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.

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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.