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September 10, 2011

College Football Report - Saturday Picks - Week 2

(Game of the week…)

Notre Dame (0-1) @ Michigan (1-0)


8:00 ET ESPN, Sat. Sept. 10, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan: Without two defensive scores from linebacker Brandon Herron last week against Western Michigan, the Wolverines would only have beaten the Broncos 21-10 in a shortened soggy game. Instead it was a 34-10 opening game win. To help quarterback Denard Robinson become more comfortable in the new offense, coaches need to keep running backs Michael Shaw and Fitzgerald Toussaint involved in the game plan.

Notre Dame: Head coach Brian Kelly’s decision to go with quarterback Tommy Rees over Dayne Crist is a smart one. The offense ended the 2010 season in a groove with Rees at the helm and has its best chance to win this season with Rees in charge. Either way, though, the game plan will evolve around getting wideout Michael Floyd the ball downfield.

The Pick: The first ever night game at the Big House, the Wolverines will need the added energy to contain an Irish offense that brought in over 500 total yards last week. If Robinson has room to run and doesn’t force the ball into bad situations, Big Blue should have a big win. Pick: Michigan 35 – Notre Dame 31

#16 Mississippi State (1-0) @ Auburn (1-0)


12:21 PM ET, SEC Net., Sat. Sept. 10, Jordan Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL

Mississippi State: With so much preseason hype following SEC powers Auburn, Alabama, LSU and South Carolina; Mississippi State has begun the season under the radar. Becoming the first to knock off the champion can only keep them hidden for so long, however.

Auburn: Questions may be asked about how much the Tigers miss Heisman winning quarterback Cam Newton this season, but perhaps the biggest question affecting Auburn should be focused on the early departure of defensive tackle Nick Fairley. The defense gave up 227 yards on the ground and 38 points to Utah State last week.

The Pick: The Tigers second game last season was a 17-14 narrow escape on the road against the Bulldogs. This year, they may not fair so well. With veteran quarterback Chris Relf and powerful running back Vick Ballard leading the way, the Tigers will find it nearly impossible to keep up with Mississippi State’s offensive attack. Pick: Mississippi State 37 – Auburn 23

#3 Alabama (1-0) @ #23 Penn State (1-0)


3:30 PM ET, ABC, Sat. Sept. 10, Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA

Alabama: The Tide didn’t exactly put away doubts about its quarterback situation last week against Kent State. Although they crushed the Golden Flashes 48-7, quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims combined for four interceptions and a 56 percent completion percentage.

Penn State: For the Nittany Lions to have a chance, defensive lineman Devon Still and Jack Crawford need to wreak havoc on whichever quarterback is in the game. The Alabama defense is too good to be given a strong passing game to back them up, so taking away one area of the Tide’s game plan is a start.

The Pick: As Penn State found out last season, bringing a young and inexperienced quarterback into a hostile environment is never easy. Luckily for the Tide, though, neither McCarron nor Sims will have to carry the team. Running back Trent Richardson and the Tide defense should be able to power through the Lions attack. Pick: Alabama 27 – Penn State 10

(Give me a ticket to see…)

#12 South Carolina (1-0) @ Georgia (0-1)


4:30 PM ET, ESPN, Sat. Sept. 10, Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA

South Carolina: As far as importance to the season, there may not be a bigger matchup this season for the Gamecocks. They must get through Athens to get back to the SEC title game. If loose cannon quarterback Stephen Garcia has his head on straight and the game plan surrounds running back Marcus Lattimore, the game should go the Gamecocks way.

Georgia: A SEC East title game appearance isn’t the only thing on the line for the Bulldogs. Jobs will be as well, particularly hot seat head coach, Mark Richt’s. The offense has the skill set playmakers and a proven quarterback in sophomore Aaron Murray, the only thing missing lately is an executed plan.

The Pick: Last season, college football was introduced to running back Marcus Lattimore when the true freshman ran for 182 yards in a Gamecock win against the Bulldogs. This year, the tables will turn when the country meets Georgia freshman, and top running back recruit, Isaiah Crowell, on the way to a Dawgs win. Pick: Georgia 24 – South Carolina 19

Utah (1-0) @ USC (1-0)


7:30 PM ET, Versus, Sat. Sept. 10, Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA

Utah: The Utes won’t receive a warm PAC-12 welcoming in one of the conferences toughest places to play. A pour performance to open the season against FCS Montana State was no way to start the year, but a strong defense led by linebackers Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez should be able to lead an underachieving offense throughout the Utes PAC-12 season.

USC: Two things you won’t find in the Trojans stat sheet following this game: quarterback Matt Barkley attempting 45 passes again and wideout Robert Woods catching 17 balls. The reason will be the return of running back Marc Tyler, who will be back from his one game suspension after his TMZ moment of fame.

The Pick: The Utes offense isn’t exactly built to hang with any kind of firepower the Trojans are capable of putting up. In only four games last season did USC fail to score at least 31 points. The offense has only gotten better this year. Pick: USC 36 – Utah 21

(Upset pick…)

BYU (1-0) @ #24 Texas (1-0)


7:00 PM ET, ESPN2, Sat. Sept. 10, Royal-Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX

BYU: Last week, the Cougars kicked off their conference independence with a win on the road in SEC country against Ole Miss. As proved in the 14-13 fourth quarter comeback, conference freedom won’t be an easy ride. A road trip to Big-12 power Texas will be no walkthrough either.

Texas: A strong rebound from a 5-7 record last season is a must, but a 34-9 win over Rice is no telling notion the Longhorns are back. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert won the starting job throughout camp, now it’s time to see if the turnover prone junior is ready to lead back a young (18 freshman played last week) and talented team.

The Pick: Whichever quarterback turns the ball over the fewest times will take the game. It’s as simple as that. Gilbert had a knack for mismanaging games and key turnovers last season, while BYU true freshman Jake Heaps played exactly like a true freshman at times. The Cougars are lead by one of the nation’s best offensive lines, giving strong bets that the less mistake prone quarterback will be the sophomore Heaps. Pick: BYU 20 – Texas 17

Boston College (0-1) @ UCF (1-0)


8:00 PM ET, Sat. Sept. 10, BH Networks Stadium, Orlando, FL

Boston College: All-ACC running back Montel Harris is still sidelined while recovering from knee surgery, leaving huge question marks on the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles. If that isn’t bad enough, starting wideout is done for the season after tearing his ACL in an eight catch, 157 yard performance last week.

UCF: In a era where teams everywhere are looking for their next move to a major conference, the Knights continue to add to their improving resume. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Godfrey leads a speed focused offense that accounted for 560 total yards last week against Charleston Southern.

The Pick: If UCF wants a future invite to a conference like the Big East, knocking off SEC and ACC teams within its last three games would be a good place to start. The Knights will have too much talent and speed on the offensive side of the ball for BC to contend. Move over TCU, there’s a new small conference powerhouse. Pick: UCF 30 – Boston College 14

Florida Atlantic (0-1) @ Michigan State (1-0)


12:00 PM ET, Sat. Sept. 10, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI

Florida Atl.: With an offensive line fully intact and leading rusher Alfred Morris back, it would seem as though the Owls would be able to move the ball on the ground. But with 30 rushing yards as a team and a 1.1 average from Morris last week against Florida, FAU appears far from competing with BCS conference teams.

Michigan State: If the Spartans don’t beat the 32 point Vegas spread laid on the game, consider it a loss for MSU. The offense took far longer than it should have to get going last week against Youngstown State, heading to halftime with just a 14-6 lead on its FCS opponent. Don’t expect the same lackluster start from the Spartans this week.

The Pick: Running backs Edwin Baker, Le’Veon Bell and Larry Caper should be able to carry the workload throughout the day for the Spartans. If quarterback Kirk Cousins ends the game with a grass stain or sore arm, questions may have to be answered about the 2011 MSU offense. Pick: Michigan State 38 – Florida Atlantic 6

Iowa (1-0) @ Iowa State (1-0)


12:00 PM ET, Sat. Sept. 10, Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

Iowa: The Hawkeyes have taken down their heated instate foe six out of the last eight times. In the team’s last two meetings, the Hawkeyes have outscored ISU 70-10. Like last season, a strong running game will be counted on, lead by sophomore Marcus Coker who racked up 219 yards against Missouri in last year’s bowl game.

Iowa State: The Cyclones rely heavily on defense, particularly starting linebackers Jake Knott and AJ Klein. The juniors combined for 241 tackles last season and seven interceptions. As proven in the opener by scoring just 20 points against FCS Northern Iowa, the offense will again fail to bring much to the table.

The Pick: Rivalries begin to turn soft when one side dominates the other for so long. The Iowa vs. Iowa State rivalry is beginning to enter that realm. The Cyclones stunned the Longhorns, then brought Nebraska to overtime last season, so pulling off a win against a down Iowa team isn’t out of the picture. The offensive push from the Hawkeyes should prove to be too much in the end, however. Pick: Iowa 27 – Iowa State 17

Last Week: 9-1 – Overall: 9-1 – Upset Pick: 1-0

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