After a fast start, I've come back to reality with consecutive brutal weeks. Last week I went 5-13 against the line, dropping me to two under .500 for the season vs. the number. The good: picking 'Bama to thump Florida in the Swamp. The bad: picking USF to handle Pitt on a Thursday night. The ugly: picking South Carolina to handle Auburn. This week's guesses:
Oregon 38, California 17: Last year, the Bears kept the Ducks off balance and Darron Thomas played one of his worst games. LaMichael James was also derailed and banged around. Look for both Oregon stars to get some revenge this time around and the raucous prime-time night setting at Autzen should be a problem for Cal QB Zach Maynard.
Boise State 44, Fresno State 27: The Broncos' running game finally got cranked up last week. That's bad news for Fresno, but Bulldogs QB Derek Carr, RB Robbie Rouse and WR Jalen Sanders should have their moments early and keep it interesting for three quarters. Boise State-Fresno State preview
Georgia Tech 41, Maryland 21: Randy Edsall's squad has been a dud since the opener and his teams have been horrible against ranked opponents all-time at 1-17. Now they face an offense that has been fantastic, outscoring opponents 80-14 in the first quarter. Tech has been a big-play machine, producing 40 plays of 20 yards or longer and a staggering nine plays of 70 or more. The Terps, 90th in run defense, have been outscored 35-17 in the first quarter.
West Virginia 48, Connecticut 24: The Mountaineers got a breakout performance by shifty little freshman RB Dustin Garrison, who ran for almost 300 yards last week. UConn's run defense, ranked eighth in the country, will be a much tougher challenge than Bowling Green was, though. The bad news for Paul Pasqualoni is that his team is near the bottom in pass defense nationally and the Huskies haven't faced an aerial attack as diverse and as dangerous as WVU's.
Oklahoma 28, Texas 14: New Texas DC Manny Diaz proved last year he knows how to keep spread offenses off balance, although Landry Jones and a deep group of OU receivers will be a bigger problem than any passing games he dealt with at Mississippi State. The Sooners are No. 3 in fewest sacks allowed thanks in large part to their veteran QB. They also have much more talent at all three levels of their D to give UT a lot more problems than anyone else the young 'Horns offense has seen so far. Oklahoma-Texas preview
South Carolina 28, Kentucky 7: Even with star Melvin Ingram banged up, the Gamecocks still have a fierce enough D-line to dominate the shaky UK offense, which is 113th in scoring. The 'Cats are also 118th in sacks allowed and 100th in rushing defense. Sounds like a big day for Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore.
Florida State 34, Wake Forest 17: Tanner Price, the Wake Forest QB from Texas, has improved quite a bit from last season, but he'll face a rested Florida State D that has a ton of speed all over the field. Wake (3-1) also hasn't been very good at getting pressure on the QB (112th in sacks) and that should help ease E.J. Manuel back into action.
Illinois 31, Indiana 7: The Fighting Illini's edge rushers have been giving people fits all season, with Whitney Mercilus and "bandit" Michael Buchanan leading the Big Ten in sacks. Nate Scheelhaase, who had a shaky few weeks, got back on track last week in the rally over Northwestern. Even though this is the first road trip of the season for the Zookers, the Illini have too much talent for an IU team that struggles to protect the passer (94th in sacks allowed) and has lost a lot of close games.
Clemson 44, Boston College 14: The Tigers return home after a big win at Virginia Tech, where the Clemson D, led by DE Andre Branch, really stepped up. The Eagles are going the other direction and got blown out on their only other road trip, losing 30-3 at Central Florida. The news that BC will be without star RB Montel Harris (knee injury) only makes things more dire.
Virginia Tech 20, Miami (Fla.) 17: Both defenses have been hit hard by injury, but UM took it even harder. The 'Canes not only lost LB Ramon Buchanan for the season, but on Thursday it was announced that they had lost Marcus Forston, their most talented DT, for the year to a knee injury. Facing a running back as dangerous as David Wilson makes that news even scarier. Unless Wilson has more problems fumbling (he has lost three in the past four games), Tech's offense should be able to keep the heat off QB Logan Thomas, who has been really shaky so far.
Missouri 24, Kansas State 17: Bill Snyder's team was one of the bigger surprises of the first month of the season. Kansas State is coming off a big win over Baylor. My hunch is that Missouri, off a bye week, will be ready for the Wildcats and catch them struggling to get back up. RB Henry Josey has been outstanding for Mizzou and is averaging almost 10 yards per carry against ranked teams. QB James Franklin is already battled tested from two tough road games and should be up for this test, too.
Oklahoma State 58, Kansas 14: The Jayhawks are coming off a disappointing week where they jumped out to a big lead on Texas Tech and kept shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers. Now they get to face the Big 12's leader in total offense, coming off a bye week no less. In KU's only other road trip this season, the Jayhawks gave up 66 (to Ga. Tech). Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys could get close to that against the nation's worst D.
Arizona State 24, Utah 17: The Utes' passing game has been disappointing this season and now QB Jordan Wynn is out for a few weeks, meaning Jon Hayes takes over, which will mean more shotgun and more spread as Norm Chow tries to take advantage of the juco transfer's mobility. Arizona State, despite all of the injuries, still has some eye-catching talent on D to give the new guy some problems. The Utes' run D, which got run over last week by Chris Polk, also will have its hands full with rugged Cameron Marshall (five TDs in the last two games).
LSU 24, Florida 7: There aren't many rougher situations for a QB to make his first college start than what Jeff Driskel will face in Baton Rouge in a hostile spot against a ferocious defense. The Gators have speed, but will the young QB be able to take advantage of it consistently without committing back-breaking mistakes? Florida-LSU preview
Alabama 42, Vanderbilt 7: The Tide are coming off a dominating road performance in Gainesville and won't have a slipup at home against an overmatched Vanderbilt team. Alabama leads the country in scoring and run defense while Vandy can't pass or even protect their QB (116th in sacks allowed). Bad combinations for James Franklin.
Arkansas 31, Auburn 17: The Tigers may be without their top two receivers, which puts even more pressure on Michael Dyer. Auburn's D played well against South Carolina last week, but Tyler Wilson is a much better QB than what the Tigers faced last week and Ted Roof's defense hasn't been good enough at getting pressure (99th in sacks) to harass the Hogs QB the way 'Bama did. Auburn-Arkansas preview
Baylor 42, Iowa State 21: Look for Robert Griffin III's insane touchdown-incompletion numbers to start to tail off but the suspect Iowa State D will still have its hands full with the dangerous QB and his speedy group of receivers.
Michigan 28, Northwestern 20: Pat Fitzgerald's team is coming off a gut-wrenching loss where it watched Illinois rally from a deep hole and now it returns home after back-to-back road losses. It also doesn't bode well that Northwestern is just 89th against the run with Denard Robinson coming to town. Michigan's defensive numbers are shockingly improved (fourth in the country in scoring D!) but my hunch is that the Wildcats behind the Dan Persa/Jeremy Ebert tandem should be able to put a scare in them. Michigan-Northwestern preview
Texas A&M 41, Texas Tech 31: Intriguing matchup with the Aggies coming to Lubbock after two heartbreaking second-half collapses and the Red Raiders being unbeaten but essentially untested. Can A&M (No. 1 in sacks) get heat on Seth Doege, Texas Tech's talented QB? Last year the Aggies receivers, namely big Jeff Fuller, toyed with the Tech DBs. I don't think it'll be that easy for A&M this time around but I do buy that they have too many weapons for Tech.
Stanford 45, Colorado 14: Andrew Luck proved last week that he can not only catch passes but also call a pretty good game, too. The 1-4 Buffs (89th in D) won't be able to slow down the Cardinal and their deep group of talented tight ends as Stanford keeps rolling.
Nebraska 24, Ohio State 10: It has been a brutal few weeks for the Buckeyes both on and off the field. OSU's O-line, especially, has been called out and getting back OT Mike Adams from suspension should help, while NU's defense was just shredded at Wisconsin. The Huskers have their own issues on offense, where their suspect passing attack again had big problems. My hunch is that NU and Taylor Martinez will have a good bounce-back showing at home. Ohio State-Nebraska preview