Picks: Noles, Sun Devils and Bruins all win close ones
FSU and Clemson have a huge showdown in the ACC to headline a good week of games which also will feature some upsets in the Pac-12.
Like the rest of my colleagues, I had a bad week, going 7-10 against the line, putting me at 71-60 against the spread for the season. The Good: picking Wisconsin to thump Northwestern. The Bad: picking Stanford to handle Utah. The Ugly: picking Arkansas to hang with South Carolina. Here are this week's guesses:
Miami 34, North Carolina 24: Home teams on Thursday nights usually rise up to the challenge, but UNC comes in on a three-game losing skid and has been dreadful on both sides of the ball. It'll help having Bryn Renner back, but the Canes have too much firepower on offense for the Heels unless UM continues to struggle to hang onto the ball.
Louisville 35, Central Florida 21: After a shaky performance against Rutgers last week, expect Teddy Bridgewater and the Cards to handle a solid UCF squad and eclipse the 30-point barrier for just the second time in five games.
Georgia 27 Vanderbilt 21: Mark Richt's team has been rocked by injuries on offense and his defense has been torched, but look for Aaron Murray to find a way to lead UGA to a late rally, avoiding back-to-back SEC East losses.
South Carolina 34, Tennessee 23: Another SEC road game for the Gamecocks, their second one in two weeks, while UT is coming off a bye. Still, I'm going with the better QB (Connor Shaw) and the better RB (Mike Davis).
Oklahoma State 28, TCU 14: Both of these teams have seemed to be all over the place this season, but I'll go with the home team especially since the Horned Frogs are 0-3 in games outside of Fort Worth.
Texas Tech 23, West Virginia 20: Dana Holgorsen hosts protégé Kliff Kingsbury, who is getting a lot more out of his QBs than WVU is this year. Helps that Tech has a deeper group of receivers and that will be the difference in a tight ballgame in a hostile setting for the Red Raiders. WVU has had an extra week to get things sorted out.
Florida 10, Missouri 7: Both teams are banged up and rely on excellent D-lines. The Gators have better talent on both sides of the ball and the more experienced backup QB. The hunch here is that Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor will hold up OK against a stout Tigers run defense.
Northern Illinois 45, Central Michigan 20: Even on the road, Jordan Lynch and NIU will keep rolling against a CMU team coming off back-to-back road wins, including a nice one at Ohio last week.
Oklahoma 40, Kansas 10: The Sooners are coming off an embarrassing showing against Texas. OU is 14-0 the week after the Red River game under Bob Stoops and has won those games by an average margin of four TDs, and most of those opponents were better than this dismal KU team.
Ohio State 34, Iowa 17: Even with a bye week, I'm skeptical Iowa has enough on D to hang with the Buckeyes' speed in Columbus. The Hawkeyes are much improved from 2012 but they have been held to 28 points or less in five of six games and OSU has been good against the run (No. 2 in the Big Ten, allowing just 2.7 yards per carry).
UCLA 24, Stanford 20: The Bruins catch the Cardinal coming off an emotional loss. Stanford also may be without kicker Jordan Williamson. Look for Bruin OC Noel Mazzone to go to school on what his old boss Dennis Erickson was able to do against the Cardinal D last week for Utah.
Texas A&M 45, Auburn 31: The Tigers have a good young D-line, but they won't be able to corral Johnny Manziel and keep up with the Aggies at Kyle Field.
Arizona State 27, Washington 21: The toll of two brutal games will catch up to the Huskies as ASU gets them at the right time and in the right place.
Baylor 54, Iowa State 20: Art Briles' team had its hands full with K-State last week. The Bears will be sharper now that they're back home.
Alabama 42, Arkansas 10: The Hogs are reeling and won't have any answers for the Tide's balanced attack.
LSU 27, Ole Miss 16: The Rebels have a history of playing LSU very close in recent years, but I think the balance of the Tigers offense against a banged-up Ole Miss D will be too much for a young team coming off a tough loss to A&M last week.
Florida State 40, Clemson 34: The Noles may have only won one of their past nine against top-three opponents but that was before Jameis Winston took over.
Wisconsin 38, Illinois 31: Tim Beckman's D has been overmatched in two of its past three games and now has to deal with an explosive Badgers attack. Illinois is surrendering almost 200 yards per game on the ground. Bad news with Melvin Gordon coming to town. Expect plenty of fireworks, but the more physical Wisconsin team to put the host Illini away late.
Fresno State 54, UNLV 17: The Rebels have gone on a nice run, but they haven't really beaten anyone of note and now they face the best team in the MWC. This one will be a blowout by the third quarter.
Oregon 56, Washington State 35: WSU was leading Oregon State late in the third quarter before the Cougars and QB Connor Halliday had an epic turnover meltdown. My hunch is they'll bounce back and move the ball, but their D, like everyone else's defense, will be overmatched by the Ducks' attack.
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