The College Picks: Kansas no match for potent West Virginia attack

September 22, 2017 GMT

Picking college football games can be a frustrating endeavor. Two of last week’s selections came up a point short of covering, and underdog Tennessee tied Florida late only to lose on a Hail Mary as time ran out.

But tough beats are part of the game, and the best way to get back on track is to find a favorite that is playing well and facing an inferior opponent. This week, that favorite is 2-1 West Virginia, which is not in the Top 25 but is the first team in the “others receiving votes” category.

Quarterback Will Grier is off to a terrific start. He nearly led the Mountaineers to an upset of Virginia Tech in Week 1, throwing for 371 yards and three touchdowns. Then he used routs of East Carolina and Delaware State to sharpen his command of the offense.

Next up is the Big 12 opener, a road date tomorrow against Kansas, which has given up 87 points the past two weeks in losses to MAC cupcakes Central Michigan and Ohio. Neither of those teams has beaten another FBS opponent this season.

The Jayhawks defense is terrible, and Grier will exploit it using talented receivers Gary Jennings and David Sills, who have combined for 41 catches, 629 yards and six touchdowns. West Virginia, favored by 21 points, should be able to score 60 in this one. Even if Kansas gets in the end zone two or three times, the Mountaineers will cover in a blowout.

In other games:


Tennessee (-271/2) vs. UMass — Think the Vols are angry after losing in gut-wrenching fashion to Florida? UMass kept it relatively close against three SEC opponents last season, but this team is awful, already losing to should-be Div. 2 teams Old Dominion and Coastal Carolina. Tennessee will dominate in the trenches and pound the ball with John Kelly on the way to a rout at home.

Central Florida (+4) at Maryland — The Terrapins’ win against Texas looks good on paper, but the Longhorns made a ton of mistakes in that game, and their defense was nonexistent. The Knights haven’t played since Aug. 31 because of Hurricane Irma, so they might be rusty out of the gate, but quarterback McKenzie Milton is a dynamic player, and they have the best defense Maryland has seen. UCF will win outright.

Duke (-21/2) at North Carolina — This hardly is the basketball version of the rivalry, but it should be a fun, competitive ACC game. Tar Heels redshirt freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt will struggle against an underrated Duke defense, which has completely shut down the run during the team’s 3-0 start. Daniel Jones and the Blue Devils will pull away in the fourth quarter.

Purdue (+10) vs. Michigan — Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm has taken his successful offensive scheme from Western Kentucky and translated it to a 2-1 start, nearly upsetting Louisville in the process. No. 8 Michigan has three double-digit wins, but the offense has scuffled, scoring only one touchdown and eight field goals in 10 trips inside the red zone. Ten points is too much in what should be a tight Big Ten opener.

Mississippi State (+4) at Georgia — Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback, No. 17 Mississippi State has a chance to be the second-best team in the SEC, and No. 11 Georgia is its first big test. An excellent defensive front will challenge Georgia freshman QB Jake Fromm all afternoon. The coaching battle is a giant mismatch, with Dan Mullen leaps and bounds ahead of Kirby Smart.

Florida at Kentucky (under 44) — The total is low for good reason. Both teams have strong run defenses, and both offenses have had a hard time throwing the ball. The Wildcats, who have won 10 of their past 14 games, might actually end their 30-year losing streak against the No. 20 Gators, but one thing is for certain: This will be an ugly, grinding game.

Oregon (-14) at Arizona State — The No. 24 Ducks are flying high once again, led by quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Royce Freeman, who has rushed for at least 150 yards in all three games. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have allowed 113 total points against New Mexico State, San Diego State and Texas Tech. Oregon might score 70.

Last week: 3-5

Season: 12-11