Predictions 101 – Week 3

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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

TWO MORE YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE

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

Suspended LSU player facing felony burglary charge

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And now we know a little more of the rest of the story.

Wednesday, LSU announced that Adrian Magee had been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  The stated reason?  Unspecified violations of team rules.

Not surprisingly, word subsequently surfaced that the offensive lineman had become entangled in an off-field situation.  Specifically, Magee, after a warrant had been issued for his arrest, has been charged with simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in connection to an alleged on-campus apartment heist.  The charge, it should be noted, is a felony.

According to reports, Magee actually returned some of the items he allegedly lifted after finding out there may be video evidence of the incident.  From WBRZ-TV:

According to Baton Rouge Police, the victim returned to his apartment just before midnight on April 1. The victim says he returned to find the door to his apartment was forced open and he was missing electronic items and cash.

The victim says he was looking through the apartment when Magee stuck his head through the open door and asked the victim if he had been burglarized. The victim says he’s an LSU fan and immediately recognized Magee due to him wearing clothes with his football jersey number on it.

After the victim told Magee that he was going to check his security cameras to see who burglarized his apartment, Magee walked out and soon returned with several of the victim’s belongings, according to the arrest warrant.

According to the victim, an Xbox gaming console, six Xbox games, Gucci flip flops, an Onyx bluetooth speaker, and $1,200 cash were stolen from the apartment. The victim’s girlfriend’s purse was also dumped out and rifled through.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2015 recruiting class, Magee was rated as the No. 45 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  An injury forced the 6-5, 309-pound lineman to take a redshirt as a true freshman.

Last year as a reserve, Magee saw action in three games.

This spring, Magee started at right tackle because of an injury to returning starter Toby Weathersby.  Weathersby is expected to be fully recovered for the start of summer camp in early August, with Magee sliding back to his role as a backup.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.