Week 4 picks

The Augusta Chronicle

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

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

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

Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independent Mail.

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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.

USA Today Sports

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.

USA Today Sports

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.

Week 1 Picks

Getty Images

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.