My confidence in Cincinnati paid off, as QB Munchie Legaux led me to a convincing victory. If college football had relegation like the English Premier League, Pitt would likely be headed to the FCS in 2013.
Manhattan is one of the world’s most popular destinations. Tourists and residents flood the streets on a daily basis to see the sights and sounds of the Big Apple. On an average day, 500,000 people pass through Times Square. I’ve been waiting for my dream vacation to Manhattan for years. The only difference being that my trip is to northeast Kansas. Manhattan, KS is a town of roughly 50,000 people, centered around Kansas State University. Miami’s trip to KState gives me the opportunity to see another Big 12 stadium. I’ve always heard that there wasn’t much to do in the Little Apple, but I wanted to find out for myself. Before going to a new campus, I usually seek out the local newspapers to find out what the big topics of conversation are in the city or town I’m visiting. The Manhattan Mercury reports on news from the surrounding area. The actual top three news stories from today are: a sale of two tractors at a charity auction, the theft of a dog while the owner was on vacation, and a naturally occurring ring of mushrooms located in a field near Lake Elbo Road. Given the level of local excitement, it’s fortunate that my trip to the Little Apple is a business trip with just one objective: help Miami get a crucial momentum-building road win. When I called the Canes’ ticket office to secure seats for Saturday’s game, I was laughed at for asking about availability. Given Manhattan’s inaccessible location, Miami’s allotment could barely be given away – much like tickets for the “outdoor” version of President Obama’s DNC address. I expect to be one of the few Miami supporters in attendance at Bill Synder Family Stadium, so my role will be even more important. The game is a noon EST kickoff, and I expect Al Golden’s team to help get my picks off to a good start Saturday. The postgame plan is to eat as much barbeque as possible while watching my picks come to fruition.
This week’s interesting story lines revolve around the SEC. Missouri and Texas A&M both play at home in their first conference games. I think both teams are in for tough seasons and will be picking Georgia and Florida to rudely welcome the newcomers to the nation’s best league. Nick Saban created headlines earlier in the week when he attacked the media for the reaction to the Tide’s blowout win over Michigan. My favorite quote is the following:
“We play the games for a reason. … When we make all these predictions of what’s going to happen, it takes away from the game, I think. Just like everybody talks about who’s going to win the national championship. Why do we play the games? We’ve got a lot of great games coming up. Why do we play those?”
As a member of the media, I strongly disagree with Nick’s point. Predicting outcomes of games and seasons make sports far more interesting and exciting. Out of respect to you, I’ll avoid picking your game this week against Western Kentucky and wish your team the best of luck. But you won’t stop me from picking the outcomes of 13 other matchups this weekend. Best wishes to Savannah State – a 70.5 point underdog against FSU.
Utah -7 at Utah State FRIDAY 8pm – ESPN2
Both teams return talented quarterbacks – Jordan Wynn and Chuckie Keeton.
Utah State will be pumped up to play a rival at home, but the Aggies don’t have the speed and depth to compete for four quarters against the Utes. Utah’s defense will be the difference in the matchup, led by star lineman Star Lotulelei. The Utes will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and RB John White will have a big night. I have confidence in Coach Kyle Whittingham and expect his team to get me my second victory of the week.
Auburn at Mississippi State -3 12pm – ESPN
I’m not sold on Auburn QB Kiehl Frazier after his 11-27 performance in a loss against an average Clemson defense. The Tigers can run the ball effectively with Mason and McCalebb, but Dan Mullen’s defense will stack the box and force Frazier to win the game with his arm. Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell will play well at home and lead his team to a win in the second half. Starkville is a tough place to win on the road and Frazier isn’t up to the task at this point in his young career.
East Carolina +21.5 at South Carolina 12pm – SEC Network
Connor Shaw is questionable for this game at QB for South Carolina. He will likely play, but will be far from full strength. The Gamecocks struggled in the passing game against Vanderbilt and RB Marcus Lattimore does not have the burst he showed early in 2011. ECU QB Rio Johnson had a solid opening game against App State and will be helped by the return of three WR back from suspension. South Carolina is the better team and wins at home, but the game is closer than expected. The Gamecocks don’t have the offensive firepower to win by more than three touchdowns.
Miami +7 at Kansas State 12pm – FX
Miami’s young secondary was torched by BC QB Chase Rettig last Saturday, having numerous problems with blown assignments. Fortunately for the Canes, Kansas State does not rely heavily on the passing game. Miami will struggle to stop QB Collin Klein early in the game, but the defense will improve in the second half. The Canes have the offensive firepower to win a shootout and QB Stephen Morris will be able to have success in the short passing game. KState allowed 323 passing yards in week one against Missouri State so expect Miami OC Jedd Fisch to take advantage of the weaknesses shown in that game. Miami’s overall team speed will be the difference, with freshman RB Duke Johnson sparking the team with another long touchdown run. The Canes showed maturity on the road against BC and will benefit from a subdued Manhattan crowd, with kickoff at 11am local time. As long as Miami protects the ball on offense, the Canes make enough plays in the second half to win a close one.
Iowa State +4.5 at Iowa 330pm – BTN
The famous Cy-Hawk Trophy is on the line on Saturday. Iowa State QB Steele Jantz stepped up last week against Tulsa and he will find WR Josh Lenz in space. Iowa barely beat an average Northern Illinois team as the Hawkeyes struggled to find an identity on offense. RB Damon Bullock played well for Iowa, but he will be facing a much tougher defense this week. This stat from ESPN tells the story – Iowa State has only been favored eight times under Coach Paul Rhoads. Rhoads has won 19 games during that span. Iowa State loves the underdog role and will rely on RB Shontrelle Johnson to control the clock in the fourth quarter. This is the Cyclones year to beat their rival. I’ll be “SO PROUD” of this Iowa State team at 7pm on Saturday.
Purdue +14 at Notre Dame 330pm – NBC
Purdue is playing Notre Dame at the right time. The Irish have to refocus and reenergize after the trip overseas to play Navy. ND looked great throughout in the opener, dominating the interior on both sides of the ball. Navy wasn’t able to stop the run, so ND’s freshman QB Everett Golson was never really tested. Purdue returns nearly every contributor and starter from last year’s defense. The Boilermakers have a stout defensive line, led by future NFL talent like DT Kawann Short. Purdue’s offense returns playmakers as well, and QB Caleb TerBush will start after serving a one game suspension. Navy was able to throw on the young Irish secondary in the first half and I expect Purdue will challenge ND early downfield. Notre Dame is the better team overall and will likely win at home, but this game could be close throughout. Purdue has the experience to hang around and Golson makes a few freshman mistakes.
Florida +1.5 at Texas A&M 330pm – ESPN
It’s time to see what Texas A&M can do. The Aggies have whined all offseason about the lack of respect they’ve received from the SEC media. Time to prove you deserve to be mentioned as a contender. Since the first game was cancelled due to the hurricane, this will be freshman QB Johnny Manziel’s first game as an Aggie. Florida’s defense will put pressure on him throughout and force turnovers. UF looked terrible on offense against Bowling Green, but I expect the Gators to play better now that the QB situation is a bit more stable. Jeff Driskel gets the start and will have control of the offense. UF RB Mike Gillislee will have a big game as the Gators offensive line is able to overpower a smaller TAMU defensive front. This is a good hedge for me because I despise Florida, but I actually do think the Gators get it done on the road. College Station is an amazing place to see a game and I hope to head back in the near future.
Rice at Kansas -10 330pm – FSN
A matchup with Rice is exactly what the doctor ordered for Kansas HC Charlie Weis. While Weis could certainly use more rice in his diet, he must be excited to face a defense that gave up 650 yards last week to UCLA. Kansas ran the ball well in week one and RB Tony Pierson will have another strong showing Saturday. QB Dane Crist brings experience and leadership to the Kansas offense. His ability to make plans downfield against an inferior defense will be the difference. Rice can put up points and make it interesting early, but the Jayhawks pull away in the second half. Weis better enjoy this win because TCU visits Lawrence next Saturday.
South Florida at Nevada -1.5 330pm – CBSSN
Nevada had one of the nation’s best wins last week, defeating Cal on the road. The Wolfpack are confident and return home where they have been tough to beat under Coach Chris Ault. RB Stefphon Jefferson will have another big game and QB Cody Fajardo will make plays down the field. USF struggled on offense against Chattanooga and QB B.J. Daniels has never shown maturity on the road. This is the longest road trip in recent memory for South Florida and I expect the Bulls to start flat in the first half. Nevada’s pistol offense creates matchup problems early and the Wolfpack hold onto their lead.
Kent State at Kentucky -6.5 730pm – CSS
Kentucky QB Maxwell Smith played well in Sunday’s loss to Louisville. He will have a big night at home and find his playmakers in space against a slower MAC defense. Kent State was outgained last week by Towson, but managed to win convincingly after forcing six turnovers. Kentucky won’t be as generous, and will force the Flashes to put together long scoring drives. Kent State’s players will run the right direction this week, but it won’t be enough. Kentucky beat Central Michigan by 14 at home last season and I expect this result to be similar.
Nebraska -5 at UCLA 730pm – FOX
I won’t pretend to understand how Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez threw for five touchdowns last week. His throwing motion is still awful, but in 2012 it looks slightly more effective. UCLA fans are excited about how well freshman QB Brett Hundley looked in his first game last week. This week’s matchup is a far greater challenge. The Huskers defense will make plays in the backfield and Nebraska will be able to control the clock with the running game. UCLA’s defense allowed 360 yards and 24 points to Rice, likely leading to problems when facing a much superior opponent. I expect Nebraska star RB Rex Burkhead to play despite his injury and Taylor Martinez makes big plays throughout this game Saturday. Pelini’s team wins by 10.
Georgia -2 at Missouri 745pm – ESPN
This is one of the most anticipated games in Missouri history. The Tigers enter the SEC and face one of the best teams in the nation. QB James Franklin is a playmaker for Missouri, but he will be impressed by the speed of the Georgia defense. The Bulldogs will make it difficult for Franklin to be factor in the running game. Missou DT Sheldon Richardson mocked UGA in the media, giving Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray some extra motivation. WR Tavarres King will be a difference maker in the UGA passing game. Georgia is better and stronger up front on both sides of the ball and RB Todd Gurley will continue to prove that Isaiah Crowell will not be missed. Georgia has played well on the road under Mark Richt and the Bulldogs understand the importance of this win, given how well their schedule lines up this season. The real SEC wins this battle and teaches the newest member a lesson.
Vanderbilt at Northwestern +3.5 8pm – BTN
Last week we saw what makes Vanderbilt….Vanderbilt. Blown opportunities in the fourth quarter prevented what would’ve been a huge upset of South Carolina. Northwestern looked great on offense, led by both Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. The Wildcats will benefit from playing at home and I expect Pat Fitzgerald’s team to play much better defensively. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib tore apart the NU secondary, but Vandy QB Jordan Rodgers isn’t nearly as accurate in the passing game. This game should be back and forth throughout. Expect the Wildcats to win it on the final drive once again, living up to their nickname – The Cardiac Cats.