IAKOW Staff picks: Week 4

I’ll let NWB do the lead in this week, since he’s the one with the chip on his shoulder:

“Week Four and I’m still a game behind. Let’s see if I get it back this week after a disappointing 10-5 record last week. Going big or going home on a handful of upsets this week will either backfire or vault me into the lead.”

SEC GAMES:

Southern @ Georgia

Neil W Blackmon: Not much to see here, just more Nick Chubb for Heisman video clips. School Up North 70, Southern 3.

Neil Shulman: LOL. Next game. Georgia 49, Southern 6

Louisiana Monroe @ Alabama

NWB: Last time the Warhawks went to the Capstone they won and Saban evoked 9/11 and Pearl Harbor in describing a football game. Yes, he’s that obtuse at times. That loss was the moment Saban’s program bought into the process. The results since have been dynastic. Tide will be a bit flat early, but they’ll win comfortably. Alabama 34, Louisiana-Monroe 10 

NS: The last game Alabama played both ULL and a game in general, they lost. They’ll take their frustrations out on a much weaker ULL team they paid a lot of money with the intention of stomping. Alabama 42, Louisiana Monroe 3

Central Florida @ South Carolina

NWB: Two coaches at the end of their careers duke it out in Columbia. I’ll take the legend over the guy who has just been “very good.” South Carolina 21, UCF 13

NS: South Carolina may not be what they used to be, but they’re still better than UCF. Barely, but they’re better. The loss of Brandon Wilds will hurt, but ole Cocky will figure out a way to get it done. South Carolina 17, Central Florida 7

LSU @ Syracuse

NWB: Long trip for the Tigers and a game that made you scratch your head a little when you saw it on the schedule. Nonetheless, the Orange haven’t been good this century really and the Tigers have Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette and a chip on their shoulder from hearing all week that Ole Miss was better. Tigers roll. LSU 38, Syracuse 10

NS: Fresh off a rout of Auburn, the Bayou Bengals may come out a little uninspired in this road game. But the Tigers’ defense is too good to lose this one. And, you know, Leonard Fournette and such. LSU 27, Syracuse 7

Tennessee @ Florida

NWB: I’ve gone back and forth all week on this game and in the end it just comes down to the line of scrimmage for me. Florida’s defense is ranked #6 in the country, and that’s the most efficient defense Josh Dobbs has ever faced. And the Gators are playing to retake the Swamp, in front what will be an electric crowd. I think that keep Florida in the game to the end but I just don’t think the Gators will get enough push on their offensive line to move the ball well enough. Eventually, Will Grier will make a mistake and that will be the difference in the first Volunteer win over Florida in 11 years. Tennessee 20, Florida 16

NS: Going against NWB with the Florida game seemed to work well last week, so I think I’m going to do it again. Sure, Tennessee is better than they were last year, but that isn’t saying much considering they had to scrap and claw just to beat Vanderbilt to make a bowl game. And guess what? Florida’s better, too. They have a real quarterback under center now in Will Grier, who won’t be looking over his shoulder at the bench for the first time. It’s going to be a heart-stopping game, but Florida’s defense makes a stop in the end to save it. Florida 27, Tennessee 23

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (Game in Arlington, TX)

NWB: What a difference a year makes? Last year Arkansas front bullied the Aggies and couldn’t be stopped on the ground. This year I’d expect Myles Garrett and the Aggie DL to harass an Arkansas OL that has struggled all year. The Razorbacks are talented, no question, but Kyle Allen and A & M are better. They’ll win this game in Dallas. Texas A & M 31, Arkansas 21

NS: One of the three neutral site games left in college football will have another chapter written tomorrow. But with Arkansas reeling and Texas A&M soaring, it won’t be much of a contest. Kyle Allen goes hog wild in a game that’s over by halftime. Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 17

Vanderbilt @ Mississippi

NWB: Commodores found some offense last week but that was Austin-Peay, not one of the best defenses in America. I think Vanderbilt is tough on defense and that Chad Kelly is bound to have a game where’s he’s off a bit. Look for Vanderbilt to slow Ole Miss down but never really threaten offensively. Another comfortable win for Hugh Freeze’s group. Ole Miss 27, Vanderbilt 6 

NS: Everything is going right for Mississippi so far. They’ve been winning without Laremy Tunsil. Chad Kelly looks really good throwing the ball most of the time, and when he doesn’t, it winds up a touchdown anyway. No chance Vanderbilt walks into Vaught and wins, or even keeps it close. Mississippi 55, Vanderbilt 3

Mississippi State @ Auburn

NWB: Desperation time in the loveliest little village on the Plains. Expect Auburn to return to the Nick Marshall ground and pound with a bit of zone read play action with Sean White under center. That will give the team a lift and so will White not turning the ball over and putting a young defense in precarious positions. I also like Muschamp’s x and o’s against Dan Mullen and Dak Prescott (2007 Florida-Auburn comes to mind). That and the home crowd give Auburn a needed “W.” Auburn 24, Miss State 20

NS: Well, they’ve finally done it. Auburn has at long last banished Jeremy Johnson to the bench, and replaced him with an unknown in Sean White. You’d think that, plus the fact that it’s in Auburn, would be enough to give the Tigers the win, right? Wrong. Will Muschamp’s defense has been atrocious so far, giving up an average of 443 yards per game- and that includes 438 against FCS foe Jacksonville State. Auburn’s season is teetering on the brink of catastrophe, and Dan Mullen happily allows Dak Prescott to push it over the edge. Mississippi State 31, Auburn 14

Missouri @ Kentucky

NWB: Probably going to regret this pick because Mizzou has won the East two years in a row by never losing games like this but let’s just call it a gut-feeling that the Tigers, without Russell Hansbrough, are going to go into a tough environment in Lexington and beat a team that plays desperate. Mizzou’s defense is good but it isn’t Florida’s and I think the Cats get just enough out of the Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp, Mikel Horton running game to get the program a huge win. Kentucky 17, Mizzou 14

NS: Missouri has been, well, horrible so far this year, barely escaping UConn- UCONN!- 9-6 at home. That said, they did bounce back after a disgraceful loss to a 4-8 Indiana team at home to win the SEC last year, and they’ve been a generally dominant team on the road, so I’ll go with them once again in a game that’s probably going to resemble a fight to the death with hand towels. Missouri 10, Kentucky 6

National Games:

Brigham Young @ Michigan

NWB: Sexy pick seems to be to go with the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. That’s a nice sentiment and Harbaugh’s club will win a game like this sometime this year- but I don’t think they can do so in September. Plus, to beat BYU you almost always have to have more talent and not make mistakes. Michigan meets part A but not part B of that formula. BYU 19, Michigan 14 

NS: I still don’t trust Michigan to win a big game yet. No, Oregon State doesn’t count. The Wolverines will  give BYU a fight, but it won’t equate to a win. BYU 28, Michigan 24

Oklahoma State @ Texas

NWB: I think the Longhorns were snake bit by a Cal team that is better than most think. I also think Charlie Strong knows this is a must win game with TCU and Oklahoma on the immediate horizon. Horns have struggled mightily on defense but I’m willing to bet that’s more about a young defense playing great offenses than it is personnel. I think the Cowboys are a good, not great offense and I think we saw Texas find a quarterback last week. Bounce back upset win for Hook Em at home. Texas 34, Oklahoma State 28

NS: Something struck me when I was watching Oklahoma State struggle for awhile against Central Michigan: this team isn’t fast, physical or deep enough to seriously compete for the Big 12 title. Texas will prove my theory correct with a win it so desperately needs to keep their season from turning into a disaster. Texas 31, Oklahoma State 21

Texas Christian @ Texas Tech

NWB: Horned Frogs have teetered on the edge of an upset twice this season and will again Saturday in a feisty Lubbock. But I’m sticking with the preseason notion that you have to play some defense to beat TCU and Trevone Boykin and Kliff Kingsbury’s team doesn’t do enough of that. TCU 40, Texas Tech 35

NS: If you like points, watch this game. I’m tempted to pick the upset here given how explosive the Red Raiders’ offense has been this year so far under Kliff Kingsbury, but Trevone Boykin has staved off one big upset on the road at Minnesota, and I believe he’ll do it again- as long as Gary Patterson’s defense is up to the task to get a crucial late stop. TCU 38, Texas Tech 34

UCLA @ Arizona

NWB: #PAC12AFTERDARK goes prime-time and the key matchup here is the nation’s #7 rushing attack (Zona) vs. the nation’s #60 rush defense (UCLA.) I think the Wildcats establish the run and the loss of leader and two-way star Myles Jack really hurts the Bruins on the road. Josh Rosen is talented and for real but this environment has overwhelmed even the likes of senior-laden Oregon teams in years past. Rich Rod’s club gets a huge win and stays in the playoff hunt. Arizona 33, UCLA 28

NS: Getting Scooby Wright back is a huge boost for the Wildcats, who are looking to take a major step forward in defending their Pac-12 North crown in this inter-division showdown. He’ll play a major role in shutting down Josh Rosen for the first time this season in a statement win for the Wildcats. Arizona 28, UCLA 17

Utah @ Oregon

NWB: The other #PAC12AFTERDARK goes prime time game. Kyle Whittingham’s team has played very well against a formidable schedule this year but the Ducks are in Autzen Stadium and that’s all I needed to know as I contemplated an upset. I do think Oregon’s defense is too leaky this year to get back into the playoff race- another loss is on the horizon somewhere- but it won’t be Saturday night. Oregon 38, Utah 30

NS: Still smarting from a tough road loss at Michigan State, the Ducks look to bounce back in their first big game since then. Meanwhile, Utah has rode its season opening win over Michigan to a 3-0 start, and a win would send the Ducks into a tailspin. But they won’t get it. Vernon Adams and Royce Freeman do just enough to stave off the hungry Utes. Oregon 35, Utah 24

Southern California @ Arizona State

NWB: The actual #PAC12AFTERDARK game features a Sun Devil team that has been slow out the gate after their loss to Texas A & M in Houston and a wounded Cody Kessler and USC coming off another Stanford game where they were just not tough enough. Both defenses have struggled (#53 ASU, #79 USC) and both have good quarterbacks with weapons at their disposal. Will be fun and full of points, and I like the home team a little more. Arizona State 38, USC 33

NS: Poor USC. They just can’t ever seem to beat Stanford when they really need to. Now they have to travel east to the desert, where Mike Bercovici and DeMario Richard will tear carve up their weak defense in a surprising rout- one that’s hastened by a bad night by Cody Kessler. Arizona State 41, USC 21