Football forecast: Out of the fire, into the frying pan

Perhaps way ahead of schedule, the Florida Gators put themselves into national championship consideration last week by manhandling Auburn. But it certainly does not get any easier for Dan Mullen’s men this week with a date at LSU. Everything says LSU should win, and I am picking them to do so, but don’t be shocked if the Gators find a way.  

There’s a lot of interesting games this week, so let’s get after it:

THE COLLEGES

 •BYU (-6.5) at South Florida

South Florida is 1-9 in their last 10 games against FBS opposition and that one win came against lowly Connecticut last week. BYU has wins over Tennessee and USC this year, but were hammered by Washington and Toledo in the last two weeks. USF has shown little to suggest they are anywhere near the team that had won 10 games in back-to-back seasons from 2016-17.  Prediction:  BYU 28, USF 17

 •Florida State at Clemson (-27)

While it is clear Clemson does not possess the front four they had last year on defense, it’s equally clear that the Tigers 2019 team should not be judged to be on a downward spiral after a 21-20 win over North Carolina two weeks ago. The fact remains this team dominated a pretty good Texas A&M team and beat its other ACC opponents by 38 and 35 points. FSU has looked better in its last two games, especially beating NC State by 14. It would not surprise me if FSU kept this close in the first half, so I will take Clemson to win easily but not cover.

Prediction:  Clemson 38, Florida State 17

 •Florida at LSU (-13)

This is game two of an incredibly tough gauntlet where the Gators will face three top 10 teams over a period of four contests. They passed the first test at home against Auburn last week. The difference in this game is the undeniable fact that the LSU offense is immensely more talented than the Bo Nix-led Auburn team. Throw in home field advantage and it’s hard to pick the Gators to win. Still, I love the Florida defense and I love how Dan Mullin has the Gators playing right now, so I will split the difference and in a “take-the-points” special.

 Prediction: LSU 20, Florida 17

 •Virginia at Miami (-2)

I explained last week that my deadline for this column usually Thursday at noon, so I included the Friday night game between Cincinnati and UCF last week and judging by how bad I botched it, you know the pick was legitimately turned in before the game was played. So let’s try some Friday Night Redemption this week. The flashy Canes need a win badly. The anything but flashy Cavaliers led Notre Dame at halftime last week and are 5-1 against the spread against Miami in their last six. In a Friday Night Lights Upset Special – Prediction Virginia 21, Miami 20  

 •Oklahoma (-10.5) vs. Texas

Oklahoma has won three of the last four games played in the Red River Shootout.  With Jalen Hurts executing Lincoln Riley’s offense, it should be four out of five.  Prediction:  Oklahoma 42, Texas 28

 •USC at Notre Dame (-11)

To say the Trojans have had an up and down season would be a huge understatement. They beat Stanford and upset No. 15 Utah, but lost to BYU and got manhandled by Washington. Notre Dame has played a better schedule, is frankly a better team, and is playing at home. Prediction:  Notre Dame 32, USC 14.

THE PROFESSIONALS

 •Carolina (-2) vs. Tampa Bay (In London)

Without Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers continue to play solid football – beating the Jags last week behind star running back Christian McCaffrey. The Bucs lost on the road to the Saints in a game where they were victimized by several questionable calls by the officials.  Tampa Bay is at a crossroads this week. A Bucs (2-3) win and they stay in the NFC South race, a loss and they may be toast for the season. Things are not looking good for the Bucs – Prediction: Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 24

 •Washington (-3.5) at Miami

With Washington (0-5) and Miami (0-4) both winless, it’s a shame someone has to win this game.  In a “Let’s lose this one for the No. 1 Draft Pick” – Prediction:  Washington 14, Miami 10

 •New Orleans (-1) at Jacksonville

It’s going to be battle of the backup quarterbacks, so the question becomes who do you like better,

 ”Minshaw Mania” or “Bridgewater Buzz”?  These teams are virtually even in points scored and points allowed but Bridgewater has not lost as a starter.  That string will continue.  

Prediction:  New Orleans 30, Jacksonville 24

 •San Francisco at Los Angeles (-3.5)

No matter who you root for, this is without question the game of the week. The 49ers are 4-0 and leading the division, while last year’s conference champions are 3-2 and are in danger of falling further out of the playoff hunt. Sean McVay is considered an offensive genius, but Kyle Shanahan may be better. Still, the 49ers have not beaten a team with a winning record this season (opponents are a combined 5-16); while the Rams have played much tougher competition (opponents a combined 15-10). I like the Rams at home to stay in the race for the NFC West.  Prediction:  Los Angeles 31, San Francisco 27

Season Scoreboard  

About the only good thing I will say about last week is that I almost predicted the Georgia win over Tennessee on the nose, calling Georgia to win 45-10 with the actual score being 43-14. But other than that, I was putrid – going 4-6 outright and an equally ugly 4-6 overall.  Brings the season total to 40-18 overall (.690), but a not so impressive 28-29-1 (.491) against the money line.  I promise I will try to do better this week.