BY DAVE MATTER • Post-Dispatch College Football Writer
Hopefully the buzz of college football’s start to the season hasn’t worn off — because this weekend features a weak slate of games without a single matchup between nationally ranked teams. That can only mean one thing: Things are going to get chaotic. Look out big favorites, Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. Somebody’s going on upset alert when you least expect it.
Let’s take another stab at picking some games:
SEMO AT MISSOURI
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m., SEC Network Alternate
Line: Missouri by 34
Quick Hit: The Tigers have dominated FCS opponents over the last two decades — though we haven’t forgotten those defensive hiccups two years ago against Missouri State — with an average margin of victory pushing 40 points. SEMO is one of the better FCS programs and reached the playoffs last year. The Redhawks feature the best defensive player in the FCS, linebacker Zach Hall, and the top returning quarterback in the Ohio Valley Conference, Daniel Santacaterina. None of which should matter when you’re an SEC team with visions of double-digit victories.
If this one’s within three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, that’s a red flag for Barry Odom’s team.
Matter's Pick: Missouri 48, SEMO 10
NO. 6 OHIO STATE AT INDIANA
Kickoff: 11 a.m., FOX
Line: Ohio State by 18
Quick Hit: The Buckeyes own this series and have won the last three meetings by 21, 28 and 23 points. Justin Fields continues his early Heisman Trophy push with his first Big Ten victory.
Matter's Pick: Ohio State 45, Indiana 20
STANFORD AT NO. 17 CENTRAL FLORIDA
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: UCF by 8 ½
Quick Hit: Tricky game here. UCF is an offensive juggernaut under Josh Heupel, no matter who he plays at quarterback. Stanford hasn’t played with its usual grit on defense but should get a boost with the return of quarterback K.J. Costello, back from a head injury. This a long cross-country trip for the Cardinal. The sun will be scorching in Orlando, where the Knights haven’t lost since 2016. Meanwhile, Stanford is just 6-6 in road games the last two-plus seasons.
Matter's Pick: UCF 34, Stanford 31
KANSAS STATE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
Kickoff: 11 a.m., ESPN
Line: Mississippi State by 7 ½
Quick Hit: The Bulldogs dominated this Big 12/SEC showdown last year in the Little Apple and should do the same back at home. The Wildcats have scored 101 points through two weeks, but that came against Nicholls State and Bowling Green.
Matter's Pick: Mississippi State 35, Kansas State 24
NO. 24 USC AT BYU
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m., ABC
Line: USC by 4 ½
Quick Hit: USC sacked athletics director Lynn Swann this week and coach Clay Helton could be next — but not if the Trojans keep winning. BYU is riding high after rallying at Tennessee, but as shaky as USC might look at times, it’s not the dysfunctional mess that is Tennessee. Trojans freshman QB Kedon Slovis gets it done again.
Matter's Pick: USC 28, BYU 23
NO. 2 ALABAMA AT SOUTH CAROLINA
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Alabama by 25 ½
Quick Hit: The last time these teams met in Columbia, S.C., the Steves pulled off one of the SEC’s biggest upsets of the last decade in 2010 — Steve Spurrier and Stephen Garcia — when the Gamecocks toppled the top-ranked Crimson Tide. There aren’t many logical reasons to expect history to repeat itself, especially with South Carolina starting a freshman quarterback in Ryan Hilinski. Good luck, kid. South Carolina has lost five straight SEC home openers and it’s going to be six by Saturday evening, though Alabama is just 4-4 against the spread in its last eight games as a road favorite.
Matter's Pick: Alabama 41, South Carolina 13
NO. 19 IOWA AT IOWA STATE
Kickoff: 3 p.m., FS1
Line: Iowa by 2 ½
Quick Hit: Ames, Iowa, becomes the center of the college football universe, at least for one day, as ESPN’s “College GameDay” will descend on the ISU campus for the first time in the show’s history. Good for Ames. Cyclone fans will embrace the rare spotlight … then watch their in-state rival win a typically low-scoring but competitive game between two strong defensive teams. Since 2013, the Hawkeyes are 15-2-1 against the spread as a road favorite.
Matter's Pick: Iowa 20, Iowa State 17
NO. 9 FLORIDA AT KENTUCKY
Kickoff: 6 p.m., ESPN
Line: Florida by 8
Quick Hit: Kentucky finally snapped its centuries old losing streak to the Gators last year. OK, so UK hadn’t beaten Florida since 1986, but it felt so much longer. Now comes the hard part: The Cats haven’t won two straight in the series since 1976-77. They’ll have to do it without starting quarterback Terry Wilson, done for the season with a knee injury. In steps Sawyer Smith, a transfer who went 5-2 as Troy’s starter last fall.
Matter's Pick: Florida 27, Kentucky 21
Season: 14-6 straight up, 7-13 against the spread
FLORIDA STATE AT NO. 25 VIRGINIA
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m., ACC Network
Line: Virginia by 7
Quick Hit: The Cavaliers are a rare favorite over the once-mighty Seminoles, who so far have blown a big lead and lost to Boise State and needed Louisiana-Monroe to miss a PAT to survive in overtime. Virginia’s no joke. Learn the name Bryce Perkins, UVA’s true dual threat quarterback. Lose this one and FSU will be in danger of missing a bowl for the second straight year.
Matter's Pick: Virginia 28, Florida State 20
NO. 1 CLEMSON AT SYRACUSE
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m., ABC
Line: Clemson by 27½
Quick Hit: That’s a big number. Clemson hasn’t exactly played to its potential this year and Syracuse just got hammered at Maryland. But nobody’s played the Tigers tougher the past two years than Dino Babers’ Orange. Don’t expect an upset at the Carrier Dome, but the 'Cuse will stay within four touchdowns.
Matter's Pick: Clemson 44, Syracuse 24
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS
Matter's Mizzou pick: Tigers 28, West Virginia 24 (Mizzou favored by 14)
Mizzou outcome: Mizzou 38, West Virginia 7
Matter overall: 8-2 straight up, 4-6 against the spread
All picks straight up: 14-6
Dave Matter vs. the spread: 7-13