Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Week 9 Predictions

Another week has come and gone and the discussion of who deserves to make it into this year's four team playoff has officially begun. It is no surprise that the SEC is leading the way, but exactly who those teams are...now that's a different story. The state of Mississippi has taken the college football world by storm this season and there is a legit possibility that both Ole Miss and Mississippi State could find themselves locked into two of the four spots in the inaugural year of the playoffs in college football. Last week was highlighted by West Virginia having their way with (at the time) #4 Baylor, 41-27, Alabama blanking Texas A&M 59-0, Kansas State knocking off Oklahoma 31-30, Georgia winning on the road at Arkansas, 45-32 behind another impressive showing from RB Nick Chubb and Florida State surviving another upset at home as they held off Norte Dame, 31-27. There aren't many games that really jump off the page at you this week but thanks to the success of the mid-lower tier SEC teams this season...there are a few that I'll be paying attention to this weekend. Without further delay...lets make some predictions!


#1 Mississippi State @ Kentucky

The Bulldogs have went from unranked to #1 in a blink of an eye this season and have looked impressive on both sides of the football. I'll tell you the truth...I want them to stay far, far away from Clemson once bowl season comes around. Dak Prescott is playing as good as anyone and Mississippi State has already defeated not one...not two...but three top 10 teams already this season...one of which came on the road at LSU. They are coming off a bye-week and playing a Kentucky team that actually has quite a bit to play for at 5-2 overall and a bowl game is still very much possible for the Wildcats. They took down South Carolina earlier this season at home (take that as you like) and while they are no Georgia or LSU when it comes to home field advantage, they can make it difficult for the visiting team. And while I don't think they have what it takes to pull the upset, I do think they can keep this game interesting early. In the end, I think this Bulldog team is simply too good and has greater depth and will prove to be the better team not just on paper, but on the field as well...ya know, where it matters most.

The Pick: Mississippi State 

#3 Ole Miss @ #24 LSU

The Rebels are only a 3 1/2 point favorite as they hit the road to Baton Rouge this weekend and they will be faced with yet another big test. Going on the road in the SEC is never easy but when you're talking LSU's Tiger Stadium and a program that is consistently ranked among the best in college football, the task seems even taller. However, I think the Rebels are up for the challenge. They have yet to back down this season. They are physical and talented up front on defense and I think they will cause problems for an offensive line and team that is still shuffling quarterbacks between Jennings and Harris and has struggled to really get the running game going. The Rebels have been salty on defense giving up only about 10 points (1st in nation), 97 yards rushing (6th in nation), and 193 yards passing (20th in nation) per game while they've forced 20 turnovers. (3rd in the nation) I think Bo Wallace and the Rebel offense are able to do just enough on offense and make a big play or two on defense to get the big win on the road. Give me the Rebels by one possession in a game that comes down to the final few minutes.

The Pick: Ole Miss

#4 Alabama @ Tennessee 

Nick Saban's squad responded well after an embarrassing performance against Arkansas in Week 7 and shutout the Aggies last weekend, 59-0. Bama was able to shutdown A&M's offense and conversely was able to run the ball efficiently. This is bad news for the Vols who have struggled to stop the run this season and have been far from impressive on offense. The offensive line has been outplayed for much of the season giving up a total of 30 sacks so far. Anytime I think about Alabama, defense is one of the first things that comes to mind so I just don't like Tennessee's chances when I consider how the offense is playing at this time and doubt they will be able to move the ball consistently based on what we've seen from both teams thus far. Once again though you have to include the home field advantage factor. I think if Tennessee can make some plays early and get some confidence while keeping the crowd actively involved then maybe they have a chance to make this a competitive game heading into the locker room at halftime. While I've seen a few CFB analyst predict an upset this weekend, I'm not buying it. In the words of Harvey Updyke and many Bama fans across the nation....RDT!

The Pick: Alabama

#5 Auburn vs South Carolina 

It's been a rough season this year in Columbia and while the Gamecocks still have something to play for...they simply are not the team we have grown familiar with the past few years. They got back on the winning side last week against Furman but have lost their last two in conference and have arguably their biggest test of the year Saturday when they head to the plains to take on #5 Auburn. The Tigers are 17 1/2 point favorites over the Gamecocks and for a defense that has struggled all season, things do not look all that bright going up against an Auburn team that is averaging over 260 yards rushing, 220 yards passing and 38 points per game. Nick Marshall is a very capable quarterback that can beat you with his arm and his legs. While the SC defense has struggled, the offense has improved and looked good at times. Mike Davis, brother of former Clemson RB James Davis, is finally picking up some steam and has ran for 100 yards each in his last three games adding on 6 touchdowns in that span. Some had Davis as contender for the Heisman during pre-season but he hasn't been as effective overall this year. Auburn is coming off their lone loss of the season to Mississippi State and are looking to get back on track. It will be interesting to see how the Gamecocks start the game Saturday night in what will be a rough environment. South Carolina has only had two road games this year but have not played well in either. I think the first couple of possessions will tell the story of how Saturday night will play out. I've told you before that they are a different team at home than they are on the road and I think that trend continues Saturday. Steve Spurrier is one of the best in the game and I think he'll have a good game plan ready to go but I think the issues on defense will again be their downfall.

The Pick: Auburn


#21 Clemson vs Syracuse 


 For the second straight week, the Tigers found themselves on the ropes needing a last minute defensive stand to survive and win and for the second straight week, they found a way to get it done. The offense continues to struggle and be plagued by injuries, the newest being TE Jordan Leggett who likely won't return until the Georgia Tech game and RB and leading rusher Adam Choice who is out for the remainder of the season due to torn ACL. While the offense hasn't been the same with Watson on the sidelines they've done just enough to get by the past two weeks and have found a way to get it done against the #1 and #11 defense in the country in back-to-back weeks putting together clock-eating, scoring, 4th quarter drives when they needed it most. The Tigers defense is getting better by the week and lead the nation in 3rd down defense, rank 6th in the nation in red zone defense and have allowed just 15 red zone appearances all season, ranking 4th in the nation. The Tigers have a much easier Homecoming opponent this weekend in Syracuse and will have the opportunity to get some confidence back on offense but will have to dig even deeper on the depth chart at running back with both Brooks and Choice now out for the season. Luckily, Davidson is coming off a solid game including a 32-yard GW touchdown last week at Boston College. In addition, it appears as though RS Freshmen Tyshon Dye finally looks healthy and is expected to see the field Saturday. The 5-11, 214 back from Georgia is talented and could give the offense a much needed spark.


While the Orange aren't exactly a "primetime worthy" opponent, they have Clemson's full attention especially considering what happened last year and in the off season. Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer aka "softnose" isn't a fan favorite after yelling out obscenities at Dabo after the Tigers went for the knockout punch up 28 points late in the fist half on a 4th and goal in the 1st half last year. Syracuse made the stop but Shafer had some not-so-nice words for Coach Swinney including a F-Bomb for going for it instead of kicking the field goal. Fast forward to the Winter when the South-East was hit with a snow storm that left many down in Atlanta and elsewhere stranded on the Interstate and in retail stores overnight as traffic backed up and road conditions became too poor to travel. Schools and the airport were shut down and the entire city was at a standstill until the snow and ice began to melt away. Shafer hopped on Twitter that night to take a dig at the South and it's reaction to the storm calling southerners softnosed...yeah the same kids he was in the area trying to recruit. Not a smart business move, Mr. Shafer. No, we don't get as much snow down here and are not as prepared or equipped to handle storms as good as up North, but to make that type of comment in what truly was a serious and unfortunate situation shows a lack of class and pure stupidity on Shafer's part.

These things have not been forgotten and I'm sure the Clemson fan base will give Shafer a nice warm welcome Saturday in his fist visit to Death Valley and show him how us Southerns play football. Add in the mix of Homecoming festivities and a 7:30 kick and this game should draw a solid crowd despite the inferior opponent. There's a little more motivation than you would expect and the Tigers are eager to pick up their 5th straight win and continue to climb back up in the polls. I think the Tiger offense finds its groove again and the defense continues to play at a high level. Could we be in store for another shutout of an ACC opponent Saturday night? I think its a good possibility, however you probably won't ever see me predict a shutout on here. But I will say be ready for another defensive touchdown.

The Pick: Clemson 



Other Predictions: 

#6 Oregon over California 
#8 Michigan State over Michigan 
#11 Kansas State over Texas
#18 East Carolina over Connecticut 

Upset Special: 

Penn State over #13 Ohio State 



Friday, October 17, 2014

Week 8 Predictions

The trend of upsets continued last week and if you love high scoring games there were plenty of those to choose from as well. Defense appeared to take the back seat to the offense in many of Saturday's contest. This weekend isn't quite as big as week 6 or even last week however there are some games worth keeping an eye on. Ole Miss welcomes Coach Butch Jones and the Volunteers to town for a SEC match up. Alabama squares off against Texas A&M at home while Georgia is headed to Arkansas and South Carolina returns to action after their bye week as they play host to Furman for homecoming. Over in the ACC, #2 Florida State welcomes #5 Notre Dame to town for a Top 5 Showdown in "The Doak". #24 Clemson hits the road to take on Boston College, North Carolina State travels to Louisville and Georgia Tech will go at it in Chapel Hill against the Tarheels. Elsewhere in the country #4 Baylor faces West Virginia, #15 Oklahoma State takes on #12 TCU, #11 Oklahoma squares off against #14 Kansas State, and #9 Oregon plays Washington. The new #1 team in the country, Mississippi State, has the week off and prepares for their next game on the road at Kentucky next weekend.


#3 Ole Miss vs Tennessee 

The Volunteers face a huge test this weekend as they head to Oxford to face the Rebels. The Vols are 0-2 in conference play and are looking for that first SEC win but its not going to happen this week. Bo Wallace and company have proved to be the real deal. It would take the Vols' best game (and some luck) for them to go on the road and leave with a W this weekend. The line in Vegas is set at 16 and while I think that's just about right I also wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be a decent game. Can Ole Miss continue to play at a high level and handle the all hype and not overlook this 3-3 team that clearly is at a disadvantage? Butch Jones and his team would love nothing more than to get that first SEC win of the season and put an end to Ole Miss' perfect season. But I just don't think its going to happen. Rebels get the job done.

The Pick: Ole Miss

#5 Notre Dame @ #2 Florida State

Another week and another headline story involving Jameis Winston....this time over autographs. The guy must be a cat and have nine lives cause I feel that any other player just about anywhere else in the country would have been dismissed long before now. The kid needs help but apparently doesn't want it. News broke earlier this week how the legendary Bo Jackson tried to reach out to Winston and offer help as a mentor with positive influence and act as a role model but apparently Winston wasn't interested. Go figure. Anyways we all expect him to play Saturday unless of course FSU is waiting until 10pm Friday night to announce he has been suspended again. Ya know, cause late at night is always when these stories from Tallahassee seem to be released. But on to the actual game this weekend....I'm intrigued..somewhat. While the Irish are undefeated the only respectable game (and win) they have came against #14 Stanford. They found themselves in a high scoring boxing match with the Tarheels last weekend and we all know how good they are. (sarcasm) Outside of that, their best win is probably Purdue. While FSU's schedule hasn't been the hardest of journeys either they do have wins over Oklahoma State and Clemson. They have been far from perfect though and didn't exactly dominate Syracuse last weekend giving up 20 points to the Orange. With this game being at home I gotta give the edge to Florida State although I'm interested to see how the defense handles Everett Goldson. I think he can cause some problems for the Seminoles so it'll be interesting to see who steps up.

The Pick: Florida State

#7 Alabama vs #21 Texas A&M 

This one has lost a bit of its luster in the last few weeks with the Aggies losing their last two games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss while Bama too is trying to get back on track after falling to the Rebels and barely escaping the upset to Arkansas last weekend. This game still should be one to keep an eye on. Overall Alabama hasn't been overly impressive and I think the special teams unit alone made Nick Saban grow a few gray hairs last week as they put the ball on the ground four times and had two turnovers.  Somehow they still managed to survive the game thanks to a missed FG by Arkansas. The defense will be tested this week against Sumlin's Aggies and they will look to spread the field and air it out against the Bama defense. When Kenny Hill has time, he is one of the best in the country but if you get some pressure on him and put him on the ground a few times its a different story. That being said I think Alabama wins this one on the back of its defense.

The Pick: Alabama

#10 Georgia @ Arkansas 

Georgia proved a lot of people wrong (including myself) last week and put to rest all the thoughts that they were a one-man team behind Todd Gurley. Freshman RB Nick Chubb seized the opportunity and lead the Dawgs with 143 yards rushing and 1 touchdown while the Georgia defense shutout Missouri. This week the Dawgs are back on the road and take on an Arkansas team that just seems primed for an upset. After back-to-back heartbreaking losses to the #6 Aggies and #7 Crimson Tide it just seems that they are due. The Razorbacks are much improved and you gotta think that they would love nothing more than to be a spoiler for Georgia and take down the Dawgs Saturday at home. I was wrong about UGA last week as I picked them to be upset by Missouri. As much as I would like to see them go down Saturday...(sorry, that is just the Clemson in me...and I'm really not sorry about it, either.) after last week I gotta say this is a solid football team and they were able to remain focused despite all the drama surrounding Gurley and pick up a huge win on the road against the defending division champs. Razorbacks are due for an upset but a small part of me is starting to believe they are just lacking somewhere and can't finish....that being said, I gotta play it conservative.

The Pick: Georgia 

#24 Clemson @ Boston College 

I'll be honest with you....this game worries me a bit. Chestnut Hill isn't the most exciting place to play and this game has all the makings of a low-scoring, hard fought battle. Boston College has arguably one of the best and deepest offensive lines in the country and the Eagles aren't too shabby on defense either giving up just under 20 points per game. While they took care of business earlier this year against #9 USC they also lost to Pittsburgh and Colorado State. But don't get me wrong, this BC team is very capable of beating the Tigers Saturday. However, BC hasn't faced a defense even close to what Clemson will bring to the table this weekend. The defense has become the backbone of this team and after last week their confidence and focus continues to grow. Special teams is also coming together and will be another major area of this game to watch. We talked earlier this season how if special teams wasn't fixed it would indeed cost us games down the stretch. It definitely made difference against the Seminoles back in September and the Cardinals last weekend. If Deshaun Watson was able to play, I'd feel a bit more comfortable but I think regardless of who the QB is Saturday, if the Tigers are going to win this game it'll be because of the play of the defense. I expect a low scoring game like last week against Louisville and think Stoudt and the offense does just enough to get the job done. Hopefully someone...ANYONE...will get the hot hand Saturday and get the running game going which will help us set up the big pass plays down field. Most importantly, Stoudt will have to take what the defense is giving him. It might not be the prettiest win ever but I think they grind it out in Alumni Stadium and get the win. If Stoudt plays like he did in the 1st half of the Georgia game, this could be a rout, if not...be prepared for a battle that isn't decided until the mid-to-late fourth quarter. I'm sure he is eager to come out and perform well after whats been an unfortunate first half of his senior season.

The Pick: Clemson

Other Picks: 

#15 Oklahoma State over #12 TCU 
#11 Oklahoma over #14 Kansas State 
Washington over #9 Oregon
South Carolina over Furman 
#4 Baylor over West Virginia 
Louisville over North Carolina State
Georgia Tech over North Carolina

Monday, October 13, 2014

Progress Report

Its that time of year again. The leaves are beginning to change...the days are getting shorter...the temperature is dropping and, if you're a student, its that dreaded time of the year when midterms roll around. And while this is the first time in a quite a long time I haven't had to worry about any exams I remember the stress it caused and anxiety as you waited for grades to come in and see just how good (or bad) things were going at the midway point.  Although I'm no teacher, today I will be giving out grades for Clemson as they approach the midway point of their 2014 season. While the Tigers have looked great in some areas, others could use some more work as we move forward. Although that goal of a "4.0 GPA" may be out of reach for the Tigers they can still make this another special year in Tigertown. An ACC Championship isn't likely but another 10 win season including a long overdue win over arch rival South Carolina and a return trip to the Orange Bowl is still on the table. There is still plenty to play for despite the rough start and the good thing is that the hardest part is behind them. They cleared another big hurdle Saturday against the Cardinals and if they can do the same this weekend up in Chestnut Hill against the Boston College Eagles, going 10-2 regular season becomes even more likely as the road becomes much easier. Syracuse for homecoming, bye week, Wake Forest on the road (Thursday night) Georgia Tech on the road, Georgia State at home followed by the season finale in Death Valley against the Gamecocks. But they have to take it one game at a time...the next game is always your biggest game. As for today, its time to hand out the progress report for Clemson.


Offense 

Deshaun Watson has provided a spark for the Clemson offense and in just two games as a starter has caught the attention of the entire nation. The Tiger offense took a step back Saturday and were held scoreless despite two trips down near the goal line against Lousiville's top ranked defense. While the Tigers are ranked 38th overall as far as offensive production they seem to fold when they get into the red zone...ranking 110th out of 125 teams. (ouch!) There is reason for optimism, though. On offense this team is young and will only get better with time. Watson is special and we've seen flashes of greatness out of  guys like Mike Williams, Adam Choice and Artavis Scott. We've yet to see anyone really pull away from the pack in the backfield or running game in general but there have been signs of improvement there. Many were worried about how effective Clemson would be this year without the services of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins and while they have been missed...the Tigers haven't wavered from they like to do and have found ways to put points on the board. While play calling has been very questionable at times so far this year, the Tigers have still been able to sneak in a few of those "homerun" plays we have grown used to seeing with the likes of Spiller, Hopkins and Watkins. Overall I would have to say the offense is good but not great...not yet. Injuries and inexperience upfront have not made the transition any easier but outside of the 4th quarter in Athens and the red zone woes, Clemson's offense has been just as dangerous (at times) as last season. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks go with Watson on the sidelines and Stoudt back in the starting role but an "A" grade here is definitely possible at the season's end if the Tigers can stay healthy from here on out and find ways to finish drives with touchdowns once they get into the red zone. 

Grade: C+


Defense 

You just can't say enough about this defense. For the most part this group has lived up to every bit of the hype entering this season and according to the NCAA official site are ranked as the #6 defense in the country including #2 in terms of tackles for loss and #3 on third down. In their last game this weekend against Louisville the Tigers held the Cards to just 52 yards rushing and allowed only 1 third down conversion on 17 attempts. Yeah...that'll help out the ole' average a bit. The Tigers ran out of steam in the first game in Athens but outside of that game, a busted play allowing a game-tying touchdown in Tallahassee and a lazy fourth quarter effort against North Carolina, the Tiger defense has been dominant and has answered the call time and time again this season. Maybe none bigger than the goal-line stop at the end of the game Saturday night in Death Valley. I always grew up hearing about how Clemson used to be known for its great defenses and the likes of the Perry Brothers, Brian Dawkins, and Jeff Davis so its great to be around to see a defense that will go down as one of the best groups to ever wear the Orange and White. I can't ever remember a time where the Clemson defense had touchdowns in back-to-back games. The guys are playing smash-mouth football out there and you can tell they are out there having fun. Its nice to know we don't have to score 50 points a game this season to be comfortable that we can win. All that being said, there is always room for improvement. The Tigers dodged a bullet Saturday night when they allowed Louisville to nearly steal the game with a 73 yard pass from Gardner to James Quick, who rushed down the Clemson sideline in the final seconds of the game before being chased down by Safety Jayron Kearse. That was the only chunk yardage play of the game for them and nearly cost them everything. All in All there are not many defenses better than Clemson right now. 

Grade: A


Special Teams 

If there was a mid season award for most improved, the special teams unit would have to be the clear winner. After a rough start including missed FG's and giving up a 100 yard kick off return to Todd Gurley in Athens in the season opener, the Tigers are not only kicking better but doing much better on coverage and even had a special teams touchdown last week via Adam Humphries' 72 yard punt return early in the first quarter against Louisville. If you had told me after the NC State game that we would win against Louisville because of defense and special teams I probably would have laughed in your face. However, Bradley Pinion continues to impress on kickoffs and punts and Ammon Lakip's confidence seems to be as high as ever and he seems to have found his groove and has become dependable for the Tigers in the past three weeks after a very rough start to the season. It was really nice to see Clemson overcome their offensive struggles and find a way to win the game with a big special teams play and another defensive touchdown. Wins like Saturday separate the good teams from the great and anytime you are at home you have to find a way to win those close, down-to-the-wire contest and defend your home field. Clemson fans also deserve an assist for Saturday's win as they kept the volume turned on high all afternoon. I saw a video from someone affiliated with Louisville behind the end zone recording the final play at the goal-line and you could feel the electricity in the air from the fans and just how loud it was on the field. Deafening loud....or as we like to call it, CLEMSON LOUD.

Grade: B



Overall 

While I understand the frustration of fans and players at this time and how we all wish that we had played UGA and FSU a few weeks later in the season, this team has done what has been expected of them. I'm proud of the way this team has battled so far this year and while I'm still disappointed we let the one in Tallahassee get away from us there is no doubt this is a special team that should be happy by the time bowl season rolls around. If the Tigers can stay healthy, especially on the offensive line and stay focused taking things one game at a time there is really no reason why they shouldn't be 10-2 at the end of November. They will be favored in every remaining game and get the Gamecocks at home to end the season. The defense is playing lights out and despite the loss of Watson for the next few weeks I think the offense will be just fine and will continue to do what they do best and hopefully get the running game going more and more as we head down the stretch. Overall this team is in a good position...one that most would like to be in and are equipped to finish this season winning 9 games in a row. This is a really good football team and when they are at their best are Top 15 worthy. While the polls haven't done them any favors so far things will fall into place and handle themselves when you keep winning. Al Davis said it best....just win, baby.  


Grade: B



Friday, October 10, 2014

Week 7 Predictions

Last week can be described in one word...spectacular. If you can't enjoy College Football after last weekend's games then maybe sports in general just aren't your thing. In a weekend full of upsets and crazy finishes it was not a good weekend to be ranked. #2, #3, #4, #6, #8, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, and #19 were all knocked off. It was the first time EVER that five of the top ten lost in the same weekend. I mean seriously....you know it was an interesting day with Ole Miss and Mississippi State were sitting on top of the world by the time College Gameday Final went on the air. It all started Thursday night when unranked Arizona upset #2 Oregon on the road which was followed up by Utah State taking down #18 BYU Friday night. It started a domino effect that carried into Saturday where we would see #11 Ole Miss take down #3 Alabama, #25 TCU shock #4 Oklahoma, #5 Auburn blowout #15 LSU, #6 Texas A&M fall to #12 Mississippi State, Utah upset #8 UCLA, #9 Notre Dame hold off #14 Stanford, #10 Michigan State survive against #19 Nebraska, #16 USC fall short to Arizona State, and #17 Wisconsin upset by Northwestern. Elsewhere in the nation, Clemson shutout North Carolina State, Florida escaped Neyland Stadium with a win over Tennessee, Georgia handled Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech handed North Carolina its second straight ACC loss, Georgia Tech improved to 5-0 win a win over Miami and Steve Spurrier lost to Kentucky for only the second time ever as the Gamecocks blew another fourth quarter lead. Week 7 has a tough act to follow but lets see whats in store for us college football fans.


#2 Auburn @ #3 Mississippi State


The Tigers, Bulldogs and Rebels are currently in a three way tie for 1st in the SEC-West and this game all of the sudden has become a lot more intriguing than it looked even three weeks ago. Mississippi State is coming off a thrilling win over Texas A&M. Auburn just beat the mess out of LSU. With the season at the midway point, Dan Mullen's crew already has two top ten wins under its belt and if they can do the unthinkable and get past Auburn this week, they don't face another ranked opponent until November 15th when they travel to Alabama. My point is if this team can avoid the letdown the next few eeks and maybe steal one this week, even if they fall to Bama or Ole Miss at the end of the season they would have quite the resume when it comes to deciding who makes the playoffs. Its a long way from here but you gotta have it in the back of your head considering how they are playing. I've been skeptical of the Bulldogs so far this year but these guys are the real deal. Quarterback Dak Prescott is off to a great start and has thrown for 13 touchdowns this year. Auburn had no trouble against LSU last week but Saturday by far will be the biggest test they have faced so far this season. After deciding at the last minute to pick against them last week, I'm buying in and think the Bulldogs find a way to get it done at home. I can hear those cowbells all the way from Clemson, South Carolina.

The Pick: Mississippi State

#3 Ole Miss @ #14 Texas A&M 

The Rebels are feeling good about themselves and rightfully so following last week's victory over Alabama (which I predicted, by the way). The defense rose to the occasion and didn't allow Lane Kiffin's offense to have much success. No time for extended celebrations though as the Rebels now have to hit the road to Texas A&M and face not only Kenny Hill and the Aggies but the 12th man in the Aggies fans in College Station. Make no mistake that home field advantage played a big role in the Rebels success last weekend and I expect Texas A&M to have the same type environment with the now #3 Rebels coming to town. My only concern is that this is the first true road game for the Rebels. Their lone road game so far was a trip to Nashville to take on a terrible Vanderbilt team. Can the Rebels handle the pressure and continue to play at a high level on the road in not only a hostile environment but against a team that knows how to score points and will be eager to bounce back after losing to Mississippi State last week? Ole Miss is a good football team but it'll take more than a win over an Alabama team (at home) that hasn't been overly impressive thus far to convince me.

The Pick: Texas A&M

#6 Norte Dame vs North Carolina 

The Tarheels are desperate for a win after losing their last three games to East Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech. And its not like they have had some tough breaks, they have been straight up outplayed in all three contest and just aren't that good of a team, especially on defense where they are giving up over 35 points per game. While Norte Dame's schedule is nothing impressive outside of last week's win over #14 Stanford, on paper they are still a much better team than the Tarheels. Don't look now but that match-up in Tallahassee next week is looking more and more interesting and gameday worthy. Everett Goldson is playing well so far and is completing 64% of his passes averaging 7.7 yards per completion. If North Carolina's defense wasn't so terrible I'd give them a chance here but for a team that has given up 154 points in its last three games and having to face another solid quarterback this week....I just don't see an upset happening here. I think Fighting Irish not only win but cover the 16 point spread.

The Pick: Norte Dame


#13 Georgia @ #23 Missouri 

This game now has my attention and probably the attention of many across the nation as news broke yesterday that RB Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely due to an investigation that he sold autographs for money. I'll save my rant and how I feel about this act of stupidity for another day but I think his actions and the distraction now this causes for the team can not be overlooked. Gurley has rushed for 773 yards and 8 touchdowns this year averaging over 8 yards per carry and was believed by most to be the front-runner for the Heisman. Now with the release of these new allegations and an ongoing investigation will that Heisman campaign take a hit? History might say no, just ask Manziel, Newton or even Winston...but his season is definitely in Jeopardy. Each case is different and my concern is how will Gurley react on the field if and when he comes back? As for Saturday, this game was already one to keep an eye on for SEC fans but even more so now. Missouri won the division last season and although they are without some of their top receivers from last year, they have proved they could still find ways to win games...just ask South Carolina. I know UGA is loaded with talent in the backfield but right now Gurley is by far the best option and the offense tends to have more struggles when he is on the sideline rather than the field. Missouri's Matty Mauk is a capable QB and has tossed for over 14 touchdowns this season. In a case of probably the worst timing ever...I think Missouri takes advantage of the opportunity and pulls the upset at home.


The Pick: Missouri  


Georgia Tech vs Duke 

Not really sure how I feel about Georgia Tech. Yes, they are 5-0 and seemed to be improved from last year but five weeks into the season and they still haven't had a true test yet. (Sure you can count Virginia Tech and maybe, MAYBE Miami..but lets be real..neither have done much as of late. I've been waiting for the return of "The U" for more than a few years now but it has yet to happen.) The Jackets have yet to even face a ranked team. In fact, as it stands right now, Georgia is the only ranked team left on their schedule. However, one would think that by the time Clemson comes to town in November that the Tigers will be back in the polls. That's really the only possibility though of facing another team that is even halfway decent. North Carolina State is good but after last week I'm not sure if they are overrated or if Clemson was truly just that much better than the Wolfpack. Anyways, Duke should at least provide some decent competition this week for the jackets. The Bluedevils are off to a 4-1 start and look to build on last year's success that almost ended with a win over Texas A&M in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl down in Atlanta. As for Saturday, the key is Duke's defense and how well they are able to defend Paul Johnson's offense that bores you to sleep before hitting you with the big play when you aren't ready. And because I simply do not like Georgia Tech and like what I see coming out of Durham from a football perspective, I'm going with Coach David Cutcliffe and company to get the job done.

The Pick: Duke


Louisville @ Clemson


What a difference two weeks makes. After letting one slip away in Tallahassee in overtime and dropping to 1-2 on the season, Tiger fans were understandably upset. Some of these “fans” were even calling for Swinney and Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris to be fired. Enter true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson. The 6-2  205 dual-threat gunslinger from Gainesville, Ga has lived up to the hype and truly is a special player. In his first start against North Carolina, he threw for a school record and tied an ACC record with 6 touchdowns in a 50-35 victory. Last week he followed that performance up with another solid day with 267 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding 2 more on the ground. He's making it look easy and has the poise of a 5th year senior in the pocket. Watson has provided a spark to not only this Clemson offense but the entire team and fan base. The Tigers have posted back to back wins and are averaging 45.5 points per game with the freshmen running the show.  Optimism in flying high again around Tigertown and everyone is excited to watch this special player develop and continue what looks to be a very promising career. More importantly, Morris and Swinney’s job security, according to fans, is safe again. 

The offense is coming together better each week under Watson and at times the past two weeks have looked simply unstoppable. But with the nations top defense coming to town this week does that begin to change? Lousiville is ranked in the top ten in basically every defensive category and are giving up around 12 points per game and only four yards per play. But to be fair, they have not faced an explosive high-tempo offense like Clemson yet and just as the Tigers will be tested, so will the Cardinals. Make no mistake about that. Clemson's defense is beginning to live up to the preseason hype and after shutting out the Wolfpack offense last week they are like a Shark that smells blood and is ready to attack. They saw just how dominant they could be and are out there having fun. Vic Beasley is now tied for the all time sack record at 28 with Michael Dean Perry and the late Gaines Adams. He should almost certainly become the new Sack King at some point Saturday and I cannot wait to see it happen...but it won't come easy against Louisville's big and physical offensive line. It will also will be important for Clemson defenders to wrap up on the Cardinals running backs who average about 220 pounds each. Arm tackling is never good but especially in this situation. Wrap up or get ran over...its a simple concept. In addition, the secondary will need to keep tabs on their other playmakers including DeVante Parker who is expected to make his return from a foot injury and is a threat whenever he's on the field. We won't know how effective he will be until Saturday but you have to plan for him being 100%. 



This game is very intriguing for a few reasons but mainly because Louisville is a new member of the ACC and is coming to Death Valley for the first time ever. It will be fun to see how Watson reacts to the Cardinals big and physical defense. That being said, Watson handled himself well for the most part on the road against FSU’s defense and I feel confident in him this weekend. Another key will be Clemson’s offensive line which has been stretched so thin you can almost see through it now. Offensive Coordinator made it clear that was an area of concern but they will find a group of five they are confident in hopefully find a formula that works for them and gives Watson enough time to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers around him. All in all I see this being a much more competitive game than last week’s 41-0 win over North Carolina State. I think we will again look to establish the running game early and have some balance on offense. While I think Louisville will have success moving the ball I think our defense will take over in the second half and make the difference. Add in the mix of Deshaun Watson’s playmaking ability and the Tigers playing at home and I like their chances but this one will be a fight early on. If Louisville can make some plays early and maybe cause a turnover or two and get Watson uncomfortable…watch out. 


The Pick: Clemson 31 Louisville 21 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Week 6 Predictions

If you thought last week was fun....you haven't seen anything yet. After a few weeks of just a handful of high profile games, this weekend we are slammed full of ranked teams squaring off. It is a strong possibility that come Sunday morning the polls might be shaken up quite a bit. It all gets started Thursday when Arizona travels to Eugene and try to make it two straight over the Ducks after taking them behind the woodshed last season. Then on Saturday....grab you some food, beverages and a comfortable couch cause we have some good football coming your way. After Florida State flirted with disaster last weekend in Raleigh they direct their attention to a visit from Wake Fores while Clemson looks to climb back into the polls as they face North Carolina State at home. Over in the SEC, there are three pretty big games going down as #3 Alabama travels to take on #11 Ole Miss in a game that screams upset in my opinion (spoiler pick alert), in a battle of Tigers, #5 Auburn faces #15 LSU, #6 Texas A&M is on the road at #12 Mississippi State and South Carolina heads to Kentucky. The fun doesn't stop there though as #4 Oklahoma takes on #25 TCU on the road and lastly in a top 20 showdown #10 Michigan State takes on #19 Nebraska. Without further delay...lets make some predictions!


#1 Florida State vs Wake Forest 


For much of their game last week against North Carolina State it appeared that the demons of Raleigh were again going to take down the Seminoles but FSU rallied and put up 35 second half points to shut down the party in Carter-Finley Stadium. Now the Noles are back at home and have to take on the Demon Deacons in a game in which they are favored by nearly 40 points. Its not every day you see a spread that big and if I was a betting man I would say there is no way they cover. Wake Forest is bad but 40 points?! They win easily but that seems a little absurd especially considering their performance last week.

The Pick: Florida State 



#2 Oregon vs Arizona 


I remember turning on the TV last year and having to do a double take when I saw the score between Oregon and Arizona. The Wildcats had their way with the Ducks last season and left no doubt that they were the better team that night winning 42-16. I expect there to be a different story this time around and while the Wildcats are 4-0 they have yet to be tested by a quality opponent and going on the road to face Oregon is a tall task for anyone in the country. Anu Solomon is a solid QB for the Wildcats and will keep them in it for a while but Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who has thrown for 13 touchdowns so far this year, is even better. I think payback is in store and Oregon gets it done at home.

The Pick: Oregon


#3 Alabama @ #11 Ole Miss  

As much as I do not like Lane Kiffin...he has the Bama offense rolling (no pun intended...actually that's a a lie...the words just worked together too perfectly). The Tide are averaging 42 points per game while giving up only 14. They struggled a bit in their last game at home against Florida before pulling a way in the second half and looked far from perfect in week one against West Virginia. BUT....in both contest they did what they had to do in order to win. And that my friends is the important thing. Things get interesting this week though as they head to Ole Miss...that's a top 15 ranked Ole Miss. College Gameday will be on site at The Grove and you can guarantee it will be a rowdy and um...."lively" crowd that will try to make it as hard as possible for Alabama's Blake Sims and the Bama offense. All eyes will be on the Rebels Saturday night and they have a HUGE, HUGE opportunity to show the world that they are the real deal (or not). The one thing that worries me about Wallace is the 6 interceptions he has thrown compared to only the 11 touchdowns. Against an Alabama defense that always has future NFL talent all over the field...that should be a concern. Turnovers are always key but in a game that could be decided late in the fourth quarter, that could be the difference.  I think Alabama is headed straight into a hornets nest this weekend at The Grove and not only do I think the Rebels put together a great game, they pull the upset in Oxford.

The Pick: Ole Miss


#4 Oklahoma @ #25 TCU  

Not really sure how this one is even a match up of ranked teams....TCU has played nothing but scrimmages up to this point and have yet to even be remotely tested. All of that ends Saturday in a major way. TCU ranks second in the nation in points given up on defense but that stat is very misleading once you examine that they've only played Samford, Minnesota and SMU. Oklahoma continues to climb its way back to the top of the college football world. This is also the the first ranked team that the Sooners will play this season but West Virginia and Tennessee are much more respectable football programs and opponents. I'm one of those guys that strongly believe that home field advantage matters and can be the difference in ball games. That being said, you still have to win the game on the field and nothing makes me believe that TCU has what it takes to pull the upset. But hey, that's why we play the game.

The Pick: Oklahoma 

#5 Auburn vs # 15 LSU

Over in Jordan-Hare stadium this week we have a top 15 SEC showdown and battle of the Tigers as Auburn invites LSU to town for a crucial divisional clash. Auburn is undefeated but the only team they've really played is Kansas State....which ironically enough is the game they probably should have lost but K-State's offense just couldn't get anything accomplished. Nevertheless the Tigers are still perfect on the season and have the chance to maybe inch a little closer towards the top of the college football rankings if they can take care of business Saturday night. I'm interested to see how LSU's defense, which is giving up only 13 points per game performs against Auburn's high paced and explosive offense. I think that is the key in this game and that will be the difference. LSU desperately needs to get back on track after dropping the game to Mississippi State at home but I doubt it happens this weekend. Go Tigers...War Eagle...or whatever they are saying these days.

The Pick: Auburn 


#6 Texas A&M @ #12 Mississippi State  

The Aggies had to come from behind last week to avoid the upset against a much improved Arkansas team in a game played out in Arlington, Texas. And while some may question A&M now, its important to remember that Arkansas's offense (and defense for that matter) is not what it was last year and looks to be getting back on track after a rough 2013 season. But when they needed it most, the Aggies answered the call and scored 21 unanswered points including a 25-yard game winning touchdown from Kenny Hill to Malcome Kennedy in overtime. My point is Texas A&M is a solid football team and for now deserves the respect that comes with a #6 ranking. They have another test in front of them this week though as they travel to take on the 4-0 Mississippi State Bulldogs who are still fired up after taking down LSU on the road in week four. They are coming off a bye week and should be fully rested and ready to go for this high-noon showdown in Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs are actually a 3 point favorite in the match-up but based on rankings I would still consider this one a upset if they can pull it off. I've yet to see the Bulldogs play yet so I have to make this pick based on what I do know and that is that Kenny Hill and the Aggie offense know how to put up some points and do it on the road. (See the season opener in Columbia, SC) I think the Aggies survive another close one and pick up another big SEC road win.

The Pick: Texas A&M

#10 Michigan State vs #19 Nebraska 

I'm trying to look past my dislike for Nebraska and Bo Pelini and make an educated and non-bias assessment here but the fact that I also like Michigan State and their style of play makes it difficult. Nebraska is still undefeated but to be fair they haven't played anyone. I mean ANYONE. Florida Atlantic....McNeese State...Fresno State...Miami (FL). C'mon bro...lets get serious. The Spartans haven't exactly had the toughest schedule so far either outside of Oregon (46-27 loss) but they are the defending Rose Bowl champions for a reason. I think they get it done at home and win in convincing fashion over the Cornhuskers.

The Pick: Michigan State

South Carolina @ Kentucky

One week after taking a verbal beating from their coach after their performance in Nashville against Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks returned home and looked to play better as they took on Missouri. It seemed as though they had survived once again but they would blow a 13 point lead late in the fourth quarter and fall to the Tigers, 21-20. Now they must regroup and get ready for an improved Kentucky squad that had the Gamecocks on the ropes last season in Columbia before falling to South Carolina by a score of 35-28. Believe it or not Kentucky is a play or two away from being undefeated. Yes...I'm still talking about the football team. They gave the Gators all they could handle in the Swamp a few weeks ago and fit the mold of a spoiler team in the SEC this year. This is a game that has become more and more interesting in the last few weeks. Can Kentucky rise to the occasion and take down the Gamecocks in front of what should be a full house under the lights in Commonwealth Stadium? Its been clear the Gamecocks aren't the same team on the road and the defense continues to struggle though they are showing signs of improvement. I think the Wildcats pull the upset and throw another wrinkle into the race to Atlanta in the Eastern division.

The Pick: Kentucky 

Clemson vs North Carolina State  

Deshaun Watson has taken over the Clemson offense at quarterback and provided a spark for the entire team and for what the future holds. In his first start last week we threw for 435 yards and 6 touchdowns setting a new ACC and school record. Clemson's defense struggled in the second half after shutting down UNC's offense early on but came up with enough stops down the stretch to seal the deal. North Carolina State will hit the road to Death Valley and take on the Tigers this week in what should be another high scoring affair. NC State's Jacoby Brissett is the most athletic quarterback the Tigers have faced so far and knows how to stretch out plays and make something out of nothing. Getting pressure on him and trying to rattle him early will go a long way in slowing down the Wolfpack offense that dropped 41 on the Seminoles last weekend. NC State played the Tigers tough last year up in Raleigh but have lost 9 out of the last 10 against Clemson. Expect State to have some success against the Tigers and for Brissett to make some big plays but in the end I don't think they'll be able to keep up. Also worth noting that Clemson has won 20 straight games against unranked opponents and all have been by double digits. The Tigers are a 15 point favorite Saturday and while it may look tight early, they pull away in the fourth quarter and cover the spread...but barely!

The Pick: Clemson 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Week 5 Predictions

Another weekend of college football has come and gone and we now find ourselves quickly approaching the halfway mark. Week four provided quite a few close finishes. #5 Auburn held off Kansas State on Thursday night for a 20-14 win. The Wildcats defense played well but the offense couldn't seem to get anything going against the Tigers. #1 Florida State slipped past Clemson down in Tallahassee behind backup quarterback Sean Maguire. #2 Oregon survived against Washington St, 38-31. Florida hung tough with Alabama before the Tide pulled away in the second half for a 41-21 victory. Oklahoma used a 21 point second quarter to get past West Virginia, 45-33. Mississippi State went into Death Valley Jr. and held off a late LSU rally to knock off the #8 Tigers, 34-29. South Carolina had to rally on the road in Nashville but took care of Vanderbilt 48-34 to improve to 3-1 on the season but coach Spurrier made it clear that he was not satisfied with the Gamecocks performance in his post-game press conference. Georgia had no trouble with Troy at home locking up a 66-0 win after falling to South Carolina last week. Week 5 doesn't have many intriguing games but there are a few that should at least be worth watching this week. ESPN's College Gameday will be live from Columbia, SC for the showdown against Missouri. Clemson returns home to face North Carolina, Arkansas has a big opportunity this weekend as it travels to Arlington, Texas to square off against Kenny Hill and the Texas A&M Aggies. UGA begins a stretch of seven straight SEC opponents as Tennessee comes to town and North Carolina State looks to stir up some trouble in Raleigh as the #1 Seminoles come calling.


#12 Georgia vs Tennessee 

UGA is back to business after last week's scrimmage against Troy and prepare for a stretch of seven straight SEC games. Luckily, the only ranked team left on the schedule is Auburn and they get them at home in November. I think UGA's backfield again is simply too deep and talented. The offensive line will get the job done and open up holes for the running game and protect Mason in the pocket and overpower Tennessee's front. If this game was in Knoxville I might give the Vols a chance but the Dawgs have too many advantages and are simply the better team. Look for them to score early and often and handle their business and keep their name in the hat for the race in the SEC-East.

The Pick: Georgia 

Arkansas vs #6 Texas A&M 

The Razorbacks are showing all the signs of improvement from last year and their offense is starting to come together well, averaging 48 points per game. We will learn a lot about them starting this week which begins a 3 game stretch against #6 Texas A&M in Arlington, an open date, then back to back home games against #3 Alabama and #12 Georgia. Saturday is a great opportunity for the Razorbacks but I think A&M is just that much better. Kenny Hill and the Aggies look like a team on a mission and are ready to be a contender for a SEC title. I think Arkansas has some success and puts points on the board but won't be able to keep up.

The Pick: Texas A&M


Missouri @ #13 South Carolina

Last year's game was a thriller with South Carolina rallying behind Conner Shaw who had to come off the bench to save the Gamecocks in the "battle of Columbias". I think we are in for another great game this year as well. College Gameday will be there, primetime kickoff, Kenny Chesney will be there ( if you're into that kind of thing) and I heard it was also Parent's Weekend. Should be a grand ole time down in Columbia, SC. The Gamecocks have been flirting with a loss the past few games and haven't been playing well, especially on defense where they are giving up nearly 40 points per game ranking 108th in the nation. (ouch!) They had to rally on the road last week to take care of a terrible Vanderbilt team and Spurrier didn't hesitate to let the media know how he felt about his team and its effort. The Tigers are without their top three receivers from last year in L'Damian Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas but Maty Mauk is a solid QB and he will put some points on the board against this young defense. The Gamecocks offense is also not too bad either but have struggled at times. Mike Davis has been unimpressive thus far and doesn't look to be the guy we knew from last year that some had as a Heisman contender at the beginning of the season. Expect another close finish Saturday night. I think Missouri comes into town and gives the Gamecocks a good fight but can't seal the deal. Put the Gamecocks on Upset Alert but I think they get it done.

The Pick: South Carolina

Clemson vs North Carolina

Deshaun Watson is now the starting quarterback and will lead the Tigers onto the field this weekend in their first home ACC game of the season when Clemson kicks off against North Carolina under the lights Saturday night. The Tarheels gave up a jaw dropping 70 (!) points to East Carolina (!!) last weekend and hope to have a much better outing in Death Valley. It'll be nice to see former Clemson DC Vic Koenning back in Clemson and even nicer to see him on the visitors sideline. I think the defense continues to play well and doesn't have a hangover from last week's tough loss in Tallahassee. The last time these two teams met up, it was a 59-38 shootout and while I think a good bit of points will be scored Saturday night...most of which will come from one side of the scoreboard. Tigers cover the 14 point spread and more.

The Pick: Clemson

#1 Florida State @ North Carolina State 


The last time the Seminoles invaded Raleigh they were ranked #3 the nation and let the Wolfpack pull the huge upset. While much has changed on both sidelines since that evening, a lot is still the same. This time FSU is #1 and again is clearly the far better team. However, weird things happen sometimes up in Raleigh and while I don't think will be a repeat of the Noles last trip, I would approach it with caution. Coming off an emotional win against Clemson, it will be key for FSU to come out focused and ready to play and not allow NC State to get any early momentum or the confidence that they can hang around. Winston will be back and I'm sure he's eager to get back on the field and lead his team to an important divisional win on the road

The Pick: Florida State 



Other Predictions: 


#8 Notre Dame over Syracuse 
Washington over #16 Stanford 
Oregon State over #18 USC
Duke over Miami 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Week 4 Predictions

I ended last week's post stating that college football can be weird sometimes...and if Saturday wasn't a weird/wild but very entertaining day of football, I don't know what is. It appeared to be upset weekend from the begining with quite a few of the nations top teams finding themselves in the loss column by the time all the madness had settled on the day. Virginia knocked off #21 Louisville and once again showed some promise that the Cavs should have a much better season this year. #17 Virginia Tech couldn't avoid the letdown after last week's win at Ohio State and were upset at home by a East Carolina squad that gave #24 South Carolina just about all it could handle for three quarters in week two. #12 UCLA just barely got past Texas and are really beginning to bring their ranking into question after the first few weeks of the season. Tennessee was competitive early but couldn't maintain throughout the second half and fell to Oklahoma. Boston College survived a late rally to hold off #9 USC at home and the Gamecocks got it done at home against #6 Georgia to keep their SEC title hopes alive. This week's menu brings a few interesting games to keep an eye on as Auburn heads to Kansas State for a Thursday night showdown, Florida and Alabama square off in Bryant-Denny Stadium, Oklahoma travels up to West Virginia, South Carolina has its first road game of the season at Vanderbilt and finally, for the second year in a row, Gameday will be on site of the Clemson-Florida State game aka the ACC-Atlantic Championship. Hard to believe it is already week four!

#5 Auburn @ #20 Kansas State
Looks like we could be headed for a shootout Thursday night when Auburn hits the road to take on Kansas State. The Tigers are averaging 52 points and should be well rested coming off their bye week last weekend. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are putting up 43 points per game through the first few weeks. If there was ever a time for Auburn to get a on a roll, its now with five of its next seven opponents ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. Yikes. Thursday night games on the road have a strange stigma to them and often turn into perfect situations for an upset. I'm interested to see how Auburn does in its first real test of this season. For me this has trouble written all over it. Bill Snyder is a good one and will have his guys ready to rock and roll. If his offense, which is rooted on the success of the running game, can get going early ...watch out. The key will be to have long, productive drives and keep that Auburn offense on the sideline as much as possible. If you've been waiting for my first upset prediction of the 2014 season...you now have it.

The Pick: Kansas State


#4 Oklahoma @ West Virginia 


Former FSU QB Clint Trickett is off to a solid start to the season throwing for 1224 yards, 7 touchdowns with only 1 interception through the first three games of his senior season. I like this Oklahoma team and think they will be among the teams fighting for a spot in the playoffs at the season's end. I think they are the better team here but I would use caution approaching this one. Especially with all that has already occurred in this young season...an upset here isn't too far fetched. But as for me....forget about it. Mountaineers keep it interesting early but Oklahoma finishes the job in the second half. Sooners!

The Pick: Oklahoma 






#3 Alabama vs Florida 
Times are still a bit rough in Gainesville and despite the Gators being 2-0 there is still reason for concern. Kentucky gave Florida all it could handle in the Swamp last weekend. It appears the Wildcats are going to have a decent season this year but you have to remember this is still Kentucky and this ain't basketball. Alabama on the other hand is ready to make a run at another National Championship. The Crimson Tide showed it was far from perfect in week 1 against West Virginia so I don't think Florida is just going to lay down and take it from Nick Saban's squad. However, by the time the mid-third/fourth quarter rolls around I think Alabama's depth and overall coaching advantage will prove to be too much for the mighty Gators.

The Pick: Alabama 

#14 South Carolina @ Vanderbilt 
On paper this looks like a game that should be put away well before we even reach halftime. Vanderbilt is flat out awful this year and SHOULD have loss to UMass last weekend and had they not missed a 22 yard field goal late in the game to tie the score, its very likely they would have. All that being said, nothing is a given and the Gamecocks will have to show up and play like they are the better team. First road game of the season and although it is not exactly a Georgia, Florida or Clemson type environment you always have to give your best effort when you hit the road. The big key here is if South Carolina can avoid the letdown after last week's emotional win. I believe they do and take a small, yet very important step closer towards a division title.

The Pick: South Carolina 

#1 Florida State vs #22 Clemson 

Preview: For the second straight year, ESPN's College Gameday will be on site for the showdown between the Tigers and Seminoles. Last year Jameis Winston and the Seminoles played a near perfect game and left Death Valley with a 51-14 win in a game in which the Tigers seemed doomed the moment they took the field. While the Seminoles were clearly the better team, when you turn the ball over 4 times in a game you can't expect to beat anyone. Let alone a top 10 team. Nevertheless, I think the Noles were still at least two touchdowns better than the Tigers if both teams were playing at their best. This year's game is missing some of the high profile players from last season but still has NFL talent on both sidelines.

One of those key players though, none other Jameis Winston himself, won't see the field until the 3rd quarter for yelling derogatory obscenities Tuesday on campus at the Student Union. The funny part is that had it not been for FSU students taking to social medial to talk about it as it happened....we probably would have never known. So for fans/students upset and defending him...you can blame yourself. I also just find what he said in poor taste considering some still believe he is a rapist. It just doesn't look good. But that's another story for another day. Florida State finally decided to show some type of punishment by suspending him for the first half of the game Saturday making sophomore Sean Maguire the starter. I personally think its a joke. What does a one half suspension really prove or accomplish? Either suspend the kid for the game and finally show a backbone and try to knock some sense into him or don't suspend him at all. This 1st half garbage is a sorry excuse for a punishment and a joke! I can only wonder that if the Noles were playing The Citadel this week instead of week 2, would there have been a more strict punishment. The line for the game is set at about 17 points (down from 20 points before the suspension). That's a pretty significant spread. The last time the Tigers were that big of an underdog on the road was against Miami in 2004. The Tigers won that game in a 24-17 overtime thriller. As of late when the Tigers are big underdogs and not really given a chance to win by "the experts",  they typically play their best. But with a young team still trying to find itself, going into the #1 teams house and leaving with a W is simply put...not likely. But that's why we play the game...you never know what can happen.

Keys to the Game:

1. Turnovers/Mistakes
This one goes without saying but I have to say it anyways. Any chance of the Tigers even making last year's game competitive was shot down due to mistakes and turnovers. Going into "the Doak" to face the #1 Seminoles, playing mistake-free and protecting the football will be a MUST. From simply not being on the same page, false starts, stupid penalties, not knowing your assignment etc the Tigers will have to bring their A game if they want to pull off what I believe would hands down be the biggest regular season win in school history.
2. Special Teams 
Field position and special teams played a HUGE role (as I predicted....just saying) in the week 1 showdown in Athens. The Tigers were pinned deep into their own territory almost every possession and conversely allowed Georgia good field position most of the night. When you go up against a team like FSU with the defending Heisman trophy winner and offense that can beat you in a lot of ways...you can't allow them to win the special teams battle also. A lot of things would have to happen for this game to come down to making/missing a late FG but throughout the game special teams including field position and kick coverage (both of which Clemson was very poor at in Athens) will be a key factor.
3. Running Game 

Getting the running game going will also be huge. But it starts up front with the offensive line. They will have to focus and overcome the environment and be efficient. While we have options at running back, someone will need to step up and become the guy to depend on down the stretch and I'm not sure who that is. I love the running style of Freshmen RB Kurt Fleming who runs more like a fullback and is not afraid of contact but also has some get-up to him as well. Sure, he's a freshmen but I think a guy like him could be beneficial in short yardage situations. Davidson has also shown he has a knack for finding the hole and hitting it and picking up those short yardage gains when needed especially down by the goal line. Adam Choice also looks great and will see some action Saturday night along with Wayne Gallman and DJ Howard.
5. Early Start- The Tigers have been perfect on their first two drives to start games this season and made it look easy when they first took the field in Athens. That is exactly what they need to do Saturday night. Getting off to a good start and putting some points on the board will go a long way in taking advantage of Winston's absence and trying to get ahead early. It certainly won't hurt confidence either. You can't bring out all the stops in the first quarter but getting creative on both offense and how you get pressure on defense will be huge early. Try to keep the Seminole fans in their seats for as long as possible in the 1st half before Winston arrives. If I'm Clemson and I win the toss I also see it as a no-brainer to kick and defer to the second half and at the very least guarantee one less possession for Winston.
4. Luck 
Finally, Clemson needs some luck Saturday night. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good and the Tigers will definitely need some good bounces and tips to come their way. Remember Auburn last year? They had a great deal of luck and easily could have had two-three more losses last year and never reached the title game. Its okay to be lucky. Along with luck, the Tigers need to opportunistic. If the ball is on the ground, somebody in orange needs to come out of the pile with that football. Gotta take advantage of every opportunity to make a play.


Prediction: 

As I've already stated, it would take a lot of things to happen for the Tigers to pull off the win Saturday night in Tallahassee. However, only having to defend Winston for 2 quarters helps a lot. I was there back in 2006, the last time Clemson won there, and I'll be the first to tell ya...its a very, very rough place to play. Those fans and that environment can eat you alive if you aren't prepared and play at your best. I love what I see from Watson and the extra dimension he gives the offense but starting him this weekend is just asking for disaster.  That Florida State defense is still a force and will give their best shot to Clemson and its questionable offensive line. Watson will play and will contribute as needed but Stoudt (as the starter/main guy) gives us the best chance to win. The Seminoles are nearly a 3 touchdown favorite and I think that is 100% justified and fair. However, I think Clemson rolls into town and plays one of its best games and keeps the Seminoles on the ropes. Tigers get off to a good start and maybe even take a small lead into the locker room at halftime but not sure Clemson has what it takes on the offensive line and from an overall depth standpoint to pull off the upset in Tallahassee. Seminoles take it, but closer than what most are predicting.

The Pick: Florida State 38 Clemson 28