Predictions 101 — Week 7

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For those of you who wondered if we sold our collective soul to the devil in return for that blistering start to the season, you’ll be interested to know that we went 6-6 in Week 6 vs. “the number.”

It’s some consolation to remain undefeated, but after that ridiculous run, a .500 week has us feeling like Mike Stoops instead of our boy Dabo Swinney.

On the bright side, the only blemishes on our 10-2 straight-up mark were a pair of upset stabs (Texas Tech over A&M, and Tennessee over Georgia).

After 72 games, we’re 47-21-2 (two games weren’t on the board) and 55-17.

TOP 10 GAMES (Thur., Oct. 13, thru Sat., Oct. 15)

1) No. 11 Michigan at No. 23 Michigan State
Sat., Oct. 15 — Noon ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif. Breaking away from his usual focus on thoroughbreds, he handicaps our featured race.

After five games at the Big House to open the season, which included a miraculous escape against Notre Dame mixed in with four blowouts against second-tier competition, Michigan (6-0, 2-0 in Big Ten) hits the road for the second straight week after posting a convincing win at Northwestern.

Despite averaging 257 yards per game on the ground — with quarterback Denard Robinson accounting for a buck twenty — we’re not sold on the Wolverines’ ability to matriculate the ball down the field against well-rested Michigan State (4-1, 1-0), which allows just 64 rushing yards and 10 points per game.

Robinson is still uncomfortable when forced to throw (nine interceptions, including three last week) and there’s no open spaces in a Spartan secondary that’s allowing just 109 yards per game through the air.

With tensions high as Michigan State hopes to retain the Paul Bunyan Trophy for the fourth consecutive year, expect a low-scoring battle where the Spartan offense, led by efficient senior quarterback Kirk Cousins and his 65 percent career completion average, moves the ball just enough against a Wolverine defense that allows twice as many yards as the college version of “Gang Green.”

Opening point spread: Michigan State by 3

The pick: Michigan State 23-14

Final: Michigan State 28-14

2) No. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Texas
Sat., Oct. 15 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

Among many superlatives in last Saturday’s 70-28 dismantling of Kansas, the Cowboys forced four turnovers. That means Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0 in Big 12) has come up with 14 takeaways in its last three games.

That trend doesn’t bode well for Texas (4-1, 1-1), which gave up enough points on offense (three of five turnovers returned for touchdowns) to lose to Oklahoma (55-17) last week.

The young Longhorn quarterbacks — Case McCoy and David Ash — are in for a long afternoon. There’s absolutely nothing to indicate that they’ll be able to trade punches with ultra-veteran Cowboy QB Brandon Weeden (28th birthday on Friday), who directs an offense that averages 51 points and 577 yards per game.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 7 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma State 38-20

Final: Oklahoma State 38-26

3) No. 18 Arizona State at No. 9 Oregon
Sat., Oct. 15 — 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai’i. “Coach Hedanz” has the option to predict the outcome of Oregon games until he is wrong about one of them.

As Nike U awaits word on LaMichael James, the Ducks face their toughest competition since the opener versus LSU without their All-America tailback.

One might think that it would be a massive relief for Arizona State (5-1, 3-0 in Pac-12), which is a field goal away from being undefeated, to play Oregon (4-1, 2-0) while it’s without the nation’s leading rusher, but it really isn’t.

Kenyon Barner could start for most schools. The Ducks are truly a team that has a “1” and “1A” in the backfield. In addition, the emergence of De’Anthony Thomas and the re-emergence of Josh Huff will allow Chip Kelly to open up his playbook even further in front of the hostile home crowd at Autzen Stadium. To put things plainly, Oregon will score.

ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler is greatly improved from last year and in full command of the Sun Devil offense. We don’t expect the 6-foot-8 giant to throw four INTs as Steven Threet did last year against the Ducks, but he didn’t look comfortable on the road last month at Illinois, which sacked him six times and picked off two passes.

Oregon, which will use misdirection on offense as it did in last week’s victory over Cal, has too many weapons, even with LMJ out. Vontaze Burfict, the meanest man in college football, can’t keep track of them all.

After a first-half shootout, the Duck defense will get key stops to take control and get separation.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 14 1/2

The pick: Oregon 45-27

Final: Oregon 41-27

4) No. 20 Baylor at No. 21 Texas A&M
Sat., Oct. 15 — Noon ET, FX

The “Battle for the Brazos” has been dominated by the Aggies in recent years, winning 22 of the past 25 meetings. But as is the case with every rivalry — not just ones entering a 108th year — it’s mostly about who has won the most recent game … and this might be the last one of this series for a long time.

With Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 in Big 12) bolting for the SEC next season, Baylor (4-1, 1-1) won’t be facing the Aggies in the foreseeable future, putting some extra importance on this bookend.

A&M’s well-known penchant for letting opposing quarterbacks get on a late roll will have the Kyle Field faithful on edge as Bear triggerman Robert Griffin III is out there doing his thing.

“RG3” leads the nation with a stunning completion percentage of 80.3 and ranks second in passing efficiency (212.9).

With quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the running back duo of Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael, the Aggies have the firepower to fight back, but the question is … how big a lead is enough?

Last year, that was Baylor’s problem as a 30-14 halftime advantage evaporated. The Bears were shutout in the second half and experienced lots of problems on special teams, resulting in a 42-30 loss.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 8 1/2

The pick: Texas A&M 37-34

Final: Texas A&M 55-28

5) No. 1 LSU at Tennessee
Sat., Oct. 15 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

After losing standout wideout Justin Hunter (knee injury) three games ago, Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 in SEC) now has quarterback Tyler Bray (broken thumb) on the shelf. That’s devastating to a team that cannot depend on its running game at all. The Vols rank 114th in rushing offense and are fresh off a 20-12 loss to Georgia that saw them rush for minus-20 yards.

Senior Matt Simms is a capable signalcaller, but even the second-coming of Peyton Manning would have a tough time against this Tiger defense, which has tons of quality at every level.

LSU (6-0, 3-0), on the other hand, is rushing for 183.5 yards per game and has 17 scores on the ground.

All of the Tiger victories have been by at least 13 points. There’s no reason to believe this one will be any different.

Opening point spread: LSU by 13

The pick: LSU 32-9

Final: LSU 38-7

6) Florida at No. 24 Auburn
Sat., Oct. 15 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Gators spent the past two weeks getting torn apart by Alabama (38-10) and LSU (41-11). Now they hit the road to visit the defending national champs.

We could fill your head with thoughts about how bad Auburn (4-2, 2-1 in SEC) is on defense and other mind-numbing stats about both teams. But sometimes it just comes down to how these young people deal with specific moments in time.

In this instance, Florida (4-2, 2-2) just wants this stretch of games to be over with. Not only due to its brutality, but also because they have next weekend off.

The young Gator team won’t have the focus necessary to be successful at Jordan-Hare Stadium. They’ll be thinking about next week.

It’s just like you in your cube at work when those TPS reports are due just before your vacation.

Opening point spread: Auburn by 2

The pick: Auburn 27-20

Final: Auburn 17-6

7) No. 19 Virginia Tech at Wake Forest
Sat., Oct. 15 — 6:30 p.m. ET

Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas is coming off a sparking 23-of-25 performance that saw him pass for 310 yards and three touchdowns in last Saturday’s 38-35 victory over Miami (Fla.).

Thomas’ counterpart, Tanner Price, also had a great game last week, completing 21-of-35 for 233 yards and three scores in a 35-30 win over Florida State, which gave Wake Forest (4-1, 3-0) its best conference start since joining the ACC in 1953.

However, with all due respect to the quarterbacks, this game will come down to who can run it.

Wake Forest might be able to get that done, relying on running back Josh Harris, who ran for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last year’s loss to Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1). Meanwhile, the Demon Deacon defense, which allows only 102 rushing yards per game, can keep close enough tabs on Hokie running back David Wilson, who leads the league with 767 yards on the ground.

Opening point spread: Virginia Tech by 7

The pick: Wake Forest 24-23

Final: Virginia Tech 38-17

8 ) No. 8 Clemson at Maryland
Sat., Oct. 15 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

It’s counterintuitive, but maybe the Terrapins would have preferred Tiger quarterback Tajh Boyd not sustain a hip injury in last Saturday’s 26-14 victory over Boston College. That’s because if the super soph is able to play against Maryland (2-3, 1-1 in ACC) as expected, Dabo Swinney is apt to have him hand off to running back Andre Ellington more than usual.

That’ll probably work out just fine for Clemson (6-0, 3-0), which will be going against a defense that ranks last in the ACC against the run, having allowed an average of 196 yards per game on the ground and a total of 13 rushing TDs.

Maryland is tougher versus the pass, yielding just 211 yards per game through the air and only one aerial score all season.

The Terrapins have questionable quarterbacking and a brewing QB controversy only complicates matters. The recently stingy Tiger defense won’t mind harassing either Danny O’Brien or C.J. Brown.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 7 1/2

The pick: Clemson 32-19

Final: Clemson 56-45

9) No. 2 Alabama at Mississippi
Sat., Oct. 15 — 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The big question is if the Crimson Tide will allow the Rebels to cross the goal line. No one else has in the last seven quarters of play against Alabama (6-0, 3-0 in SEC).

Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2) doesn’t seem like a likely candidate to break that trend, especially on the ground. The Rebels rank 99th in the nation in rushing offense. That doesn’t match up well with the Tide, which has given up only one rushing touchdown all season and is allowing just 3.2 yards per play.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 24 1/2

The pick: Alabama 35-3

Final: Alabama 52-7

10) No. 15 South Carolina at Mississippi State
Sat., Oct. 15 — Noon ET, SEC Network

Now that Connor Shaw has sparked and taken over the Gamecock offense from Stephen Garcia, many Bulldog fans are interested in something similar, after backup quarterback Tyler Russell got the job done in relief of Chris Relf in last week’s 21-3 victory over UAB.

Whoever gets the call for Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3 in SEC) doesn’t figure to get much going against South Carolina (5-1, 3-1), which boasts the nation’s third best pass defense (allowing only 128.5 yards per game through the air).

Opening point spread: South Carolina by 5 1/2

The pick: South Carolina 26-19

Final: South Carolina 14-12

TWO MORE YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE

We’re 9-2 on these vs. “the number” (Presbyterian’s game at Cal wasn’t on the board, that was just for laughs).

So, that’s why you shouldn’t ignore them … in case you were wondering. Maybe some of you should be looking here first.

USC at California
Thur., Oct. 13 — 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Golden Bears have dropped their last seven games to the Trojans and scored a total of just 20 points in the three most recent defeats.

But this isn’t your father’s USC. This is Lane Kiffin’s and his father’s USC. That USC (4-1, 2-1 in Pac-12) has a shockingly limp defense.

Look for Keenan Allen to have a big night for Cal (3-2, 0-2), stealing some of the spotlight away from another sophomore wideout by the name of Robert Woods.

Opening point spread: USC by 4

The pick: California 31-27

Final: USC 30-9

Indiana at No. 4 Wisconsin
Sat., Oct. 15 — Noon ET, ESPN2

Most people forgot or never knew that the Hoosiers and Badgers were tied up at 10-10 in the second quarter of last year’s meeting. Dropping 83 points on somebody will tend to make those kind of tidbits melt away.

As if that 63-point lambasting at Camp Randall Stadium wasn’t bad enough, Indiana (1-5, 0-2 in Big Ten) has to go back to the scene of the crime, this time as the Homecoming pinata.

We don’t subscribe to the opinion that Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0) turned it on unneccesarily a year ago. It just kind of ended up that way. Defensive TDs and third-stringers getting overly excited will lead to that sometimes.

This time around, however, with a Heisman Trophy headliner under center and Michigan State to tune up for, Bret Bielema has excuses to be unworried about anybody’s feelings.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 39

The pick: Wisconsin 59-13

Final: Wisconsin 59-7

Week 7 record: 10-2
Total: 65-19

Jalen Jelks eschews leaving early for NFL, will return to Oregon

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We haven’t yet reached the first-ever early signing period, and Oregon has already bolstered its 2018 defense.

Jalen Jelks confirmed to The Oregonian that he has decided to push off the NFL and will instead return to Oregon for another season.  The redshirt junior indicated that he needs to work on his game before he takes it to the next level.

“I’m back for sure,” the redshirt junior defensive end told the newspaper. “I talked to my parents and my family and everything and just probably the best decision for me is to make the best out of next season and make a lot more plays than I did this season.

“I missed a lot of plays, and if I can capitalize on that and translate it to next season I could contribute a lot to the draft.”

This season, Jelks led the Ducks in tackles for loss with 15; in sacks with 6.5; and in quarterback hits with four.  The tackles for loss were second in the Pac-12 to Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa‘s 21.5.

Rashaan Salaam’s 1994 Heisman up for auction, could fetch $300K

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A little over a year after his death, one of the most noteworthy pieces of Rashaan Salaam‘s athletic career finds itself up for sale to the public yet again.

According to the Denver Post, the former Colorado star running back’s 1994 Heisman Trophy will be auctioned off next month and is expected to sell for upwards of $300,000. A portion of whatever the trophy fetches will be donated to CTE research.

Salaam, who took his own life at the age of 42 last December, was diagnosed with CTE symptoms postmortem.

After rushing for more than 2,000 yards, Salaam in 1994 became the first, and thus far only, Buffaloes football player to win the most prestigious trophy in college football.  In 2013, Salaam sold the trophy to a sports memorabilia dealer who subsequently sold it to the unnamed individual who is selling it at auction. “The trophy also includes a letter from Salaam, acknowledging the 2013 sale,” the Post wrote.

Based on what we’ve found, the largest amount a Heisman Trophy has ever brought in was the $395,000 a California businessman paid for Minnesota’s Bruce Smith‘s 1941 award in 2005.

Nick Saban, other write-in votes may have helped decide Alabama’s contentious Senate election

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Could Nick Saban have inadvertently played a role in the outcome of a historic election?  Believe it or not, that may actually be a valid question.

As this is a college football site, we won’t go into the background of the contentious U.S. Senate campaign waged between Democrat Doug Jones and scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore in the state of Alabama.  In the run-up to the special election in the state Tuesday, however, one Democrat-leaning political action committee urged Republican voters who couldn’t vote for a Democrat and were leery of voting for Moore to use a write-in vote, specifically using the name of the Alabama head football coach to illustrate that option.

With 99 percent of the vote tabulated, NBC News reported earlier this morning that Jones held a lead of just under 21,000 votes.  It has since been reported that, with 100 percent of the votes in, there were nearly 23,000 write-in votes cast, with Jones’ lead still holding at just under 21,000 votes.

Because of a new state law, some are saying it’s likely we’ll know exactly how many of those write-in votes were for Saban.  From fivethirtyeight.com late Tuesday night:

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Jones has a margin of 0.7 points over Moore, and the share of write-in votes is more than double that, at around 1.7 percent. Who were people writing in? If that difference holds, we’ll know in due time. In 2016, the Alabama state legislature passed a law requiring the write-in votes to be tallied if the share of write-ins exceeds the margin between the first- and second-place candidates — exactly the situation we’re in now.

“I’m a life-long Republican,” voter Gary Dobbins told MSNBC by way of al.com. “This is the first time in my entire life that I haven’t voted for the Republican candidate.

“I wrote in Nick Saban instead. The reason why is at first I was going to vote for the other guy. Then, I had a crisis in the voting booth and started thinking about what Richard Shelby had said and Condoleezza Rice. I just wrote in Nick Saban.”

West Virginia the landing spot for ex-Michigan DB Keith Washington

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After a brief pit stop at the junior college level, Keith Washington has found his way back to the FBS level.

The defensive back announced via Twitter that he has committed to West Virginia and will continue his collegiate playing career with the Mountaineers. As Washington spent the 2017 season at a Mississippi JUCO, he will be eligible to play for WVU immediately in 2018.

Washington held two other Power Five offers in this second round of recruitment, and both were from fellow Big 12 programs — Kansas and Texas Tech. East Carolina, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Toledo and UAB had extended offers as well.

Washington was a three-star member of Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, Jim Harbaugh‘s first with the Wolverines, coming out of high school in Alabama. After redshirting as a true freshman, he played in nine games during the 2016 season.

Before the start of this past season, he decided to transfer from the Wolverines.