Saturday's Sixteen: College Football Picks

UTC Opens Thursday at Central Michigan

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - by B.B. Branton

 College football with all its pomp and pageantry is finally here with a long weekend of games starting tonight. SEC has two conference games as Arkansas visits Auburn and Texas A&M is at South Carolina … Georgia-Clemson should be a great game, Utah State could give Tennessee a battle and Louisiana Monroe will be waiting at home to beat Wake Forest.

Here are my picks for this weekend. (all times are EDT)

Thursday Night Games

#21 Texas A&M at #9 South Carolina – 6 p.m. SEC Network

Fun to have a few SEC games the first weekend instead of just cupcakes … Steve Spurrier is 23-1 in season openers … only loss is to South Carolina when he was at Duke … Gamecocks are without graduated Jadeveon Clowney, but the Aggies also lost Johnny Football to the NFL which spells w-i-n for USC East.

Winner: South Carolina

Boise State vs. #18 Ole Miss – 8 p.m. in Atlanta

… Chick-fil-A Kickoff opener … Boise State is 396-153-2 all time … Ole Miss is 88-26-5 in season opener … Reb QB Bo Wallace is SEC’s top returning pass from 2013 (3,346 yards) … Bronco first year coach Bryan Harsin is the nation’s fourth youngest head coach

Winner: Ole Miss

Chattanooga at Central Michigan – 7 p.m. ESPN3 … Mocs face a big, talented team which plans to run the ball behind a huge O-lIne until the Mocs can stop them … but also has a projected high NFL draft pick in wide receiver Titus Davis … The Mocs are two-deep strong on the defensive line and solid at linebacker … are young in the secondary … a good battle of the quarterbacks as UTC’s Jacob Huesman (RS junior) threw for 1,637 yards and 16 TDs a year ago, while CMU redshirt Soph.Cooper Rush threw for 2,349 yards and 15 TDs ... UTC defense must slow down the Chippewas running game, contain WR Davis and convert on any mistakes and play error-free football themselves … a tall order on the road.

Winner: Chattanooga

Wake Forest at Louisiana Monroe - 7 p.m. – ESPNU

LMU upset Wake on the road last year and should win this year at home … LMU plays only 5 of 12 at home … and has tough road schedule … at LSU and Texas A&M and playing at new Sun Belt Conference foes Ga. Southern and Appalachian State is no easy task either …

Winner: Louisiana Monroe

 Friday Games

Jacksonville State (Ala.) at No.8 Michigan State - 7:30 p.m. Big 10 Network

Jax State plays at Chattanooga next Saturday, but Thursday the two teams just might cross paths as both squads are using the same hotel in Lansing, Michigan … UTC will be checking out sometime late Thursday afternoon and heading to Mt. Pleasant 60 miles away for the 7 p.m. kickoff … Jax. State should arrive in Lansing about the same time.

Jax State is ranked top 10 in FCS polls, but doubtful the Gamecocks will do to the Spartans what Appalachian State did to Michigan in the Big House (an upset win) in 2007 … Jax State is talented, but expect Michigan State (13-1 and Rose Bowl champs) to wear them down by mid-second half.

Winner: Michigan State

Saturday Games

Appalachian State at Michigan – Noon, ESPN2

The Mountaineers return to the scene of the crime – 34-32 win in the Big House in 2007 - where the phrase “how many batteries does it take to shock a Wolverine ? – 1 AA” became famous … don’t look for the Maize and Blue to lose this one.

Winner: Michigan

# 7 UCLA at Virginia - Noon ESPN

First meeting … 125th football season for UVa (80-35-9 in season openers) … Bruins are expecting a big year and travel to the East Coast for the opener in Charlottesville … UCLA is 62-28-5 in season openers … Bruins are led by QB Brett Hundley

Winner: UCLA

West Virginia at #2 Alabama – 3:30 p.m. ABC regional

Second game in three days of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in the Georgia Dome (Boise State – Ole Miss is Thursday) as Tide fans are ready for football and will fill the place ... West Virginia was 4-8 last year with a defense ranked ninth in the 10-team Big 12 … ‘Bama (11-2 in 2013) is led by running back T.J. Yeldon and with a new QB … but does it really matter?

Winner: Alabama

Rice at No.17 Notre Dame – 3:30 p.m., NBC

ND leads the series 4-0 … The Irish are 99-20-5 in home openers and should make it 100 come Saturday … The film “Rudy” will probably be shown multiple times in the next few days in the Midwest … “Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame… wake up the echoes cheering her name.” … whether you are a Notre Dame fan or not, hearing that song should stir your football soul.

Winner: Notre Dame

California at Northwestern – 3:30 p.m. ABC Regional

127th season for Northwestern … the Wildcats defeated the Cal Bears, 44-30, in Berkeley in 2013 and have won 16 straight home games against non-conference opponents

Winner: Northwestern

Arkansas at No.6 Auburn – 4 p.m. SEC Network

Arkansas has won three of its past four games played at Auburn … Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is 8-0 in season openers as a head coach … but “War- Eagle” will be heard across the Plains this Saturday as the SEC champion Auburn (the eagle is nicknamed Tiger) should handle Arkansas and have a good start in the SEC West … Auburn is 96-15-3 in home openers … Hogs tough schedule - The Razorbacks will play No. 2 Alabama, at No. 5 Auburn, No. 12 Georgia, No. 13 LSU, No. 18 Ole Miss, vs. No. 21 Texas A&M and at No. 24 Missouri.

Winner: Auburn

No.16 Clemson at No.12 Georgia – 5:30 p.m. ESPN

Best match-up of the day which will cause lots of fingers to hit the remote and go to ESPN and this game before dinner (or supper if you are Deep South old school) … Georgia leads series 41-18-4 … great old rivalry (first played in 1897) with fierce battles in the trenches on a sunny, hot (87 degrees and humid, humid) late August afternoon with possible big break-away plays to electrify the Dawgs faithful in old Samford Stadium

Winner: Georgia

Fresno State at No.15 USC – 7:30 p.m. Fox

First year USC coach Steve Sarkisian and the rest of the Trojan family have their hands full after the suspension of team captain Josh Shaw … but the Trojans will be focused come Saturday night …. the Song Girls will dance, Traveler (the horse) will run out the tunnel following USC TDs and the band will play Fight On! and Conquest late into the night ... USC is 92-19-7 in home openers.

Winner: USC

No.1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State – 8 p.m. Arlington, Texas, ABC

Led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, te national champions travel to Stillwater and should take care of business led by Heisman Trophy winner … OSU is 67-40-5 in season openers … last loss to open the season was to Georgia in Athens in 2007 … FSU is 51-16 in season openers.

Winner: Fla. State

No.14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU -  Houston, 9 p.m., ESPN

Lots of LSU fans will travel to Houston … Tigers from Baton Rouge should handle a good Big 10 team … in a great old school setting, the return game in 2016 has the teams playing at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc.)  … Wisconsin cannot seem to get enough of the SEC as the Badgers take on Alabama in Arlington, Texas to open 2015 … Wisconsin (9-4) lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl Jan.1, 2014

Winner: LSU

Sunday Game

Utah State at Tennessee – 7 p.m. SEC Network

A good Utah State comes to Neyland Stadium … have lost to traditional powers USC, Auburn and Wisconsin by less than five points in the past few years …  UT coach Butch Jones has been preaching to his kids how good the Aggies and QB Chuckie Keeton are … A large Big Orange crowd is expected and the Vols cannot afford a loss.

Winner: Tennessee

contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net



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