The picks are in: Predictions on games around the country this weekend

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 20, 2013 

Quarterback Jeff Driskel was lost for the season last year after injuring his leg versus Tennessee. If he doesn't help turn Florida's offense around this fall, it might cost coach Will Muschamp his job.

WADE PAYNE — AP

AUBURN, Ala. — There was a common thread in the three games I picked incorrectly last week. All three involved Big Ten teams (Nebraska, Wisconsin and Penn State). I pegged all three of those aforementioned squads to win. In two of the games, controversy quickly followed. In the case of Wisconsin's loss to Arizona State, it had to do with the officials moving in slow motion and not spotting the ball quickly enough, which cost the Badgers a chance at another play. They lost 32-30.

Nebraska's controversy (or is it "controversies?") centered around head coach Bo Pelini. After jumping out to a 21-3 lead against UCLA, the Cornhuskers watched as the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points to win going away, 41-21.

Quick recap: Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier wasn't happy with the defensive performance. He took to Twitter. Pelini got defensive about his defense. Pelini later says, "We don't need him," only referring to one of the most recognizable players in Cornhuskers' history. And all of this happened before Pelini's postgame, expletive-filled rant from two years ago was released Monday.

And what controversy did Penn State have in its defeat to Central Florida to tie everything together with a nice bow? Well ... nothing. The Nittany Lions just plain lost. Unless someone wants to make the case that Central Florida struck a blow for American Athletic Conference teams everywhere, the game was controversy-free.

Any takers?

No?

OK, let's just move on ... to this week's games! (Please note that all times listed, as per usual, are Eastern. Thanks in advance.)

(Actually, one note before we get started. The slate of games this week is really, really bad. One of the worst I can recall in many years. Knowing that going in, I won't be going too in-depth on any game aside from Auburn and the contest I picked as the "Game of the Week." Otherwise, most of these picks won't contain more than a few sentences.)

Strictly SEC

Arkansas at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m.

Rutgers won 35-26 last year in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas' head coach at the time was one John L. Smith. Now it's Bret Bielema.

Advantage, Hogs.

Black picks: Razorbacks 38, Scarlet Knights 21

Troy at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs will get back on the right track with a win here, but people would be crazy to think they'll win going away. The Trojans have played enough high-level teams in their history that they're not wowed going against an opponent from the SEC.

Black picks: Bulldogs 34, Trojans 27

Missouri at Indiana, 8 p.m.

Two great journalism schools going at it here. The football teams? Not so much.

Go with the team from the conference that has won seven straight national titles.

Black picks: Tigers 41, Hoosiers 30

Other National Games of Some Renown

Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame, 3:30

Michigan State is 3-0. Its wins are against Western Michigan, South Florida and Youngstown State.

Notre Dame will be a step up in competition, and I don't think the first three games adequately prepared the visitors for what they'll see Saturday.

Black picks: Fighting Irish 31, Spartans 17

Purdue at No. 24 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m.

Wisconsin is going to be fighting mad Saturday after the way last week's game ended.

I wouldn't want to be Purdue in this one.

Black picks: Badgers 55, Boilermakers 20

No. 15 Michigan at Connecticut, 8 p.m.

Hey, don't laugh at me picking this game. Didn't what you see what the Terry Bowden-led Akron Zips did to the Wolverines last week? Michigan was lucky to escape with a 28-24 victory.

That being said, the Wolverines won't have quite as much trouble this week with the hapless Huskies.

Black picks: Wolverines 41, Huskies 20

No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford, 7 p.m.

Arizona State played well enough last week — along with an assist from the "Keystone Cops," also known as "Pac-12 officials" — to earn a ranking for this Saturday's game.

Let's put it this way: The Sun Devils won't have that ranking for long.

Black picks: Cardinal 42, Sun Devils 14

Quick Hits

North Carolina at Georgia Tech, Noon

This game won't be nearly as high-scoring as last year's 68-50 affair. The result will remain the same, as the Ramblin' Wreck take the victory.

Black picks: Yellow Jackets 45, Tar Heels 34

Wake Forest at Army, Noon

I want to pick Army, I really do. My head is telling me to go the other way, though.

Black picks: Demon Deacons 24, Black Knights 17

Pittsburgh at Duke, 12:30 p.m.

Jameis Winston highlights keep playing in my head over and over. Take the home team here.

Black picks: Blue Devils 27, Panthers 16

West Virginia at Maryland (in Baltimore), 3:30 p.m.

Maryland has improved since last season, which, of course, isn't saying much. The Terrapins were terrible last season.

West Virginia is somewhat meeting them halfway; these Mountaineers don't quite stack up to others of recent vintage. No matter. I'd still take West Virginia. (I trust Dana Holgorsen more than Randy Edsall.)

Black picks: Mountaineers 45, Terrapins 24

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 20 Baylor, 4 p.m.

ULM was my "Upset Pick of the Week" in the last edition of the picks.

I'm not going to go to the well for the second consecutive week.

Black picks: Bears 45, Warhawks 31

Kansas State at Texas, 8 p.m.

Things aren't getting any better in Austin, Texas, this season.

This loss won't help matters.

Black picks: Wildcats 31, Longhorns 23

The Game You Really Care About

Auburn at No. 6 LSU, 7:45 p.m.

Those who joined the live chat on Thursday already know my predicted margin of victory.

(Quick aside: If you're not joining the live chat Thursdays at 3 p.m. ET, what are you doing? I'd like to hear some legitimate excuses, folks.)

The chess match between Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will be fun to watch, if nothing else.

One would think LSU will focus on keeping Auburn's running attack grounded for the second week in a row. That means it will fall to Marshall to once more win a game with his arm. Can he do it? Possibly the only weak point LSU has on either side of the ball is at cornerback, where two freshmen — Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson — have begun to see their playing time increase. Though talented, they aren't above making rookie mistakes.

Then again, it might not matter how much Marshall does if his defense doesn't find a way to slow down Zach Mettenberger and Co. Given their similarities, the game should remain close going into halftime.

LSU's superior depth and knack for winning Saturday night home affairs will be too much for Auburn in the final 30 minutes, though, as the Bayou Bengals will hand the visitors their seventh consecutive loss in Tiger Stadium.

Black picks: Bayou Bengals 37, The Visiting Tigers 17

GAME OF THE WEEK

Tennessee at No. 19 Florida, 3:30 p.m.

Two weeks ago, this had the makings of an interesting game. Tennessee was riding high with a 2-0 start in hand, while Florida had been felled by in-state rival Miami in a close 21-16 loss.

My, how times have changed.

First, there was the Yahoo Sports story that led to the Volunteers suspending defensive tackle Mo Couch. Then Tennessee actually had to go out and play its next game. No. 2 Oregon made sure it lacked any drama, decimating the visitors 59-14.

It won't quite get that bad this weekend — the Gators don't score nearly that much anymore. If Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer were still around, then we could have a conversation.

Long story short: Florida wins for the ninth straight time against Tennessee.

Black picks: Florida 23, Tennessee 10

Last week: 12-3

Season: 38-7

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