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Top 20 College Football Games: Week 4
By Jonathan Hull

I improved a little in Week 3 with a 15-5 record, making me 44-16 so far this season. I missed out my upset picks, however.

There are some interesting lines in a week filled with great games. It's going to be difficult to decide what to spend most of my time watching Saturday night with Michigan-Notre Dame, Clemson-Florida State, Kansas State-Oklahoma, LSU-Auburn and Vanderbilt-Georgia all on at the same time. If ever there was a night I needed to be at a sports bar to watch college football, Saturday is it.

I'll be stuck in my office, though, working for the man. But who am I to complain? At least I have a TV in the office and I do report on sports for a living as well. With all these sports I watch, you'd think I would be a little better at my picks. Here's to a week of improvement:

1. No. 18 Michigan (2-1) at No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0)
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC
Last game: Michigan 63, Massachusetts 13; Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3
Last meeting/series: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 (2011); Michigan leads series 20-15-1.
Analysis: This is a very high profile rivalry and gains only more steam with Notre Dame off to its best start in quite some time. The Irish are making timely plays on offense, but have relied heavily on their defense, allowing just 30 points so far this season. Michigan is a different test, though, with Denard Robinson at quarterback. This is where we find out exactly how good the Notre Dame defense is. I personally think the Irish are in trouble. But even a three-game winning streak was a fun run. It's been a long time since Notre Dame has been even this relevant.
Prediction: Michigan 30, Notre Dame 20

2. No. 10 Clemson (3-0) at No. 4 Florida State (3-0)
Time/TV: 8 p.m. Saturday, ABC
Last game: Clemson 41, Furman 7; Florida State 52, Wake Forest 0
Last meeting/series: Clemson 35, Florida State 30 (2011); Florida State leads series 8-17.
Analysis: Florida State is a little overrated heading into this game. I'm not saying the Seminoles aren't worthy of their No. 4 ranking. It's the 14-point line that is bugging me about this game. I don't think Florida State is two touchdowns better than Clemson. The Tigers have actually had the bigger test of the two team, opening the year against Auburn. Florida State has played two FCS schools and Wake Forest. I know the Seminoles defense has given up just 3 points so far this season, but look at the competition. Clemson is going to put points on the board. Florida State's defense vs. Clemson's offense is a great matchup. I still think the Seminoles win, just not by 14 points.
Prediction: Florida State 30, Clemson 27

3. No. 15 Kansas State (3-0) at No. 6 Oklahoma (3-0)
Time/TV: 7:50 p.m. Saturday, FOX
Last game: Kansas State 35, North Texas 21; Oklahoma 69, Florida A&M 13
Last meeting/series: Oklahoma 58, Kansas State 17 (2011); Oklahoma leads series 70-17-4.
Analysis: It's often forgotten exactly how old this particular rivalry is, dating back to 1914. The Sooners have dominated the rivalry both historically and recently, winning eight of the last nine meetings. Kansas State's only win during that time came in the 2003 Big 12 Championship. The line on this one is also heavily lopsided with Oklahoma favored by 15 points. I can never bet that heavily against K-State QB Colin Klein -- the original Honey Badger. I do see Oklahoma pulling out a win in Norman, but I don't see it being a comfortable victory.
Prediction: Oklahoma 40, Kansas State 33

4. No. 22 Arizona (3-0) at No. 3 Oregon (3-0)
Time/TV: 10:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Last game: Arizona 56, South Carolina State 0; Oregon 63, Tennessee Tech 14
Last meeting/series: Oregon 56, Arizona 31 (2011);  Oregon leads series 23-14.
Analysis: Arizona has been one of the surprises of the Pac-12, but the Wildcats only quality victory was against Oklahoma State two weeks ago. Arizona took advantage of early opportunities and never let up off the Cowboys. The Wildcats will have to hope for similar early opportunities against Oregon. The Ducks have a different level of speed Arizona hasn't seen yet. This is a good opportunity for Ducks RB DeAnthony Thomas to further establish himself as a favorite for the Heisman.
Prediction: Oregon 48, Arizona 32

5. Missouri (2-1) at No. 7 South Carolina (3-0)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS
Last game: Missouri 24, Arizona State 20; South Carolina 49, UAB 6
Last meeting/series: Missouri 38, South Carolina 31 (2005 Independence Bowl); Missouri leads series 2-0.
Analysis: This is Missouri's second chance to establish itself as a threat to its new conference-mates. South Carolina gets QB Connor Shaw back, although he will be playing with a hairline fracture in his shoulder. That injury isn't limiting how he throws the ball, but could change how he runs the ball. Shaw's running ability is a major part of the SC offense, so his toughness is going to be tested. Missouri played Georgia tough for three quarters before finally giving up 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. I expect a similar situation this week with Marcus Lattimore and a tough SC D-line eventually wearing down the Tigers.
Prediction: South Carolina 27, Missouri 21

6. No. 2 LSU (3-0) at Auburn (1-2)
Time/TV: 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Last game: LSU 63, Idaho 14; Auburn 31, La-Monroe 28, OT
Last meeting/series: LSU 45, Auburn 10 (2011); LSU leads series 25-20-1.
Analysis: I said it before the season started -- Auburn was one of the most overrated teams in the nation. It's evident to everyone now that Auburn has lost to Clemson, been blown out by Mississippi State and barely managed to defeat Louisiana-Monroe. Now Auburn is asked to contend with LSU? This is a rivalry game where anything can happen, but it's a tall order to expect Auburn to keep pace with LSU even if the game is at Jordan-Hare.
Prediction: LSU 43, Auburn 20

7. Cal (1-2) at No. 13 USC (2-1)
Time/TV: 6 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network
Last game: Ohio State 35, Cal 28; Stanford 21, USC 14
Last meeting/series: USC 30, Cal 9 (2011); USC leads series 63-29-5.
Analysis: USC's offense has not lived up to expectations this season. That wasn't evident only in the Stanford loss, either. The Trojans have been inconsistent offensively against lesser opponents as well. There's never been a flow for them offensively. The Trojans own this rivalry with Cal in recent year, winning eight straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings. Cal put up a strong fight against Ohio State last week, and could do the same against the Trojans this week. Still can't see the Golden Bears coming away with an upset, though.
Prediction: USC 41, Cal 28

8. Vanderbilt (1-2) at No. 5 Georgia (3-0)
Time/TV: 7:45 p.m., ESPN2
Last game: Vanderbilt 58, Presbyterian 0; Georgia 56, Florida Atlantic 20
Last meeting/series: Georgia 33, Vanderbilt 28 (2011); Georgia leads series 51-15-2.
Analysis: Wins against the Bulldogs in the history of this rivalry have been few and far between for Vanderbilt. The Commodores have beaten Georgia once in the last 17 meetings. They did come close to an upset a season ago, though, and this isn't the traditionally weak Vandy squad Georgia has beaten up on for years. The Commodores had South Carolina on the ropes in the season opener, but couldn't pull out the win. My guess is Georgia will be sweating the outcome of this one at some point as well, but will still find a way to win.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 28

9. Miami (2-1) at Georgia Tech (2-1)
Time/TV: 3 p.m. Saturday, FSN Affiliates & ESPN Game Plan
Last game: Miami 38, Bethune-Cookman 10; Georgia Tech 56, Virginia 20
Last meeting/series: Miami 24, Georgia Tech 7 (2011); Georgia Tech leads series 10-7.
Analysis: This has been a back-and-forth rivalry since Miami joined the ACC. The two are 4-4 against each other since 2004, but Miami has won the last three. The Canes are still trying to re-establish the program and didn't fair well against tough competition earlier this season in a blowout loss to Kansas State. Georgia Tech should probably be both undefeated a ranked right now. I see the Yellow Jackets wearing the Canes down.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 38, Miami 24

10. Oregon State (1-0) at No. 19 UCLA (3-0)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC or ESPN2
Last game: Oregon State 10, Wisconsin 7; UCLA 37, Houston 6
Last meeting/series: UCLA 27, Oregon State 19 (2011); UCLA leads series 41-15-4.
Analysis: Oregon State pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the college football season so far, but hasn't played since its win against Wisconsin. Meanwhile, UCLA has established itself as a genuine threat in the Pac-12, while RB Johnathan Franklin is finally starting to get a bit of Heisman hype. With UCLA finally living up to its potential, Oregon State is far too young to pull off a second straight upset.
Prediction: UCLA 27, Oregon State 14

11. Utah (2-1) at Arizona State (2-1)
Time/TV: 10 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network
Last game: Utah 24, BYU 21; Missouri 24, Arizona State 20
Last meeting/series: Arizona State 35, Utah 14 (2011); Arizona State leads series 17-6.
Analysis: The college football scene in the state of Utah has been a hard one for me to figure out this season. Is Utah State really the best team in the Beehive State? After all the Utes lost to Utah State before beating BYU last week. That said, I think I might pick Arizona State to beat any of those teams as long as the game is being played at Sun Devil Stadium.
Prediction: Arizona State 28, Utah 26

12. Maryland (2-1) at No. 8 West Virginia (3-0)
Time/TV: Noon Saturday, FX
Last game: Connecticut 24, Maryland 21; West Virginia 42, James Madison 12
Last meeting/series: West Virginia 37, Maryland 31 (2011); West Virginia leads series 25-21-2.
Analysis: This is a historic rivalry, dating back to 1919, but it's been dominated by West Virginia recently. The Mountianeers have won six straight meetings against Maryland. The Terps also haven't played well this season. Barely beating William & Mary and Temple and losing to Connecticut last week. West Virginia, on the other hand, has been stellar with QB Geno Smith's Heisman and draft stock climbing considerably. This is the type of rivalry game where anything can happen, but it's this high on the list because of Smith. He's a player everyone should be eyeing right now.
Prediction: West Virginia 43, Maryland 24

13. Virginia (2-1) at No. 17 TCU (2-0)
Time/TV: Noon Saturday, ESPN
Last game: Georgia Tech 56, Virginia 20; TCU 20, Kansas 6
Last meeting/series: TCU 30, Virginia 14 (2009); The series is tied 1-1.
Analysis: The Horned Frogs weren't great in their Big 12 debut last week, but a win is a win, especially when it's a conference win. Virginia failed to get a conference win against Georgia Tech last week. In fact, the Cavs failed to even be competitive in the process. Even with that loss, I consider Virginia a dangerous opponent. TCU really needs to establish some continuity on offense, but I'm not sure if this is the week for it to happen.
Prediction: TCU 27, Virginia 17

14. Louisiana Tech (2-0) at Illinois (2-1)
Time/TV: 8 p.m. Saturday, Big Ten Network
Last game: Louisiana Tech 56, Rice 37; Illinois 44, Charleston Southern 0
Last meeting/series: This is the first meeting between the two programs.
Analysis: This game makes the list because of the upset possibilities. Louisiana Tech is a good mid-major opponent and Illinois looked suspect against Western Michigan. But QB Nathan Schellhaase should be back behind center for the Illini, which makes La. Tech's upset bid a little less realistic.
Prediction: Illinois 32, Loisiana Tech 20

15. Rutgers (3-0) at Arkansas (1-2)
Time/TV: 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
Last game: Rutgers 23, South Florida 13; Alabama 52, Arkansas 0
Last meeting/series: This is the first meeting between the two programs.
Analysis: Talk about a humbling start to the season. This year couldn't have started any worse for the Razorbacks after an upset at the hands of Louisiana-Monroe that was followed with an absolute throtling by Alabama. The Hogs do get QB Tyler Wilson back for this game, and his arrival couldn't come soon enough. Rutgers has played well so far this season with strong defensive efforts pacing the Scarlet Knights. However, they haven't come close to facing anything like Arkansas' offense when Wilson is healthy. Arkansas' season begins to turn around this week.
Prediction: Arkansas 42, Rutgers 24

16. Baylor (2-0) at Louisiana-Monroe (1-1)
Time/TV: 8 p.m. today, ESPN
Last game: Auburn 31, La-Monroe 28, OT; Baylor 48, Sam Houston State 23
Last meeting/series: This is the first meeting between the two programs.
Analysis: Imagine if Louisiana-Monroe had pulled off last week's upset against Auburn as well. The Warhawks could easily be in contention for a BCS bid by the end of the season, assuming they would have beaten Baylor as well and ran the table in the Sun Belt. But alas, no BCS busting this season. The Warhawks are not going to be taken lightly by Baylor, which is a bad thing for them. Kolton Browning has been stellar at QB for the Warhawks, and will keep this game high-scoring. Baylor's offense is still very capable of putting up a lot of points, though, and have to be the favorite if a shootout occurs.
Prediction: Baylor 46, La-Monroe 33

17. Fresno State (2-1) at Tulsa (2-1)
Time/TV: 8 p.m. Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Last game: Fresno State 69, Colorado 14; Tulsa 66, Nicholls State 16
Last meeting/series: Tulsa 31, Fresno State 24 (2005 Liberty Bowl); Fresno State leads series 4-1.
Analysis: Fresno State put on an offensive display in last week's win against Colorado. Tulsa is capable of doing the same thing. If you like offense, this is the game for you. I personally think Fresno State has more weapons, but winning on the road against Tulsa won't be easy.
Predictioin: Fresno State 49, Tulsa 48

18. Nevada (2-1) at Hawaii (1-1)
Time/TV: 10:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC Sports Network
Last game: Nevada 45, Northwestern State 34; Hawaii 54, Lamar 2
Last meeting/series: Nevada 42, Hawaii 28 (2011); The series is tied 7-7.
Analysis: This has been one of the best WAC matchups over the years, but now the rivalry makes its MWC debut. It's hard to say how good Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense is this season after the Warriors were dismantled by USC and then blew out lowly Lamar. Nevada, meanwhile, has a nice win against Cal and a narrow loss to South Florida. I feel like I know more about Nevada in this game. But talk about a matchup of gimmick offenses. The Pistol vs. the Run-and-Shoot. I'm taking the Pistol this week.
Prediction: Nevada 41, Hawaii 37

19. East Carolina (2-1) at North Carolina (1-2)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
Last game: ECU 24, Southern Miss 14; Louisville 39, North Carolina 34
Last meeting/series: North Carolina 35, ECU 20 (2011); North Carolina leads series 11-2-1.
Analysis: If North Carolina could start as strong as it finishes the Tarheels might be undefeated this season. Instead, they've fallen behind early to Wake Forest and Louisville the last two weeks and came up just short as a result. ECU isn't as good as either of those teams, but UNC can't be spotting anyone that many points. The Tarheels have too much talent to be 1-2 right now.
Prediction: North Carolina 33, ECU 14

20. New Mexico (1-2) at New Mexico State (1-2)
Time/TV: 8 p.m. Saturday, ESPN3.com
Last game: Texas Tech 49, New Mexico 14; UTEP 41, New Mexico State 28
Last meeting/series: New Mexico State 42, New Mexico 28 (2011); New Mexico leads series 66-31-5.
Analysis: Maybe it's not the sexiest rivalry out there, but the Rio Grande Rivalry dates back to 1894. I simply couldn't keep it off this list. Neither team is likely to figure into even the bowl picture this season, but there's a lot of pride in the state for this game. It's probably the most important game either team will play this year despite it being a non-conference affair. Neither team currently has a win against a FBS opponent. New Mexico has been blown out by Texas and Texas Tech, while New Mexico State was upended by Ohio and UTEP. New Mexico State currently has a three-game win streak in the series and I'm predictice it increases to four. Why? I'm simply picking the home team in a matchup of two bad squads.
Prediction: New Mexico State 21, New Mexico 20

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