Week 3 Picks

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We did a little bit better against the spread last week going 5-5.  Nailed the Upset of the Week picking BYU over Boise.  Boise is not looking like everyone anticipated on the offensive side of the ball.  They are struggling a bit to find a rhythm.

So the biggest story line of Week 2 seemed to be the SEC struggling against inferior opponents.  Arkansas’ Brett Bielema is always great for quotes and always seems to be in the middle of some controversy whether it’s the pace of play causing player safety issues, the bowl win over Texas being borderline erotic, and most recently commenting on Ohio State’s strength of schedule and subsequently going out and losing to Toledo.  Auburn barely survived Jacksonville State, and Tennessee might not be ready for prime time as their streak of futility against ranked teams continues after they blew the biggest 4th quarter lead at home in program history.

Texas put up 42 points on Rice.  If you look at their total yardage, you might think it wasn’t that great a game.  But they kept getting good field position.  Despite their low output, they did average over 7 yards per play which is outstanding.  They gave up 462 yards, but that was because Rice ran 96 plays.  That’s an excellent 4.8 yards per play.  Maybe they aren’t as bad as they looked against Notre Dame.  Our other dreadful performers from Week 1, Penn State and Stanford, had mixed results.  Penn State still looks bad, while Stanford looked like they might have remembered how to play offense a little bit.  Stanford has a big test against USC this week to really find out.

Week 3 has some good match ups.  Starting to see a little bit of conference play and there are a few top 25 match ups to watch.

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N. Carolina(-10)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

The Fighting Illini travel to Chapel Hill, NC to take on the Tar Heels.  When I saw this game on the schedule before the season, I was fairly sure the Tar Heels would have no issues coming out with the win, but after the first two games of the year, and the fact that Illinois does not have a joke of a HC anymore, this is shaping up to be a quality game.  The key to this game is no different than any other game, protect the ball and you’ll have a good chance to get the win – Illinois forced four turnovers against Kent St. to claim a 52-3 victory and forced two turnovers against W. Illinois on their way to a 44-0 victory.  But that game could have been even more of a blowout if Illinois doesn’t turn the ball over themselves four times.  On the other side of the ball, UNC turned the ball over three times against S. Carolina which cost them the game resulting in a 17-13 loss.  They forced three turnovers against NC A&T on their way to an easy 53-14 win.  On to my pick – *UPSET ALERT* I am taking the Illini to stun the Tar Heels 28-17 on the back of their defense and a nice day on the ground by RB Josh Ferguson.  PICK: Illinois 28, UNC 17

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Duke (-3.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]

Owners of both of these teams must be pretty happy with themselves so far this year, with both getting off to very impressive starts. Northwestern followed up their upset win over Stanford with a 41-0 win over Eastern Illinois, and still haven’t given up a touchdown this year.  Duke is 9th in the nation in yards per game after their two big wins to start the year, so something will have to give. There is a bit of trash talk taking place leading into this game with Northwestern linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo telling papers he’s expecting another shutout this week.  Don’t think NU will be able to fully contain Duke QB Thomas Sirk (averaging 379 yards of total offense per game this year), and Duke will find its way into the endzone… a few times.  This should be a great game and go down to the wire, but I think the Dukies will pull it out. PICK: Duke 30, NU 24

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Bowling Green(+3)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

The sneaky good game of the week.  BG and Memphis are going to put up some major points, there is no doubt about that. Here is the main issue in this match up, and it’s all on Bowling Green’s D.  Sure, they can score points at will and are averaging 462 yds in the air per game, but the defense and special teams have completely forgotten how to tackle.  The D is giving up almost 6.5 yds per play.  How is that even possible?  It gets even worse from there on the special teams….KO returns are averaging 35 yds and, get this, punt returns are averaging almost 44 yds of return per punt.  So essentially Memphis will never have bad field position.  BG put an early scare into Tennessee in Wk 1 and demolished Maryland’s D to steal a win that most didn’t see coming.  Memphis is a better overall team, with a D that can actually stop runners and don’t hope they trip and fall.  They only allow 3.5 yds per play while on the O side put up 7.31 yds per play.  So I imagine that Memphis will score at will and will stop BG more times than BG stops Memphis.  It’s as simple as that, barring any turnovers, Memphis will bring this one home. PICK: Memphis 45, Bowling Green 35

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#8 Notre Dame (+2.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Notre Dame is getting hit hard with injuries this year.  What looked like a playoff contending season is quickly teetering on the verge of Pinstripe Bowl relevance.  QB Malik Zaire went down with a broken ankle last week against Virginia ending his season.  Backup DeShone Kizer came in and led a stirring last second comeback, but now he has the pressure of being the full time starter.  Backups usually do good when they are thrust into ation because the other team has no tape or scouting report on them yet.  But when teams start to have time to prep, that’s when backups play like, well, backups. (Unless you’re Ohio State.)  This is not a good stretch of schedule to try and break in a new QB.  Georgia Tech comes to town with their triple option attack.  That offense has given Notre Dame problems the past couple years, as Navy runs that offense.  Georgia Tech has been ridiculous this year.  They are averaging 67 points per game, 562 yards per game, and 9.14 yards per play on offense.  They almost pick up a first down every single play!  Granted, it hasn’t been against the best competition, but we know some teams struggle with inferior opponents.  See Auburn.  Head coach Paul Johnson is in his 8th year with the Jackets now and this program definitely has an identity at this point.  It’s option, option, option.  They run it to near perfection and have become one of the most consistent programs over the years with an occasional high ceiling year.  This feels like one of those years.  They are catching a Notre Dame team reeling a little bit and trying to break in a new quarterback against a top 15 opponent.  So let’s go with Notre Dame.  Beware the home dog!  While Notre Dame has lost a lot of key players, they have mostly been on the offensive side of the ball.  That experienced defense still packs some difference makers.  All that practice against Navy the past few years should have them ready to stick to their assignments on the option and stifle the Georgia Tech attack.   PICK: Notre Dame 23, Georgia Tech 19

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Miami (-3.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

This is an intriguing matchup.  It’s a battle of two programs trying to recapture their glory days.  Last year these two teams met in Lincoln with Nebraska coming away with a 41-31 victory.  Nebraska has new head coach Mike Riley this year.  While it would seem that the personnel doesn’t fit the type of offense that he likes to run, they actually haven’t looked too bad.  Tommy Armstrong Jr. has thrown the ball pretty well averaging nearly 300 ypg.  The Huskers are a Hail Mary away from 2-0 and feeling pretty good about themselves.  Despite that heartbreaking loss to BYU, the vibes from Lincoln are pretty positive.  That is not the case in Coral Gables.  There is nothing but dark clouds circling that program right now.  Al Golden has basically been on everyone’s as-good-as-fired list from the start of the year.  He took over a program facing a damaging NCAA investigation, but he has not shown much progress.  He has uber-talented QB Brad Kaaya but the offense hasn’t produced.  They are middling in the passing game averaging only 7.4 yards per attempt against bad competition.  So maybe they have rushed the ball well because they haven’t had to throw much against inferior opponents.  Not so much.  They are middle of the pack in rushing too.  That just about perfectly sums up the Al Golden era – mired in mediocrity.  This line reeks of Vegas knowing something because your first inclination is Nebraska is clearly the better team.  But Nebraska has been a little suspect on the defensive side of the ball this year so far.  Despite that, they should be able to handle Miami’s popgun offense and come away with a road victory.  PICK:  Nebraska 34, Miami 26

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#13 LSU (-7.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

This matchup lost a little bit of luster as Auburn had a win that felt like a loss.  They were lucky to beat FCS foe Jacksonville St.  Jacksonville St. was not winning on some fluke plays or trickery.  They were straight up dominating Auburn for most of that game.  That is not what you want to see from a team that fancies itself a playoff contender playing in the best division in the best conference in the history of the universe.  All the talk from the beginning of the year was about what a star QB Jeremy Johnson was going to be.  He has looked terrible this year.  He has no confidence right now and the coaches might be losing confidence in him too.  They are 98th in the nation right now in total offense.  98th!  Offense is never supposed to be a problem under Gus Malzahn.  LSU on the other hand knows exactly what it is.  LSU has stud running back Leonard Fournette and seem intent on running him into the ground and riding him every single game.  It’s one of two things.  Either LSU knows their quarterbacks can’t throw, or they figure, why throw when we have arguably the best back in the nation.  Either way, LSU is going to run the ball, and then run the ball again.  Heck, that’s the strategy Auburn might take this week too if they don’t think Jeremy Johnson can throw the ball.  This game might last only 2-1/2 hours with 100 rushing attempts between the two teams.  The Tigers are tough to beat at home going 62-9 there the past 10 years.  Even though it’s not nighttime in Death Valley, it’s still a good home field advantage.  Auburn probably isn’t as bad as they showed last week, but let’s go with LSU winning a close one.  LSU wins, but Auburn covers.  PICK LSU 24, Auburn 21

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Kentucky (+3)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Kentucky has the longest active conference game losing streak to one opponent against Florida at 28 games.  If there was a year to break it, this would be it.  Florida is not their typical powerhouse program right now, and they are learning new systems under new head coach Jim McElwain.  He was embarrassed by the Gators’ win over East Carolina last week.  He also has had to deal with the distraction of people psycho-analyzing his tirade against running back Kelvin Taylor on the sideline.  With all the negativity, and the fact they are ranked 88th against the pass right now, it seems like a prime spot for Kentucky.  The Wildcats are going to be playing in front of a pumped home crowd and are coming off a conference road victory against South Carolina.  Even though South Carolina isn’t their usual selves, Kentucky hasn’t won on the road in conference since 2009.  Things are looking good for Kentucky right now.  Many pegged them as a bowl team this year, and picking up an unexpected victory on the road will help give them a little cushion for the march to 6 wins.  This seems like the perfect time for Kentucky to pull the upset and break the streak, and I think they will.  Getting Florida at the beginning of the year is better than the end of the year.  Kentucky had a good start to the season last year before fading, but this year feels different and it looks like they can sustain some momentum through the end of the year and to a bowl game.  PICK: Kentucky 27, Florida 24

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#6 USC (-10)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Week 3 treats us with a quality PAC-12 match-up, possibly. Stanford needs this game badly after the unexpected loss to Northwestern. Many pundits had Stanford at the top of the PAC-12. Instead they find themselves stuck in the middle and staring down another 8-5 season or something along those lines if they don’t pull out a W this weekend. USC has played a couple of cupcake games so far, but don’t discount them because of that….they have looked very convincing in both wins. The defense has given up only 15 pts thus far and is no doubt a talented group. The question for the Trojans is the depth.  The sanctions still have an effect on their depth and much remains to be seen if they can keep up the performances throughout the year once the injuries start piling up. USC QB Kessler is once again picking teams apart through the air. He is accurate and typically poised in the pocket….it’s a shame he doesn’t get more love from the National Spotlight. If he can put up a great performance against Stanford’s D, then maybe the national love will blossom. Let’s talk about that Stanford offense.  Many thought there would be a carry over from the last 3 games of 2014 with everything clicking and the points flying. Turns out we get the opposite – the offense has been hard to watch as the major problem is the running game at 3.6 yds per carry. If they can establish the run, then maybe we’ll get a glimpse of that late 2014 offense. The defense is good, but not Stanford good that we are used to seeing out there. Much of that can be chalked up to a lackadaisical offense causing the D to be on the field way too much due to numerous 3 and outs. Let’s get to the pick.  USC at home is tough to beat and Stanford just isn’t there right now. USC covers the spread and inserts their name into the early conversation for the Playoff. Kessler will be the key to success. PICK: USC 28, Stanford 17

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#10 UCLA (-16)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Are you kidding me? Two Hail Mary’s in a row to win the game by BYU QB Mangum? That’s it!! No way it can happen again…simply because BYU will need more than a TD to catch UCLA at the end of the game. UCLA QB Josh “Chosen” Rosen was certainly not at his best against UNLV, completing less than 50% of his passes with only 1 TD and 1 INT. BYU’s defense is a little better than UNLV’s and they can certainly get after it, but the only way BYU will win this game is to get after Rosen and force the turnovers. BYU stuffs the run game for the most part and I imagine nothing will change this weekend, thus leaving the burden on the passing game and Mr. Rosen. The UCLA defense is even more important here as they have looked solid in the first 2 weeks….albeit against lesser competition than Mr. Hail Mary and BYU. The obvious weakness for the UCLA defense is the running game which is not exactly the BYU strength thus far. This is the main factor in my decision of UCLA taking this game – BYU doesn’t run well at all since their starting RB is gone for the year along with Taysom Hill.  UCLA will be able to focus on shutting down the passing game. Chosen Rosen has a fantastic game throwing for 4 TDs and the Bruins roll and creep closer to the Playoff. PICK: UCLA 34, BYU 24

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UPSET OF THE WEEK!

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#2 Alabama (-6.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Can Ole Miss take down mighty ‘Bama for the 2nd year in a row? In Swag Kelly we trust. Ole Miss is throwing up points, literally. Ole Miss has a great thing going right now. A fast offense that is scoring like crazy and another solid defense. The defense isn’t as good as it was last year, but they are still pretty damn good. The offense on the other hand is far better than last year and the passing game is out of this world so far. And guess what you need to do to beat Bama’s phenomenal defense? You guessed it, pick on the young secondary!!! The running game will be next to nothing for Ole Miss, you can bet on that. Bama gives up 2.42 yds per carry on the ground. While Ole Miss averages 7.9 per carry.  That is a little bit skewed due to the competition. The run game just won’t be there.  The faster that Ole Miss realizes that the better chance they have at this match-up. Look, we all know ‘Bama is consistent if nothing else….consistently awesome on defense and mediocre on offense. Bama QB Coker looks serviceable so far and that’s pretty much it. Nothing stands out and says that he can take a game over with his arm. On the flip side, Bama RB Derrick Henry might just be a legit Heisman candidate….this guy can and will take a game over. The running game for Roll Tide will be heavy and often.  Ole Miss knows this will be the case and should stack the box on D. QB Coker doesn’t throw the deep ball accurate enough to give him and his receivers space off of the line of scrimmage. Ole Miss has the passing game to win it, but QB Kelly might need to throw about 50 times to do so. The Ole Miss D will need to hold its own to keep them in this game early and let Swag Kelly bring them back. Ole Miss pulls off the upset and a Playoff contender is born. PICK: Ole Miss 27, Bama 21

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Season Record – Straight Up: 13-7

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Season Record – Versus Spread: 8-12

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Upset of the Week: 1-1

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