"Man, I'm the No. 1 living and breathing rock star. I am Axl Rose; I am Jim Morrison; I am Jimi Hendrix." - Kanye West
If there was a microphone in my face at 1:30am on Sunday immediately following BYU's incredible win over Boise State, Kanye would've seemed humble in comparison. I was celebrating throughout my 14-hour day of college football. Nothing could bring me down, not even America's new favorite celebrities: the former million dollar winners on Draft Kings. I've opened the season with two back-to-back winning weeks, highlighted by a five-game stretch of perfection on Saturday night. I have a winning record in every conference. I have a winning record at home, on the road, as a favorite, and as an underdog. The only blemish on my stats table is a 1-3 mark in Golden Picks. Apparently I'm at my best when I feel strongly about a pick, but avoid making any assertion of certainty. I have no doubt that will turn around in the weeks to come.
In years past, I would've titled this article "Full Overconfidence Mode," but since we are so early in the season I wanted to wait one more week before having my ego channel Donald Trump's. Precise Mediocrity hasn't found me yet in 2015, but my early success has conjured up the possibility of another old friend stopping by for a visit: Mean Reversion. Catch me if you can. I'll be at Sun Life Stadium watching the Canes play Nebraska.
Last year, I wrote two very personal articles that meant a lot to me. I shared the meaning of Miami's 1984 Orange Bowl win and talked about making a special trip to Lincoln to watch Miami play Nebraska. (Part 1 and Part 2 if you're interested) I was overwhelmed by the kind responses I received from Cornhusker fans. Countless people who read them reached out and generously offered me tickets, tailgating, and experiences in Lincoln. As a result of the articles, my friends are I were able to tour Nebraska's facilities and throw passes in Memorial Stadium early on gameday. During our trip, we couldn't walk 20 feet without being offered food or drinks by friendly Nebraska fans asking us if we were enjoying our trip. Although the result of the game wasn't what I was hoping for as the Canes fell 41-31, it was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable road games I've ever attended. On Saturday, I hope Miami fans treat visiting Nebraska fans with the same respect and hospitality I was shown last year. To all the people from Lincoln making the trip down for some football and some beach time, I hope you enjoy yourself for all but 4 hours on Saturday afternoon starting at 3:30pm.
MIAMI -3.5 vs Nebraska - 330pm
Miami's performance in the first half against FAU left Canes fans searching for answers. Negativity swirled and the anger and frustration was palpable, especially for people who had to sit through a fake lightning delay. Fans who were already tired of Al Golden coming into the season viewed the 20-17 halftime score as a validation of their feelings about him. FAU moved the ball well with a backup quarterback and Miami's offense sputtered on 3rd downs once again. My biggest worry is how many times Brad Kaaya was hit against FAU. Miami's offensive line needs to improve on pass blocking in a hurry.
I'm not about to dismiss the concerning things we saw on the field as an aberration, but in the spirit of staying positive I was very satisfied by the domination we saw in the second half. Miami's defense made some adjustments, put more pressure on the quarterback, and repeatedly forced turnovers to put the game out of reach. Through two games, Miami is +6 in turnover margin, a trend that needs to at least somewhat continue as the competition gets more challenging. The Canes have found something special in the combination of Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton at running back. Stacy Coley's return to the lineup for the Nebraska game will help this offense significantly. Waters, Scott, and Lewis are all solid, but lack the explosiveness Coley can provide.
For fans who only remember Ameer Abdullah and Tommy Armstrong running the ball down Miami's throat last year, expect to see a different Nebraska offense on Saturday. Abdullah is gone to the NFL and Armstrong is trying to be more of a pocket passer this season under Mike Riley and OC Danny Langsdorf. Through two games, he's thrown 73 passes vs just 11 rushing attempts. Nebraska lost a heartbreaker to BYU in the opening game on a Hail Mary on the final play. This will be Mike Riley's first road game as the head coach of the Cornhuskers and I expect a good crowd at Sun Life on Saturday, especially given the great history between these two programs. Nebraska's running game looked good last week led by RB Terrell Newby, but it's difficult to replace the combination of burst and strength Abdullah gave them last season. Nebraska's pass defense has struggled so far in 2015, giving up 692 yards combined against BYU and South Alabama.
James Coley has called a lot of new plays/personnel groupings in the first two games, trying out new WR screens, pop passes, flea flickers, and the wildcat. Expect a more traditional plan on Saturday, with Brad Kaaya continuing to operate mostly out of the shotgun. Kaaya has had his moments in the first two games, but hasn't been quite as sharp as I would've expected. Look for him to put up huge numbers on Saturday, proving to everyone he has the ability to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. This game will likely be close throughout and I'm giving the edge to Miami playing at home. The Canes secondary will challenge Armstrong, forcing a few errant throws that will swing momentum. Miami wins by a touchdown and continues to build positive momentum, quieting a few doubters along the way.
CLEMSON -6 at Louisville - 730pm
Louisville is 0-2 after losses to Auburn and Houston, so you can expect the Cardinals to play with desperation on Thursday night. That being said, I still think Clemson wins the game by double digits. I love the Tigers this season and QB Deshaun Watson has been as good as advertised so far in 2015. Dabo Swinney has a good defense to compliment Watson and RB Wayne Gallman. Louisville will continue to struggle while Bobby Petrino attempts to sort out which of his four QB's he wants to start/play. The musical chairs aren't the answer. Clemson wins and continues to gain national respect.
BOSTON COLLEGE +7.5 vs Florida State - 8pm
This will be a tricky game for the Noles, traveling up to Boston to play on a Friday night in front of a nice crowd at Alumni Stadium. FSU QB Everett Golson has started a ton of big games, but his wide receivers and offensive linemen are young and inexperienced. RB Dalvin Cook carried his team to a win over USF last week. Expect BC to crowd the box and force Golson to make plays in the passing game. Boston College dominated Maine and Howard, but the jury is still out on the Eagles and new QB Darius Wade. I love the energy Steve Addazio brings to his team. BC will start fast and keep this game interesting until FSU scores late to secure a close win.
NEW MEXICO +28 at Arizona State - 10pm
Arizona State has been a disappointment in both games this season, a loss to Texas A&M and a slugfest win over Cal Poly. New Mexico lost to Tulsa 40-21 last week, but the final score wasn't indicative of how close the game was midway through the second half. New Mexico's triple option attack can put up points and QB Lamar Jordan has looked like a capable passer at times this season. Look for New Mexico to try to execute Cal Poly's game plan (72 rushing attempts and just 8 passing attempts). Cal Poly controlled time of possession and was able to hang around into the fourth quarter. Arizona State wins behind big games from QB Mike Bercovici and RB D.J. Foster, but the final margin will only be 14-20 points.
ILLINOIS +10 at North Carolina - 12pm
Illinois has looked much better than expected under new interim HC Bill Cubit. The Illini have responded well to Tim Beckman's firing, beating Kent State and Western Illinois by a combined score of 96-3. QB Wes Lunt has experience and he's taken over as one of the team leaders. WR Geronimo Allison will play a few plays downfield in Chapel Hill. Illinois's defense has five interceptions already and will be facing UNC QB Marquise Williams just two weeks after his mistakes cost his team a chance to beat South Carolina. I never trust North Carolina and don't expect the Heels to step up on Saturday afternoon. Illinois is better than people think and will prove it by staying competitive, with a chance to actually pull the upset.
TULSA +30.5 at Oklahoma - 12pm
Oklahoma's comeback at Tennessee was very impressive and I loved watching QB Baker Mayfield compete. The Sooners defense rose to the occassion and dominated in the second half, keeping the game within reach. That kind of emotional win could easily lead to a letdown performance against Tulsa in a noon game on Saturday. Look for the Sooners to start slow on the way to a 20-point win.
Tulsa's offense won't be completely shut down in Norman. The Golden Hurricane have scored 40+ in both wins this season against FAU and New Mexico. QB Dane Evans has talent and a knack for big plays downfield, helped by a trio of talented WR's. Tulsa's new head coach Phil Montgomery has brought Baylor's offense (Former OC) with him and we've seen similar results in 2015. Tulsa puts up a few touchdowns early and then scores late to put me in the winners circle.
NORTHWESTERN +3.5 at Duke - 1230pm
Duke QB Thomas Sirk has been impressive this season, leading the Blue Devils in both passing yards and rushing yards. Duke has a great secondary, led by Jeremy Cash, and will make things difficult for Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson. Northwestern's defense was incredible in the opener against Stanford. This is the most athletic group Pat Fitzgerald has had in years. Look for the Wildcats to keep this game low-scoring and rely heavily on RB Justin Jackson. The team with the ball last wins by a field goal in a battle of two evenly matched teams.
GEORGIA TECH -2 at Notre Dame - 330pm
This is a great opportunity for Georgia Tech to earn some national respect and help out the ACC as well. Notre Dame's offense has been decimated by injuries at RB, TE, and QB, with starter Malik Zaire now out for the season. Backup DeShone Kizer rallied the Irish with a dramatic game-winning drive at UVA, but Saturday will be his first career start. Georgia Tech's offense gained confidence during two blowout wins to start the season against inferior competition. QB Justin Thomas is the perfect player to run Paul Johnson's offense. Notre Dame will be prepared for the triple option since the Irish play Navy every year, but Georgia Tech executes it at a higher level. Look for the Yellow Jackets to hold onto an early lead while Kizer struggles.
PURDUE +6 vs Virginia Tech - 330pm
Purdue burned me badly in Week 1 against Marshall, but here I am back on the bandwagon. Despite his mistakes late against the Herd, I like QB Austin Appleby and was impressed with how he bounced back against Indiana State (20-34 289 yards and 4TD). Purdue has a legitimate running attack this year as well, with the combo of D.J. Knox and Markell Jones at RB. Virginia Tech will be without their starting MLB due to an injury and will still feel the absence of starting QB Michael Brewer, who was hurt against Ohio State in the opener. Brenden Motley started against Furman but isn't enough of a passing threat to scare opposing defenses. Virginia Tech will struggle to score and this game will be close heading into the fourth quarter. Purdue has a shot to pull the upset at home.
AUBURN +7.5 at Lsu - 330pm
Auburn nearly lost to Jacksonville State last week and after just two weeks, an SEC favorite has largely been written off this season. QB Jeremy Johnson's performances have been the main cause for concern - five interceptions in two games. With injuries limiting Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson, RB Peyton Barber has come through with back-to-back big games for the Tigers. It looks like Auburn will get star DE Carl Lawson back for the LSU game. I have too much faith in Gus Malzahn to not pick Auburn to bounce back and compete in Baton Rouge. Johnson will show more of the promise we expected to see and Auburn will have a chance in the fourth quarter. LSU eked out a close win at Mississippi State, leaning heavily on RB Leonard Fournette while still not trusting QB Brandon Harris. LSU is always tough at home, but I'm not convinced the Tigers can score enough to blow out Auburn. This game will be decided by a field goal.
OHIO STATE -34.5 vs Northern Illinois - 330pm
NIU QB Drew Hare is experienced and has proven he's star in the MAC, but he'll be facing arguably the best defense in the nation on Saturday. Ohio State didn't play with intensity against Hawaii, sleepwalking to a 38-0 win thanks to three fourth quarter touchdowns. Braxton Miller wasn't a big factor and both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett weren't as sharp as we've seen in the past. Expect Urban Meyer to use that to motivate his team and have them ready to dominate the Huskies from start to finish. Ohio State will unleash its full potential on Saturday afternoon, putting up 50+ points on the way.
COLORADO -4 vs Colorado State - 7pm
My Colorado Buffaloes stepped up against Umass last week, reaffirming my confidence in Sefo Liufau and company. Nelson Spruce and Shay Fields combined for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 48-14 win. Colorado State lost to Minnesota in OT, in part due to an inability to make plays in the passing game. HC Mike Bobo pulled starting QB Nick Stevens after two interceptions and his backup Coleman Key led the Rams to scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Stevens will start against the Buffs, but his confidence may be shaken. The Rams played Minnesota without their star WR Rashard Higgins, who missed the game with a sprained ankle. He's likely questionable for Saturday and even if he suits up, he won't be 100%. The Buffaloes will take advantage and win this in-state rivalry by two scores.
KENTUCKY +3 vs Florida - 730pm
This is the year. Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida in 28 years. I trusted Kentucky last week and was rewarded with an upset win over South Carolina. Next up is Florida and the Wildcats return home to Lexington for what should be a great setting for SEC football at the new Commonwealth Stadium. Florida struggled through a 31-24 win over East Carolina, causing HC Jim McElwain to unleash his frustration in his post-game press conference. Florida will still likely be rotating QB's, a decision I disagree with because it doesn't allow Will Grier to stay in rhythm. Much will be made of McElwain yelling at RB Kelvin Taylor and now lowering him on the depth chart after a throat slash gesture, but I don't think that matters much. Expect Taylor to play in crunch time on the road. Kentucky showed some maturity by holding onto an early lead to beat South Carolina, a game the Wildcats would somehow find a way to lose in years past. I love the competitiveness of QB Patrick Towles and RB Jojo Kemp is an underrated player in the SEC. Kentucky ends the drought and beats the Gators by a field goal.
USC -10 vs Stanford - 8pm
USC has too much talent and speed for Stanford this season. Trojans QB Cody Kessler has been nearly perfect in 2015 and has two stars at WR in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree Jackson. Ronald Jones, Tre Madden, and Justin Davis all have big play potential in the running game as we've seen in blowout wins over Idaho and a good Arkansas State team. Stanford got back on track following a loss to Northwestern by beating UCF, but the Cardinal have looked pedestrian on offense. QB Kevin Hogan hasn't been sharp and I don't think he'll be able to keep pace with Kessler and Trojans offense. USC wins by two or three touchdowns and continues to build buzz as a possible playoff contender.
IOWA -5.5 vs Pittsburgh - 8pm
Pitt has a quarterback controversy and will be playing both Chad Voytik and Nate Peterman on Saturday night. Unfortunately for both players, they don't have the luxury of handing the ball off to star RB James Conner who is out for the season with a knee injury. Without Conner, Pitt struggled in the running game last week against Akron. WR Tyler Boyd is one of the best in the ACC and he'll be targeted often in Iowa City. This pick is mostly about how improved Iowa has looked so far in 2015. QB C.J. Beathard played a nearly perfect game against Iowa State and also was a thread in the run game. Iowa rushed for 260 yards against the Cyclones and Kirk Ferentz has a strong offensive line once again this season. Iowa grinds out another win by a touchdown at home.
ALABAMA -7 vs Ole Miss - 815pm
Alabama has a 17-game home winning streak and the atmosphere will be an incredible challenge for Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, who'll be starting his first SEC game. Kelly has looked great against Tennessee Martin and Fresno State, but facing the Crimson Tide will be as tough as it gets. Alabama is loaded on defense at nearly every position. Hugh Freeze has recruited well at Ole Miss. He has a star on defense in Robert Nkemdiche and a very deep group of stud WR's (Treadwell, Core, Stringfellow, and Adeboyejo) on offense. In the end though, I have to go with the proven commodity in this matchup - Nick Saban at home. Alabama RB Derrick Henry will continue his strong start to the season. Saban won't reveal his plan for his quarterbacks on Saturday, but I expect Jacob Coker to play most of the night. He'll have just enough success to help his team win by 10 in Tuscaloosa.
BYU +17 at Ucla - 1030pm
I've heard enough about UCLA's freshman QB Josh Rosen. Sure he's looked great in two wins against UVA and UNLV, but can we stop giving him the Heisman already? UCLA has a lot of talent, but I won't be truly impressed until I see the Bruins beat a bowl-caliber opponent. BYU has won two games in the final seconds, both on touchdown passes by freshman Tanner Mangum. The Cougars believe they'll find a way and have shown a knack for hanging around in games. BYU's defense was impressive against Boise State, holding the Broncos to just 64 yards rushing on 31 attempts. BYU can slow UCLA RB Paul Perkins and put more pressure on Rosen to beat them. This game will be close throughout.