You won’t have a lot of top-quality games to see on Saturday, but the three best ones on the board are all marquee attractions. Two involve the SEC, one a clash of Northern powers.
South Carolina Gamecocks @ Georgia Bulldogs
Odds: Georgia -3.5
This game feels extremely volatile, but in the end, the home team should have the edge. South Carolina consistently underperformed on the road in 2012, and while that’s not a guarantee of future performance, it certainly is a strong indicator. South Carolina – especially its offense and even more particularly its starting quarterback, Connor Shaw – has to show that it can deliver the goods in a big situation within the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina won at Clemson last year, and that was certainly an achievement, but doing something of note within the SEC on the road has proven rather elusive for the Gamecocks in recent seasons. Georgia did lose last week, but losing by three at Clemson – a really good team with a lot of extremely talented players – is not something to be ashamed of. Georgia will bounce back. Having been battle tested by Clemson, it will get the jump on South Carolina and win this game by seven to 10 points.
Pick: Georgia -3.5
Florida Gators @ Miami Hurricanes
Odds: Florida -3
This is a game that is likely to be dominated by the defenses. Neither the Gators nor the Hurricanes showed much of any offensive prowess in sluggish week one openers. Yes, Miami has a world-class running back in Duke Johnson, but the Hurricanes are just not that imposing on the offensive line, and they don’t have the quarterback (Stephen Morris) who is likely to be able to compensate for that deficiency on the line. Miami is going to rely on Johnson for its offense, but without enough balance and the line play that can make a balanced attack possible, Florida’s defense – which was exceptionally good in 2012 and returns a lot of quality this season – should be able to feast on the Hurricanes. Florida knows how to win with a ball-control formula and a small margin for error on offense. This doesn’t feel like a blowout, but it does feel like a game that Florida will be able to gain control of with its depth in the third and fourth quarters. The Gators will win by 14 to 17 points after a close first half. Take them to cover the football spread.
Pick: Florida -3
Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Michigan Wolverines
Odds: Michigan -3.5
This is a game in which the quarterbacks won’t be the best players on the field… but will nevertheless be the biggest keys for both teams. Tommy Rees of Notre Dame and Devin Gardner of Michigan have so much to prove to themselves and their teammates. They have not shown that they can be big-time starting signal callers. Rees was good as a backup to Everett Golson last season, and Gardner showed flashes of brilliance in the Outback Bowl versus South Carolina. He has yet to handle the grind of the regular season, and Notre Dame’s defense will test him. Ultimately, Rees’ propensity to turn the ball over is a glaring concern for the Fighting Irish. He is more likely to implode than Gardner. Take Michigan on the betting lines here.
Pick: Michigan -3.5