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 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.

USA Today Sports

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.

Heisman Contenders

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

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

USA Today Sports Images

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

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

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

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jason Getz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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.

Week 3 Picks

John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

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

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

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

Times Daily/Gary Cosby Jr.

This is it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Bradbury- Daily Bruin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Presswire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Other Heisman contenders

Yesterday I gave you my top five Heisman contenders.

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

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

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norm Hall/Getty Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waco Tribune Herald, Rod Aydelotte

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

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

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

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

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

A few more for the road

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

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

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

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

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

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