On the Season: I took one on the chin last week with a 2-3 finish. It was my first losing week of 2017, dropping my season record to 8-7 against the spread. Let’s see if I can get back on track this week.
Wake Forest (+21.5) at Clemson, 11:00 a.m. CT
The Tigers are a powerhouse, dominating in every facet of the game through five weeks. They already have three wins over top-15 opponents, their defensive line is one of the best in the country, and quarterback Kelly Bryant has played nearly flawless football (which is quite a feat considering who he was replacing).
That said, Clemson has failed to cover only one time this season. That came a week after beating Louisville on the road. The Tigers returned home the following week as a massive favorite versus Boston College and sleepwalked through the first three quarters before pulling away. Now they’re coming home after routing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last Saturday night and are heavy favorites once again. Wake Forest is significantly better than Boston College and enters play with a solid quarterback and stingy defense. I’m looking for lightning to strike twice and for Clemson to come out flat.
The Pick: Wake Forest Demon Deacons +21.5
Miami (-2.5) at Florida State, 2:30 p.m. CT
This game screams trap given how well Miami has played and how punchless Florida State has been since quarterback Deondre Francois went down in the opener. Still, I’ll assume the risk with the ‘Canes. Mark Richt’s offense is averaging 41.3 points per game and his defense is surrendering just 16.3 points per contest. Quarterback Malik Rosier is growing more confident by the week and running back Mark Walton (ankle/probable) is healthy again.
As for the Seminoles, freshman James Blackmon has struggled taking over for Francois. Even when FSU does move the ball offensively, the Seminoles are not converting in the red zone (three touchdowns in 12 trips inside the RZ this season). FSU is also beat up along its offensive line and even though the Seminoles have won their last seven meetings with the Hurricanes, now is Miami’s time.
The Pick: Miami Hurricanes -2.5
LSU (+2) at Florida, 2:30 p.m. CT
If there’s one game that will make me look stupid this week, it’s this one. There’s no reason to back LSU. The Tigers are coming off a loss at home to Troy, their fans have started a GoFundMe account to help the school pay Ed Orgeron’s buyout, and running back Derrius Guice is still banged-up with a knee injury. Florida, meanwhile, is on a three-game winning streak since being thumped by Michigan. There’s also bad blood between these two programs dating back to last year when LSU athletic director Joe Alleva ticked off the Gators by insinuating Florida was using a hurricane to duck playing LSU. (Florida responded by stuffing Guice at the 1-yard-line in Baton Rouge last year in a victory.) Long story short, there’s no reason to buy LSU today. But I’m doing it.
The Gators are starting freshman Feleipe Franks after Luke Del Rio suffered a broken collarbone in the team’s 14-point victory last Saturday against Vanderbilt. Malik Zaire is available and has beaten LSU before, but it’s Franks show for now. While Franks has shown flashes this season, he has a long ways to go before he’s a weekly threat to conference foes. Despite all the evidence to suggest otherwise, I like LSU to pull off the small upset today.
The Pick: LSU Tigers +2
Michigan State (+10) at Michigan, 6:30 p.m. CT
If I’m only playing one today, it’s the Spartans. I lived and worked in Detroit for many years before finding my way to St. Louis, so I’m well versed in this rivalry. Michigan State has had a chip on its shoulder as Michigan’s “little brother” and the Spartans always seem to save their best for the Wolverines. Plus, it’s not as if MSU has been a punching bag this season. College football fans remember the beating Notre Dame gave Sparty but MSU just beat a decent Iowa team a week ago and has won seven of the last nine meetings with Michigan.
The Wolverines lead the nation in total defense (203.3 yards) and sacks (4.5) per game, but they’ll start John O’Korn tonight for the injured Wilton Speight. That could cause issues for an offense that is already sputtering. I love the points here.
The Pick: Michigan State Spartans +10
Washington State (-2.5) at Oregon, 7:00 p.m. CT
This play feels like the Miami one in that it’ll either be an obvious, easy win, or a you-should-have-known-better play. Washington State is coming off a huge victory against USC last week at home and now travels to play in one of the toughest environments in college football. That said, Oregon will be without starting quarterback Justin Herbert, who will miss the next several weeks due to a fractured collarbone. With Herbet out, either senior Taylor Alie or true freshman Braxton Brmeister starts under center.
Either way, the Cougars rank 11th in the nation and second in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing just 275 yards allowed per game. And while it’s extremely difficult to win in Eugene, Wazzu quarterback Luke Falk is a senior and shouldn’t be rattled by the moment. The Cougars are too good to pass up here.
The Pick: Washington State Cougars -2.5