The college football season begins in earnest this weekend with several key conference matchups. As a fan, you have to love it when things start to be very meaningful. Can Georgia stay in the hunt, is Notre Dame capable of making a run at a BCS game, how good is Ohio State, can someone pull the BIG upset? And to top it all off, Johhny Football comes to Fayetteville and I'll be in the stands for it Saturday night. Now let's get to this week's picks.
(21) Ole Miss (3-0) 27 @ (1) Alabama (3-0) 30: This game illustrates just how tough the SEC West is. Ole Miss is possibly the fourth best team in their division and they're ranked twenty first in the country. We'll see how it all turns out, but the Rebels could end up ahead of Texas A&M when it's all said and done. If this game was in Oxford, I might give the nod to Ole Miss, but they have to travel the short distance to Tuscaloosa. I'll stay with the Tide in a thriller.
California (1-2) 20 @ (2) Oregon (3-0) 41: I'm not sure Oregon isn't the best team in the country, but they play out west and don't get the same love as Alabama. Cal is battle tested, having played a tough schedule, and won't be intimidated by the Ducks. But Oregon just has too much for the Golden Bears.
Wake Forest (2-2) 14 @ (3) Clemson (3-0) 31: The Tigers' Tajh Boyd has looked terrific this season and should be able to make plays against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are just overmatched here, especially on the road in Death Valley East.
(23) Wisconsin (3-1) 31 @ (4) Ohio St. (4-0) 30: Wisconsin's lone loss was a controversial one where the officials botched the final seconds, denying the Badgers a chance at a game-winning field goal. Ohio State is ranked fourth, but the records of their opponents in the games other than their losses to the Buckeyes is 3 - 6, and those wins were against Stony Brook, Portland St. and Miss. Valley St. So how are we supposed to figure out how good Ohio State is? I'm going with the upset here as the Buckeyes will have trouble adjusting to big boy football for the first time this season.
(5) Stanford (3-0) 27 @ Washington St. (3-1) 24:This road game for Stanford is wedged between games at home against ranked opponents. The Cougars have already upset USC, and that was on the road. Nonetheless, Stanford's pretty impressive with their size and physicality. But don't be shocked if Washington State give the Cardinal everything they can handle.
(6) LSU (4-0) 24 @ (9) Georgia (2-1) 27: It's hard to believe that Georgia is facing irrelevance as far as the national championship is concerned if they lose Saturday. LSU has been very good, despite losing eleven players to the NFL. This is Georgia's third game against a team ranked in the top ten in their first four games. They lost a tough one to Clemson, who is very good and then dominated South Carolina. This is a coin flip for me... Heads, it's Georgia.
(8) Florida St. (3-0) 30 @ Boston College (2-1) 17: I'm not sure Florida State's freshman phenom, Jameis Winston, can keep it up, but even with a bit of a comedown, the Seminoles should handle BC.
(10) Texas A&M (3-1) 34 @ Arkansas (3-1) 37: I'm very excited to see this game live. The Hogs let one get away that they had dominated for three quarters. I think Bret Bielema has been pointing to this game since he took the Arkansas job. The Razorbacks have been very basic on both sides of the ball and I think the A&M defense is going to get exposed by a very tough Arkansas running game. Call me crazy, but I'm going with the huge upset in a homer pick.
(11) Oklahoma St. (3-0) 40 @ West Virginia (2-2) 14: The Cowboys score a lot of points and until last week, the Mountaineers had shown an improved defense. But West Virginia scored 24 against FCS William and Mary, 7 against Oklahoma and were shut out by Maryland. This might be rather ugly.
(12) South Carolina (2-1) 34 @ UCF (3-0) 24: The Gamecocks better not be looking too far past their visit to Orlando to play the Knights. They went to State College a couple of weeks ago and beat Penn State, so their familiar with big time football. UCF controlled the game most of the way, then held on for the victory. South Carolina, of course, is better than the Nittany Lions, but they better be on upset alert in this one.
(14) Oklahoma (3-0) 24 @ (22) Notre Dame (3-1) 20: Okay, it's no secret that I'm not a big fan of Notre Dame's this year. Oklahoma lost to the Fighting Irish last year, but this Sooner team is improved, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame's offense hasn't been that strong and I think in this one, OU will be slightly better on offense, giving them a close win.
(15) Miami, FL (3-0) 42 @ South Florida (0-3) 14: South Florida is just plain bad and Al Golden has his Hurricanes on the rise. This should be a rout.
Arizona (3-0) 21 @ (16) Washington (3-0) 28: The Huskies new stadium is a tough place to play and the weather for this one should be nasty. I like the improvement in the Wildcats, but Washington has a little too much at home, despite Arizona only giving up less than 9 points a game to three cupcakes.
(20) Florida (2-1) 27 @ Kentucky (1-2) 17: The Gators have an offense, but only because they have to. If Kentucky can put together a few drives, they may have a chance at a big upset. But I just don't think Kentucky's good enough on offense to pull it off.
(25) Fresno St. (3-0) 42 @ Hawaii (0-3) 21: Why Fresno St. is ranked is way beyond my level of understanding. Really? They've given up 45 points to Rutgers in regulation, 25 to FCS Cal Poly and 40 to a rebuilding Boise St. Are you kidding me? They're 3 - 0, but the Rutgers and Boise wins were by one point each. Fresno St. should win this because Hawaii doesn't score a lot of points and they give up a lot points. Last time I checked, that's not exactly to formula for victory in football.
Virginia Tech (3-1) 23 Ga. Tech (3-0) 20: This game was played Thursday night and I made this prediction in a separate post prior to kickoff.
Virginia (2-1) 31 @ Pittsburgh (2-1) 30: The Panthers are tough at home, but they give up a ton of points, 41 a game that puts them 120th in the nation. But they can also light up the scoreboard at the rate of 40 a game. Virginia's lone loss was to Oregon, hardly an embarrassment, but the Ducks scored 59 on the Cavs in Charlottesville. My feeling is that eventually, when you have to score a lot of points to keep winning, it comes back to haunt you. I hate picking Virginia in anything, but I'll go with the Hoos in a mild upset.
USC (3-1) 24 @ Arizona St. (2-1) 27: I don't think it's farfetched to say that USC's coach Lane Kiffin's job is probably on the line in this game. The Sun Devils got down early last week to Stanford, then played better in the second half. I just don't see how USC will score enough to win the game.
Iowa (3-1) 28 @ Minnesota (4-0) 27: I don't follow the bottom tier of the Big Ten, but Minnesota is clearly an undefeated pretender. Iowa has defeated Iowa St., not a big accomplishment, but it's better than anything on Minnesota's resume at this point.