"Winning is a habit." Vince Lombardi
After a bad loss by TCU on Thursday night, my picks rebounded by going 7-3 on Saturday. Johnny Football has never let me down on the field and I'll continue to back him all season. Teddy Bridgewater did enough to win and my strategy of picking against the Martinez/Pelini combo continues to be unstoppable. Bo's 47 percent moment was just icing on the cake for a tough week in Lincoln. While Miami's coaching staff was all over the country recruiting on Saturday, I was able to get 14 hours of film study done. When Wisconsin's comeback was abruptly halted by officials at 2am EST, the day was finally complete. My confidence has never been higher and I'm extremely proud of my stats for the 2013 season. I’m now 27-11 overall on the season and have won all three Golden Picks. Follow me @JPickens15 for winners and emotional swings every Saturday.
Miami plays Savannah State on Saturday. By now, everyone is aware that the Tigers aren't exactly the best team in the country...Miami is favored by SIXTY points. That being said, I still want to encourage fans to show up at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. As much fun as it is having your I-Pad freeze mid-play while ESPN3 is buffering for the 10th time in 30 minutes, going to the game is much more enjoyable. This Canes team deserves your support. Vote in the poll at the bottom of this article on whether Miami wins by more than 60. Here are a few reasons to watch and why I'm excited about facing SSU.
Young Players Get Their Opportunity
In today’s world of college football, recruiting drives the conversations on websites and message boards. Fans often seem to care more about freshmen than the veterans. If you are in this group of people constantly asking how good Miami’s young talent is, you need to be in the stadium on Saturday. Artie Burns is now a co-starter at CB and we should see a lot of Stacy Coley, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Gus Edwards, and Corn Elder. Don’t forget about Malcolm Lewis. The sophomore hasn’t played much this year as the coaching staff has been easing him back following his injury in 2012. I expect to see Lewis targeted often on Saturday night, so Coach Golden can learn how healthy and ready he is for the ACC schedule.
The Offense Needs Rhythm
James Coley needs the games against Savannah State and South Florida to improve his rhythm as a play caller. Stephen Morris will bounce back and put up huge numbers on Saturday, helping to increase confidence heading into ACC play. The bye week helped Duke Johnson get healthy and he’ll have at least two long runs against SSU. I know everyone is somewhat down on our offense following our struggle to move the ball against UF. Don’t let yourself be worried. This offense is one of the best in the country. After watching games all day Saturday, especially seeing what Manziel did to Alabama’s "vaunted Saban defense," I think Florida may have the best defense in the country. The Gators will suffocate Tennessee this weekend helping to make Miami fans feel a bit better. I’m glad we don’t have to see Dominique Easley ever again.
Great job by the university making sure this is a night game. The 7pm kickoff is perfect for fall football in South Florida. The weather should be pleasant and there will be fewer commercials. Enjoy a three-hour game without the stress and nervousness experienced during the Gator game. The fans will be nicer, the lines will be shorter, and Miami will have exciting plays throughout the game. Bring the whole family and sit as close as you physically can.
I’ve been focused on staying humble, but it’s getting very difficult after three straight impressive weeks to begin the season. The reactions came in fast and furious on Saturday night and I wanted to share a few of my favorites. Last week, I talked about comments from readers that were curious how I would respond to increased pressure. This week, I’ve grouped the comments into three different sections.
Just Pull a George Costanza
- Great start, but there is no way you keep this up. It won’t get any better than this. Just announce this week on the website that you are retiring. Say "Alright! That’s it for me. Goodnight everybody."
George: I knew I had hit my high note so I thanked the crowd and I was gone.
Jerry: What did you do the rest of the day?
George: I saw "Titanic." So that old woman, she’s just a liar, right?
Jerry: And a bit of a tramp if you ask me.
This option did sound appealing for a moment, but I simply enjoy picking games too much to call it quits in September. Miami has ten games remaining in the regular season and I need to be here to analyze them all.
You’ll Lose Soon Enough
- "Nice Work, but mean reversion is really going to hurt you."
Negative people exist everywhere. I’m just enjoying the ride at the moment, trying not to worry about future losing weeks. I will rise above the doubters and hopefully keep picking winners. The haters may have shut down Larry Summers, but I don’t scare as easily.
This is Your Year
- "You’re on fire. I’m a believer. Keep it up and remember me when you’re famous."
I said all offseason that "This Year Would Be Different." I was referring to the success I thought the Miami Hurricanes would enjoy on the field under the leadership of Al Golden. Little did I know that same refrain would apply to my picks, as well. The Canes have made many fans believers with their 2-0 start. Hopefully our mutual success will continue in the weeks to come.
CLEMSON -13.5 at NC State THURSDAY - 730pm – ESPN
Recent history won’t be repeated on Thursday night. Clemson lost badly at NCST two years ago and the Tigers remember that disappointment. Tajh Boyd is a veteran leader and won’t allow his team to play scared on the road. The Tigers are coming off a bye week and won’t overlook NCST. Clemson has a terrible record in ESPN Thursday night games, but don’t pay any attention to it. 2013 is a new year and the Tigers finally have confidence. WR Sammy Watkins has a huge night and gets behind the secondary multiple times. The Wolfpack needed a game-winning FG to beat Richmond at home two weeks ago. QB Pete Thomas has struggled and doesn’t have a lot of weapons around him. Clemson wins by 20+ points and shows the nation that this team is mature and a national title threat.
Arizona State at STANFORD -7 7pm – FOX
While the Sun Devils were able to "win" a close game against Wisconsin, I was disappointed with their performance. I don’t think Todd Graham’s team is ready to win a physical game on the road. Arizona State moved the ball against the Badgers, but weren’t as explosive as I expected. Stanford’s defense is a much tougher task and I expect ASU QB Taylor Kelly to struggle. RB Marion Grice won’t have many holes to run through against the talented front seven of the Cardinal. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan is a perfect fit for David Shaw’s offense and RB Tyler Gaffney and WR Ty Montgomery are experienced playmakers. Stanford won’t allow ASU to dictate the pace of the game. Expect a relatively low-scoring game, with Stanford wearing out the Sun Devils in the second half to win by 10+ points.
Tennessee at FLORIDA -16.5 330pm – CBS
The Vols are coming off a blowout loss at Oregon and now must regroup to face one the nation’s best defenses. Tennessee is a young team and will have difficulty playing another tough opponent on the road. Butch Jones has said he is reopening the QB competition in practice this week, but he has three freshmen behind starter Justin Worley. Tennessee’s strength is two talented running backs (Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane), but the Gators front seven is too tough to run on. The Gators are still bitter about their disappointing performance at Miami and are coming off a bye week. QB Jeff Driskel will play better and victimize a Vols defense that gave up 687 total yards to the Ducks last week. Turnovers will be a key and I expect Driskel to take better care of the football, in route to a dominating Florida win.
West Virginia vs MARYLAND -5 330pm – ESPNU
This game will be played at a neutral site in Baltimore. West Virginia wasn’t able to score in their first two games, but had success against Georgia State after switching to freshman QB Ford Childress. While he played well in his debut, I expect some freshman mistakes from Childress in his first start against a quality opponent away from home. Maryland has been successful rushing the passer in 2013, currently leading the nation in sacks. Blitzes will come early and often to rattle Childress. Maryland’s offense is explosive, led by the dual threat ability of QB C.J. Brown and the dynamic speed of WR Stefon Diggs. Maryland has been balanced on offense in route to a 3-0 record and this team is gaining confidence each week. This game is a statement opportunity for the Terps and Randy Edsall. It will take the Mountaineers multiple seasons to replace the production of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey. Maryland wins by two touchdowns.
Michigan State at NOTRE DAME -6.5 330pm – NBC
Don’t fall for it. Despite a good performance against Youngstown State, this Michigan State offense is still a mess. QB Connor Cook won’t be able to make plays against a very stout Notre Dame defense. The Spartans have a talented defense, but ND QB Tommy Rees has looked impressive in 2013. The continued emergence of WR DaVaris Daniels will be a factor on Saturday. Brian Kelly will have his team focused coming off a lackluster showing against Purdue. Michigan State’s defense will have to score touchdowns to stay close, but Rees will be smarter with the ball than he has in the past. The Irish win convincingly.
PURDUE +24 at Wisconsin 330pm – ABC/ESPN2
The Wisconsin players and coaches have said all the right things this week, but I don’t believe they’ll actually be able to quickly get over the disappointment of last Saturday night. The Badgers should’ve had the chance to kick a game-winning field goal. I expect a lackluster focus early in this game, which will allow Purdue to hang around. The Boilers showed improvement in a close loss to Notre Dame and QB Rob Henry played very well. Purdue will stack the box and try to force Wisconsin QB Joel Stave to make plays in the passing game. Wisconsin eventually kicks it into gear, but only manages to win by 14-20.
Utah State at USC -6.5 330pm – ABC
I have great respect for Utah State QB Chuckie Keaton. He’s had an incredible start to the season and has experienced players around him. That being said, this Trojan defense is the real deal. USC’s defense held veteran Boston College QB Chase Rettig to just 83 yards passing last week. USC is more physical and talented on both the offensive and defensive lines. Cody Kessler solidified his role as the starting QB and was able to get Marqise Lee involved. USC RB Tre Madden should have a huge afternoon and Utah State won’t have an answer for Lee’s talent on the outside. Lane Kiffin survives another week and earns a quality win against one of the best teams in the Mountain West.
Kansas State at TEXAS -5.5 8pm – ABC
I successfully avoided picking Texas against Ole Miss, despite the temptation. I’m taking a stand on Saturday night. The Longhorns will rally behind embattled Coach Mack Brown and play with pride and emotion at home. QB David Ash returned to practice on Wednesday and I expect him to play against Kansas State. Texas will show moderate improvement on defense and will play a complete game. Kansas State has issues this season, especially on defense, and is struggling to replace key contributors from 2012. QB Jake Waters will be making his first start on the road and I expect him to show nerves early. Mack Brown, don’t let me down. I believe in you...this week at least.
MICHIGAN -17.5 at Connecticut 8pm – ABC
Following an emotional win over Notre Dame, the Wolverines didn’t show up with focus and nearly lost to Akron at home. QB Devin Gardner was a turnover machine and Michigan’s defense looked shaky all afternoon. Expect a completely different team on Saturday night against UConn. Senior captain LT Taylor Lewan expressed his embarrassment and promised to never allow his team to perform that poorly again. UConn has been dreadful in 2013, losing soundly to Towson and Maryland. This game will be played in front of a capacity crowd in East Hartford, but expect a significant number of the fans to be dressed in Maize and Blue. Michigan will play with energy early, jumping out to a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter. Gardner will be the best player on the field and will bounce back in a big way, finding his favorite target WR Jeremy Gallon. Michigan dominates all four quarters and starts to gain back national respect.
UTAH +7 at Brigham Young 1015pm - ESPN2
This rivalry game will be decided by a field goal. Despite the Utes coming up short in overtime against Oregon State, Utah QB Travis Wilson is one of the best players in America that no one talks about. He continues to improve game after game and I expect him to put up points on BYU’s talented defense. The Cougars dominated Texas at home a few weeks ago, but the Utes will play with far more energy than the Longhorns. Utah has seen the footage of the Texas game. Expect 8 or 9 guys in the box on defense to stop BYU QB Taysom Hill. When these two teams meet, expect the unexpected. The Holy War won’t be played in 2014 and 2015 and both fan bases want this win badly. Utah has been successful against the Cougars in recent years and I expect that confidence to be a factor. The team with the ball last wins a thrilling game to end another great Saturday of college football.