Roy Exum: My Football Picks – Sept. 28

Friday, September 27, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

You’ll remember that last week it was learned Arian Foster, in a documentary called “Schooled: The Price of College Sports,”  revealed he had taken money on the side while playing football at the University of Tennessee. He now-famously said, "I don't know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation -- my senior year, I was getting money on the side," said Foster.

"I really didn't have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, 'Man, be careful.' But there's nothing wrong with it. And you're not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”

Foster, who now plays pro with the Houston Texans, also claimed, “There was a point where we had no food, no money, so I called my coach and I said, 'Coach, we don't have no food. We don't have no money. We're hungry. Either you give us some food, or I'm gonna go do something stupid.' He came down and he brought like 50 tacos for like four or five of us. Which is an NCAA violation. [laughs] But then, the next day I walk up to the facility and I see my coach pull up in a brand new Lexus. Beautiful."

Wow, you say. Tennessee is paying athletes? David Cutcliffe, a stand-up guy who is now head coach at Duke, was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator under Phillip Fulmer during Foster’s sophomore and junior seasons and, while Phillip is saying nothing, the angry Cutcliffe sure isn’t mincing words.

“That may have been as weak of interview as I’ve heard.  Arian never looked hungry…,” David told blogger Laura Kelley on the Duke Today website. “Yes, (his scholarship) pays for food and rent.  On game day, when you go back to your dorm, you usually $15 in meal money and you could buy, I don’t know, 10 tacos maybe.

“As long as there’s the amount of media we have and the opportunity, you’re going to, I guess, see protests or whatever.  As long as I’ve been around it, and it’s a long time, longer than sometimes I even think, athletes have been treated pretty well.  I don’t see anybody getting abused.  I don’t drive a brand new Lexus, I drive a nice car because I choose to.  I heard that, I don’t know what that had to do with the price of tea anywhere,” Cutcliffe laughed.

“(Full-cost-of-tuition scholarships would) make it so expensive to come to a college athletics event that nobody is going to want to come.  Again, we’re not abusing kids.  There’s a lot of uninformed people that haven’t seen the day-to-day.

“I’m pretty qualified to be informed,” the coach said. “We’re not going to let a youngster starve.  Before they starve, I’m going to break a NCAA rule to make sure they eat.  I’m going to take them home if they can’t pay their rent.  If we get to that point, I’m going to house them.  It’s not the case.  It’s not the case,” he explained.

Cutcliffe said he had never seen a college football player go hungry. “Really -- never -- because at the level I’ve been, you understand that if they are need-based Pell Grant, every bit of that money goes to them, okay?” he explained to the writer.

“You’re looking at one that was need-based. I thought I had it pretty darn good. You understand what I’m saying? There’s already stuff in place that we can spend money wisely.

“We have a needy student assistance fund. We’ve been able to clothe them. You can fly their parents in if they get hurt. We can fly them home if there’s a tragic death in their family. There’s a lot of education that needs to be done by somebody if none of you have any idea what we can do. That’s all in place, we have a lot of people there, whether it’s compliance.

“You’ve got to understand, compliance is not put there to say what you can’t do, compliance is there for what you can do to make a better environment for a student-athlete and a safer environment for a student athlete.”

That said, here is how I am picking this week’s top football games:

* * *

No. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA (2-1, 1-1 SEC) at CENTRAL FLORIDA (3-0) In Orlando, Noon (ABC) – Central Florida is still giggly after last week’s 34-31 win over Penn State – the biggest in UCF history. But cagey Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks were resting last Saturday and hardly anybody beats the Ole Ball Coach will two weeks to prepare. UCF coach George O’Leary says his kids are more excited about being on network TV than facing USC but somebody ought to tell those kids the Gamecocks don’t come with a remote. USC is favored by 7 1/2 . MY PICK? South Carolina, 35-10.

SOUTH ALABAMA (2-1) at TENNESSEE (2-2, 0-1 SEC), 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network) – The Vols are favored – maybe for the last time this year – by 20 points over a young South Alabama and you’ve got to believe QB Justin Worley needs an easy game before Georgia next week. Tennessee’s first half against Florida was abysmal so there are things to fix everywhere Butch Jones looks. The biggest concerns are obviously the backfields, both offensively and defensively, but Worley needs to click with his receivers for quick points. MY PICK? Tennessee 27-17.

No. 6 LOUISIANA STATE (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 9 GEORGIA (2-1, 1-0 SEC), 3:30 p.m. (CBS) – Both teams swear they are going to run, UGa’s Todd Gurley averaging 135.3 all-purpose yards versus LSU’s Jeremy Hill with 117 all-purpose average. But the game will be decided by UGa’s All-American QB, Aaron Murray (350-plus yards per game) versus LSU’s QB Zack Mettenberger (10 TDs to Murray’s 9). Both defenses are sound and with “College Game Day” in Athens, you have to give the edge to the home team, which is favored by 3. MY PICK? Georgia, 30-24.

No. 14 OKLAHOMA (3-0) at No. 22 NOTRE DAME (3-1), 3:30 p.m. (NBC) – Blake Bell, a.k.a “The Belldozer” at Oklahoma, passed for 413 yards on 27 of 37 with four TDs in the 51-20 win over Tulsa but if the Sooners allow Tulsa 20 points, are we getting ready for another debacle like ND’s 30-13 victory last year’s where the Irish obliterated UO’s ground game (15 yards on 24 tries)? Nah, the “Belldozer” got the Sooners favored by 3 ½ and that 11-point loss to Michigan is still hanging in the air. MY PICK? Oklahoma, 35-30.

No. 21 OLE MISS (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 1 ALABAMA (3-0, 1-0 SEC), 6:30 p.m. (ESPN) – Ole Miss is ranked and undefeated and has a marvelous cast of freshmen – all good things. But when you are a 15 ½ point underdog to the No. 1 team in the country and you are playing in Bryant-Denny, that’s a bad thing. Alabama simply has too many players that are better than Mississippi’s. Now that the SEC’s “gauntlet” of week-in, week-out battles has started, wins over cream-puffs don’t matter much. MY PICK? Alabama, 41-17.

No. 10 TEXAS A&M (3-1, 0-1 SEC) at ARKANSAS (3-1, 0-0 SEC), 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2) – The boys in Las Vegas haven’t declared a line of this game because the Arkansas QB is “questionable.” (Brandon Allen is doubtful.) What a laugher! The bigger story is nothing wrong with the other one, A&M’s Johnny Manziel, and look for him to steal the show in Fayetteville. For goodness sake, UA just got beat by 4 points at Rutgers so don’t expect the Razorbacks to threaten the Aggies no matter who starts for the red team. Manziel & Co. will be at Ole Miss next week and, in case you are wondering, A&M won’t play at LSU until Nov. 23. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 42-13.

No. 23 WISCONSIN (3-1) at No. 4 OHIO STATE (4-0), 8:00 p.m. (ABC) – Buckeye QB Kenny Guiton completed 24 of 34 passes for 215 yards, six TDs and an interception in the 76-0 mismatch against Florida A&M. So the question is will Urban Meyer go with Guiton or put Braxton Miller in control of this annual donnybrook? Forget who starts, it is who finishes that matters.  UW lost to Arizona State by 2 points on a disputed play while the Buckeyes haven’t been tested so OSU’s 7-point edge is about right. MY PICK? Ohio State, 24-14.

No. 5 STANFORD (3-0) at WASHINGTON STATE (3-1), 10:00 p.m. (ESPN) – After losing the opener to Auburn, WSU’s “pirate,” Mike Leach, guided the Cougars to a 42-0 win over Idaho last week and let’s not forget the 10-7 upset of Southern Cal/Lane Kiffin. Stanford’s 42-28 win against Arizona State set a tone for the Cardinal but am I the only guy that wonders how a No. 5 team – now favored by 10 -- has given up 61 points in 3 games? MY PICK? Stanford, 24-17.

CALIFORNIA (1-2) at No. 2 OREGON (3-0), 10:30 p.m. (Pac-10) – About the only thing Cal can do to stop the Ducks is book UO at “Hotel California” and beg for magic. With Alabama lacking the enthusiasm to dominate foes, Oregon need only break open its speed to lure more poll-voters away. UO is averaging over 60 points in the first three games and the Ducks’ statistics are obscene so use that 36 ½ edge any way you like. MY PICK? Oregon, 60-10.

ARIZONA STATE (2-1) at SOUTHERN CAL (3-1), 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2) – ASU is favored by 6 over Kiffin’s Trojans and a loss on the road will have USC backers in a frenzy next week against Arizona. Interestingly, USC’s 3-point win over Utah last week was hurtful because some think USC will lose four more and, if that happens, you can bet Southern Cal will have had enough. MY PICK? Arizona State, 27-18.

IN OTHER SEC GAMES

No. 20 FLORIDA (2-1, 1-1 SEC) at KENTUCKY (1-2, 0-0 SEC), 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU) – No SEC team has made a bigger change that Florida; when QB Jeff Driskel went down last week (broken leg) reserve Tyler Murphy ignited the Florida Field crowd, passing for a 52-yard TD pass and running for 84 yards against flat-footed Tennessee. The Wildcats, ranked at the bottom of most SEC comparisons, know why the Gators are favored by 13 and this one could get ugly. MY PICK? Florida, 37-13.

ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (1-2) at VANDERBILT (2-2, 0-2 SEC), 7:30 p.m. (Fox Network) – Vandy is picked by 20 to whip UAB but, with two conference losses already and the rape case dominating Commodore conversations, a look ahead shows a hard October with Missouri, Georgia, and Texas A&M. VU will relish an off week after Mizzou but it appears this season will be an uphill battle. MY PICK? Vanderbilt, 35-10.

ARKANSAS STATE (2-2) at MISSOURI (3-0, 0-0 SEC), 7:30 p.m. (CSS) – Missouri is a 21-point favorite after Arkansas State suffered a 31-7 embarrassment at Memphis and the Tigers could slip into the Top 25 win a win, albeit briefly. Yes, QB James Franklin had a career high 404 yards in the 45-28 road win over Indiana but then comes Vandy, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina – all of which play stronger, faster and better than any team UM has beaten. MY PICK? Missouri, 37-10.

IDLE THIS WEEK

AUBURN (3-1, 0-1 SEC) will host Ole Miss on October 5; MISS. STATE (2-2, 0-1 SEC) will host LSU on October 5.

AND ONE MORE

UT-CHATTANOOGA (2-1) at GEORGIA SOUTHERN (2-1), 6:00 p.m. – Georgia Southern, leading the country among FCS schools with 407.7 yards per game on the ground, will meet UTC’s salty defense that is yielding just 18.3 points per game but GSU’s numbers are inflated due to a 77-0 slaughter of tiny Savannah State earlier this year. This is Southern’s last season in the Southern Conference, which is probably a mistake, and UTC has the best SoCon team it has ever had. So the thought is the Mocs will win a squeaker for the first time since 2010. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 23-20.

royexum@aol.com


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