3 ACC): A promising start has gone by the wayside for Maryland in its final ACC season. The Terrapins lost to Wake Forest 34-10 two weeks ago and let Clemson run away from them 40-27 last weekend. The Terps have a shot to win out, starting with Syracuse in two weeks.

4. Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1 ACC): Someone must have shown Logan Thomas the rankings during the BYE week, because he came out on Saturday and threw up all over himself. Thomas ran for 101 yards and a TD, but he also threw four interceptions as the Hokies lost to Duke AT HOME. If I’m a Hokie defender I have hard time honoring the non-contact jersey in practice. If VT doesn’t slip up again this weekend  against BC, then they still control their own destiny with a trip to Miami on November 9.


3. Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC): Miami almost revealed it’s true self last weekend as it escaped Wake Forest 24-21. Still Miami is undefeated and comes into Saturday’s nationally televised game against FSU ranked No. 7. Miami. I do think the Hurricanes are an up and coming program, but the passing game lacks a game-changer.

2. Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC): Clemson started slow against Maryland, but avoided the slip-up with a big second half. If Clemson doesn’t lose focus the rest of the season, it’s rivalry game against South Carolina on November 30 could be for a BCS at-large bid. The Tigers still have one of the best offenses in the country and their remaining opponents aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts (save for maybe USC).

89-004311. Florida State (7-0, 5-0 ACC):  There’s not a poll in the country that I wouldn’t have Florida State number one in. The Seminoles have been absolutely dominant this season. Jameis Winston is that dude, and the defense is allowing just 13 points per game. As long as FSU continues to win convincingly then they’ll have a shot to jump Oregon.

Week 8 Picks

Noles 247

Well let’s just pretend that last week’s picks didn’t happen. If it wasn’t for Oregon I would have been shutout with a 1-6 week to move to 23-19 for the year.

Pretty good slate of games this week, but let’s be real there’s only game you want me to breakdown: Florida State at Clemson. Let’s do it.

No. 5 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ABC: There’s no doubt that this has been the best week ever for the ACC. The league features the biggest match-up of the season with its two best teams, while Miami has also slid into the Top-10, Virginia Tech sits at No. 19 and future member Louisville is No. 8.

Getty Images

The winner of Saturday’s showdown in Death Valley will firmly be in the BCS Championship discussion, and its signal caller will be on pace to be a Heisman Trophy finalist in New York.

Much of the talk has centered around the two quarterbacks this week, and for good reason. Tajh Boyd is completing 66.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,783 yards, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Jameis Winston is completing an absurd 73.2 percent of his passes, with 1,441 yards, 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. Winston ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency, while Boyd is eighth.

Winston has made the highlight reel plays escaping the grasps of defenders on multiple occasions, only to deliver a knockout blow in the form of a touchdown pass. Boyd has the signature win, a 38-35 win over Georgia before the Dawgs lost Aaron Murray’s supporting cast to injuries.

Both teams’ defenses have been up and down this season. Florida State is currently ranked seventh in the country in total defense, allowing just 276.8 yards of total offense per game. But the Seminoles have been subject to slow starts, a problem they seemed to have corrected in a 63-0 win over Maryland.

I think that much of FSU’s slow starts on defense were a product of young first-time starters and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt experimenting with different personnel. FSU has been burned by misdirection (see: Boston College film) some this year and the Tigers run plenty of plays that could lead to eye violations for the ‘Noles.

Sammy Watkins will be the biggest test for the young FSU secondary. Last year an ill Watkins had just five catches for 37 yards, but in 2011 he torched FSU for seven receptions, 141 yards and two TDs.

Clemson’s defense is allowing 344.8 yards of total offense per game (21st in the country), but is second in the country in sacks with 24 (Va. Tech leads the way with 27). Vic Beasley leads the country with nine sacks.

AP Photo

Where the Tigers struggle on defense is against the run game. Teams are averaging 158.3 yards per game on the ground against Clemson. Syracuse racked up 323 yards on Clemson, but the following week Boston College was held to just 94 yards.

The run game was the difference for FSU last year in a 49-37 win. The Seminoles ran for 287 yards as a team, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. Quarterback E.J. Manuel and tailback Chris Thompson each eclipsed the 100-yard mark, while James Wilder Jr. bruised his way to 65 yards and two touchdowns.

This year Devonta Freeman is leading the way for FSU on the ground with 385 yards, while Wilder and converted defensive back Karlos Williams are each averaging over 5.9 yards per carry. Freeman, who didn’t play against Clemson last year after the death of his cousin (who he considered a brother as the two grew up together), could be the difference for a young FSU team in this one.

Prediction: Despite FSU having a redshirt freshman QB and being on the road, Vegas is giving Clemson three points in this one. I don’t expect the stage to be too big for Winston and I really do think Freeman will have a huge impact against a poor-tackling Clemson defense. Before the year I was certain Clemson would win this game, but now after watching both teams play, I think that FSU comes away with 35-28 victory.

No. 15 Georgia at Vanderbilt- Saturday Noon ET on CBS: Georgia still likely won’t have Todd Gurley for this one, but I don’t think it matters. An angry UGA defense carries the load this week and the Dawgs cover the seven points in a 24-10 victory.

No. 22 Florida at No. 14 Missouri- Saturday 12:21 p.m. ET on ESPN3: With no James Franklin for Missouri, Florida is a three-point favorite on the road despite its own group of injured play-makers. I don’t like Maty Mauk’s chances against this UF defense, the Gators win 12-7 in a game that everyone will be glad wasn’t available on TV.

No. 24 Auburn at No. 7 Texas A&M- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: The Aggies are getting 13.5 points at home in this one. Texas A&M will win, but I think Nick Marshall will put up points on TAMU (Who hasn’t this year?) and cover. Texas A&M wins 35-31 over Auburn.

No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN 2: After losing to Utah last week, Stanford is just a five-point favorite at home in this one. Utah hurt the Cardinal with a spread attack and UCLA’s offense is humming with Brett Hundley this season. I’m taking the Bruins on the road 24-17.

No. 6 LSU at Ole Miss- Saturday 7 p.m. ET on ESPN 2: LSU is coming off a big win over Florida, while Ole Miss lost a heart-breaker to Texas A&M last weekend. Vegas is giving the Tigers 10 points on the road and I think they’ll cover that. The young LSU defense is coming into its own and LSU takes down Ole Miss 42-20 in this one.

No. 20 Washington at Arizona State- Saturday 6 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Network: Arizona State is favored by 3.5 points in this one. UW has lost two straight games to two very good opponents, but last time I checked Kieth Price still was the quarterback. Price and the Huskies get it done 28-17.

Week 7 Picks

The News Tribune

College Football picks are back this week. After going 5-2 in week five I’m sitting at 22-13 for the year.

There’s a pretty solid slate of games this week so lets get into it.

No. 2 Oregon at No. 16 Washington- Saturday 4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1: The Huskies (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) gave Stanford all it could handle last week in a controversial 31-28 loss on the road.

Govolsxtra.com

Keith Price was terrific against one of the nation’s best defenses, completing 33 of 48 pass attempts for 350 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Junior running back Bishop Sankey ran for 125 yards and two TDs. A late completion by Price was overturned by the officials to thwart Washington’s comeback attempt.

Meanwhile Oregon (5-0, 2-0) cruised by Colorado 57-16. The Ducks have dominated so far in 2013, with a scoring average of 59.2 points per game, while allowing just 11.8 points per game. Both are good for second best in the nation.

Marucs Mariota is the Heisman frontrunner with 1,358 yards passing, 14 TDs and no interceptions, to go along with 338 yards and seven TDs on the ground. Running back De’Anthony Thomas is questionable with an ankle injury.

Prediction: Oregon is favored by 14 points on the road in this one. I really like Price and Washington, and for the most part the defense did a good job of slowing down Stanford despite allowing 31 points. Still I just think the Ducks are firing on all cylinders and are the best team in the country, I’m taking Oregon 49-30.

No. 17 Florida at No. 10 LSU- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Something’s got to give in this one.

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

LSU is averaging 45.5 points per game behind the arm of Zach Mettenberger, while Florida is allowing just 12.2 points per game this year.

In the three games that quarterback Tyler Murphy has played, including two starts, Florida (4-1, 3-0 SEC) has scored at least 24 points and had at least 355 yards of total offense. The junior from Connecticut has been just the boost Florida’s offense was looking for after stumbling early in the season.

LSU’s (5-1, 2-1 SEC) young defense has struggled to find its footing so far this season. The Tigers allowed 468 total yards of offense to Mississippi State in a 59-26 win last weekend, while also forcing two turnovers.

Prediction: Most Vegas books are giving LSU 6.5 points in Death Valley. Murphy did get a road start under his belt, but it was Kentucky so he only gets half-credit for that one. LSU’s offense is firing terrific, but UF is the best defenses in the country, so I’m expecting a low-scoring game (for the SEC… wait what?). I think that LSU wins the game, but the Gators cover in a 17-12 loss.

No. 25 Missouri at No. 7 Georgia- Saturday Noon ET on ESPN: Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC) couldn’t be getting Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC) at a better time.

Jason Getz / AJC

The Bulldogs are banged up after losing running back Keith Marshall, receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennet to injuries last week. Starting tailback Todd Gurley is still listed as doubtful. Aaron Murray showed against Tennessee that he is capable of carrying the load himself, but Missouri is a little better than the Vols.

The Tigers are undefeated but have played a weak schedule, even for an SEC team, to start the season. Thus this is their first week in the Top-25. Missouri can score in bunches (46.6 points per game), which is not what UGA’s defense wanted to hear after allowing 32.2 points per game in its first five contests.

This is a big chance for Gary Pinkel and Missouri to show they can hang with their new conference brethren.

Prediction: Despite all of its injuries Vegas is giving Georgia 7.5 points at home. I think Missouri could end up being a decent team, but I just don’t think they’re on Georgia’s level. The Bulldogs top Missouri 38-28.

Pittsburgh at No. 24 Virginia Tech- Saturday Noon ET on ESPNU: Logan Thomas has played like a real quarterback the last few weeks, which makes the Hokies a nine-point favorite at home Saturday. I do think VT is back on track, but I like Tom Savage and I never think VT will win games by double-digit points. I think VT escapes with a 14-13 victory over Pitt.

No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas- Saturday Noon ET on ABC: Call it’s Mack’s last stand, the Red River Shootout or whatever you want. The Sooners are by far the better team in this one and they’re getting 13.5 points. I think OU beats Texas 35-17 in Mack Brown’s final match-up with the Sooners.

No. 19 Northwestern at Wisconsin- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2 mirror: The Wildcats might be ranked, but Wisconsin is  actually favored by 10 in this one. I’ll take Northwestern and those points all day. Wisconsin goes down 21-17 at home.

No. 9 Texas A&M at Ole Miss- Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: Maybe I’m missing something in this one, but the Aggies seem like easy money against the Rebels at just -6. Ole Miss allowed Nick Marshall and Auburn to rack up 375 yards of total offense last weekend. Yes TAMU’s defense is suspect this season and the Rebels can score, but I’m taking Johnny Football and the Aggies 49-35 on the road.