After I started off 3-1 in the noon games on Saturday, I started to get the feeling that it could be a special day. A 4-1 record in the afternoon, followed by a 2-1 showing at night, capped one of my best days in years. I was 9-3 on Saturday and 10-4 for the week. My strong and surprising performance brought additional texts, emails, and twitter followers. People know progress when they see it and I’m thankful for your feedback, regardless of tone. Some people were happy for me and wished me congratulations. Others mocked me by saying that “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.” I do understand the responsibility that I’ve been given. Success can be fleeting and it’s crucial that I continue to work and study as hard as possible in pursuit of wins. Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr summed up my dilemma well a few years ago; “Dealing with success is more agreeable than dealing with losing, but it’s no less difficult. Now we have to deal with all these people patting us on the back. But it’s not wise to listen to that because it might distract you from what you need to get done.” I have learned from WVU QB Geno Smith’s roller coaster ride in the month of October. After impressive showcase wins against Baylor and Texas, Smith was the clear Heisman favorite. Many analysts and pundits began talking about Smith possibly being the first player taken in the 2013 NFL draft. What a difference two weeks make. Blowout losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State returned Geno back down to Earth as quickly as he had risen to perceived greatness.
In order to be fully respected, I need to show consistent performance. Anyone can have a good week, but sustaining that success all season is the challenge. My record is now 61-52-2 and I’ve had a winning record on Saturday in each of the past five weeks. The perception of my picking abilities has drastically improved from last year’s bowl season and my favorability numbers are up. This may be last chance for you to jump onboard before it’s too late. I won my inaugural Pickens Game of the Week and I am excited about this week’s selection. After proofreading my first draft of this post, I realized that I sounded more confident than Floyd Mayweather, I decided to tone down the self-promotion just a bit, in an effort to thwart off a Madden-like curse. At this point in the season, I am Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate. I muddled through the early part of the season, making embarrassing gaffes on weeknights and in the Pac 12. Then suddenly, public perception of me changed after one strong performance on a single day. I shook the doubters aside and silenced my critics. The question is: Can I keep this momentum going and capture my prize – a 55percent winning percentage on the season.
Clemson at Wake Forest +12 THURSDAY – ESPN – 730pm
Clemson is clearly the better team, with talent on both sides of the ball. However, the Tigers have struggled on the road in recent years and often do not play up to potential. Dabo Swinney has consistently lost games like this and I except Wake to be more of a challenge than people expect. Wake’s run defense is solid and I’m counting on it to slow Clemson RB Andre Ellington. Wake’s offense will be energized by the possible return of star WR Michael Campanaro, who missed the past few weeks with a hand injury. Clemson lost two starting defensive backs to injury this week so I expect Wake QB Tanner Price to test Clemson’s backups early. Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins will make plays as always for Clemson, but a slow start on the road will prevent this from being a blowout. Wake keeps it close enough.
Cincinnati at Louisville -3 FRIDAY – ESPN – 8pm
This is the game of the year in the Big East thus far. Louisville is 7-0, but untested due to a weak schedule. Cincy started 5-0, but lost on the road to Toledo last week. I give Louisville the edge because this game is at home. QB Teddy Bridgewater continues to improve and RB’s Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright have played well all season. Cincy QB Munchie Legaux doesn’t get enough credit and he will make this game exciting to watch. Expect a close game throughout, with Bridgewater leading his team to a win in the 4th quarter. Louisville has been finding different ways to win this season, and I expect the Friday night atmosphere at home to make this challenge a bit easier.