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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Week 3 Picks

gogamecocks.com

I bounced back with a 4-3 week two to bring the picks to 6-8 for the year. This week’s slate of games doesn’t exactly jump off the screen, which means it will likely be one of the more wild weekends of the season.

Georgia Southern (1-1) at Georgia Tech (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on FOX Sports South: The Yellow Jackets have had a pair of slow starts that look much better on paper than they did on film. Wofford trailed by just five points in the fourth quarter before Tech pulled away for a 38-19 victory.

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Last week on the road the Yellow Jackets kicked a field just before halftime for its first lead of the game. The second half was all Georgia Tech though, as it went on for a 38-21 win over Tulane.

Georgia Southern is 1-1 after putting up 83 points last weekend against Savannah State (seriously why does this school play football?).

The Eagles ended last year with a big win over Florida in Gainesville and very nearly had another Power 5 victory to start 2014. North Carolina State needed a Jacoby Brissett touchdown pass with 1:37 to escape the opener with a 24-23 win.

Prediction: Vegas is giving the Yellow Jackets 17 points. I think that’s awfully generous and I like the Eagles to not only cover, but I think they come to Atlanta and win. I’ll take Georgia Southern 24-21.

Central Florida (0-1) at No. 20 Missouri (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on SEC Network: Missouri dominated Toledo early last week and never looked back at is moved to 2-0 with a 49-24 win on the road. The Tigers racked up more than 500 yards of total offense in the game.

Quarterback Maty Mauk is completing 64.2 percent of his passes, and has tossed eight touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Still the Tigers haven’t faced a team as good as UCF.

UCF fell to Penn State 26-24 in Ireland in its season opener. The Kinghts offense stalled early in the game, but was sparked when Justin Holman entered the game. Holman completed 9 of 14 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns and is now the starter.

Prediction: Home-field advantage has Missouri as a 10-point favorite in this one. While I think Holman makes UCF much more dynamic on offense than it was with Pete DeNivo under center, I still can’t overlook the Nittany Lions’ 511 yards of total offense in the game. I think Missouri’s offense will be too much for UCF, and the Tigers win 35-20.

West Virginia (1-1) at Maryland (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on Big Ten Network: The Terrapins make their Big Ten Network debut against a geographical rival, who of course plays in conference made up of southwestern teams because… College Football that’s why.

The Mountaineers are 1-1 after hanging with Alabama and shutting out Towson. Clint Trickett is completing a whopping 75.3 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The former FSU signal-caller even has a rushing TD this year as well. West Virginia’s inability to stop the run was the difference against Alabama in the Georgia Dome as the Crimson Tide racked up 288 yards on the ground.

Maryland had a strong start against James Madison and escaped South Florida with a 24-17 win last weekend. Turnovers have been the Terrapins big bugaboo early this season. C.J. Brown has thrown two interceptions this year, while back-up Caleb Rowe has also thrown a pick. USF’s first points last week came courtesy of a fumble return for a touchdown.

Prediction: Maryland is a three-point favorite in this one. I think Brown and the rest of Maryland’s rushing attack will give West Virgina problems, but I still think the Mountaineers pull it off. I’m going West Virgina 35-28.

No. 6 Georgia (1-0) at No. 24 South Carolina (1-1)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Obviously this is Saturday’s main course.

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Columbia, S.C. has been a bit of a house of horrors for the Bulldogs lately with the Gamecocks winning the last two, including a 35-7 drubbing in 2012 that’s still fresh in both fan bases’ memories. UGA avenged the loss last year in Athens with a 41-30 win.

Todd Gurley racked up 132 yards in last year’s win, and looks to be even better this year as the fully-healthy junior piled up 198 yards rushing, three rushing TDs and a 100-yard kickoff return for a fourth score in a 45-21 win over Clemson in the opener.

South Carolina bounced back with a win over ECU last weekend, after Texas A&M scored 52 points in win over South Carolina in Columbia. Even with a win over the Purple Pirates the defense gave up 453 yards of offense in the 33-23 victory.

The good news was that Mike Davis did look healthy as he rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Prediction: Georgia is a favored by 6.5 points on the road. With South Carolina giving up an average of 6.8 yards per play, and Georgia looking potent offensively despite its off-season losses this one looks like it could be a Bulldogs’ blowout. I’m sure the Ole Ball Coach has mentioned this more than a few teams to his club this week, but I just don’t think South Carolina has the personnel on defense to stop UGA. I think Todd Gurley has another big day and Georgia rolls 42-23.

Tennessee (2-0) at No. 4 Oklahoma (2-0) – Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ABC: Time for Bob Stoops to back up all that SEC smack talk he’s been spewing since last summer.

The Sooners have rolled over a couple of cupcakes early in the year, averaging 508 yards of total offense per game. Trevor Knight has been impressive with 552 yards passing, three TDs and a rushing TD as well.

Oklahoma’s defense has been lights out, giving up just 3.8 yards per play against Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. OU has four sacks, and has forced five turnovers in the blowout victories, including four interceptions.

The Volunteers are also 2-0 on the year, but they haven’t been quite as impressive. Tennessee did blow by Utah Sate on Labor Day weekend, but didn’t pull away from Arkansas State until the second half, and even trailed much of the first quarter.

Justin Worely has looked good under center, with a 64.5 completion percentage, 520 yards passing and five touchdowns. Despite the lack of a running game to keep defenses honest.

Prediction: Oklahoma is favored by 21 points. Tennessee is going to look ridiculous next week against Florida thanks to Adidas, but this week they’ll only have themselves to blame. Boomer Sooner rolls 42-17.

No. 9 USC (2-0) at Boston College (1-1)- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: The Trojans enter this one after an emotional 13-10 win over Stanford last weekend. Boston College is coming off a 10-point loss to Pitt.

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Pitt ran it down the Eagles’ throat for 303 yards last week. USC is averaging 496 yards per game on offense, including 216 yards rushing. Buck Allen is leading the way with 287 yards.

The Eagles have had their own success running the ball, with an average of 5.1 yards per rush. Quarterback Tyler Murphy is the leading rusher with 210 yards. USC showed it can stop a physical rushing attack last week, limiting Stanford to 128 yards on 38 carries.

Prediction: Despite a cross-country flight, the Trojans are a 17-point favorite. I think BC is going to surprise some teams this year, but USC isn’t one of them. USC takes down the dudes 31-10.

Texas (1-1) at No. 12 UCLA (2-0)- Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET on FOX: When FOX saw they had UCLA at Texas with this week’s slate of games they had to be ecstatic. A national title contender with a pair of Heisman hopefuls, against Charlie Strong as he rebuilds one of the game’s biggest brands.

Instead what they’ve got is a pair of perhaps the most disappointing teams in college football.

Texas was embarrassed at home by BYU (yes again) 41-7 last weekend. The Cougars racked up 429 yards of total offense, including 248 yards rushing. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was 20 of 31 for 176 yards, a TD and an interception as BYU loaded the box and dared him to beat him with his arm.

UCLA hasn’t lost a game in 2014, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. A struggling offensive line has led to narrow victories over Virgina (28-20) and Memphis (42-35). Bruins’ fans may have been able to chalk the UVA game up to a noon game on the East Coast, but the Memphis win came in Los Angeles.

Still the Bruins have a pair of dynamic play-makers in Brett Hundley and Myles Jack. Hundley has thrown for 638 yards, three TDs and a pick, while also rushing for 65 yards and TD. Jack is again playing both ways for UCLA. The sophomore has 19 tackles, one for loss and two pass break-ups on defense. He’s only carried the ball three times on offense, but did have a four-yard TD run against Memphis.

Prediction: UCLA is an eight-point favorite at home in this one. I have no doubt that Strong will have Texas playing better this week, but he still will be missing his starting quarterback and three offensive line starters. UCLA will win this one, but we’ll find out more about them in two weeks in Tempe, Ariz. UCLA wins 24-12.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC): Kentucky played perhaps its best game of the season on Saturday as it scored 21 fourth-quarter points in a 35-28 loss to South Carolina. The Wildcats’ defense is still not up to par with head coach Mark Stoops’ standards but at least UK didn’t quit when USC went up 21-0. QB Jalen Whitlow accounted for 247 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. Kentucky hosts Alabama this weekend so any movement from the No. 14 spot isn’t happening this week.

13. Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2 SEC): For three quarters Mississippi State hung with LSU on Saturday, before losing 59-26. The Bulldogs ran the ball well, averaging six yards per carry en route to 216 yards rushing, but the secondary was torched by Zach Mettenberger. This weekend is a must-win game at home against Bowling Green (5-1), easier said than done.

12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC): Vandy fell to 0-3 in the SEC this weekend after a 51-28 loss at home to Missouri. The Commodores offense racked up 468 yards of total offense, 338 through the air, but couldn’t keep up with Missouri’s attack. Vanderbilt is off this week before hosting Georgia on the 19th.

11. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC): Butch Jones came awful close to getting his signature first-season win against Georgia, but a costly fumble in overtime allowed Georgia to escape 34-31. It was the best the Volunteers offense has looked all year, with 404 yards of total offense. Running back Rajion Neal racked up 148 yards and two TDs on 28 carries. The Vols get an off week before three straight games against ranked SEC teams.

10. Arkansas (3-3, 0-2 SEC): After a 3-0 start the Razorbacks have now dropped three straight, including Saturday’s 30-10 loss to Florida. Arkansas had just 275 yards of total offense against UF, and just 111 yards on the ground. Arkansas hosts South Carolina Saturday followed by a trip to Alabama, so the Hogs will likely have to bounce back from an 0-4 SEC start.

9. Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2 SEC): The Rebels took a step back on Saturday with a 30-22 loss to Auburn. The Rebels made a late run, but couldn’t catch Auburn after an early 20-3 deficit. Ole Miss really could have used a win last weekend as Texas A&M and LSU come to Oxford in consecutive weeks.

 

8. Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC): Missouri moved into the Top-25 with its win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, but I’m still skeptical of the Tigers. While quarterback James Franklin was impressive, throwing for four touchdowns, the defense allowed Vandy to rack up 468 yards of total offense. If Missouri wants more respect then they have to make a big statement against a vulnerable Georgia team in Athens on Saturday.

7. Auburn (4-1, 2-1 SEC): Auburn came up with a big win over Ole Miss last weekend. Quarterback Nick Marshall did most of his damage on the ground, with 140 yards rushing and two TDs. The Tigers defense wielded late in the game to the Rebels, but Auburn held on. The Tigers host Western Carolina Saturday before traveling to Texas A&M the following week.

6. South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 SEC): The Gamecocks season took a strange turn this week. First Steve Spurrier’s Coaches show was pulled because he said it was too negative, then Spurrier and the coaches blasted Jadeveon Clowney’s decision to not play against Kentucky. The future top-five pick is questionable for Saturday’s trip to Arkansas. The Gamecocks are the most dysfunctional 4-1 team in the nation.

5. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The Aggies were off this weekend as they gear up for a crucial run to end the season. Johnny Manziel is still the most electric player in the SEC and Texas A&M will have a chance to put up big numbers against Ole Miss on Saturday. After a visit from Auburn, TAMU should cruise until its trip to Baton Rouge, La. on November 23.

4. Florida (4-1, 3-0 SEC): Two straight weeks of Tyler Murphy have done the Gators’ offense good. In a 30-10 win over Arkansas, Murphy was 16 of 22 for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Solomon Patton emerged as his top target, bringing down six receptions for 124 yards and two TDs. Florida’s streak of holding 12 straight SEC opponents under 20 points will be put to the test this weekend at LSU.

3. LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC): LSU pulled away from Mississippi State late last weekend to improve to 5-1. Zach Mettenberger continues to be impressive. Against MSU he was 24 of 29 for 340 yards and two TDs. LSU still has questions on defense, but its offense is good enough to carry it in most shootouts. Saturday’s battle between LSU’s offense and UF’s defense is infinitely intriguing.

2. Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC): The Bulldogs narrowly escaped Tennessee 34-31 in overtime last weekend, but it paid the price. Back-up running back Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley were lost for the year to knee injuries, while Michael Bennett also went down with a knee injury but could return by Nov. 2. With the injuries piling up, Saturday’s home game against Missouri just became a lot tougher.

1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama fared well in its scrimmage against Georgia State Saturday, with a 45-3 win. Now the Crimson Tide travel to Kentucky before hosting Tennessee and Arkansas. Wake me up when November 9 gets here and Alabama hosts LSU, other than the SEC Championship game (should Bama make it), the Crimson Tide won’t be challenged much all year with the exception of the LSU game.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC): Changing the culture of a losing program is no easy task as Mark Stoops has found out. Stoops told the media today that his team will continue to get steamrolled if the finger pointing he saw during a 24-7 loss to Florida doesn’t stop. Wildcat fans should buckle up for a bumpy couple of weeks with a trip to No. 12 South Carolina this weekend followed by a visit from No. 1 Alabama.

13. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC): The Bulldogs had a week off to prepare for this weekend’s tilt with LSU. Mississippi State has had success on offense lately so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up against a team with the caliber of athletes that LSU has.  Dual-threat QB Dak Prescott could give State fans hope for the future, but it’s doubtful he can pull of an upset of this magnitude.

12. Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2 SEC): If James Franklin is going to make it two straight bowls for Vandy then Saturday is a must-win game at home against Missouri. The Commodores cruised by UAB 52-24 last weekend. Running back Jerron Seymour was impressive with 107 yards and two touchdowns, but the defense allowed the Blazers to average 5.4 yards per carry with its own rushing attack.

11. Tennessee (3-2, 0-1 SEC): The Volunteers were anything but impressive in their 31-24 win over South Alabama. It’s obvious they were looking ahead to this weekend’s match-up with Georgia, but there’s still no way USA should be within seven points of an SEC team on the road. Junior quarterback Justin Worley threw three picks in the game. If he turns it over that often this weekend it will be a long day for the Vols in front of a national TV audience.

10. Missouri (4-0, 0-0 SEC): Missouri improved to 4-0 over the weekend with a 41-19 win over Arkansas State. Yet due to the fact that the Tigers have so readily adopted the SEC out-of-conference scheduling approach they received just 21 votes in this week’s coaches poll. A win this weekend at Vanderbilt wouldn’t get them in the top 25, but it would at least get the ball rolling.

9. Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Auburn had the week off to prepare for a visit from Ole Miss this weekend. Alabama laid out the gameplan to stop the Rebels offensive attack. Quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions so far this season. I think the BYE week could be big for him to review the turnovers and his decision making as he adjust to playing quarterback at this level.

8. Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC): The Razorbacks put up a good fight in a 45-33 shootout with Texas A&M last weekend. Freshman Alex Collins rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth time this season and quarterback Bradnon Allen threw three touchdown passes. Allen also threw a pair of picks and the defense gave up 523 yards of total offense. Arkansas travels to No. 19 Florida this weekend for the second of its four-game SEC gauntlet.

7. Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Well it appears that Ole Miss should have just let sleeping dogs lie. Quarterback Bo Wallace boasted that his team could, and would, score on Alabama because they had better receivers than Texas A&M. Ole Miss fell 25-0 to the Crimson Tide. The Rebels turned it over twice and Wallace completed just 54 percent of his passes. A trip to Auburn this weekend would allow Ole Miss to regain the momentum it gained with a 3-0 start to the season.

6. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Despite a slow start the Gamecocks escaped Orlando with a 28-25 win over Central Florida this weekend. Quarterback Connor Shaw was injured early the game, but according to reports he will start this weekend against Kentucky. That’s good news because Dylan Thompson looked shaky when he was handed the keys to the offense, completing 15 of 32 pass attempts for 261 yards and an interception. Running back Mike Davis should be the focal point of the offense, he ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries Saturday.

5. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The ninth-ranked Aggies can’t stop anybody on defense, but it doesn’t matter because no one can stop Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense either. In win at Arkansas Saturday the Aggies showed a new dimension to the offense as sophomores Trey Williams (83 yards and a touchdown) and Tra Carson (64 yards) took the load off Manziel in the second half with a running game. Texas A&M has a BYE this weekend.

4. Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC): For the first time this season, Florida’s offense didn’t look eons behind its defense on Saturday in a 24-7 win over Kentucky. In his first-career start Tyler Murphy completed 15 of 18 pass attempts for 156 yards and a touchdown, and added 36 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Sophomore running back Matt Jones rumbled for 176 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Meanwhile the defense continued its dominance, allowing just 173 yards of total offense and 12 first downs. The defense gets a good test this weekend from Arkansas’ rushing attack.

3. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): The Tigers gave Georgia everything they had on Saturday as they came up short in a 44-41 instant-classic. Zach Mettenberger was sensational as he threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Jeremy Hill had to grind for 86 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Ultimately the defense just couldn’t get Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense off the field. LSU need a win this weekend over Mississippi State to get its confidence back before a big stretch to end the season in SEC play.

2. Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC): It really is remarkable what Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs have done this season. After a loss to Clemson, the Dawgs have taken down both South Carolina and LSU to remain firmly in the national championship picture. Aaron Murray has shed the big-game failure label in each of those wins. This time he threw for 298 yards with four touchdowns and an interception, while also scoring on a one-yard TD run. Making it even more impressive was that he did it with tailback Todd Gurley in street clothes for the second half thanks to a sprained ankle. Gurley is listed day-to-day, but with game a trip to Tennessee this weekend, followed by games against Missouri and Vanderbilt, it may be prudent to let Gurley rest up for the Cocktail Party.

1. Alabama (4-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama dominated Ole Miss on Saturday in a 25-0 shutout. It was the best the Crimson Tide’s defense has looked all season long. ‘Bama allowed just 205 yards of total offense, forced two turnovers, and gave up just 4 of 14 third-down conversions. Perhaps the best bit of news was that the running game got back on track. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown, while Kenyan Drake added 99 yards and a touchdown. The Crimson Tide will  host an open practice against Georgia State on Saturday.

SEC Power Rankings

Yesterday I gave you my power rankings for the ACC. Now here are my rankings for the SEC.

14. Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC): The Mark Stoops era is off to a hot start on the recruiting trail. Unfortunately none of those kids can suit up for Kentucky this season. The Wildcats opened the year with a 35-26 loss to Western Kentucky in Nashville. Things don’t get better this week with Florida visiting.

13. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC): I really do think Dan Mullen is a good coach. I’m just not sure if you can do much more than he has in Starkville. After a slow start on offense the Bulldogs are rolling now, scoring 62 points against Troy last weekend. Thanks to a 24-20 loss to Auburn, a bowl game looks like a tall task for Mississippi State this season/

12. Vanderbilt (2-2, 0-2 SEC): The Commodores started off the season with a heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss at home. They also have a pair of wins over two cupcakes and a ten-point loss to South Carolina. Jordan Matthews is one of the best receivers in the conference, but there’s really no running game to keep offenses off-balance. Vandy has to win it’s next two games to have any hope of bowling.

11. Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC): I’m not really sure how the Volunteers scored 45 points in its season opener and then 52 against Western Kentucky (Ok I know the defense actually did the scoring in this game). Tennessee looked putrid on Saturday, turning the ball over six times in a 31-17 loss at Florida. The Vols will get a chance to lick their wounds this weekend at home against South Alabama.

10. Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC): The Tigers are 3-0 to start their second season in the SEC. Missouri is averaging 47 points per game (eight best in the country) and giving up 21.7 points per game (50th best in the country). James Frankling has been inconsistent under center with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Dorial Green-Beckham is averaging 14.4 yards per catch. Still with an underwhelming schedule thus far I’m not willing to buy stock in Missouri just yet.

9. Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Auburn fell to LSU 35-21 on Saturday. Nick Marshall threw a pair of interceptions to bring his season total up to four. Running back Tre Mason was impressive with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. The offense looked pretty good in the second half, but the defense has work to do. LSU averaged 10 yards per pass play, and 16.4 yards per completion.

8. Arkansas (3-1, 0-0 SEC): The Razorbacks let 4-0 slip through their hands last weekend in a 28-24 loss to Rutgers, bringing shame to the SEC with a loss to an American Conference foe. Arkansas’ running attack looks stout with freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams. Saturday’s home game against Texas A&M starts a brutal four-game stretch that features trips to Florida and Alabama, with a home bout on October 12 against South Carolina. Shouldn’t have let Rutgers get away Arkansas, it could be a while before your next W.

7. Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Things are looking up in Oxford so far this season. The Rebels are 3-0, including a 44-23 win on the road at Texas, all those prized recruits from February are living up to the hype and Ole Miss is even ranked No. 21 in the nation. All that comes crashing down a bit this weekend as the Rebels travel to No. 1 Alabama. Still if Ole Miss can get by Auburn they could finish fourth in the SEC West.

6. South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC): In its conference opener South Carolina was drubbed by Georgia 41-30, but bounced back two weeks ago with a 35-25 win over Vanderbilt. USC has been pretty good on offense. Connor Shaw hasn’t thrown and interception yet and on the ground the Gamecocks average 224.7 yards per game. The defense has actually been the letdown, giving up 25.3 points per game as Jadevon Clowney has discovered teams are game-planning to go almost exclusively away form him. USC has a trap game this weekend at UCF on Saturday at Noon ET.

5. Florida (2-1, 1-0 SEC): The Gators rebounded nicely from a loss to in-state rival Miami with a 31-17 win over Tennessee on Saturday. Jeff Driskel was lost for the year with a broken leg, but Tyler Murphy looked comfortable under center, completing 8 of 14 passes for 134 yards and touchdown, to go with 84 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown. If he can make the Gator offense even mediocre, things could get scary since the best defense in the nation already resides in Gainesville.

4. Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC): Once again Mark Richt has his team back on track after an early season loss, this time a 38-35 loss on the road to No. 3 Clemson. Aaron Murray finnally won, and played well in a big-game as he defeated South Carolina for the first time ever in week two. Murray has completed 72 percent of his passes this season and has a QB’s best friend in the UGA rushing attack. Todd Gurley looks like a Heisman candidate and Keith Marshall has had some big runs as well. Still the special teams, defense and offensive line still have some questions to be answered if UGA is going to win the SEC East. They have a monster game this weekend at home against LSU on Saturday.

3. Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 SEC): The Aggies offense looks unreal again in 2013. Johnny Manziel has completed 70 percent of his passes, has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 1,228 yards and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry on the ground. Receiver Mike Evans showed defenses that he’s a problem with is massive game against Alabama. The defense is allowing 30.3 points per game and will be the only thing that could keep Texas A&M away from a BCS at-large bid this season.

2. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Thanks to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Zach Mettenberger looks like a different quarterback. He’s completing 64.8 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception through four games. Certainly Cameron is a big reason for that, but he receiving duo of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry deserve their due as well. Jeremy Hill was named SEC player of the week for his game against Auburn, and he’s averaging 8.3 yards per carry. LSU’s young defense will be tested in Athens this weekend by a potent Georgia offense.

1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The two-time defending national champions are of course No. 1 not just in the SEC, but in all the land. The defense was shredded by Manziel (who isn’t?) and has still allowed an average of just 19.3 points per game this season. The offensive line could be the only real chink in Alabama’s armor. A.J. McCarron struggled to get comfortable in the pocket against Virginia Tech and the rushing attack has picked up gain longer than 38 yards all season. Look for the Crimson Tide to send a message to Ole Miss and all the potential blue chippers thinking of heading to Oxford this weekend.

Week 4 Picks

Photo from N.C. State

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

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

Now lets get into this week’s picks.

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

Prediction: Clemson rolls to a 35-17 victory.

SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily

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

Prediction: Standford wins 24-13 over Arizona State.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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