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.
Miss State at USC
Miss State is a very different offense then the one these players were recruited to play for. Mike Leach “Air Raid” featured QB Will Rogers passing the ball 40 times a game. He was the only QB in the SEC to average over 300 YPG passing last year. New Coach Will Arnett 3 games in has him attempting 24 passes per game. In the last 2 games (vs AZ & LSU) he threw for 162 and 103 yards. The 162 includes an OT period as well. On top of the new offense the players are learning Coach Arnett said at his press conference “We have a challenge going on the road for the first time this season playing at what is known to be one of the most energetic atmospheres, particularly in a night game, in all of college football.” Spencer Rattler has similar stats to LSU QB Jayden Daniels who just lit Miss State up for 41 points. Daniels has 976 yards on the year with Rattler at 954. Both are top 10 in the nation. If State is going to win it will probably be because of penalties. Gamecocks are 114th in penalties with 25 over 3 games. State has 11 less. If South Carolina can limit themselves to say 4 or 5 instead of 8, they should cover the 6 points pretty easily.
Fl State at Clemson
Dabo isn’t feeling the national love any longer. Unranked for a 2nd week and are underdogs this week at home. For Tiger fans looking for good news, the last time they were home underdogs was 2016 against Louisville. They won that game and went on to eventually play for a Natty against the eventual champ Bama. Dabo may be copying USC’s Beamer who used a grad assistant named Zeb Noland as a backup and then a starter to get through a rough patch. Dabo has called the former backup kicker who has kicked a grand total of 3 extra points in his 3 years with the Tigers. Jonathon Weitz had graduated with a year of eligibility left and is currently taking online classes to get an MBA through Clemson. The current kicker is 1-4 on FG attempts so Dabo is hoping the guy who never started when he was with the team can come back and beat out the current starter. Nowhere near as scary as doing that at QB but still not a confidence builder among special teams. Now using guys who weren’t considered great is FSU Coach Mike Norvell’s specialty. A comparison of FSU offense vs Clemson’s offense is amazing. 100% of the starters on Clemson’s offense are ranked 4-5 star recruits. 27% on FSU. Yet after 3 games they have basically the same amount of yards produced with Clemson averaging 20 YPG more. Some would point out that FSU has played 2 power 5 teams to Clemson’s 1 at this point. Some might point out Dabo’s resitence to using the transfer portal while Norvel is all about getting transfers who have proven themselves. Avg age of a Clemson starter is 19. At FSU it’s 22. Those young men will not be rattled by the noise, or overhyped about the game. I’m looking for a back & forth battle that the Seminoles win and cover the 2 point spread.
Ole Miss at Alabama
The 3:30 game on CBS should be a doozie! Alabama has gone through 3 QB’s this season and Saban has circled back to the first. Jalen Milore had looked confused in week 2 against Texas and was benched for his 2 backups last week who looked even worse against South Florida. Tide fans are hoping Jalen can get his confidence back before kickoff. At the same time master troll Lane Kiffin has started the rumor that former Gamecock D Coordinator Trav Robinson is now calling the D for Alabama. Kevin Steele is the Defensive coordinator so if Saban has someone else doing that job it would be huge news. So the first half of the week Nick has been dealing with that. Then Troll Kiffin posted a Taylor Swift song to his social media with no comment. The lyrics seem to be a shot at Nick. Once, I had an empire in a golden age. I was held up so high, I used to be great. They used to cheer when they saw my face. Now I fear I have fallen from grace. And I feel like my castle's crumbling down. And I watch all my bridges burn to the ground. Well all of these distractions will be settled on Saturday. Can Bama D stop the high powered Ole Miss offense from getting their 500 yards plus per game? It’s doubtful the Bama offense can keep up in a shootout. Bama’s D this year isn’t that stellar so far either ranked 47th on total D. I’m taking Ole Miss plus the 7 points.
Auburn at Texas A&M
Auburn is 3-0 under new coach Hugh Freeze! Why are they 7.5 underdogs? Because they beat Umass, Samford & Cal. So the cupcake fun is over as the next month is brutal with SEC games against Georgia, LSU & Ole Miss. They kick off the fun this Saturday at one of the biggest stadiums in the world. Kyle Field is over 102,000 capacity which makes it #4 biggest in CFB and # 6 on the planet with only 2 non football stadiums in front of them. (India and N Korea) Kyle is not only massive but the crowd is so disruptive they have earned the title the 12th man. Auburn statistically has a better D than Georgia and just about everyone else at this point. Remember though their cupcake schedule to this point. A&M has averaged 467 YPG through 3 making them one of the top offenses. Throw out their 2 cupcakes and they still put up over 430 yards and 33 points in their loss to ranked Miami. We’re going to learn a lot about Auburn this weekend! What I expect to learn is their not one of the best D's in the country and they will give up a ton of points. A&M covers the spread
UNC at Pitt
Pitt has a QB problem. Phil Jurkavec isn’t performing. When Coach Narduzzi was asked this week why he was still going to start him "[Phil] is a leader in that huddle, he's a guy you trust. You just don't dump things like that. You just don't do it." That means the backup isn’t very good. Phil seems to be getting worse by the week. Against Cincy he had his worst start ever going 10 for 32 netting 179 yards. Last week topped that with 89 yards on 20 passes completing 8. 8! Last year UNC beat Pitt by 18. I expect a similar outcome this year. UNC covers the 7.5
Iowa at Penn State
Visiting Penn State is never easy. Add that they have declared it a "white out game" and they're the 7th ranked team it’s almost impossible to win, which is why they are a 14.5 point favorite. Penn State not only has home field but advantages just about everywhere. They are top 10 in so many stats including time of possession, Int’s, total offense. Iowa does have a few things like Kickoff D, Redzone offense, and punting where they shine, but without the other stuff none of those help much. I’ll take Penn State to cover
Ohio State at Notre Dame
#6 at #9 is always a big game. The fact that it’s 2 of the most storied programs playing on Saturday night and for extra wow factor throw in the fact that the head coach of Notre Dame was a star linebacker just 15 years ago for Ohio State! So many angles on this game. 5 star players all over the field. It may just come down to coaching decisions. Freeman is in year 2 as an HC while Ryan day is in his 5th season and has an amazing 48-6 record. Last season opened with Oh State beating up ND 21-10. Notre Dame has lost the last 5 times they have played and the last time Notre Dame won it was 1936 in a 7-2 battle. Yes 2. I have nothing I can point to that says Notre Dame will win this year other than a feeling. So I’m taking ND to at least cover the 3.5 points.
Tiebreaker Total Miss State & USC passing yards
South Carolina has the 8th best passing offense in the country after playing ranked UNC and #1 Georgia. Gamecocks are averaging 357 YPG in the air. Miss State is ranked 115th on pass defense so Rattler may go nuts for 450. As mentioned earlier the new Miss State offense is run heavy. Will Rogers could dual with Rattler but his coach doesn’t like that. It may be a halftime decision if they’re down by 2 or more scores to start throwing. If they do the Gamecocks D has been burned through the air. Georgia put 269 on 35 attempts and ironically UNC had 269 on 32 attempts. However the Bulldogs were down 24-7 to LSU at half and still only attempted 28 passes for the game. LSU doesn’t have a great pass d either giving up over 200 YPG. I just feel like State is going to attempt and complete more this week and so I’ll put them at 190 for the game. Total 600 yards