LAST WEEK: 6-0
Finally, a good week! Let's see if I can make it two in a row... (HINT: Probably not.)
#4 LSU (5-0, 1-0) at #10 FLORIDA (4-0, 3-0)
SEC Showdown, part one. LSU hasn't looked like the most convincing national title contender the last few weeks; they were down in the second quarter against Towson last week and barely beat a mediocre-looking Auburn team the week before. Florida roared into their bye week with a convincing second half comeback against Tennessee. They should enter this game with more confidence -- and their best shot to get a win over LSU since Tim Tebow was behind center. The Florida offense has looked deadly again after two years of abject incompetence, but their ability to continue that run of form will depend on their ability to stop the LSU pass rush. Les Miles is sure to have a few tricks up his sleeve for this game, and here's guessing Florida isn't quite as good as their 4-0 record indicates.
THE PICK: LSU 24, FLORIDA 17
#17 OKLAHOMA (2-1, 0-1) at TEXAS TECH (4-0, 1-0)
Texas Tech has the top-ranked total defense in the country (almost 25 ypg better than Alabama!) and the fifth-ranked scoring defense (just 10.8 ppg!) and they're at home, where they've won three in a row against OU. The Sooners have had two weeks to stew over their loss at home to Kansas State and find some answers for their oft-sputtering offense. Some have pegged this as a bounce-back game for the Sooners... I think this is the game that reveals that this just isn't an elite OU team. I'm not entirely sold on Texas Tech, either -- those defensive stats are primarily the result of playing some poor, overmatched competition -- but at home they're definitely good enough to topple a sputtering Oklahoma team.
THE PICK: TEXAS TECH 27, OKLAHOMA 21
#5 GEORGIA (5-0, 3-0) at #6 SOUTH CAROLINA (5-0, 3-0)
SEC Showdown, part two. South Carolina has been winning in some pretty un-Ol' Ball Coach ways this year, with a sturdy defense and a bruising running game. Fun 'n' Gun? More like Stun 'n' Run these days. Georgia has their own potent running game -- freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have run for almost 1000 yards and 14 TD in just five games. They also have a shaky defense -- see: 44 points conceded to Tennessee last week. Last year these two teams played a wild 45-42 game, won by South Carolina. Given the playmakers on both sides of the ball -- in addition to star running backs Marcus Lattimore (USC) and Gurley and Marshall, the defensive side of the ball offers a pair of future Top 5 NFL picks in Jadeveon Clowney (USC) and Jarvis Jones (UGA), who will try to make life hell for USC QB Connor Shaw and UGA QB Aaron Murray -- this one feels like it could be another crazy, back-and-forth thriller. I'll go with Jones and Murray to make a few more plays for the Dawgs.
THE PICK: GEORGIA 34, SOUTH CAROLINA 28
#8 WEST VIRGINIA (4-0, 1-0) at #11 TEXAS (4-0, 1-0)
1728 yards. 83% completion. 20 TD, 0 INT. This just in: Geno Smith is having a good year. Wait, that's not true -- Geno Smith is having an INCREDIBLE year... and it's not only one-third done (not counting a bowl game). Dating back to last year's Orange Bowl, West Virginia has put up SEVENTY (7-0) points twice. In real games, against real opponents. That sort of offensive proficiency is unheard of. It's been called "video game-esque," but even that isn't entirely accurate; in a video game, the computer would cheat and get some bogus interceptions against Smith (hello, MLB with a 3-foot vertical leap!). In reality, opponents can't even muster that. Of course, the conventional wisdom is that things are about to get tougher for Geno's gang: a roadtrip to Austin and a matchup with a real, living, breathing defense is bound to raise some issues. On the other hand, Texas just came off a narrow win over Oklahoma State where they conceded 36 points, almost 600 yards of total offense, and a 300-yard passing day to a freshman QB (J.W. Walsh). Pretty sure Geno Smith is better than J.W. Walsh. West Virginia will get some points on Texas... the bigger question is whether their defense can slow down Texas enough. David Ash has been markedly improved this year (1007 yards, 78% compeltion, 10 TD, 1 INT) and he could have a lot of fun playing pitch and catch against the WVU defense, if the 'eers past opponents are any indication. Frankly, after giving up 63 at home to Baylor, I don't have a lot of faith in the WVU defense getting enough stops in Austin to get a win.
THE PICK: TEXAS 42, WEST VIRGINIA 28
MIAMI (FL) (4-1, 3-0) at #9 NOTRE DAME (4-0)
Talk about two of the bigger surprises in CFB in the month of September. The looming scandal hanging over Coral Gables for the last year-plus was supposed to torpedo Miami this season and after their 52-13 loss to Kansas State, that seemed likely. But a funny thing happened for Miami on the way to being consigned to the scrap heap: they won a game, and then another game, and then another game and suddenly they find themselves at 4-1 and on top of the ACC Coastal Division. Of course, they've mostly done that with an explosive, high-scoring offense -- they've won their last two games, 42-36 (OT) and 44-37. QB Stephen Morris has thrown for 1002 yards and 7 TDs over the last two games and Duke Johnson has been a home run hitter (359 yards, 5 TDs) at RB. Here's guessing that high-flying 'Cane offense is in for a rude awakening against the Fighting Irish, though. The Domers stifled Denard Robinson and held Michigan State to 3 points. The Irish offense didn't do much to impress in those games, but the accomodating Miami defense could be just what they need to get untracked again. Here's guessing Miami pulls out 2-3 big plays on offense, but the Notre Dame eventually chokes the life out of them and cruises to a win.
THE PICK: NOTRE DAME 31, MIAMI 14
#21 NEBRASKA (4-1, 1-0) at #12 OHIO STATE (5-0, 1-0)
A year ago, Nebraska staged a wild comeback, scoring the final 28 points of the game and coming back from a 27-6 deficit in the final 25 minutes to spring a 34-27 win. A week ago, Nebraska staged a wild comeback, scoring the final 20 points of the game and coming back from a 27-10 deficit in the final 25 minutes to know off Wisconsin in a 30-27 win. Suffice to say Nebraska has the whole "comeback kid" routine down pat. Then again, both of those comebacks happened in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium. Doing the same in the Horseshoe is a whole 'nother matter. For Ohio State, the game probably hinges on their ability to get Braxton Miller on track. He's the alpha and omega of the Buckeye offense and if he can't get rolling, the Buckeyes will be in trouble. Fortunately, the Husker defense has been pretty accommodating this year, especially on the road. I'm thinking the Buckeyes serve up a little revenge to Nebraska this year.
THE PICK: OHIO STATE 27, NEBRASKA 24