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.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

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.

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Heisman Contenders

The Heisman Trophy is perhaps the hardest award in all of sports to project. Last year I predicted that Braxton Miller would win the award, while Jameis was mentioned in the few more for the road section of my other contenders post.

If he wasn’t out for the year with a shoulder injury, I would probably again tell you that Miller was my preseason favorite to win the award. But unfortunately for Ohio State and Miller he won’t be playing this season, so here are my top preseason Heisman contenders.

USA Today Sports Images

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State QB: Last year Winston became the third Florida State quarterback to win the award as he led the Seminoles to a national title win over Auburn. This season he’ll try to become the first player since Archie Griffin in 1974 and ’75 to win back-to-back Heismans.

This year Winston will face even more scrutiny than he did last year in the midst of a sexual assault allegation that ultimately never led to any charges being filed. Every stone in Winston’s past has been overturned by the media since his breakout year, and his little crab legs incident during baseball season will give voters even more Winston fatigue this year.

Last year Winston was unreal as he completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 4, 057 yards and 40 touchdowns. FSU is again loaded on offense, even with the departures of Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Winston could very well be just as good as he was a season ago, but it will be hard to statistically do as well. Still if FSU is dominant again in 2014, then voters will have a hard time punishing Winston’s on-filed performance because of what they perceive about him off the gridiron.

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jason Getz

2. Todd Gurley, Georgia RB: The Junior tailback is a different breed. He led Georgia in rushing despite playing in just 10 games as he battled an ankle injury. In those ten games Gurley averaged six yards per carry, ran for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Quarterback Aaron Murray is gone, and senior Hutson Mason takes over the reigns at quarterback, meaning the heavy lifting will belong to Gurley. Unlike last year, there isn’t much star power in the SEC at quarterback- which means Gurley could become the darling of the country’s most poplular conference if UGA gets off to a great start against Clemson and South Carolina early in the year.

The biggest thing that could hamper Gurley is Mason’s inexperience and lack of a deep threat. Until Mason proves otherwise, teams will likely stack the box assuming the senior QB can’t beat them and they’ll need the extra man power to stop the 6-foot-1, 226-pounder running back.

(Read: Which Heisman contenders will make the first College Football Playoff)

3. Marcus Mariotta, Oregon QB: Marcus Mariotta may have the school record for career rushing yards by a QB with 1,467, but make no mistake this Duck is mostly an aerial threat. The Hawaii native has completed .658 percent of his career pass attempts. Last year he tossed 31 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

Like Gurley, Mariotta suffered an injury last season that prevented him from reaching his full potential, as the QB sprained his MCL midway through the year. Mariotta will have a chance in week two to announce his 2014 Heisman candidacy as Oregon hosts Michigan State in Eugene, Ore.

If the redshirt junior can lead Oregon past Michigan State early in the year he could be in the driver’s seat for the award for much of the year.

Getty Images

4. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama RB: Anytime you’re the featured back in Nick Saban’s offense at Alabama, you’re in the Heisman discussion. In his first season as the No. 1 running back in Alabama’s offense Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged six yards per carry and 102.9 yards per game.

Despite not knowing who will start at quarterback, Alabama does have plenty of weapons at wideout that will prevent teams from stacking the box to contain Yeldon. Whether Jacob Coker or Blake Sims are under center, the offense will run through Yeldon.

Teammate Derrick Henry could pose a threat to Yeldon’s candidacy as he will have a large part in the offense this season too. The 241-pound sophomore could also play the role of touchdown vulture in goal-line situations that could make casual voters look past Yeldon’s overall role in the offense.

Associated Press

5. Myles Jack, UCLA LB/RB: Myles Jack is the most intriguing player in college football to me. Last year as a freshman he racked up 75 tackles on defense at linebacker, and ran for seven touchdowns on offense at running back. He was named Pac-12 freshman of the year on both offense and defense.

Jack had seven tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions, and averaged seven yards per carry. A defensive player hasn’t won the Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997. Jack will play mostly linebacker this season, but even if he just 38 total carriers on offense like he did last year it could be enough to get him in the conversation.

In addition to playing primarily on defense Jack’s other uphill battle will be getting the West Coast vote. Jack isn’t the Bruin’s only Heisman candidate as UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is actually a 10/1 favorite to win the award according to Bovada. Jack will also have to try and sway votes away from Mariotta.

The advantage he will have for voters deciding which West Coast candidate is Heisman worthy, is that he will actually go head-to-head with Mariotta this season. Voters will only be able to compare stats and composure between Hundley and Mariotta, but Jack will have the chance to physically stop Mariotta while on defense. A game-changing sack or an interception against the Ducks would not only put UCLA in great position to win the conference, but it could push Jack to the forefront of voter’s minds.

My Football Final Four Picks

For the first time ever, college football will have its very own playoff this season. A 13-member selection committee will pick the top four teams in all the land to compete in semifinal games in the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl.

The two winners will advance to the National Championship game in Dallas on January 12.

Now here’s the hard part, picking those final four teams before a single down has been played. Here are my predicted top four, with a few other teams who could make the committee ponder a little harder.

1. Florida State (2013- 14-0, National Champions): There’s no question who everyone’s number one is. The defending national champions (yeah I said defending Jimbo) are the most talented team in the country, and Jameis Winston is right at the center of that talent.

AP Photo/ Phil Sears

The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner will have to establish a second target at wideout, but he returns senior Rashad Greene (76 catches, nine TDs and 1128 yards) and tight end Nick O’Leary (33 catches, seven TDs and 557 yards). FSU also returns four of five starters along the offensive line.

Defensively replacing Telvin Smith, Timmy Jernigan and Lamarcus Joyner will be no easy task, but the cupboard is far from bare for new defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. As long as Jalen Ramsey and Mario Edwards Jr. stay healthy, the Seminoles have plenty of athletes to overcome the inexperience on that side of the ball.

FSU does have a beefed-up non-conference schedule with the Cowboys Kickoff Classic against Oklahoma State on Saturday, a visit from Notre Dame on October 18 and its annual clash with Florida in Tallahassee on November 29.

The Biggest ACC games will be Clemson on September 20, but like Notre Dame and Florida the Tigers have to travel to Doak Campbell Stadium. The glaring ‘trap-game’ on the Seminoles’ schedule looks to be a Thursday night visit to Bobby Petrino and Louisville on October 30.

2. Alabama (2013- 11-2, 7-1 SEC): The Crimson Tide finished last year with two straight losses, lost eight players to the NFL, including quarterback A.J. McCarron, yet I don’t think anyone will argue that Alabama is again one of the best teams in the nation.

AP Photo/ Butch Dill

Physically Jacob Coker is an upgrade from McCarron under center, but the question that needs to be answered is if the Mobile, Ala. native is ready mentally to be Alabama’s quarterback. Coker still hasn’t been named the starter over senior Blake Sims, but all indications from Tuscaloosa are that he will.

New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has plenty of weapons for either QB to utilize. Amari Cooper (45 receptions, four TDs and 736 yards) is fully healthy, and the dynamic duo of running backs T.J. Yeldon (1279 yards rushing, 12 TDs) and Derrick Henry (394 yards rushing and three TDs) will provide plenty of power on the ground.

The secondary was Alabama’s biggest chink in the armor last year (OK that and it’s field goal coverage unit), but a year to marinate and work with DB-whispers Nick Saban and Kirby Smart should make that a much-improved unit. Alabama also has the preferred cure to any ailing secondary, a massive defensive front. Senior nose tackle Brandon Ivory weighs in at 6-foot-4, 308 pounds. Defensive ends Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan are both over 290 pounds, while sophomore A’Shawn Robinson checks in at a measly 6-foot-4 320 pounds.

An SEC West schedule is never a favorable one, but Alabama gets three very big games at home this year, Florida on September 20, Texas A&M October 18 and Auburn on November 29. The Crimson Tide will have to travel to LSU on November 8, and like every year that game could determine the division and league champion.

3. Oklahoma (2013- 11-2, Big 12 Champions): Trevor Knight- not a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl- is the reason for all the Sooners’ preseason love. Yes the fact that Knight’s ah-hah moment happened to come against a team of Alabama’s caliber didn’t slow the hype train.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Knight’s athleticism and development has forced senior Blake Bell to switch to tight end, and given Bob Stoops and company and extra bounce in their step around Norman, Okla. The Sooners return four starters up front on offense, and nine defensive starters.

Last year Oklahoma was susceptible to the run, but if the boys up front hold their position, linebacker Eric Striker (50 tackles, 10.5 TFL and 6.5 sacks) is as good as they come in one-on-one match-ups.

The Sooners will be tested in the third week of the season as Tennessee comes to town on September 13. They then have to turn around and travel to West Virginia the following week.

Oklahoma travels to Texas Tech (November 15) and TCU (October 4), but they host Baylor on November 8 and Oklahoma State December 6. The Red-River Rivalry will take place as always in Dallas on October 11, but with Charlie Strong cleaning house in Austin it looks like the Longhorns won’t be able to catch OU by surprise like they did in last year’s 36-20 thrashing.

4. Michigan State (2013- 13-1, BIG Ten Champions): Speaking of teams who finished 2013 with momentum, the Spartans went 8-0 in the BIG Ten, defeated Ohio State 34-24 in the championship game and took down Stanford 24-20 in the Rose Bowl. All without much offensive firepower… to put it kindly.

Al Goldis/AP

Quarterback Connor Cook showed he can make plays when called upon in the wins over Ohio State and Stanford, but Michigan will rely heavily on running back Jermey Langord (1422 yards and 18 TDs) for its offensive firepower. Cook returns his top target in Tony Lippet (44 catches, two TDs and 613 yards), but Sparty will have to replace three starters along the offensive line.

Week two will go a long way towards determining if Michigan State will be one the last four standing as it travels to Eugene, Orgeon to take on the Ducks. Oregon has struggled with physical defensive fronts like Michigan State in the past, but they’ve never had as polished a passer as Marcus Mariotta before. It may just be week two, but if Oklahoma and FSU go unblemished (Even if they have one loss the SEC champ will get in), then the September 6 match-up could turn out to be an elimination game for a playoff spot.

After the trip out west Michigan State hosts its three toughest opponents the rest of the way with Nebraska (October 4), Michigan (October 25) and Ohio State (November 8) all coming to East Lansing. Michigan State misses Wisconsin in the regular season, but the two could meet in the conference title game.

Just Missed

Oregon (2013- 11-7, 7-2 Pac-12): Like I said the week two match-up is almost an elimination game for Michigan State and Oregon, so if the Ducks win they’re in great position to make the playoff. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the best player in the country not named Jameis Winston or Todd Gurley.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Oregon not only hosts Sparty, but they also get Stanford (November 1) and Washington (October 18) at home. Even if Oregon loses to Michigan State, if it beats Stanford, UCLA on the road (October 11) and wins the PAC-12 then the Ducks likely would be in the final four, unless the others go unbeaten.

Ohio State (2013- 12-2, 8-0 BIG Ten): Certainly without Miller the Buckeyes have a large uphill battle ahead of them in 2014, but the good news is that Ohio State still has more talent at the skill positions than the rest of the conference.  New signal caller, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett was four-star recruit in high school despite tearing his ACL his senior season. Urban Meyer’s new athletic defensive front will get a challenge right out of the gate with a trip to Baltimore on Saturday to face Navy’s triple option. Things don’t get much easier for OSU in the non-conference schedule with visits from Virgina Tech (September 6) and Cincinnati (September 27). An offensive line with four new starters and an inexperienced quarterback are why I don’t anticipate the Buckeyes getting by Michigan State in the BIG Ten.

Auburn (2013- 12-2, SEC Champions): The Tigers schedule are the reason I went with Alabama in the SEC. Auburn travels to Kansas State (September 18), Georgia (November 15) and Alabama this season, while hosting LSU (October 4) and South Carolina (October 25). The Tigers will have one thing in 2014 that has been sparse in recent seasons at Jordan-Hare- continuity. Nick Marshall is the first returning QB Gus Malzahn has had in his nine-year college coaching tenure, and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will be the first Auburn DC to return for a second season in three years.

Clemson (2013- 11-2, 7-1 ACC): If Clemson gets by Georgia on Saturday the Tigers have a favorable schedule. Clemson does travel to FSU, but they host Louisville (October 11), N.C. State (October 4) and South Carolina (November 29). It will be tough with a new quarterback, but if Dabo Swinney can defeat UGA again and finally beat South Carolina, then the Tigers deserve to be in the discussion as long as their only loss is at FSU.

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.

Week 3 Picks

John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

After a hot start to the year I came back down to reality last week with a 3-4 performance. Although I’m not all that upset because I alluded to the fact that I thought Miami would hang with Florida, I just didn’t realize it would be because the Gators were completely inept on the offensive side of the ball.

That puts me at 9-5 for the season. Now lets get into the week three slate of games.

No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Texas A&M- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

Times Daily/Gary Cosby Jr.

This is it.

The match-up we’ve been talking about since the 2012 season ended. Last year Johnny Manziel and the Aggies were the lone blemish on the Crimson Tide’s second straight championship with a 29-24 upset in Tuscaloosa. Now Alabama is looking to come away with a win of its own onn the road. Under Nick Saban, Alabama is 7-1 in ‘revenge’ games.

We don’t really know a whole lot about either team so far in 2013. Texas A&M’s offense has led the way in wins over Rice (52-31) and Sam Houston State (65-28), while Alabama defeated Virgina Tech 35-10 in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff Game. Christian Jones did emerge as a star with a 72-yard punt return, a 94-yard kickoff return and a 38-yard touchdown catch.

The Tide should be concerned about the offensive line’s performance as they gave up four sacks to the Hokies. The Aggies have given up at least 390 yards in each game this season, but they do get two starters back from suspension on Saturday.

Pregame Reading: Jimmy Burch writes for the Star-Telegram that Texas A&M is preparing for its most-anticipated home game in school history.

Prediction: Alabama is favored by eight points. I think that Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M don’t just cover, but they win outright. I’m taking the Aggies over Alabama 24-21.

No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska- Noon ET on ABC

Tim Bradbury- Daily Bruin

Last season Brett Hundley put on a show against Nebraska as he threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-30 win. UCLA is 1-0 this year with a 58-20 win over Nevada.  Hundley threw for two scores and ran for two as well in that game.

UCLA will come into the game with a heavy heart after the death of receiver Nick Pasquale during the BYE week.

Nebraska is 2-0 after escaping Wyoming 37-34, and taking down Southern Miss 56-13. The Cornhuskers have a solid running game behind junior Ameer Abdullah, freshman Tereell Newby and sophomore Imani Cross. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is a threat to run as well.

I’m not overly impressed by either defense and think that both running games won’t face much opposition on Saturday.

Pregame Reading: LA Times: UCLA football coaches and teammates mourn Nick Pasquale.

Prediction: The Cornhuskers are favored by four and a half points, but I like UCLA to win outright. Brett Hundley is the truth, and I think an emotionally charged Bruins team wins 31-21.

Tennessee at No. 2 Oregon – Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

US Presswire

Both teams have gotten off to great starts offensively. Tennessee is averaging 48.5 points per game, while Oregon averages 62.5.

Oregon went on the road and dismantled Virginia 59-10 last weekend. So far this season De’Anthony Thomas has run for 252 yards and five touchdowns.

Tennessee is 2-0 under new head coach Butch Jones with a 45-0 win over Austin Peay and a 52-20 win over Western Kentucky. Quarterback Justin Worley has completed 68 percent of his passes so far this season with four touchdowns and one interception. Running back Rajion Neal is also off to a nice start with 215 yards and four touchdowns.

The Vols forced five turnovers against Bobby Petrino and WKU, but they haven’t seen an offense anywhere close to the Ducks.

Pregame Reading: The Oregonian writes that preparing for Oregon’s offense is easier said than done for Tennessee.

Prediction: Oregon is a 28-point favorite over the Volunteers, and I don’t think it’s enough. I like the Ducks to continue to cruise in a 42-10 win.

No. 24 TCU at Texas Tech- Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: Maybe it’s just because I think Kliff Kingsbury is really dreamy but I think the Red Raiders will win this game. TCU is favored by three points, but I think that Texas Tech and its walk-on quarterback win 35-28.

Georgia Tech at Duke- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU: With Duke starting quarterback Anthony Boone out with a broken collarbone the Yellow Jackets are favored by 10 points. I think that Vad Lee will put on a show in his homecoming and Tech wins 28-14.

UCF at Penn State- Saturday 6 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network: Penn State is a 5 1/2 point favorite over the Knights (don’t say Golden). I like UCF to cover here. Blake Bortles is a good quarterback and I think that they may have a shot to win outright. Penn State hangs on 20-17 over UCF.

Boston College at USC- Saturday 3 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Network: It was tough to decide if it would be Southern Cal or Texas who fully derailed this weekend. Ultimately I think the Eagles can beat USC on the road. The Trojans are 14-point favorites and I’m picking BC to win 21-14.

 

Other Heisman contenders

Yesterday I gave you my top five Heisman contenders.

Now let’s take a look at some other players across the college football landscape that could have a chance to bring home the award (in no particular order).

Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville (Jr. 6-3/196)

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The Miami native threw his hat into the ring on January 2 in the Sugar Bowl against Florida. Bridgewater threw for 263 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the 33-23 victory.

On the year Bridgewater threw for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Six times last season he completed at least 70 percent of his pass attempts.

Since his performance in New Orleans Bridgewater’s draft stock has sky-rocketed. He’s currently No. 2 on ESPN/Scouts Inc.’s Top 32 for 2014, and is the highest rated quarterback.

Here’s a good stat on Bridgewater from Rob Nelson on ESPN.com, when he threw the ball on third down it resulted in a first-down 50.9 percent of the time. Only Johnny Manziel’s 51.9 percent was higher. He also completed 27 passes for 15 yards or more on third down.

The problem with Bridgewater’s campaign is that Louisville doesn’t join the ACC until 2014. This year the Cardinals will play in AAC (the artist formerly known as the Big East), which means Bridgewater needs an unblemished record to make it to New York. Louisville went 11-2 last year and he didn’t even get consideration for the award. This year’s schedule doesn’t do him any favors. The non-conference slate features Kentucky, E Kentucky, Ohio and Florida International. The conference schedule doesn’t move the needle either.

Its schedule is so bad, Louisville could actually run the table and be shut out of the final BCS Title game. So unless the Cardinals run the table, and they have to do it in spectacular fashion, it could be an uphill battle for Bridgewater.

Brett Hundley QB UCLA (RS So. 6-3/222)

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

No east-coast bias here. Hundley had the best season you didn’t pay attention to last year because he did it at UCLA and not USC.

Hundley completed 66.6 percent of his passes last year, for 3,745 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for nine touchdowns. ESPN/Scouts Inc. currently rank him the No. 7 overall player in 2014 draft, and the second-best signal caller behind Bridgewater.

He finished the season throwing for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-36 loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. His best performance of the year came against Nebraska, as he completed 21 of 33 pass attempts for 305 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had 53 yards rushing in the 36-30 victory.

If Hundley is going to make a run at the bronze statue (a Bruin hasn’t won the award since Gary Beban in 1967) he’ll have to perform better in big games. While he can’t be blamed for the bowl loss and he tore up Nebraska, he threw four picks in a loss to California and was just 20 of 38 in the first of two straight losses to Standford.

As I’ve reiterated throughout this Heisman talk, Hundley will need team success to get the award, and UCLA has a schedule that won’t make that easy. In week two he’ll have to get his campaign going in a non-conference road trip to Nebraska, then UCLA also goes on the road to take on No. 4 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon in back-to-back weekends at the end of October and then the regular season finishes at No. 24 Southern Cal.

Marqise Lee WR Southern Cal (6-0/195)

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Let’s stay in Hollywood for our next contender, Southern Cal wide receiver Marqise Lee. It’s tough for a wideout to win the award, just Desmond Howard and Tim Brown have pulled it off, but Lee’s got the best chance of any wideout in the county.

Last year Lee hauled in 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also averaged 8.15 yards per carry and 28.53 yards per kickoff return. The 118 grabs led the country and his average of 132.38 yards receiving per game was second best.

Lee averaged 14.6 yards per reception a season ago. Seven times he eclipsed the double-digit reception mark in a game. He put up video game numbers in a loss to Arizona, with 16 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns.

The problem with Lee’s chances for a Heisman will be USC likely isn’t going to win a strong Pac-12. The Trojans have  a tough schedule that includes trips to Notre Dame and Oregon State, and home match-ups with Standford and UCLA.

There’s also the small problem of who will be throwing the ball to Lee. USC doesn’t have starter to replace Matt Barkley and Lane Kiffin plans to play both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler Thursday against Hawaii. Unless the two-QB system just fails completely then Lee will win a second straight Biletnikoff Award, but a Heisman may be just out of reach.

Aaron Murray QB Georgia (Sr. 6-1/208)

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The preseason All-SEC quarterback looks to be a firm Heisman contender during his senior campaign.

Last year Murray led the SEC with 3,893 yards passing (his third straight season with over 3,000 yards passing). He threw for 36 touchdowns, to just 10 interceptions, and completed 64.5 percent of his passes.

The Bulldogs schedule sets up nicely for a potential title run, and thus a Heisman run for Murray. If UGA can escape the first month of the season then the ‘Dawgs could cruise until the World’s Largest Cocktail Party.

UGA opens the season at Clemson on Saturday, then they host South Carolina in week two. After a chance to lick to their wounds against North Texas, UGA welcomes LSU to Athens on September 28.

Making it through that is no easy task, but if Murray and UGA can do it then he’ll be in the driver’s seat for the Heisman. Then all he’s got to do is beat Florida (I mean he did last year despite throwing three picks) and then the SEC West winner, likely Alabama, in the SEC title game. Easy as cake right?

Lache Seastrunk RB Baylor (RS Jr. 5-10/210)

Waco Tribune Herald, Rod Aydelotte

Remember that whole Willy Lyles-Orgeon scandal? Sure you do. Well Lache Seastrunk is the player that Lyles is accused of being paid to deliver to the Ducks.

Well three years after he was Rivals’ No. 2 prospect in the state of Texas, Seastrunk finally made his collegiate debut last season (He redshirted at Oregon and then had to sit out last year after transferring to Baylor). He didn’t disappoint. Seastrunk ran for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns on just 131 carries. That’s an average of 7.7 yards per carry.

He also averaged 11.9 yards per reception on nine catches. As the season went on the tailback, who grew up 30 minutes outside of Baylor, saw an increase in his role in the Bears’ offense. He had 91 yards and found paydirt three times against Oklahoma, put 185 yards on Kansas State, 178 on Oklahoma State, and finished the year with 138 yards on 16 carries against UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.

Playing the Big 12, where teams are allergic to tackling apparently, will only help Seasturnk put up monster numbers. Baylor’s schedule is a bit of a cake walk until November, when Seastrunk and Baylor will need to finish strong to stay in the race. The party gets started on November 7 (a Thursday night) against Oklahoma, then continues two weeks later with a trip to Oklahoma State, followed by a trip to TCU the following week and December 7 finale at home against Texas.

Seastrunk is by far the biggest long shot on my list this far, but hey it wouldn’t be the first time a long shot from Baylor brought home the hardware.

A few more for the road

Marcus Mariota QB Oregon (RS So. 6-4/211): Chip Kelly may be gone, but the Ducks will still have 9,000 uniform combinations and put up even more points. Last year Mariota threw for 2,677 yards, 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 752 yards, five touchdowns and even caught a touchdown pass. Oregon will have to get past Stanford on the road November 7 (Still a Thursday night) to not just win its division in the Pac-12, but also for Mariota to be in the Heisman race.

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Jameis Winston QB Florida State (RS Fr. 6-4/227): Yes I’m going there. Sure Winston hasn’t played a down of Division I football, but he’s got the tools to be special. The former five-star was officially named the Seminoles’ starter last week and he’s got a great supporting cast. FSU returns 80 combined starts along the offensive line and junior running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. will be his best friend. If Winston and FSU can avoid the regularly scheduled Jimbo Fisher ACC slip-up, and find a way to win at Clemson on October 19 and at Florida to close out the regular season, then the two-sport star could have a chance to join Johnny Football in uncharted waters.

T.J. Yeldon RB Alabama (So. 6-2/218): Last season Yeldon rumbled for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns during the Crimson Tide’s second straight national title run. Yeldon finished the year with a pair of monster games, rushing for 153 yards against Georgia in the SEC title game and 108 yards against Notre Dame in the BCS Title game. I think Yeldon will have a big year, but I expect that teammate A.J. McCarron will garner most of the Crimson Tide’s votes (think of it as a lifetime achievement award).

Well thanks for reading, I’ll drop some weekend picks later in the day, because there are ACTUAL GAMES ON TOMORROW!

Also I hope you all know that none of these guys will win the award and it will be someone we didn’t think would be in the race (see Johnny Manziel, RG III and Cam Newton).