Most of the experts picked Florida State to win the ACC championship this season. Some people, including master prognosticator Phil Steele, picked Florida to finish first in the SEC East for a third straight season.
No one thought Clemson and South Carolina would be favored by a combined 21 points (give or take) over their Sunshine State rivals on Saturday.
But it’s a Palmetto-lined trend down an orange blossom trail:
— The Gamecocks can get to 7-3 Saturday with a win over the hapless Gators, maybe sealing a ticket to a Florida bowl game for Will Muschamp, the former Florida head coach.
— Clemson can clinch another trip to the ACC Championship Game at reeling Florida State’s expense.
— South Carolina, 8-26-3 against Florida, has been favored only three times against the Gators: 2011, 2013 and this week. But the Gamecocks have won four of the last six.
— Clemson is 10-20 against Florida State but has won two in a row and is favored for the fifth time in the last nine meetings (2009, 2011, 2015, 2016 and now).
Which is why Warren Peper and I agree on a few Pigskin Picks things this week (but not on Georgia-Auburn).
Week 11, here already:
Florida State at Clemson
Clemson was outgained just once in 2015 (Notre Dame) and 2016 (Louisville) but three times so far this year (Virginia Tech, Syracuse, N.C. State). Good news: 4-1 in those games.
Gene Sapakoff pick: Clemson, 31-20
Warren Peper pick: Clemson, 35-17
Florida at South Carolina
It would be interesting to hear Gamecocks offensive coordinator Kurt Roper talk about the challenges of creative play-calling while protecting a franchise quarterback with no capable backups. But he isn’t talking.
Sapakoff pick: South Carolina, 30-12
Peper pick: South Carolina, 26-20
The Citadel at Furman
Six straight wins for the Paladins. It looks like Furman nailed the hire of first-year head coach Clay Hendrix, a longtime Air Force assistant who was smart enough to get defensive coordinator Chad Staggs from Charleston Southern.
Sapakoff pick: Furman, 28-14
Peper pick: Furman, 21-14
CSU at Kennesaw State
Tyler Tekac (Goose Creek High School) kicked a game-winning, 43-yard field goal as time expired in Charleston Southern’s 10-9 victory at Gardner-Webb last week. One touchdown probably won’t suffice against the 8-1 Owls.
Sapakoff pick: Kennesaw State, 23-13
Peper pick: Kennesaw State, 24-10
Hampton at S.C. State
The Bulldogs, 2-6 and having the worst season since Buddy Pough took over as head coach in 2002, have lost three straight games.
Sapakoff pick: S.C. State, 20-17
Peper pick: Hampton, 40-28
Troy at Coastal Carolina
The Chanticleers (1-8) have this annoying habit of playing better in tough road environments (close losses Oct. 21 at Appalachian State and last week at Arkansas) than against mediocre Sun Belt Conference foes at home.
Sapakoff pick: Troy, 31-21
Peper pick: Troy, 28-21
Georgia at Auburn
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry figures to come down to a run/stop-the-run battle featuring Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson and Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Georgia leads the series 57-55-8. Most of the games from 1916-1958 were played in Columbus, Ga.
Sapakoff pick: Auburn, 28-27
Peper pick: Georgia, 28-24
Alabama at Mississippi State
Nick Fitzgerald is the kind of dual threat quarterback that can give the Crimson Tide trouble.
Sapakoff pick: Alabama, 27-17
Peper pick: Alabama, 35-20
Notre Dame at Miami
Mark Richt deserves strong national coach of the year consideration for what he’s done at Miami, with extra credit given for the talent he left at Georgia.
Sapakoff pick: Notre Dame, 33-27
Peper pick: Notre Dame, 30-24
Texas Christian at Oklahoma
It’s Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s Heisman Trophy to lose.
Sapakoff pick: Oklahoma, 38-35
Peper pick: Oklahoma, 50-46
Gene Sapakoff 8-3, Warren Peper 8-3
Gene Sapakoff 75-24, Warren Peper 73-26
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff