Saturday's game at Duke will have a different feel to it compared to the last two weeks. There won't be the bright lights of ESPN or ABC cameras. The stadium will be small and underwhelming. Miami is no longer highly ranked nationally. The Canes must show the focus and maturity required to beat a confident Duke team. Miami's senior leaders will rally their teammates and make sure the team plays with passion and hopefully a little anger. A road game might actually be a benefit for this team: a chance to regroup together away from the negative energy that followed the Virginia Tech game. It is time for Miami to bounce back.
For Miami fans, Saturday's guide to watching college football is simple. Around lunchtime, take out your smart phone, tablet, or computer and load up Maryland at Virginia Tech on ESPN3. As the picture buffers and freezes, hope for the bad version of Logan Thomas to appear on the screen. If Maryland is somehow able to pull the upset, Miami can position itself back into the driver's seat in the Coastal. At 3:30pm, the Canes take on Duke. The Blue Devils are much better than anyone expected and will present a challenge for Miami. A road win would allow the Canes to regain the confidence lost after two tough games. Saturday night should be interesting with Stanford at USC, but Canes fans would probably rather watch the Gators fall to 4-6 in Columbia, SC. A loss likely means Florida will be spending the holidays at home.
Ball State was looking like the perfect pick for more than three quarters last night. Unfortunately, my recent bad luck and or jinxing powers took over and propelled Northern Illinois to pull away late. I'm searching for answers and desperately need a winning weekend. We are going back to basics this week. I've usually given long paragraph previews of each matchup, but perhaps that excessive analysis has clouded my vision. Here are my picks for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, presented more succinctly than my usual 10-page long-form articles. My Golden Pick record is still something to brag about and I'm counting on the Michigan State Spartans to take me to 8-4 on the year. Follow me @JPickens15 for Miami commentary and to witness the agony I go through watching my 10+ picks every Saturday.
MIAMI -3 at Duke 330pm – ESPNU
For all of the talk about Miami’s ability to rebound from two straight losses, I am also interested to see how Duke deals with success. The Blue Devils are in uncharted territory at 7-2, with a chance to potentially win the Coastal. Miami will get the ball in the hands of playmakers like WR Stacy Coley. Stephen Morris should have opportunities to connect on a few long passes against Duke’s secondary. The Canes need to reestablish the toughness and identity they displayed early in the season, when a powerful and experienced offensive line opened up holes in the running game. Expect a much more dedicated focus on getting carries for RB Dallas Crawford. The Canes will make some adjustments on defense and play more aggressive against Duke QB Anthony Boone, who has thrown seven interceptions in his last two games. If Miami can avoid a slow start, superior speed and talent will be the difference as the game progresses. Al Golden’s team gets back on track with a win and starts on a path to a 10-win season.
MICHIGAN STATE -6.5 at Nebraska 330pm – ABC or ESPN2
Nebraska has managed to make it to 7-2, but the Huskers have been more lucky than good. QB Tommy Armstrong has played well enough to win in the absence of Taylor Martinez, but he hasn’t faced any team like Michigan State. The Spartans have arguably the nation’s best defense and will pressure Armstrong all afternoon. Michigan State will shut down RB Ameer Abdullah and continue on a collision course with Ohio State in the Big Ten Title game. The Spartans have improved gradually on offense and will capitalize on a few short fields after Nebraska turnovers. A confident Michigan State team won’t be intimidated by the trip to Lincoln.
Georgia Tech at CLEMSON -11 730pm – ESPN – THURSDAY
Clemson has had extra time to prepare for the option. Tajh Boyd will be the difference in this game. This is Boyd’s final ACC home game and I expect him to cap off a phenomenal career by finding his star WR Sammy Watkins early and often. Georgia Tech hasn’t played well on the road this season and isn’t build to come from behind if Clemson jumps out early. Dabo and company move to 9-1 and pull away in the second half.
Washington at UCLA -2.5 9pm – ESPN2 – FRIDAY
UCLA and Brett Hundley will get the job done at home. Expect to see more of LB Myles Jack playing offense, given his incredible run against Arizona last week. UCLA has a lot at stake and needs to keep pace in the Pac-12 South race. I like Keith Price and Bishop Sankey, but the Huskies have struggled against the top teams in the conference, especially on the road.
INDIANA +23 at Wisconsin 12pm – ESPN2
This will be a shootout. I have no doubt that Wisconsin will dominate the line of scrimmage on offense and put up big numbers on the ground. This pick is all about Indiana’s ability to score with explosive plays. RB Stephen Houston, QB Nate Sudfeld, and WR Cody Latimer will play well enough to put 30+ on the board. The Hoosiers average more than 40 points a game and will keep it close enough for me to start Saturday off with a win.
WEST VIRGINIA -6.5 at Kansas 12pm – FSN
Easy formula. Pick against Kansas until proven otherwise. The Jayhawks are 0-6 in the Big 12 and have lost each game by double digits. Kansas can’t score and will be playing in front of an empty stadium. West Virginia’s offense has just enough firepower to win beat the Fighting Weis’s by 14.
Washington State at ARIZONA -12.5 2pm – PAC-12 Network
Washington State has absolutely no running game and doesn’t play quality defense. The Cougars have been destroyed by three straight opponents. Expect that trend to continue. Arizona has an explosive offense led by star RB Ka’deem Carey. The Wildcats are far better on defense and will force at least two WSU turnovers.
Georgia at AUBURN -3 330pm – CBS
In Gus I Trust. Auburn returns home and the Tigers are very confident after a convincing win over Tennessee. Auburn’s running game will be the difference as RB Tre Mason and QB Nick Marshall have big days on the ground. Georgia still isn’t at full strength after suffering a rash of injuries earlier in the season. I’ve had success with Auburn in recent weeks so if it aint broke, don’t fix it.
OKLAHOMA STATE -3 at Texas 330pm – FOX
Texas has an injury problem. UT beat West Virginia in overtime last week, but lost RB Johnathan Gray and DT Chris Whaley for the rest of the year. Both Texas and OKST have an opportunity to win the Big 12 Title. OKST QB Clint Chelf has played better in recent weeks and RB Desmond Roland has emerged as a playmaker. Mack Brown’s team has put together an impressive streak, but his luck runs out on Saturday. OKST is the better team, especially on defense.
Baylor vs TEXAS TECH +27 7pm – FOX
Texas Tech has lost three straight games, but an opportunity to play in Cowboys Stadium against a top five opponent will give the Red Raiders some energy. Baylor may be due for a letdown after a dominant performance in a nationally hyped game against Oklahoma. With the Bears heading to Stillwater next Saturday, the game with Texas Tech might be overlooked. There will be a ton of points in this game and it should be fun to watch. Baylor puts up big offensive numbers, but won’t have their star running backs at full strength. Texas Tech scores enough in the passing game to get me a win.
Florida at SOUTH CAROLINA -13 7pm – ESPN2
This pick is pretty simple to explain. Florida is headed for a 5-7 season and players are likely already planning their winter trips home. The more talented players on the Gators defense are thinking about their NFL Draft decisions. UF QB Tyler Murphy is questionable for the game, but even if he plays hurt, Florida’s offense will have another disastrous day against a motivated Gamecocks defense, led by Clowney. South Carolina has a chance to win the SEC East and will blowout the Gators at home. Connor Shaw and Mike Davis dominate the injury devastated Florida defense.
HOUSTON +16 at Louisville 7pm – ESPNU
Louisville had all of the national attention early this season, but now the Cardinals don’t have much to play for assuming UCF wins out. QB Teddy Bridgewater needs to be careful against a Houston defense that has been excellent at forcing turnovers. The Cougars are a feisty well-coached team that hasn’t gotten enough credit. Expect Houston to come out ready to play with something to prove. QB John O’Korn will bounce back from a poor performance against UCF and keep this game closer than expected.
STANFORD -4 at Southern Cal 8pm – ABC
For most teams coming off a huge win like Stanford had over Oregon, the concern would be coming out flat the next Saturday. Stanford has too many veterans to allow that to happen. The Cardinal are still factor in the BCS Title race and I expect another dominant physical performance. USC has played much better under Ed Orgeron, but the Trojans’ lack of depth will be an issue on Saturday night. Stanford has one of the nation’s best rushing defenses and will force Cody Kessler to try to make plays in the passing game. Condi’s team keeps on winning.