The Swami

Predictions 101 — Week 6

15 Comments

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

Pat Narduzzi believes Pitt RB James Conner will play in 2016

In this photo taken Nov. 21, 2015, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi, right, applauds a touchdown by his team next to James Conner in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisville in Pittsburgh. Conner spent the last three months weighing whether to return next fall or head to the NFL after a torn knee ligament ended his junior season before it really began. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP) MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MONESSEN OUT; KITTANNING OUT; CONNELLSVILLE OUT; GREENSBURG OUT; TARENTUM OUT; NORTH HILLS NEWS RECORD OUT; BUTLER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
1 Comment

The college football world was stunned when Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who missed the bulk of the 2015 season due to a knee injury, announced he is battling cancer. Despite his ongoing bout with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest, Conner is said to be in great physical shape and looks he could even be ready to play for the Panthers this fall once he beats cancer.

“I saw him yesterday in the hallway and he’s been working out with our kids to keep his sanity and he’s having fun doing it,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said recently to ESPN.com reporter James Shanker. “That’s the key is he’s having fun beating cancer and he’s got a great attitude and he looks good right now. He’s doing well and looks well. Doesn’t look like he lost weight. Looks like he could still play. He doesn’t look like he has cancer.”

Conner declared his intention to play football again when he announced his cancer to the world last December.

“I will play football again,” Conner said in early December. “I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.”

The former ACC Player of the Year is receiving financial support from Pitt to handle the costs of the treatments, which is allowed by the NCAA for special circumstances. This is certainly a special circumstance. Per NCAA rules, Conner and his family are required to have personal insurance but schools may pick up the tab for remaining costs not covered by the student’s insurance coverage. Pitt is able to lend its support because cancer is affecting Conner’s ability to play football.

The college football world will continue to root for Conner as he works his way back to the football field.

Cost of attendance not having negative recruiting impact on Group of Five (yet)

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs for a first down against Temple during the second half of the American Athletic Conference championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Houston. Houston won 24-13. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Leave a comment

The outlook on the impact cost of attendance has on non-power conference institutions may not be known for another year or so, but after one recruiting cycle since the power conferences were granted autonomy powers, cost of attendance stipends have not been seen to be a major difference in the game as one might have thought originally.

Underdog Dynasty took a look at the issue and how Group of Five schools have fared. The initial findings suggest Group of Five programs are not struggling nearly as much as once suspected when it comes to cost of attendance stipends, although it is something that not every program has jumped into providing just yet. And yes, the topic of stipends does pop up on the recruiting trail, which suggests the Group of Five programs that can provide a little extra money as part of a player’s enrollment do figure to have some sort of advantage. However, stipends do not appear to be a game changer on a massive enough scale.

From Underdog Dynasty;

Another fear from last season was that smaller athletic departments couldn’t afford it. Those may have been overblown as well. My Google search turned up news of South Dakota State phasing in COA stipends for all student-athletes, something North Dakota and North Dakota State already have done.

All three are FCS schools. If they can afford the stipends, albeit funding 63 football scholarships rather than 85, G5 schools should as well. Even the Sun Belt distributes more than $1 million per school in College Football Playoff payouts.

Houston, of the American Athletic Conference, just landed a recruiting class that would make a good number of power conference programs jealous, although the Cougars were the only Group of Five program to finish ranked in the top 50 in the final team rankings compiled by Rivals (BYU finished No. 48). Boise State, UCF and Temple fell in the upper half of the FBS mix as well.

Just as one year of the College Football Playoff system did not provide enough empirical evidence to suggest the Big 12 should expand to 12 just to get a conference championship game, one year of cost of attendance stipends is not nearly enough to suggest it has a devastating or minimal impact on the recruiting game in college football. This is just something that will have to be watched for a few more years in order to gather more evidence to evaluate.

Former Wolverine Brian Cole transferring to Kentucky

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2013, file photo, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops watches from the sideline during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. Stoops has recruited some high-level talent since coming to Lexington three years ago and the Wildcats have taken substantial steps forward. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File
1 Comment

Maybe it’s the new uniforms. Maybe it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. Whatever the reason, former Michigan wide receiver and defensive back Brian Cole is heading to Kentucky.

Cole was a four-star recruit in Michigan’s Class of 2015. The second-ranked player from the state of Michigan was a significant addition to the Wolverines by then first-year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, which helps make his decision to leave for another program now a bit interesting to note considering the momentum seemingly being generated in Ann Arbor. He was released from his scholarship in Michigan in January.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Cole will be forced to sit out the 2016 season and will be eligible to return to the playing field again in 2017. The good news for Cole is he will still have three years of eligibility remaining.

Cole appeared in two games for the Wolverines in 2015, but he spent most of the season held back by injury issues. His addition to the Kentucky roster is a big win for head coach Mark Stoops, who has developed a little bit of a habit for adding some talented transfers to his program in Lexington.

Michigan and Notre Dame could be rekindling their football series

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 1994, file photo, Notre Dame's Derrick Mayes (1) pulls in a touchdown catch in front of Michigan's Chuck Winters (35) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. Mayes may have grabbed this spectacular catch for a score, but Michigan's Remy Hamilton kicked four field goals, including a 42-yarder with 2 seconds left, to give the Wolverines a 26-24  victory. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)
AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File
7 Comments

The bitter divorce between Michigan and Notre Dame on the football field could soon be forgiven. There are hints and clues the series could be heading to a revival.

Michigan athletics director Jim Hackett started lighting the fire for the rivalry series renewal discussion last week when he mentioned during a radio interview the two schools have opened communication on the subject.

“I will tell you this, the relationship is good, and it started with [Jim Harbaugh] and coach [Brian Kelly] working together on a desire to play together,” Hackett said. “But (there’s) nothing firm yet.”

In 2013, when the two schools were beginning to play what was to be their final game son the existing contract, Kelly downplayed the rivalry with Michigan by noting it has not been one of the best rivalries in Notre Dame’s history. In his defense, he is right. In fact, Notre Dame has a more storied history with Michigan State, not to mention USC or Navy.

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”

Kelly did later go on to say he was optimistic the series with Michigan would return in the future. Harbaugh was quick to follow up on the idea of playing Notre Dame again. Now we just sit and wait to see when that may become a possibility.

Scheduling for both Michigan and Notre Dame have become a bit more complex in more recent years than it used to be. Notre Dame is part of an ACC scheduling rotation that guarantees a certain number of power conference opponents from the ACC each season and the Irish continue rivalry game son an annual basis with USC, Stanford and Navy. Michigan is moving to a nine-game Big Ten schedule with the requirement to play at least one power conference opponent in its non-conference slate each season. The Wolverines already have that requirement met through the 2027 season but have shown a willingness to schedule two power conference opponents in a season, which is the case in 2020 and 2021 (games vs. Washington and Virginia Tech in alternating home-and-home deals).