Embrace A Noon Kickoff - Weekend Picks, Staying Hot

Doug Benc

Noon kickoffs aren't all bad. After a successful first week of picks (10-5), I'm looking to keep the momentum going with another strong weekend. The Canes vs Gators game will live up to our expectations. I preview and pick games from across the country. Enjoy your Saturday.

When the UF at UM game was announced as a noon kickoff, Hurricanes fans certainly let their displeasure be heard. I was hoping for a night game, but I'm still able to see a few positives with the early start. Everyone loves breakfast so bring some eggs, bagels, orange juice, and some beverages of your choice and meet your friends at the stadium at dawn. Since the game is at noon, both of my phone batteries won't die during the tailgate because I'm game-casting 3 MAC & Sun Belt games at once......or maybe that just applies to me. It's ESPN's world and the rest of us are just living in it. While the folks in Bristol put us at noon, they did at least schedule the rest of the day perfectly for Canes fans. Gators vs Canes is by far the marquee early matchup, so the entire nation can witness how far this program has come under Al Golden. After some celebrations following a potential Canes victory, I can be home by 430pm in time to watch South Carolina at Georgia. Despite the expected 30 minutes spent on analyzing the body language of Mr. Clowney, this game should be very exciting. At 8pm, Notre Dame visits Michigan and Canes fans can unite and root against the Irish. The potential for a UF and ND loss on the same day is thrilling to think about. If only Ohio State actually played a real opponent, they could lose too.

The opening weekend of the college football season was perfect. I enjoyed a relaxing Canes victory over FAU on Friday night. The Canes playing on Friday allowed me the opportunity to put in ten solid hours of game-watching/film study on Saturday, which helped prepare me for future picks from around the country. My 7-1 picks record on Saturday also made the day special. On Monday, I had a nice date night in Pittsburgh. If you haven’t taken your significant other to a night game at Heinz Field, I would recommend it. The nice leisurely walk across the bridge and along the river to the stadium was enjoyable. Seeing the performance of FSU QB Jameis Winston up close though--that was terrifying. I’m not looking forward to seeing him play the Canes for the next few years. Pitt’s fans put on a good show for about 10 minutes, but were quickly silenced. With an overall record of 10-5 so far this season, I need to keep this momentum going. The Georgia Bulldogs are my favorite pick of the week and I expect my Golden Pick Record to move to 2-0.

Don’t forget about my pick for the Gators and Canes showdown on Saturday. Click HERE to find out my thoughts on the game. Spoiler alert: I picked Miami to win it close. Follow me @JPickens15 for thoughts on my picks as each college football Saturday progresses.

GOLDEN PICK

#6 South Carolina at #11 GEORGIA -3 430pm – ESPN

Georgia will be the hungry team on Saturday. South Carolina wasn’t all that impressive in their win over UNC. The hype around Jadeveon Clowney may just be too much for the Gamecocks and their star at the moment. He can’t make a game-changing play on every snap and that pressure is going to be hard to deal with. Georgia’s offensive line will be ready. I wasn’t impressed by the speed of South Carolina on offense. Georgia’s Todd Gurley will be the best player on the field on Saturday and backup RB Keith Marshall is a force as well. The Bulldogs will bounce back in front of their home crowd and QB Aaron Murray will silence his critics with a big performance. The loss of WR Malcolm Mitchell definitely hurts, but WR Michael Bennett will step up and perform. The Dawgs win by ten and move back up in the rankings.

Wake Forest at BOSTON COLLEGE -3 8pm – ESPN2 – FRIDAY

Most people that didn’t watch the game will scoff when I say that BC has a lot of positives to take away from their 24-14 win over Villanova. The Eagles showed great resolve and rallied under their first year head coach Steve Addazio, outscoring the Wildcats 17-0 in the second half. RB Andre Williams looked solid and shouldered the load, rushing for over 100 yards. QB Chase Rettig and his main target WR Alex Amidon looked to be in midseason form as both put up great numbers. BC’s defense was more aggressive in the second half and gained confidence they’ll need on Friday night. Wake Forest beat Presbyterian 31-7 by forcing six turnovers. Chase Rettig is a veteran leader for BC and he won’t be as careless with the football. Wake struggled in the running game as a team and I don’t have much faith in QB Tanner Price if the game is on the line. Wake was 5-18 on 3rd down last week, a stat that will doom them in Chestnut Hill if it isn’t improved upon. Boston College goes to 2-0 thanks to a 10-point win at home.

SOUTH FLORIDA +23 at Michigan State   12pm – ESPNU

I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t USF get blown out by McNeese State last week? Indeed they did, but pride and the fear of further embarrassment will have the Bulls more ready to play this weekend. First year HC Willie Taggart certainly had the attention of his players in the film room this week and I expect his team to play much better against the Spartans. MSU slugged their way to a boring 26-13 win over Western Michigan, and managed just one offensive touchdown. Andrew Maxwell is not the long-term answer for this team. When you run seventy-nine plays run for 297 yards against a MAC opponent, that disqualifies Michigan State from being favored by 23 points in my opinion. The Spartans, who had just one play of over 20 yards last week, won’t put up more than 35 against USF. QB play continues to be an issue for both teams this week and this game ends up being a low-scoring 10point victory for the Spartans.

BOWLING GREEN -7 at Kent State   12pm – ESPN3

With a new head coach at the helm, Kent State looked very average against Liberty, partially due to the injury suffered by star Dri Archer. He is questionable for the game on Saturday, but even if he plays, he won’t be 100%. Archer’s game relies on superior speed and quickness and I doubt his ability to be very effective coming off an ankle injury. Bowling Green has one of the best defenses in American that no one talks about. The Falcons rushed for 200+ yards in a surprising blowout win over a talented Tulsa squad. HC Dave Clawson has elevated this Bowling Green program in recent years and I expect the Falcons to beat Kent State convincingly.

WESTERN KENTUCKY +13.5 at Tennessee   12:20pm – SEC Network

Knoxville is just a relaxing motorcycle ride away for Bobby Petrino and WKU. Petrino returned to college football last week with a convincing victory over Kentucky. Western Kentucky showed great balance on offense and I expect Petrino’s squad to keep this game close throughout. Don’t underestimate the importance of his SEC experience. Tennessee dominated Austin Peay 45-0 in their opening week, but the Vols won’t have that same success this Saturday. I was at Neyland Stadium for QB Justin Worley’s first college game in 2011. He is a serviceable player, but I doubt his ability to play well against quality opponents. WKU senior RB Antonio Andrews will have a nice afternoon. Expect the last team with the ball to win this game in a shootout.

TOLEDO +17 at Missouri   330pm – ESPNU

The 58-14 Missouri win over Murray State is a bit misleading. Before stepping up in the last three quarters, Missouri’s defense gave up three long first-quarter drives to Murray State, which resulted in 14 points. Missouri will need to play far better on defense this week to blowout the Rockets. Toledo’s offense sputtered against Florida, but the Rockets have the talent to score on Missouri and make this game high scoring and competitive. QB Terrance Owens will find WR Bernard Reedy for a few big plays down the field for Toledo. Missouri will win by 7-10 points behind QB James Franklin and the reemergence of RB Henry Josey.

Syracuse at #19 NORTHWESTERN -16 6pm – BTN

Get used to it. Northwestern is ranked and favored by double digits. The Wildcats proved their status as an elite team with a win over Cal, despite losing starting QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark early to injuries. Both may be back this week, but Pat Fitzgerald’s team can count on Trevor Siemian to beat the Cuse once again if needed. RB Treyvon Green showed his ability with a 129-yard performance with two touchdowns against Cal. Northwestern’s defense is opportunistic and I expect Cuse QB Drew Allen to make a few early mistakes as a result of his inexperience on the road. Go Cats. Syracuse is headed for a long long season.

WEST VIRGINIA +21 at #16 Oklahoma   7pm - FOX

Oklahoma’s defense looked outstanding in their opening week win and young Sooners QB Trevor Knight wasn’t tested much in his debut. Knight will have to make a few more plays under pressure this Saturday. West Virginia is struggling to replace Geno Smith and his talented group of WRs. Paul Millard led his team to a comeback in the second half and we might see more of FSU transfer Clint Trickett against Oklahoma. I think WVU will get in the end zone a few times thanks to talented RB Charles Sims. The Sooners win by 14-17.

#15 TEXAS -7 at Brigham Young   7pm – ESPN2

Texas QB David Ash is going to have a breakout season. BYU’s defense is tough and forced 13 punts against Virginia last week. That being said, Texas is leaps and bounds better on offense than the Cavs are. WR Mike Davis and RB Malcolm Brown are just two of the many playmakers for the Longhorns on offense. Defensively, look for Texas to pressure BYU QB Taysom Hill early and often. Hill had a disastrous afternoon throwing the ball against UVA and was just 13-40 passing. Texas will stack the box and force Hill to beat them in the air, which won’t be possible. Look for Mack Brown and company to leave Provo with a two-touchdown victory as Texas starts to climb higher in the polls. My good friend "The Brisket King of Austin" says to keep an eye on RB Daje Johnson. He will have a big impact on Saturday with at least one long touchdown.

#14 Notre Dame at #17 MICHIGAN -3.5 8pm – ESPN

Notre Dame is 1-6 in their last seven games at Michigan Stadium. Brian Kelly put his foot in his mouth earlier this week by saying that this is merely a regional rivalry, comments which he recanted in the days following. Don’t let Coach Kelly fool you; this is a huge game for both teams. I was in the Big House for this matchup in 2011. It was the first-ever night game in Michigan Stadium and the atmosphere was electric throughout, ending with Denard Robinson’s 4th quarter heroics. I expect the crowd to play a role on Saturday night. Michigan QB Devin Gardner will take another step forward in his development and have a breakout performance on the national stage. His dual threat ability will keep plays alive and Notre Dame’s defense will be chasing him all night. The Irish allowed Temple to consistently move the ball, but held the Owls to missed field goal attempts and failed 4th down conversions. Notre Dame won’t be as fortunate against the Wolverines, who showed the ability to create explosive plays on offense against CMU. ND fans still probably don’t trust Tommy Rees in a tough situation, despite some past success. Go Blue. Michigan wins by seven in the last game of this rivalry.

WASHINGTON STATE +16 at #25 Southern Cal   1030pm – FS1

Regardless of what USC decides to do at QB, this team is a mess. Marqise Lee looked disinterested in their first game and Lane Kiffin rarely let his quarterbacks throw the ball vertically against Hawaii. Cody Kessler is likely going to play most of the snaps, but he hasn’t shown the ability to put up big numbers. Washington State played well against Auburn and QB Connor Halliday can make plays in the passing game. The Cougars are improved this year under Mike Leach and I think this game stays close for longer than most people think. USC wins but gets it done in ugly fashion.

Do you agree or disagree with any of these picks?

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