CFB Picks for Saturday 9/16/23

Every Friday morning I join Teddy Heffner host of "Talking Sports" on Fox Sports 1400. Teddy gives away tailgate package from Mathias Sandwich shop to someone who can beat our picks. The picks include point spreads so for example if a team is a 10 point underdog and they lose by 9 then they have won. If you'd like to text your picks to enter get them in before Saturday noon on the Talking Sports Text Line at 803-315-3292. Now here's this weeks games and my picks.

USC at Georgia

Kirby Smart is using Gamecock’s D Lineman Tonka Hemmingway’s words, or rather lack of words to fire up their fan base. AT SEC Media day in July Tonka was asked about the roughest road environment’s and he said both A&M and TN were the loudest he remembered. Kirby is now using that as motivation for fans to come get loud Saturday at 3:30. I imagine they will. This is the first test for the back to back national champs and I expect them to pass it with flying colors. Slow starts against TN-Martin & Ball State have given their coaches fuel to challenge this team. The Gamecocks failed their first test of the year against ranked opponent UNC. Most of that was cleaned up against the smaller less talented Furman. It will be a massive step up this week to see how they are doing. No one expects the Gamecocks to win with computer models giving the Bulldogs a 92% chance of victory. But could S Carolina cover the 27.5 point spread?  I believe they will. I’d also take the over at 56.5. I think the Gamecocks have found some dynamic receivers who can make folks miss. Rattler is the best QB in Gamecock history and will get them the ball despite the poor line play. I’m looking for a 45-24 type of day. Gamecocks with the points

Fl Atlantic at Clemson

You can smell the trap game from here! National power team playing a small school the week before they play what most consider the best team on their schedule. It’s so easy to overlook Florida Atlantic for Florida State next week. And if Clemson hadn’t lost their first game to Duke I might be picking an upset or even closer game. But the Tigers were humiliated 28-7 despite being statistically better than the Blue Devils. The only stat that matters is points. It’s an 8pm kickoff so their fans will be wild. There is no room for error if you want to be elite. Tom Herman is a very good coach and he will have his guys ready to go but they’re just no great athletes. They’re limping in to Death Valley off a loss to Ohio. Not the Buckeyes, but the Ohio Bobcats. I expect Dabo to exploit that talent gap with a heavy dose of running. Last week they ran for 274 yards against Charleston Southern. This week they may hit 300. And Fl Atlantic apparently has no run offense. Last week they ran for 5 yards, not per carry but for the game. So if you have to throw against Clemson look for the Tigers to start feeding on interceptions. Tigers cover

TN at FL

The swamp will be rocking 7p on ESPN for the Gators SEC opener against the TD favorite TN Volunteers. Florida’s offense is very pedestrian ranking 40th after 2 games but their D is stout ranked 3rd in the nation. The D is really about their pass D which ranks 7th overall averaging 117 YPG. For TN head coach Josh Heupel is trying to build an offensive juggernaut. Last year the Vols had Hendon Hooker who lit up FL for 350 in the air and another 112 on the ground. His replacement Joe Milton is considered an athletic freak by anyone who has ever worked with him but he’s now in his 6th year of CFB with not much to show for it. He’s started 11 games with a 7-4 record. In 2 games this year he is only averaging 214 YPG and last Saturday against the winless Austin Pea Governors they weren’t able to get much separation so he and the starters played the entire game. 13-3 halftime score and a 23-13 4th quarter score had Vols fans nervous. This is their first road game of the year and I expect his struggles to continue. I’ll take FL and the points.

LSU at Miss State

Not much looking good for Miss State. It’s a home game but it kicks off at noon which is actually 11AM where they are. Fans will not be a factor despite their illegal cow bells. There gunslinger of a QB Will Rogers has returned but their new coach seems to prefer run heavy offense. Last week against Arizona Will only had 17 pass attempts! Perhaps the key for Miss State will be pass D. LSU’s Jayden Daniels threw for 5 TD’s last week against Grambling State but in the week 1 loss to FL State did have a pick. Miss State did snag 5 interceptions last week. If they can win the turnover battle, the cowbells get louder. All of that could have LSU on upset alert. But I’m not buying it. LSU covers the 10 point spread

Vandy – UNLV

Vanderbilt makes their first trip to Las Vegas. Could be trouble. Young college guys in sin city. Except these aren’t typical college guys. They’re Vanderbilt. You don’t make it to Vanderbilt without some sacrifice and discipline. UNLV new head coach is former Mizzou coach Barry Odom. Gary literally was average as an HC with a career record of 25-25. I believe if you’re going to take a non power 5 team to victory over an SEC team, even Vanderbilt you’re going to need a next level coach. Speaking of coaches I may be too hyped on Vandy’s Clark Lea but he got them their first SEC win since 2019 last year. Then he got them their second! Somewhat Ironically Vandy’s 2019 SEC win was over Barry Odom’s Mizzou Tigers which pretty much was the final nail in his career coffin. Vandy covers the 4 points.  

Minn at UNC

Mack Brown is in a foul mood these days. He is very upset that transfer receiver  Tez Walker has been ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA. Then he was upset that after the Tarheels D put up 9 sacks in the opener against the Gamecocks, he said the unit took a big step back in their OT win over App State. “We made twice as many mistakes this week.  We’ve got to do a better job of playing tighter coverage and making sure we can allow our guys to get there”. Defensive penalties were a big problem as well. “We had four third downs and fourth downs that turned into first downs because of penalties.” The good news is Minnesota isn’t much of an offensive threat. Winning their first game against Nebraska with only 13 points and 25 against a completely undersized Eastern Michigan. I expect better D for UNC and an easy win. North Carolina covers the 7.5 spread

K State at Mizzou

Mizzou opened the season at home with a 35-10 win which sounds great till you see it was over the South Dakota Coyotes. Their coach has been the HC since 2016 and has only had a winning season in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2017 & 2021. They are usually pounded once a year by Power 5 opponents like Oklahoma who put 70 on them or K State who beat them 34-0 last year. K State is ranked this year and plan on showing why against an SEC team in their house! They have scored over 40 in their last 4 games. K State D is ranked the best rush defense giving up 38 YPG this season. Mizzou wants to run the ball putting up over 200 last week against Middle Tenn. I’m an SEC guy who wants the Tigers to pull it out but my mind says they won’t rush for over 125 this game and will be held to 17 or less points. K State covers the 5 point spread

Tiebreak 1 -Gamecock rushing yards

South Carolina had negative rushing yards against UNC and only 108 against Furman. Bulldogs gave up 138 against TN-Martin but cleaned it up to just 77 against Ball State. We had 7 more plays in the Furman game but 2 fewer pass attempts. Gamecocks would like to run but just can’t get it going. Georgia is pedestrian on run D this year ranked 49th with 2 non power 5 games behind them. I think Gamecocks coaching are also hoping that the Newberry transfer Mario Anderson may be stepping up  as he averaged over 5 YPC against Furman on 6 carries. I’m looking for him to almost double his touches with DK Joyner getting more of his touches in screens and slants. Between them Juju McDowell and Rattler running a bit more I’m expecting about 25 rushes and I’ll give us 80 yards for the game.

South Carolina v Florida

Photo: James Gilbert / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

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