A local, inferior 4-4 football team has stolen the headlines away from a 7-1 ACC title contender. Don't let them get away with it. Show up at Sun Life Stadium and help the Canes beat Virginia Tech. The Canes are drama free and an easy team to root for. The 7pm ESPN kickoff is a great national opportunity for this team to show it truly belongs in the Top 10. Miami will find a way to fight through adversity once again and defeat the maddeningly inconsistent Logan Thomas. Virginia Tech's defense has to be frustrated about carrying this team all season. The Canes are united. This Year is Different. Full Speed Ahead.
Buffalo got my week off to a great start with a win on Tuesday night and Thursday should be one of the best nights of the college football season. I picked Oklahoma to keep things close against Baylor, thanks to a strong running game and a talented defense. I picked Oregon to pull away from Stanford in the second half. Mariota and Marshall will be too much for Stanford and the Cardinal offense isn't explosive enough to mount a significant comeback. For more details on those games, HERE is my article from Monday night. Fans of Florida State and Ohio State will be anxiously watching tonight's action hoping for chaos and upsets.
I have chosen eleven games on Saturday. I've had great success in the ACC and expect that to continue with the Canes and Virginia. My Golden Pick is the Auburn Tigers. Gus Malzahn's team is firing on all cylinders and will take advantage of Tennessee's inexperience at QB. Follow me @JPickens15 for winning picks 55% of the time, pictures of "accused" PED users, unyielding faith in the Canes, and college football stadium experiences.
Virginia Tech at MIAMI -6.5 7pm - ESPN
SOTU has previewed this game well and the keys for Miami are clear. Start fast and put as much pressure as possible on Logan Thomas. Virginia Tech's offense isn't capable of putting up big numbers and struggles to find explosive plays. Thomas has been a turnover machine in his past two games, causing the Hokies to lose to Duke and Boston College. Dallas Crawford proved his ability by leading the Canes to a late victory over UNC. Stephen Morris needs to be accurate with the football like he was in the first half against Florida State. Miami's defense should play well and take advantage of Virginia Tech's lack of play-makers on offense. In the offseason, I often talked about how Miami had an advantage in the Coastal race because the Canes drew Virginia Tech at home for the second straight year. Al Golden will have his team ready and there won't be a Florida State hangover. His players know how important this game is. A win over Virginia Tech moves Miami one step closer to a trip to Charlotte, which has been this team's goal all along. Miami wins by 10+ and the rumblings about the struggles of Frank Beamer continue to grow louder.
AUBURN -7.5 at Tennessee 12pm - ESPN
Auburn has been one of the best stories of the 2013 season. Gus Malzahn has done a tremendous job with this team, winning five consecutive games since a loss at LSU. Auburn showed it could win on the road by upsetting Texas A&M in dramatic fashion a few weeks ago. Tre Mason is one of the best running backs in the country and QB Nick Marshall has continued to improve. The Tigers are averaging more than 300 rushing yards a game and will take advantage of an average Tennessee defense. The Vols will be shorthanded at QB once again and have to rely on freshman Joshua Dobbs making his second career start. Tennessee couldn't finish drives last week in a 31-3 blowout loss to Missouri. Auburn's defense is solid and gives up just 20 points a game. Look for the Tigers to force a few turnovers and control this game on the ground. Auburn wins with relative ease and moves to 9-1.
Penn State at MINNESOTA -2.5 12pm - ESPN2
Believe in the Gophers. Three straight wins have Minnesota playing with a ton of confidence. The return of QB Philip Nelson has sparked the Gophers' passing game and RB David Cobb has been outstanding in recent weeks. Minnesota is finding a way to win and will get it done again on Saturday. Freshman QB Christian Hackenberg has been solid for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions haven't won a true road game yet, going 0-2 against Indiana and Ohio State. Penn State was sluggish last week in an OT win over Illinois. Look for Minnesota to control the line of scrimmage with a big offensive line and strong running game. The Gophers improbably move to 8-2 on the season and defend their home turf.
Kansas State at TEXAS TECH -3 12pm - ABC
Kansas State showed signs of improvement in wins over West Virginia and Iowa State, but the Wildcats haven't won on the road yet this season. Texas Tech is angry after consecutive losses to two of the best teams in the conference. The Red Raiders outgained OKST, but lost thanks to turnovers and special teams. I expect Texas Tech to bounce back at home. QB Davis Webb will have success in the passing game against a young Kansas State defense. Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro has been unstoppable this season and will be a matchup nightmare for the Wildcats. Trust Ryan Gosling's squad to get back on track.
VIRGINIA +14 at North Carolina 1230pm - ESPN3
It's almost impossible to write anything positive about Virginia. Mike London's job is in jeopardy and the Cavs have lost six straight games. This pick is solely about Virginia's ability to keep things close against a UNC team that will miss their starting quarterback. North Carolina QB Bryn Renner is now out for the season, which is unfortunate because he played well in recent weeks to get his team back on track. UNC has played backup Marquise Williams a significant amount, but mainly in the running game. The Tar Heels star TE Eric Ebron creates mismatches, but he can't throw the ball to himself. Williams hasn't proven his ability to beat teams with his arm. This game will be somewhat of a slugfest, with North Carolina making just enough plays to win in the second half.
BYU +7.5 at Wisconsin 330pm - ESPN
This should be a great game to watch. BYU has won five straight thanks to a strong defense and the growth of QB Tayson Hill. RB Jamaal Williams has been very good as well for the Cougars offense. Wisconsin has arguably the nation's best RB duo in Melvin Gordon and James White. The Badgers will likely get star LB Chris Borland back for Saturday's game and they'll need him to try to slow the frantic pace of BYU's offense. I expect this game to be a shootout, with both teams averaging around 500 total yards a game. The team with the ball last wins, so I like BYU to at least keep things close all afternoon.
ARIZONA STATE -7 at Utah 4pm - Pac 12 Network
The Sun Devils' offense has been rolling, scoring more than 50 points in three consecutive conference games. Taylor Kelly has been in complete command of the offense and RB Marion Grice has been unstoppable in the red zone. I like what Todd Graham has done with ASU and expect the Sun Devils to win this game easily. Following a huge upset win over Stanford, Utah has lost two straight games. I love the talent of Utah QB Travis Wilson, but an injury to his throwing hand has made things difficult for the Utes offense. Without Wilson at full strength, Utah doesn't have the firepower to keep pace with Arizona State's aggressive offense. ASU keeps winning and sets up a huge game at Oregon next Saturday.
Houston at CENTRAL FLORIDA -11 7pm - ESPN2
Houston has been a great story this season, starting 7-1 and 4-0 in the American Conference. The Cougars lead the nation in takeaways with 29 and have taken advantage of short fields all season. Freshman QB John O'Korn has been lights out and deserves credit for his team's success. That being said, Houston isn't ready yet to win a game of this magnitude. UCF has played in two huge games already this season, at Louisville and home against South Carolina. The Knights will have a great crowd on hand and will be ready coming off a bye week. The experience of QB Blake Bortles will be a key factor in a convincing win by UCF. The Knights have a very fast defense and will force the freshman into a few mistakes. UCF wins easily and moves closer to a BCS bowl appearance.
NOTRE DAME -4 at Pittsburgh 8pm - ABC
I'm still getting over that Pitt choke-job at Notre Dame last year that would've changed the 2012 season. Pitt's star DT Aaron Donald has been incredible this season, but he doesn't have a lot of help. Pitt hasn't been able to run the ball well enough to win consistently. Notre Dame fans will pack the stadium and limit any home field advantage. The Irish have been great at winning close games under Brian Kelly. ND's wins over Arizona State and USC now look impressive in retrospect. The Irish score late and win by 10.
LSU +12.5 at Alabama 8pm - CBS
Alabama's defense is probably the best in the nation and hasn't allowed more than 10 points in 7 of 8 games. That one exception was the afternoon the Tide faced Johnny Manziel, the only above-average QB they've played against in 2013. Manziel and his talented play-makers put up 42 points against Alabama. LSU can present similar problems to Alabama's largely untested secondary. Alabama lost experienced S Vinnie Sunseri to an injury, but his absence wasn't felt against inferior competition. The Tigers have an NFL-quality QB in Zach Mettenberger and he has a trio of great WR's to throw to. LSU and Les Miles won't be intimidated by Alabama and will come to Tuscaloosa ready to play. I expect Bama to make enough plays to win the game in the 4th quarter, but this game will be close throughout. Enjoy the finish when you get home from watching Miami's win over Virginia Tech.
Ucla at ARIZONA +1 10pm - ESPN
Brett Hundley and UCLA lost two tough games to Stanford and Oregon on the road in October. The Bruins were even booed at home early last week against Colorado. UCLA's defense let Colorado move the ball all afternoon and the Bruins haven't been able to find a suitable replacement for injured RB Jordon James, who played sparingly against the Buffs. Arizona has one of the nation's best running games behind the talent of stud RB Ka'Deem Carey. The Wildcats were embarrassed last year at UCLA and will use that as motivation on Saturday. In a close game between two relatively even teams, I give the edge to the Wildcats at home. Arizona has gained confidence during their three game winning streak.