Last week did not disappoint, more quality matchups equaled more quality finishes. Imagine that. The weekend culminated at 11:30pm with a last second Michigan touchdown to beat Notre Dame in an all-time thriller. This week looks a lot like last week featuring 10+ quality games and a huge primetime matchup to boot. There is a very heavy southern presence, 9 of 12 teams are from the SEC or ACC. I just hope the ACC teams can prove they belong and get some conference respect back. Our conference can't perpetually be ass can it?
When you hear Brent Musburger say, "You are looking live at Doak Campbell Stadium ..." with the noise of 82k strong behind him, you know it's a big game. Brent can sometimes mail it in, but for big games, he almost always brings it. We'll get his focused attention throughout as it features no. 1 Oklahoma and no. 5 Florida State at 8pm Saturday night. The Sooners make the return trip to Tallahassee and are sure to be greeted by a loud, electric and lubed up crowd pumped full of Seminole-Backness. The Noles took a whooping in Norman last season, so they'll be looking for payback. This game has the makings of great theater, so even if you hate both teams, watch the game. The winner clears their biggest BCS Championship game hurdle.
Thursday, September 15th
3 LSU -4 at 25 Mississippi State 8:00 pm ESPN
The SEC is not kind. Imagine being Mississippi State. One week you play at the defending national champion Auburn Tigers (losing a heart-breaker at the goal line) only to have to play against LSU, a national championship contender just 5 days later. Haha. You in College Station, stop laughing this is your life starting next season. Starkpatch, as my Mississippi native and LSU grad friend likes to call it, is unlikely to ever become an SEC powerhouse, but if they dare to dream, winning this game would be the next step.
On My Radar: Mississippi State's mental and physical edge. Can they get up fast enough to take on a far more physical opponent in LSU. What can the Bulldogs do versus LSU on defense? The MSU defensive strengths are at defensive back, but LSU won't pass unless the run is stopped. I will be very surprised if the Bulldog front seven can hold up to the Tigers' ground and pound style for 60 minutes.
Pick: LSU covering, easily.
Saturday, September 17th
21 Auburn at Clemson -3.5 noon ABC
Auburn played many close games last year, but outside of Alabama, Clemson arguably was the Tigers most difficult obstacle. Dabo Swinney channeled his inner Tommy Bowden and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. That game was an early season one and it wasn't known, not even in Auburn, how good the Tigers would become. I am not saying either are going to make that type of run this season, but the winner here could surprise in conference going forward.
On My Radar: Two storylines, spread vs spread and resolve. Both favor Auburn. Clemson's new offense under Chad Morris is still in the early learning stage. How good they can become is still unknown. Gus Malzahn can take whatever spare parts he is given and make that offense very good to great. His credentials are above reproach, he has done this at Arkansas, Tulsa and now Auburn. More important than schemes is which team is going to play the best when it matters most. For 16 games straight Auburn has proven they can handle the pucker factor, for 2 decades Clemson has not.
Pick: Auburn getting points and winning outright.
18 West Virginia at Maryland -1 noon ESPNU
This is a border war game, though no one outside the two schools gives a crap. They don't even play for a trophy. This is disturbing to me, even Cincy and Pitt play for the Paddle wheel Trophy. Surely someone can find scraps of a burnt couch, busted police cruiser windshield and rubber bullets to fashion into a craptacular trophy for those derelicts to adore. I'd settle for a close game, though rarely does this happen, even when the talent seems comparable. Lately, it's been all eers, so a win here will help Maryland Head Coach Randy Edsall push the Terps to a higher level. Beating a Big East "power" will get a lot more positive attention than some garish uniforms.
On My Radar: Balanced offense versus a wide open spread attack. Both teams are employing new offensive systems and the team that is most comfortable in week 3 has has the advantage. Overall talent favors the Mountaineers slightly, but their lack of a running attack puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line to protect quarterback Geno Smith. West Virginia's Jeff Casteel is an excellent defensive coordinator, but his replenished defensive backfield may be susceptible to the pass. Edsall is going to have to trust Quarterback Danny O'brein to win this for the Terps.
Pick: West Virginia, college football gods hate me.
Tennessee at 16 Florida -9.5 3:30 pm CBS
For too long, I've talked about the past history of this matchup. Yes, the fans of each school will talk mad trash all week and God bless 'em for it, but everything has changed. Both teams are at least two coaches away from Phat Fil and Steve Superior. RESET. Derek Dooley is in year two of the Fulmer/Kiffin Volunteer rebuild and Will Muschamp is a rookie head coach in charge of retooling the Gators. Just look in my man's eyes above and tell me Muschamp doesn't take this shit seriously! They snapped that picture while he was thinking of puppy dogs, his kids eating ice cream and summer walks on the beach. His intensity is like Bud Foster's, but with a manic serial killer edge to it. CBS is well aware of this, from Muschamp's days as defensive coordinator at Auburn. They know where not to point the field mics.
On My Radar: This will be our first true look at Florida against a living breathing opponent. All indications are their transition from the spread to a pro-style offense has gone smoothly considering the mismatched parts given to Charlie Weis. The Gator's changing to a multiple front defense will be a handful for most opponents as long as the defensive line stays healthy. I don't think Tennessee can shut down any opponent, but they will be able to outscore a few. The Vol skill position players rank in the top half of the SEC and their passing game is very dangersous. If the still very young Tennessee line can block, the Vols will do some damage.
Pick: Tennessee getting points., Gators winning.
17 Ohio State at Miami -3 7:30 pm ESPN
You'll get no probation jokes out of me, partly because everyone is going to do it, but mostly because I spent all my best material already. That is not to say the off field trouble won't affect this game. It clearly will, but probably more so the Buckeyes than Hurricanes. With the return of most of Miami's suspended players, they'll have an advantage over the Ohio State, who will still be sitting 4 of their stars. If the Canes were being coached by Randy Shannon, I'd be inclined to be all in for the depleted Buckeyes. However, I am bullish on Miami's new coach Al Golden ... well, until he made Jacory Harris his starter at quarterback. I mean, DAMN. Really!?! The book isn't out on the Buckeye's Luke Fickell. He was given the job a few years before he was ready, but his first chapter will be written on Saturday night. I'd recommend a winning start or athletic director Gene Smith might start phone bombing Urban Meyer.
On My Radar: Gut check time. tOSU's close-call-victory against Toledo is sure to sharpen their effort and focus this week. Miami is coming off a bye week after a close loss against Maryland. They desperately need this victory for program moral. The 'want it' factor is going to be very high. This game will be about which team executes and commits the least number of mistakes. I am not high on the Buckeyes' Joe Bauserman, but he's also no Jacory Harris. Golden knows this, it's (running back Lamar) Miller time.
Pick: Against better judgement, Miami to win and cover.
1 Oklahoma -3 at 5 Florida State 8:00 pm ABC
So torn. Part of me wants to back the conference and see one of our own notch a win vs a top flight non-conference opponent. A-C-C, A-C-C, A-C, ahhhh eff it. Obviously, I would prefer that big time win to be delivered by Virginia Tech, but somehow I don't think beating Arkansas State gets first run on ESPN's highlights. Then there is another part of me that hates Florida State, a disdain that is only topped by Tennessee, West by God and uva. To be clear, this hate has burned in me well before January 4, 2000. The arrogance of a lot of the Nole fan base is back, even if the team hasn't proven they are yet. The movement is spearheaded by a popular Seminole blogger on Twitter, who wants to make me kick my dog
On My Radar: Florida State is going to score some points, too much talent not to ring up at least 20. OU hasn't exactly played dominant defense in a few years, so they can be had. My questions about the Noles concerns defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and his scheme. Quick history lesson: Mark learned the basics of this defense from his brother Mike. Mike learned it from older brother Bob, the Oklahoma head coach. Not only does Bob know how to attack it, with superior athletes, but FSU also has that whole "making a copy from a copy and it's not quite as sharp as the original" thing going on.
Pick: Florida State, college football gods hate me.
Beer of the Weekend
I won't be drinking my typical beers the next 3 weeks, for the 17th begins Oktoberfest. That means German beers and the German women who drink them. This week the choice is Hofbräu Original, a Munich Helles Lager, the superior older cousin to the American Lagerl. As you can see this young lady enjoys it.
LSU -4 at Mississippi State
Auburn at Clemson -3
West Virginia at Maryland -1
Tennessee at Florida -9.5
Ohio State at Miami -3
Oklahoma -3 at Florida State
As always leave your picks against the spread, comments and adult beverage for the weekend below.
Editor's Note: I made a mistake in last week's 6 Pick, giving Arizona State and Missouri both the points. Each participant was given the W.