College Football Picks: ‘Noles, Spartans More Than Spoilers

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

It is way too early in the season to relegate Florida State and Michigan State to the role of spoilers.

The Seminoles and Spartans go into rivalry games this Saturday against No. 13 Miami and No. 7 Michigan as underdogs. In the case of Michigan State, a pretty big underdog. Derailing a great season by an in-state rival is pretty good motivation, but all the focus on the ranked teams makes it easy to overlook what is still in play for the ‘Noles and Spartans.

The Seminoles’ bizarre 0-2 start included a loss to Alabama, a season-ending injury to their quarterback and two off weeks because of a hurricane. A national championship run is probably gone, and even hopes for a conference title would be remote with one more loss. But if the Seminoles can extend their winning streak against Miami to eight, which would be a series record for either side, and maybe the idea of Florida State threatening No. 2 Clemson in the ACC doesn’t sound so crazy.

For Michigan State, a sloppy loss to Notre Dame has been a blemish on an otherwise encouraging start for a team that went 3-9 in 2016. Even with last season’s loss to Michigan, the Spartans have won seven of nine in the series. It is still to be determined if coach Jim Harbaugh has flipped this rivalry back to blue. A victory by Michigan State would make the Big Ten East race with Penn State and Ohio State even more interesting.

The picks:

THURSDAY SHOWCASE

No. 17 Louisville (minus 4) at No. 24 North Carolina State

Wolfpack would be Clemson’s top challenger in ACC Atlantic with a victory … N.C. STATE 30-27, UPSET SPECIAL.

SATURDAY MAIN EVENT

No. 23 West Virginia (plus 13) at No. 8 TCU

Horned Frogs have only four Big 12 home games, and Oklahoma and Kansas State on the road. A slip at home would be a major hit to conference title chances … TCU 35-27.

RIVALRY GAMES

Michigan State (plus 10) at No. 7 Michigan

John O’Korn takes over at quarterback for the Wolverines. He provided a spark against Purdue … MICHIGAN 20-16

No. 13 Miami (minus 3) at Florida State

Hurricanes have come up just short in the last three meetings. Time is right to get over this hurdle … MIAMI 27-20.

STAYING UNBEATEN

No. 1 Alabama (minus 26) at Texas A&M

Vandy talked (a little) smack and Ole Miss (supposedly) thought it had Alabama’s number; the Aggies would be wise to take extra care not to poke the bear — even inadvertently … ALABAMA 42-21.

Wake Forest (plus 21 ½) at No. 2 Clemson

Demon Deacons have a salty defense, but the Tigers have won eight straight meetings … CLEMSON 34-10.

Iowa State (plus 28) at No. 3 Oklahoma

Sooners have won 18 straight against the Cyclones, who have one victory in the series dating to 1962 … OKLAHOMA 48-17.

No. 4 Penn State (minus 15) at Northwestern

Wildcats won the last two meetings in 2014 and ’15, but this is a far better Nittany Lions team … PENN STATE 35-17.

No. 5 Georgia (minus 17 ½) at Vanderbilt

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart says QB Jacob Eason will be given a chance in practice to regain his starting job from freshman Jake Fromm … GEORGIA 28-13.
California (plus 27 ½) at No. 6 Washington

Huskies have held 19 straight opponents under 30 points … WASHINGTON 45-14.

No. 9 Wisconsin (minus 11 ½) at Nebraska

Huge game for the Cornhuskers if this season is to become more than a Mike Riley hot-seat watch … WISCONSIN 24-17.

No. 11 Washington State (minus 2 ½) at Oregon

Ducks lost QB Justin Herbert to a shoulder injury last week. Still, the Cougars’ first road game of the season could be tricky … WASHINGTON STATE 28-24.

No. 19 San Diego State (minus 10 ½) at UNLV

Aztecs have won 11 straight against their West Division rivals in the Mountain West … SAN DIEGO STATE 35-21, BEST BET.

No. 25 UCF (minus 17) at Cincinnati

From winless in 2015 to ranked by October 2017 is quite a turnaround for the Knights under coach Scott Frost … UCF 38-17.

Stanford (minus 6) at No. 20 Utah

Cardinal RB Bryce Love leads nation with 14 runs of at least 30 yards; next two players on the list have 16 combined. Utes have second-best rushing D in Pac-12 …

STANFORD 27-23.

CONFERENCE CALLS

Maryland (plus 30 ½) at No. 10 Ohio State

Terps have won games with three different starting quarterbacks … OHIO STATE 42-17.

Mississippi (plus 21) at No. 12 Auburn

Rebels already showing some signs of checking out on this bowl-banned season … AUBURN 41-17.

Oregon State (plus 34) at No. 14 Southern California

Trojans could really use one of those rest-the-starters-in-the-fourth-quarter blowouts … USC 52-14.

No. 16 Virginia Tech (minus 16 ½) at Boston College

Hokies have won the last two meetings by a combined 75-10 … VIRGINIA TECH 34-14.

LSU (plus 3) at No. 21 Florida

Panic has already set in Death Valley, five games into coach Ed Orgeron’s five-year contract … FLORIDA 28-21.

No. 21 Notre Dame (minus 13 ½) at North Carolina

Irish could feast on Tar Heels lousy run defense, ranked 109th in the country … NOTRE DAME 42-20.

TWITTER REQUESTS

Kansas State (plus 3 ½) at Texas — @BlatantHomerism

On the way to restoring the glory at Texas, Tom Herman and the Longhorns have to figure out how to regularly beat K-State; Wildcats have won seven of last nine meetings … KANSAS STATE 24-21.

Air Force (plus 7 ½) at Navy — @GoalieLax

The option teams have combined for 76 passes thrown this season. Should be a quick game … NAVY 28-23.

Minnesota (plus 3 ½) at Purdue — @TheMitchTucker

Two promising new Big Ten coaches and potentially a big swing game for both when it comes to getting bowl eligible … PURDUE 31-24.

SMU (plus 6 ½) at Houston — @Hey_TW1

Mustangs trying for two straight wins against Cougars for the first time since the mid-1980s … SMU 34-30.

___
Record last week: 15-5 straight up; 14-6 against the spread.
Record this season: 85-25 straight up; 40-56-3 against the spread.
Upset specials: 2-3 (straight up).
Best bets: 3-1 (vs. points).
___
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
___
More college football coverage: http://collegefootball.ap.org/ and http://www.Twitter.com/AP_Top25

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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