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

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 11, 2013 

AUBURN, Ala. — Another pretty decent showing in the picks department for me last week, posting an 11-4 record. However, I'm not oblivious to things going on around me. I know the only pick people cared about was one of those four losses. Some team beat another team in Jordan-Hare Stadium last week, and I didn't pick the right one.

I don't think people will have to worry about me picking the team on the Plains this week, though. That prognostication will be revealed soon enough.

Now let's light this candle. (As always, the times listed below are Eastern. Please schedule accordingly.)

Strictly SEC

No. 25 Missouri at No. 7 Georgia, Noon

At the rate Georgia is losing offensive skill players, Aaron Murray may literally be a one-man team come the end of the season. And Missouri isn't to be taken lightly, especially after it blasted Vanderbilt 51-28. However, this is another step up for the Tigers, who haven't seen any team as athletic as what they're about to face in the Bulldogs.

Georgia pulls it out at home, but much to its fan base's chagrin, plays down the wire once again.

Black picks: Bulldogs 28, Tigers 24

No. 14 South Carolina at Arkansas, 12:21 p.m.

Will he or won't he? No, I'm not talking about whether Bret Bielema is having seconds during the Razorbacks' pregame meal. That should go without saying. I'm talking about college football's newest prima-donna, Jadeveon Clowney, and whether he'll play this Saturday.

Here's what South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said about Clowney's availability after Thursday's practice.

"If he's healthy, he's going to start," Ward said. "He practiced two days in a row and I think he's getting better every day."

"If?" "I think?" Not exactly reassuring.

Regardless, take South Carolina on the road to send Arkansas to its third straight loss.

Black picks: Gamecocks 31, Razorbacks 17

No. 1 Alabama at Kentucky, 7 p.m.

(Insert laugh track.)

Black picks: Crimson Tide 52, Wildcats 10

No. 9 Texas A&M at Ole Miss, 8:30 p.m.

If Ole Miss loses this one, one has to think it'll be hard to pick itself up off the mat for next week's game against another vaunted opponent in LSU, even if the Rebels get to play at home. Last season, they had the Aggies on the ropes before Johnny Manziel led a stirring fourth-quarter comeback.

Ole Miss is going to fight until the bitter end, but it's not going to be enough to halt its two-game losing streak.

Black picks: Aggies 45, Rebels 38

Other National Games of Some Renown

Indiana at Michigan State, Noon

Picking against Mark Dantonio and the Spartans burned me last week. This also would probably be a good time to mention Michigan State has one of the stingiest defenses in the country, allowing just 13.4 points per game. Yes, Indiana beat Penn State last week, but those aren't exactly the Nittany Lions of yore, either.

I'm rolling with Sparty at home.

Black picks: Spartans 27, Hoosiers 14

Pittsburgh at No. 24 Virginia Tech, Noon

The Hokies, incredibly, have lost four straight games in this series. Last year, the Panthers did whatever they wanted to in a 35-17 victory, passing for 283 yards and running for 254 yards on the ground. Since dropping the season opener to top-ranked Alabama, Virginia Tech has ripped off five straight wins.

Make it six after Saturday.

Black picks: Hokies 23, Panthers 10

No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas (at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas), Noon

It will be a historic game in the Red Rivalry Rivalry on Saturday, and it will be for all the wrong reasons in Texas' case. Once Oklahoma finishes obliterating its arch-rival, Mack Brown will be relieved of his duties as the Longhorns' coach.

(Yes, expect his postgame press conference to include a lot of crying.)

Black picks: Sooners 58, Longhorns 20

No. 19 Northwestern at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m.

You always hear coaches talk about "not letting one loss turn into two" when a team can't come up with a victory in a close game. Northwestern is going to have to overcome that in this contest after almost pulling off the upset against Ohio State at home last week. Wisconsin is in a similar situation, as it also is coming off a narrow defeat to the Buckeyes.

The difference? The Badgers have had a week off, and playing at Camp Randall ain't no picnic.

Black picks: Badgers 31, Wildcats 23

No. 18 Michigan at Penn State, 3:30 p.m.

Let's see: Michigan had arguably its best performance of the season last week in a 42-13 shellacking of Minnesota. Meanwhile, Penn State lost at Indiana 44-24, marking the first time in school history the Nittany Lions couldn't top the Hoosiers. They had won the 16 previous meetings.

The Wolverines are a tad better than the Hoosiers, so look for them to keep their undefeated record intact with a win in not-so-Happy-Valley.

Black picks: Wolverines 41, Nittany Lions 27

No. 15 Baylor at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m.

Hmm, think Kansas State can exact revenge after Baylor ended its unbeaten season last year? The way the Bears offense is playing — averaging an almost inconceivable 781.5 yards and 70.5 points per game — I'd say the chances are slim.

Black picks: Bears 63, Wildcats 21

No. 2 Oregon at No. 16 Washington, 4 p.m.

Give Washington a lot of credit for last week's performance, as it pushed Stanford to the brink, falling 31-28 and having to get over a late catch that was initially ruled a reception, but was overturned on a review. (And it was the correct call, as the ball clearly hit the ground.)

The bad news for the Huskies is that they'll have to play even better if they are to beat the second-ranked Ducks, who have won nine straight games in this series and 17 consecutive road contests.

Much as they did with the Cardinal, the Huskies will hang tough. But Washington won't be able to slow down Oregon's offense enough to get the 'W.'

Black picks: Ducks 48, Huskies 38

Georgia Tech at BYU, 7 p.m.

Over-under 10 passes in this game? Two of the top 11 rushing attacks in the country will square off in this one, so this game might not even take three hours to complete.

BYU couldn't beat Virginia earlier in the year, which doesn't exactly instill any confidence that they can beat Georgia Tech for the second year in a row.

Black picks: Yellow Jackets 42, Cougars 38

Oregon State at Washington State, 10:30 p.m.

Over-under 10 rushes in this game? Welcome to the polar opposite of the game contest above. Oregon State and Washington State rank 121st and 122, respectively, in rushing yards per game this season.

For consistency's sake, I'm going with the home-standing Cougs here, since I did say they would be in the thick of the bowl hunt a few weeks ago. Remember that?

(If not, here's a refresher.)

Black picks: Cougars 55, Beavers 42

The Game You Really Care About

Western Carolina at Auburn, 2 p.m.

There's really no need to get bogged down in analysis here. Even if Auburn put its third-string players on the field at every position — and decided to put me at quarterback instead of Jonathan Wallace or Jeremy Johnson — they would still win going away.

The quick facts: Western Carolina has lost 31 straight games to Division I (yes, both FBS and FCS) schools, while 32 of its 44 players on its two-deep depth chart are freshmen or sophomores.

So look at it this way: It won't be an interesting game, but it will be easy for everyone. The Tigers. The fans who can go home early. The writers who can leave the stadium before midnight.

Everyone wins in this situation.

Well, except for Western Carolina, of course.

Black picks: Tigers 55, Catamounts 7

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 17 Florida at No. 10 LSU, 3:30 p.m.

Tyler Murphy has played as well as can be expected since taking over for Jeff Driskel in the middle of Florida's game against Tennessee.

That being said ... besting Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas doesn't quite prepare a signal-caller for going into Tiger Stadium and leaving with a victory.

Oh, and LSU's offense is going to be too much for the Gators to keep up with, too.

Black’s pick: Tigers 30, Gators 17

Last week: 11-4

Season: 74-16

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