Week Eight Predictions
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After seven weeks of games, just three pickers are ahead of my 82% in the Fans25.com Pick'em Contest. Could this finally be the year that I break through and win the contest? We will see. Fifteen really tough games to pick will go down Saturday, either bringing me closer to the coveted win, or pushing me back to the pack...
Here are my predictions for the games of week eight...
#11 South Carolina (5-1) at Tennessee (3-3) - 12:00 - ESPN - With the improvement Butch Jones has made with the Vols in a short amount of time, it is tempting to pick UT here to have somewhat of a breakout game under the new coach. But I also think it would be foolish to bet against South Carolina right now after seeing the way the offense and defense came together at Arkansas last week. The Gamecocks beat the Razorbacks by 45 points and looked good doing it. QB Connor Shaw has impressed me as much as any South Carolina quarterback ever has with his toughness and ability to make plays in multiple ways. In this one, I think UT shows once again that they are improving, but they do not yet get the big win they are looking for. South Carolina, 36-24.
#16 Texas Tech (6-0) at West Virginia (3-3) - 12:00 - FOX Sports1 - Guns are up in Lubbock! Yes, Kliff Kingsbury has come in and taken his alma mater to an undefeated start in his first year at the helm, and is now seeking a road win a long ways away from home. TTU is playing so much better football than WVU right now it isn't even funny. But in college football, things such as plane rides, rabid opposing fans and early kickoffs can impact a young man's focus. Just ask Oklahoma State how their trip to Morgantown went. It will be up to the rookie coach to have his team show veteran traits in a game that will be tough, despite the Mountaineers' .500 record. That said, West Virginia just gave up 73 points to Baylor and TTU can score pretty well. I am going with the visitors here. Texas Tech, 44-28.
TCU (3-3) at #21 Oklahoma State (4-1) - 12:00 - FOX - Since the loss at West Virginia, OSU has defeated Kansas State and had a week off to rest. They should be ready to go when Gary Patterson brings his Horned Frogs into Stillwater. TCU is not having the greatest year in school history as they have gone down in half of their games so far. But you know any Patterson-coached team will play hard and show up ready to win despite the record. His team will do the same Saturday, but I feel the Cowboys have too many weapons and will eventually pull away in this one. They are averaging 38 points scored per game and are giving up 20 points scored per game. That is about what I was going to predict the score of this game to be before I even saw that stat. Oklahoma State, 38-20.
#22 Florida (4-2) at #14 Missouri (6-0) - 12:21 - ESPN3 - This has the makings to be a tremendous game. The Florida defense will be going up against one of the most highly-touted recruits Mizzou has ever had in quarterback Maty Mauk, a redshirt freshman that has now taken over for injured James Franklin. Mauk's numbers in high school were ridiculous, leading him to the Mr. Football title for the state of Ohio. But that was high school. This is the SEC's top defense. The problem for Florida, though, is that even though the defense is awesome, the offense sucks bad. It will be interesting to see if Mauk can score enough to top what probably won't be a high number of points for the Gators. I think he does it. Missouri, 26-21.
Syracuse (3-3) at Georgia Tech (3-3) - 12:30 - ESPN3 - Both of these teams come in even in ACC play and even overall. Syracuse makes its second trip to the South in as many weeks, having gone into NC State and gotten a win a week ago. Georgia Tech is average at best this year, but that dang running game is tough to defend none-the-less. In this one, I see GT boring Syracuse to death with the running game and getting a few stops on defense to secure the win. Neither of these teams is going to set the world on fire anytime soon. Georgia Tech, 27-20.
Iowa (4-2) at #4 Ohio State (6-0) - 3:30 - ABC regional - Urban Meyer is something else. The dude has still not lost a game at Ohio State after a season and a half as head coach. He just wins. Period. Up next for Meyer and his Buckeyes is Iowa, a team that won five straight games before losing at Michigan State, 26-14, a week ago. The schedule is brutal for Iowa from hereout as Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska still remain. The Hawkeyes play solid defense, but they have trouble putting points up on the board. Unfortunately for the visitors here, Ohio State is pretty good at both of those things. Ohio State, 36-17.
Brigham Young (4-2) at Houston (5-0) - 3:30 - ESPNNEWS - The Cougars vs the Cougars - who has the sharper claws? If you look at Houston's schedule, it is arguable that BYU is the biggest name on the whole slate outside of a trip to Louisville late in the year. So with that said, I think Houston will be super jacked up for this game and will put up a great fight in an entertaining contest. They are led by John O'Korn who has thrown for eleven TDs and 1,131 yards in five games. His counterpart for BYU is Taysom Hill, who has done as mnuch damage with his feet (seven scores) as his arm (five scores). This is a tough game to pick, but I am going to go with BYU to go on the road and get this done. They have won three in-a-row and I look for them to keep the streak alive. BYU, 38-30.
#24 Auburn (5-1) at #7 Texas A&M (5-1) - 3:30 - CBS - I am tempted to pick Auburn here as Gus Malzahn seems to have gotten grips around a team loaded with talent. But it is very hard to pick against Johnny Manziel, especially in front of 100,000 A&M fanatics. I was not always a huge Manziel fan myself, thinking he was mostly flashy play and not a true offensive leader. But he has grown on me and I have come to appreciate just how hard he is to stop. I think this will be one of the better games of the day - filled with big plays - that in the end will see the home team leave with a close win. Malzahn and Auburn will be back in the big time soon enough, but for right now, I think the Aggies defend home field. Texas A&M, 41-31.
#9 UCLA (5-0) at #13 Stanford (5-1) - 3:30 - ABC - I have tossed and turned over this game for days, and as shows in the very substance of this first sentence, I still cannot decide even as I type this. Stanford is coming off of a loss at Utah that probably knocked them from national title hopes, so the question is how their heads will be in this game. My guess is that they will be hungry for a huge win, and UCLA satisfies that need. The Bruins are very good, led by a quarterback in Brett Hundley that could run my offense any day. I picture Hundley being poised and getting this done, but I also do not have the guts to pick against an angry Stanford team at home. I really like UCLA, so this is tough, but I'm thinking the trees win in dramatic fashion. Stanford, 30-29.
USC (4-2) at Notre Dame (4-2) - 7:00 - NBC - In many years over the many years, this game has had major national implications. Not so much this year, but to Irish and Trojan fans it is still a battle royale that will have them glued to their TVs. I can go ahead and tell you now that I will take the home team. USC is so unpredictable as they have an interim coach (Ed Orgeron) and a new attitude since Lane Kiffin's firing. Notre Dame is also unpredictable as they looked bad against Oklahoma and Michigan, but looked good against Arizona State and Michigan State. In this one, an emotional rivalry will make it intense, and as is my standard, I will pick the home team to get the win. Notre Dame, 30-24.
#6 LSU (6-1) at Ole Miss (3-3) - 7:00 - ESPN2 - Already in 2013, the Rebels have played Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and now LSU. I don't think there is a team in America that can touch that group over their first seven games. For Ole Miss, a second big win (they beat Texas) would be a nice way to close a brutal first half of the season. Unfortunately, LSU is a monster and the Tigers are very difficult to tame on offense. Odell Beckham has six receiving TDs, Jarvis Landry has seven receiving TDS, and running back Jeremy Hill has nine TDs rushing. The wealth is evenly distributed, no doubt about it. Ole Miss will put up a good fight, and they showed against A&M they can go the distance, but LSU wins. LSU, 31-23.
#5 Florida State (5-0) at #3 Clemson (6-0) - 8:00 - ABC - Before this season, the Tigers of Clemson last hosted ESPN's College Gameday show back in 2006. In 2013, CU has had the show on campus twice already in seven weeks. Yes, it is a season of big things in Tiger Town, and a win over Florida State is next on Clemson's radar. But it will not be easy. As everyone knows, the Seminoles are led by one of the top quarterbacks in the land in freshman Jameis Winston. Winston has been a human-highlight reel so far this year, emphasized emphatically in a 63-0 home win over then #25 Maryland. But has Winston faced a defense - or a crowd - even remotely close to what he and his teammates will encounter Saturday night? I think not. Death Valley will be the epicenter of the college football universe this weekend, and the fans are ready to scream and yell for a defense that plays hard on every down. I have no doubt FSU will get some points, but I feel those points will be limited. As for Clemson's offense against FSU's defense? I think the Seminoles slow them down...but not totally. FSU's defensive backs like to press and play man coverage, allowing them to have more guys ready to stop the run. I think this aggressive style of D will, in fact, have an impact on Clemson, but that OC Chad Morris will find ways around it...In this one, I see Clemson as a different type of competition than FSU has yet to play, and I see Winston having a tough day. Yes, he will get some points as he is a great talent. But by the end of the game, I think he will also get a headache - a headache caused by both crowd noise and a defensive lineman by the name of Vic Beasley. Clemson, 33-24.
Wisconsin (4-2) at Illinois (3-2) - 8:00 - Big Ten Network - The Badgers have earned my respect over the years and I will say here right off the bat that I am picking them in this road game. They were hosed by the refs at Arizona State, and they lost a tough game in the Horseshoe to Ohio State. But I still believe they are a quality, good team, as shown in their stomping of Northwestern last week, and will pick up a Big Ten win here. The Illini have lost a couple of games already - no surprise there - and I just see another 6-6 or 7-5 season underway in Champagne. If Illinois is able to defeat Wisconsin, it will be one of the more surprising upsets of the season so far, in my opinion. Wisconsin, 28-17.
Washington State (4-3) at #2 Oregon (6-0) - 10:00 - FOX Sports1 - The Ducks have proven to have not skipped a beat since Chip Kelly's departure. Seven games into the season Oregon is in the top six nationally in both offensive and defensive scoring. They are led by a true Heisman contender at quarterback in Marcus Mariota and they have speed at every position. But the biggest thing, to me, about Oregon is that the defense has come around and is a unit that is serious at what they do. Washington State has given up 50+ points twice already (Stanford and Oregon State) and I can see it happening again in Eugene this weekend. Oregon, 58-21.
Utah (4-2) at Arizona (3-2) - 10:00 - PAC 12 Network - The Utes are coming off of an emotional win at home over a top five team in Stanford and now must hit the road to the desert. That kind of scenario often spells trouble. Arizona is coming off of two road losses (Washington and USC) and will welcome the comfort of home. Utah has won on the road this year already (BYU) and the way they played both Stanford and UCLA was very impressive. I think the Utes have a good team that could go to Arizona and get a road win for sure. But I also see Arizona picking itself up off of the ground, dusting off, and getting a big win at home to turn things around. This is one of those games where it is easy to see either team winning. As is my norm, in games where I honestly do not see a separating factor, I go with the home team. Arizona, 27-21.
* All times EST, all rankings AP
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