Miami is 5-1 at home and the games have given fans a variety of emotions. We have endured sweltering heat and torrential downpours to watch this team try to rejoin college football's elite. The best moment of the season was the win over Florida. It doesn't matter that UF has struggled so much this season. Miami now holds bragging rights for the near future with no upcoming games scheduled between the two rivals. The worst moment at home was the disappointing loss to Virginia Tech. A frustrating performance on defense set the stage for the loss to Duke. Miami must send this senior class out as winners and beat Virginia convincingly to regain some confidence.
Virginia has lost seven straight games, but the Cavs won't be afraid of Miami. Much to my dismay, Mike London is 3-0 against Miami during his career. I still have nightmares about Miami's 41-40 loss at UVA last season, when then UVA QB Michael Rocco had 300 yards and 4TD. Miami is favored by 20 points on Saturday, but I won't be picking the game. I have picked Miami each of the past three weeks and want to change the negative karma somehow. I expected changes to Miami's defense prior to the Duke game, but was disappointed. Virginia's QB's have only thrown eight touchdowns on the season in ten games. The Canes need to create pressure and force a few turnovers. Given how much heat he has received this week, I expect Al Golden to have a larger role in the defensive game-planning. The fans and media have heard every excuse in the book to explain why our defense is so bad, except for blaming the refs like Carmelo Anthony. It is time to step up and show signs of improvement against a team the Canes should dominate talent wise.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. My November struggles have been well documented. A 15-24 record the past three weeks brought my winning percentage down to 50% for the season. I relied on the MAC to help start some momentum and was rewarded with a convincing Northern Illinois victory on Wednesday night. I ambitiously attempted to win 60 percent of my games in 2013, but 51 percent is enough to reach the promised land: bowl season. I have decided to employ the "nuclear option" for the rest of the season. Thankfully my internal polling data still shows me with a higher approval rating than Congress.
My record on Golden Picks is 8-4 this season. UCLA will keep the positive energy going. Follow me @JPickens15 for Miami thoughts, stadium pictures, and my quest to qualify for bowl season.
Arizona State at UCLA +2.5 7pm – FOX
This is a huge game in the South Division race and a must win for both teams. Arizona State is a different team depending on where they play. At home the Sun Devils have dominated opponents, but in true road games ASU lost badly to Stanford and barely beat Utah in the final minutes. ASU has had pass protection issues and QB Taylor Kelly has been sacked eight times the past two weeks. UCLA has a talented defense led by Anthony Barr and freshman sensation LB/RB Myles Jack. The Bruins will get a solid performance from QB Brett Hundley and I expect Jack to continue to score touchdowns in goal-line situations. UCLA wins at home and sets up a huge matchup against the Ed Orgeron’s next weekend.
MICHIGAN +6 at Iowa 12pm – BTN
Though Michigan has struggled with Iowa in years past, particularly in Kinnick Stadium, I think the Wolverines are poised to get a big win this Saturday. Despite the unspeakable ugliness of last week's game against Northwestern, Michigan has to be feeling a little bit better about itself as a football team. Free-falling opponent aside, they stopped their losing streak with a gritty triple overtime win on the road. I think they will be in a better mental state as a team and will play more inspired than they have in over a month. The senior class knows that the Ohio State game looms large, and they will need to get things together in a hurry to have any hopes of knocking off the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. It all starts Saturday with a confidence boosting performance against the Hawkeyes. WR Jeremy Gallon will be the best playmaker on the field.
ILLINOIS -7 at Purdue 12pm – BTN
Let’s face it: football in West Lafayette and Champaign hasn't been going well this year. Both teams come limping in to this game, just hoping to scratch and claw their way to a victory of any kind. Illinois has a 20 game B1G losing streak, and this game with Purdue is far and away their best opportunity to get a conference W. Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been effective at times in his career and will make a few big plays against a struggling Boilermaker defense. Tim Beckman's team has to build on last week's performance, where although the Illini were blown out by Ohio State, they were able to put up 35 points. Illinois has a dreadful run defense, but Purdue's longest gain by a running back this season is just 18 yards. In this battle between two terrible teams, the Illini are definitely the lesser of two evils. Illinois has more talent and gets a win in front of a small crowd on Saturday.
Oklahoma at KANSAS STATE -5 12pm – FS1
Oklahoma is dealing with injuries and will be starting Trevor Knight at QB. The Sooners don’t have an effective passing game and will struggle against a hot Kansas State team that has won four straight games. I lost a lot of respect for Bob Stoops this season after seeing his game plans in losses to Texas and Baylor. Bill Snyder’s team is confident and I expect big games from Daniel Sams and Jake Waters. I was at a noon game in Manhattan, KS last season and know first-hand how difficult it is to win there. K….S….U…..Wildcats!
Nebraska at PENN STATE -2 330pm – BTN
I will be enjoying this game on television in South Florida. Good luck to the fans sitting through freezing temperatures in State College on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. will make a few freshman mistakes in a hostile road atmosphere. The Huskers defense will have trouble stopping Penn State’s RB duo of Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton. This should be an exciting game between two evenly matched teams, but home field advantage will be the deciding factor. Penn State wins a close game and puts some heat back on Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini.
Wisconsin at MINNESOTA +17 330pm – ESPN
The Gophers have been one of my reliable teams this season. Believe in Minnesota. The Gophers are built to stop the run and have the second-slowest offense in the nation when measured by seconds in between plays. Minnesota will slow the game down and limit the possessions for a Wisconsin running game that has been steamrolling opponents in recent weeks. Minnesota RB David Cobb will have another nice game and QB Philip Nelson has thrown 7 TD and 0 INT in his last four starts. (all wins) The Gophers are playing with confidence and will have a great home crowd behind them. I expect Wisconsin to win the game in the fourth quarter, but this matchup will be more competitive than most experts think.
Utah at WASHINGTON STATE -1.5 330pm – PAC-12 Network
Utah has struggled on the road and will be reeling following the news that QB Travis Wilson’s career might be over due to head injuries. Backup Adam Schulz didn’t play well last week against Oregon and can’t keep up with the scoring pace of Mike Leach’s spread passing offense. Washington State has momentum following a big road win over Arizona, and the Cougars can become bowl eligible with a win on Saturday. QB Connor Halliday will play well and lead his team to a win on Senior Day.
Texas A&M at LSU -5 330pm – CBS
Texas A&M can’t stop anyone from scoring, let alone a talented LSU offense with Zach Mettenberger and his trio of receivers. RB Jeremy Hill should have a huge afternoon. Johnny Football will do this thing and excite the nation as always, but LSU will get just enough stops to win. If LSU can control the clock and limit possessions for Manziel, that will go a long way in determining the outcome tomorrow. LSU has the athletes to create problems from Johnny and I’m hoping he goes out in Baton Rouge on Friday night before the game.
MISSOURI -2.5 at Mississippi 745pm – ESPN
Missouri QB James Franklin is back and the Tigers will need him on the road in Oxford. Ole Miss has been rolling over inferior opponents recently, but will face a much tougher test tomorrow. Missouri’s defense will be the difference in this game. Michael Sam is one the nation’s best and he will create havoc around Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace. This is Missouri’s year and I expect them to win out and face Alabama in Atlanta. Franklin’s leadership and experience will help his team deal with a hostile atmosphere.
Baylor at OKLAHOMA STATE +10 8pm – ABC
Weather matters. I haven’t been successful picking against Baylor this season, but I’m more confident this time. The temperature in Stillwater will be in the low 30’s tomorrow night, with a 10-15mph wind swirling. Baylor’s passing game could be impacted by the conditions. OKST has won six straight behind the play of QB Clint Chelf and RB Desmond Roland and the Cowboys always play well at home. Baylor has only played two true road games this season: a close win over KST and a blowout win over hapless Kansas. This environment will be the toughest test of the season. OKST stays close throughout and we finally get to see whether Baylor’s explosive offense can perform under pressure.
WASHINGTON +7 at Oregon State 1030pm – ESPN2
UW QB Keith Price still has a chance to play, despite an injury to his right shoulder. Redshirt freshman Cyler Miles showed some promise in relief duty last week against UCLA. I think Miles can keep the Huskies close in this game if Price isn’t able to go. RB Bishop Sankey should have a big night against an average Oregon State defense. The Beavers have lost three straight games and aren’t able to run the football effectively. UW has a talented secondary and will make things difficult for OSU QB Sean Mannion.