College Football Pick Six: Week Three
Fall is approaching; time to turn up the heat
The official beginning of Fall is almost upon us, which is apparent by the sudden chill in the air. Or maybe, that chill is just the result of Penn State Head Coach James Franklin’s ice-cold diss track directed at the Pittsburgh Panthers. Either way, Fall is fast approaching and the college football season is kicking into gear. I’ll delve into the six topics that have my attention heading into the weekend but first I’ll highlight my favorite moment from the past week.
As a Hoosier alum it hurts me to say this, but the Purdue Boilermakers Football program offered my favorite moment of the week. When asked about the creativity of his team’s play-calling, Boilermakers Head Coach Jeff Brohm offered this gem: “…I want to make it fun and entertaining for anyone who’s watching. I think that’s what it’s all about. It is a game…it is important to have fun with it.” Well said, Coach. Even as a rival fan, I love the mindset that Coach Brohm is bringing to the program. (Suppresses impending vomit.)
Without further adieu, here are my six:
Significant divisional games
After a dominant performance in which it dismantled Auburn’s offense, Clemson’s defense faces a much tougher assignment this weekend. The Tigers travel to Louisville to play the Lamar Jackson Experience (aka the Louisville Cardinals Football team). Fortunately for Clemson, I don’t believe that Mr. Jackson plays defense. I predict that Clemson gets a 42–35 win and that the post-game narratives are a) Clemson can legitimately repeat as national champs and b) Lamar Jackson is unbelievably good at football.
In a game that will not be as offensively-inclined, the Tennessee Volunteers and the Florida Gators renew their annual rivalry. After determining that the city of Gainesville, FL is safe and is suitable to host a football game this weekend, this game will be played as scheduled. I expect this game to be ugly in terms of offensive statistics and possibly in terms of on-field mischief. These two programs have a contentious relationship at best. I think the best defense will prevail. I predict Florida secures a 16–13 win in front of its home crowd. I’m not sure whether we’ll see more offensive touchdowns or safeties scored in this one.
While points will be at a premium when the Vols and Gators square off, many games will be keeping scoreboard operators busy this weekend…
Points, points, points!
The Oklahoma State Cowboys have a championship caliber offense. Do they have a defensive unit that can consistently stop opposing offenses? That’s a question that I have about this team. The Cowboys travel to Pittsburgh to play a Pitt Panthers squad that has not looked great so far this season. Despite a lackluster showing to Penn State last weekend, I think the Panthers offense will rebound this weekend and produce some big plays against the Cowboys’ defense. Unfortunately for Pitt, I foresee Oklahoma State generating more big plays. I like the Cowboys to win by a 45–31 score.
During Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, the Texas Tech Red Raiders have been known for three things: having college football’s most handsome coach, scoring a lot of points, and allowing other teams to score a lot of points. Like conference-mate Oklahoma State, Texas Tech has an electrifying offense. Tech’s defense is far more concerning than OKST’s is, though. The Red Raiders’ opponent this weekend is the Arizona State Sun Devils, who have allowed 31 and 30 points in their two contests so far this season. Texas Tech has a more prolific offense than Arizona State’s previous opponents. I think this game will approach 100 total points. I think Texas Tech rolls to a 56–41 victory and fans in attendance experience whiplash as offenses are constantly trading scores.
Much of the notes that I applied to the above game also apply to a game between the Oregon Ducks and the Wyoming Cowboys. I think the Ducks fly to a comfortable 45–31 road victory.
The Texas Longhorns travel to Los Angeles to face the USC Trojans in a game that will likely receive more hype than it deserves. The Trojans offense cruised against the Stanford Cardinal’s defense last weekend. That should elate Trojans fans considering that Stanford’s D is probably the best one that USC will face during the regular season. I think USC QB Sam Darnold will continue to shine and the Trojans running backs will enjoy big performances as USC rolls to a win in So Cal. I think Texas’ offense will provide some highlights of its own in this game, but it won’t be able to keep pace. I predict USC wins 48–27.
While I think the Texas-USC game will provide exciting moments it will most likely not live up to the pregame hype. Which leads me to the next topic…
Fun but contrived headlines
The last time that Texas and USC met, they played the game of the millennium. Vince Young carried Texas to a National Championship win against a super-talented USC team. While I still occasionally re-watch the highlights to marvel at Young’s incredible performance, that game was almost twelve years ago and bears no relevance to this weekend’s contest. Vince Young is not playing QB for the Longhorns, which means Texas will probably lose by a bunch. The story after the game will likely be another dazzling display from Darnold. Speaking of which…
I understand producing content can be difficult, but I think September is way too early for Heisman think pieces. If Darnold picks apart Texas, if Jackson continues his weekly Superman impersonation, and if Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield passes for a million yards against Tulane this weekend, writers and television pundits around the country will claim that their guy is indisputably the greatest player in the country. Why can’t we all just appreciate these three (and many other awesome players) for their greatness? Let’s avoid getting caught up in the Heisman pecking order and just declare that college football is fun and these players are awesome. (Although if Mayfield actually passes for one-million yards this weekend, I’ll allow columns about him be the sport’s greatest player. That seems fair.)
In addition to arguments about which player is the greatest, analysts and fans alike always get caught in discussions of which conference is the toughest. For several years, the SEC held the championship belt and fans of the schools in this conference were not shy in reminding the fans of schools in other conferences about this. This weekend will probably incite these silly discussions and produce some hot-take headlines as several inter-conference matchups take place…
Conference bragging rights
The Kansas State Wildcats travel to Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores with conference bragging rights at stake. Kansas State is certainly closer to the top of the Big 12 than Vanderbilt is to the top of the SEC. Which means that if the Commodores defeat the Wildcats, the never-timid SEC fans will endlessly mock the Big 12 and shout to the rest of the country that their conference is the greatest. While the Commodores are not an elite program, they are also no longer a doormat. They get to play this game at home and have a chance to put an early stamp on this season for their conference. K-State has not yet played anyone even remotely good this season. The Wildcats have a chance to go on the road make a statement against a potential bowl team from the SEC. I think Kansas State earns a respectable 27–16 win. SEC fans will probably still mock the Big 12.
Another bottom-half SEC school has a chance to defend its conference’s reputation as the Missouri Tigers welcome Purdue to their home turf. I could have included this game in the “Points, points, points” section. I think Purdue’s newly fun offense against Mizzou’s wide-open offense equates to a high-scoring showdown. Ultimately I think Mizzou is a better team and pulls away for a 38–28 win.
Speaking of wide-open offenses, let’s go back to that Oklahoma State-Pitt meeting. This game again? Yup. In addition to offering viewers bountiful scoring plays, this game also offers them a conference pride subplot. Oklahoma State rightfully views itself as a legitimate Big 12 championship contender (if not a National Championship contender). Pitt cannot realistically say the same about its chances to win the ACC, but the ACC appears to be a stronger conference from top-to-bottom than the Big 12. The Pitt Panthers get to host the high octane Cowboys for a chance to earn a signature victory for themselves and for their conference. Stay tuned.
I already picked Oklahoma State to win a competitive game. I don’t think Pitt has quite enough horsepower to defeat the Cowboys. But there is at least one home underdog that I predict will pull of a win this weekend…
Home ‘dog scores a win
For this section, I was initially tempted to pick Memphis to beat UCLA or Vandy to beat K-State. However, these games are practically coin-toss matchups according to Bill Connelly’s S&P+ projections as well as the Vegas point spreads. Seeing as these would barely qualify as upset wins and my belief that UCLA and Kansas State will win close games, I decided to look elsewhere. Which leads me to my “home ‘dog” pick of the week:
I think that the California Golden Bears will defeat the Ole Miss Rebels in Berkeley in a late Saturday night kickoff (10:30 ET). Ole Miss has forfeited its postseason eligibility and is strictly playing for pride this season. The Rebels are more talented than Cal but the combination of a late kickoff far away from home and the lack of extrinsic incentives are enough to nudge me to pick Cal. I think the Bears get an exciting 31–27 win and the folks in the Bay Area are partying into the wee hours of the morning (if they still care about football).
Speaking of places that know how to party, let’s check out my final topic…
Saturday night in Stark Vegas!
Other than the Clemson-Louisville tilt, the second most enticing game of the weekend is probably the one in Starksville, MS (dubbed Stark Vegas). The Mississippi State Bulldogs host a division rival as the LSU Tigers come to town. I don’t anticipate this game producing as many points as some of the other games this weekend, but I think it will be thrilling nonetheless.
I think that Mississippi State’s young QB Nick Fitzgerald will be buoyed by the home crowd and will produce some explosive plays. Despite this, I still think LSU’s defense will also generate turnovers and will be the best unit in this game. I think LSU thrives on defense and on special teams and earns a tough road win in a 23–20 game. My other prediction is that everyone at this game wakes up with a brutal hangover and the echo of clanging cowbells ringing in their ears. Much like if they woke up in Las Vegas.
Thanks for reading! And don’t ever apologize for being awesome! That goes for you too, Mr. Mayfield. Enjoy the weekend!