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September 24, 2011

College Football Report - Saturday Picks - Week 4

(Game of the week…)

#7 Oklahoma State (3-0) @ #8 Texas A&M (3-0)


3:30 ET ABC/ESPN2, Sat. Sept. 24, Kyle Field, College Station, TX

A must win for both sides to attain a Big 12 title and South Championship game appearance. Last season’s game came down to the final seconds and this year’s may be no different. With two of the best offenses, and quarterbacks, in the country, the game will come down to whichever team doesn’t beat themselves with turnovers. The Cowboys have turned the ball over six times compared to A&M’s two on the year thus far. With a defense that returned 10 starters to begin the season, and an offense led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill – who didn’t play in last year’s meeting, A&M will prevail in a tight battle. Pick: Texas A&M 37 – Oklahoma State 33

#14 Arkansas (3-0) @ #3 Alabama (3-0)


3:30 PM ET, CBS, Sat. Sept. 24, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL

An SEC offense versus defense battle, the Razorbacks and Tide face off in their first key SEC West test. Led by All-American safety Mark Barron, the defensive secondary of the Tide is unmatched by anyone in the country. The good news for Arkansas; that secondary is also untested so far this season. The Razorback receiving core made up of Cobi Hamilton, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright will need to find holes in a talented backfield. In the end, defense prevails over the firepower of the Razorback offense. Pick: Alabama 28 – Arkansas 20

(Give me a ticket to see…)

#2 LSU (3-0) @ #16 West Virginia (3-0)


8:00 PM ET, ABC, Sat. Sept. 24, Mountaineer Stadium, Morgantown, WV

The Tiger’s have been one of college footballs most impressive thus far, led by a swarming defensive front and hard hitting secondary. But don’t count the Mountaineers out of this one just yet. The Mountaineers lost last year’s meeting with an unpolished team that’s now under the direction of offensive mind Dana Holgorsen, and have played like a new team this season. WVU has not lost a home non-conference game since 2005, but the defense brings concerns. LSU tailbacks Spencer Ware and Michael Ford will rack up more than the 188 Maryland put on the Mountaineers last week, giving just enough push. Pick: LSU 24 – West Virginia 21

#11 Florida State (2-1) vs. #21 Clemson (3-0)


3:30 PM ET, ESPN, Sat. Sept. 24, Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC

There’s always hate in the air when FSU and Clemson find themselves on the same field. One of the more heated rivalries in the ACC, this year’s game comes with huge ACC Atlantic implications. The home team has had the advantage in the series as of late, with the road team losing the last nine. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is coming off the best game of his young career, roasting the Auburn secondary for 386 yards and four scores. The FSU defense is fast and talented, but off a home hangover and led by a hobbled quarterback in E.J. Manuel. Not good news for an offense that should need to put up some points. Pick: Clemson 29 – Florida State 17

San Diego State (3-0) vs. #22 Michigan (3-0)


12:00 PM ET, BTN, Sat. Sept. 24, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI

For the third straight year, the Wolverines find themselves entering the latter half of the AP Poll after the third week of the season. For the third straight year, though, the Wolverines will look to keep themselves there. A loss to an underrated and talented San Diego State team will certainly derail any momentum the Wolverines have gained thus far, not to mention embarrass the program losing to U-of-M head coach Brady Hoke’s 2010 team. Michigan should know what they’re in for, as Hoke recruited most of the SDSU team. Stopping Aztec runner Ronnie Hillman will be the key for Big Blue. If they don’t, they’ll be in for a long day, and another long season. Pick: Michigan 44 – San Diego State 30

(Upset pick…)

#23 USC (3-0) vs. Arizona State (2-1)


10:15 PM ET, ESPN, Sat. Sept. 24, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ

Talent alone, Arizona State can compete with anyone in the PAC-12. Because of bonehead mistakes and brainless penalties, they’re a second tier team of the PAC-12. Quarterback Brock Osweiler has been as good as advertised this season, all 6-foot-8 of the junior. What have hurt ASU so far are its 21 penalties and four turnovers the last two games. The Trojans have played like the Trojans of old this season, cruising past three straight BCS conference opponents. A game winning kick downed the Sun Devils last season on the Trojans home turf. The tide will turn for the Sun Devils this season if they can cut down on the miscues. Pick: Arizona State 20 – USC 16

#10 Oregon (2-1) vs. Arizona (1-2)


10:15 PM ET, ESPN2, Sat. Sept. 24, Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ

Talk about a tough break. The Wildcats face their third straight top 10 opponent this week, second straight at home. With losses to Oklahoma State on the road and Stanford last week at home, it’s hard to really see how good this Wildcats team is, outside of not top 10 good. It’s do or die time now for Arizona, however, with USC up after Oregon, the Wildcats can’t afford to drop three straight conference games. Oregon has played like a team on a mission since its opening day loss to LSU, granted it came against weak competition. Don’t expect a whole lot of razzle dazzle out of the Ducks outside of a boat load of points put on an underachieving Arizona defense. They’ll keep it close early, though. Pick: Oregon 45 – Arizona 20

Kansas State (2-0) vs. Miami Fla. (1-1)


3:30 PM ET, ESPNU, Sat. Sept. 24, Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL

The Brown brothers return to Miami as the Wildcats face off against the Canes for the first time in school history. Kansas State running back and former No.1 recruit and Cane commit Bryce Brown and brother and former Cane linebacker, Arthur, should be focal points for the Cane’s to contain. The Hurricanes rolled over the Buckeyes last week at home, holding the Bucks to just 35 yards passing. Running back Lamar Miller will be the workhorse once again, last week rushing for 184 yards. If quarterback Jacory Harris can limit his mistakes, the Canes will move on to 17-1 when hosting a non ACC opponent since 2004. Pick: Miami Fla. 38 – Kansas State 14

Last Week: 4-5 – Overall: 18-10– Upset Pick: 2-1

September 17, 2011

College Football Report - Saturday Picks - Week 3

(Game of the week…)

#1 Oklahoma (2-0) @ #5 Florida State (2-0)


8:00 ET ABC, Sat. Sept. 17, Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL

There’s something about this game that makes me scratch my head. On the surface, it’s a top five matchup. Underneath the surface, however, not so much. There are reasons the Sooners carry the nation’s top ranking, most notably the leadership and talent on both sides of the ball. Florida State’s ranking feels a bit premature. The defense is stacked, with All-ACC defensive end Brandon Jenkins and cornerback Greg Reid leading the way. The offensive, though, is still unproven with a first year starting quarterback at the helm. It won’t be last year’s 47-17 rollover by the Sooners, but FSU is still a year off offensively. Pick: Oklahoma 30 – Florida State 16

#15 Michigan State (2-0) @ Notre Dame (0-2)


3:30 PM ET, NBC, Sat. Sept. 17, Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN

A move to the Big Ten Conference has to be looking more and more appealing every year for the Irish. Instead of a heavy early schedule, how’s an FCS game and Indiana sound to start the year? Better than 0-2? It has to sound better than 0-3, which is what’s on the table this weekend. Led by senior quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Spartans have an offense that can match anyone in the country. If Michigan’s receiving core can torch the Irish defense for 338 yards, B.J. Cunningham and the MSU wideouts should have a field day. I can’t imagine what kind of color Brian Kelly’s face will be when 0-3 sets in, but I have a feeling it won’t exactly be an appealing shade. Pick: Michigan State 35 – Notre Dame 24

(Upset pick…)

#17 Ohio State (2-0) @ Miami (Fla.) (0-1)


7:30 PM ET, ESPN, Sat. Sept. 17, Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL

Tagged the Ineligibowl, the Buckeyes and Canes have seven players between them suspended for their matchup. Unlike the Canes, however, the Buckeyes will still be without their biggest offensive weapons in wideout DeVier Posey and Dan Herron. The biggest change from the Hurricanes week one loss to the Terrapins will be the return of defensive starters Sean Spence (OLB), Marcus Forston (DT) and Adewale Ojomo (DE). The three bring a much needed boast to a defense loaded with young faces. Last week, the Buckeyes secondary gave up 145 receiving yards to Toledo’s speedy Eric Page, which nearly cost them the game. This week, they meet wideout Travis Benjamin, one of the fastest players in college football. Pick: Miami (Fla.) 31 – Ohio State 21

#21 Auburn (2-0) vs. Clemson (2-0)


12:00 PM ET, ABC, Sat. Sept. 17, Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC

One of these times, Auburn might actually go down in a tight game. The Tigers stockpile of nine wins decided by a touchdown or less in the last year all started against Clemson in overtime last season. A year later, the other Tigers have their chance for revenge. Neither team has impressed so far this year. Clemson struggled against Wofford last week, Auburn against Utah State week one. A lot of this game will depend on the play of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has impressed, throwing for 525 yards and six scores through the first two games of the year. In the end, however, the Auburn coaching staff will be the difference maker once again. Pick: Auburn 24 – Clemson 18Ta

Washington (2-0) vs. #11 Nebraska (2-0)


3:30 PM ET, ESPN/ABC, Sat. Sept. 17, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE

It’s time to settle the score. Meeting for the third time in two years, the series between the two lies deadlocked. Nebraska laid a 56-21 beating on Washington week three of last season, only to receive a 19-7 physical loss in last year’s Holiday Bowl. Memorial Stadium painted red is no friendly place to play, especially with a healthy Taylor Martinez leading the way for the Huskers. Led by new starting quarterback Keith Price on offense and linebacker Cort Dennison on defense, the Huskies are looking for a statement win to further their progression under head coach Steve Sarkisian. In the end, though, it’ll be the home field advantage for the Huskers, where they lost just once last season. Pick: Nebraska 42 – Washington 27

(Give me a ticket to see…)

Tennessee (2-0) vs. #16 Florida (2-0)


3:30 PM ET, CBS, Sat. Sept. 17, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL

It’s not exactly the old Tennessee – Florida rivalry, but it’s still a fiery rivalry with huge SEC East ramifications on the line. Tennessee head coach Derrick Dooley is looking for his first big win over an SEC foe in his second season. On the other side, Florida head coach Will Muschamp will be looking for his first ever SEC win in his first year as the Gators head man. The difference maker for the Vols will be quarterback Tyler Bray, who is 6-1 as a starter. Bray missed out on the Gators last season, but the big armed sophomore will light up the UF secondary on his way to his sixth 300 yard passing game. Pick: Tennessee 27 – Florida 20

#18 West Virginia (2-0) vs. Maryland (1-0)


12:00 PM ET, ESPNU, Sat. Sept. 17, Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD

I have to admit, I’m a huge Dana Hulgorsen fan. The former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and current Mountaineer head man is one of the best offensive minds in the game. Because of it, I expected big things out of quarterback Geno Smith this season and he hasn’t disappointed. The only thing that has plagued West Virginia so far are a pair of slow starts, one including being down at halftime to Norfolk State last week. Against quarterback Danny O’Brien and the Terp’s, however, another slow start isn’t going to cut it. Maryland first year head coach Randy Edsall builds a strong bond with the home faithful, getting his second win as a Terp in as many tries. Pick: Maryland 36 – West Virginia 31

#23 Texas (2-0) vs. UCLA (1-1)


3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN, Sat. Sept. 17, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA

It’s hard to say who needs a win in this one more: The Longhorns football program or UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel. Last season the Bruins won their third straight over the Longhorns, bringing in 264 yards on the ground. Since that meeting, it’s been nothing but chaos for both. A plethora of quarterbacks may see the field Saturday adding to the bedlam. For the Longhorns, sophomore Case McCoy gets his first start, replacing the mistake prone Garrett Gilbert. Freshman David Ash may also see the field. For UCLA, junior Richard Brehaut should start with fellow junior Kevin Prince filling in if needed. With both programs desperately needing a win, I have to side with the home team and better offense of UCLA. Pick: UCLA 17 – Texas 13

Central Michigan (1-1) vs. Western Michigan (1-1)


12:00 PM ET, ESPN GamePlan, Sat. Sept. 17, Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI

Few outside of the state of Michigan know the heated rivalry between the Chips and Broncos, but as far as small conference rivalries go, not many are better. History has been kind to the home team in the series, with the host taking 17 of 21 games. Last year’s game was no different with the Chippewa’s winning a 26-22 contest. This season, both teams offenses are equipped to hang with the conference’s best. The difference maker should be Broncos quarterback Alex Carder. The junior has yet to stretch the field in the first two games of the season, but last season passed for over 3,000 yards and 30 scores. With Waldo Stadium and a talented group of play makers behind them, the Broncos will take the win. Pick: Western Michigan 37 – Central Michigan 23

Last Week: 5-4 – Overall: 14-5– Upset Pick: 1-1

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

All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.