By: James Ward
Saquon Barkley: The Penn State running back totaled 358 all-purpose yards for a new school record versus Iowa. For a school with so many great running backs throughout history, Barkley has a chance to be the best. Underrated.
Iowa: Last weekend, Iowa lost on a last second touchdown to Penn State and it came as no surprise to anyone in college football that the Hawkeyes were in the game late against one of the best teams in the nation. Is Iowa a national championship contender? No, but under Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes are always solid and capable of beating anyone at home. Underrated.
Wake Forest/Florida State: In an ACC matchup between a 4-0 team versus a 0-2 team, both teams have something to prove. Believe it or not, Wake Forest is the undefeated team and Florida State is the winless squad. The Demon Deacons are 4-0 in back to back season for the first time in school history. Underrated.
Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:
1) FSU and Baylor are the only two remaining winless teams in the Power Five. While Baylor expected a down year, the Seminoles were expected to compete for a national championship. Florida State is 0-2 for the first time since 1989, when the No. 6 Seminoles lost their opening week game to Brett Favre and Southern Mississippi at the Gator Bowl. (h/t @DennisDoddCBS)
2) Though they’ve played just two games so far this season, Miami is the highest ranked school from the state of Florida. However, the true surprise is South Florida as the second highest ranked team from Florida. The Bulls are currently ranked No. 18 in the latest AP poll.
3) Stanford running back Bryce Love is on pace to rush for over 2300 yards, not including a potential bowl game. With games against Arizona State, Oregon State and California, combined with the Cardinal’s run first offense, Love will have a chance to break 2500 yards on the ground if he remains healthy.
I usually do three picks against the spread, but this week I’m picking two games on Friday and two games on Saturday. I really liked the Friday games and I hated the idea of being two-thirds of the way done with my picks before Saturday kicked off. Enjoy and good luck!
Miami at Duke (+7): Duke is 4-0 overall and 4-0 against the spread, and despite those numbers, the Blue Devils have actually been undervalued – specifically the last two weeks. Miami has played just two games this season and while they may be rested, they are also untested. Duke beat Baylor by 14 points two weeks ago, and while it looked like a letdown for the Blue Devils at the time, that same Baylor team hung with Oklahoma last weekend. The Blue Devils defense has allowed just 262 yards per game, which makes them No. 11 in the country in yards allowed, and that includes three Power Five teams.
At this point in the season, Miami is an unknown, but Duke is tested and I really like what I’ve seen from the Blue Devils this season – especially on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Daniel Jones is a second year starter and has shown tremendous improvement. Running back Shaun Wilson runs tough and totaled over 200 yards against Baylor, seemingly winning the game on his own. Duke is a big jump in competition for Miami and the Blue Devils should be able to do more than just hang with the Hurricanes. Pick: Duke (+7)
FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: USC at Washington State (+4): Under the lights in Pullman, all eyes will be on this Pac-12 matchup that features a legitimate favorite to win the conference against one of my dark horse teams at the beginning of the year. Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold has had an inconsistent season so far and he’ll be facing a Wazzu defense that’s allowed just 142.3 passing yards per game – albeit against weaker opponents. Darnold could also be without his top playmaker Deontay Burnett because of injury. In addition, the Trojans are on the road again and facing a short week of preparation.
With all that said: things will have to break perfectly for the Cougars to win this game, but there are a ton of things in their favor. There’s obviously a big talent difference between USC and Washington State, but the Trojans have been very inconsistent all season. While the country is enamored with Darnold, the Cougars also have a quarterback in Luke Falk, who can actually match him. So far this season, Falk has 14 touchdowns and one interception, while Darnold has nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. If Darnold turns the ball over as often has he has in the previous four games, the Cougars have a chance to win this outright. Take the points and hope for some Mike Leach magic for Washington State to win the game. Pick: Washington State (+4)
Vanderbilt (+9) at Florida: The Commodores got stomped by Alabama last weekend and while a 59-0 loss is terrible, Vanderbilt is not as bad as the score would indicate. Last season, the Crimson Tide’s average margin of victory against the SEC was 24.89 points and they have feasted on the SEC under Nick Saban. The Vanderbilt defense is still one of the best in the country, and excluding the Alabama game; the defense has only allowed one touchdown in three games. That is a major problem for a Florida team that’s struggled to score all season. Luke Del Rio is back in the fold for the Gators, but nine players facing multiple felony charges is impossible to ignore, especially on the offensive side.
Florida survived against Kentucky and Tennessee, and survive is putting it nicely. Against Kentucky, the Wildcats lined up for the decisive play with 10 men on the field and allowed Freddie Swain to catch a wide-open touchdown. As Mick Hubert said on the Gators Radio Network, he was “quarantined.” Against Tennessee, the Gators needed a Butch Jones defensive gaffe to allow a Hail Mary as time expired. Florida is 2-1, but the Gators could easily be 0-3. The Florida offense is still struggling and this Vanderbilt defense is capable of keeping the Gators under 10 points for the game. The line opened at Florida (-12) and it is falling fast, but I still like Vanderbilt to keep the game within one score. Pick: Vandy (+9)
Colorado (+7) at UCLA: The UCLA Rosens… Sorry, the UCLA Bruins are coming off a defeat to Stanford, where the Cardinal scored 58 points and Bryce Love ran for 263 yards. Colorado has been unable to get the run game going this year, but Phillip Lindsay was a 1200-yard runner last season and the UCLA defense might be just what the Buffaloes need to run the ball effectively. In three of their four games, the Bruins have given up over 40 points and more than 500 yards of total offense. Josh Rosen is a talented quarterback, but he can’t do it on his own and so far this season, he’s gotten no help from his team.
Last year, the Colorado Buffaloes were one of college football’s Cinderella teams, built on great defense and an efficient offense. The Buffaloes lost to Washington last week, but the game was a lot closer than the final score. Colorado hung in there with Washington, the top team in the Pac-12, for three quarters, before the Huskies pulled away in the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes defense lost four key players to the NFL Draft last season, but this new group is capable of limiting Rosen and the Bruins offense. Buffaloes quarterback Steven Montez has had turnover problems this year, specifically against Washington, but the UCLA defense is banged up with some key injuries (and they weren’t very good when everyone was healthy). A touchdown is a lot for the Bruins to cover and Colorado will have a chance for an upset in the fourth quarter. Pick: Colorado (+7)
Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 7-5
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 65-52-0
James Ward is the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends and Sunday Morning Football. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).