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.

Week 1 Picks

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College Football is upon us once again. While the debut of Georgia State as a Fun Belt team was mere morsel of an appetizer,  Thursday it’s time to feast my friends.

There is a heck of a slate of games this weekend, beginning with 14 games on Thursday. I’m picking my top seven match-ups as I’ll do every week throughout the season (unless my honey-do list gets too long at home).

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina- 6p.m. ET on SEC Network: The Aggies begin life without Johnny Manziel, and South Carolina looks to find an identity on defense after Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina has won 17 straight games at home, and Steve Spurrier is 23-1 all-time in openers as a college coach.

The Augusta Chronicle

Sophomore Kenny Hill is the new Texas A&M quarterback. He attempted just 22 passes last season, but Kevin Sumlin has been able to put up big numbers no matter who his signal caller is. South Carolina also has a new starting QB in Dylan Thompson. Unlike Hill, Thompson has plenty of experience, including playing in 10 games last year as he completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 783 yards and four touchdowns.

Last year the Aggies showed no desire in playing defense against anyone giving up 32.2 points per game and an average of 475.8  yards per game. With an offense that features running back Mike Davis, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry en route to a 1,183-yard season, I think the Gamecocks take this one pretty easily.

Prediction: Most Las Vegas books have South Carolina as a 10.5-point favorite. I’m going with South Carolina 45, Texas A&M 24.

Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss- 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: Chris Petersen is gone. The BCS is gone. Thus it will be a long time before Boise State is able to prove to they truly are more than just a flash in the pan in the world of college football. A win over an up-and-coming SEC team would be a good start.

Ole Miss is favored by 11 in most books. That’s largely in part due to the fact that they’re led by senior quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw for 3,346 yards last season. Boise signal caller Grant Hedrick takes over full-time after splitting time with Joe Southwick last year.

The Rebels have a distinct advantage on defense with nine starters returning. Even though Boise State’s 6-2 record against ranked opponents since 2009 is an interesting tidbit, I don’t think this group of Broncos can hang.

Prediction: Look for Ole Miss and head coach Hugh Freeze to make statement in his third season opener. Ole Miss wins 28-14.

West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama- 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2: This game has an interesting sub-plot. Projected starting quarterbacks Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker were teammates at Florida State in 2012, before Trickett went to West Virginia last year and Coker enrolled at Alabama this summer.

AP Photo

Trickett has further taken the storyline off the field by telling reporters that his first kiss was actually Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s daughter when they were six.

As far as Vegas is concerned off the field stories are the only intriguing aspects of this Chic-fil-A Kickoff game, with the Crimson Tide as a 27-point favorite.

The Mountaineers spread offense will be a good test for an Alabama secondary that wasn’t up to Saban’s lofty standards a year ago.

Prediction: I think Alabama is one of the best teams in the country, but I’m thinking West Virginia will cover here. I’m going Alabama 35, West Virginia 17.

Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn- 4 p.m. ET on SEC Network: This is a game that Vegas really wants you to put your money on. Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall won’t start the game, and no one knows if he’ll play at all thanks to a marijuana citation this off-season.

The Tigers are a 19.5 favorite despite Marshall’s suspension, because Vegas wants you to bet on the Razorbacks. But don’t fall for it. Auburn’s No. 2 QB Jeremy Johnson can play. He was a four-star prospect out of Montgomery, Ala. and was named Mr. Football as a senior.

Arkansas has won three of its last four trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium, but I don’t have much faith in a fourth victory.

Prediction: I think Auburn wins this one in a boat race. I’m taking the Tigers 42-20.

No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia- 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: This was an awesome game last year, with two veteran quarterbacks battling it out as Clemson held on for a 38-35 win.

This year it looks like another great match-up, just with a pair of inexperienced QBs this time around. Georgia will start senior Hutson Mason who has waited his turn the last three years behind Aaron Murray. Clemson will also go with a senior to start year in Cole Stoudt, but true freshman Deshaun Watson could also see time this season.

Clemson’s defense has the edge in this one with Vic Beasley one of a handful of veteran defenders who returned, but UGA has the X-factor with Todd Gurley.

Prediction: Georgia is favored by 7.5 in this one. I think that the Bulldogs win, but in another thriller 27-21 over Clemson.

No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State- 8p.m. ET on ABC: Jimbo Fisher wants his team to display an attitude of dominance in 2014. Dominance is what Vegas expects in this one with FSU favored by 18.5 points.

The Seminoles are loaded again, and the big stage in Dallas will be nothing new to them. Oklahoma State returns just 10 total starters on offense and defense from a team that appeared in the Cotton Bowl last year.

Prediction: FSU rolls in this one I think. I’m taking the Seminoles 42-16 over the Cowboys.

No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU: This all smash-mouth football fan could ask for. Two big physical teams, with a pair of the best running backs in the country.

Madison.com

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ran for 1,609 yards last year and is considered by some to be a darkhorse Heisman candidate. LSU’s top tailback is a 6-foot-1, 224-pound freshman named Leonard Fournette, who has Jameis Winston-hype around him as he makes his collegiate debut in Houston on Saturday.

LSU will rotate quarterbacks with both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris both expected to play. Wisconsin will start Tanner McEvoy, who played safety for the Badgers last year. McEvoy brings a dual-threat element to the quarterback position that could make Wisconsin’s vaunted rushing attack even tougher to defend.

LSU is a five-point favorite in this one, and I think the Tigers athletes on defense get them by the Badgers.

Prediction: I’m going with LSU 21, Wisconsin 14.

Drake records a song about Johnny Football

Yesterday Drake released as a song called Draft Day. The song is mostly about Drake, but most things he said could easily be related to Johnny Manziel. He also gives fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins a shout-out.

Truthfully it’s not my favorite Drake song ever, but at least he’s rapping. My favorite line has nothing to do with Manziel, but is when Drake says “On some Hunger Games shit I would die for my district. Jennifer Lawrence you could really get it.”

The best part is at the end of the song when he pays homage to former Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins with a nice little skit: “I’ve got guys on my back about scheduling saying it’s too tough. Well guess what? It’s Division I football! It’s the SEC! Heck you pledged didn’t ya? Go play intramurals brother. Go play intramurals.”

Power Rankings

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

SEC Power Rankings

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACC Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Week 8 Picks

Noles 247

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AP Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.