College Football Week Four Picks
Auburn gets their first significant test on their quest back to the national championship game with a tough road matchup against Jake Waters and the Wildcats. Waters, who has proven to be quite the dual threat this season, will lead an explosive K-State offense. That offense also includes dangerous wide receiver Tyler Lockett (145 yards in first two games) and a veteran offensive line that will hope to tame a wild Auburn pass rush. That Auburn pass rush includes massive defensive tackle Gabe Wright along with rapidly improving end Carl Lawson. The question for the Tigers' defense will be their pass defense and their tackling. Kansas State has a ton of deep threats that could expose the Auburn secondary, while defenses must be disciplined in open space. On the other side of the equation, the Auburn offense will be all about their dangerous rushing attack. Quarterback Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant form a rushing trio that is constantly making huge plays. Marshall, who is obviously very effective with the read option, has improved as a passer, posting pretty strong numbers in his first start. Artis-Payne has had a superb start to 2014, rushing for 289 yards, four touchdowns and averaging nearly seven yards per carry. Newcomer D'haquille Williams has not disappointed, making some big plays in just two games. For Kansas State, it all begins defensively with defensive end Ryan Mueller. The great athlete has an extremely high motor and he will play a major role in getting in Marshall's face and making him uncomfortable. If Marshall is uncomfortable and constantly moving around, he will be prone to mistakes, like most quarterbacks under duress. He will also have to help in run support, K-State's rush defense has been spotty at times. This is a perfectly designed trap game, courtesy of K-State head coach Bill Snyder. On the road, and still very young, Auburn could be exposed and their playoff hopes could take a serious hit. But, with their ground game and an experienced quarterback, the Tigers should be able to escape Manhattan with a victory.
Auburn, 27 Kansas State, 21
1 Florida State vs. 22 Clemson
The Seminoles will also get a major test on their road back to the championship game with a battle against Clemson, perhaps their biggest threat in the ACC. Well the 'Noles absolutely blew out the Tigers a year ago, they will be without one of their greatest contributors at least for a half. Jameis Winston, who had a huge game in the matchup in 2013, will not play the first half of this game, as he was suspended for vulgar comments he made on campus. While the loss of Winston obviously hurts, the Seminoles will definitely not be without talent. They are gifted with running back Karlos Williams, receiver Rashad Greene and one of the nation's best offensive lines. On defense, they are young but still great as well. End Mario Edwards, tackle Eddie Goldman and cornerback P.J. Williams are all playmakers and will constantly be making plays. With Boyd, Watkins and Martavis Bryant all gone, the Tigers are still trying to find their offensive stars. QB Cole Stoudt played very well against South Carolina State and should take the bulk of the snaps at the position. He will lean on senior receiver Adam Humphries, along with receiver Mike Williams and running back Adam Choice. When the season began, many believed that defense would carry Clemson to ACC contention, instead of their usual, high-scoring offense. Though, their performance against Todd Gurley and Georgia didn't inspire much confidence in anyone. They will need a great game from versatile defensive end Vic Beasley, linebacker Stephone Anthony and nose guard Grady Jarrett, all important pieces to the rush defense. Beasley, who will match up against All-American tackle Cam Erving, has to step up and get some sacks if they hope to have success. Sean Maguire will start in Winston's place, meaning the FSU offense will probably be a lot different, possibly to Clemson's preference. Expect more runs, screens and check down throws to make Maguire more comfortable in front of the home folks. If Clemson can capitalize on Maguire's mistakes before Winston comes back in, they have a shot at a huge win. Stoudt can't turn the ball over, and the defense must play a near perfect second half. That is hard to do, and on the road, Florida State is the smarter pick.
Florida State, 38 Clemson, 23
3 Alabama vs. Florida
A week after escaping with a slim victory against Kentucky, Florida will hope to pull off a pretty big upset against Amari Cooper and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Cooper has been an absolute stud for the Tide in their first three games of the season, picking up 33 receptions, 454 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper will give the Florida defense fits, but he isn't the only weapon at offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's disposal. Powerful runner Derrick Henry and the crazy athletic T.J. Yeldon lead the way on the ground, while Blake Sims continues to grow in confidence with his arm. Sims has proven he has the ability to improvise and make crazy plays with his legs, which he might have to. Florida defensive end Dante Fowler is a fantastic pass rusher, and the Gators will likely attempt to bring the heat against Sims and Alabama. Sims will also have one of the nation's top cornerbacks to deal with in sophomore Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves will likely be set up against Cooper and Florida will need a great game from him to contain the Alabama offense. After putting up 65 points (even if it was against lowly Eastern Michigan), Florida's offense looked just average against Kentucky. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has looked inconsistent but improved in his return from a broken leg suffered against Tennessee last season. His arm strength is improved and he has made better decisions. Though, he hasn't seen an elite defense like Alabama in a long time and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to it. He will need help from his offensive line and running backs, in Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones. This matchup has all the makings of a run-oriented, smash mouth, SEC brawl that could go down to the wire. Though, Alabama is deeper and more athletic than Florida and that will likely decide what will happen in this game.
Alabama, 20 Florida, 13
4 Oklahoma, 35 West Virginia, 27
24 Nebraska, 24 Miami, 21
21 BYU, 44 Virginia, 28
18 Missouri, 31 Indiana, 18
2 Oregon, 59 Washington, 38
Current Picks Record: 16-8