The Swami

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

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

James Conner
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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.