The season kicks into high gear this week. There are a lot of intriguing conference matchups on this week’s slate. Some marquee programs are facing a dramatic increase in the quality of their opposition this week (here’s looking at you, Florida State). It will be a chance to sort out contenders and pretenders, and perhaps a dark horse or two in the national championship race will emerge. As for last week’s picks, it was another 6-4 performance for yours truly (now 12-8 on the season), so all the bills were paid and food was on the table. Be sure to put a fresh set of batteries in the remote and clear some space in the DVR, because 3 of the week’s best games are kicking off between 7:30 and 8 PM. Here’s hoping that you profitably enjoy this week’s picks.
12 PM – #17 TCU (-18) over Virginia
The Horned Frogs slept walked through much of last Saturday’s game against Kansas, while the Cavs had their asses handed to them by Georgia Tech. Gary Patterson is a criminally underrated coach, and he will be sure to have TCU up for this 11 AM local kickoff. UVA might still be picking up the pieces from the debacle in Atlanta, and they are about to run into a defense that might be the best in the Big 12 by the end of the season. The sharps have been laying big on TCU, and I agree with them 100%. Expect a big performance for the home team.
Final Score: TCU Horned Frogs 42, Virginia Cavaliers 13
3:30 PM – #7 SOUTH CAROLINA (-10.5) over Missouri
After a couple breathers against C-USA competition, we will learn a lot about South Carolina on Saturday afternoon. Both squads have dealt with some early injury issues at QB, and they both should be pleased with the performance from the backups. That being said, Connor Shaw (South Carolina) and James Franklin (Missouri) are expected to be back in the saddle in the battle of schools from Columbia. The Tigers will hang tough for three quarters, but Jadeveon Clowney will Bring Da Ruckus (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIPfQ-HtYeM) and the Gamecocks will put this one away late.
Final Score: South Carolina Gamecocks 31, Missouri Tigers 14
3:30 PM – #19 UCLA (-7.5) over Oregon StateIt’s the fourth week of the season, but the Beavers are only suiting up for their second game. While they came up with a big win in their matchup with Wisconsin, you have to wonder if they will be firing on all cylinders. If there is one thing that is for certain in this young season, however, it is that Johnathan Franklin will be running with bad intentions for the Bruins. UCLA will continue to open their offense with frosh QB Brett Hundley at the helm, but Oregon State will be pesky enough to hang in there until the end. Vegas has been taking a lot of action on the visitors, but I am going the other way on this one, as Jim Mora the Younger will get his first Pac-12 win.
Final Score: UCLA Bruins 34, Oregon State Beavers 24
6 PM – California (+16.5) over #13 USC
I was dead wrong on both of these squads last week. The Golden Bears gave Ohio State an unexpected scare, while the Trojans couldn’t put away Stanford, thus leaving Matt Barkley oh-fer in his career against the Cardinal. This one will go one of two ways. Either USC comes out with their hair on fire and destroy the visitors from Berkeley, or the Trojans will still be reeling from the loss and will be pushed until the end by the Bears. I am going with choice number two. Cal has shown a lot of improvement since opening the season with a loss against Nevada. The Trojans, meanwhile, haven’t been able to finish, and Lane Kiffin might have let some of that preseason praise get stuck under his visor and seep into his head.
Final Score: USC Trojans 27, California Golden Bears 21
7 PM – #2 LSU (-20.5) over AUBURNIf anyone is going to push Alabama this year, it’s going to be the Tigers from Baton Rouge. If any team is going to challenge Arkansas for biggest dumpster fire in the SEC, it’s going to be the Tigers from the Plains. It’s hard to believe that Auburn won the national title two years ago. Kiehl Frazier looks like he has never played quarterback while trying to run Scot Loeffler’s new offensive system. Much like last year’s battle between the Tigers, this one is going to be over early. And it won’t be pretty for the fans of the home team. But this lady (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:8404159) will be quite happy with result.
Final Score: LSU Tigers 45, Auburn Tigers 17
7:30 PM – #18 Michigan (+6) over #11 NOTRE DAME
The Notre Dame fan boys have been chirping after the big win over Michigan State last Saturday night. The Wolverines, meanwhile, will be looking for some primetime redemption after face planting in their season opener. This matchup boils down to whether or not Notre Dame has figured out how to contain Denard Robinson. Shoelace has put up silly video game stats in his two previous starts in this rivalry game. Here’s predicting that the third time is not the charm for the Fighting Irish, as Robinson will have another monster performance and get his name back into the Heisman discussion.
Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 34, Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31
7:45 PM – Vanderbilt (+14) over #5 GEORGIAThis is the first game of a crucial three game stretch for the Bulldogs if they designs on repeating as SEC East champions. Vandy proved themselves to be a real pain in conference play last year, and they had South Carolina on the ropes in the season opener. While the Commodores are in the midst of a quarterback controversy, it will make it a bit harder for UGA to game plan for this one. Although Georgia’s defense will still be short its two suspended stars for this one, but the Dawgs will have enough weapons on both sides of the ball to pull out a hard-fought victory Between the Hedges.
Final Score: Georgia Bulldogs 28, Vanderbilt Commodores 21
7:50 PM – #15 Kansas State (+14.5) over #6 OKLAHOMA
No team has more to prove, nor has as much to lose, as the Sooners. They surely have yet to earn their lofty ranking, but that could change with a big game performance against the Wildcats. K State comes storming into Norman after an uncharacteristically lackadaisical performance last week against North Texas. Chalk that one up to looking ahead to this week’s showdown. While Wildcats QB Collin Klein plays best when the spotlight is shining brightly, last year’s matchup against OU was an exception to that rule. While Klein will put up some impressive numbers in this contest, the Sooners run game will be the difference maker in a close contest.
Final Score: Oklahoma Sooners 30, Kansas State Wildcats 24
8 PM – #10 Clemson (+14) over #4 FLORIDA STATEWhat once required the manufactured hype of the “Bowden Bowl” can now simply be billed as a matchup between the two best teams in the ACC. The Seminoles come into this one on the heels of their whitewashing of Wake Forest. FSU dominated every facet of that game in one of the most impressive performances so far this season. Clemson enters this showdown with some impressive offensive weapons. Although both teams can put up points in a hurry, the difference in this one will be the defenses. The Noles have some elite talent on their D. They will be test by Tajh Boyd and company Saturday night, but they will have enough answers for him and his posse to pull this one out in Tallahassee.
Final Score: Florida State Seminoles 35, Clemson Tigers 28
10:30 PM – #3 OREGON (-21.5) over #22 Arizona
There will be points in this one. Lots of points. De’Anthony Thomas, aka the Black Mamba (Kobe fans: don’t get your panties in a bunch. Here’s a free history lesson. Roger Mayweather was called the Black Mamba long before Kobe ever was), might only touch the ball 10 times, but he will get at least three scores. Rich Rod will keep the Wildcats in this one for a while, but the Ducks’ speed will prove lethal in this affair.
Final Score: Oregon Ducks 58, Arizona Wildcats 35