The Fearless Friday Forecast:
1. N.C. State at Georgia Tech: The last time the Wolfpack was 3-0 (2002) they eventually got to 9-0 before the run was stopped by Georgia Tech in Raleigh. As a Tech fan you need to be concerned that N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson is just now knocking off the rust after playing minor league baseball all summer–and he threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in his last outing against Cincinnati. Wilson has thrown 101 passes this season without an interception. That will change at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday. Georgia Tech 21, N.C. State 20.
2. Georgia at Miss. State: Don’t worry about the cowbells, Bulldog fans. They are loud. It’s life on the road in the SEC. The thing to worry about is that the Mississippi State quarterbacks–Chris Relf and Tyler Russell–are due for a breakout game. And after giving up just less than four bills against Arkansas last week, the Georgia secondary is not going to put a lot of fear into anyone. My advice to Georgia? Just run the football and wear this team down. It’s time for the offensive line to man up and win a game for Georgia. Georgia 24, Miss. State 17.
3. Alabama at Arkansas: This summer I asked Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett about Saturday’s date with No. 1 Alabama and how excited the Hogs’ fans would be. He smiled: “I hear we’ve sold all the tickets and will probably draw a big crowd.” Yep. With both teams in the Top 10, it’s the second biggest game ever played at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. In 1969 No. 1 Texas beat No. 2 Arkansas 15-14 in a game that decided the national championship. Arkansas will have the crowd but Alabama still has that massive offensive line and the best running back combo on the planet in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. I could be wrong. But I think Alabama starts to pull away in the fourth quarter. Alabama 34, Arkansas 21.
4. South Carolina at Auburn: First of all, I wonder how much Auburn has left in the tank after last week’s very physical overtime win against Clemson. South Carolina is going to come to Jordan-Hare Stadium for its first road of the season and try to beat Auburn by using the Georgia game plan: That’s a heavy dose of running back Marcus Lattimore and just enough passing to keep the defense honest. Look for Auburn to put an extra defender in the box and to force the Head Ball Coach to air it out with quarterback Stephen Garcia. Then what happens is anybody’s guess. I like the Gamecocks in this one because Ellis Johnson’s defense is going to cause some problems for Auburn’s quarterback, Cameron Newton. South Carolina 17, Auburn 14.
5. Kentucky at Florida: So how many times have we said this: Kentucky has the best offense in the SEC East? Right now the Wildcats are certainly better on offense than Florida. Kentucky needs to keep one streak going: The Wildcats have not given up a turnover in three games. If the Wildcats can do that, then they have a puncher’s chance to end their 23-game losing streak to the Gators. All I know is that the Florida defense already has 10 interceptions. UK quarterback Mike Hartline must take care of the football. Florida 21, Kentucky 10.
6. Oregon State at Boise State: The Broncos are ranked No. 3 and the release of the first BCS standings don’t come until Oct. 17. In the meantime Boise must keep winning and do it with style points. I’ve got Oregon State as my darkhorse pick to win the Pac-10. The Beavers (1-1) lost to No. 4 TCU (30-21) and almost lost to Louisville (35-28) last week. College Game Day is coming to Boise and the world will be watching. The Broncos need to put on a show. Boise State 42, Oregon State 27.
7. Stanford at Notre Dame: Stanford has won its first three games (Sacremento State, UCLA, Wake Forest) by a combined score of 155-41. Quarterback Andrew Luck has already thrown for 674 yards with no interceptions. Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has got a little bit of an attitude about him and his fans like that. I know this sounds crazy but I have it on good authority that Stanford was really jacked up to play Wake Forest after losing to the Deacons last year in Winston-Salem. Could the Cardinal have a let down at Notre Dame (1-2), which needs a win after two straight losses at the buzzer? I’ll go with Stanford and the hot quarterback. Stanford 35, Notre Dame 27.
8. UAB at Tennessee: It’s obvious now that Tennessee is going to have to take baby steps (two steps forward, one step back) in this first season under Derek Dooley. The good news is that Tennessee played the full 60 minutes against Florida before losing 31-17. The week before the Volunteers basically packed it in after falling behind in the second half against Oregon. Here is why Saturday’s game with UAB is so important. A win gives the Volunteers a 2-2 record with games coming up at LSU, at Georgia, Alabama in Knoxville, and at South Carolina. You have to figure Tennessee will be 2-6 heading into November. They will still be able to get to 6-6 and Dooley can point to a tangible goal. Having a goal is important to a struggling team. Tennessee 27, UAB 10.
9. Virginia Tech at Boston College: After a tough three weeks to open the season, the Hokies (1-2) open ACC play on the road. My buddy Bill Roth, the radio voice of Virginia Tech, tells me that no Hokie has scored a rushing touchdown at Boston College since Lee Suggs did it in 2002. In fact, Boston College has beaten Virginia Tech in five of its last six meetings, including a 14-10 win at Virginia Tech in 2007 led by Matt Ryan. I think Boston College beats the Hokies again. Boston College 21, Virginia Tech 17.
10. West Virginia at LSU: It’s a non-conference game. It will also be the best party in all of college football this weekend. LSU (3-0) needs to keep winning because the Tigers want to be 5-0 when they go to Florida on Oct. 9. West Virginia (3-0) may be the class of the Big East now that Pittsburgh is 1-2. The Mountaineers have some playmakers in QB Geno Smith (800 yards passing, 7 TD) and Noel Devine (118 yards rushing per game). But I see LSU’s defense as too big and quick. Both sides win the party. LSU wins the game. LSU 24, West Virginia 14.
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Programming note: Today on the “Barnhart and Durham Show” we’ll welcome Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley to give us an update on the Florida Gators. Sports agent Pat Dye, Jr. will join us as well as Bob Behler, the radio voice of Boise State. We’ll also replay an interview I did with Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino as he talks about Saturday’s big game with Alabama. The fun starts at 10 a.m. on 790 The Zone. www.790thezone.com.