"Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character." John Wooden
One thing is clear so far this season. My ability to pick winners on weeknights is questionable at best. Georgia Tech looked horrendous on offense last night and Tulsa QB Cody Green was a turnover machine. The Coastal Division is wide open and Miami is certainly the favorite in my opinion. Virginia Tech’s defense is impressive, but the Canes get to play the Hokies in South Florida. Thankfully the focus now moves to the weekend, where my picks have been wildly successful this season. This Saturday has great games throughout the day and I’m very excited about my numerous opportunities to win. Given my 15-4 record on Saturday nights, I chose six games that will be played under the lights. I have a record of 4-0 so far in Golden Picks. That perfection will be put to the test on Saturday night in a hyped matchup between two ranked SEC teams. Roll Tide. Miami’s game at South Florida comes down to two major factors: Focus and Maturity. Will the Canes come out with the same passion they showed against the Gators earlier this month? Get your popcorn ready and find out. Follow me @JPickens15 for picks, Saturday thoughts, and stadium pictures all season.
MIAMI -18.5 at South Florida 12pm – ESPNU
Believe in Al Golden. During the Randy Shannon era, I would be terrified that the Canes would arrive in Tampa unmotivated and unprepared for a sleepy noon kickoff. Coach Golden will make sure the Canes don’t overlook the 0-3 Bulls. USF hasn’t shown anything in the first three weeks that would suggest a real threat to Miami. QB Steven Bench gets the start, but he played poorly against FAU. Miami’s defense has been opportunistic and will force several turnovers. USF RB Marcus Shaw has played well this season, but he’ll be seeing a crowded box often on Saturday. Bench won’t be able to beat an improving Canes’ secondary in the passing game. Stephen Morris is ready to play and will find Dorsett, Hurns, and Walford downfield. UM has significantly more talent than USF this season and I expect a huge game from RB Duke Johnson. The Bulls lack confidence and if Miami can start fast, this game will be a blowout. Look for Miami’s special teams to be a factor as well. Canes win big and head into ACC play at 4-0.
Ole Miss at ALABAMA -14 630pm – ESPN
Alabama is tired of all the noise. People are starting to doubt the Tide after a lackluster win over Colorado State. Alabama’s defense has been criticized because Johnny Manziel was able to have a big afternoon in College Station. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace has provided Nick Saban with unlimited bulletin board material with stupid quotes all week. Wallace isn’t nearly as talented as Manziel and will struggle on the road against an angry Alabama defense. Ole Miss has a terrific freshman class that is contributing on both sides of the ball, but this is their toughest test yet. I expect a few mistakes as a result of inexperience. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron always plays well in big games and he’ll find star WR Amari Cooper early and often. Hugh Freeze will win a lot of games in the SEC, but his team isn’t ready for a road game at night in Tuscaloosa. RB T.J. Yeldon runs up the score with a few big runs in the second half.
SOUTH CAROLINA -7 at Central Florida 12pm – ABC
UCF has impressed this season with the highlight being a win at Penn State two weeks ago. Blake Bortles is a terrific QB and the Knights have run the ball well with RB Storm Johnson. This game is a big opportunity for the UCF program on national TV. While it would be a great story if the Knights were able to pull the upset, I simply don’t see it. South Carolina is too dominant in the trenches and I expect to see Clowney and teammates in the UCF backfield often. QB Connor Shaw has played in big games throughout his career and won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere. I expect UCF to show nerves early, allowing the Gamecocks to take a lead they won’t relinquish. Spurrier will have his guys prepared, especially following a bye week.
Virginia at PITTSBURGH -5.5 1230pm – RSN
Pitt’s offense comes into this game with a lot of confidence. QB Tom Savage threw six touchdown passes against Duke and has two elite receivers in senior Devin Street and freshman Tyler Boyd. The Panthers should be able to score on a Virginia defense that was embarrassed by Oregon a few weeks ago. The Cavs young QB David Watford hasn’t impressed yet this season and I don’t think he’ll be able to lead a comeback if UVA falls behind early. Watford is playing in his first road game this season. Pitt continues to build momentum in the ACC behind the experience of Savage.
IOWA -2 at Minnesota 330pm – ABC or ESPN2
Philip Nelson is still questionable to play at QB for the Gophers. Mitch Leidner played well last week in a win over San Jose State, but Leidner looked very uncomfortable in the passing game. Regardless of who plays, I think Iowa has the advantage in this matchup. The Gophers are only throwing for 105 yards a game this season. Minnesota is 4-0, but none of those wins is particularly impressive. Iowa dominated Western Michigan last week, winning 59-3 thanks to big plays on defense and on special teams. The Hawkeyes have better speed on the perimeter and QB Jake Rudock has been improving each week. RB Mark Weisman will pick up key first downs for the Hawkeyes. Iowa wins a close competitive game in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma at NOTRE DAME +3.5 330pm – NBC
Brian Kelly has an incredible record in close games. Notre Dame will play tough at home and make things difficult for Oklahoma QB Blake Bell. While Bob Stoops keeps mentioning Bell’s experience in big games, that isn’t completely accurate. In 2012, Bell was limited to specific running plays in the Belldozer package. He will be asked to win the game with his arm on Saturday. Against Tulsa, I watched Bell routinely overthrow his receivers, a tendency that will lead to several interceptions against the Irish. His stats were inflated by several screen plays that turned into big gainers against Tulsa’s weak defense. Notre Dame’s offense will make plays when necessary and QB Tommy Rees has showed maturity so far this season. WR DaVaris Daniels and WR TJ Jones have been effective so far in 2013. This contest will be decided by a field goal.
Arizona at WASHINGTON -10 7pm – FOX
This Washington team is for real. QB Keith Price is playing at a high level and I have always loved the talent of RB Bishop Sankey. UW is averaging over 600 yards a game and has faced tougher competition than Arizona thus far. Arizona B.J. Denker will struggle in the hostile environment of Husky Stadium. The noise and defensive pressure will lead to turnovers. Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey is one of the best players in the nation, but I expect Washington to sell out defensively to crowd the line of scrimmage. The Huskies win by 14 or more at home, setting up a showdown at Stanford next Saturday.
TEXAS A&M -14 at Arkansas 7pm – ESPN2
Pick Johnny Manziel until he lets you down. That is my official policy going forward. Arkansas struggled on defense against Rutgers, allowing Gary Nova to pass for 346 yards and three touchdowns. The Hogs will likely be without starting QB Brandon Allen once again. His replacement, AJ Derby, won’t be able to take advantage of a Texas A&M defense that has underperformed this season. Manziel has great players surrounding him on offense and I expect 40+ points from A&M on Saturday night. WR Mike Evans has another huge game.
WISCONSIN +7 at Ohio State 8pm – ABC
After four cupcake matchups, Ohio State will finally be tested on Saturday night. Everyone has forgotten their concerns about the inexperienced front seven for the Buckeyes. I think Wisconsin will be able to run effectively for most of the night, causing this game to be a shootout. James White and Melvin Gordon have been two of the nation’s top running backs this season. OSU’s offense has looked unstoppable with Kenny Guiton at the helm, but Braxton Miller returns this week. While Miller is very talented, I expect him to show a bit of rust early in the game. Urban Meyer and company will win this game, but I expect the margin to be a touchdown or less. The Badgers showed resiliency on the road at Arizona State and won’t be overmatched on Saturday night.
STANFORD -9.5 vs Washington State 10pm – ESPN
Stanford dominated Arizona State early and led 29-0 at halftime. The second half was a different story as ASU slowly crept back into the game. Coach David Shaw was disappointed with the overall performance and will use that to motivate his team. Washington State has improved significantly this season, but the Cougars are completely one-dimensional on offense. Stanford will be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and should dominate throughout. QB Kevin Hogan will make plays in the play-action passing game. This game will be played at CenturyLink Field in Seattle so Washington State won’t have a true home-field advantage. Rain is expected which will be a disadvantage for WSU because of the heavy reliance on the passing game. The Cardinal keep rolling and win easily.
USC +4.5 at Arizona State 1030pm – ESPN2
It pains me to do this, but I’m going to pick the Trojans again. I have enough faith that USC’s stout defense can make enough plays to keep this game close. Arizona State had trouble with the athleticism and toughness of Stanford’s defense a week ago. USC RB Tre Madden will have holes to run through and I’m counting on Cody Kessler’s ability to find his stud receivers for big plays. USC will try to slow the pace down and limit the opportunities for Taylor Kelly and ASU. I expect a relatively low scoring game, decided by a late field goal.