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NCF Nation: Week 3 picks 2009

Week 3 predictions: ACC

September, 17, 2009

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

Last week will probably be my best week for predictions. In fact, I'm willing to predict I don't get 9 out of 10 right again. I got every one right but the Duke game (sorry, Blue Devils). That raises my season total to 76 percent (16 of 21 games correct). It’s still early, though. Let’s see what kind of damage I can do this week:

Miami 24, Georgia Tech 21: Miami will score on impact plays, and Georgia Tech will control the clock, so it should be another Thursday night thriller for the ACC, but the Canes will redeem themselves defensively from last year’s performance. Plus, Miami is 13-2 on Thursday nights.

North Carolina 17, East Carolina 14: The Pirates will have trouble moving the ball against the Tar Heels’ defense, especially without leading rusher Dominique Lindsay. UNC opponents have converted just 4 of 29 (13.8 percent) attempts on third down, which ranks fourth in the country.

Clemson 21, BC 17: Clemson has better athletes, more team speed and a better overall skill level, but don’t underestimate Frank Spaziani’s defense. It should be a better game than some might think, but the Tigers have home-field advantage, have found consistency at quarterback and found many positives in their loss to Georgia Tech.

BYU 28, Florida State 10: Max Hall will pick apart the Noles’ secondary. He threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a 54-3 win over Tulane last week. The Cougars are a more mature team with home-field advantage and have already proven themselves in a 14-13 upset over then-No. 3 Oklahoma.

Maryland 17, Middle Tennessee 14: Brace yourself for another near upset. The Terps just lost their best corner, Nolan Carroll, and will be facing dual-threat quarterback Dwight Dasher, who leads the Sun Belt Conference and ranks 20th nationally in total offense with 292.5 yards per game. He has accounted for 80 percent of the team’s total yards during that span (585 of 735 yards).

NC State 38, Gardner-Webb 10: Tom O’Brien has been talking GW up all week like they’re the FCS champs, but there’s no excuse for the Pack not to earn a convincing win. Gardner-Webb is a better team than Murray State, but there shouldn’t be any upset watch here.

Wake Forest 24, Elon 17: This game will probably be a little too close for comfort until the second half, but if the Deacs are lucky, they won’t have to receive the wrath of Jim Grobe this weekend at halftime. The Phoenix will try to win with its passing game and disrupt a young secondary still coming together.

Kansas 34, Duke 21: The Blue Devils just aren’t ready to upset a Top 25 team yet, but the coaching is good enough and there are enough veteran players on the roster that Duke can keep this game interesting and respectable.

Southern Miss 31, Virginia 10: The Rock will be a tough place for the Cavaliers to play their first road game, but more importantly, it doesn’t seem like the players have bought into the spread offense or what the staff is trying to do on special teams.

Virginia Tech 31, Nebraska 24: Ryan Williams will have another strong running performance, as long as the offensive line can handle itself. Nebraska will play them tough, but the Hokies’ running game, the crowd at Lane Stadium, and special teams will win out.

Big 12 predictions

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

After struggling through one of my worst weeks in recent history, I'm hoping for a turnaround in these picks.

Here they are.

Kansas 41, Duke 17: The Jayhawks have too many offensive weapons and an improved defense with a knack of making big plays. Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum provide an emerging 1-2 weapon at running back and Dezmon Briscoe will juice production in the passing game with Todd Reesing as he becomes more comfortable in the offense. Duke coach David Cutcliffe will likely alternate Sean Renfree and Thaddeus Lewis at quarterback. Both will likely struggle against an emerging Kansas defensive front that has produced nine sacks in its first two games.

Missouri 45, Furman 6: Look for the Tigers to jump on their FCS opponent quickly, hoping to make amends after last week’s closer-than-expected victory over Bowling Green. Blaine Gabbert regressed in his second start, but should be ready to show improvement this week. If they can find the edge exhibited against Illinois, this one won’t be close for very long.

Colorado 24, Wyoming 21: It can’t get any worse for Dan Hawkins and the Buffaloes, can it? If they lose this one, it will. Despite the struggles stopping big plays and operating the offense in losses against Colorado State and Toledo, the Buffaloes will rebound. Even though the Cowboys turned the heat up on Texas last week and Dave Christensen had his way against the Buffaloes when he was offensive coordinator at Missouri -- he outscored Colorado by a combined 113-10 margin last season -- it won’t be that easy this time. The Buffaloes will rebound and win a gritty game that won’t be very spectator friendly.

Oklahoma 38, Tulsa 17: Landry Jones makes his second career start against Tulsa, an underrated program under Todd Graham that will be itching to earn some national revenge against their “big brothers” from across the state. This should be a good matchup between the Golden Hurricane, who led the nation in total offense each of the past two seasons, and the salty Oklahoma defense. Sooners coaches are familiar with Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, who they tried to recruit as a linebacker. Even without Sam Bradford, the Sooners still should have enough offense to win.

Virginia Tech 28, Nebraska 21: Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee will be looking to stop the Hokies’ 31-game home nonconference winning streak in his first career road start. There might be tougher first-game assignments in college football, but I don’t know of many. Lee leads the conference in pass efficiency, but will be stepping up in class when he faces the active Virginia Tech defense. Ryan Williams and fellow freshman David Wilson both rushed for more than 160 yards last week and the Hokies will be looking to set the tempo by using them. Still, the Cornhuskers might make this one closer than expected with a strong pass rush against Tyrod Taylor and if they can stay away from special-teams mistakes.

Baylor 31, Connecticut 21: The Bears will be gunning for their second straight conquest over an opponent from a BCS-affiliated conference against Connecticut, which beat them in Storrs last season. But this is a different Baylor team, which has had a bye week to settle down after an upset victory over Wake Forest in its opener. Backup quarterback Cody Endres steps in as Connecticut’s starter after Zach Frazer was hurt last week against North Carolina. One item to watch will be how Baylor’s young Canadian tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake will handle Lindsay Witten, who leads the Big East in sacks.

Kent State 24, Iowa State 21: Paul Rhoads will try to halt the Cyclones’ nation-worst 17-game road losing streak. Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud will be trying to rebound after throwing four interceptions in the Cyclones’ 35-3 loss last week to Iowa. Look for Giorgio Morgan and Eugene Jarvis to share snaps for the Golden Flashes, who ranked 96th or worse in each of the four major offensive statistical categories. In the end, this one might be settled by which of two of the nation’s worst turnover margin teams -- Kent State is 94th and Iowa State is 108th -- does the better job of protecting the ball.

Texas A&M 38, Utah State 10: Texas A&M hopes to build on a strong opening-game performance against New Mexico where the offense and defense were both productive in a 41-6 victory. Jerrod Johnson looked more comfortable starting his second season as quarterback and the Aggies showed strong skill players. The defense, while still not at the “Wrecking Crew” standards of the past, had a strong effort with five sacks keyed by three from Von Miller. Utah State was challenging for Utah, but likely doesn’t have the firepower to stay close to the rejuvenated A&M attack for long in this game.

Oklahoma State 45, Rice 17: The Cowboys are intent on rebounding after last week’s disappointing home loss to Houston. They likely will play without Big 12 leading rusher Kendall Hunter, but backups Beau Johnson and Keith Toston averaged nearly 8 yards per carry against Houston. The Cowboys gave up more yardage in the first half last week than against Georgia in the previous week. They shouldn’t face much of a challenge from Rice, which is rebuilding from last season’s 10-win team. Coach David Bailiff alternated among three quarterbacks last week and could do the same against an Oklahoma State defense that will be intent on improvement this week.

Texas 54, Texas Tech 31: Even though they claim otherwise, rest assured the Longhorns have been awaiting this rematch ever since their 39-33 loss in Lubbock last season. They should have the upper hand in this one because their secondary is a year more experienced and this will be Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts’ first road game as a starter. The Longhorns looked lethargic in the first half last week at Wyoming, but blew the game by scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half. It won’t be that easy this week against Potts and the Red Raiders, but look for the Longhorns’ offense to produce similar late success.

UCLA 21, Kansas State 10: This one figures to be a low scoring game as the Wildcats have sputtered offensively and UCLA will be playing without starting quarterback Kevin Prince, who sustained a broken jaw late in the Bruins’ victory at Tennessee. Look for both teams to try to take control on the ground with UCLA employing Johnathan Franklin and Kansas State countering with Big 12 rushing leader Daniel Thomas. The Wildcats have also struggled mightily with special teams in their first two games and must improve for any upset hopes. But the UCLA defense is too formidable, winning this one as they pick up the slack for an offense missing Prince.

Last week: 7-3 (70 percent)

For the season: 16-6 (72.7 percent)

Big Ten picks for Week 3

September, 17, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

It was an OK, but not great week for the Big Ten, and the same for my picks. I went 8-3, wasn't close on several scores and came close on a few others.

Here's hoping for better results all around on Saturday.

Michigan 34, Eastern Michigan 14 -- A bit a hangover for Michigan after the Notre Dame win, but the run game eventually gets going behind Brandon Minor. Tate Forcier does his thing, and Rich Rodriguez gets Denard Robinson some more reps as Michigan matches its wins total from 2008 only three games into the season.

California 35, Minnesota 23 -- I could see Cal starting slow, but the Bears shouldn't be nearly as flat as they were last year against Maryland. Minnesota has done some nice things on defense, but Cal's offense seems just too powerful. The Gophers haven't found offensive playmakers aside from wide receiver Eric Decker and aren't able to keep up with Cal on the scoreboard.

Penn State 48, Temple 6 -- After a ho-hum win against Syracuse, Penn State shows a greater sense of urgency with Big Ten play looming and thumps Temple. The run game finally gets going as Evan Royster eclipses 100 rushing yards and Stephfon Green adds 75. The Lions defense holds Temple to two field goals as defensive end Jack Crawford has a big day.

Wisconsin 44, Wofford 7 -- The Badgers are healthier and Wofford is not, as leading rusher Eric Breitenstein will be out a month with a knee injury. John Clay puts up 150 rush yards in his first career start and Dave Doeren's defense gets some of its swagger back against the FCS Terriers.

Purdue 35, Northern Illinois 27 -- Something tells me this one won't be easy for Purdue, but the Boilers prevail behind Ralph Bolden and quarterback Joey Elliott, who bounces back from last week's loss with an encouraging performance. Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish tests a banged-up Boilermakers secondary, but Purdue tightens up its play and prevails.

Ohio State 41, Toledo 17 -- This is a good matchup for a struggling Buckeyes offense, which should put up points against a Toledo team that allowed 90 in the first two games. Terrelle Pryor has a big day with his arm and his feet, and the Buckeyes roll. Aaron Opelt could give Ohio State some problems, but the defense I saw last week in Columbus is too solid up front to allow many points.

Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 27 -- By far the toughest game to pick this week, but I'm going with the team that needs it more. Home field really doesn't matter for Notre Dame, which has dropped six straight to Michigan State. But the Irish know a loss here likely torpedoes their season and head coach Charlie Weis. The Spartans secondary struggled mightily last week, and Notre Dame's Golden Tate and Michael Floyd are better than Central Michigan's Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson. Kirk Cousins plays well, but the Spartans come up just short.

Akron 24, Indiana 20 -- My lack of faith in the Hoosiers hurt me last week, and we'll see what happens this time around. Indiana's defense has performed admirably so far, but the team has made too many mistakes for my liking. Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain is pretty good, and he attacks the IU secondary with Deryn Bowser. The Hoosiers can't survive mistakes on the road and drop this one.

Iowa 21, Arizona 17 -- It will be a defensive struggle at Kinnick Stadium, as both units are solid. Arizona running back Nic Grigsby makes some plays, but Iowa forces several turnovers, including a key interception in the fourth quarter that proves to be the difference. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi limits mistakes and throws a pair of touchdown passes

Northwestern 26, Syracuse 21 -- The win won't come easily for Northwestern, but you have to think the coaches will expand the playbook on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Mike Kafka finally showcases his mobility against an aggressive Orange defense, and he has another big day in a dome. The Wildcats defense gets a big boost from the return of cornerback Sherrick McManis, who keeps Orange star wideout Mike Williams relatively in check.

Bye -- Illinois

Season record -- 18-4 (.818)

SEC picks: Week 3

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

I knew the Tennessee-UCLA game would be close last week, but didn’t have the guts to pick the Bruins in an upset. That’s the only game I got wrong in Week 2.

I was 5-1 for the week and am now 15-3 (.833) for the season.

It’s a decent start, but nothing spectacular, sort of like the SEC’s start to this season.

I’m feeling a hot streak coming on, but I’ll let my play on the field do my talking for me.

Here are my picks for Week 3 in the SEC:

South Carolina 34, Florida Atlantic 13: Like Steve Spurrier pointed out earlier this week, venerable Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger brings a little prestige to the coaching profession by still wearing a coat and tie on the sideline during games. Schnellenberger’s Owls have had two weeks to recover from their 49-3 beating at Nebraska, but it won’t help them this Saturday in Columbia.

Alabama 42, North Texas 7: Not a lot of drama in this one, although the Crimson Tide could be without Julio Jones (knee) and Roy Upchurch (ankle). If they don’t practice Thursday, Nick Saban doesn’t anticipate them playing. Saban would also like to get through a game without giving up a kickoff return for a touchdown. But, hey, the Crimson Tide are well on their way to 3-0 and ranked in the top 5 nationally. Life is good at the Capstone.

LSU 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 14: Les Miles said the Ragin’ Cajuns have earned the Tigers’ respect. They come into Tiger Stadium 2-0 after taking down Kansas State last weekend. LSU is still looking for a complete game. There have been glimpses the first two weeks, but nothing sustained. These everything-to-lose, nothing-to-gain games against smaller in-state foes are always scary, but the Tigers’ talent will prevail.

Ole Miss 48, Southeastern Louisiana 3: It’s a good thing the Rebels haven’t had to play anybody to this point. The team was ravaged by the flu last week, and several players were affected in the opener against Memphis. Either way, Ole Miss gets another glorified scrimmage this week and would like to look a little sharper for all four quarters before hitting the road next Thursday for its first real test against South Carolina.

Kentucky 24, Louisville 10: Remember when Rich Brooks couldn’t beat Louisville? He lost four in a row to the Cardinals starting out in the Bluegrass. But Kentucky has turned the tide in this battle for state bragging rights and won the last two. This is not one of Louisville’s better teams, and Brooks thinks his team has a chance to be really good. How good? We’ll know a little more Saturday and a lot more two weeks from now after Florida and Alabama make back-to-back trips to Commonwealth Stadium.

Vanderbilt 21, Mississippi State 14: The Bulldogs were the first team to beat Vanderbilt last season after a 5-0 start, and things were never quite the same for Bobby Johnson’s club. The Commodores again look to be strong on defense, although they lost senior safety Ryan Hamilton last week to a season-ending injury. The Bulldogs are trying to prove they’re not as bad as they looked on defense in last week’s 49-24 loss to Auburn. Vanderbilt gets it done at home thanks to a late Larry Smith touchdown pass.

Auburn 31, West Virginia 27: You can feel the excitement on the Plains right now, but Auburn coach Gene Chizik is doing his best to keep everything in perspective. That said, a win over the Mountaineers probably means the Tigers go into the month of October unbeaten. Their running game has been what’s separated them in the first two games and will again be the difference Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Ben Tate, Onterio McCalebb and Co. roll it up for another 300-yard night on the ground.

Arkansas 31, Georgia 24: This is a game the Hogs have been pointing to since the summer and a game that will shape their season one way or the other. Look for a lot of offense out of both teams, a big play or two on special teams and just enough defense by the Hogs to win a close one in the fourth quarter. Bobby Petrino didn’t have to show very much of his offensive package in the opener two weeks ago against Missouri State, but will pull out all the stops in this one.

Florida 48, Tennessee 10: The Gators have scored 40 or more points in nine of their last 11 games, and five of those games were against SEC opponents. Urban Meyer would like to score 60 in this one and also save a few timeouts for the end. The Vols have too much pride on defense to let that happen. But where this game will get away is on special teams, where the Gators excel, and with the Vols turning the ball over, which they’ve already done seven times in their first two games. Florida can score points in bunches quicker than any team in the country, something Tennessee and Lane Kiffin get to witness first hand Saturday at the Swamp.

Posted by's Ted Miller

Pac-10 had a good week; I did not, going 6-3 with the picks, which makes me 13-4 for the season.

Huge weekend for the conference in terms of national perception, as a number of writers have noted.

The Pac-10 is 13-4 in nonconference games so far and 6-2 vs. BCS teams, but the lineup this week features visits from two ranked teams and pair of road games at Big Ten destinations.

California 35, Minnesota 21: This game should make Cal fans nervous, if only because the Bears have not of late been the same team on the road. Minnesota is experienced, with 17 starters back from a crew that went 7-6 in 2008 and the Gophers are playing in their new stadium in front of what figures to be a raucous crowd. Still, you look at Cal's roster and the Bears have such a speed advantage it's hard to pick against them.

Arizona 24, Iowa 21: I'm on-record believing that many are underestimating Arizona. That take, of course, included the presence of tight end Rob Gronkowski, one of the Pac-10's biggest difference-makers, but he will be out again with a back injury. Too bad. Arizona's defensive speed, however, should hold the Hawkeyes in check, and if sophomore quarterback Matt Scott doesn't make any big blunders, the Wildcats should figure out a way to score enough to win.

USC 30, Washington 17: The Huskies are much improved but, unlike many, I don't expect the Trojans to have a letdown after the win at Ohio State. For one, the players recall what happened last year at Oregon State. Second, they know that their former coaches, Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt, are standing on the opposite sideline. Finally, the Trojans' veteran offensive line and speed at the skill positions are a terrible matchup for the young and beaten-up Husky defense.

Oregon 27, Utah 24: These aren't the same Ducks as last year. Yet. And these aren't the same Utes as last year. Yet. But here's a guess that Oregon takes another step forward after the Boise State debacle.

Cincinnati 34, Oregon State 30: The Bearcats have a veteran quarterback in Tony Pike and they like to spread the field with four and five receivers. The Beavers haven't generated much of a pass rush yet and are rebuilding their secondary. Oregon State should be able to score, but Cincinnati is built for a track meet, even away from home.

UCLA 21, Kansas State 17: This one will be a grind. The Bruins will be missing starting quarterback Kevin Prince because of a broken jaw and are down two cornerbacks due to injury and suspension, as well as three other offensive players due to suspension. They will survive but barely.

SMU 38, Washington State 30: Is this the Cougars' last chance for a win in 2009? Will they draw a line in the sand, dig deep and get the W? Maybe, but scrap and claw as they might, the guess here is they again fall short against a run-and-shoot offense.

Stanford 30, San Jose State 13: Stanford gets the ball back in running back Toby Gerhart's hands, which sets up a couple of big plays in the passing game, and the defense regroups after a poor second-half showing at Wake Forest.

Arizona State 24, Louisiana-Monroe 17: The Warhawks, who won at Alabama in 2007, have athletes. This is not a gimme, but the Sun Devils likely learned last year against UNLV that there are no gimmes.

Non-AQ picks, Week 3

September, 17, 2009

Posted by’s Graham Watson

After another week of 6-4, I am 12-8 in picks so far this season. What’s funny is I resisted the urge to pick upsets last weekend after the beating I sustained the week before. I’m not going to make that mistake this week. I’m going with my gut and hopefully things work out.

1. Colorado State 28, Nevada 17: While I like Nevada, it’s hard to pick the Wolf Pack to win, especially on the road. Colorado State showed against Colorado that it can bottle up a running game pretty well, and CSU quarterback Grant Stucker can shred Nevada’s horrible pass defense. I think this game is a lot tougher for Nevada now than it was at the beginning of the season.

2. Utah 38, Oregon 24: Utah's subpar performance against San Jose State was an anomaly, and I think the Utes right the ship in a hostile Autzen environment this weekend. Oregon has been terrible on defense this year and Utah is one of the top offensive teams in the country. If new Utah quarterback Terrance Cain can stay cool, Utah should have little trouble.

3. North Carolina 14, ECU 10: I really wanted to pick the upset in this game, especially with a couple key UNC players out, but the Pirates have struggled so much on offense and finishing games, that it’s hard to like them on the road against a quality opponent especially without running back Dominique Lindsay. Still, knowing ECU’s history, I wouldn’t be surprised if it came away with the upset.

4. Boise State 34, Fresno State 21: There’s not a game on the schedule right now that I can see Boise State losing. While Fresno State has played well, is healthy, playing at home and has the athletes to compete with the Broncos, I just have a hard time picking them since the Bulldogs are rarely competitive in this contest. The Bulldogs have lost seven of the last eight by a margin of 24.3 points.

5. BYU 33, Florida State 28: Don’t let Florida State fool you. There was some hangover from the season-opening loss to Miami and that showed against Jacksonville State. The difference in this game will be BYU quarterback Max Hall and his ability to spread the ball around. He was great picking the OU defense apart, if he has a similar performance and doesn’t turn the ball over, the Cougars should be 3-0.

6. Southern Miss 35, Virginia 24: I wouldn’t call TCU an offensive juggernaut, so the fact that the Frogs put 30 on Virginia is telling about the Cavs' defense, which Southern Miss should be able to exploit. Also, Virginia has been able to get little going on offense and it has eight turnovers in two games. This is a game Southern Miss should take.

7. UNLV 30, Hawaii 21: Hawaii is 2-0, but against an FCS team and one of the worst teams in the FBS. UNLV will be a great test to see how much the Warriors have improved from a year ago. UNLV is coming off a tough loss to Oregon State, but I think it showed that the Rebels could play with some of the upper echelon of FBS teams. They vent their frustration against the Warriors this weekend.

8. Bowling Green 35, Marshall 14: Missouri was a tough loss for Bowling Green, but the past two games have made everyone acutely aware that the Falcons are a team to be reckoned with this season. The loss of safety P.J. Mahone to suspension is a hit, but shouldn’t be much of a factor against a Marshall offense that’s one of the worst in the country right now.

9. Colorado 31, Wyoming 20: In the past two seasons, Dave Christensen’s offense has outscored Colorado 113-10, but in both those seasons he had several NFL draft picks on his roster. Not the case this year, and while Wyoming is riding a wave of confidence, Colorado is pretty fired up to get a win. The Buffs have put points on the board in their losses and I’m not sure Wyoming can go score for score with them.

10. Ohio State 35, Toledo 17: Toledo is going to run into a pretty angry and motivated Ohio State team this weekend. The Rockets can put points on the board, but I think the defense is going to have trouble stopping quarterback Terrelle Pryor both in the running and passing game, especially in a hostile environment.

Pick o' the Irish: Week 3

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Brian Bennett

I correctly predicted the exact score for Notre Dame against Michigan last week. Unfortunately for me -- and even more so for the Irish -- I shorted the Wolverines nine points.

But that's OK. We're not going to talk about predictions this year. We're just going to show people. So here goes:

Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 23: The streak ends. This should be a lot more physical game in the trenches than what Notre Dame has seen, and that's not necessarily in the Irish's favor. But one thing is clear after two games this season (and last year's bowl game): this offense is for real, and Jimmy Clausen is on top of his game. If he gets any time at all, he's going to find Michael Floyd and Golden Tate, and there's not a whole lot the Spartans' secondary can do about it. Michigan State is going to have a hard time catching up, and Notre Dame will keep its BCS hopes alive.

Last week's pick: Notre Dame 34, Michigan 29.

Season results: 1-1

Big East picks

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Brian Bennett

The Big East prediction machine is operating on all cylinders. Last week brought a perfect 7-0 record, and I've missed only one in the first two weeks.

Of course, there weren't a whole lot of edge-of-your-seat matchups in Weeks 1 and 2. The competition heats up considerably this week, so I have to raise my game as well.

Cincinnati 34, Oregon State 31: It's asking a lot for the Bearcats to go across the country and beat a good team in a place where it hardly ever loses to nonconference opponents. But consider me a believer in Brian Kelly's team. I think Tony Pike will lead the offense to some early scores to help quiet the crowd, and the defense will do just enough to hold on and win one of the best games of the weekend.

West Virginia 28, Auburn 24: The SEC winning streak continues. Yes, Auburn's new offense has looked great the first two games, but the Mountaineers are far better than Louisiana Tech or Mississippi State. West Virginia can match the Tigers speed for speed, and Jarrett Brown will make enough plays to win in a tough environment.

Baylor 24, Connecticut 14: It's impossible to have any faith in UConn's offense, especially when replacement quarterback Cody Endres has been dealing with a stomach virus all week. The Huskies just can't pass or score, and they're going to have to put points up with electric Bears quarterback Robert Griffin ready to dazzle on his home field.

Kentucky 28, Louisville 14: I saw nothing in the preseason or from Louisville's first game that makes me think the Cardinals have enough firepower to win this rivalry contest. Unless they get some key turnovers or perhaps a special-teams score from Trent Guy, they're going to have a hard time moving the ball on Kentucky's defense. Make it three in a row for the Wildcats over Steve Kragthorpe.

Pittsburgh 35, Navy 21: Ricky Dobbs is going to cause some problems for the Pitt defense with his feet and his arm. But the Panthers should have enough familiarity with the Navy triple option after playing it the past two years. And Pitt's running game, led by Dion Lewis, has been spectacular so far. No reason to think that won't continue.

Northwestern 21, Syracuse 20: I want to pick Syracuse here, I really do. The Orange seem like they're ready to pull off an upset after playing pretty well in their first two Big Ten matchups, and they're back at home. Problem is, I've just seen too many Syracuse games the past few years to truly believe. I say Greg Paulus falls just short of leading his team on a winning drive.

Rutgers 30, Florida International 16: FIU coach Mario Cristobal is a former Greg Schiano assistant who knows the Scarlet Knights' system well. But my crystal ball says that the Golden Panthers don't have the talent to beat Rutgers on the road.

South Florida 48, Charleston Southern 7: The Bulls haven't really impressively dispatched any of their first two cream-puff opponents. Charleston Southern is even worse than the first two, however. Though boredom and looking ahead to Florida State could be an issue, I think South Florida will finally put together two good halves. Maybe Matt Grothe and George Selvie will even dance the Charleston like Pete and Trudy on "Mad Men" a couple of weeks ago.

Last week: 7-0

Season results: 13-1 (.929)