Last week’s record: 4-2
It certainly wasn’t perfect, but I put together a decent redemption week with only two losses. This will the best week of college football that we will see this season as some top ranked teams go to work within their conferences.
1st Pick: #16 South Florida at Pittsburgh
(Thursday @ 8 p.m. ET on ESPN)
- South Florida is looking good and the Panthers are coming off of a boring home loss to the sporadic Irish. I know the Bulls are ranked and have a great quarterback in B.J. Daniels, but it is hard to play anywhere away from home on a Thursday night. Especially tonight, with an environment that includes a well-known student section and a national television audience. I think that Skip Holtz has his team ready for the crazy atmosphere and keeps his squad focused on the easiest BCS bid known to man. Due to the match-up between its hungry defense and the Panthers’ hapless offense, South Florida wins this one, 31–16.
Upset Pick: Northwestern at #24 Illinois
(Saturday @ 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
- Yes, I do realize that Northwestern loss to Army last week. Do you realize that they have been without their starting QB, Dan Persa, who returns Saturday to play a ranked Illinois team that barely beat Western Michigan last week? The Fighting Illini are a decent team, but their early ranking is the product of four home wins against three cream puffs and Arizona State. Northwestern will welcome back their golden arm with a stingy defensive effort and big road win to go 1–0 in Big Ten play. Wildcats win in Champaign, 27–17 .
3rd Pick: #14 Texas A&M vs. #18 Arkansas
(Saturday @ 12 p.m. ET on ESPN)
- For the second year in a row, the Aggies and the Razorbacks meet at “The House That Jerry Built.” This year, both teams are licking their wounds after losses to ranked teams last week. Arkansas won this pairing last year behind the arm of Ryan Mallett, but this year’s win will be carried upon the arm of Ryan Tannehill. The Texas A&M signal caller is coming off a shaky performance last week against the Oklahoma State secondary, but he will come out firing at Cowboy Stadium. To avoid the 34–28 loss that I predict for Arkansas, they will have to get the ball to Ronnie Wingo by handoff and through the air.
4th Pick: #13 Clemson at #11 Virginia Tech
(Saturday @ 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
- It is official: I am now a bandwagon Clemson fan. They are fun to watch and have a nice set of quality wins already. Those wins came at home, though, and their first road test happens to take place in Blacksburg against the Hokies. This will be a very entertaining game in a weird time slot on a second tier channel. Clemson has been very good on both sides of the ball, and they rely heavily upon a positive turnover margin. If Tahj Boyd can limit his mistakes and the Tiger defense can come up with a touchdown, I think this game will vault Clemson into the top 10. As always, the Hokies can effect the outcome with their stellar special teams play. I am sticking with the Orange and Regalia this week and predicting that they win by a field goal, 27–24.
5th Pick: #3 Alabama at #12 Florida
(Saturday @ 8 p.m. ET on CBS)
- If there is one team in college football that can shake up the scene and make their case as a title contender, it is the Florida Gators. They get #3 Alabama this week, only to play the #1 Bayou Bengals next week. While I don’t have any faith in them to even win one of those games, how great would it be to see them take down two BCS titans in eight days? In order for this miracle to happen, they have to embrace their home field advantage at The Swamp and get the ball to Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. These guys are track studs in shoulder pads, and it is over once they find the open field. The answer? The Alabama defense. Florida looks good early, only to suffer an onslaught in the third quarter. The Tide roll again, 45-24.
Marquee Pick: #8 Nebraska at #7 Wisconsin
(Saturday @ 8 p.m. ET on ABC)
- Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska!! This is what the Cornhuskers wanted, and they will pay the price in their first season in their new conference. Every team in the Big Ten is licking their chops at the chance to wallop the Huskers this year, and the Badgers see it as a minor speed bump on their road to championships. Nebraska’s play and Wisconsin’s schedule have been suspect to this point, but I think the Badger unit is much more gelled and settled right now. While the Huskers are lucky to have a potential All-American at quarterback in Taylor Martinez, the Badgers have three in their backfield. Montee Ball and James White are the best running back tandem in the nation, and they line up behind senior quarterback Russell Wilson. The former N.C. State standout has his new team playing well and they are my pick to sneak their way into the BCS championship game against LSU. I think the crowd at Camp Randall warmly welcomes Nebraska as the Badgers serve their new conference mate a 45-10 drubbing.