By Todd Helmick
NationalChamps.net Owner & Operator

* NOTE: NationalChamps.net is not a gambling site. We do not encourage the use of any such practice by any organization or individual as set forth by NCAA rules. Picks of The Week is strictly for recreational purposes in an effort to test our knowledge.

August 30, 2003

Georgia -2.5 over Clemson
Wisconsin -3 over West Virginia
Virginia Tech -20 over UCF

Georgia (-2.5) over Clemson

This one may catch the average college football follower off guard. Just how can a Top 10 team like Georgia be favored by so little over a Clemson team still trying to find an identity from 2002's 7-6 record (culminating in a 15-55 Tangerine Bowl bashing by Texas Tech)? Maybe the odds makers know something the pollsters don't. The reasoning has to be in that Georgia is still suffering from off-the-field suspensions and the loss of starting DE Will Thompson due to a season ending injury. Too, the Dawgs must replace the entire offensive line. The problem is Clemson doesn't appear to be a major defensive threat (once again) with only four starters back. Teams were successful at pushing around the undersized Clemson front to the tune of 158 ground yards per game (60th in I-A) in 2002. Clemson LB John Leake appears to be the only real stud out of this front seven, and since the arrival of Tommy Bowden, Clemson has not shown the ability to stop many teams. Heisman QB David Greene will keep any opponent on their heels. Granted last season's opener between these two proved quite a tussle 'Between The Hedges', and this one is in Death Valley. The odd man out in this formula is Clemson QB Charlie Whitehurst, now that Willie Simmons has transferred. Only a sophomore, Whitehurst shows promise and he has a stable of WRs to choose from. It boils down to Georgia either being overrated or just getting overlooked due to the low number of starters back. But don't sell the Dawg's talent short, regardless of experience. They have prime time talent. That's why they sit so high in early polls without a proven OL. If this spread is truly less than a field goal, someone royally goofed in the preseason polls. Our Lou Groza predicted winner, kicker Billy Bennett, is good for the three points.


Wisconsin (-3) over West Virginia

If NationalChamps.net had such a thing as "Lock of The Week", this one would qualify. Growing up not far from Morgantown, it has been easy for me to follow the Mountaineers on the tube and in person. With it comes a ton of friends/fans that regularly join with me dating back to the early 1980's. With that said, WVU lost the kitchen sink after 2002. Don't look at last season's upstart because Coach Rich Rodriguez has his hands full. WVU has QB Rasheed Marshall, TB Quincy Wilson, and WR Miquelle Henderson...but the buck stops there. The Mountaineer OL is one huge question mark. If you believe that is the real concern, think again - the front seven on the other side of the ball brings back one, and a good one, in LB Grant Wiley. An easy prediction at this point would be noting that TB Anthony Davis starts his Heisman campaign by rattling off a 150-yard plus performance. Badger QB Jim Sorgi will keep a fairly decent WVU secondary on their heels just enough to keep them from crowding the box. When you look at the key 2003 losses for WVU, this early statistic tells the whole story. We've heard some folks that have been in the business a long time claim Wisconsin has a great shot at winning the Big Ten outright with a whopping 16 starters back. I recall listening to this game on the radio last year in early September at Camp Randall. After a 34-3 half time score I turned it off. Similar truth this year -look for Wisconsin to do much the same again, if not worse.


Virginia Tech -20 over UCF

No doubt the Hokies win this one - outright. This game could, however, come down to the wire in terms of covering those 20 points as VT subs start to rotate in once ahead. The good news here is that fans will finally get to see the debut of Marcus Vick. Therefore, the possibility of subs may not be such good news for a tired UCF defense. The bottom line will be the 'Blacksburg Effect', the locale where these two will open up their 2003 campaign. UCF QB Ryan Schneider is 'All That' - he is the active national leader in current touchdown passes (69). VT will counter with possibly the best lock down corner in all of college football - DeAngelo Hall and his sub-4.3 forty speed. After looking at last year's 8-0 eye-popping Hokie opening run, one has to wonder if subsequent defensive injuries had anything to do with VT's inability to stop the run as the season ended. It should be noted they are healthy right now. UCF will likely not offer much of a running threat at this time. The Golden Knight offensive front has its share of departures, and most of the replacements are exceptionally green. When VT has the ball, UCF counters with the third best defense in the 2002 MAC. It doesn't help matters that two of UCF's defensive directors are no longer with the team - sack leader DE Rashad Jeanty, who left for football in Canada, and FSU-transfer LB Chad Moscoe. On paper, this one spells a 42-7-type of drubbing, and VT can then start to make its claim (once again) for national prominence. Bank on VT scoring at least one special teams touchdown. This dimension will least of all set up descent field position all day long, and that usually spells trouble in Lane Stadium.