JW: Well, Arkansas stood toe to toe with USC for all of a quarter and a half or so, but that 50-14 loss sure wasn't pretty. What a great time to play Utah State, who just showed their football prowess in a loss last week to football powerhouse Wyoming, 38-7. The only way Arkansas loses this one is if they're looking past Utah State to the next week's match-up with Vanderbilt. I can't believe I just said that. Razorbacks by 17.
MO: And I can't believe I just read it, or further, that it does indeed makes sense. The key to Utah State winning this game making sure the Razorbacks get lost on the way to the stadium. Unfortunately, Arkansas is playing at home, so I'm not even giving the Aggies a chance. ‘Backs by 35.
Central Florida @ Florida
MO: Florida hit their stride late last week in the first half, turning a 0-7 seven deficit to Southern Miss into a 34-7 romp. Leak threw for nearly 250 yards, and three backs combined for 143 yards. Despite the 34 points, though, there are people that say the Gators didn't have the "offense explosion" that they were expecting. UCF is coming off a 35-16 romp of their own, this one at home against Villanova. Seems to me that UCF is about to find out just how much better the SEC powers are when compared the Big East doormats. Florida by 27
JW: If Florida didn't "explode" against USM, I'd hate to see what this game is going to look like. Maybe those fickle fans and media commentators will be happier about this one. Gators win it by 31.
JW: This one should be a tight game – Ole Miss showed marked improvement from last year, beating Memphis in Oxford, thanks in part to a ridiculously good debut game from freshman Dexter McCluster. Mizzou destroyed I-AA Murray State, so we have no clue what they're capable of. Ole Miss certainly looks more confident this year, but they still have some work to do. I'm going with Mizzou by 10.
MO: McCluster did have a great day, but half his production was on kick-offs, which, unfortunately for Ole Miss, meant Memphis was scoring on them often. To me, this is a bad sign for the Rebels, especially when defense is supposed to be Coach Orgeron's specialty. If the Tigers can get ahead early, it will be a long Saturday for those in Oxford. Missouri by 17.
Texas State @ Kentucky
MO: Unlike Vanderbilt, UK did not come out their road match-up against a Top 15 team with any positives. Louisville amassed 631 total yards 363 of those on the ground, despite losing their top running back for the season in the beginning of the second half. UK could only manage 22 rushing yards for the game, and will be playing a TX St. team that last week gave up 35 yards last week in a 27-23 win over… Tarleton State. The Bobcats did give up over 300 yds passing, though, and I'm guessing that Wildcat QB Andre Woodson should pad his stats this week. Look for the Wildcats to get better, but not as much as Wildcat faithful would like. UK by 20
JW: Kentucky needs this one badly, after their shellacking at the hands of Louisville. Texas State shouldn't be much of a problem, and I don't think this will be anywhere close to one of those Div. I-AA upsets. Then again, I don't think Kentucky is going to look all that impressive after such a demoralizing loss. Wildcats win it, but it ain't pretty. UK by 17.
JW: Apparently, you beat a perennially-overrated California team, and it's time to start thinking National Championship! Seriously, though, as much as it pains me to say it, the Vols have a lot to be happy about, but I'm not totally convinced they're the powerhouse they thought they would be last season. And I somehow doubt that a game in Knoxville against Air Force is going to change things one way or the other. Looks like the orange faithful will have one more week to enjoy before they choke against Florida. Smokey by 24.
MO: Air Force has always been one of those sneaky teams that is either really good or really bad, and you can't tell which until about halfway through the season. The interesting part about this game is that this is Air Force's season opener, so they've had 8 months to prepare for UT, while the Vols had to focus on a Top Ten ranked opponent. This smacks of upset, especially since there's always the chance that Florida may be looming in the thoughts of Orange Nation. I really, really want to say that Air Force wins this, but I know that's my heart getting in the way of my brain. I'll guess that UT wins it, but Air Force keeps it close and has the lead at some point in the second half. UT by 6.
MO: Auburn looked great in a blowout win against Washington St. last week, with RB Kenny Irons tallying 183 yards. Though losing at the end of the fourth quarter 6-7, Auburn outscored the Cougars 34-7 for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs are coming off a decent defensive showing, holding Steve Spurrier's normally potent offense to 15 points. The problem? They didn't score any of their own. I think MSU's defense won't allow Auburn to score 40, but I don't think their offense is going to score nearly enough to make it all that close. Auburn by 24
JW: Auburn looks really good again this year, but as is always the case with a strong SEC, they'll lose at least one and not have a shot at a national championship. Of course, this won't be that one game. Mississippi State is fighting hard to become the new doormat of the SEC along with Kentucky, and they might have a legitimate shot at it this season with Ole Miss showing improvement. This one will be over by the second quarter. Tigers by 28.
JW: This could be a fun game to watch. Although I'm not convinced South Carolina's that amazing after a 15-0 win over Mississippi State, I'm sure Steve Spurrier will find some way to keep the Gamecocks close and give the Bulldogs a scare. This will be Georgia's only real test probably until October when they take on UT, so no doubt they'll be ready for this game. In the end, the visor gets thrown, and Georgia escapes with a 10-point victory.
MO: I'll give you that the offense didn't look all that good, but that defense looked really good, though admittedly against a woeful MSU. If Georgia is starting an experienced quarterback and the game is in Athens, I'm right with you with Georgia winning by 10, but I just don't see it this week. I think we're going to see the Fun'n'Gun roar back to life and Spurrier show the home fans that they can beat the big boys in the SEC (just like Holtz did by beating Georgia in the second game of the '01 season). This is going to be a big season for the Gamecocks, and the first step to achieving it happens on Saturday. SC by 13.
MO: The Bayou Bengals crushed UL-Lafayette last week, 45-3, holding the Ragin' Cajuns to 176 yds of total offense while getting 469 yds of their own. JaMarcus Russell answered all of his critics by throwing for 253 yds and putting the game away early with four TD passes in the first half. Arizona faced a tougher opponent in BYU and barely squeaked out a 16-13 win thanks to last second 48-yard FG. The Wildcats gave up 289 yds in the air, a stat that you know Russell has to be drooling over. Even with the weaker non-conference teams listed above, I think this just might be the SEC blowout of the week. LSU by 35
JW: You won't find much of an argument from me here. In fact, you won't find much of an argument from me on many of these picks. Blame it on the early-season cupcake scheduling. JaMarcus Russell is on a mission, and there's no way Arizona is going to be able to stop him. LSU's real test will be the following week against Auburn. In this tune-up game, the Tigers come out on top by 24.
MTSU @ Maryland
JW: After the barnburner that was FIU/MTSU, the Blue Raiders are probably still riding the high of their latest victory. Maryland had some trouble with William and Mary, but still pulled off the 27-14 win. It probably won't be pretty on the offensive side for the Terps, but I'm willing to bet their defense can stop the offensive juggernaut that is MTSU. Too bad I can't say the same thing about their next game against WVU. Maryland by 28.
MO: That William and Mary game scared me a little bit, especially since we all know that BCS-conference schools have been known to stub their toes when playing MTSU at home before. It's still Maryland, though, so I'm not worried too much about whether they'll win, but I think it's going to be closer than a lot of people think. Fear the Turtle, but not all that much – Terps by 17.
MO: Both teams are coming off of extremely similar wins, with the Hoosiers defeating Western Michigan 39-20 and Ball State defeating Eastern Michigan 38-20. While MAC teams are always an upset threat, Coach Heoppner has Indiana on track for a great season and should take care of business on the "road" (though still in their home state). Indiana by 10.
JW: I'll take your word on this one, sir. It looks like Indiana's in pretty good shape, and should be the better team that night. While the scores are eerily similar, it does look like Western Michigan is the better of the two directional Michigan schools. Defense and special teams make this one an easy win for the Hoosiers, who win it by 17.
JW: I haven't really gone out on a limb yet with any of these predictions (you should see me play blackjack), but here's one for you: this game will be more interesting and fun to watch than Ohio State/Texas. Not only that, but Penn State will pull off the upset. Notre Dame was thankful to get out of Georgia with the win, but Tech exposed some weaknesses that you know Joe Paterno will be all over. It'll be a great back-and-forth game, with Penn State's defense preserving the victory in the end. Nittany Lions by 6.
MO: Glad to see you join me out here on the limb, Jay – welcome to the fantastic world of picking upsets (as well as tending to double down on soft 20's). However, I'm going to leave you out here this time – I like ND to pick themselves up and win their home opener. Charlie Weis is no stranger to close wins (see the Tuck Rule game followed by the Pats' first SB win), and the Irish should have a chip on their shoulder. The Irish lost two spots in the polls after they won on the road to a strong ACC team and were leap-frogged by a Texas team that played a cupcake at home (and quite possibly got the #2 ranking only to set up a #1 v. #2 match-up this week). I'll agree that this game should be tighter than OSU v. UT, but I think the Irish will recover nicely and send JoePa back to State College, PA with their first loss of the year. Irish by 10.
Ohio State @ Texas
MO: No. 1 v. No. 2 battles always get a lot of hype, but often don't pay off as good games. Here we have the defending national champion Texas Longhorns, fresh off a stomping of North Texas, taking on the top-ranked challengers, the Ohio State University Buckeyes, fresh off a stomping of their own v. Northern Illinois. Each team brings in many strengths and few weaknesses, meaning it could come down to that old clichéd scapegoat of sports journalism analysis – intangibles. I'm giving the edge to Ohio St. in the one for the main being that they have an established QB this season, a lack therein that cost them last year's game in Columbus. I like Colt McCoy, but it's awful hard for a freshman (even a redshirt) to come into a game and outplay a QB who played in the same game last year. In the end, I think it will be a rare payoff in these type of games, though the Buckeyes should pull away late. Ohio St. by 13.
JW: I still have a feeling that this one isn't going to be nearly as good as the hype surrounding it, which, of course, is usually the case. I really want to pick Texas with the "upset," but I just don't see it happening. Texas needed Vince Young to pull off the victory last year in Ohio Stadium - something I just can't see Colt McCoy doing quite yet. Ohio State was arguably three points from the national championship last year - they'll be determined not to let it be that close this year. I see OSU winning this by 17, with the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter.
Vanderbilt @ Alabama
JW: Can Chris Nickson improve on his first-game mistakes? Is the offensive line really that bad, or was Michigan's d-line really that good? What happened to our running game (or did I just answer that with the previous question?)? On the other hand, did Alabama live up to their hype by beating Hawaii by 8 in Tuscaloosa? Both teams have a lot to work on this week. I expect to see a lot of improvement from Vanderbilt, particularly in the offense, but it's not enough to overcome an Alabama team still trying to assert itself. It will be close, like all Vandy/Bama games are, but ultimately the Tide pulls it off by a touchdown.
MO: So many questions, and it's honestly still too early to answer them – but I'll give it a whirl anyway. Michigan played typical Big 10 football, where defending the run is key, which is different from the SEC where you have to defend against both the pass and the run. I think Nickson will improve on his mistakes and our run will show what it's capable of after being thwarted in Ann Arbor. John Parker Wilson, a first-year starting sophomore QB has now been tested by Hawaii, while VU's Chris Nickson has been tested by Michigan at Ann Arbor. I think the edge there goes to VU, and I think that Bama is due for an upset early in the season. I may be guilty of picking with my heart rather than my brain, but so be it – I'll take VU by 6.