One-Loss Teams Fighting to Stay Alive in College Football

Bob Stoops and the Sooners face a key test today from Kansas State.

There are just six undefeated teams left in major college football and Marshall is one of those. The Thundering Herd is 6-0 but they are ranked 25th and the chances of them reaching the top four are extremely slim. One-loss teams like Kansas State, Oklahoma and Alabama have much better shots at the playoff than an unbeaten Marshall team.

Will they be able to continue their marches today? Let’s fined out.

Texas A&M (+13) at Alabama (O/U 63.5) –This has been the marquee match-up in the nation the last two seasons as the two teams traded wins at the other’s home stadium. Johnny Football is no longer a part of this equation and the Aggies have dropped two straight but there’s no reason to believe this can’t be another intense and exciting affair.

The difference this time around is that the Tide and Aggies each have tasted defeat and Kevin Sumlin’s team has looked very average. Alabama will need to rely more on T.J. Yeldon now with Kenyan Drake out for the season.

Trends:The total has gone OVER in in five of the Aggies’ last seven games on the road… Alabama is 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games… Texas A&M 12-3 straight up in their last 15 games on the road… The Tide is 12-1 in their last 13 games at home.

The Pick: Take the Tide to win but the Aggies will keep it close and take the OVER.


Can Bill Snyder's Wildcats pull the upset in Norman today?

Kansas State (+7.5) at Oklahoma (O/U 55) –Lost in all the hoopla about Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor is Kansas State. The Wildcats are a better kicker away from being unbeaten after their tough loss to Auburn.

The Sooners bounced back from their loss to the Horned Frogs by beating rival Texas last week.

Trends:The Wildcats are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games against Oklahoma… The Sooners are 9-1 straight up in their last 10 games at home… The total has gone OVER in five of K-State’s last last six games when playing the Sooners… The total has gone OVER in four Oklahoma’s last five games at home.

The Pick: Take the Wildcats and the points and take the OVER.

Tennessee (+16) at Ole Miss (O/U 46.5) – I have to hand it to Head Coach Hugh Freeze and his Rebels. I thought for sure they were going to have a massive letdown in College Station last weekend following their win over Alabama. They put that to rest early but jumping on the Aggies early and never looked back.

Butch Jones and the Volunteers are 3-3 but have not won on the road yet this season. I think things are better in Knoxville but they aren’t going to threaten much here in Oxford.

Trends: Tennessee is 1-10 straight up on the road in their last 11 games… The total has gone UNDER in eight of Ole Miss’ last nine games… The Vols are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against Ole Miss… The Rebels are 7-1 straight up in their last eight games at home.

The Pick: Take the Vols and those points but I like the Rebels to win and I like the UNDER.

A Thursday Night Trio of Pro and College Football Action

I would have that look on my face too if I were Jets' Head Coach Rex Ryan.

NY Jets (+10) at New England (O/U 45) – This just looks too easy doesn’t it? The Patriots have had their way with the Bills and the Bengals in the last two weeks after struggling to beat Oakland at home. The Jets are a mess. Although I thought they played hard against Denver, too many mistakes and a horrendous secondary eventually cost them.

The reason why you can’t just lay your money on the Pats to cover is simple; we’ve seen this type of thing with these two teams before. Six weeks prior to the 2010 playoffs the Pats beat the Jets 45-3. They met in the divisional round in Foxboro where the Jets pulled the upset 28-21.

It may be one example but it proves simply that when we think the Jets are dead in the water, that isn’t always the case.

Obviously they need better play from Geno Smith or Michael Vick regardless of which one is behind center. They don’t have to be brilliant but they have to take care of the football. The Pats need to deal with season-ending injuries to Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in eight of the Jets’ last nine trips to New England… The Pats are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at home against the Jets… The Jets are 0-4-1 against the spread in their last five games… New England is 6-13 ATS in their last 19 games at home against the NYJ.

Pitt's Tyler Boyd has suffered from some inconsistent QB play this season.

Virginia Tech (+1) at Pittsburgh (O/U 45) – These two have split their 10 meetings dating back to 1996 with each winning five games. The Hokies looked like a surprise team when they knocked off Ohio State in Columbus but back-to-back losses against East Carolina and Georgia Tech derailed those thoughts.

The Panthers have lost three straight including one at home to Akron. Pitt has been a hard team to figure out this season and I expect them to have their hands full tonight.

The Pick: I’ll take the Hokies and the OVER tonight.

Trends: The Hokies are 1-4 straight up in their last five games at Pitt… The Panthers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Va Tech’s last six games on the road… Pitt is 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.

Utah (-3) at Oregon State (O/U 53) – The Utes are a really bad one-point loss to Washington State from being unbeaten right now and their schedule has been a little tougher than has the Beavers. OSU is also 4-1 with a blowout loss to USC and wins over pretty weak competition.

The Utes have actually played better on the road than at home and that could come in handy tonight.

Trends: The Utes have gone 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against Oregon State… The Beavers are 11-5 straight up in their last 16 games at home… The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Utah’s last 14 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Oregon State’s last five games at home.

The Pick: I like Utah to cover and I love the UNDER.

I Have a Feeling We Are in for Another Wild Saturday

Can Charlie Strong and the 'Horns knock off Oklahoma?

Texas (14.5) vs Oklahoma (O/U 47) – I have to say, I’m glad the Red River Rivalry has continued to stay at the original Cotton Bowl. I realize how easy it is to shift to Jerry World but I’m glad some traditions have stayed alive.

I expect the Longhorns to play hard but I also expect a very ticked off Sooners’ team to show up as well.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of Texas’ last six games when playing the Sooners… OU is 3-5-1 against the spread in their last nine games when playing the Longhorns… Texas is 2-5 straight up in their last seven games.

The Pick: Take the Sooners to cover and the OVER

Northwestern (+4) at Minnesota (O/U 43) – I’m sure all of you had this match-up pegged for the lead in the Big Ten West in the second week of October right? Well that’s what we’ve got. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin have already suffered conference losses.

The Gophers are riding the wave of winning the Little Brown Jug two weeks ago while the Wildcats have scored impressive wins over Wisconsin and Penn State.

Trends: The Wildcats are 4-3 straight up in their last six games Minnesota… The Gophers are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games at home against Northwestern… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Wildcats’ last six games against Minnesota.

The Pick: The Badgers gashed the Wildcats’ run defense last week and I expect the same thing from the Gophers. Take them to cover and I like the UNDER.

A win at Baylor puts Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs in front of the Big 12 race.

TCU (+8) at Baylor (O/U 66.5) – If the Horned Frogs can pull of another upset they’ll be well on their way to a Big 12 title since they’ve already beaten the other favorite in Oklahoma. If the Bears win, they still have a November date in Norman.

Trends: The Horned Frogs are 4-2 straight up in their last six games against Baylor… The Bears are 14-1 straight up in their last 15 home games… The total has gone UNDER in six of TCU’s last eight games on the road.

The Pick: Expect lots of scoring and take TCU while taking the OVER as well.

Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State (O/U 64) – The Tigers are accustomed to these marquee match-ups while the Bulldogs are still getting used to them. Both teams still have Bama and Ole Miss on their respective schedules.

That means a win is vital tomorrow.

Trends: The Bulldogs are 2-11 straight up in their last 13 games against Auburn… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Tigers last five trips to Mississippi State… Mississippi State is 4-8 against the spread in their last 12 games against Auburn.

The Pick: Take the Bulldogs getting the points at home and the UNDER as well.

Oregon (-3) at UCLA (O/U 72) – This is an elimination game. Both have one loss now and a second automatically knocks them out of contention for the college football playoff. If UCLA follows Arizona State’s lead and runs the ball then they have a good shot at the win.

Trends: Oregon is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games… The Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last five games when playing Oregon at home… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Ducks’ last five games at UCLA.

The Pick: I like the Bruins getting the points at home and I like the UNDER.

Ole Miss (+2) at Texas A&M (O/U 64) – I said earlier this week that this is the type of game that programs who aren’t sued to big wins usually lose. The Rebels beat Alabama but will there be a letdown?

Trends: Texas A&M is 6-0 lifetime against Ole Miss and 2-0 since they joined the SEC… The total has gone UNDER in five of Ole Miss’ last five games on the road… The Aggies are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home.

The Pick: I expect the Aggies to cover and take the OVER as Ole Miss suffers their first defeat.

Some Great College Football Action Coming Up Today

Al Golden brings his Hurricanes to Georgia Tech for a key ACC showdown.

Miami (+1.5) at Georgia Tech (O/U 56) – The Canes scored a big win over defending division champ Duke last weekend at home. Now Miami hits the road to play a Georgia Tech team that has already beaten Virginia Tech and comes off a bye week. The Canes have played a slightly tougher schedule having lost at Louisville and Nebraska but Bobby Dodd Stadium isn’t a friendly place either.

Trends: Miami is 3-10 against the spread in their last 13 games… Georgia Tech is 2-4 ATS in their last six games at home against Miami…The total has gone UNDER in four of Miami’s last six games… The total has gone OVER in four of the Yellow Jackets’ last five home games.

The Pick: I like GT to cover and I like the OVER.

Kevin Hogan has to play well if the Cardinal have a chance today in South Bend.

Stanford (-2) at Notre Dame (O/U 45) – The Cardinal enters with a rare early loss while the Irish have stayed unbeaten and have worked their way into the college football playoff debate. Notre Dames defense has been pretty darn good through 2014 and Stanford has struggled offensively at times especially in the red zone. Will the home-field advantage pay off for Brian Kelly’s team?

Trends: The Cardinal are 1-6 straight up in their last seven trips to Notre Dame… The Irish are 12-4 SU in their last 16 games against Stanford… The total has gone UNDER in six of Stanford’s last seven games at Notre Dame… The total has gone UNDER in seven of Notre Dame’s last eight games.

The Pick: I like the Irish getting the points and I love the UNDER.

LSU (+7.5) at Auburn (O/U 58) – The Bayou Bengals were the only team to beat Auburn prior to Auburn’s loss on the national title game. That made three straight wins over the Tigers. After the loss at home to Mississippi State, I’m just not sure if that says more about LSU or the Bulldogs. Auburn hits the field for the first time since surviving Kansas State who should have beaten them.

The LSU QB situation worries me and I think the defense isn’t what has been in the past.

Trends: LSU is 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games on the road at Auburn… Auburn is 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home… The total has gone UNDER in six of Auburn’s last seven games at home against LSU… LSU is 6-1 straight up in their last seven games against Auburn.

The Pick: Auburn covers and take the OVER.

Oklahoma (-4.5) at TCU (O/U 57) – With Oregon going down Thursday night, Oklahoma moves tat uch closer to securing a final four spot in the college football playoffs. The Horned Frogs will not exactly roll over today though. They are unbeaten as well and play well at home. The difference is the level of competition to this point and that favors the Sooners.

Trends: Oklahoma is 5-0 straight up in their last five road games… TCU is 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Oklahoma’s last five games on the road… The total has gone OVER in six of the Frog’s last nine games at home.

The Pick: Take OU to cover and I like the OVER.

Michigan (+2) at Rutgers (O/U 47) – The Michigan defense was thought to be the strength but that went out the window last week. Brady Hoke is in trouble despite what AD Dave Brandon says. Rutgers will not feel bad for the Wolverines one bit and will take advantage of Devin Gardner’s propensity for turnovers.

Trends: Michigan is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games… Rutgers is 17-6 straight up in their last 23 home games… The total has gone UNDER in all of Michigan’s last five road games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Rutgers last six games at home.

The Pick: Take Rutgers to cover and I like the UNDER.

Four Big Games for Saturday

Struggling Michigan hosts Minnesota in the battle for the Little Brown Jug.

Minnesota (+8) at Michigan (O/U 43) – The Little Brown Jug has taken up a pretty much permanent spot in the Michigan trophy case but if there were any year for the Gophers to get it back this might be it. The Wolverines are struggling offensively and Brady Hoke’s job is less than secure at the moment. One of two things is going to happen on Saturday; the Wolverines will rally around Hoke and play well or the status quo will exist.

The Gophers three wins are unimpressive and their lone loss was a beat-down at the hands of TCU.

Trends: Michigan has beaten Minnesota in nine of the last ten games they’ve played… The Gophers are 2-4 against the spread in their six games at Michigan… The Wolverines are 8-1 straight up in their last nine games at home against Minnesota… The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Gophers’ last eight games.

The Pick: I think Michigan finds a way to win but take the Gophers and the points. Take the UNDER as well.

Missouri (+6) at South Carolina (O/U 61.5) –

Bret Bielema brings his Razorbacks to College Station where the Aggies await.

Arkansas (+10) at Texas A&M (O/U 72) – The Razorbacks are averaging 324 yards rushing per game and that’s been an Achilles’ heel for the Aggies in recent years. Since losing their opener at Auburn, the Hogs have ripped off three straight wins. The big question is whether or not Arkansas can slow down Kenny Hill and the Aggies offensive attack.

Bret Bielema will look to get his team running the ball to keep Hill off the field because he knows this offense will be much more talented than Texas Tech whom the Hogs defeated.

Trends: The Aggies are averaging almost 52 points per game in their last two contests against the Hogs… The total has gone OVER in all five of Arkansas’ most recent games… A&M is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against the Razorbacks… Arkansas is 3-10 straight up in their last 13 games.

The Pick: Take the Aggies to cover and take the OVER.

Stanford (-8) at Washington (O/U 47.5) – Last week, Washington hosted Georgia Southern and trailed 14-0 at halftime. They ended up winning 45-14. Perhaps the 4-0 Huskies needed a wake-up call?

The Cardinal come to Seattle at 2-1 and have a road trip to South Bend next week that they cannot afford to look ahead. This game will likely be decided by the Cardinal defense which has given up just ten points in three games.

The Pick: I like UW getting the points and I like the OVER.

Trends: The last time Stanford played at Washington they lost 17-13… The Huskies are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home against the Cardinal… The total has gone UNDER in four of Stanford’s last five games at Washington… The Huskies are 2-5 ATS in their last seven home games.

Florida State (-19) at North Carolina State (O/U 58.5) – Upset alert in Raleigh? The Seminoles have lost two straight at Carter-Finley Stadium. They get Jameis Winston back from suspension and are coming off an overtime win over Clemson.

The Wolfpack are unbeaten but haven’t exactly beaten anyone worth mentioning. Still, I believe this has the makings of a challenge for the ‘Noles.

Trends: Florida State is just 6-4 straight up in their last ten games against the Wolfpack… NC State is just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games at home… The Seminoles are 1-5 ATS in their last six games at NC State… The total has gone UNDER in five of NCSU’s last six games at home against Florida State.

The Pick: Love NC State getting the points and take the UNDER.

Six Games I Like on Today’s College Football Schedule

Marshall's Rakeem Cato leads the Herd into Akron where the upset alert is flashing.

Marshall (-9) at Akron (O/U 59.5) – These two have not played since 2004 when they were both members of the Mid-American Conference. The Zips are still in the MAC but Marshall is off to C-USA. A lot of experts love the upset here but I’m not buying it. Rakeem Cato will not let that happen.

Trends: Marshall is 9-1 straight up in its’ last ten games… The total has gone UNDER in 17 of Akron’s last 21 games… The total has gone OVER in five of Marshall’s last six games on the road… In seven career games, Marshall is 5-2 SU against the Zips.

The Pick: I like the Herd to cover and the OVER.

Central Michigan (+3.5) at Kansas (O/U 45) – Central Michigan is 2-1 with a convincing win at Purdue and a 40-3 loss to Syracuse so they are hard to read at the moment. KU is 1-1 with a win over an FBS school and a 41-3 loss at Duke.

Trends: The Chippewas are 5-1 straight up in their last six games… Kansas is 5-14 SU in their 19 games at home… The total has gone OVER in 14 of CMU’s last 20 road games… The Jayhawks are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games.

The Pick: I like what’s going on in Mt. Pleasant. Take the Chips and the point. I like the OVER too.

The natives are getting restless in Ann Arbor and Brady Hoke knows it.

Utah (+3.5) at Michigan (O/U 56) – Brady Hoke cannot handle another loss let alone one in front of the home crowds which are getting smaller in Ann Arbor. The Utes are great on both lines and that isn’t good for the Wolverines.

Trends: Michigan is 21-2 straight up in their last 23 games at home… Utah is 2-9 SU in their last 11 games on the road… Utah and Michigan are 1-1 all-time against each other. The Utes have averaged 16 points in those two games while Michigan has averaged 16.5

The Pick: Take Utah and the points and I like the UNDER.

Mississippi State (+10) at LSU (O/U 50) – Les Miles has lost just three night games in Death Valley. He’s won over 60. I like what’s going on at MSU but they won’t beat the Tigers at home.

Trends: Mississippi has gone 5-0 straight up in their last five games… LSU is 5-0 SU in their last five home games against the Bulldogs… The total has gone OVER in four of MSU’s last five games at LSU… The total has gone UNDER in four of LSU’s last five games at home.

The Pick: Take the Bulldogs and the points and give me the OVER.

Miami (+8) at Nebraska (O/U 56) – Two once amazing powerhouse programs are anything but today but they are trying. The Hurricanes have had off-field issues this week and while Nebraska barely squeaked past McNeese State, the ‘sea of red ‘ will be too much.

Trends: Miami is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games on the road… Nebraska is 15-3 straight up in their last 18 games at home… Miami is 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games… The Huskers are 1-4 ATS in their last five games at home.

The Pick: Give the points and take the Huskers. I like the OVER as well.

Oklahoma (-8) at West Virginia (O/U 56) – This is another game where analysts like the upset because of how well WVU throws the ball. Not gonna happen and the Sooners need to look no further than their rivals as to why. Last year Oklahoma State got burned in Morgantown but this year? Not going to happen to the Sooners.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in five of Oklahoma’s last seven games… West Virginia is 8-15-1 against the spread in their last 24 games at home… OU is 5-0 straight up in their last five games… The total has gone OVER in four of WVU’s last five games at home.

The Pick: I like the Mountaineers getting the points but OU wins and I love the OVER.

Big 12 Conference Odds for 2014



Bob Stoops and his Sooners have their sights set on a Big 12 Title.

The Big 12 odds are right here so I’m not waiting any long, let’s go.

Oklahoma 2/3 – The Sooners return nine starters on defense and will look to build on a strong finish in 2013 that featured a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. The road schedule is light with only Texas in the Cotton Bowl being the toughest trip. They get a revenge game against Baylor at home along with rival Oklahoma State in the finale.

Baylor 11/4 – QB Bryce Petty is back after a year in which he threw 32 TD passes and just three interceptions. The defending Big 12 Champs have just four starters back from a defense that struggle at times last year. The road to defending their title will be tough. They play at Oklahoma and at Texas, but they have a very weak non-conference schedule and get TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home.

Can Charlie Strong revive the Longhorns despite doubts within the fan base?

Texas 15/2 – The Charlie Strong Era begins in Austin and the pressure will be huge for an immediate turn-around. The Longhorns lost only 16 lettermen and return seven starters on offense and eight on defense. The first six games feature BYU, UCLA in Arlington, Baylor and then Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Three of their last five games are on the road as well.

Kansas State 10/1 – Bill Snyder enters his 23rd season in Manhattan with a team that returns 11 starters (6/O and 5/D). Road games are not easy with trips to both Oklahoma and Baylor but the home schedule isn’t easy either with Auburn, Texas and Oklahoma State coming in.

Oklahoma State 10/1 – With just eight starters (4/O and 4/D) back, the Cowboys could take a step back in 2014. They open with defending National Champion Florida State in Arlington and then finish the season on the road at Baylor and at Oklahoma. That’s a tough challenge for a rebuilding team.

TCU 14/1 – The Horned Frogs had very uncharacteristic season in 2013 going just 4-8. The good news is that eight starters return on both offense and defense. They have to play at Baylor and at Texas but get Oklahoma and K-State at home. I expect at least a bowl appearance this season.

Texas Tech 20/1 – Kliff Kingsbury enters his second season in Lubbock following an 8-5 record in 2013. Don’t forget however, this team had been 7-0 before losing their last five regular season games against much stiffer competition. Nine starters return on offense but just four on D. They get Texas and Oklahoma at home and Baylor in Arlington in the finale. Road games include Kansas State and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks.

West Virginia 66/1 – Dana Holgerson is in year four at West Virginia and with a 21-17 record some would say he’s on the hot seat. It won’t be easy to change those thoughts with an opener in Atlanta against Alabama. They also play at Oklahoma State and Texas while entertaining Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State.

Iowa State 100/1 – This is likely Paul Rhodes’ final season in Ames if things don’t turn around a bit. He’s 27-36 which isn’t terrible for a coach at Iowa State, but it isn’t great either. The good news is that ISU has 10 starters back on offense and five on defense. The bad news is that road trips to Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma State await the Cyclones in their first seven games. A bowl game is possible but there is little room for error.

Kansas 100/1 – Charlie Weis is just 4-20 at Kansas and this is his make or break year. The good news for Weis is that he gets 17 starters back on offense and defense. The bad news is that his Jayhawks still have to travel to Duke, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State.

The Pick: The Sooners will ride their win over Alabama into the 2014 season and with stability at quarterback now I believe they’ll clip the Baylor Bears for the title. If you want a long shot, look at Texas Tech who has a favorable schedule with the big teams at home.

ACC Atlantic Division Odds for 2014

If Jameis Winston stays out of trouble the Seminoles should have no trouble staying first place in the ACC Atlantic Division.

It was the ACC Coastal on Monday so today I’m previewing the ACC Atlantic.

Florida State 1/6 – The defending conference and national champs return their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and six other guys on offense while the defense returns six starters. With the great recruiting of the Seminoles’ staff, there are more than capable players ready to stand in. There are just two potential bumps on the home schedule and those would be Notre Dame and Florida. The ‘Noles open with Oklahoma State in Arlington but that should be a victory. Other road trips include at Louisville and rival Miami. FSU should find it’s way into the ACC Title game once again.

Clemson 13/2 – Head Coach Dabo Swinney returns just five starters on offense. Among those he needs to replace are Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. In other words, it won’t be easy. The defense returns seven starters but are they enough to carry the Tigers against a brutal first half of the season that includes road trips to Georgia and Florida State. They do get stubborn rival  South Carolina at home to end the season. Sports books like the Tigers a bit if FSU stumbles but I don’t see it happening.

Louisville 13/2 – The Cardinals make the jump to the ACC and automatically become one of the top teams in the conference despite losing guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Calvin Pryor to the NFL. Bobby Petrino returns for his second stint in Louisville and I believe he’ll have this team up to speed quickly. Just four returning starters are back on defense and that will be an issue. The Cards have road trips to Syracuse, Boston College, Clemson and Notre Dame while getting tough home games against Miami in the opener and Florida State on a Thursday night. This could be a nine-win season.

Steve Addazio has a lot to replace as he enters year two in Boston College.

Boston College 33/1 – Head Coach Steve Addazio did a nice job by getting the Eagles back to a bowl game in 2013 but the task in 2014 will be more difficult because he only has three starters back on offense. One that is gone is running back Andre Williams who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season. I find the schedule to be too much for the Eagles as they host Pitt, Clemson, USC and Louisville while hitting the road to Virginia Tech and Florida State. If Addazio can get this team to six wins it will be a terrific effort.

Syracuse 33/1 – Want a surprise team to lay some money on in this division then here you go. Second-year coach Scott Shafer returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished the year with a nice bowl win over Minnesota. The non-conference schedule should result in at least three wins out of four with only Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium being a challenge. They get division heavyweights Florida State and Louisville at home as well as ACC foe Duke. If they can stay healthy, they could make a bit of noise.

NC State 40/1 – The Dave Doeren era enters year two and he welcomes 14 starters (7/7) back from a team that won just three times and was winless in the ACC. The non-conference schedule is pathetic and the Wolfpack also get Florida State and Georgia Tech at home. They must travel to Louisville, Clemson and North Carolina. I see more than three wins but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.

Wake Forest 100/1 – Dave Clawson comes to Winston-Salem in hopes of rebuilding a once-competitive program. The Deacons had just four wins in 2013 and lost their last five games. Clawson’s Bowling Green teams were very solid in the MAC and he looks to build the same type of program here with ten starters (5/5) returning. The conference schedule starts brutally on the road against Louisville, Florida State and Duke  but they do get Clemson and Virginia Tech at home. A six-win season and bowl berth would be  a great start to the Clawson era.

The Pick: FSU has too much darn talent to go against so don’t. If you’re feeling crazy though, Syracuse could fit the bill.

Odds on the SEC West Winner for 2014

T.J.Yeldon and Alabama will look to take back the SEC West from rival Auburn.

Saturday it was the SEC East. Today it’s the West. Let’s go!

Alabama 2/3 – Nick Saban begins his eighth year in Tuscaloosa and has to pick up the pieces of two straight ‘hard-to-take’ losses to end the season. It was clear in the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma that the team hadn’t recovered from their stunning loss at Auburn. Now, Saban leads a team wit a new man at quarterback and six new starters on defense. Bama should be 3-0 before entertaining Florida then has road trips to Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU before finishing the season with the Iron Bowl at home.

All SEC coaches face pressure but Bret Bielema needs to turn things around at Arkansas now.

Arkansas 33/1 – Bret Bielema has the challenge he was looking for when he left Wisconsin in his hands now as he led the Hogs to a poor 3-9 record. It goes without saying that anything short of a bowl game this year could spell his end in Fayetteville. The team returns seven starters on both sides of the ball and the schedule isn’t horrendous. They get Texas A&M, LSU and Alabama at home and get Georgia in Little Rock. The only significant road trips are at Auburn in the opener, at Texas Tech and at Missouri. Six wins is doable but not a guarantee.

Auburn 4/1 – Head Coach Gus Malzahn returns for his second season and the fans will be hungry for more of the same but is that a fair expectation? Gone are studs like Tre Mason, Greg Robinson and Dee Ford but they do have eight starters returning to the offense including the quarterback. The schedule features home dates with LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina while the road features tough games at Kansas State, Georgia and Alabama in the finale. I do not see a repeat of last season but I do envision eight or nine wins.

LSU 5/1 – If the Tigers do not reach a big-time bowl then the natives in Baton Rouge will become even more restless then they are. Seeing rivals Alabama and Auburn fighting it out at the top doesn’t sit well on the bayou. Les Miles has five offensive starters returning and seven on the defensive side of the ball. The schedule is not easy as they open in Houston against Wisconsin. They also go to Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M. Alabama will likely be the only ranked team that comes into Death Valley in 2014. I think nine or ten wins is possible.

Mississippi State 12/1 – Head Coach Dan Mullen will have no excuses not to challenge in the SEC West. With eight starters returning on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs’ faithful will have very high expectations. The non-conference schedule is weak and should provide four wins in four games. The conference road slate features tough games at LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss, but they do get Texas A&M and Auburn at home. Mullen knows the importance of this season and I’m not sure even eight wins will be enough.

Ole Miss 9/1 – The Rebels have nine starters back on defense and six on offense and that includes QB Bo Wallace. The question is whether the depth is enough to challenge the rest of the division. I predict a 3-1, possibly 4-0 non-conference schedule if they can beat Boise State in the opener. The conference road schedule games at Vanderbilt, LSU and Texas A&M while they get Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State at home in the Egg Bowl. That opening game with the Broncos could tell a lot about the direction of this season.

Texas A&M 14/1 – The obvious is replacing Johnny Manziel at quarterback but the Aggies also lost big play receiver Mike Evans and stud offensive tackle Jake Matthews to the NFL. With Kyle Field under-going a massive addition and renovation, the pressure is on Kevin Sumlin to make 10-win seasons the norm in College Station. The road will not be kind to the Aggies as they open at South Carolina and have other contests at Auburn and at Alabama. They end the season with LSU and Missouri at home and have a very weak non-conference slate. With the defense returning nine starters, they’ll need to lead the way with a new QB at the helm.

The Pick: It’s one top recruiting class after another for Nick Saban and despite losing some important guys to the NFL, I look for the Crimson Tide to roll to another SEC West Division Title.

Looking Ahead to College Football in 2014 (Part Two)

What's in store for the Ducks with Mariota returning at quarterback?

On Tuesday, I gave you part one of a look towards the 2014 college football season. Yes, I’m aware the paint isn’t even dry from the 2013 season yet, but don’t act like you aren’t just a little interested in what college football could bring us this coming fall.

In my first part, I looked at burning questions for the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12. Today, the focus shifts to the Pac-12, Mountain West, American Athletic and Independents so let’s get started shall we?

Pac-12 – For a good part of the season it looked as though the Pac-12 would have at least one team in the BCS Title game and would easily have two teams in BCS bowl games. Unfortunately a domino effect took place that saw Stanford lose at Utah, Oregon lose to Stanford, The Cardinal then lose to USC and finally, Oregon was whipped by Arizona. No BCS title shot and only one BCS team and that being champion Stanford.

Burning Questions for the Pac-12… With Marcus Mariota returning, what can we expect from the Ducks? Is Steve Sarkisian really a step up from Lane Kiffin at USC? Will the improvement by the two teams in the desert continue? Is UCLA a title contender with Brett Hundley returning and will Colorado finally be a factor in this conference?

Can Bryan Harsin return Boise State to its' lofty expectations?

Mountain West – Boise State had a rather pedestrian 8-5 this past season and now Chris Peterson has headed off to Seattle to coach Washington. The Broncos were always seen as a team where anything less than 11 wins was a disappointment. Now they are finding out that life in the MWC has been a more significant step up than they might have thought. They will look to join Utah State and Fresno State at the top in 2014.

Burning Questions for the Mountain West… How will Fresno replace 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards passing with the departure of Derek Carr? Can Air Force bounce back from a very unusual 2-10 season? Will Boise State return to form under a new coach or will they continue to struggle in the MWC? Will Colorado State and San Diego State continue to be teams on the rise and will Nevada get back on track as well?

American Athletic Conference – Conference champion Central Florida did the league proud by beating Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and now what can the Knights do for an encore? The AAC changes drastically for 2014 as Rutgers heads to the Big Ten and Louisville goes to the ACC. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa enter the AAC this coming season and Navy comes on board in 2015.

Burning Questions for the AAC… Blake Bortles appears to be headed to the NFL and that begs the question, where does UCF go from there? Will ECU, Tulane or Tulsa have any impact on the race for the title? Is Cincinnati the odds-on-favorite to win the AAC? Can UConn and Temple bounce back from poor seasons and will Houston be a factor as well?

Independents – When you think about it, Notre Dame’s 9-4 record really wasn’t that bad considering they entered the season without Everett Golson at QB and had to replace numerous players on both sides of the ball from their 12-1 season in 2012. BYU played a difficult schedule and did well to finish 8-5 and Navy enters their final year as an independent and comes off a 9-4 record and more dominance over rival Army.

Burning Questions for the Independents… Can Army finally return to glory under a new coach and can they finally beat Navy? Can the Irish win road games at Arizona State, Florida State and USC? How far will Old Dominion come in their second year of FBS? Are the BYU Cougars capable of a 10-win season with their schedule and can Idaho get over the ‘one-win’ hump in 2014?