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

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 23, 2013 

AUBURN, Ala. — It's always nice to have a free Saturday.

And man, are there some good matchups this weekend, as there are a whopping five games with top-25 opponents squaring off.

After back-to-back weeks of 10-5, I'm ready to see if I can get that to at least 11-4, if not a tad better. Given how many of these games are "toss-ups" (at least in my mind), I might be lucky to avoid my second sub-.500 showing of the year.

Without further ado, let's get to the picks'! (And a friendly reminder: As always, the times listed below are Eastern. Schedule accordingly.)

Strictly SEC

Mississippi State at Arkansas, 12:21

Going winless in SEC play certainly wasn't what Bret Bielema and Arkansas fans were planning on this season. If the Razorbacks don't win this game, their last chance comes next week against LSU.

So ... they should probably try to win this game.

(P.S. They won't.)

Black picks: Bulldogs 27, Razorbacks 20

No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 22 LSU, 3:30 p.m.

The Aggies have never lost a road game since Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel have been in College Station. Given that little tidbit — and the fact that Manziel needs to win this game to increase his chances at capturing back-to-back Heisman Trophys — I'm taking the Aggies here.

(And yes, I'm well-aware that no team gave Johnny Football more issues last season that the Tigers. I think he'll get his revenge this year.)

Black picks: Aggies 48, Tigers 41

Kentucky at Georgia, 7 p.m.

Aaron Murray will end his final home game on a high note. Which, at this point, is all he really has left.

Black picks: Bulldogs 38, Wildcats 24

Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 7 p.m.

Call this my crazy pick of the week: All signs point to a Vanderbilt win. But Tennessee needs to win this week (and next week against Kentucky) to reach six wins and bowl eligibility.

That's really the only reason I'm picking Tennessee in this game.

Black picks: Volunteers 30, Commodores 27

No. 8 Missouri at No. 24 Ole Miss, 7:45 p.m.

I've been going back-and-forth over this game all week. I can't get over the fact that Ole Miss has lost only one game at home all year, and that came on a last-second field goal against Texas A&M.

Then again, Missouri's only loss this season came in double-overtime versus South Carolina, and James Franklin is set to return after missing the past four games with a shoulder injury.

It'll be close, but I suppose I'll take the visitors to set up what will be a great matchup against Texas A&M next week in Columbia, Mo.

Black picks: Tigers 45, Rebels 38

ACC-only

Virginia at Miami, Noon

Miami hasn't played well the past two weeks, dropping consecutive contest to Virginia Tech and Duke, respectively. No need to worry this week: The Cavaliers have lost seven consecutive games.

Come Saturday evening, make that eight.

Black picks: Hurricanes 48, Cavaliers 17

Duke at Wake Forest, Noon

Pittsburgh at Syracuse, 12:30 p.m.

Boston College at Maryland, 3:30 p.m.

Black picks: THE VISITORS

Other National Games of Some Renown

No. 20 Oklahoma at Kansas State, Noon

No. 19 Wisconsin at No. 25 Minnesota, 3:30 p.m.

Nebraska at Penn State, 3:30 p.m.

No. 5 Oregon at Arizona, 3:30 p.m.

Black picks: NO "HOME COOKIN'" HERE. TAKE THE VISITORS, AGAIN.

No. 17 Arizona State at No. 14 UCLA, 7 p.m.

Since I didn't group this game with the ones above, it should be fairly obvious who I'm taking here. Yes, all Arizona State has to do to capture the Pac-12 South crown is win this game. Only one problem: UCLA coach Jim Mora has never lost to a South Division school since taking over in Los Angeles, sporting an 8-0 record.

Oh, and since going 0-2 against the Oregon/Stanford duopoly, UCLA is 3-0, averaging 30-plus points per game in each of those victories.

Black picks: Bruins 40, Sun Devils 31

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 4 Baylor at No. 10 Oklahoma State, 8 p.m.

With all due respect to TCU and Texas, if Baylor wins this game, it will finish the regular season undefeated.

The Bears have met every challenge thus far, summarily dismissing Oklahoma and Texas Tech, respectively, in their last two outings. However, they're facing an Oklahoma State team that has peaked at the right time, winning six straight games after an inexplicable loss at West Virginia on Sept. 28.

Indeed, it's impossible to ignore the mind-boggling numbers Baylor's offense has put up this season, as it is averaging better than 61 points and 685 yards of total offense per game. However, while the stats may favor the visitors, history favors Oklahoma State.

To wit (as provided by the Cowboys' sports information department):

• Oklahoma State is 16-1 in its last 17 games in Boone Pickens Stadium, dating back to the start of the 2011 season. • Oklahoma State is 6-1 in its past seven meetings with Baylor. Going further back, the Cowboys are 15-2 in their last 17 outings against the Bears. • Finally (and most importantly), Oklahoma State has won 10 straight home tilts against Baylor dating back to 1972. The Bears' last win in Stillwater? Oh, only 1939 (!!!).

I'm riding with the Cowboys, y'all.

Black’s pick: Cowboys 55, Bears 52

Last week: 10-5

Season: 133-49

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