September was an incredible month for Miami fans. The Canes didn’t just win all three games. They completely dominated nearly every minute they played. Miami’s defense looks dramatically improved, Mark Walton has become a star, and the Canes made a statement on the road in Boone. Miami’s three freshmen linebackers have exceeded expectations. Mark Richt and Manny Diaz both have approval ratings near 100. The Canes are near the top nationally in dozens of statistical categories. Given FSU’s loss to Louisville and Notre Dame’s 1-3 start, Miami has a chance to be favored in every game.
As excited as I was about September, everyone knows the real season begins in October. Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech kicks off ACC play and the next six weeks will be a significant challenge. The ACC announced yesterday that Orlando will now be the host of the 2016 conference championship game. The Canes thankfully avoid playing Clemson and Louisville in the regular season and are currently listed as the favorite to win the Coastal. It all starts with a win over Georgia Tech.
MIAMI -7 at Georgia Tech – 12pm
Daniel Tummeley wrote a great article for SOTU this week about Mark Richt having a 13-2 record against Georgia Tech as a head coach. Miami has beaten the Yellow Jackets in six out of the last seven meetings. Miami’s speed on defense is an advantage against the triple option. In addition, the experience of facing Appalachian State should help Pinckney, McCloud, and Quarterman feel a bit more comfortable on Saturday, since the Mountaineers ran some similar concepts on offense. I’m sure the Canes are closely studying Clemson’s win over Georgia Tech last week in Atlanta. The Tigers allowed just 95 yards rushing and Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas had only four completions. Georgia Tech’s defense is decent statistically but has benefited from facing two of college football’s worst offenses in Boston College and Vanderbilt.
My overconfidence is starting to make an appearance, so if I’m wrong, feel free to blame me if Miami struggles. Georgia Tech isn’t an intimidating environment for a visiting team and Miami won a Noon road game just two weeks ago. I expect Brad Kaaya to have another big game. Georgia Tech will have trouble dealing with all the weapons Miami has on offense. A fast start for the Canes could lead to a blowout. Georgia Tech’s offense isn’t built to be able to rally from behind. Miami wins by 20.
Lester Holt thought he had pressure on Monday night, but that's just because he's hasn't followed me around on a college football Saturday. After a few weeks of struggling picks, I was carrying the weight of a 400 pound hacker on my shoulders. I desperately needed a big performance to turn things around. Unfortunately, my record was 10-11 on the week, leaving me at a 45% winning percentage. I tried hard to keep it together, but when BYU scored another late touchdown to beat me yet again, I let out a primal yell of frustration. My friend heard it from a room away and said: "Wow, you really have the best temperament.” My week would’ve been a disaster had I not won two miracles in the final seconds with Arizona State and Stanford. Thank god September is over.
For all fans of teams in the Big Ten or the Big 12 - If I picked your team this week, I apologize in advance for the pain you will likely experience. The one bright spot this season has been my strong performance in the ACC. With the Hurricanes starting ACC play on Saturday, here’s to hoping my success continues.
WASHINGTON -3 vs Stanford – 9pm
Husky Stadium will be rocking on Friday night and UW always seems to play well at home. Stanford will be without several key contributors on defense. Even though the Cardinal won on the final drive against UCLA, I was extremely disappointed in Stanford’s offense. Stanford can’t finish drives and David Shaw is far too conservative. Washington’s defense will keep Christian McCaffrey in check and UW QB Jake Browning will have a nice night. The Huskies have more team speed and John Ross, Myles Gaskin, and Lavon Coleman will each make a few big plays.
BYU -3.5 vs Toledo – 1015pm
I have given up. I’ve picked against BYU four times this year and have a 0-3-1 record to show for it. BYU is 1-3 overall, but all four games have been close throughout. The Cougars will bounce back with a win at home over a talented Toledo team.
NOTRE DAME -10 vs Syracuse – 12pm
We’ll learn a lot about Notre Dame in this game at MetLife Stadium. The Irish have been the biggest disappointment of 2016, capped off by the shocking home loss to Duke last Saturday. Notre Dame fired their defensive coordinator and Brian Kelly has been ripping into his team all week to play with more passion and energy. I expect the Irish to respond and play their best game of the season, led by QB DeShone Kizer. Syracuse QB Eric Dungey is questionable and his absence would be a huge loss.
MICHIGAN -10.5 vs Wisconsin – 330pm
Let’s find out if Michigan is a legitimate title contender. Wisconsin has wins over Michigan State and LSU, led by a defense that has exceeded all expectations. Despite that, I expect Michigan to win with relative ease. The Wolverines and star Jabrill Peppers will overwhelm the Badgers in the first half in Ann Arbor.
UCONN +29 at Houston – 8pm
Picking UConn is a painful feeling, but I can’t take a Thursday night off. The Huskies are solid defensively and beat Houston 20-17 in 2015. Greg Ward Jr. is one of my favorite players in the nation so I’ll be rooting for him to play well. Houston wins by 24.
VANDERBILT +10.5 vs Florida – 12pm
Vanderbilt rewarded me with an impressive road win at Western Kentucky, while the Gators blew a 21-0 lead at Tennessee. The Gators‘ defense looks a little vulnerable and Vandy LB Zach Cunningham is one of the best players in the nation. UF might get QB Luke Del Rio back this Saturday, but I won’t be surprised if Florida looks sluggish early after the disappointing finish in Knoxville.
EAST CAROLINA -3.5 vs Central Florida – 12pm
ECU is the better team and if the Pirates avoid turnovers, this game won’t be close. WR Zay Jones has been incredible so far this season, with 49 catches in four games. QB Philip Nelson will throw for 300+ yards as ECU moves to 3-2.
TEXAS +3 at Oklahoma State – 12pm
I think OKST and WR James Washington can take advantage of Texas’s secondary. Unfortunately, the Cowboys can’t stop anyone on defense. Texas will use Tyrone Swoopes and Shane Buechele to keep OKST off balance. The Longhorns control the line of scrimmage and win a close game on the road.
OREGON STATE +18.5 at Colorado – 230pm
After beating Oregon for the biggest win for the program in years, Colorado might struggle to regain focus against an Oregon State team they are expected to dominate. The Beavers are much better this season than we saw in 2015. Gary Andersen’s team will play hard and should be able to put up enough points to keep this game interesting. The Buffs win, but only by 7-10.
WEST VIRGINIA -3.5 vs Kansas State – 330pm
KState won’t be able to stop West Virginia’s offense, led by QB Skyler Howard and RB Rushel Shell. The Mountaineers are usually a safe pick at home.
PURDUE +10.5 at Maryland – 330pm
Maryland is 3-0, avoiding turnovers, and looks improved this season. That being said, the Terps beat Howard, FIU, and barely knocked off UCF. Purdue will be able to hang around. Maryland and QB Perry Hills win by a touchdown.
TENNESSEE -4 at Georgia – 330pm
UGA’s star RB Nick Chubb is getting hit in the backfield on seemingly every play. Expect a huge game from Tennessee’s best player, DE Derek Barnett. QB Josh Dobbs regained confidence in the comeback win over Florida.
OKLAHOMA -3.5 at Tcu – 5pm
Oklahoma entered the season with title aspirations, but losses to Ohio State and Houston derailed those dreams. The Sooners have one goal left - to win the Big 12. Oklahoma has more talent on both sides of the ball and TCU lost its best playmaker (WR KaVontae Turpin) to an injury. Mayfield, Mixon, and Perine will be too much for TCU’s defense to deal with.
UTAH +1.5 at California – 6pm
I’m officially on the Utah bandwagon. The Utes have a defense capable of slowing down Cal QB Davis Webb. Last season, Utah intercepted Jared Goff five times in a win in Salt Lake City. Utah QB Troy Williams is gaining confidence each week and is good enough to take advantage of a dreadful Cal defense.
OLE MISS -14.5 vs Memphis – 7pm
Ole Miss is one of the best 2-2 teams I’ve ever seen. Memphis beat the Rebels last season so you can be sure Ole Miss will be ready this time. Look for Chad Kelly to have a big game. Memphis can’t match up with the speed and size Ole Miss has at WR and TE.
KENTUCKY +35 at Alabama – 7pm
For whatever reason, I feel obligated to pick Kentucky every week. Alabama plays Kentucky before two huge road games against Arkansas and Tennessee. Nick Saban will ease up a bit, put the backups in, and only beat the Wildcats by 28.
CLEMSON +2.5 vs Louisville – 8pm
Like everyone else, I absolutely love watching Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. This line has been flying towards Jackson and the Cardinals, after opening with Clemson as a small favorite. Until proven otherwise, I will continue to back Clemson and Deshaun Watson. Clemson has the advantage of playing in Death Valley and has one of the nation’s best defenses. Brent Venables is one of the best coordinators in college football. He’ll have the Tigers ready with a plan to slow down Jackson. Clemson wins a close one and stays undefeated.
MICHIGAN STATE -7 at Indiana – 8pm
Michigan State’s 30-6 loss to Wisconsin was a lot closer than the score makes it seem. Indiana had trouble stopping Wake Forest last week and Hoosiers’ QB Richard Lagow had a disastrous performance. The Spartans will dominate the line of scrimmage and bounce back with a blowout win on the road.
ARIZONA STATE +10 at Usc – 830pm
This feels like a trap, but I’m not afraid to fall into it. Arizona State is 4-0 and has relied on strong fourth-quarter rallies three weeks in a row. This game will be high-scoring and the team with the ball last likely wins. The Sun Devils are good enough to win this game outright, especially if USC starts slowly. Clay Helton looks over-matched in his first season as a head coach.
OREGON -2.5 at Washington State – 930pm
Expect an epic shootout on Saturday night. After a bad loss to Colorado last week and a road loss at Nebraska two weeks ago, I simply can’t see the Ducks losing three times in a row. Washington State QB Luke Falk will put up his usual big numbers, but Oregon QB Dakota Prukop and RB Royce Freeman will win the game in the fourth quarter.