THE PICKS ARE IN: Predictions on games around the country this weekend

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 6, 2013 

AUBURN, Ala. — SEC commissioner Mike Slive opened his Media Days address this year with what he called "a brag bag," taking pride in noting all the great things happening around the conference he has led for more than a decade. A smaller "brag bag" is what I'm going to open my picks column with this week, since I'm not sure when I'll ever get to do so again.

I just wanted to shine a spotlight on some of my picks last week.

My pick: Florida 24, Toledo 21

Actual score: Florida 24, Rockets 6

My pick: Texas A&M 52, Rice 10

Actual score: Texas A&M 52, Rice 31

My pick: Arkansas 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 24

Actual score: Arkansas 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 14

My pick: Alabama 41, Virginia Tech 10

Actual score: Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10

My pick: Missouri 55, Murray State 14

Actual score: Missouri 58, Murray State 14

My pick: Washington 38, Boise State 28

Actual score: Washington 38, Boise State 6

Finally, we get to my Auburn prediction:

My pick: Auburn 31, Washington State 17 Actual score: Auburn 31, Washington State 24

It was a great start to the first week, but it'll be hard to keep it up.

On to this this week's games, though. (Please note that all times listed are Eastern. Thanks in advance.)

Strictly SEC

Miami (OH) at Kentucky, Noon

Kentucky picks up its first win under head coach Mark Stoops, but it would have helped more to beat Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky last week.

Black picks: Wildcats 41, RedHawks 21

No. 12 Florida at Miami (FL), Noon

No, I didn't think much of Florida entering the season. No, I didn't think the Gators' offense would look too good, given how pathetic it looked at times last season. But they proved me wrong.

Can they do it do weeks in a row?

Black picks: Hurricanes 28, Gators 24

Western Kentucky at Tennessee, 12:21 p.m.

Petrino is looking to go 2-0 on his "SEC Revenge Tour 2013: Schools Who Had Jobs Open During the Offseason and Didn't Give Me A Look." It'll be close, but I think Tennessee head coach Butch Jones does what Stoops couldn't, handing the motorcycle maniac his first career loss at WKU.

Black picks: Volunteers 27, Hilltoppers 21

I'm not even going to waste people's time explaining my pick in these other conference games.

Alcorn State at Mississippi State, 3:30 p.m.

Samford at Arkansas (in Little Rock), 7 p.m.

UAB at No. 9 LSU, 7 p.m.

Southeast Missouri State at Ole Miss, 7 p.m.

Sam Houston State at No. 7 Texas A&M, 7 p.m.

Austin Peay at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m.

Black picks: All of the home teams — with ease.

Other National Games of Some Renown

No. 2 Oregon at Virginia, 3:30 p.m.

Virginia surprised me by toppling BYU in a rain-soaked game last week. Needless to say, they probably won't see any team that can run up and down the field like the "Quack Attack" will do this Saturday.

This one could get ugly quickly.

Black picks: Ducks 55, Cavaliers 24

No. 15 Texas at BYU, 7 p.m.

This game lost some of its luster after the Cougars' loss mentioned above. And if BYU had problems with Virginia, well, let's just say Texas won't be any easier.

Black picks: Longhorns 48, Cougars 17

West Virginia at No. 16 Oklahoma, 7 p.m.

West Virginia needed a late touchdown to stave off an upset bid by William & Mary last week. Not a good sign when you have to go on the road against Oklahoma a week later.

Black picks: Sooners 52, Mountaineers 14

No. 14 Notre Dame at No. 17 Michigan, 8 p.m.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly seems to have waffled over how big of a rivalry this game is, which pits college football's two winningest programs by percentage (Michigan at .735, Notre Dame at .734) against each other. He started out by saying it was "a big regional rivalry," then swiftly changed course two days later to say it was "a great and historic rivalry." Considering the Fighting Irish are ending the rivalry for the foreseeable future — which they've said is due to "five-games-per-year" contract with the ACC starting next season — expect the Wolverines to play with more of an edge Saturday night.

Oh, and did I mention this is only the second night game in the history of Michigan Stadium?

Black picks: Wolverines 41, Fighting Irish 31

The Game You Really Care About

Arkansas State at Auburn, 7:30 p.m.

I predicted the Tigers would win by "two and a half touchdowns" during Thursday's live chat (even if someone wanted to say you can't technically score "half a touchdown.") Duly noted. Each of these teams have a good idea what the other will do given that Gus Malzahn spent a year teaching his hurry-up, no-huddle philosophy to the Red Wolves. On that same token, Malzahn knows the strengths and weaknesses of nearly every player on Arkansas State's roster.

The deciding factor won't be difficult to spot come Saturday: Auburn simply has more athletes.

The Red Wolves will at least keep it close for a half until the Tigers start to pull away and distance themselves from their Sun Belt Conference foe.

Black picks: Tigers 38, Red Wolves 20

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 6 South Carolina at No. 11 Georgia, 4:30 p.m.

Fact: Georgia had problems protecting quarterback Aaron Murray last week, as Clemson's defensive line had its way time and again up front.

Fact: South Carolina's defensive line is far better than Clemson's, led by arguably the nation's top player in Jadeveon Clowney.

It doesn't matter how explosive the Bulldogs' offense is if the offensive line can't give Murray time to throw or open up running lanes for Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

South Carolina just has Georgia's number, with a win here extending their run of wins in the series to four. I'm not betting against The Ol' Ball Coach.

Black’s pick: Gamecocks 24, Bulldogs 21

Last week: 13-2

Season: 13-2

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