2017 – Week 3 Picks

We went 6-4 straight up and 4-6 against the spread last week.  Those are ok numbers.  We did nail the upset of the week.  Oklahoma looked awesome going into the Horseshoe and beating up Ohio State.  The game wasn't even as close as the score.  There were a few failed 4th down attempts in Buckeye territory that kept Oklahoma from scoring more in the first half.

Week 3 doesn't look to be full of many high profile match ups.  There is a gem of a game in primetime between Clemson and Louisville.  Lamar Jackson is putting up ridiculous numbers again showing that last year's Heisman wasn't a fluke despite struggling down the stretch a little bit last year.  If he can put up some numbers against this incredibly stingy Clemson defense, get ready for weeks and weeks of talk about winning a second straight Heisman.

The effects of Hurricane Irma are still being felt.  Some games have been canceled including Florida State-Miami.  So Florida State will still have -5 points heading into week 4 of the season.  I don't think that was predicted by anyone.

Onto the picks!

Teams on bye:  Maryland, Michigan State, Arkansas, Navy, Eastern Michigan, Hawaii, UNLV, Georgia Southern.  Miami-Florida State, Florida International-Indiana, and Georgia Tech-Central Florida have all been postponed due to Hurricane Irma.

   #10 Wisconsin

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   BYU (+16)

Wisconsin is back to doing what it does best, dominating games in the trenches and wearing down its opponents with a relentless ground game.  They may have just discovered the next great Badger running back in Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor made his first career start at running back filling in for injured Bradrick Shaw and he did not disappoint totaling 223 yards and three scores. After two games, Taylor is the Big Ten’s leading rusher, the Badgers are leading the Big Ten in total offense, and expectations is Madison are soaring.

While Wisconsin is trending upward on offense, it’s a much different story for BYU. BYU ranks 124th nationally in total offense (231.7 ypg) and points per game (11.0). And while some of this is the result of a very good LSU defense shutting them out, they just have looked plain inept when they’ve had to move the ball down the field. BYU’s offense will be facing another stiff test against a Wisconsin team that has given up just 24 points on the season.

Wisconsin has a tendency to start off slow, and playing at Provo for the first time in school history could present a hiccup. I think this game starts at a snails pace with lots of punts, but the Badgers will find their rhythm and put this one out of reach by the end of the third quarter.

PICK: Wisconsin 41, BYU 17

   #9 Oklahoma St.

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 Pittsburgh (+13.5)

Another rematch from 2016.  Last year was most certainly entertaining with a 44-38 score.  Problem for Pitt this year is that their offense is total trash and OK State has improved on D and improved on O.  I fully expect another blowout for the Pokes.  OK State QB Mason Rudolph is on a freaking roll.  Pitt’s D has no business stopping any of that.  Rudolph has the best WR crew possibly in OK State history and has solid RBs.

Pitt has lost its luster on offense since their talented RB James Conner has gone on to the NFL and the QB situation is shaky at best.  Normally Narduzzi is known for his defense after leading Michigan St to glory for years on end.  It seems that the recruiting has suffered a little bit and the D has become somewhat average.  Pitt has regressed back to where Pitt lived for years on end…..this is a 6-6 team through and through.

Expect another dominant performance from OK State on offense and a TO happy defense that will give Pitt so many problems you can’t count them on one hand.  OK State runs away with this one.

PICK: OK State 44, Pitt 19

  #25 UCLA

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   Memphis (+3)

Chosen feaking Rosen.  Everyone and their mom was trashing this guy to the end of the world after the last couple of years.  He’s really good at making you hate him.  Turns out the hot prospect woke up and is dominating everyone.  UCLA will need to throw the ball over 40 times per game to win, because the run blocking is awful at best.  Luckily the OC figured that out and let the pigskin fly out of the Chosen’s hands.  They’ll continue to throw on everyone to try and win games. Memphis should be a walk in the park compared to the top notch teams in the PAC12.

Memphis is still solid, but not good enough to beat a quality PAC12 team at this point.  A few years back, they would have given them a solid run.  The D is nothing to shake a stick at, to say the least.  Actually the D is kind of crappy.  The offense will not be able to keep up with the Chosen One.  Memphis will do everything they can to keep up, but in the end UCLA will win by 10

Memphis impresses enough but can’t finish it off.

PICK: UCLA 34, Memphis 24

   SMU

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   #20 TCU (-18)

TCU impressed last week, and it looks like the D is back after shutting down the Razorbacks.  QB Hill was less than impressive against Arkansas, but you can bet that he’ll surpass 300 yds this week since SMU allowed Noth Texas to sling the ball all over the field.  Kenny Trill will make a comeback this week, but will the D hold up against a Chad Morris offense that always puts up serious points?  Defense tends to be an afterthought for Mr. Morris.  It seems like TCU is a legit contender for the Big 12 along with Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. 

SMU has plenty of tools to score points to keep up with TCU, and I fully expect a close game in the first half.  But TCU’s defense will kick in and Kenny Hill will have his way in the air to finish off the Mustangs.  I don’t think there’s any doubt that TCU has got this one in the bag.

PICK: TCU 41, SMU 24

   #23 Tennessee

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   #24 Florida (-5.5)

We have SEC royalty trash against SEC royalty trash here ladies and gents.  Tennessee is one game away from a dumpster fire and Florida’s offense is a current dumpster fire, as usual.  We have a phenomenal D in Florida against a below average O with Tennessee, and terrible O with Florida against terrible D with Tennessee.  Can Florida put up enough pts to take the lead in the SEC East?  That’s the big question.  It’s the only top 25 matchup all week and it’s literally the worst matchup we could have asked for in all the land.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be entertaining. 

Tennessee seems to have a decent QB that can sling it, but he’ll get smothered for the most part by Florida’s D.  Florida’s D is the only reason that they are still top 25.  I feel like Florida’s D gives them the edge in this game, but not by much.  This one will come down to the end.  I think Tennessee is out of miracles….they’ll cover the spread but not win outright.  There should be some sort of disclaimer before you watch this game…i.e. could give you a heart attack or an anxiety disorder.

I’ll take Florida by the skin of their teeth here, but it could easily go either way.  How does Florida not have a solid QB yet?  This is the 8th wonder of the world.  The D will carry them to a slight victory and disappoint everyone that witnesses this travesty.

PICK: Florida 27, Tennessee 23

   Kentucky

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   South Carolina (-6.5)

IF South Carolina beats Kentucky this weekend (I capitalized “if” for a reason), it’s fair to say the Gamecocks are a legitimate threat to win the SEC East and get to Atlanta. For what it’s worth, nobody is overlooking Kentucky.  The Wildcats are an improved squad themselves, and there are still plenty of people who believe they could shake things up in the East.

But South Carolina will be in prime position to threaten the likes of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Why am I so high on the Gamecocks already? Well, hopefully they will keep me out of the dreaded bunnysuit, and the quarterback situation has a lot to do with that. As in, South Carolina finally has its answer at that position.  The Jake Bentley bandwagon only picked up steam with his first two outings of the season. Bentley and Deebo Samuel, look like one of the SEC’s best 1-2 punches. Throw in Hayden Hurst’s presence, and South Carolina could easily finish with one of the league’s top offenses.

But it’s the defensive side of the ball where South Carolina really has exceeded expectations. Remember when everyone thought Missouri and South Carolina would break the scoreboard? Well, Missouri put up a whopping 13 points. At home.

Kentucky is playing very South Carolina-like so far. It’s owning the turnover margin, it’s doing fine in time of possession, and it’s finding a nice knack for capitalizing on every opportunity. If UK can somehow get up early, win the turnover battle, and own the time of possession, it might be able to grind down the clock a bit. The Gamecocks aren’t built to come up with big comebacks.

Both these teams are on the up and up in the SEC east, both have great coaching, and both are looking to shake up a division that has been dominated by Florida and Georgia for seemingly forever. But there can be only one winner, and for me that goes to the team with the best mascot. Go Gamecocks!

PICK: South Carolina 38, Kentucky 31

   #12 LSU

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   Mississippi St. (+7)

I need more cowbell! The threat of the 50,000 or so cowbells at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday will bring LSU’s early struggles with pre-snap penalties to forefront. Pre-snap communication would be a concern in any given season, but right now it is a red-alert matter for the Tigers, as LSU committed five pre-snap penalties against BYU.

“Even though they aren’t allowed to use the cowbells in play, a lot of our communication goes on pre-snap. It still has a big effect,” LSU OC Matt Canada said. “… Penalties can make or break the game. We have to shape up on that.”

Mississippi State leads the SEC in total offense, and QB Nick Fitzgerald looked very good last week against a Lousiana Tech team that had double digit wins last season. In that game the bulldogs put up 57 points on offense, but face a much more difficult task against an LSU defense that may be the best, if not most talented, in the country. Oh, and they are getting back possibly the best defensive player in the country in linebacker Arden Key.

LSU has won the last two meetings and each of the past three meetings have been decided by five or fewer points in the final two minutes, and I don’t see this game being any different. The winner moves one step closer to challenging Alabama for SEC West supremacy, and the loser heads back to that big pile of teams who just aren't on Bama’s level of play. I think LSU’s defense keeps this game from getting out of hand, and Etling and the offense do just enough not to blow it.

PICK: LSU 31, Mississippi St. 28

   #18 Kansas St.

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   Vanderbilt (+4)

When you think of Kansas State, typically you think pro-style, methodical, and solid defensively.  They are flipping that script a little bit this year.  So far they are averaging over 500 ypg on offense and are only 75th in the nation in time of possession.  That means they are scoring a lot (55 ppg) and doing it fast.  They are their typical, fundamental selves still.  They are #1 in the nation in turnover margin at +6 through 2 games.  Of course, this has been against some inferior competition, but they always do that and they never have stats like this.  So is this an aberration or is it a change in style?

They will have a good test against SEC opponent Vanderbilt on the road.  Vanderbilt typically has the same profile as K-State in their philosophy, but they just don't have the same ceiling as the Wildcats.  Vanderbilt is playing their usual tough defense as they are #3 in the nation in yards allowed per game (just one spot behind Clemson).  The 'Dores have done it against similarly inferior competition so it remains to be seen if this is for real or not.

Kansas State seems to have the superior talent in the match up and will eke out a road win in the prove-it's-real bowl.

PICK: Kansas State 28, Vanderbilt 27

   Texas

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   #4 USC (-15.5)

USC plays Texas this weekend, which is sure to bring back memories of the Longhorns' epic 41-38 victory over the Trojans in the 2006 BCS national championship. All things considered—the stage, talent on the field, and the actual football game—it's probably the greatest game in college football history.

This weekend’s matchup between a USC team that should be favored in its remaining 10 games and a Texas team that based on its first two performances will most likely go 6-6, isn’t going to be much of a comparison. However, there might be more points scored in this game.

The Longhorns have averaged 48 points per game through the first two weeks, ranking 12th in the FBS, and averaged 548 yards per game, 15th in the FBS, despite instability at quarterback. Freshman Sam Ehlinger started in last Saturday's win over San Jose State, while sophomore Shane Buechele, who started in the season opener, was out with a sore shoulder. Herman has not revealed which passer will be behind center against the Trojans.

USC racked up 623 total yards against Stanford last week. Sam Darnold, the Trojans' quarterback, was named the Pac-12's offensive player of the week after he completed 21 of 26 passes for 316 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions against Stanford. Darnold's completion percentage, of 81 percent, was a career best.

The biggest difference between these two teams lies in the defenses. USC stifled a very good Stanford offense, and while Texas did pitch a shutout against possibly the worst team in the FBS, they are only a two weeks removed from giving up 51 points to Maryland.

While I think Texas does cover the spread in this one, I don’t think the game is much of a contest. USC dominates the first three quarters and gives up a couple garbage time scores to make the score closer than the game played.

PICK: USC 45, Texas 31

   #3 Clemson

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   #14 Louisville (+3)

Upset of the Week!!!

This is the marquee match up of the weekend.  Last year's game between these two teams in Death Valley was a classic.  It was a back and forth affair with Deshaun Watson leading two 4th quarter TD drives for a 42-36 Clemson win.  Lamar Jackson aquitted himself quite well in that game too throwing for 295 and 1 TD, while also running for 162 and 2 TDs.  

This year Lamar Jackson is back and is still the star of the team.  He is average 385.5 ypg passing and 119.5 ypg rushing.  He has accounted for 9 TDs.  He couldn't have asked for a better start to try and capture back-to-back Heisman trophies.  So the offense seems to be humming along again for the Cardinals, but the defense is causing a little concern.  They had closer than expected games against both Purdue and North Carolina.  At least they have played two Power 5 programs so far this year.  The defense is giving up over 370 yards per game and is generating no havoc in the backfield.  They are only 53rd in the nation in tackles for loss so far.

But the defense might not be a problem against this year's Clemson team.  Deshaun Watson is gone and the offense is struggling.  They put up a paltry 14 points against Auburn in their 14-6 win (both scores were runs by QB Kelly Bryant).  They did ok moving the ball but drives kept stalling out.  They only made one trip to the red-zone in that game.  If that lack of production continues, then no matter how good the defense is, they are going to get gassed going against the high octane Louisville offense.

This is a tough one to pick.  Whenever there is an obvious offense heavy team vs an obvious defense heavy team, I like to go with the defense.  But I think Louisville will run a large amount of plays and be able to finally do something in the 4th quarter against a tired defense.  Let's see if I should have stuck with my defense first ideology. 

Pick: Louisville 28, Clemson 21

Season Record - Straight Up: 13-7

Season Record - Versus Spread: 9-11

Upset of the Week: 1-1

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