College Football Picks for Week Four

Game of the Week AND Upset of the Week:  #22 Clemson (1-1) at #1 Florida State (2-0)
In the ACC’s game of the year, Florida State hosts Clemson.  The winner of this game has won the ACC the last three years, and has won the ACC Atlantic Division the last five years.  Florida State leads the all-time series, 19-8, and has won the last two meetings, although Clemson has won five out of nine and six out of 11.  Last year in Death Valley, Florida State dominated the Tigers, winning 51-14.  Clemson hasn’t forgotten that defeat, although revenge will be tough in Tallahassee against the nation’s top-ranked team.  Or so the world thought.  Wednesday, Seminoles QB Jameis Winston was suspended for the first half of this game after shouting obscenities publicly on Florida State’s campus, thus surely improving Clemson’s chances.  Late Friday, the university announced that, as more facts emerged regarding Winston’s behavior, he had been suspended the entire game.  What had started as a 19-point spread favoring Florida State dropped to 17 on Wednesday, 15 by Friday morning, and as of this writing, down to 12, and still in free fall.  While Winston isn’t the only reason Florida State is currently ranked #1, this is not the same Florida State team as the one that won the national championship a year ago.  They struggled with Oklahoma State, then defeated The Citadel by a 37-12 score, a margin that was common at halftime a year ago against teams in the top half of the ACC.  Clemson feels like they have something to prove after a 45-21 week one loss to Georgia, and are looking for their biggest regular season win since beating the ‘Noles in 2011.  With the relative uncertainty of Winston’s backup, Sean Maguire, at quarterback for Florida State, playing the best defense Clemson has had during coach Dabo Swinney’s tenure, along with the Clemson offense under coordinator Chad Morris, known for their explosiveness through his tenure with the Tigers, Clemson has what it takes to pull the upset.  Clemson will secure their first ever win over a #1 team.
Clemson 30, Florida State 24.

Big Game Guarantee:  Florida (2-0) at #3 Alabama (3-0)
Alabama is a 15-point home favorite as these two teams renew a series that, just a few years ago, had so much more national significance.  These two teams played in 2008 and 2009 in the SEC Championship Game, with both matchups serving as a de facto play-in game to get to the national championship game (Florida in ’08 and Alabama in ’09 went on to win the national title).  The series is, in fact, the most commonly played SEC Championship Game matchup, with seven meetings in all, including the first four title games from 1992-95.  The two also met in regular season play in 2010 and 2011, with the Crimson Tide winning both.  This year, the Tide are very young and, at times, have seemed somewhat vulnerable despite their 3-0 start.  Florida defeated Eastern Michigan 65-0 in their season opener, but struggled to a triple overtime win against Kentucky last week.  In the game against the Wildcats, the Gators certainly didn’t look ready to compete against #3 Alabama, and while they have had a week of practice to prepare, the Tide have had the game on their minds for three weeks, as they were easily able to dispatch of Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss.  An interesting storyline in this game is that Florida coach Will Muschamp served as defensive coordinator under Alabama coach Nick Saban from 2001-04 at LSU and in 2005 for the Miami Dolphins.
Alabama 28, Florida 10.

Another Upset of the Week:  #4 Oklahoma (3-0) at West Virginia (2-1)
With Oklahoma favored by eight on the road in Morgantown, the Mountaineers are looking for their biggest win of the Dana Holgorsen era.  Last year, in Norman, a West Virginia team that would finish 4-8 hung with the Sooners, eventually losing a 16-7 result.  That same team pulled off a big upset last year, beating Oklahoma State 30-21 at home, eventually costing, at least in part, a conference title for the Cowboys.  This year, with many (including me) picking them to finish ninth out of 10 in the Big 12, they hung with Alabama, losing 33-23 to the Crimson Tide at a neutral site, proving they can play with the best.  Morgantown is a very tough place for visitors to play, and it will test Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight.  Knight has a reputation for being very good, but inconsistent.  If he plays a very good game, it could potentially be the key to a Sooners win.  If he doesn’t, the door will be open.  West Virginia QB Clint Trickett, who transferred from Florida State, threw for 365 yards against Alabama, showing he can compete against strong defenses.  West Virginia is due, looking for, arguably, their biggest win since 2007.
West Virginia 27, Oklahoma 24.

Closer Than The Experts Think:  Bowling Green (2-1) at #19 Wisconsin (1-1)
Bowling Green visits Camp Randall Stadium to face the Wisconsin Badgers.  Wisconsin is a 27-point favorite, which seems very underestimating of the defending MAC champion Falcons.  Bowling Green struggled in a week one loss to Western Kentucky, but rolled over VMI before defeating a Big Ten team last week, beating the Indiana Hoosiers.  While no one expects them to pull the upset, in three previous meetings with Wisconsin, none were blowouts, with all games being within a 21-point margin.  Wisconsin led LSU by 15 in their opener, but showed in the second half that their offense may not be their biggest strength.  Bowling Green’s offense will keep them in this game, and while QB Tanner McEvoy and RB Melvin Gordon should generate enough offense to beat the Falcons, the Falcons are good enough, even against a ranked opponent, to stay within two or three possessions.
Wisconsin 38, Bowling Green 21.

Another Closer Than The Experts Think:  Virginia (2-1) at #21 BYU (3-0)
BYU is off to its best start since 2008, with a marquee win over Texas to their credit.  Virginia is also off to a strong start, giving UCLA, then ranked in the top 10, a scare, and defeating a a then-ranked Louisville team last week.  Cavaliers coach Mike London began the year on the hot seat, but he appears to have something in this team that many (including me) didn’t see before the season.  BYU QB Taysom Hill is quietly putting together a solid campaign, becoming one of the better dual threat quarterbacks in the country, leading his team in passing and rushing.  Virginia has a 3-1 series lead, including a 19-16 win last year in Charlottesville, which until last week was their most recent win over an FBS opponent.  BYU is a 14-point favorite in this game, which is understandable given the early season success they have enjoyed, but after Virginia has proven they won’t necessarily be in the ACC cellar once again this year, and that starts with remaining competitive in another tough non-conference game.  I only think BYU will win because the game is in Provo.
BYU 23, Virginia 20.

NFL Game of the Week:  Denver Broncos (2-0) at Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
In the first regular season rematch of the previous season’s Super Bowl since 1997, the Broncos travel to Seattle, where the Seahawks are five point home favorites.  Many are looking to Seattle’s 43-8 win over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII as a potential preview of this game, a lot has changed for the teams, particularly for Denver.  On defense, the Broncos have added DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib, while adding Emmanuel Sanders as one of Peyton Manning’s targets.  Those three are among the 10 starters for Denver who were not on the active roster in February, due to injury or being on another team.  In addition to the differences, the Broncos players who were on the team last year haven’t forgotten being embarrassed literally in front of the whole world.  Seattle is coming off a loss at San Diego, and has only lost one home game since the start of the 2012 season, statistically solidifying what many already knew: Seattle may be the toughest place in the NFL for an opponent to play.  It wouldn’t be wise to expect Seattle to lose back-to-back games no matter where they are playing, but with the game at home, a loss would be shocking.  They won’t win big, as Denver will give them a very stiff test, but they will win.
Seattle 23, Denver 21.

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