The Swami

Predictions 101 – Week 3


Against all odds, we’re still rolling.  Our friends in the Nevada desert remain impressed.  In Week 2, we went 9-2-1 versus “the number” and 9-3 straight-up.

For the young season, we’re sitting at 19-3-1 (one game wasn’t on the board) and 18-6.

That’s all fine and dandy.  But it’s also in the past.  We kind of feel like Oklahoma. Something bad is about to happen.

TOP 10 GAMES (Thurs., Sept. 15 thru Sat., Sept. 17)

1) No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State
Sat., Sept. 17 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Taking Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern apart by a combined score of 96-10 is one thing.  Hosting the top-ranked team in the nation is entirely another.

Quarterback E.J. Manuel is in the spotlight for the Seminole upset effort, but he’ll need to receive a great deal of support from the Florida State running game, which has yet to develop an identity.

Expect the Seminole defense to offer much more resistance to Landry Jones and his high-tempo offense this time around.  Last year, the Sooner quarterback did as he pleased versus FSU, completing 30-of-40 for 380 yards and four scores, but that was in Norman where the home team has won 37 straight.  Road games have been much more of a challenge for the Sooners, who are just 3-5 with Jones taking the snaps.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 3

The pick: Florida State 28-24

Final: Oklahoma 23-13

2) No. 3 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State
Thurs., Sept. 15 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

The week-prior activity involving both teams is significantly unequal.  While the Bulldogs were slugging it out in a 41-34 loss at Auburn, the Bayou Bengals were coasting to a 49-3 victory at home over Northwestern State.

Since many of its starters didn’t play in the second half against the Demons, LSU will be much more rested than Mississippi State, which also may be without a pair of starting offensive linemen who picked up injuries at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

We figure that since the Tigers were able to handle Oregon’s supped spread offense, they’ll be able to keep tabs on Mississippi State’s version of the spread.

When they switch sides, LSU’s rugged ground attack, featuring Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, should flourish against the Bulldogs’ accommodating run defense.

Opening point spread: LSU by 4 1/2

The pick: LSU 31-21

Final: LSU 19-6

3) No. 17 Ohio State at Miami (Fla.)
Sat., Sept. 17 — 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

This clash of football programs facing impending doom and shackled with various suspension calendars is being called the “Ineligi Bowl.”  We want t-shirts.

It’s a second opener of sorts for the Hurricanes, since they had last week off and are welcoming back a host of previously suspended players, including quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence.

Ohio State, which is getting some players back from two-game suspensions while others remain on the shelf, nearly got upset by Toledo last week.  If not for the Rockets’ self-destructive nature, the Buckeyes could have very easily dropped their first game to an in-state opponent since 1921.

The question is if that close call versus Toledo merely serves notice of what needs to be fixed or if it seriously shines light on the current frailties associated to the program.

Opening point spread: Miami by 3

The pick: Miami 24-17

Final: Miami 24-6

4) Tennessee at No. 16 Florida
Sat., Sept. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Remember when this was one of the main event attractions in the SEC?  With the help of new blood in each corner, it’ll get back there in a couple years.

We’re pleased to see Charlie Weis back doing the sort of stuff that he was born to do.  It doesn’t hurt to have quarterback John Brantley and running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to work with, but you gotta give the guy credit.

Tennessee’s super sophomore trio of quarterback Tyler Bray and wideouts Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers has our attention as well, and Derek Dooley has done an admirable job of cleaning up the mess left behind by Lane Kiffin, but there’s still much work to be done.

The Vols won’t be able to break their losing streak against the Gators, especially this year in Gainesville.  The slide will stretch to seven games.

Opening point spread: Florida by 8 1/2

The pick: Florida 27-24

Final: Florida 33-23

5) No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame
Sat., Sept. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Last Saturday, the Spartans limited Florida Atlantic to just one first down and 48 yards of total offense during a 44-0 victory.  Later that evening, the Fighting Irish were being much more generous in their game at Michigan.  For instance, Notre Dame allowed the Wolverines 80 yards and a touchdown within the last 30 seconds to pull off a come-from-ahead 35-31 loss.

Defense, however, isn’t Brian Kelly’s biggest problem.  Turnovers are.  The Irish have given the football away five times in each of their first two games, which helped negate offensive outputs in excess of 500 yards each time, leading directly to defeat.

It’s hard to go against Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio, who made that huge fake field goal call in last year’s meeting and is 3-1 against Notre Dame, and his quarterback, Kirk Cousins, who is completing nearly 80 percent of his passes and taking good care of the football.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 5

The pick: Michigan State 24-23

Final: Notre Dame 31-13

6) Utah at Brigham Young
Sat., Sept. 17 — 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The only thing worse than Ute quarterback Jordan Wynn’s mechanics last week in the 17-14 or 23-14 loss at USC was the performance of the Pac-12 officials.  It doesn’t take a medically trained eye to tell that Wynn’s surgically repaired shoulder isn’t anywhere close to 100 percent (or at least he doesn’t fully trust it yet).

In any case, Utah needs Wynn to be on his game if it hopes to trade punches with BYU’s offense led by quarterback Jake Heaps, who was 22-of-38 for 192 yards and a touchdown (with two INTs) in last week’s 17-16 loss at Texas, despite no threat of a Cougar running game.

The earliest of the 87 meetings in the “Holy War” series will be tight.  The Cougars have a distinct edge in special teams, which will prove to be quite valuable.

Opening point spread: BYU by 6 1/2

The pick: BYU 26-24

Final: Utah 54-10

7) Washington at No. 11 Nebraska
Sat., Sept. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

They were supposedly playing the same Husky team, but the results were so vastly different.  Last September, Nebraska wiped out Washington, 56-21, piling up 533 yards of total offense and completely discombobulating Husky quarterback Jake Locker (4-of-20 for just 71 yards, with two INTs).  Such was not the case in a rematch three months later, when the Cornhuskers were nearly shutout in a 19-7 loss in the Holiday Bowl.

Both teams enter this rubber match at 2-0, following a pair of less-than-satisfying victories at home.  Washington’s wins over Eastern Washington (30-27) and Hawaii (40-32) haven’t answered many of the burning questions surrounding the team.  Nebraska’s victories over Chattanooga (40-7) and Fresno State (42-29) were equally inconclusive.

Sophomore Keith Price, the new Husky quarterback, has a bit of experience playing in a hostile environment.  He made his first collegiate start last season in the big rivalry game at Oregon.  His stats weren’t bad (14-of-28 for 127 yards and a touchdown), but they came within an ugly 53-16 loss.

If both teams perform somewhat up to their capabilities, which didn’t occur in either game last season, the home-team Huskers should prevail.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 18 1/2

The pick: Nebraska 31-20

Final: Nebraska 51-38

8)No. 18 West Virginia at Maryland
Sat., Sept. 17 — noon ET, ESPNU

Where has the Mountaineer running game disappeared to? Was that really West Virginia that was held to just 46 yards on 26 carries in the season opener versus Marshall?  Really?  Yikes.

The output improved slightly against Norfolk State the following week (102 yards on 33 carries), but that’s only because it couldn’t possibly get any worse.

That kind of meager output on the ground won’t allow the Mountaineers the opportunity to keep pace with the Terrapin offense that gobbled up 28 first downs and 499 total yards against Miami (Fla.), it’s only game so far this season.

Opening point spread: Maryland by 2

The pick: Maryland 32-28

Final: West Virginia 37-31

9) No. 21 Auburn at Clemson
Sat., Sept. 17 — noon ET, ABC

We play college fantasy football and the only thing more ridiculous than that is the fact that the Clemson defense is an option on our roster.  Games against the likes of Troy and Wofford are why we kept the Tigers around (yes, keeper league … I know, so sick).  But after allowing the Trojans to rack up 423 total yards, followed by the Terriers’ 399, Clemson’s defense is no longer amongst us.

Auburn’s defense is leaky too, but the wrong Tigers are favored in this one.  Everyone (including us last week) keeps waiting for the defending champs to have their streak snapped (17 consecutive wins), but they keep rising to the occasion.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 4

The pick: Auburn 34-31

Final: Clemson 38-24

10) No. 24 Texas at UCLA
Sat., Sept. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

The last time the Longhorns were the Longhorns was the last time they lined up against the Bruins on Sept. 25, 2010.  When that was all over and No. 7 Texas had absorbed an entirely improbable 34-12 loss to UCLA at home, the slippery slope was born and the Longhorns went on to drop six of their last eight.

Although the current campaign has Texas at 2-0 and back in the national rankings, there’s still rough going.  Garrett Gilbert has been sacked as the starting quarterback, in favor of youngsters Case McCoy and David Ash.

Things are worse in Westwood, where nothing of note has happened since the aforementioned upset in Austin.

In what might be a conference matchup in future years, the Longhorns will receive more fan support in the Rose Bowl than the Bruins.

Opening point spread: Texas by 3 1/2

The pick: Texas 26-17

Final: Texas 49-20


Pittsburgh at Iowa
Sat., Sept. 17 — noon ET, ESPN2

Panther coach Todd Graham would have much preferred that the Hawkeyes didn’t get upended by Iowa State last Saturday in overtime.  With only unimpressive home wins over Buffalo (35-16) and Maine (35-29) under his belt, Graham can’t feel too good about hitting the road to play an angry Iowa squad.

Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri hasn’t been sharp executing the offense so far this season, but after watching what Iowa State’s Steele Jantz did last week, he’ll have high hopes for a breakthrough.

We just don’t think that’ll happen at Kinnick Stadium.  Sunseri will have to wait until the following week against Notre Dame’s generous secondary.

Opening point spread: Iowa by 3

The pick: Iowa 31-20

Final: Iowa 31-27

Presbyterian at California
Sat., Sept. 17 — 5:30 p.m. ET

Actually, you should definitely ignore this game.  It’s just that we can’t.

What in the world are the Golden Bears doing scheduling this sort of matchup?

The Blue Hose (yes, that’s their nickname) are on a roll, having beaten North Greenville, 38-21, last Saturday.  But that’s just their third victory since Nov. 1, 2008.

Opening point spread: N/A

The pick: California 45-13

Final: California 63-12

Week 3 record: 7-5
Total: 25-11

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

Markell Jones
AP Photo

It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

Associated Press

Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.