"This stuff is hard. And you got to stay together, if you've got the guts. And you don't find the first door and run out of it." - Pat Riley
Lebron didn't bother listening to Riley's news conference, but it certainly resonated with me. The aftermath of Miami's loss to Louisville has been painful. Canes fans feel helpless. The rest of the country has been happily reclining their seats for days now, injuring our knees and making things miserable. While I'm clearly frustrated and upset, I'm not going to panic and yell and force the plane to be diverted to the nearest airport. Miami has two games to regroup and refocus before playing in Lincoln. That game offers another opportunity to make a statement in front of a national audience. The coaching must improve, but staying home in protest won't help this team win games.
Come support Brad Kaaya and the Canes at Sun Life on Saturday. The FAMU band will put on a show at halftime and Miami's younger players will get their first real opportunity to shine. I'm excited to watch Yearby, Berrios, Thomas and company.
I feel confident about my picks this week, but if this is another disappointing Saturday, my PR director at StateOfTheU has advised me to pull a Wes Welker. I've already tried blaming the oddsmakers, blaming the teams, and blaming the players in the past. If I fail to win 55% in Week 2, clearly someone spiked my picks because it certainly isn't my fault.
PITTSBURGH -4.5 at Boston College 7pm - ESPN (FRIDAY)
Few teams were more dominant in Week 1 than Pittsburgh, beating Delaware 62-0 and allowing just 57 total yards of offense. Pitt RB James Conner is going to have a huge season and the Panthers will rely heavily on their power running game against BC. Chad Voytik played well in his first start at QB, but Paul Chryst's offense doesn't depend on him to do too much. Pitt's star WR Tyler Boyd should play Friday night, despite hurting his finger in the opener. Boston College misses their bellcow RB Andre Williams and will have issues all season on offense in my opinion. QB Tyler Murphy had to be the entire offense in their opening win against UMass, rushing for 118 yards and throwing for 173 yards. I'm not sold on Murphy and was never impressed with him at Florida last year when he became the starter. Pitt has more talent and will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Boston College is not a tough place to visit for road teams and I expect the Panthers to win this game convincingly.
PURDUE -3 vs Central Michigan 12pm - ESPNNews
Purdue was 1-11 last season, but showed signs this will be a better year in the season opener. The Boilermakers beat Western Michigan 43-34, led by QB Danny Etling and RB Raheem Mostert. Purdue's defense struggled, but I'm not very concerned about a Central Michigan team that put up just 321 yards and 20 points last week against Chattanooga. Despite forcing four turnovers, CMU won by just four points, 20-16. Purdue will have too much offense and pull away in the second half. Mostert's explosiveness will make him the best player on the field on Saturday. I expect him to break a long touchdown. Darrell Hazell's team moves to 2-0.
UTAH -11 vs Fresno State 3pm - PAC-12 Network
Fresno State had a great 2013 led by Derek Carr, but this is a different team. The Bulldogs lost their star QB and their best playmakers at WR to the NFL, returning only a handful of starters on both sides of the ball. Fresno got dominated by USC on Saturday, allowing 700 yards of offense and making Cody Kessler look like Peyton Manning. Fresno doesn't have a QB they can trust yet and rotated Connette and Burrell against USC. The duo threw four interceptions and zero touchdowns. I'm higher on Utah this year than most people are. I love the dual threat ability of Travis Wilson at QB and WR Dres Anderson will cause problems for Fresno's secondary. The Utes are always good at home and Kyle Wittingham's team will win this game by double digits. With his job on the line this season, I have faith that the Utes will rally around their coach, en route to a successful season and a bowl berth.
KENTUCKY -13 vs Ohio 330pm - ESPNU
Kentucky is much better than they were in 2013. The Wildcats are more comfortable with the offense and finally have SEC-caliber playmakers at the skill positions. Transfer RB Braylon Heard had two long touchdowns in the opener against Tennessee-Martin (although he is questionable for Saturday) and QB Patrick Towles played very well in his first career start. Mark Stoops has recruited well at Kentucky and this game will show the talent gap between even the bottom of the SEC and the MAC. Ohio was very sloppy in their opening week win against Kent State, fumbling the ball four times, but still winning on a last second field goal. Those mistakes will doom them against Kentucky. The fans in Lexington are energized and the crowd will be a factor on Saturday. Look for UK to roll and move to 2-0.
STANFORD -3 vs Southern Cal 330pm - ABC
USC looked great against Fresno State, but I'm not convinced Cody Kessler can play that way against Stanford's defense. Both teams are loaded with talent and both offenses have exciting WR's - Ty Montgomery for Stanford and Nelson Agholor for USC. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will make a few plays downfield in the play-action game. WR Devon Cajuste is back from suspension and gives Hogan a big target to look for. I'm picking Stanford because I expect their defense to be the difference maker. USC is poised to make significant strides under Steve Sarkisian, but I don't trust the Trojans to win this game on the road.
MICHIGAN STATE +12 at Oregon 630pm - FOX
This is the game of the week. Both teams have playoff aspirations and Michigan State is out to prove their win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl was no fluke. Oregon has a Heisman candidate in QB Marcus Mariota. Michigan State's QB Connor Cook has quietly improved and become a very efficient passer. MSU's defense lost some key players from last season, but DE Shilique Calhoun is still one of the nation's best. Mark Dantonio's team plays with an attitude and will enter this game with something to prove. Oregon has struggled against Stanford in years past and I expect MSU to employ similar methods to try to slow down the Ducks' high powered offense. In the end, I'll give the edge to Oregon playing at home, but this game will be much closer than the experts think. Michigan State has a balanced offense and their powerful style of play will keep this game interesting throughout. Speed vs Power will make for an exciting matchup.
EAST CAROLINA +16.5 vs South Carolina 7pm - ESPNU
South Carolina got blown out by Texas A&M on Thursday night. USC's defense was shredded by Kenny Hill and his receivers. There won't be any break for the Gamecocks this Saturday, having to face East Carolina and QB Shane Carden. ECU has two great WR's in Isaiah Jones and Justin Hardy and I expect them to take advantage of a young South Carolina secondary that is searching for confidence. South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson played well in the opener, but he couldn't make up for the issues on defense. RB Mike Davis is still banged up and won't be 100%. I think USC wins by 7-14 points thanks to overall better talent, but it will not be easy. If East Carolina can score even in the mid 20's, this pick is in great shape.
BYU -1 at Texas 730pm - FS1
BYU dominated Texas a year ago, beating the Longhorns 40-21. This year's game is in Austin, but I expect the Cougars to win once again. QB Taysom Hill is a great leader and one of the most underrated players in the country. He's grown as a passer and has full command of the offense. Texas is a team with a lot of question marks heading into Saturday. The Longhorns lost their starting QB David Ash to injury, starting C Dominic Espinosa to injury, and Charlie Strong just suspended both starting OT's. Texas will have a very inexperienced offensive line against the Cougars, putting new QB Tyrone Swoopes into a tough situation. Texas will need to rely heavily on RB's Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, but the holes might not be there on Saturday night.
MICHIGAN +3.5 at Notre Dame 730pm - NBC
This great rivalry will be coming to an end after this game and the stakes are high. I've been to a few great Michigan Notre Dame games over the years and the atmosphere for Saturday night's game should be tremendous. Both teams looked great opening week - Michigan destroyed App State and Notre Dame beat Rice 48-17. ND QB Everett Golson looked great in his return to college football and Michigan's Devin Gardner was sharp as well, finding his best playmaker Devin Funchess for three touchdowns. Michigan's offensive line played well and paved the way for 350 rushing yards in the opener. Notre Dame didn't need KeiVarae Russell and DaVaris Daniels against the Owls, but the Irish will miss them against a quality opponent like Michigan. This game will be close and decided on one of the final possessions. These two teams are evenly matched and I expect this to be one of the weekend's most competitive and exciting games. Michigan wins by 1-7 points or loses on a last second field goal.
OHIO STATE -11 vs Virginia Tech 8pm - ESPN
I think people are overreacting to Ohio State's game against Navy. The Buckeyes struggled early, then pulled away in the 4th quarter to win 34-17. J.T. Barrett looked shaky as the game began, but played much better in the second half. Urban Meyer and his staff called a very conservative game for Barrett's first start, leading to just 15 pass attempts. I expect that to change on Saturday night at home in Columbus. OSU will be able to run the ball and set up playaction against Virginia Tech. The Hokies will struggle in a tough road atmosphere, especially against Ohio State's stout defensive line. QB Michael Brewer played well against William & Mary, but this is the toughest defense he'll see this season. This game is a must-win for OSU if they want to still have a chance to make the Playoff. Urban's team wins by two touchdowns.
COLORADO STATE +10.5 vs Boise State 1015pm - ESPN2
I was very impressed with Colorado State in their opening week win over Colorado. QB Garrett Grayson is capable of making plays in the passing game, but the Rams relied heavily on their offensive line and two talented running backs. Alabama transfer RB Dee Hart had a career game and Treyous Jarrells showed some explosiveness when he got his hands on the ball. Both backs topped 100 yards and wore down the Buffs in the second half. Boise State simply isn't as talented as they've been in years past. Grant Hedrick isn't the answer at QB and the Broncos only have a few guys he trusts to get the ball to. Hedrick completed 36 passes in the opener, but just four players had a reception. Boise's defense is solid and played well initally against Ole Miss. This game will be low scoring and close for four quarters. Don't be surprised when Colorado State has a chance to win on the final drive at 2am Sunday morning.