AP college picks: Finally, a big weekend


By RALPH D. RUSSO

Associated Press

Finally, a college football weekend with real potential to reshape the rankings and shake up the national championship race.

The fifth Saturday of the season features four games matching ranked teams, highlighted by No. 6 LSU at No. 9 Georgia. Eight more ranked teams play road games of varying degrees of difficulty.

Last weekend’s schedule produced mostly blowouts, and when it was over it was as if it never happened. The top 14 teams in the AP Top 25 held their spots from the week before, and no team moved up more than one place.

This Saturday could end with a couple of teams saying goodbye to their national championship hopes, and maybe a few new teams being taken more seriously as contenders.

Georgia wraps up the toughest September schedule in the country with its third game against a top-10 opponent.

The Bulldogs (2-1) split with Clemson and South Carolina to start the season and now face an LSU team that is yet again looking like a Southeastern Conference heavyweight, though the Tigers are getting it done a little differently this season.

For the first time in a few years, LSU’s passing game is a strength instead of a question mark.

Zach Mettenberger has the sixth best passer rating in the country.

“There’s a big ceiling on him,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said of Mettenberger, who originally attended Georgia but was dismissed from the team when, as a redshirt freshman, he got into legal trouble over his treatment of a woman at a bar.

LSU receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are making a case for being the top tandem not just in the SEC but in the nation.

That should lead to another increasingly common occurrence: high-scoring SEC games.

Georgia, with quarterback Aaron Murray and tailback Todd Gurley leading the way, is seventh in the nation in yards per play at 7.83. LSU is ninth at 7.53.

The other big game in the SEC takes place in Tuscaloosa, where No. 1 Alabama faces No. 21 Mississippi.

The Rebels spread it out and play fast like Texas A&M, but Ole Miss presents very different challenges.

“Even though the offenses may be similar, the philosophies are not the same,” Tide coach Nick Saban said.

No. 4 Ohio State faces its first stiff test of the season when No. 24 Wisconsin comes to Ohio Stadium on Saturday night.

No. 22 Notre Dame is an underdog for the second straight season to Oklahoma. Of course, that didn’t stop the Fighting Irish from beating the Sooners in Norman last year. Any hope the Irish have of getting back to the BCS title game would be dashed with a second loss.

The picks:

MAIN EVENT

No. 6 LSU (plus 3) at No. 9 Georgia

Les Miles and Mark Richt have split four meeting between Tigers and ‘Dawgs … LSU 35-28.

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

No. 21 Mississippi (plus 16) at No. 1 Alabama

Tide has won nine straight against Rebels … ALABAMA 30-17.

No. 24 Wisconsin (plus 7) at No. 4 Ohio State

Buckeyes’ depth chart lists QBs Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton as co-starters … OHIO STATE 28-20.

No. 14 Oklahoma (minus 3½) at No. 22 Notre Dame

Irish averaging only 114 yards rushing … OKLAHOMA 24-17.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 12 South Carolina (minus 7) at UCF

Blake Bortles might be best QB Gamecocks face this season, and their pass defense has been shaky … UCF 31-24.

BEST BET

Arizona (plus 9) at No. 16 Washington

Wildcats will gladly play at Huskies’ furious pace, which is good news for UW ….WASHINGTON 45-24.

PLUCKY UNDERDOGS

No. 5 Stanford (minus 10) at Washington State … STANFORD 35-21.

No. 10 Texas A&M (off) at Arkansas … TEXAS A&M 47-21.

No. 20 Florida (minus 13) at Kentucky … FLORIDA 28-13.

Cougars are improved and Cardinal will be without top OG David Yankey (family issues) for full game and star DB Ed Reynolds (targeting ejection) for first half. Razorbacks might not be so plucky if QB Brandon Allen (shoulder) misses second straight game. Maybe a change at quarterback for Gators gives Wildcats chance to snap 26-game losing streak in series?

MISMATCHES

California (plus 36½) at No. 2 Oregon … OREGON 56-21.

Wake Forest (plus 28) at No. 3 Clemson … CLEMSON 49-14.

No. 8 Florida State (minus 21½) at Boston College … FLORIDA STATE 38-10.

No. 11 Oklahoma State (minus 19) at West Virginia … OKLAHOMA STATE 42-17.

No. 15 Miami (minus 18½) at South Florida … MIAMI 33-10.

No. 25 Fresno State (minus 18½) at Hawaii … FRESNO STATE 42-17.

Record

Last week: Record straight: 19-0; vs. points 9-5.

Season: 70-10; 31-33-1.

Best bet: 1-2-1.

Upset special: 1-2.

 

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