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The Picks - Winning The Day on My Trip to Oregon

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I share my picks for this weekend's games and discuss my trip to Oregon to scout the Pac-12 in person. Seeing two games in two days is the best way to spend Miami's bye week.

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The official state motto of Oregon is "Alis volat propris," which is a Latin phrase that means "She Flies With Her Own Wings." It wasn't for a lack of trying, but I fell short of my goal of securing a Gulfstream. On Thursday morning, twelve guys will be relying on the wings of a two 747's to fly us to Portland for a unique bachelor party. Hopefully our trip and the interest in this article results in a permanent direct flight from Fort Lauderdale to Portland, but I'm not counting on it. I wrote extensively about the trip this summer and can't wait to see three top 25 teams play. I've traveled across the country to watch live college football, but haven't visited nearly enough Pac-12 Stadiums. It's time to change that. Oregon, Utah, and Stanford all have quarterbacks that are questionable this weekend, but I'm optimistic that Kevin Hogan, Vernon Adams, and Travis Wilson will all be able to start, giving us the chance to see these teams at their best. Here's a brief overview of our itinerary.

Thursday in Portland - Farm to table dinner, craft breweries, other millennial things, and 50 conversations about why we're all wearing Miami gear.

Friday in Corvallis - Touring Oregon State's athletic facilities searching for relatives of Gary Payton, Tailgating at Truax with Beavers fans, and watching Oregon State try to upset Stanford at 7pm at Reser Stadium.

Saturday in Eugene - Carving out space at the sports bars in Eugene that open before 9am for Big Ten kickoffs, cheering on my numerous picks that are likely doomed to mediocrity, and doing pushups after each Oregon score inside Autzen Stadium while watching the Ducks take on Utah.

Expect my Twitter account to be filled with pictures from the stadiums and anything else interesting we find on our college football pilgrimage to the Pacific Northwest.

Friday

OREGON STATE +15.5 vs Stanford - 10pm

Stanford laid an egg in the opener at Northwestern, but in a 10-point win over USC the Cardinal finally looked like the team some had pegged for a Playoff contender this summer.  QB Kevin Hogan and RB Christian McCaffrey both had big games and David Shaw's team had the ball for nearly 40 minutes. Hogan's status for the game in Corvalis is in question and he's being listed as a game-time decision with an ankle injury. I have to believe he'll gut it out and play, but he won't have the ability to scramble or contribute in the running game. Stanford is due for a letdown after the huge win over the Trojans.

Oregon State's freshman QB Seth Collins has struggled as a passer this season, but he rushed for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns last week in a win over San Jose State. RB Storm Woods got on track as well and had a big game. Oregon State's defense will rely on the emotion of the crowd and the Beavers' offense will get a big play from Victor Bolden in the first half.  Oregon State hangs around and keeps this game interesting heading into the fourth quarter. If the Beavers can somehow pull the upset, I'll be the first one running on the field to celebrate.

Saturday

UTAH +11 at Oregon - 845pm

Both starting QB's, Utah's Travis Wilson and Oregon's Vernon Adams, are questionable with injuries, but I expect them to play in a matchup of this magnitude. If the backups are forced to play, I have more confidence in Utah's Kendal Thompson than I do in Oregon's Jeff Lockie. Both teams have aspirations of winning the Pac-12 and this should be one of the best games of the weekend. Expect both RB's (Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker) to have big nights in what should be a high-scoring affair. It's difficult to evaluate Oregon's defense because the Ducks score so many points quickly. Georgia State and Eastern Washington both put up points on Oregon, but I expect a more focused defensive effort on Saturday night. While I think the Utes will be able to keep it close throughout, look for the Ducks to take control in the fourth quarter and win by 7-10.

Thursday

GOLDEN PICK
MEMPHIS -10 vs Cincinnati - 730pm

Cincy QB Gunner Kiel is questionable for the game on Thursday and his backup Hayden Moore committed four turnovers in limited action against Miami Ohio last week. Memphis has a proven winner in QB Paxton Lynch and he's been nearly perfect this season in wins over Kansas and Bowling Green. The Tigers have the better defense and will control the game whether Kiel plays or not. Cincinnati has nine turnovers in their last two games (a loss to Temple and a close win over Miami Ohio). Look for that sloppy play to continue. Memphis moves to 4-0 and becomes firmly established as the AAC favorite.

Friday
VIRGINIA +3 vs Boise State - 8pm

Mike London has to win one of these games doesn't he? Here is his chance to keep himself off the hot seat temporarily. Boise State has to travel across the country to play in a road Friday night game without starting QB Ryan Finley who broke his ankle last week. Thomas Stuart or Brett Rypien will start for the Broncos, but neither has any real experience. Virginia's defense will be aggressive and will take advantage of what's likely going to be a conservative approach from BSU. QB Matt Johns has been a bright spot for Virginia this season and he'll play well on Friday. Virginia nearly beat Notre Dame at home and the Cavs will learn from that experience and finish this game in the fourth quarter.

Saturday

GOLDEN PICK
BOWLING GREEN -2 at Purdue - 12pm

Purdue's Austin Appleby is heading to the bench and redshirt freshman QB David Blough will be making his first career start on Saturday. He'll have a tough task trying to keep pace with Bowling Green's explosive offense. BGSU's defense is dreadful, but I'm not sure Blough will be able to take advantage. Purdue has let me down twice already this season and it's unlikely I trust the Boilers again. BGSU QB Matt Johnson has thrived in Dino Babers' offense and WR Roger Lewis has 461 yards and 5 touchdowns in his last two games. Bowling Green puts up 30+ and pulls away in the second half.

KANSAS +12.5 at Rutgers - 12pm

Wait a second. I'm picking Kansas? The team that has lost 30 straight road games? I'm a glutton for punishment. Rutgers HC Kyle Flood is still suspended and the Scarlet Knights were dominated at Penn State with an interim coach in charge. Rutgers has lost what seems like a dozen players to suspensions and dismissals, but the biggest news was star WR Leonte Carroo being charged with assault. Without their best playmaker, Rutgers struggled to move the ball against Penn State and looked like a team absent of leadership. I expect the Jayhawks and QB Montell Cozart be able to score at least a few touchdowns on Saturday afternoon. Rutgers should win, but with the current dysfunction surrounding the program, expecting a blowout seems like a bad idea.

GEORGIA TECH -8.5 at Duke - 12pm

Both teams are coming off losses and will be excited to start ACC play. Duke QB Thomas Sirk had trouble creating offense against Northwestern and the Blue Devils haven't been able to replace the explosiveness of Jamison Crowder. Georgia Tech's option offense didn't work against Notre Dame and the Yellow Jackets were forced into far too many 3rd and long situations. Justin Thomas went 8-24 passing against a Notre Dame's defense that will prove to be one of the best in the nation. He won't have to throw much on Saturday in Durham. Thomas and his RB's will be able to take advantage of a smaller Duke defense en-route to a two touchdown win.

MICHIGAN -4.5 vs Byu - 12pm

This is a nice test for the Wolverines before they enter Big Ten play. Jim Harbaugh's team has found an identity: A power running game led by RB De'Veon Smith and a dominant defense that completely shut down Oregon State and UNLV. I'm 3-0 picking BYU this season, but the Cougars have to run out of gas at some point. Three straight games have come down to the wire and BYU lost a close one at UCLA late Saturday night. The Cougars will need to play physical to have a chance in Ann Arbor. BYU's secondary has forced a ton of turnovers, but the Cougars allowed UCLA RB Paul Perkins to go for 216 yards on 26 carries. The Wolverines will impose their will on BYU early and take control of the game at home. Michigan moves to 3-1 and give a vintage Harbaugh performance.

TENNESSEE -1 at Florida - 330pm

Ok Tennessee. Here is another chance to win a big game. The Vols choked against Oklahoma, but showed in the first half of that game what this team is capable of. Florida has beaten Tennessee 10 straight times and the Vols have to travel to Gainesville. Despite that, I'm picking Butch Jones and his guys to break through. Florida's offense has been ugly in 2015. QB Will Grier has been chosen as the clear starter, but he was shaky all night at Kentucky. The Gators have struggled to run the ball effectively and are 3-0 thanks to a stout defense. Florida has suspended starting CB Jalen Tabor and his absence gives the Vols an edge. Tennessee has two talented RB's in Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd and I expect them to have some success early in this game. QB Josh Dobbs will make just enough plays to lead his team to a close victory.

OKLAHOMA STATE -3 at Texas - 330pm

Texas finally found a quarterback. Jerrod Heard set school records in a heartbreaking loss to Cal last week. WR Daje Johnson stepped up and made several big plays early in the game. Unfortunately for Charlie Strong, the Longhorns defense continues to struggle and has allowed 37ppg in 2015. Oklahoma State's offense has looked good behind QB Mason Rudolph. Mike Gundy's defense is improved and allowing just 300 yards a game. I think the Cowboys win a close game in Austin. It will be tough for Texas to bounce back from such an emotional loss, especially given the way the game ended.

ILLINOIS -6 vs Middle Tennessee - 4pm

MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill is relying on his son Brent to continue to play well as the starting QB. After failing to do much against Alabama, the Blue Raiders crushed Charlotte last week and scored 73 points.

We'll find out how much control Bill Cubit has over his team on Saturday. Illinois was blown out by North Carolina last week thanks to missed opportunities in the red zone, poor special teams, and nine drops by receivers. Illinois had 400 yards of offense vs 471 for UNC, both teams committed just one turnover, but the Illini found a way to lose by 34. UNC WR Ryan Switzer changed the game with 168 yards on 5 punt returns, including one for a touchdown. Expect Illinois to make significant adjustments this week in practice. The Illini get back on track as QB Wes Lunt leads his team to a ten-point victory.

TEXAS TECH +7.5 vs Tcu - 445pm

I buying the Texas Tech hype after a big win over Arkansas. Kliff Kingsbury's team is much better in 2015, especially on defense with almost everyone back. QB Patrick Mahomes has played great in all three wins and he's been able to protect the ball, which was a major issue for the Red Raiders last year. Texas Tech gave up 82 points to TCU last year in Fort Worth and all offseason this game has been circled on the calendar as motivation. TCU QB Trevone Boykin has been putting up big numbers again in 2015, but he isn't backed up by an elite defense anymore. Even Gary Patterson can't fix a unit that has lost nearly every key contributor to graduation, injuries, and suspensions. TCU gave up nearly 500 yards and 37 points to SMU last week. The Horned Frogs might win this one in a shootout, but the margin of victory will be a touchdown or less. The team with the ball last wins.

KENTUCKY -3 vs Missouri - 730pm

Both teams enter Saturday with struggling offenses and need better play from their quarterbacks. Kentucky QB Patrick Towles was awful in a close loss to Florida and Missouri's Maty Mauk continues to turn the ball over. Missouri will turn to freshman QB Drew Lock for at least a few series, but he'll struggle with the environment on the road. Both teams have good defenses so I expect this game to be low scoring. Kentucky RB Stanley Williams will take a little pressure off of Towles and the Wildcats will bounce back at home. Missouri doesn't deserve to be ranked after a 9-6 win over Uconn and the Tigers will drop out of the Top 25 once and for all after a loss Saturday night.

AUBURN -1.5 vs Mississippi State - 730pm

Big news came down this week at Auburn. Jeremy Johnson heads to the bench and QB Sean White will make his first career start against the Bulldogs. This is a must win for both teams because two early losses would be tough to overcome in the SEC West. LSU beat both Auburn and MSU thanks to current Heisman favorite RB Leonard Fournette. I'm down on Mississippi State this season and have decided to back Gus Malzahn one final time before giving up on him in 2015. Carl Lawson's absence on defense for the Tigers is a significant loss, but Auburn will rally around White and win a close game at home at night.

GOLDEN PICK
ARIZONA +4 vs Ucla - 8pm

I successfully picked against UCLA's hype train last week and can't wait to do it again. In his first legitimate test, freshman QB Josh Rosen looked human and struggled against BYU. Now he'll be making his first appearance on the road in the Pac 12 in a tough environment, especially with College Game Day coming to Tucson. Rich Rodriguez hasn't had success against UCLA during his tenure at Arizona, but I expect that to change on Saturday night. QB Anu Solomon will have a big game and get his playmaking WR's the ball in space. UCLA RB Paul Perkins and Arizona RB Nick Wilson are two of the best in the nation at their position. Arizona's star LB Scooby Wright is questionable and if he's able to play that would be a huge boost to his team. UCLA's best player Myles Jack is out for the season and he'll be sorely missed on the Bruins defense. Expect a thrilling game, with the edge going to Solomon's experience and to the Wildcats playing at home.

ARIZONA STATE +6 vs Usc - 1030pm

USC's loss to Stanford showed that while the Trojans are talented on offense, they still have issues. QB Cody Kessler has been nearly perfect and WR Juju Smith-Schuster has been dynamic, but USC's defense was pushed around by the Cardinal. Arizona State is a tough team to evaluate after an opening week loss to Texas A&M and two uninspiring wins over triple option teams (Cal Poly and New Mexico). The Sun Devils will be ready to play at home and QB Mike Bercovici will be able to make plays against the Trojans. RB Demario Richard has been great both on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield so far this season. I expect a high-scoring back-and-forth battle between two talented teams. The team with the ball last wins by a field goal.