The Swami

Predictions 101 — Week 6

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People keep waiting for the hot-streak to end (honestly, we do, as well), but it rolls on. Our weekly Dabo Swinney postgame quote fits P101’s situation just as nicely as Clemson’s — “Maybe there’s some people out there that might start believing in this team a little bit.”

We didn’t set any records during Week 5, but still got the job done at 7-4-1 vs. “the number.” The 9-3 straight-up mark was highlighted by Auburn’s upset of double-digit favorite South Carolina.

After 60 games, we’re sitting pretty at a documented 41-15-2 (two games weren’t on the board) and 45-15.

My goodness … why go anywhere else?

We’re strongly considering, putting out a tip jar.

TOP 10 GAMES (Thurs., Oct. 6 thru Sat., Oct. 8 )

1) No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas (at Dallas)
Sat., Oct. 8 — noon ET, ABC

This is more like it. It never seems right when the Sooners and Longhorns aren’t undefeated upon arrival at the annual renewal of the Red River Rivalry. This marks only the second time in the last seven years that both teams are attempting to stave off their first setback of the season.

But maybe next year, it’ll be more of a fair fight.

Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12) has a massive advantage in big-game experience. This is the third time Sooner quarterback Landry Jones will be playing a major role at the Texas State Fair and he has rock-solid senior wideout Ryan Broyles and others to lean on. Their considerable talents easily mask some question marks along the offensive line.

Dealt a much different hand, Texas (4-0, 1-0) will rely heavily on players getting their first taste of the RRR to provide the offensive production. Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Brent Venables are ready to pounce. We smell turnovers.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 9 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma 34-20

Final: Oklahoma 55-17

2) No. 17 Florida at No. 1 LSU
Sat., Oct. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

On one side you’ve got the Tigers, who are trying to find snaps for two quarterbacks.

On the other, you’ve got the Gators with freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel making his first collegiate start on the road at top-ranked LSU (5-0, 2-0 in SEC), in place of injured senior starter John Brantley. At least the game isn’t at night. That would push matters over the edge, if they aren’t already.

Gator offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will really be tested here, sending out a youngster with only 16 career pass attempts, two of which were intercepted.

It’s hard to imagine that this game won’t be a continuation of the misery Florida (4-1, 2-1) went through during the second half of last week’s 38-10 loss to Alabama, which was the Gators’ worst loss at The Swamp since 2002. Interestingly enough, the visitor that day was none other than LSU, which won 36-7.

It won’t be that sort of blowout this time, but it will be convincing.

Opening point spread: LSU by 12

The pick: LSU 31-10

Final: LSU 41-11

3) No. 15 Auburn at No. 10 Arkansas
Sat., Oct. 8 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Hogs are out to abuse a Tiger defense that currently ranks 106th in total defense (allowing 440 yards per game) and 109th in rushing defense (207). In addition to those two categories, Auburn (4-1, 2-0) also ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense (27.4) and passing efficiency defense.

Tiger defenders feel that they turned the corner with last week’s upset victory over South Carolina and its all-everything tailback Marcus Lattimore, but Arkansas (4-1, 0-1) represents the SEC’s ultimate offensive exam. The Razorbacks are averaging 52 points and 610 total yards per game.

The determining factor in this prediction is that with all that said, Arkansas’ defense is worse than Auburn’s at this point.

We’re thinking overtime might be required.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 10

The pick: Arkansas 43-36

Final: Arkansas 38-14

4) No. 24 Texas A&M at Texas Tech
Sat., Oct. 8 — 7 p.m. ET, FX

We try not to take this stuff personally, but the Aggies make it so hard. We had faith in them during the previous two weeks (albeit waning faith since we had Arkansas with the points last Saturday) and they let us down each time after starting so well.

One thing’s for sure … no coffee for Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 in Big 12). “Coffee’s for closers.”

Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0) has a shot to remain undefeated, especially if the Red Raiders are able to make all their offensive possessions count. That’ll probably happen since the Aggies have forced only two turnovers this season.

Tech quarterback Seth Doege should have a field day against an A&M pass defense that ranks dead last in the nation, allowing 337 yards per game through the air.

Can the SEC send the Aggies back before they even get there?

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 7

The pick: Texas Tech 37-34

Final: Texas A&M 45-40

5) Miami (Fla.) at No. 21 Virginia Tech
Sat., Oct. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

It’ll be interesting to see how the Hokies respond to the sting of last Saturday’s 23-3 loss to Clemson. That was their second worst loss at home in the last three decades. Virginia Tech (4-1, 0-1 in ACC) was held out of the end zone for the first time since 1995.

Miami (2-2, 0-1) would love to continue that theme, but its run defense is tailor made for Hokies tailback David Wilson, who will be gunning for his fifth 100-yard game this season. The Hurricanes are allowing 202 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them way down at 105th in the nation.

Opening point spread: Virginia Tech by 8 1/2

The pick: Virginia Tech 26-24

Final: Virginia Tech 38-35

6) California at No. 9 Oregon
Thurs., Oct. 6 — 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

We’re not sure what was short circuited in Chip Kelly’s spread-n-conquer attack in last November’s meeting at California, but the Golden Bears held the top-ranked Ducks to just 15 points and 377 yards. That sounds like numbers attributed to an upset victory, but Cal is Cal … and losing is served in all shapes and sizes in Berkeley. A false start by the field goal kicker being the blunder that got in the way of a massive win and provided a 15-13 defeat.

Oregon (3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12) and Cal (3-1, 0-1) both had last week off. With that extra time, we expect Bear defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to slow the spread some, but not nearly enough to deny the Ducks their 19th consecutive victory at Autzen Stadium.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 24 1/2

The pick: Oregon 37-20

Final: Oregon 43-15

7) Air Force at Notre Dame
Sat., Oct. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

The Fighting Irish’s recent woes versus Navy indicate that the Falcons have a shot to fly out of South Bend with a victory.

Air Force (3-1, 0-1 in MWC), fresh off its 35-34 overtime decision over Navy, will be facing a Notre Dame team that has allowed only one rushing touchdown so far this season. The Domers also have allowed only one 100-yard rusher (Michigan’s Denard Robinson, 108) since that devastating 35-17 loss to the Midshipmen on Oct. 23, 2010. So, the Irish have all of that going for them, but executing the proper assignment defense on the edge won’t be any easier if defensive end Ethan Johnson (ankle) can’t go.

Notre Dame (3-2) played impressively on offense last week, piling up 551 yards and 34 first downs in a 38-10 victory at Purdue. But stats have never been the problem with this crew. Most importantly, the Irish were selfish when it came to the football, playing turnover free. Can they do it again?

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 17

The pick: Notre Dame 30-24

Final: Notre Dame 59-33

8 ) Ohio State at No. 14 Nebraska
Sat., Oct. 8 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai’i. “Coach Hedanz” is banned from Oregon games for the time being.

After being so rudely welcomed to its new conference by Wisconsin last Saturday, Nebraska (4-1, 0-1) has to suck it up for its inaugural Big Ten home game as Ohio State (3-2, 0-1) comes to Lincoln.

With freshman quarterback Braxton Miller making his first road start, the Buckeyes were hoping to add reinforcements in the form of running back Dan “Boom” Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey, but those hopes were dashed when they received additional suspensions on Monday. Therefore, look for another inept performance from an Ohio State offense that cannot regularly find the end zone against teams with any semblance of defense.

On the flip side, the “Blackshirts” are out to redeem themselves after giving up nearly half-a-hundred to the Badgers.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Ohio State defense holds up against Nebraska’s attack. The feeling here is that the Buckeyes will hold their own early, but fade as the lack of production from their offensive counterparts keep them on the field far too long against the Cornhuskers’ relentless ground game.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 10

The pick: Nebraska 27-13

Final: Nebraska 34-27

9) Colorado at No. 7 Stanford
Sat., Oct. 8 — 7:30 p.m. ET, Versus

What’s with the AP Top 25? Are these media people jealous that they didn’t get in to Stanford? C’mon … the P101 chief got over it (and promptly went to CU).

The Cardinal beat UCLA, 45-19, last Saturday, winning their 12th consecutive game. Nevertheless, the Cardinal dropped a spot in the AP poll on Sunday, slipping to No. 7.

Two weeks ago, The Farm was No. 5.

If form holds, Stanford (4-0, 2-0 in Pac-12) will crush Colorado (1-4, 0-1) and drop another rung to No. 8.

At least the coaches poll has the Cardinal moving in the right direction, currently holding steady at No. 4.

The average score of Stanford victories this season is 45.8-11.5.

Opening point spread: Stanford by 27

The pick: Stanford 42-16

Final: Stanford 48-7

10) Georgia at Tennessee
Sat., Oct. 8 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Thanks to Auburn and Alabama posting road victories at South Carolina and Florida last week, the SEC East is up for grabs … and the Bulldogs and Volunteers certainly have their hands in the mix.

Tennessee (3-1, 0-1), which posted a convincing 41-10 victory over Buffalo last Saturday, has the home-field and psychological advantage, seeking revenge for that brutal 41-14 loss between the hedges last season.

Even though the season-ending injury to wideout Justin Hunter slows them down, we still like the Vol attack led by quarterback Tyler Bray.

Georgia (3-2, 2-1) hasn’t scored a second-half touchdown in its last two games. The Dawgs will need at least a couple of those to get the job done in Knoxville.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 1

The pick: Tennessee 30-26

Final: Georgia 20-12

TWO MORE YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE

Kansas at No. 6 Oklahoma State
Sat., Oct. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET

This prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif. He’s breaking away from his usual focus on thoroughbred horse racing to take another shot. Marc broke his maiden in a big way last week, bringing home Auburn over South Carolina.

These teams have combined to average a whopping 67 total points in each of their last seven meetings, dating back to 1998. The Cowboys (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12) have been victorious in six of those games, including the 48-14 smackdown last year in Lawrence, when they scored the final 38 points.

After using a similar come-from-ahead approach in a 45-35 loss to Texas Tech at home last week (squandered a 20-0 lead), the Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1), who allow more than 44 points per game, have no shot at stopping a well-rested Oklahoma State attack that ranks third nationally with 571 yards per game and sixth in scoring at nearly 47 points per game.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 33

The pick: Oklahoma State 52-13

Final: Oklahoma State 70-28

Connecticut at No. 16 West Virginia
Sat., Oct. 8 — Noon ET

As much as we’d like to, we couldn’t blow off the Big East.

The Connecticut defense will have a ton of work to do against a Mountaineer offense that might have found a running game to balance out the aerial attack piloted by quarterback Geno Smith.

True freshman tailback Dustin Garrison exploded on the scene in last week’s 55-10 victory over Bowling Green with 291 rushing yards (nearly as many as West Virginia had in its previous four games combined).

We know the Huskies (2-3) upset the Mountaineers (4-1) last season, but that was when Paul Pasqualoni wasn’t around and we certainly didn’t see anything in their 38-31 loss at home to Western Michigan last week that indicates they’ve got anything in them to even keep it close in this conference opener for both teams.

Connecticut allowed Bronco quarterback Alex Carder to pass for 479 yards and five scores, with three receivers going over 100 yards. Smith should have an easy time carving up the Huskies.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 21

The pick: West Virginia 42-17

Final: West Virginia 43-16

Week 6 record: 10-2
Total: 55-17

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.