Week 4 picks

The Augusta Chronicle

A second straight 4-3 week moves me to 10-11 on the year with my college football picks. Like I said last weekend’s slate of games didn’t look that appealing on paper, but it was a heck of a football weekend.

This weekend’s schedule should leave us more satisfied than the double-brisket cheeseburger with slab bacon and a fired egg I had on Sunday at Big Tex in Decatur.

No. 5 Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 20 Kansas State (2-0, 1-0 Big 12)- Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: Auburn is the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to come into the Little Apple since second-ranked Penn State defeated Kansas State 17-14 in 1969.

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Through two games the big cats are averaging 43.5 (KSU) and 52 points (AU) per game. Kansas State has done it with a balanced attack as quarterback Jake Waters has thrown for 462 yards and two scores, while running for 193 yards and four TDs.

Auburn’s bread and butter is its rushing attack. The Tigers average 330 yards per game on the ground (sixth best in the NCAA) and 6.7 yards per attempt. Senior Cameron Artis-Payne leads the way with 289 yards and four touchdowns. Nick Marshall has been lethal at quarterback with 122 yards rushing, including a 50-yard TD run against San Jose State, and 151 yards passing.

The passing game will get a boost as Sammie Coates is predicted to return against KSU.

Both teams are giving up over 300 yards of total offense per game, but both have five sacks through two games. Elijah Lee has 2.5 for KSU, and Montravious Adams has a sack to go with four tackles for loss for Auburn. The Tigers will be without suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead, who leads the team with two interceptions.

Prediction: Auburn is a 7.5-point favorite on the road in this one. I think Kansas State is a solid team, and you can never count Bill Snyder out of it, but Auburn is just too good on offense. The Tigers win 42-31.

Iowa (2-1) at Pittsburgh (3-0, 1-0 ACC)- Noon ET on ESPNU: Wake up and get ready for some physical football in this one. Iowa is coming off a 20-17 loss to Iowa State, while the Panthers have been able to run away from everyone on their schedule thus far.

Pitt is averaging 344.3 yards per game (fourth best in the country) on the ground, with an average of 6.4 yards per attempt. The Hawkeyes are giving up just 65.7 yards per game on the ground.

Every game has been a grind for Iowa, including its opener against Northern Iowa. Despite Jake Ruddock playing well at quarterback, the Hawkeyes are averaging just 21.7 points per game this year.

Prediction: The Panthers are favored by a touchdown at home. I think that’s about right and I’m going with a 24-13 win for Pitt over Iowa.

Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 3 Alabama- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Florida escaped Kentucky in triple overtime last weekend to remain unbeaten heading into Saturday.

Alabama’s offense has cruised, scoring at least 33 points in every game this season, including 52 last week against Southern Miss. Blake Sims continues to be the team’s starter, with 646 yards passing and four TDs, but Jacob Coker has shown flashes during his playing time with 248 yards passing and a TD.

It doesn’t matter who throws it though, because Amari Cooper will catch it. The Miami native has 33 catches for 454 yards and two TDs this year.

He’ll face his toughest match-up of the year on Saturday in Vernon Hargraves III, who is credited with five pass-break ups already this year, and has allowed just one reception per ESPN Stats and Info. Cooper is going to get receptions, but if Hargraves can eliminate the big play in the passing game it could give Florida’s front seven a chance to slow down ‘Bama’s rushing attack.

The Crimson Tide average 6.2 yards per carry on the ground, while Florida has allowed just 2.4 yards per rush. Dante Fowler has been a big part of the Gators’ defensive success with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Prediction: Florida didn’t look very good against Kentucky, which has prompted Vegas to make Alabama a 14.5-point favorite at home. I think the Gators’ defense will have some success against Alabama early, but will eventually get worn down because I don’t expect the Florida offense to do much against the Crimson Tide (even with a struggling secondary). I think Alabama wins 27-10.

North Carolina (2-0) at East Carolina (2-1)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU: If it wasn’t for a handful of missed opportunities against South Carolina, the Pirates could have been 3-0 with a win over a pair of ranked opponents entering Saturday’s clash with UNC. Instead ECU has just one win over a ranked opponent, after hanging on last weekend on the road for a 28-21 win over Virginia Tech.

UNC dropped out of the polls after struggling with San Diego State two weeks ago.

ECU can put up points, and has a legitimate star in quarterback Shan Carden. The Texan has thrown for 1,031 yards already this year and ran for the game-winner last weekend against the Hokies.

UNC can also score, averaging 43.5 points per game, but the Tar Heels gave up 509 yards of total offense against SDSU in a 31-27 win.

Prediction: ECU is a three-point favorite and the Purple Pirates certainly have all the momentum entering this one. That’s why I’m going with UNC. The Tar Heels win this one 42-38.

Mississippi State (3-0) at No. 8 LSU (3-0)- Saturday 7 pm. ET on ESPN: The good news for Mississippi State is they started the year off with three straight wins.

The bad news is Saturday’s SEC opener in Baton Rouge, La. is the first of three-straight games against Top-1o SEC West foes.

After an impressive comeback win over Wisconsin to start the year, LSU hasn’t allowed another point this year in wins over Sam Houston and Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers have a heck of rushing attack, averaging 226.3 yards per game on the ground.

The Bulldogs have been balanced on offense with an average of 266.3 yards passing and 260.3 yards rushing per game. If they’re going to have a chance against LSU they’ll have to show more than short screens in the passing game to move the ball.

Prediction: LSU is favored by 9.5 points. I don’t think Mississippi State is ready for the Tigers and LSU wins 24-7.

No. 4 Oklahoma (3-0) at West Virginia (2-1)- Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX: This will be the second top-four opponent for the Mountaineers in 2014.

West Virgina rode Clint Trickett’s arm to a 40-37 victory last weekend against Maryland. Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns.

The Sooners made quick work of Tennessee in a 34-10 victory.

West Virgina is averaging 410 yard passing per game (fifth best in the country) this year, but they haven’t faced a defense as explosive as Oklahoma’s (yeah I said it ‘Bama). OU has six interceptions and nine sacks this year, while giving up just 295.3 yards of total offense per game.

Prediction: I guess because they’re on the road and it’s the Big 12 OU is favored by just 7.5 in this one. While Trickett will be able to put some points up for the home team, I just don’t see West Virginia holding Trevor Knight back at all. Another big win for OU  35-21.

No. 22 Clemson (1-1) at No. 1 Florida State (2-0)- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ABC: This game has taken on some added intrigue with Jameis Winston being suspended for the first half after failing to realize that he truly does live in a bubble and even the slightest misstep will bring scrutiny and embarrassment to Florida State.

Independent Mail.

Sean Maguire will lead the Seminoles’ offense as Winston is on the sidelines. The redshirt sophomore is just 3 of 5 passing this year for 28 yards, but he did attempt 21 passes last season as the third-string QB. Head coach Jimbo Fisher won’t be afraid to let Maguire take his shots against Clemson, but he’ll also rely heavily on a rushing attack that’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry with a senior offensive line.

Clemson will also likely play two QBs in the game. Senior Cole Stoudt is the starter, but freshman DeShaun Watson has come on fast and could unseat the veteran as the starter by the end of the season.

Clemson gave up 45 points to Georgia in its opener, with 21 points coming in the fourth quarter. If the offense can have some success early against an FSU defense that allows just 4.9 yards per play this year, then Clemson has the athletes on defense to make Maguire uncomfortable.

But here’s the thing- Jimbo Fisher has owned Clemson since arriving in Tallahassee. As the offensive coordinator and the head coach (he still calls the plays), FSU has scored an average of 35 points per game in the seven games, and scored at least 30 points the in the last three, including last year’s 51-14 smack-down.

Prediction: Even with Winston suspended for a half, FSU is still favored by 16.5 points at home. Fisher will put up points on Clemson, but I don’t know if the Seminoles’ defense is 17-points better than Clemson this year. I think FSU makes it 19-straight wins with a 28-24 victory.

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Power Rankings

SEC-ACCBeen a little busy this week getting trained for my new job as an NBA League Pass Operator at Turner (basically I send you national commercials when you’re watching an out of market NBA game on all platforms but Direct-TV), so we’re doing an energy efficient double dip today with both the SEC and ACC rankings in one post.

Since I’ll be watching so many NBA games this year that may lead to some more NBA posts in the future but for now let’s stick to college football.

Let’s start with the SEC rankings first (I mean the ACC is getting all the attention this week).

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3 SEC): As expected Kentucky didn’t put up much of a fight against Alabama this week in a 48-7 loss. The next two weeks are really the last chance the Wildcats will have a legitimate shot at putting back-to-back wins together. They travel to Mississippi State on Saturday, followed by a visit from Alabama State.

13. Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC): The Bulldogs avoided conference shame over the weekend with a 21-20 win over Bowling Green. Maybe we don’t schedule MAC teams that can actually beat us next time around, ok guys? MSU will take a step down in competition this weekend as it hosts UK.

12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC): After a week off Vanderbilt starts a three-game stretch against Georgia, Texas A&M, and Florida with the Dawgs at home on Saturday. So far this season the Commodores have allowed at least 24 points in four of six games. That doesn’t bode well for games with UGA and the Aggies.

11. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC): The Vols had a week off to get over a heartbreaking overtime loss to Georgia, but unfortunately for them it looks like South Carolina got its act together during that week. Barring a big upset during the final stretch of the season, Butch Jones will be able to get a head start on recruiting evaluations during bowl week.

10. Arkansas (3-4, 0-3 SEC): With Saturday’s 52-7 loss to South Carolina, the Hogs have now lost four straight games going into this week’s tilt with Alabama. After a great start, Arkansas may not find the W column again until it host Mississippi State on November 23.

 

9. Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3 SEC): The Rebels put on a heck of a show against Texas A&M, but ultimately couldn’t come up with a stop in a 41-38 loss. Now Ole Miss’ defense gets the chance to try and slow down Zach Mettenberger and LSU’s air attack on Saturday. Good news is after that week the Rebels have three very winnable games to get bowl eligible.

8. Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Auburn handled Western Carolina 62-3 over the weekend, and were impressive enough to enter the Top 25 at No. 24. The Tigers now have a chance to prove that Gus Malzhan really does have the program back on track with a trip to College Station this weekend.

7. Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC): Florida’s offense stalled in a 17-6 loss at LSU Saturday. The Gators defense is still the best in the county, but once again it looks like against good teams the offense will be non-existent this season. Especially with running back Matt Jones lost for the year to a knee injury.

 

6. Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC): Georgia’s injuries and inability to tackle anyone with a pulse finally caught up to them on Saturday in a 41-26 loss to Missouri. Running back Todd Gurley is close to returning according to UGA, but it might be in there best interest to give him minimal work against Vandy with Florida looming.

 

5. Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC): Missouri and Gary Pinkel earned their signature win in Athens over the weekend. The Tigers are just one of two undefeated teams left in the SEC and currently sit at No. 14 in the polls. But things aren’t as great as they seem, quarterback James Franklin was likely lost for the rest of the regular season against UGA with a separated shoulder. I don’t like Missouri’s chances against UF (this weekend) or USC (next weekend) without that guy.

4. South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 SEC): Well it would appear that Jadeveon Clowney and the USC defense heard Steve Spurrier’s message loud and clear last weekend. The Gamecocks dismantled Arkansas on the road, a place they never play well. With the way Connor Shaw and Mike Davis are playing, USC could be in the driver’s seat for control of the East.

3. LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC): LSU’s defense came up huge in its win over Florida this weekend. The struggling unit gave up just 240 yards of offense and recorded four sacks. (yes UF’s offense isn’t very good, but it’s the only game LSU hasn’t allowed a TD in this season). The defense will be put to the test in Oxford this weekend against Ole Miss.

2. Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC): The Aggies won another thriller over Ole Miss this weekend. They’ll face another good test in dual-threat QB Nick Marshall and Auburn this weekend, but if TAMU can get by the Tigers they’ll set up a pretty dramatic three-way race to the finish line for SEC West. As long as Johnny Football stays healthy, the Aggies are a contender.

1. Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC): Here’s the goal for Alabama the next two weeks: Stay healthy against Arkansas and Tennessee prior to its November 9 showdown with LSU. After a bit of a slow start (for Bama standards), the running game and defense seem to be back up to speed.

ACC Power Rankings

14. North Carolina (1-4, 0-2 ACC): North Carolina didn’t play this week, but that wasn’t long enough for me to forget just how bad the Tar Heels have started 2013. They stay in last-place heading into Thursday night’s home game against No. 10 Miami.

 

13. Virginia (2-4, 0-2 ACC): Virginia almost stole on over the weekend from a banged-up Virginia, but fell 27-26. The Cavs racked up 505 yards of total offense, behind 112 yards rushing by Kevin Parks. While the signs of life are good to see from UVA, I don’t really see another W for them in 2013.

12. North Carolina State (3-3, 0-3 ACC): We can keep talking about how this is still Tom O’Brien’s fault, but at some point Dave Doren has to get his new guys to buy in. A 24-10 loss to Syracuse didn’t help matters. N.C. State has the week off before traveling down to Tallahassee in two weeks. The good news is that Jacoby Brisset will take over at QB next season.

11. Wake Forest (3-3 1-2 ACC): After an off-week its Wake Forest’s turn to see if they can give Maryland a nice ACC parting gift in Winston-Salem this weekend. The Demon Deacons have look pretty pedestrian so far this season, but somehow Jim Grobe has found ways to win games. They have work to do to go bowling, but somehow it might not be out of the question.

10. Boston College (3-3, 1-2 ACC): Boston College once again but a scare into a superior opponent this weekend in a 24-14 loss on the road to No. 3 Clemson. The Eagles look physical and if they can find a way to play like they did in the first half against Clemson and FSU, they could bloom into the dudes that Steve Addazio always dreamed of.

9. Duke (4-2, 0-2 ACC): Duke came up with a nice 35-7 win over Navy on Saturday. The Blue Devils are averaging 35.8 points per game this season, and will be boosted by the return of Anthony Boone at QB. They travel to UVA this weekend.

 

8. Georgia Tech (3-3, 2-2 ACC): The Yellow Jackets free fall continued this weekend with a 38-20 loss to BYU on the road. It’s the third-straight loss for GT heading into this weekend’s home game against Syracuse. Vad Lee can’t seem to get out of his own head, throwing his fifth interception of the season Saturday. 

7. Syracuse (3-3, 1-1 ACC): Syracuse picked up its first ever ACC win on Saturday in Raleigh. The Orange are playing pretty good football so far this season with a rushing attack ranked 23rd in the nation, and a defense allowing 24.5 points per game.

 


6. Pittsburgh (3-2, 2-2 ACC): For the second straight game, the Panthers offense struggled on Saturday against Virginia Tech in a 19-9 loss. Pitt had just 23 yards rushing in the loss and a Tom Savage completed just 13 of 28 pass attempts. Pitt has a chance to build some momentum the next three weeks before hosting Notre Dame on November 9.

5. Maryland (5-1, 1-1 ACC): So here’s what we know about Maryalnd so far this season: They’re way worse than Florida State and just one point better than Virginia when they don’t have starting QB C.J. Brown. Brown (concussion) should return this weekend against Wake Forest.

4. Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0 ACC): With the way Logan Thomas has been playing the last few weeks I think that Frank Beamer and the Hokies would like to skip the BYE week this weekend if they could. VT is up to No. 19 in the polls. Perhaps Virginia Tech can find a running game during the week off.


3. Miami (5-0, 1-0 ACC): The Hurricanes became a Top-10 team during the BYE week. The trick now for Miami will be to avoid the ACC trademark of losing to inferior opponents. That task begins with a Thursday night road game against UNC this weekend, with a classic trap game against Wake Forest trapped between that game and a trip to Tallahassee.

89-004312. Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC):  The Seminoles were off last week, giving them an extra week to prepare for the colossal showdown with Clemson this weekend. Jimbo Fisher seems to have loosened the reigns a little bit this week, allowing the football players to judge and help the basketball team with their dunk contest and inviting ESPN in all day on Monday for multiple live All-Access shots on SportsCenter.

1. Clemson (6-0, 4-0 ACC): After a slow start, Clemson’s defense and Tajh Boyd carried the Tigers in the second half of a 24-14 win over BC. Boyd finished with 334 yards passing, while a sack and forced fumble by Tony Steward sealed the deal as Vic Beasley returned it for a score. Saturday’s game against FSU will catapult either team firmly into the BCS Championship discussion.

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.

ACC Power Rankings

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

ACC Power Rankings

Ok we’re four weeks into the season so it’s time for some Power Rankings (or just rankings, I guess there is no real power behind them). I’ll start with the ACC tonight and then put up my SEC rankings tomorrow.

14. Wake Forest (2-2 0-1 ACC): The Demon Deacons had a nice win, 25-11, over Army this week but still have a ways to go before moving up at all in this pole. Wake Forest’s longest run of the season is 23 yards. Defensively they’ve been ok, giving up just 15.8 points per game, but they still have work to do to move up at all.

13. Duke (2-2, 0-2 ACC): The Blue Devils have plenty of work to do on defense. It’s off to an 0-2 start in the ACC after losing 58-55 to Pittsburgh this weekend, following a 38-14 loss to Georgia Tech. In those two losses Duke gave up a combined 1,067 yards.

12. Boston College (2-1, 1-0 ACC): The Eagles do have a conference win under their belt thanks to a 24-10 win over Wake Forest in the rivalry, but they followed that up by losing 35-7 to a Southern Cal team who scored just 17 points on Utah State this weekend. I think Steve Addazio is the dude to get BC back on track, but he’ll need a few years.

11. Syracuse (2-2, 0-0 ACC): Syracuse has bounced back nicely from an 0-2 start with two cupcake wins, including last weekend’s 52-17 thrashing of Tulane. The Orange have been balanced on offense but we’ll find out how good they are in two weeks when they make their ACC debut at home against No. 4 Clemson.

10. Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0 ACC): Somehow the Hokies are 3-1 going into Thursday’s ACC opener against Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech needed triple overtime to take down a second straight regional rival in a 29-21 win over Marshall. Logan Thomas and the Hokies offense don’t inspire much confidence at all, but VT could ride it’s defense to another bowl eligible season.

9. Virginia (2-1, 0-0 ACC): The Cavaliers have one of the stranger wins of the 2013 season as it took down BYU 19-16 in its season opener. UVA then came crashing back down to earth thanks to a 59-10 loss to No. 2 Oregon. The Cavs passing attack needs work, starter David Watford is just 65 of 98 for 481 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions. We’ll find out more about UVA as it travels to Pitt on Saturday.


8. North Carolina State (2-1, 0-1 ACC): The Wolfpack feel short on Thursday night for another top five upset in Raleigh. The defense looked surprisingly good, but until Brandon Mitchell returns I don’t know how many Ws N.C. State will be racking up. The good news is with the exception of a trip to Tallahassee, the Wolfpack have a very manageable schedule.


7. Pittsburgh (2-1, 1-1 ACC): The Panthers received a rude welcome to the ACC thanks to Jameis Winston and Florida State, but bounced back for its first ACC win over Duke on Saturday. Pitt’s defense will give up points all year, but quarterback Tom Savage should be able to win his fair shair of the shootout.s

6. North Carolina (2-1, 0-1 ACC): The Tar Heels let a big lead slip through their fingers on Saturday against Georgia Tech. I can’t figure UNC out just yet. I really like quarterback Bryn Renner, but the offense has stalled against both GT and South Carolina this season. UNC needs a statement win over East Carolina this weekend (easier said than done).

5. Georgia Tech (3-0, 2-0 ACC): I think this Yellow Jacket offense could be the most dynamic attack that Paul Johnson has had in Atlanta. Vad Lee is off to a great start as the full-time starter and he actually has a nice crop of receivers to compliment the option rushing attack. Defensively things look much better this year under Ted Roof than they did a season ago.

4. Maryland (4-0, 0-0 ACC): In its final ACC season Maryland is off a quiet 4-0 start. The Terrapins thumped West Virginia 37-0 last weekend in College Park. C.J. Brown has been efficient this season with 1,050 yards passing, seven touchdowns and just one interception. The Terps are off this week before heading to Tallahassee on October 5. We’ll see just how improved Maryland is then.


3. Miami (3-0, 0-0 ACC): The Hurricanes have the second most impressive win in the ACC this season, a sloppy 21-16 victory over No. 12 Florida. Still I’m not that sold on Al Golden’s extremely young team. Miami travels to USF this weekend and then will host Georgia Tech in two weeks. Until its meeting with the Yellow Jackets we won’t know if this Miami team is truly different than last year’s mediocre squad.

2. Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC):  The Seminoles have been very impressive so far this season. They’re ranked No. 8 in the country, have averaged 52.3 points per game and given up just 8.7 points a game. Jameis Winston sure does look like the real deal, but the schedule hasn’t allowed us to really know just how good he or this team is. That won’t change after a trip to Boston College this weekend.

1. Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC): The Tigers are riding a ton of momentum right now. Clemson defeated LSU in the Chic-fil-A Bowl to end the 2012 season and started 2013 off with a 38-35 victory over Georgia. Perhaps most impressive though was Clemson’s performance on Thursday night. The Tigers started slow and quarterback Tajh Boyd didn’t have his A-game. Yet they found a way to get it done on the road 26-14 over N.C. State. They’ll be on cruise control until their October 19 showdown in Death Valley with Florida State.

Week 1 Picks

Now that we can finally move on from the Johnny Manziel autograph saga, lets break down the week 1 action.

North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina- Thursday 6 p.m. ET on ESPN:

UNC.edu

The season gets started on ESPN as North Carolina visits South Carolina at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Gamecocks are favored by 13 points.

USC has the most dynamic defensive player in the county in Jadeveon Clowney, and a unit that allowed just 18.2 points per game a year ago will be strong again in 2013. Offensively Connor Shaw, who is USC’s leading returning rusher and passer, will lead the way again. He completed 67.5 percent of his passes a year ago.

UNC signal caller Bryn Renner is one of the more underrated passers in the country. Last year the Tar Heels were 8-4 as Renner completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Renner and Larry Fedora’s high octane offense should be able to move ball on USC, even without Hard Knocks star Giovani Bernard.

Pregame reading: South Carolina has won 13 straight openers, Steve Spurrier thinks UNC is good enough to end that streak.

Pick: I think USC will get it done, but I think the Tar Heels will cover. I’m going with USC over UNC  24-17.

Top Five Heisman Trophy Contenders

No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU in the Cowboys Kickoff Classic- Saturday 9 p.m. ET ESPN

US Presswire

For an opening-weekend match-up between two top-20 teams, this game flown a bit under the radar. Perhaps that’s because UGA-Clemson has the makings of heavy-weight prize fight.

Still this is an intriguing match-up. LSU will be looking to replace eight players on the defensive side of the ball, including a whole new defensive line.

I think that Zack Mettenberger will thrive under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. He’ll also benefit from the fact that the expectations have been lowered from the ridiculous levels they were a year ago, when Tigers’ fans referred to him as the Mettsiah. Les Miles hasn’t announced whether or not if running back Jeremy Hill will play in the opener after an off-season arrest.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson has also been coy with the media about his team. Patterson hasn’t announced whether Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin will start at quarterback. Pachall started the year 4-0 last year before withdrawing from TCU to receive treatment for substance abuse following a DUI. Boykin filled in for Pachall the final 12 games and threw for 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Patterson hinted that TCU may actually find a way to get both quarterbacks on the field for the fist snap on Saturday, but I think that’s just a little bit of gamesmanship. The Horned Frogs will be without the reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year, defensive end Devonte Fields, as he serves a two-game suspension to start the year.

Pregame Reading: Nola.com: LSU vs. TCU 5 things to keep an eye on.

Pick: I think LSU comes in with a chip on it’s shoulder and handles TCU with ease. I’m taking the Tigers over the Horned Frogs 27-10.

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson- Saturday 8.p.m. ET ABC

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It doesn’t get any better than this for an opening-week match-up.

Two national-title contenders, with two potential Heisman finalists under center, will really set the tone for the final year of the BCS era. UGA’s title hopes could survive a loss in week one, while Clemson would likely be relegated to a best-case scenario of the Orange Bowl with a loss to the Bulldogs.

What makes this match-up so exciting is that both teams are going to put up points. In part because they’re very talented on offense, and also in part because both teams tend to struggle with not letting teams score lots of points. Clemson averaged 41 points per game last season, while allowing 24.8. UGA scored 37.8 points per game, and gave up 19.6 (but they gave up 20 points or more in eight of 14 games).

The Tigers should be better on defense in their second season under defensive coordinator Brent Venables. I’m not sold that the UGA squad will be better after losing so much talent to the NFL last year (seven defenders were drafted in 2013), and the fact that Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended for the opener.

Pregame reading: Cool story from David Ching on ESPN.com on the history of the Georgia-Clemson rivalry.

Pick: I think Clemson gets it done at home in a shootout. I think the Tigers take down Georgia 42-35.

Dark-horse Heisman Trophy contenders

Other Picks:

Rutgers at Fresno State- Thursday 10:30 p.m. ET ESPNU- I think Fresno State has a chance to make some noise this year. They start off with a win over Rutgers.

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virgina Tech in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff- 5:30 p.m. ET ESPN: Let’s get real here, the Crimson Tide will roll by three touchdowns.

No. 19 Boise State at Washington- Saturday 10 p.m. ET Fox Sports 1: I like the Huskies’ QB Keith Price so I’m going with UW over Boise in an upset.

No. 11 Florida State at Pittsburgh- Monday 8 p.m ET ESPN: Pitt needs to run the ball to be successful, and I just think that FSU is just too big up front for that to happen. Even if Jameis Winston has some debut jitters, I like the Seminoles by two touchdowns.