What a difference one week makes. Before the Virginia Tech game, the negativity and doubt surrounding the Miami program was palpable. The Canes returned from Blacksburg with more confidence and the energy around Al Golden's team has completely shifted. Instead of talking about a lost season, winning the Coastal is a possibility once again. Miami is a 14.5 point favorite this Saturday hosting North Carolina. While that number seems a bit high, the Canes are undefeated at home, covering in all three games against FBS opponents. Some people in Vegas clearly believe in Brad Kaaya and Duke Johnson.
The loss of Ereck Flowers is a big one, especially considering how well the offensive line played last week. That being said, I think Miami has enough depth to still control the line of scrimmage up front. UNC has an explosive offense, but one of the nation's worst defenses. While UM fans were complaining about D'Onofrio and company, UNC was allowing 70 points to East Carolina. Miami will take some shots downfield and Phillip Dorsett should be able to take advantage of a vulnerable UNC secondary. Look for Miami to continue to feature Duke Johnson as much as physically possible.
Miami's two worst games defensively came against teams that predominantly run the ball and rarely throw downfield: Georgia Tech and Nebraska. UNC relies far more on the passing game and is averaging less than 150 rushing yards per game, with their QB leading the team in rushing. Expect to be impressed by the dual-threat ability of QB Marquise Williams, but fortunately for the Canes, he doesn't have enough help around him.
The Tar Heels have played their best football the past three games: a close loss at Notre Dame and two ACC wins over GT and UVA. Miami needs to be ready to battle for 60 minutes. UNC will score early and stay close, but the Canes pull away in the second half. Miami moves to 6-3 and heads into an extra week of preparation for the showdown with Florida State. Go Canes.
Picks and Politics
This past Tuesday, we finally heard from the College Football Playoff committee and saw their first Top 25 rankings. Is it a coincidence that the top four teams are from the South, right in the heart of one of the GOP's biggest strongholds? Alabama and Mississippi are two of the most conservative states in the union and as any South Floridian knows, any city in Florida north of Orlando is really just Southern Georgia. Three of the four teams (Miss St, Ole Miss, and FSU) have predominantly red uniforms. Alabama is ranked 6th and eager to vault into the top four should Democratic Oregon stumble this Saturday. Several casinos in Las Vegas have the Georgia Bulldogs as the favorite to win the Championship, especially after the news that Todd Gurley will return in two weeks. This coming Tuesday, the nation will be heading to the ballot boxes to vote in the 2014 Midterm Elections. Most pundits and computer projections are predicting that the Republican Party will gain control of the Senate, thereby controlling the entire Legislative Branch. Whether it's a result of SEC bias or not, it seems a sea of red is upon us.
Sticking with the theme of football predicting politics, I think both Charlie Crist and Rick Scott should be tuning in on Thursday night. FSU and Rick Scott go hand in hand. Scott currently lives in Tallahassee and despite low approval ratings, he's continued to keep plugging along. During his business career, Scott was involved in several sizable lawsuits. Florida State has dealt with legal issues, lawsuits, and lawyers galore, making the program Public Enemy Number One for the local and national media. Like the Noles, Scott doesn't care what people think of him, as long as he wins.
Charlie Crist parallels perfectly with Louisville and Bobby Petrino. Crist was a Republican governor who tried to parlay his success into running for a Senate seat, a move that backfired in spectacular fashion. Petrino had great success at Louisville before bolting to the Falcons, before quickly realizing he wasn't cut out for the NFL. Crist tried to reinvent himself by becoming an Independent, but that move was more of a disaster than Petrino's indiscretions on a motorcycle with a female employee. Both men swallowed their pride and are trying to rise to prominence once again, with Petrino returning to UL and Crist reemerging as a Democrat. Charlie and the Cardinals are the challengers looking to dethrone Rick and Jimbo on Thursday night. The winner of this game will decide the election. Temperatures should be in the 50's at kickoff, so the use of a fan to prevent sweating should be a non-issue. May the best team/candidate win.
My record is sadly still mediocre. I won all three games Friday night and continue to dominate on Weeknights. Unfortunately for me, most college football games are played on Saturdays. My conference records are all improving, but I was doomed by another 0-4 week in the Big Ten. There are still five weeks to go in the regular season and I'm not ready to give up on my dreams just yet. Maybe November will be the month I've been hoping for.
FLORIDA STATE -3.5 at Louisville 730pm - ESPN - THURSDAY
Everyone seems to love Louisville this week. The line has fallen all the way to 3.5 and people are focusing on how the computers and the stats favor the Cardinals. UL's defense is outstanding, but I have zero faith in Louisville's ability to score. Florida State has proven they can find a way to win close games. Jimbo's team will rally around each other and continue to play through distractions. Jameis Winston has his best game of the season and the Noles move to 8-0.
CINCINNATI -4 at Tulane 8pm - ESPN2 - FRIDAY
I have a lot of respect for Cincinnati's offense. Tulane has been a disappointment this season, scoring a combined 44 points the past four games. Cincy puts up 30+ points on the road and wins easily.
NORTHWESTERN +4 at Iowa 12pm - BTN
This is a big game for both teams coming off a bye week. Northwestern and Iowa are very similar and I expect this to be a low-scoring close game throughout. The final margin is a field goal and Northwestern has a great chance to pull the upset.
PITTSBURGH -3 vs Duke 12pm - ESPNU
It was a once in a lifetime experience for me last week, watching a team I picked to win fumble on five straight possessions. Pitt will protect the ball better this week and RB James Conner will wear down Duke's front seven. Most people are wondering why Duke isn't favored here, but don't fall into that trap. Duke's best win came against Boston College. Pitt bounces back and helps out the Canes in the Coastal.
VIRGINIA TECH -3 vs Boston College 1230pm - ACC Network
What am I doing with this pick? Boston College runs on nearly every play and Virginia Tech was demoralized by Miami's running game a week ago. On the surface, BC seems like the clear pick, but I'm relying on the Hokies to show some pride. VT is just 2-3 at home this season and I can't Frank Beamer's team losing another game at Lane Stadium.
EAST CAROLINA -7.5 at Temple 12pm - ESPNNews
Temple was getting a lot of hype two weeks ago, but the Owls proceeded to lose badly to Houston and UCF. East Carolina has a great chance to make the Peach Bowl as the highest ranked champion from the Group of 5. The Pirates have too much firepower on offense and QB Shane Carden will lead his team to another win.
WEST VIRGINIA +5.5 vs Tcu 330pm - ABC
This is one of the biggest games of the weekend. Expect a shootout with two of the best passing offenses in the country facing off. WVU has won four straight games and Morgantown is a tough place to play. I'm been very impressed by TCU QB Trevone Boykin, but I don't think his team will be able to blow out West Virginia. The team with the ball last wins.
GEORGIA -13 vs Florida 330pm - CBS
I will continue to pick against Florida until proven otherwise. The Gators are starting true freshman Treon Harris at QB and I expect him to struggle against an aggressive UGA defense. The Bulldogs have proven they can win without Todd Gurley the past two weeks. This game could spell the end of Will Muschamp's reign in Gainesville.
KENTUCKY +7 at Missouri 4pm - SECN
Missouri somehow went 3-2 in their past five games, but few QB's in the nation played worse than Maty Mauk during that stretch. The Tigers are averaging just 171 passing yards a game, near the bottom of college football. Other than the blowout loss in Baton Rouge, Kentucky has played everyone tough this season. QB Patrick Towles will make a few big plays and keep this game close. UK has a legit chance to win this one on the road.
USC -6.5 at Washington State 430pm - Pac-12 Network
Washington State has a dreadful passing defense and USC QB Cody Kessler has been solid all season. WSU will put up some points, but the athleticism gap will be significant on both sides of the ball. USC simply has better players, and the speed and strength of the Trojans will be the difference. Mike Leach's team falls to 2-7 on the year.
AUBURN +2 at Ole Miss 7pm - ESPN
This pick is all about my faith in Gus Malzahn and Nick Marshall. Bo Wallace proved he isn't quite ready to be an elite quarterback in a poor performance at LSU. The Ole Miss defense is clearly one of the nation's best, but the loss of LB Denzel Nkemdiche to injury will be a huge factor in this game. The Auburn running attack will take advantage of some holes that wouldn't be there if Denzel was healthy. The Tigers win a close one.
OREGON -8 vs Stanford 730pm - FOX
Stanford's offense finally stepped up last week, but this week presents a much bigger challenge. Oregon's offense has been dominant the past few weeks. Although the Ducks have struggled with Stanford in recent years, I expect the experience of QB Marcus Mariota to be a difference maker. Mariota establishes himself as a Heisman frontrunner with a huge game at home.
ILLINOIS +28.5 at Ohio State 8pm - ABC
A huge win against Minnesota has given this Illini team some confidence. Ohio State played poorly at Penn State and QB J.T. Barrett is still banged up and less than 100% healthy. The Buckeyes win easily, but not by four touchdowns.
KANSAS STATE -14 vs Oklahoma State 8pm - ABC
This game features two teams moving in opposite directions. KState has their sights on a spot in the Playoff, while OKST has scored just one touchdown the past two weeks. QB Daxx Garman isn't good enough to win on the road in Manhattan and KState QB Jake Waters continues to shine week after week. Bill Snyder's team blows out the Cowboys.
ARIZONA +6.5 at Ucla 1030pm - ESPN
Arizona still gets no respect. I believe in Rich Rod's team and love QB Anu Solomon. The past four weeks, UCLA lost twice at home and beat Colorado and Cal by a combined five points. The Bruins defense has been a disappointment and I expect a shootout on Saturday night. The Wildcats hang around and have a chance to win it in the 4th quarter.
UTAH STATE -3 at Hawaii 11pm - MWC
Hawaii is just 1-6 against FBS opponents this season. Utah State has an impressive defense that travels well. The Aggies have lost three QB's to injuries, but will still be able to control the line of scrimmage. Hawaii loses by a touchdown and struggles to score all night.
ARIZONA STATE -6 vs Utah 11pm - FS1
The loss of WR Dres Anderson is devastating for Utah. He was a gamebreaker on the outside and the Utes will struggle to replace him. Since losing to UCLA, Arizona State has bounced back and won three straight. The Sun Devils win by double digits at home and look impressive on offense with QB Taylor Kelly back in the lineup.
Enjoy your Saturday.