Johnny Manziel, repeatedly making a fool of himself with taunting words, clever hand signals and a flippant attitude in the win over Rice last week, has come a long way since last year at this time. Sure, he is such a sensational player that he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy but his actions since the trophy presentation have soured his image in every corner of the country. He is clearly on a collision course with himself.
So the new darling of college football has emerged in Tallahassee where redshirt freshman Jamies Winston threw five touchdown passes on Labor Day night in Florida State’s 41-13 romp over a shaken Pittsburgh. Quickly assigned the nickname “Famous Jameis,” he is already a standout baseball player for the Seminoles (95 mph fastball) and suddenly FSU fans are making comparisons to two Seminole legends who were two-sport stars -- Charlie Ward and Deon Sanders.
The college football world had hardly heard of Winston this time last week but after his college debut he’s ranked as a co-favorite to win the Heisman with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. The cannon-armed Wilson completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and the five scores Monday night. Florida State is idle tomorrow, the next game a week from tomorrow at home against Nevada.
With Bethune Cookman and (at) Boston College filling out September, “Famous Jameis” has a perfect launchpad towards stardom but the pleasant, grinning redshirt sophomore out of Hueytown, Ala., has already told reporters, "If I get Manziel Disease," the Famous One said, "I want every one of you all to get your mics and start slapping me on the head."
Manziel will be watched closely tomorrow when the Aggies take on lightweight Sam Houston State while Bridgewater has to put up phenomenal records in every game due to Louisville’s cake-walk schedule. Eight of Louisville’s future opponents lost in the first week of football last Saturday and today the Cardinals host Eastern Kentucky before visiting Kentucky next week in Lexington.
Of course, next Saturday is when “Johnny Football” and his A&M sidekicks host No. 1 Alabama (idle tomorrow) in what was thought at the beginning of the season to be the best game of the year. But with Florida State and “Famous Jameis” opening red hot, the Oct. 19 game at No. 4 Clemson is suddenly huge.
That said, here’s how I am picking this week’s big games
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No. 12 FLORIDA (1-0) at MIAMI (1-0), 12:00 p.m. on ESPN – Miami’s Duke Johnson led the national last week with his 19 carries for 186 yards and a touchdown — a 9.8-yard-per-carry average -- but there is a huge difference in Florida Atlantic and the Gators. Florida is a 3-point favorite and, with several suspended playmakers back, this will have a lot more fire than the smoky 24-6 victory over Toledo in the opener. For the record, UF recruited Miami’s Johnson so this will be one of the better games of the day. MY PICK? Florida, 28-15.
WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-0) at TENNESSEE (1-0), 12:21 p.m. on SEC Network — Tennessee played brilliantly last Saturday – not one penalty in a 45-0 win – but Austin Peay is a measuring stick with no numbers on it. I have no idea how well the Vols will fare against a Bobby Petrino team that was good under Willie Taggert last year. The Vols are favored by two TDs but WKU has some good players; this is hardly a “money game.” Vol QB Justin Worley and his receivers were superb, going 11-of-13 for three TDs but this could be a close one. MY PICK? Tennessee 35-24.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE at NORTH CAROLINA (0-1) , 12:30 p.m. on ACC Network – UNC coach Larry Fedora will be without Kairo Holts after his clip on South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney this week. “Yeah, we talked to him. He got a personal foul. He clipped but it was within the play. It was not after the play. We disciplined him just like we do with all of our players who get a personal foul that hurt the football team. But if you really look at it, Kiaro got beat and he got beat bad. He’s trying to recover and trying to cut the player. There was no malicious intent. All of the conspiracy theories that are out there, there was no truth to any of that. The kid was just trying to make a play.” MTSU, scoring 45 points against Western Carolina a week ago, is a 17-point underdog but, hey, don’t forget MTSU’s 49-28 upset over Ga. Tech last year. MY PICK? North Carolina, 34-24.
No. 2 OREGON (1-0) at VIRGINIA (1-0), 3:30 p.m. on ABC – The Cavaliers sputtered on offense last week, crossing the 50-yard line just once in the first half so the 19-16 win over Brigham Young was closer than you think. Oregon, on the other hand, had 500 yards rushing (2nd in the nation) in last week’s 66-3 debacle over Nichols State. The Ducks are a 22-point favorite so this one won’t be close. MY PICK? Oregon, 47-17.
No. 6 SOUTH CAROLINA (1-0) at No. 11 GEORGIA (0-1), 4:00 p.m. on ESPN – “I just don't sense the hatred between Georgia and South Carolina that there is between Georgia and Florida," Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said earlier this week. "Georgia has so many rivals that it's difficult for them to have a big rivalry game every week. They've got as many as anybody in the country with Georgia Tech, Florida, Auburn, even Vanderbilt. Yeah, they have a little bit of a rivalry going with Vanderbilt." Ouch. In a game that will be decided by five or six big players, Georgia has a better bunch and is picked by 3. MY PICK? Georgia 24-18.
DUKE (1-0) at MEMPHIS (0-0), 4:30 p.m. – Duke, a 45-0 winner over N.C. Central last week, has a better feel since this is the Memphis opener so the Blue Devils are favored by 6. The Tigers were 4-8 last year but the fact they won the last three games and return key skill players has UM backers optimistic. As Tiger coach Justin Fuente said earlier this week, “We made large strides last year. We'll make large strides this year. Where it all ends up, I don't know.” MY PICK? Duke, 27-18.
SYRACUSE (0-1) at No. 22 NORTHWESTERN (1-0), 6:00 p.m. on Big Ten Network – New coaches and a young roster stymied Syracuse against Penn State last week, the Nittany Lions’ freshman quarterback throwing three TDs to win, 23-17, but now it gets a little tougher. Northwestern, a 17-point favorite, beat Cal, 44-30 last week but there is talk of alternating quarterbacks and that could get confusing. MY PICK? Northwestern, 31-21.
LA-LAFAYETTE at KANSAS STATE (1-0), 6:30 p.m. on FS1 – After Kansas State, a team that tied for last year’s Big 12 title, was upset by tiny North Dakota State last week, lightning isn’t going to strike the same spot twice. “La-La” dropped a 34-14 loss to Arkansas, which still shows the Ragin’ Cajuns have some life, but each and all at KSU, a 10-point favorite, doesn’t want to get embarrassed again this week. Bill Synder, at age 73, knows how to tune the K-State squad for this one. MY PICK? Kansas State, 34-14.
No. 16 TEXAS (1-0) at BRIGHAM YOUNG, 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2 – The Longhorns rolled up a school-record 715 yards of total offense in the 56-7 win over the Aggies QB David Ash posted a career-high 434 yards of total offense (343 passing/91 rushing) leading a balanced offensive attack. BYU, a 7 point underdog tomorrow, lost to Virginia by 3 and, if the Cougars have as many turnovers against Texas as they did UVa., this could get out of hand. MY PICK? Texas, 35-14.
No. 14 NOTRE DAME at No. 17 MICHIGAN, 8:00 p.m. on ESPN – What? The conference realignment is killing this storied series and who knows if the Irish will ever play in Michigan again. The Irish beat the Wolverines, 16-13, last year after UM gave up a horrendous six turnovers so look for UM to seek revenge in the Big House. Favored by 3, Michigan is coming off a ho-hum 59-9 win over Central Michigan while Notre Dame won a more-pedestrian 28-6 over Toledo. MY PICK? Michigan, 24-10.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
MIAMI, OHIO (0-1) at KENTUCKY (0-1), 12:00 p.m. on Fox Sports – The Wildcats are a two touchdown favorite to win their home opener and they better get it while they can – No. 8 Louisville is next week’s foe in Lexington. MY PICK? Kentucky, 27-10
ALCORN STATE (1-0) at MISSISSIPPI STATE (0-1), 3:30 p.m. on CSS — The Bulldogs seemed to run out of gas against a superb Oklahoma State last week so Alcorn is coming to Starkville at a real good time. State QB Tyler Russell had a game-ending head injury against the Cowboys but most of the top players are healthy in a game where MSU is favored by 42. MY PICK? Miss. State, 45-10.
TOLEDO (0-1) at MISSOURI (1-0), 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU — Mizzou fans were pretty chapped when Murray State had a 14-13 lead after the first quarter before the Tigers came alive to win, 58-14. The offense was spectacular with 694 yards – 372 on the ground and 336 in the air. Henry Josey, a bad-luck kid who hasn’t played since the 2011 season but has persevered, was presented the game ball after darting for 113 yards on 13 carries. MY PICK? Missouri, 38-21.
UA-BIRMINGHAM (0-1) at No. 9 LSU (1-0), 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU — This one is going to be a massacre; UAB lost 34-31 in overtime to Troy while LSU put on quite a show with the convincing 37-27 win over ranked TCU. Are you kidding me, The Tigers converted on 13-of-19 first downs while piling up 448 total yards. Coordinator Johnny Chavis will have the defense primed after giving up so many points last Saturday. MY PICK? LSU, 45-7.
SAM HOUSTON STATE (1-0) at No. 7 TEXAS A&M, 7:00 p.m. — After Johnny Manziel embarrassed himself and his A&M teammates last week, it is probably good this game won’t be televised by any network. Yes, the kid had three TDs but he’s wearing thin. To his credit, the Rice player he got penalized for talking to quickly came to his defense. “All he said was ‘Nice hit … what’s up, Nick.” MY PICK? Texas A&M, 49-10.
SAMFORD (1-0) at ARKANSAS (1-0) in Little Rock, 7:00 p.m. – True freshman Alex Collins became the first true freshman to run for over 100 yards at Arkansas since 2007 with his 131-yard night while Jonathan Collins went for 151, including a 75-yard scamper. All in all, the Razorbacks outgained the Ragin’ Cajuns 522-to-274 so Samford is in for a long night at War Memorial Stadium. The Hogs play Southern Miss and Rutgers next so they should be unbeaten against Texas A&M on Sept. 28. MY PICK? Arkansas, 42-10.
SE MISSOURI STATE (0-1) at OLE MISS (1-0), 7:00 p.m. -- A win here will vault the Rebels into the Top 25 and, after the way Ole Miss came back from 11 points down in the second half against Vandy, they belong. Four touchdowns in the second half against Vandy was almost as exciting as runner Jeff Scott’s 75-yard scamper with just 1:07 on the clock. Ole Miss has been favored by as many as 50 points in this mismatch but – remember – the next two are road games at Texas and Alabama. MY PICK? Ole Miss, 42-0.
ARKANSAS STATE (1-0) at AUBURN (1-0), 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports — The Tigers were far from world-beaters with the 7-point win over Washington State last Saturday but the angle is that Gus Malzahn was the coach at Arkansas State last year. He’s now at Auburn but no coach in the country knows more about this week’s opponent that Gus! He’s on a first-name basis with the bus driver! AU runner Corey Grant had the best opening game (146 yards, 1 TD) since Bo Jackson so I feel good about the Tigers. MY PICK? Auburn, 30-17.
AUSTIN PEAY (0-1) at VANDERBILT (0-1), 7:30 p.m. ET on CSS — You have to go to an off-shore source to get a line on this one and the fact the Commodores are a 47.5-point favorite is all there is to know. Vandy had a great opener against Ole Miss despite losing by 3 and this is an easy game where the priority isn’t to get any injuries. Up next for Vandy is South Carolina before UMass (there) and UAB (home.) October will decide the season. MY PICK? Vanderbilt, 48-0.
AND ONE MORE
CHATTANOOGA (0-1) at GA. STATE (0-1), 2:00 p.m. on ESPN3 – The Mocs, admittedly better than they showed last Thursday when UTC lost to UT-Martin by 10, finally get to play again and are favored by 11 to get the sour taste out of their mouths. Georgia State is hosting UTC in the Georgia Dome and for a team that only won one game last year, GSU showed some mettle in the 31-21 loss to Samford. Chattanooga, which will become the third school to host a very-battered Austin Peay next week (6:00 p.m.), should handle Ga. State well. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 31-17.
The high school picture of the marching band trumpet player went viral this week on the Internet, not because he was a pretty good horn player but also played three sports at Michigan's Saugatuck High School, where the town population is 910. Look closely and you'll see the boy who grew up to be UT football coach Butch Jones.