College Football Picks & Predictions: Week 8

No. 1 Florida at Mississippi State, 7:30PM ET
After a hard-fought win over LSU two weeks ago and a gift-wrapped (courtesy of the officials) victory over Arkansas last week, Florida will try to remain undefeated against a Mississippi State team that has had the Gators’ number in Starkville. Florida has dropped their last four games in Starkville and hasn’t won there since 1985. The Gators are too good defensively for the Bulldogs to pull off an upset, but with Florida’s lack of offensive firepower, Mississippi State will keep this game close until the end. Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen is a former offensive coordinator at Florida, so his knowledge of the Gators’ program will aid him on Saturday but in the end, Mississippi State doesn’t have enough depth to beat Florida this season. Tim Tebow and company haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard, so I like the Bulldogs to cover.
Odds: Florida –22.5
Prediction: Florida 27, Mississippi State 13.

No. 13 Penn State at Michigan, 3:30PM ET
The Nittany Lions haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 1996, which is why the point spread is so low in this matchup. But Penn State has won three straight by a combined score of 107-20 since their home loss to Iowa and they’ll be looking for a measure of revenge against a Michigan team that has had their number on the road. The Wolverines are too inconsistent on offense to hang with the Lions for four quarters, especially if they have trouble running the ball against PSU’s solid front seven. Offensively for the Nittany Lions, Evan Royster and Darryl Clark will keep the chains moving against a Michigan defense that has trouble getting off the field on third down. This won’t be a blow out because it’s in Ann Arbor, but Penn State will continue its winning ways.
Odds: Penn State –4.
Prediction: Penn State 20, Michigan 13.

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2009 College Football Picks & Predictions: Week 5

No. 4 LSU at No. 18 Georgia, 3:30PM ET
Last year, Georgia rolled into Tiger Stadium and laid a 52-38 beat down on LSU as they forced three turnovers and running back Knowshon Moreno (now a Denver Bronco) racked up 163 yards on 21 carries. After an ugly 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State in the opening week of the season, the Bulldogs have rattled off three straight wins and will now face a Tiger team that struggled a bit offensively last week in a narrow 30-26 win over Mississippi State. LSU was outgained 374-263 and only rushed for 30 yards in the victory. The Tigers usually feast on pro-style offenses, so UGA quarterback Joe Cox can’t force throws in attempt to make something happen down field. That said, the Tigers haven’t been tested yet and needed a goal line stand to pull off the win last week. Georgia, on the other hand, has already faced a ranked OK State team and beaten competitive SEC foes South Carolina and Arkansas. The Bulldogs are more battle tested and will overcome a stiff Tiger defense.
Odds: Georgia –3.
Prediction: Georgia 24, LSU 20.

No. 7 USC at No. 24 California, 8:00PM ET
Don’t everyone break your legs jumping off the Cal bandwagon after Oregon smacked the Golden Bears 42-3 last week. Heisman candidate Jahvid Best rushed for only 55 yards in the loss and will face another tough challenge this week against a USC defense that held him to only 30 yards last season. The Trojans have the sixth best defense in the nation and the fifth best scoring defense. They have limited opponents to only 59.5 rushing yards per game and only 95 YPC threw the air. That said, Cal has played USC close over the years and the Trojans have kept things rather conservative offensively with freshman Matt Barkley under center. I see this game being close, although I don’t know if Kevin Riley can beat USC through the air if the Trojans’ front seven takes away Best.
Odds: USC –4.5.
Prediction: USC 20, Cal 17.

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2009 College Football Picks & Predictions: Week 4

Here are my picks for Week 4 in college football.

Last week I went 3-1 straight up and just 1-3 against the spread, so gamblers – fade at will. (By the way, those are also my season totals because I didn’t make picks for the first two weeks, although I probably would have gone 8-0 so feel free to give me the undeserved credit.)

Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama, Saturday, 3:30PM ET
Arkansas certainly has an offense capable of hanging with most opponents given the vertical weapons they have in Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Joe Adams in the passing game. But ‘Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart should throw a variety of looks at Razorback signal caller Ryan Mallett and use blitzes to help generate a rush. The Tide lack a pass-rushing presence on their defensive line, but their secondary is experienced and should handle whatever Bobby Petrino throws at them on Saturday. I expect ‘Bama to take away Michael Smith, Broderick Green, Ronnie Wingo and the Arkansas’ running game and force the Razorbacks to become one-dimensional. With Julio Jones expected back this week after missing last Saturday with a knee injury, the Razorback defense could be in trouble. ‘Bama will look to take control of this game in the second half with a balanced offensive approach and pull away in the fourth quarter.
Odds: Alabama –17.5.
Prediction: Alabama 41, Arkansas 20.

No. 9 Miami at No. 11 Virginia Tech, Saturday, 3:30PM ET
The Canes are quickly becoming one of the more talked about programs in the nation this year courtesy of quarterback Jacory Harris. Thanks to an improved pass protection and his ability to see the entire field, Harris played exceptionally well in Miami’s wins over ranked opponents Florida State and Georgia Tech, respectively. But the key to a Canes’ victory will be running the ball to set up Harris and the passing game. Frank Beamer’s squad has not done a good job of stopping the run so far this season and if Miami can get versatile running backs Javarris James and Graig Cooper some running room early on, they might set up Harris to make big plays in the passing game. Defensively, Miami could be burned by Tyrod Taylor’s running ability if it doesn’t stay disciplined when shooting gaps. Taylor, who has been more patient as a passer this season, needs to use his legs if he sees that the Canes are too aggressive up front. Miami must also contain running back Ryan Williams, who has been excellent filling in for the injured Darren Evans. While Blacksburg is one of the toughest places to play in college football, Randy Shannon has his team playing with a swagger and they won’t be intimated on the road. This is going to be a thrilling game and one that might come down to the wire. I’m going with the hot team, however, and predict a win for Miami.
Odds: Miami –2.5.
Prediction: Miami 24, Virginia Tech 20.

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College Football Picks & Predictions: Week 3

Tennessee (1-1) at No. 1 Florida (2-0), 3:30PM ET
Don’t think for a second that Urban Meyer won’t be extra motivated for this game after Lane Kiffin accused him of violating NCAA recruiting rules back in February. Kiffin better hope that his power running game will help keep this one close, because Florida’s defense is going to terrorize quarterback Jonathan Crompton if Tennessee becomes too one-dimensional. Crompton made several poor decisions last week in UT’s loss to UCLA, a game in which he threw three interceptions. If he turns the ball over against the Gators, this game will be out of reach by halftime. Of course, if Monte Kiffin’s defense can generate some pressure on Tim Tebow, the Vols could make things interesting. But so far, Kiffin hasn’t gotten much production out of his front four and it has forced him to blitz in order to get pressure. Tebow will recognize that and pick UT’s defense apart. This one could get ugly.
Odds: Florida -30
Prediction: Florida 41, Tennessee 10.

Texas Tech (2-0) at No. 2 Texas (2-0), 8:00PM ET
Mack Brown still has nightmares of Michael Crabtree scoring the winning touchdown in last year’s thriller in Lubbock. But Crabtree and Graham Harrell have both moved on and although Raiders quarterback Taylor Potts (861 yards, 9 TDs) is off to a great start this year, it’s hard to imagine that Tech will pull off the upset this year. Colt McCoy won’t allow Texas to lose at home and the Longhorn back seven is too good to let Potts to beat them for four quarters.
Odds: Texas -17.5
Prediction: Texas 52, Texas Tech 28.

No. 23 Georgia at Arkansas, 7:45PM ET
The last time these two teams met was back in October of 2005 when the Dawgs barely edged the Razorbacks 23-20 in Athens. Bobby Petrino’s team is fresh coming off a bye week (which followed an easy 48-10 victory over FCS foe Missouri State), while Georgia fought tooth and nail for their 41-37 win over South Carolina. Petrino admitted that the Razorbacks have been game planning for this matchup since August and he even held senior Michael Smith to only four carries in the win over Missouri State so that the running back would be fresh for this week’s matchup vs. UGA. The Dawgs have given up 61 points in their first two outings and considering Arkansas’s offense is starting to come together under Petrino, I see the Razorbacks securing a nice home win.
Odds: Arkansas -1
Prediction: Arkansas 31, Georgia 28.

West Virginia at Auburn, 7:45PM ET
The Tigers will be seeking a measure of revenge after the Mountaineers soundly beat them in Morgantown last year. Although both teams have started off the season on the right foot, West Virginia could have a hard time corralling Auburn running backs Brandon Tate and Onterio McCalebb. The duo has combined to rush for over 530 yards in two games and will provide a challenge that the Mountaineers’ run-defense didn’t receive in their first two games. As long as the Auburn defense can contain Noel Devine and senior quarterback Jarrett Brown, they should be able to get their revenge on West Virginia and start the ’09 season 3-0.
Odds: Auburn -7
Prediction: Auburn 38, West Virginia 24.

Illinois smelling upset over Missouri?

FOX Sports.com previewed the Illinois-Missouri game this Saturday. FOX thinks the Illini will keep it close.

Chase DanielNo. 6 Missouri vs. No. 20 Illinois at St. Louis, — Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET

Last year at this time, would you have believed that this matchup would be a battle between a future No. 1 Missouri and a Rose Bowl-bound Illinois? The Tigers won 40-34 after jumping out to a big early lead and then hanging on, and now they’re looking to make a big early statement as the potential star of the Big 12, or at least the North.

On the other side, Illinois has far more rebounding to do and far more question marks, but this is still a strong team that’s looking to improve upon last year’s breakout success. It might be a big upset if the Illini can pull off the win, but it would be a huge feather in the Big Ten’s cap if it happens.
Meanwhile, if the Big 12 really is supposed to be a challenger to the SEC in the best-conference-in-America argument, Mizzou can’t just win, but it has to win convincingly.

It’s a BCS-game being played in August, and it’s one of the marquee non-conference games of 2008.
This should be a better defensive battle than last year’s shootout, at least for the first half, and then the quarterbacks will take over. Both Daniel and Williams will be tremendous, but the Tiger defense will be a little bit better, and the offense will be more efficient when it needs to be.

Prediction: Missouri 34 … Illinois 27

I don’t see it – a close game, that is. I know this series is usually close and the Illini have an underrated defense, but who doesn’t like the Tigers’ explosive offense on the fast track of the Edward Jones Dome? I fully expect Daniel to stay away from corner Vontae Davis and exploit the rest of Illinois’ below average secondary.

Missouri is currently 8.5-point favorites. I’ll say Tigers win by 10 at least.

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