What an exciting week to be a Hurricanes fan. Mark Richt is a great fit for Miami and I couldn't be happier. He should be able to recruit well immediately and we'll all be eagerly watching him build out the coaching staff. I'm on press conference watch with the rest of you, waiting for it to be official.
I don't want to take all of the credit, but I'm pretty sure my huge performance last week gave Miami the positive karma it needed to hire Richt. My picks went 19-9, the best showing of the season, clearing the way for the Canes to make a splash and turn around the program. I can't say for sure, but if I had succumbed to Precise Mediocrity, Miami's new coach would've likely been Greg Schiano. Even worse, had I gone 6-22, Miami would've probably hired Charlie Weis to get that always crucial schematic advantage.
Here's an important stat - Mark Richt's teams are 4-0 at home in games I have attended. If that trend holds up, the Canes will go undefeated at Sun Life Stadium in 2016.
Earlier in the week, I was so excited by the amount of green numbers on my stats table. I was hearing the same three important questions from friends and fans - Who should the Canes hire? Can Texas stay within three scores of Baylor? Who will win the MAC Title game?
I was all ready to publish my picks on Wednesday night, but the news broke about Miami's new head coach. I weighed my options. I considered using a clickbait title about the coaching staff to draw readers in. "Canes are Considering Three DC Candidates" would've drawn a crowd, but when readers saw that all I had was a Bowling Green pick, there would've been a revolt.
I do have some important news to announce though. According to sources close to the situation, I have agreed in principle to stay with State of the U. My winning season had caught the attention of dozens of blogs and fading newspapers, but my agent Jimmy Sexton was able to secure some very lucrative offers once I finished the regular season with a 19-9 week. After numerous private jet flights, secret interviews, and long discussions with family, I decided my heart was still with Miami. I can't wait to pick the Canes week after week in 2016.
BOWLING GREEN -12 vs Northern Illinois - 8pm
BGSU should blow out Northern Illinois on Friday night. These teams are meeting in the MAC Title game for the third straight year. NIU is starting true freshman walk-on QB Tommy Fiedler, forced into action after injuries to Drew Hare and Ryan Graham. Bowling Green has an explosive offense that has made head coach Dino Babers a candidate for a better job in the coming weeks. QB Matt Johnson and RB Travis Greene will both have big games as the Falcons win by 20+.
TEXAS +20.5 at Baylor - 12pm
Baylor's players are saying all the right things this week, talking about being motivated by a potential Sugar Bowl berth. In reality, I think the Bears are still recovering from late season losses to Oklahoma and TCU. Baylor's 3rd string QB Chris Johnson has shown flashes the past few weeks, but isn't as accurate as Seth Russell or Jarrett Stidham. QB Tyrone Swoopes gets the start for Texas with Jerrod Heard injured. Texas will rely heavily on freshman RB Chris Warren, who had a breakout game last week against Texas Tech. Charlie Strong will have his team ready to play and the Longhorns will make enough plays in the running game to keep it close.
WESTERN KENTUCKY -7.5 vs Southern Miss - 12pm
The C-USA Title game should be a fun shootout to watch. Southern Miss is a great turnaround story, but won't be able to keep pace with the Hilltoppers. WKU QB Brandon Doughty has been unstoppable this season and I expect that to continue.
HOUSTON -6 vs Temple - 12pm
Both teams have had breakout seasons, Temple led by a stout defense and Houston led by an explosive offense. The Cougars dominated Navy last week with QB Greg Ward Jr. back from an injury. Ward's dual-threat ability and the talent of WR Demarcus Ayers will be the difference for Houston. Tom Herman has surprised everyone by staying at Houston and his players will reward his show of good faith. The Cougars win by two scores and earn a bid in a New Years Six Bowl game.
FLORIDA +17.5 vs Alabama - 4pm
I can't believe I'm taking the Gators in this game, but I just don't believe Alabama is that good. Florida's defense will be a challenge for RB Derrick Henry and QB Jacob Coker won't be able to make plays down the field. I expect a low-scoring game with Alabama winning by 10-14. Following a 27-2 loss to FSU, Florida simply can't play worse on offense. Treon Harris will throw at least a few balls in the vicinity of his WR's and the Gators will put up at least a touchdown.
USC +4.5 vs Stanford - 745pm
Stanford won the first meeting between these two teams in September, but the Trojans are playing much better under new head coach Clay Helton. Both defenses are vulnerable so expect big plays made by both teams all night. Adoree Jackson and Christian McCaffrey are both elite playmakers. Much like the Stanford Notre Dame game last Saturday, the team with the ball last will win a thriller. I feel confident in USC, especially when they're getting 4.5.
CLEMSON -4.5 vs North Carolina - 8pm
I've been impressed by UNC and Marquise Williams, but the Tar Heels haven't played an opponent close to Clemson's caliber this season. The Tigers are more comfortable playing in big games and QB Deshaun Watson deservedly won the ACC Player of the Year. This line seems low to me - I was expecting Clemson to be favored by more than a touchdown. I don't shy away from traps and will gladly pick Dabo's team to win in Charlotte. Pizza Parties for everyone once the Tigers take care of business and secure their spot in the Orange Bowl.
MICHIGAN STATE -3.5 vs Iowa - 8pm
The Spartans are a different team with QB Connor Cook healthy. Michigan State looked great in a blowout win over Penn State and I trust Mark Dantonio in big games. Iowa is undefeated, but like many people I am skeptical about the Hawkeyes ability to beat quality opponents. Expect a close game with the Spartans pulling out a win in the 4th quarter.