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.

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.

Week 5 picks

Allen Sullivan / AJC.com

Last week didn’t turn out so hot for me and my picks. I went 3-4, but at least Fresno State stayed alive! We can all drift off to sleep with Derek Carr and the Bulldogs this weekend as they travel to Hawaii for a Midnight kickoff here on the east coast.

I’m now 17-11 for the year so go ahead and put your mortgage payment on this week’s picks.

Nathan Gray/ Independent Mail

No. 6 LSU at No. 10 Georgia- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS:

For the second time in three weeks Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC) puts its SEC (and National) title hopes on the line. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is coming off a 35-21 win over Auburn in its SEC opener, while special team miscues made a 45-21 win over North Texas seem closer than it was for UGA.

The Bulldogs offense is firing on all cylinders right now. Aaron Murray is completing 72 percent of his passes and has tossed seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. On the ground Todd Gurley still looks like the best back in the country, even though he’s banged up. The sophomore has 377 yards, four touchdowns and is averaging six yards per carry.

The young defense has come along slowly, but looked better in stretches against South Carolina and North Texas.

LSU is also off to a great start. Former UGA quarterback Zach Mettenberger (pictured at the top of the post alongside Murray) has been crisp this season. He’s thrown for 1,026 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. Odell Beckham (20 catches for 389 yards and four TDs) and Jarvis Landry (24 catches for 364 yards and six TDs) are a terrific receiving tandem, but no other Tiger has more than three catches this season.

Jermey Hill, who probably shouldn’t be allowed to suit up for LSU, is averaging 8.3 yards per carry on the ground. Teams are averaging 19.5 points against LSU’s revamped defense so far this season.

Vegas has Georgia as a three-point favorite at home.

Prediction: I’ve gone back and forth on this all week. I even told a UGA fan on Tuesday I wasn’t sure that LSU would even punt in the game because the Dawgs are so lackluster on defense. But the more I think about it I just can’t bring myself to go against Mark Richt in Athens.

Georgia has the advantage at quarterback and I think playing in the stadium where he was supposed to star (and his mom works at) will all be a bit much for Mettenberger. He’ll eventually try to do too much and turn the ball over. I think UGA wins another SEC shootout over LSU 35-31.

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech- Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN:

The Yellow Jackets (3-0, 2-0 ACC) are a seven-point favorite at home against Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0 ACC). Georgia Tech erased a 13-point deficit last weekend in a 28-20 win over North Carolina, while Virginia Tech needed triple overtime to defeat Marshall. The Hokies defense is one of the better units in the ACC, but unfortunately they don’t get the luxury of playing against Logan Thomas. The senior signal caller has thrown six interceptions and just four touchdowns so far this season.

Prediction: VT’s second trip to Atlanta this season goes a lot like its first (expect with out the moral victory for the defense) and Georgia Tech likely moves into the Top 25 with 24-10 victory.

No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 22 Notre Dame- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC:

For the second straight week Notre Dame had to grind out a victory last weekend, taking down Michigan State 17-13. Tommy Rees didn’t turn it over and the Fighting Irish took advantage of MSU’s mistakes with the football to move to 3-1 on the year.

Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) had the week off to prepare for its trip to South Bend, Ind. Blake Bell has changed the complexion of the Sooners offense since replacing Trevor Knight. Bell is completing close to 70 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown a pick yet. He’s been so impressive that OU is a 3.5-point favorite on the road this weekend.

Prediction: I just don’t know if Tommy Rees can stay turnover-free against the OU defense (which is giving up just nine points per game this year). I think that Blake Bell gets a big road win for the Sooners over Notre Dame 23-17.

No. 21 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama- Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN:

The Rebels (3-0, 1-0 SEC) are off to a great start this year with wins at Vanderbilt and Texas. Bo Wallace is an exciting quarterback and Jeff Scott is as slippery a player as there is in the county. Now things get real with a trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Alabama dismantled Colorado State 31-6 last weekend after an emotional win at Texas A&M two weeks earlier. The Crimson Tide look beatable this season, but Ole Miss is not the team to get it done, hence the 14.5 points Vegas is giving the Rebels.

Prediction: I really like Ole Miss, but the only thing they’re winning on Saturday is the tailgate. The Tide roles on 42-28.

No. 13 South Carolina at Central Florida- Saturday Noon ET on ABC:

It’s the biggest home game for UCF (3-0, 0-0 AAC) since the Knights hosted Texas to open up Bright House Networks Stadium in 2007. UCF enters Saturday following a BYE, and defeated Penn State on the road 34-31 two weeks ago. Blake Bortles is a terrific quarterback, he’s completing 71.4 percent of his passes and has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception.

South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) comes into the game off of a BYE as well. The Gamecocks have defeated UNC and Vanderbilt at home, and fallen to Georgia on the road, this season. Surprisingly the strength of the Gamecocks has been their balance on offense with running back Mike Davis and quarterback Connor Shaw.

Prediction: USC is favored by seven points and I’m feeling crazy. I don’t know if UCF can win outright but I think they can make South Carolina work for it. I’ll take USC 17-14 over UCF.

No. 24 Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State- Saturday 8 p.m ET on ABC:

The Badgers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) bounced back from a tough loss to Arizona State with a 41-10 thrashing of Purdue last weekend. Wisconsin is averaging 348.9 yards rushing per game this season and is giving up just 10.5 points per game.

Ohio State (4-0) is in a bit of a predicament as Braxton Miller has been cleared to play this weekend. In Miller’s absence Kenny Guiton has lit it up for the Buckeyes with 664 yards passing, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions against a handful of cupcakes. Guiton looks like a better passer but Miller’s athleticism is what made him the starter in the first place.

Prediction: Ohio State is favored by a touchdown at home and I think they’ll be able to cover that. Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten and I think they’ll show that no matter who plays quarterback on Saturday. Wisconsin goes down 28-17.

No. 9 Texas A&M at Arkansas- Saturday 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2:

62.5 points is the over in this one and I’d take it. The Aggies (3-1, 0-1 SEC) are up there with Oregon for the best offense in the country and the Razorbacks (3-1, 0-0 SEC) have a big-time rushing attack.

Texas A&M bounced back from its loss to Alabama last Saturday with a 42-13 win over SMU. All that Johnny Football kid did was generate 346 yards of total offense, run for two scores and throw another in the blowout win.

Arkansas let a win over Rutgers slip right through its fingers last weekend 28-24. Now it’s time for freshman Alex Collins and head coach Bret Bielema to make their SEC debuts.

Prediction: Texas A&M is getting 14.5 points on the road, and as much as I do like Arkansas rushing attack the Razorbacks gave up 28 points to Rutgers last weekend. TAMU rolls Arkansas at home 42-28.