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Miami Cincy Pick & Oregon Recap - Stay Strong & Press On

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It's a short week - Time to get ready for Miami's game at Cincinnati on Thursday night. I pick the Canes and other games from across the country. I also share pictures and experiences from last week's trip to Oregon and Oregon State.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It's safe to say that the name John Pickens will appear on no-fly lists at Portland's airport going forward. While I had a great trip to Corvallis and Eugene to watch two Pac-12 contests, my jinxing effect devastated the home teams. Oregon and Oregon State lost by a combined score of 104-44. I don't want to overestimate my power, but if the Ducks don't return to the top of the conference in the next year or two, you'll know who's to blame. I picked Utah +11, but at halftime with the Utes leading 27-13, our group universally thought that Oregon -7 in the second half was a virtual lock. Sure Utah had looked great, but the whole stadium was waiting for the Ducks to mount a comeback. Utah opened the second half by scoring 35 straight points....You're welcome Utes fans. 

Both Reser Stadium and Autzen Stadium were memorable venues, reminding me why I love college football. We saw the sights in Corvallis and took a quick ride on the only escalator in town. Oregon State played well in the first half and kept the home crowd excited until the 4th quarter. On the last play of the game, the Beavers attempted a Hail Mary to cut the final margin to 11 and save my pick in dramatic fashion, but the ball fell short just a few feet in front of us.

The setting in Eugene for a night game with the mountains in the background is 180 degrees from Sun Life Stadium. Following the conclusion of each game, fans were allowed to throw passes on the field and take pictures. Utah fans enjoyed every second of it, relishing the dominating blowout over the Ducks. Our group took full advantage as well, reenacting a few plays we'd seen earlier in the day. Even though half of us raced from midfield to the goal-line (which took 7-8 seconds), major injury was avoided. Enjoy some of my photos at the bottom of the article.

"When adversity strikes, that's when you have to be the most calm. Take a step back, stay strong, stay grounded and press on." - LL Cool J

After roaring out of the gates the first two weeks, my picks have struggled on back to back weekends. I went 6-10-1, a record that simply isn't good enough. September has to be ruled a failure because finishing below 50% for a month won't help me reach my lofty goals of 55% and immortality. At least I can hang my hat on one thing: I'm 4-0 in games involving BYU. The Cougars play seven more games against FBS opponents this season so that should help boost my record in the coming weeks. October starts with me picking the Miami Hurricanes, but I'm a hideous 6-12 in ACC games so far. Disregard that stat and listen to LL Cool J - Stay calm, stay strong, and press on.

Thursday 

MIAMI -6.5 at Cincinnati - 730pm

We've all been talking about it but it bears repeating. Miami will be without safeties Jamal Carter and Deon Bush for the first half tomorrow night. It's time for Dallas Crawford and Rayshawn Jenkins to step up. The one positive is that we'll get to see freshman stud Jaquan Johnson get some extended playing time. Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore proved himself against Memphis with an incredible performance, but he'll be facing a tougher challenge against Miami's defense. The Bearcats play at a relentless pace and how effectively the Canes deal with the tempo will be a major factor in deciding the game's outcome. This is the time for Miami's improved depth on defense to be a difference maker. The Canes have a group of quality defensive linemen to rotate and stay fresh. Despite putting up big numbers last week, Moore is still young and turnover prone and will struggle if the Canes can create pressure in his face.

The trip to Cincinnati will be Miami's first real road test of the season. Brad Kaaya needs to show he's one of the leaders on this team. Starting fast will be crucial because the Bearcats will play with emotion early in front of a sellout crowd, eager for this marquee matchup on Thursday night. Cincy's pass defense is vulnerable to big plays and Kaaya should have opportunities downfield throughout the game. Joe Yearby and Mark Walton should be able to continue their impressive start to the season, helping to give Miami's defense some much needed rest on the sidelines. Cincinnati ran 100 plays against Memphis. If Miami gets that number down in the 70's by controlling the line of scrimmage, the Canes will win by two scores or more.

We are going to learn a lot about the maturity of this team tomorrow night. Road games on weeknights are always challenging, especially in this case against an opponent with a potent offense. Miami is more balanced and has more talent on both sides of the ball. The Canes win 41-24, quieting the doubters a bit heading into a showdown at Florida State on October 10th.

Friday

MEMPHIS -8.5 at South Florida - 7pm

I'll trust Memphis QB Paxton Lynch on Friday night. The Tigers defense was a disaster against Cincinnati, giving up 620 passing yards in a shootout 53-46 win. Fortunately for Memphis, South Florida's QB Quinton Flowers can't beat you with his arm downfield and struggles with accuracy. USF will play tough on defense early, but doesn't have the firepower on offense to keep pace in the second half. Memphis by 14.

GOLDEN PICK

BYU -19 vs Uconn - 1015pm

Uconn can't score and is only 2-2 thanks to a schedule that opened with games against Villanova and Army. The Huskies are averaging less than 18ppg. After a brutal September gauntlet, BYU looked tired and was shut out at Michigan. The Cougars will play angry on Friday night at home and QB Tanner Mangum will have a big night. Reminder - I'm 4-0 in BYU games this season. Keep it going.

GOLDEN PICK

NORTHWESTERN -4 vs Minnesota - 12pm

Minnesota has been involved in some thrilling close games this season and the Gophers enter Big Ten play at 3-1. Northwestern's defense has been elite in 2015 and the win over Stanford looks better and better each week. The Wildcats will win by a touchdown at home behind an offense that finally found its stride against Ball State. Star RB Justin Jackson will have a big game and QB Clayton Thorson has shown signs of improvement.

IOWA +7 at Wisconsin - 12pm

Wisconsin's offense hasn't been as explosive as we're used to seeing, scoring just 28 points in wins over Troy and Hawaii. The Badgers will now be without star RB Corey Clement who is out with an injury. Iowa is off to a 4-0 start behind the play of QB C.J. Beathard and RB Jordan Canzeri. The Hawkeyes are still being overlooked in the Big Ten West and have a chance to make some noise if they knock off Wisconsin. Upset Alert in Madison.

MISSOURI -3.5 vs South Carolina - 12pm

QB Maty Mauk was suspended for this game and Missouri fans everywhere likely high-fived anyone standing near them. Freshman Drew Lock is probably better and certainly has more potential. He'll be able to win his first start against a South Carolina team searching for an identity on offense. QB Lorenzo Nunez played well in the second half to beat UCF, but he'll be making his first start on the road in the SEC.

TEXAS +15 at Tcu - 12pm

TCU's defense is dreadful after being decimated by injuries. Texas has lost two heartbreakers in a row, but Charlie Strong's team has shown improvement and is playing with more confidence now that QB Jerron Heard is the starter. Texas will make a few plays early to hang around and put some pressure on TCU as a heavy favorite. The Longhorns are showing a lot of fight, they just haven't been rewarded with results just yet.

WEST VIRGINIA +7 at Oklahoma - 12pm

West Virginia has been able to put up big offensive numbers against the Sooners in recent years and Oklahoma's defense had issues with Tulsa in mid-September. WVU QB Skyler Howard has been efficient this season, but the biggest surprise has been the play of the Mountaineers' defense, allowing just 7.7 points per game so far. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine will be a big test for WVU. I expect a back-and-forth game decided by less than a touchdown in the conference opener for both of these quality teams.

LOUISVILLE +4.5 at Nc State - 1230pm

While the numbers indicate that NCST is going to have a big season, we really can't take much away from four wins over Troy, EKU, Old Dominion, and South Alabama. Louisville is 1-3 overall and already 0-1 in the ACC. The Cardinals will be playing with their backs against the wall and have the talent to beat the NCST. Bobby Petrino finally gave the job to QB Lamar Jackson and he'll have a big afternoon on the ground in Raleigh. Don't be surprised if NCST trips up at home or escapes on a late field goal drive led by their star QB Jacoby Brissett.

INDIANA +21 vs Ohio State - 330pm

It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Indiana Hoosiers are 4-0 after some close calls against inferior opponents. Now the defending champs come to town for one of the biggest games in Bloomington in recent memory. Indiana RB Jordan Howard has been great this season and he'll help take the pressure off QB Nate Sudfeld. Ohio State hasn't played as well as we expected so far in 2015 and until I see that vintage Buckeyes performance, I'll go with Indiana to keep things interesting early and lose by 14-17. Urban Meyer needs to stick with one QB going forward.

TEXAS TECH +17 vs Baylor - 330pm - Game in Arlington

Despite an injury, I expect Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes to be ready to play on Saturday. This game will be a shootout with both defenses struggling to get off the field. Baylor has dominated SMU, Lamar, and Rice, but will get a real challenge from a much improved Texas Tech team that nearly beat TCU last week. The Red Raiders will prove that performance wasn't a fluke and stay close with the Bears throughout. Baylor wins in a thriller that could break 100 points.

DUKE -6.5 vs Boston College - 330pm

BC is running out of players on offense. Both teams have been great on defense in 2015 and the O/U is an incredible 39.5. Look for Duke to win a low-scoring game. The Blue Devils proved a lot last week in a confidence building win over Georgia Tech. Boston College won't be able to score more than twice without Hilliman and Wade, whose replacements aren't even healthy.

ALABAMA +2.5 at Georgia - 330pm

The Crimson Tide are an underdog for the first time in 72 games, ending an incredible streak. Georgia is 4-0 and is playing at home, but the Bulldogs haven't really been tested yet in 2015. Alabama will benefit from the loss to Ole Miss and certainly won't be intimidated playing in Athens. I know UGA QB Greyson Lambert has been nearly perfect this season, but I can't trust him to beat Alabama given what I saw from him at Virginia. Good luck to him trying to prove me wrong on a big stage against Nick Saban. Alabama wins by a touchdown.

OKLAHOMA STATE -8 vs Kansas State - 4pm

Kansas State is 3-0, but the Wildcats haven't shown us much yet in 2015. OKST escaped with a win over Texas despite turning the ball over repeatedly in an effort to blow the game. I expect QB Mason Rudolph to bounce back and play well on Saturday. The Cowboys defense will get after KSU's Joe Hubener and give the Wildcats their first loss of the year.

OLE MISS -7.5 at Florida - 7pm

This Florida 4th down magic has to end at some point. The Gators pulled off a miracle last week against Tennessee. Ole Miss has more talent than the Vols and is better equipped to hold onto a second half lead. Florida's defense will get Jalen Tabor back, but it won't be enough. Chad Kelly and the Rebels win by two scores.

ARKANSAS +6.5 at Tennessee - 7pm

Something has to give. Bret Bielema and Butch Jones have proven themselves to be incapable of winning a close game in the SEC, but one of them will finally break through on Saturday night. This game will be low-scoring and close throughout. Butch Jones might go for 2 every possession since it's clear the card he's relying on is completely random. Arkansas steps up and looks like the team many expected to see in September.

GOLDEN PICK

TEXAS A&M -7 vs Mississippi State - 730pm

Mississippi State was fortunate to beat Auburn, despite being outgained and outplayed most of the night. The Bulldogs haven't been able to run effectively this season against SEC teams and won't be able to keep pace with Texas A&M. The Aggies have a star in QB Kyle Allen and the emergence of WR Christian Kirk has taken this team to another level. Kevin Sumlin's team wins by 10 at home.

ARIZONA STATE +14 at Ucla - 730pm

I keep picking against UCLA and keep losing. Let's go back to the well one more time. Arizona State's offense created chances against USC, but turnovers doomed the Sun Devils. UCLA pounded Arizona on the scoreboard, but the Bruins allowed a huge amount of rushing yards without their leader Myles Jack. Arizona State's offense will do just enough to keep this game interesting heading into the 4th quarter.

CLEMSON pk vs Notre Dame - 8pm

Both teams have elite defenses, but I'm giving the edge in this game to Clemson because I love QB Deshaun Watson and the atmosphere in Death Valley. This is QB DeShone Kizer's first road start at Notre Dame.  ND's injuries finally catch up to them and the ACC gets a big win.

SAN DIEGO STATE -9 vs Fresno State - 1030pm

Fresno State is a mess and has already lost two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. The only healthy player with experience is Zack Greenlee, but he was suspended last week after an arrest for public drunkenness. It's unclear if he'll be able to play this week, but it won't matter. The dysfunction will allow SDSU to win by two scores at home.

Utah fans doing their own version of "The U"