Mike and Jay's College Picks

Mike O'Neill and Jay Williams provide us with their picks for this week's SEC and top national college football games.

MO: What a week last week – a lot of close games, a lot of hype surrounding the big match-ups and a game that featured Michigan walloping ND worse than they could VU! Lots of close games meant the picks record looked a little mediocre: I went 8-4 outright (19-6 for the season) and 7-4 against the spread (16-7). The rebound from such a great weekend is a Saturday of not-so-great match-ups and intriguing spreads. This week is prime for some upsets – let's see who can make a name for themselves!

JW: So, last week I wasn't as accurate outright as I was during week one, but I'm still doing ok spread-wise (by my low standards, at least).  I'm very thankful there was no line on the South Carolina game, but I'm pretty sure nobody would've picked that one correctly.  I'm no longer afraid to pick against Notre Dame, either, but I don't mind, since I would've preferred to see Michigan win anyway.  I also learned that you can never underestimate how bad teams from Mississippi can be.  It's looking pretty rough in the Magnolia State, and the future's not that bright, either (I'll believe Ole Miss's amazing recruiting class when I see it).  This week holds a relatively boring slate of picks, as most of the SEC is either playing a cupcake or is playing cupcake itself.  Of course, games like these are good on my ego, since I feel a lot better when I pick correctly.  Once the SEC starts beating up on itself, I imagine my percentage is going to go way down.  Here's hoping for another good week!

Colorado @ Georgia

MO: When's the last time someone scored on Georgia? So far this season they've won all 3 of their games by a combined margin of 100-12. It doesn't look they'll have much trouble keeping their opponent of the board this week either. Over the past few years, Colorado has not looked like the Big 12 power it once was – I suppose that's what happens when no one lets you have fifth downs anymore. They come into Athens having lost every game they've played this season, and including last season, are 0-7 in their last seven games and have been outscored 203-55. Even still, the Buffs are two-time defending Big 12 Champions, which shows the relative weakness of the conference. I don't think Georgia had a pushover in mind when they scheduled this opponent, but that will be their only disappointment on Saturday. ‘Dawgs by 24.

JW: Wow, Colorado really doesn't look good this year.  0-3 wouldn't be as bad if one of those losses didn't come at the hands of Montana State.  Embarrassing.  Georgia, however, is obviously headed in the right direction.  They're playing at home, against a really bad team, and they have Ole Miss next week.  Sorry, Colorado, even if we could say Georgia might "overlook" you, you don't stand a chance.  Georgia by 35.

Buffalo @ Auburn

JW:  Yawn.  I guess the only real question here is whether Auburn will cover the spread (which, at the time of this writing, is at -41.0).  I think it all depends on how Tuberville runs the game.  I don't think he's *that* cruel, particularly when dealing with a bottom-feeder like Buffalo, and I'm sure he wants his fifth string players to get some quality playing time.  The Tigers sleepwalk through this one, winning by 35; not covering, but not really disappointing anyone either.

MO: Don't be fooled by Buffalo's (1-2) record, as it's somewhat misleading. After all, their victory was against Temple, so it should be read as (0.5 - 2.5). That said, this is a big stage for them, and could be a great time for them to step up and surprise a lot of people around the country. If you believe any part of that last sentence, then I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Look for heavy doses of the run game even before they build a big lead and don't be surprised if Buffalo doesn't put a point on the board until Auburn puts in a few band members on defense. I think the Tigers beat the spread because they have to keep posting big wins to (rightfully) stay ahead of USC in the polls for an entrance into the national title game. Auburn by 51.

Kentucky @ Florida

MO: The good news for Wildcat fans is that they've rebounded well after the stomping they received at the hands of Louisville. The bad news is they've only played Texas St. and Ole Miss (sorry, Jay!) to do it. Their confidence is high now, but the Swamp has a way of taking high hopes and grinding them into the turf. Florida comes into the game off a big victory (albeit by one point) at Tennessee in the first of their eight straight conference games. I'd be more concerned about the outcome of the game if the Gators had a big game next week, but they're hosting Bama, which isn't much of a "look ahead to" type of game. Chris Leak strengthens his Heisman case, and the Gators win by 35.

JW: I agree that Bama's not necessarily a big "look ahead to" game, but it's not exactly Ole Miss or Mississippi State they're playing next week.  Alabama will be up for the Gators, and Florida knows that.  I think there is somewhat of a risk of looking ahead, if for no other reason than Kentucky's pretty bad.  Kentucky has some reason for optimism - they won't be in the absolute bottom of the SEC...but they'll be close.  I don't think Florida fans will be happy with the Gators' performance this week, but it'll still be a relatively easy victory.  Florida by 21.

Wake Forest @ Ole Miss

JW:  Ole Miss is really in a tailspin now, losing to Mizzou and Kentucky after squeaking by Memphis.  Wake, while 3-0, has three relatively soft wins (Syracuse, Duke, and Connecticut).  Wow, this is a tough one.  My heart says Ole Miss, but my mind says Wake is on a "hot streak" (although said streak involves beating Duke by 1) and is riding some sort of momentum, while the Rebels are demoralized.  I wonder how often David Cutcliffe looks at the current state of Ole Miss football and chuckles quietly to himself.  If Ole Miss fans thought getting destroyed by Kentucky was embarrassing, wait 'til they see what Coach O pulls off this time around, at home no less.  Deacons by 6.  

MO: This game will be the tail of a team on the rise facing a team that's lost the winning tradition that its fans cling to. Even though it's in Oxford, I have to say I'm surprised to see Ole Miss a the favorite. The Demon Deacons are doing a lot of the right things these days, including scheduling Vanderbilt as a rotating opponent for seven more games in the upcoming years. I think this could be a banner win for Wake Forest, and in turn, a banner loss for Ole Miss. I'll take Wake by 13.

Mississippi St. @ UAB

MO: When's the last time UAB was favored against an SEC opponent? The Blazers have looked good this season, keeping within 7 of Oklahoma and beating their first conference opponent. MSU has not had such a stellar season. Hoping to have their first good season under their head coach Sylvester Croom, the Bulldogs having fallen on their face out of the gate, being held scoreless in the first nine quarters of the game, then losing to Tulane who at one point had a 25-point lead! And after all of that, here's the curveball – I like Mississippi St. to win this game. They showed a lot of heart in the fourth quarter last week, scoring 22 straight points to bring it within 3, giving their team a chance to win (the first such chance they would have had all season). While a win in Birmingham isn't really a "turn the corner" game, it should give Bulldog fans a faint glimmer of hope for the rest of the season. MSU by 10.

JW: You should be ashamed of yourself, giving Mississippi State fans something to be optimistic about!  C'mon, Mike, they've had enough pain these past few years...don't make it worse for them by dangling the possibility of a UAB win over them.  Scoring 22 points against Tulane to come close to winning could go either way - MSU could think that maybe things are starting to click and they have a chance to pull in a few wins, or they could be demoralized even more, since they had such a nice comeback bid, only to be stopped short, and by Tulane of all teams.  This will be a close one, but the Blazers simply seem to be a better team, for once.  I like UAB by 6.

Florida Atlantic @ South Carolina

JW:  What's the deal with South Carolina?  Shut out against Georgia?  Beating Wofford by only a touchdown?  I bet practice this week with Spurrier was a LOT of fun.  Luckily, FAU is good for what ails you.   USC might not look as hot as they did at the beginning of the year, but FAU has given up 147 points in its first three games, while scoring only 14 - they seem to be trying really hard to unseat Temple as the worst team in the country (no easy task, mind you).  Spurrier still has something to prove (I was totally wrong with my Wofford pick), and the Gamecocks win by 38. 

MO: It's been a long time since Steve Spurrier decided to cover a line. With a surprisingly feeble offensive attack over the first three games (one of them a shutout loss), this looks to be the game where they step up and blow open the record books. Something about this game, however, smacks of what's happened in both of the Gamecocks' wins this season – South Carolina comes in with big expectations, struggle in the first half, and claw and scratch their way to the win. I don't think Spurrier should be worried about a not getting the W here, but this may not be the blowout it should be on paper. I'll pick the ‘Cocks, but only by 13.

Tulane @ LSU

MO: Tulane's confidence has to be high after notching their first road win against an SEC opponent in 17 years. Here's the problem: they have to do it again this week, and they have to go to a mad-as-hell LSU team that feels they got screwed by the refs in their loss to Auburn. As odd as it sounds, this could be a real statement game for LSU, who needs to show that their offense can score more than 3 points like they did last week. We all know they can, and I think I can safely say they will – a 45-3 victory over Arizona in Week 2 shows they don't mind running up the score. LSU won't turn the ball over against Tulane like MSU did, and it's "Geaux Tigers" to the tune of a 42-point victory.

JW: It's hard to disagree with you on this one.  Tulane had a good time in Starkville, but that emotional high will come crashing down very quickly...I'd say about 5:00 into the game.  LSU's offense won't be stopped this time around, and it'll get ugly pretty quickly, as there's no way the Green Wave can compete with the Tigers.  LSU got jobbed to a degree by the refs last week, and their fans want to see blood.  It must be nice to have a lineup of Tulane and Mississippi State at home the next two games to have someone to take out their aggressions on before a trip to the Swamp.  I think they'll keep scoring as well, to make sure the offense is as finely-tuned as possible.  Think of it as two extra practice games for the first-string offense before playing Florida.  LSU by 38.

Marshall @ Tennessee

JW:  Cupcake week in the SEC continues in Knoxville.  Sure, UT looks mortal, thanks to Air Force and Florida, but let's be realistic.  Marshall doesn't stand much of a chance.  UT looks to be favored by 22, and I think (for once) they'll cover.  For Fulmer's sake, they'd better.  UT by 24.   

MO: Marshall's a tricky team – really good some years, and really bad in others. Their statistics look pretty good this season, including rushing for over 172 yards per game. Of course, take into account that they rushed for 313 of those yards in their only win (hosting Hofstra), and you're left with just over 100 yards a game. Still, I think there's a shot of an upset – the other time we had a tricky team come into Knoxville, Air Force nearly won. I'll don't think it will be as tight as that game, but I think it'll keep the grumbling rampant on the Hill. Tennessee by 13.

Alabama @ Arkansas

MO: The second of only two SEC conference games this weekend may turn out to be the best game of the week. This year's "We Only Beat Vanderbilt By Two or Three" bowl features a strong running attack by Arkansas against a decent run defense in Alabama. Arkansas' rookie QB Mitch Mustain looked good against Vanderbilt last week and appears to be getting comfortable under center for the Hogs. This is bad news for the Tide, who won't roll out of Fayetteville without adding a close loss to their record first. Arkansas by 10.

JW: The WOBVBTT Bowl?  I like it, and it could definitely be a recurring theme, considering how many SEC teams just barely beat us each year.  We need to copyright this.  I'm up in the air on this game.  Tradition says Bama, but reality says maybe the Hogs.  I agree, though, that this is probably going to be the best game...certainly in the SEC.  Neither team has put up very impressive numbers against decent competition (Utah State and La. Monroe don't count as decent), so I'm still not really sure what to expect.  I'm gonna go with my gut here, and also to be contrary to Mike, and say the Tide pull out the win and sustain that winning streak for one more week.  Bama by 6.  

Arizona State @ California

JW:  In a week of boring SEC and non-SEC games, this one could be interesting.  Neither team really seems to be playing the type of football a lot of people expected, and they're both looking for a marquee early-season win.  ASU has a lot to overcome, considering it hasn't won in California in a while.  It should be a fun gunfight to watch, with two pass-happy offenses going at it.  Ultimately, I think California's talent is better than ASU's, and ultimately the blowout in Knoxville will be seen as somewhat of an aberration.  I like Cal here, winning by 13.

MO: Which overrated Pac-10 team wants to win this game more? Arizona St. has tallied wins over N. Arizona, Nevada, and a downtrodden Colorado squad, while Cal has beaten Minnesota and Portland and lost to UT, making them the only Pac-10 team to lose to UT since Vanderbilt last beat the Vols 28-24 in last year's game. Of course, they're the only Pac-10 team to do face UT, but it's nice to be able to bring up that fantastic November afternoon. Even though home field isn't all that important in the Pac-10 (it's the west! Go hiking in that gorgeous part of the country!), I'll give this one to Cal in a shootout, using a late scoring drive to win by 4.

Penn State @ Ohio State

MO: The Buckeye Revenge Tour should end tonight as Ohio St. hosts Penn St. in a Big Ten showdown. Last year, Ohio St. only lost to Penn St. and Texas – the Longhorns received the first half of vengeance in the much much-ballyhooed #1 vs. #2 match-up, with Ohio St. winning 24-7. The Tour works for two reasons – the Buckeyes are a much better team than they were last year, and Penn St. and Texas aren't nearly as good as they were. That said, with Penn St. only at #24, there might be a few too many people sleeping on the Nittany Lions. Their loss to Notre Dame is sandwiched between to overwhelming victories, and every player on that team knows that Ohio St. is gunning for them. In the end, the Buckeyes will successfully defend their home turf, but I hope they're not expecting it to be easy. OSU by 9.

JW: I don't think this game will be as tight as you predict.  Ohio State is too focused on making up for last year's "what if" season, and are poised to give the Nittany Lions a pounding.  Then again, maybe I'm still mad at them for rolling over against Notre Dame and making me look like a sucker with my first big upset pick.  I just think the combination of Ohio State's determination and being in the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium will give the Buckeyes a solid win over a good program.  I'm going with OSU by 18.  

TSU @ Vanderbilt

JW:  Let's be honest here.  Some VU teams haven't looked so hot against I-AA teams, but they always got the job done.  In other games, some VU teams looked fine against I-AA teams, and the second stringers were playing the fourth quarter.  Regardless of the game itself, the outcome was always the same.  I know, Richmond scared us, and we looked lethargic against Eastern Kentucky, but I firmly believe that this Vanderbilt team is more talented (as a whole) than those past teams.  I also think they're more focused.  Yes, 0-3 is a little disappointing, but Vandy lost its past two games by a total of five points.  TSU, on the other hand, lost to Alabama A&M by a touchdown and beat Jackson State by a point.  Why am I even bothering with this comparison?  Mostly because I need to fill some space.  Say all you want about Vanderbilt's chances for SEC wins and/or a bowl game, but these next two games will be no problem whatsoever.  Rick Loumiet's not refereeing this game, is he?  'Dores by 28.

MO: This is going to be an emotional game for TSU. They've just come off a thrilling overtime victory in what is usually the biggest game of their season. TSU fans have stated that they've been clamoring for this game for years and feel slighted that it hasn't been granted. A lot of the players will be looking to show that they can compete on the Div. 1-A level, and there's even one that's coming back to play against the team he was recruited to. Nonetheless, emotion can only overcome so much. It's talent and coaching that are more important, and the Dores have TSU beaten in those areas. We've seen that the Commodores can play toe-to-toe with Alabama and Arkansas in recent weeks, and should have no problem with the Tigers. The TSU faction of the crowd will be loud, they will be proud, but the only thing they'll enjoy about the game is the band. VU wins by 32.

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