Hello and welcome to Professor’s Pigskin Picks.
If you have not visited Prof’s Picks in seasons past, here is a brief primer:
Growing up, I often enjoyed listening to “Leonard’s Losers,” a humorous radio program hosted by the late Leonard Postero (aka Leonard Post Toasties) that was carried across the South and much of the nation. On the show, Leonard (a fellow University of Georgia alum by the way) picked losers rather than winners and used funny phrases and voices in discussing the games. Just a lighthearted, enjoyable, and innocent listen.
With Professor’s Picks, I try to choose winners instead of losers and am certainly not as funny as Leonard, but do try to keep the segment light-hearted and enjoyable for the reader.
That said … here we go …
Season Record 0-0 (2008 Regular Season Record 68-24)
South Carolina at NC State
7 p.m. ET Thursday
Raleigh: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583)
ESPN [Sean McDonough, play-by-play; Craig James, color analyst; Jessie Palmer, color analyst; Erin Andrews, sidelines]
Comment: SC QB Stephen Garcia is unpredictable, the running backs are unproven, and we are not sure whether the team has game-breaking potential at WR. The Gamecock defense better be good because Tom O’Brien’s Wolfpack should be improved.
Prof’s Pick: NC STATE
Comment: Rich Brooks and the bluegrass felines have gotten to be real wildcats, good enough to expect to win against teams from smaller conferences. Still, MAC squads are tough and the pro stadium atmosphere should make this one fun. The RedHawks return 7 starters on offense, including three-year starting QB Daniel Raudabaugh. Cats should have more speed with WR/QB Randall Cobb, and RBs Alfonso Smith and Derrick Locke.
Prof’s Pick: KENTUCKY
W. KENTUCKY at TENNESSEE
Noon ET Saturday
Knoxville: Neyland Stadium (100,011)
SEC Network [DaveNeal, play-by-play; Andre Ware,color analyst; Cara Capuano,sideline reporter]
Comment: The Hilltoppers have a steep Smoky Mountain to climb when they visit Rocky Top. Expect the Vols, especially Monte Kiffin’s defense with All-American DB Eric Berry, to look impressive in Lane Kiffin’s debut. A nice cupcake to start his college head coaching career.
Prof’s Pick: TENNESSEE
Comment: One of the week’s premier matchups. The Dogs lost a bunch of bite on offense, but senior QB Joe Cox should be steady, new RBs Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas at least serviceable, and soph WR A.J. Green spectacular. The Cowboys are not slow pokes on the O side either with Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter, and crew. To me the game turns on the defense, and the SEC plays better D. Dogs show some new fight on the defensive side and lasso the Cowboys in Stillwater.
Prof’s Pick: GEORGIA
Comment: The game is significant as the first for new Bully head coach Dan Mullen, and because it marks the first time an SEC team has played a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) squad. Neither of the Magnolia State’s SEC teams has ever played a team from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). A neat story which should have a nice ending for MSU.
Prof’s Pick: MISS STATE
LOUISIANA TECH at AUBURN
7:00 ET Saturday
Auburn: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
ESPNU [Eric Collins,play-by-play; Brock Huard, coloranalyst; Beth Mowins, sidelines]
Comment: Yet another new coach, Auburn’s Gene Chizik, opens play. The Tigers have a legitimate opponent in LA Tech and the man I actually thought should have been considered for the Plainsmen job (Derek Dooley). Auburn had well-documented offensive problems last season, so watch to see how consistently the Tigers move the ball. On the other side, the Bulldogs have a fine running back in Daniel Porter, on pace to become Tech’s all-time leading rusher. Close enough to make the toilet paper throwers on Toomer’s Corner nervous.
Prof’s Pick: AUBURN
MISSOURI ST. at ARKANSAS
7:00 ET Saturday
Little Rock: War Memorial Stadium (53,727)
Comment: Many people, including the professor, expect Arkansas to be this year’s version of Ole Miss to some extent. Petrino’s Pigs should have plenty of offensive weapons with big QB Ryan Mallett leading the way. This one should get ugly early.
Prof’s Pick: ARKANSAS
Comment: Really now … what is there to say. Gator coach Urban Meyer gets to name the score and he’ll probably keep it within 5o or so. For interested fans, this one is worth watching just to see how Florida’s receivers fare and to see backup QB John Brantley (who has the best website of any backup quarterback in America by the way).
Prof’s Pick: FLORIDA
W. CAROLINA at VANDERBILT
7:30 ET Saturday
Nashville: Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
CSS[Doug Bell, play-by-play;Chris Doering, color analyst]
Comment: In years past, Vandy fans might have fretted a bit about a game like this. No more. Let’s see how QB Larry Smith fares against the Catamounts from Cullowhee. Probably very well.
Prof’s Pick: VANDERBILT
SEC Game of the Week: An intriguing early season matchup between two consensus top ten teams. Cheers for the Atlanta Sports Council and Chick-fil-A for sponsoring what is quickly becoming a great tradition to kickoff the college football season (next year is LSU-North Carolina).
Conventional wisdom holds that defenses dominate this one, but opening games only occasionally follow the script. My hunch is that the Red Elephant offense is going to be quite a bit stronger than most anticipate. While the line is having to break in three new starters and Greg McElroy replaces John Parker Wilson at QB, Bama still boasts plenty of bling … Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Terry Grant among them. Highly touted RB Trent Richardson is another to watch. The Tide should be stout across the board on defense.
Tech also makes its living by shutting folks down. The Hokies have gone to two straight BCS bowls and should not shrink from the national spotlight. The loss of star running back Darren Evans puts a lot of pressure on QB Tyrod Taylor, an erratic passer but exciting runner. I expect Nick Saban’s defense to bottle up Taylor in the most important matchup of the game.
Prof’s Pick: ALABAMA
Comment: The Huskies did not win a game last year, and this one may not start so well either. New UW coach Steve Sarkisian may have brought the USC system with him, but too bad he couldn’t bring some players too. LSU has plenty of those and if the Bengal Tigers are focused … watch out.
Prof’s Pick: LSU
Comment: Expectations are sky high among Rebel faithful, so opening with a traditional rival might be a bit risky. Most eyes will be on Ole Miss playmakers like QB Jevan Snead and WR/RB Dexter McCluster, but Memphis counters with a pretty good combo of QB Arkelon Hall and RB Curtis Steele.
Prof’s Pick: OLE MISS
SELECTED NATIONAL GAMES
From The Campus Game Tuesdays Top Ten
10. Baylor at Wake Forest (3:30 ABC Regional): Art Briles brings the Bears and exciting QB Robert Griffin to Winston-Salem to face the Demon Deacs and senior QB Riley Skinner.
Prof’s Pick: Wake Forest in a close one
9. Maryland at Cal (10:00 ESPN2): Many predict Cal as the biggest threat to USC’s run of dominance in the PAC-10. Ralph Friedgen typically has the Terps ready to play.
Prof’s Pick: Cal
8. Nevada at Notre Dame (3:30 NBC): The Irish get a chance to start actually backing up some of the hype they’ve been receiving (including from here) against Colin Kaepernick and a sound Wolfpack team.
Prof’s Pick: Notre Dame
7. South Carolina at NC State (Thursday 7:00 ESPN): The head ball coach and unpredictable QB Stephen Garcia visit Raleigh where Tom O’Brien and the Pack are the pick of some to win the ACC Atlantic.
Prof’s Pick: NC State
6. Cincinnati at Rutgers (Monday 4:00 ESPN): Last season’s Big East champ Cincy takes on the Scarlet Knights … a team many expect to take the crown this year.
Prof’s Pick: Rutgers
5. Georgia at Oklahoma State (3:30 ABC): A terrific intersectional meeting between the Dogs from the defensive-minded SEC and the Cowboys of the high-scoring Big 12.
Prof’s Pick: Georgia
4. Miami at Florida State (Monday 8:00 ESPN): Randy Shannon and the Hurricanes begin a tough opening gantlet against a Seminole team expected to contend for the ACC championship.
Prof’s Pick: FSU
3. BYU vs. Oklahoma (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX 7:00 ESPN): Heisman winner Sam Bradford and the Sooners open the 2009 season against a legitimate BYU team featuring QB Max Hall. Punters can take aim at Jerry’s Scoreboard sponsored by Target (get it?).
Prof’s Pick: Oklahoma
2. Oregon at Boise State (Thursday 10:15 ESPN): Oregon travels to the blue field and the Ducks may be the team on the Boise schedule with the best chance to bust the Broncs.
Prof’s Pick: Boise State
1. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Georgia Dome 8:00 ABC): A couple of stout defenses will be banging around in the 2nd Chick-fil-A kickoff classic in front of a national prime-time audience and the ESPN Gameday crew.
Prof’s Pick: Alabama
Enjoy the college football weekend!