Home sweet home. After seeing four games in three weeks, I’m ready for a break. Even an obsessed college football fan like myself gets a bit sick of being a pawn in the inefficient world of airline travel in America. I will watch every game on Saturday with the same passion, I’ll just be yelling at the coaches from my couch instead of from the stands. Being home this weekend gives me the chance to catch up on what’s truly important in life – time with family, time with friends, and time studying high school football results for 2013 recruits. It’s never too early to prepare for the future.
At this point, I’m probably the most informed person in the country when it comes to sporting events on college campuses in America. Since I usually buy my football tickets from each school I visit, I’m now on the athletic department email distribution list at more than 20 colleges. Every Thursday and Friday, my inbox is inundated with flyers and ticket offers for women’s field hockey, cross country, and water polo. If I ever get tired of exclusively watching football in the fall, it’s good to know there are other options available.
This weekend features some huge matchups – mainly on Saturday night. Enjoy a great day in college football and follow @JPickens15 for timely pick reminders and angry tweets about frustrating losses. I’m using my bias and picking Miami +14 against Georgia Tech, but I’m not writing about it in-depth because of the backlash from Canes fans worried about my jinx. The Canes have beaten GT three times in a row – Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris keep the game close heading into the fourth quarter.
Side note – Buffalo’s loss Wednesday night was tough to swallow, but the Bulls were dominated in every phase so I couldn’t be upset. Last night’s disgraceful performance by Boise State was the most irritating game I’ve watched in years. The Broncos forced five turnovers and still couldn’t score a single point on offense. Chris Petersen’s spot in coaching royalty took an enormous hit in my opinion. Boise was 0-6 on 4th downs, leaving me speechless. The moral of this story: I’m due for a big weekend.
Baylor -7 at Louisiana Monroe 8pm – ESPN – FRIDAY
Baylor was good to me earlier this season and I enjoyed my trip to Waco. The Bears offense showed me explosive playmakers and QB Nick Florence has impressed thus far. UL Monroe has been a great story so far this season, upsetting Arkansas and playing Auburn into OT. Surprisingly, Baylor has more weapons on offense than either of those SEC two teams in their current state. When Tyler Wilson was in the game for Arkansas, the Hogs were in command. His injury and the great play of UL Monroe QB Kolton Browning, resulted in the upset. Baylor’s offense will score 35+ points in this one and I expect UL Monroe’s luck to run out. ULM is 9-11 on 4th down, an incredible stat that is likely to revert back to the mean. Woooo SIC EM Bears.
Maryland at West Virginia -26 12pm – FX
After his Maryland team snuck out of two close wins against bad opponents, Coach Randy Edsall thought he might have enough talent to buy himself another season at his “dream job.” Reality struck last week as his former team UConn beat the Terps. Next up is a disastrous mismatch against West Virginia and Heisman candidate QB Geno Smith. WVU has so much firepower on offense that I expect this to be a 20+ point game at the half. Maryland’s freshman QB will be facing the best defense he’s seen in a tough road environment. West Virginia embarrasses Maryland and scores early and often.
Missouri at South Carolina -10 330pm – CBS
Supposedly both starting QB’s are going to play on Saturday afternoon. Connor Shaw and James Franklin will both be nursing injuries, but South Carolina has the more complete and balanced offense. RB Marcus Lattimore will play well and South Carolina’s defensive line will make plays in the Tigers’ backfield. Franklin will be slowed in the running game due to his injury and South Carolina will take advantage. Missouri got a rude welcome to the SEC when Georgia dominated in the 4th quarter. This game will end with a similar result. South Carolina is tough at home and Missouri is making its first visit to a road SEC stadium as a new member of the conference. The Gamecocks win by two touchdowns or more.
Oregon State at UCLA – 7 330pm – ABC
UCLA has been one of the nation’s most impressive teams. The offense is putting up huge numbers led by RB Johnathan Franklin, and QB Brett Hundley is a future star in the Pac-12. Still though, what jumped out at me was the performance by the Bruins defense against Houston last Saturday. The Cougars explosive passing attack was stymied all night and Houston finished the night with just 6 points. Oregon State is an enigma at this point in the season since the Beavers have only played once. After OSU beat Wisconsin, people were excited about the Beavers going forward. We have since learned how average Wisconsin is and that win has lost some of its luster. The Beavers will struggle on the road and UCLA keeps rolling. The hottest team in the country stays hot and puts up 30+ points once again.
Colorado +20 at Washington State 4pm – FX
The Buffs were exploded on the road last week against Fresno State. I’m picking Colorado because I don’t understand Washington State can be favored by 20 against anyone. The Buffs are beyond due to have a few bounces go their way on Saturday and will be able to keep this game closer than expected. The Cougars offense looked impressive when I saw Leach up close in Las Vegas, but WSU’s defense is porous and prone to giving up big plays. If UNLV was able to move the ball at will, I find it hard to believe the Buffaloes won’t be able to do the same. Colorado QB Jordan Webb has said all the right things in the media this week, and I expect his veteran leadership to help in Pullman. Jon Embree’s young team rallies around him and puts forth a better effort Saturday.
South Florida at Ball State +10 430pm – SNY
I cannot figure out USF under Skip Holtz. Every time I think QB BJ Daniels has turned the corner I support him. He usually rewards me by throwing three interceptions and looking terrible. USF will have no fan support at this game in Muncie and the Bulls likely won’t be motivated to travel to play a MAC team on the road. Ball State can really score and QB Keith Wenning has talent surrounding him on offense. Holtz hasn’t proven he can control the emotions of this team and Ball State keeps it interesting until the 4th quarter.
LSU -20.5 at Auburn 7pm – ESPN
Did Auburn win a national championship two years ago? You sure wouldn’t know it given the heat Coach Gene Chizik is taking this year. Auburn is down significantly in 2012 and QB Kiehl Frazier has played worse than anticipated. LSU’s defense is dominant once again and Les Miles finally has himself a QB that can spread the football around in the passing game. QB Zach Mettenberger will play well in the play-action game Saturday night. Clemson RB Andre Ellington averaged 10 yards a carry against Auburn in Week 1. LSU will pound the ball and gash the Tigers porous run defense for big gains early and often. LSU beat Auburn by 35 last year and this result will be similar.
Louisville -13.5 at FIU 7pm – ESPN3
LVille QB Teddy Bridgewater and many of his teammates return home to play in front of friends and family in Miami. Charlie Strong has built his team largely with impressive recruiting in South Florida. Louisville is ready to take the next step as a program and is desperate to avenge last year’s embarrassing home loss to FIU. Bridgewater has a huge night and makes FIU Coach Mario Cristobal regret his decision to stay at the end of last season. FIU has allowed an average of 39 points this season and Louisville is significantly better than Duke, Akron, and UCF. This game is a blowout early.
Kansas State +14 at Oklahoma 750pm – FOX
Oklahoma hasn’t been tested this season, but we know what QB Landry Jones is capable of. The Sooners have been unbeatable at home under Bob Stoops. I expect KState to play well throughout, keeping this game within striking distance. I saw the Wildcats on person and came away very impressed with their scheme and overall team speed. QB Collin Klein will find a way to make plays and the running game of KState will keep Landry Jones on the sideline. In what is likely the game of the night, Oklahoma wins by a field goal.
Clemson +14.5 at Florida State 8pm – ESPN
All week, two of my closest friends have been begging me to pick Clemson. The Pickens curse is real and they don’t want EJ Manuel to get hurt. Brooklyn and Ft. Lauderdale can rejoice; Clemson is the pick. The fighting Dabo’s have a lot of firepower on offense and I expect a few big plays from Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington. Clemson DC Brent Venables has had success against FSU in the past and his guys will be ready. FSU is the better team and wins at home, but the game will be closer than “the experts” have anticipated. The Noles feed off the home crowd and win by 7-10. By midnight Saturday night we will know if Jimbo’s squad is for real.
Fresno State +6 at Tulsa 8pm – CBSSN
Fresno State has looked promising this season under first year Coach Tim DeRuyter. RB Robbie Rouse is a game-breaker and David Carr’s little brother Derek is a solid QB. Fresno State was able to somewhat disrupt the incredible Oregon offense and forced three turnovers in a 42-25 loss in Week 2. Tulsa QB Cody Green is prone to making mistakes and Tulsa lost to the only credible opponent they’ve played this season (Iowa State). Fresno State is normally a good road team and the Bulldogs have confidence after last week’s domination of Colorado. Fresno State has the talent to win the game outright and I expect them to do so.
Syracuse at Minnesota +1 8pm – BTN
Minnesota is 3-0 and Jerry Kill is starting to have his team believe. When MarQueis Gray got hurt last week, his backup Max Shortell stepped in to lead the Gophers to a win against Western Michigan. Shortell is a better passer than Gray and his emergence allows the Gophers be more aggressive with play-calling. Syracuse has struggled defensively this year and I expect that to continue on Saturday. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib has been impressive in 2012, but Minnesota matches up well with experience in the secondary – led by CB Troy Stoudemire. Minnesota being at home and being the more confident team makes them the pick.
Utah +7 at Arizona State 10pm – PAC-12 Network
In Vegas last weekend, I learned more about Utah football than I ever expected to learn in a lifetime. The Utes were the final dagger in my heart, during my epic five game collapse on Saturday night. QB Jon Hays impressed me with his poise and leadership and the Utah defensive front played as well as advertised. Arizona State is still getting credit for a blowout home win over Illinois, but people are overlooking the fact that the Illini were without starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase in that contest. Utah will pressure ASU QB Taylor Kelly and his inexperience will show. Todd Graham is so easy to root against and I’ll take pleasure in his team struggling at home. Utah plays well and has a chance to win late.