The Swami

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

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)
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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
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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
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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).

Alabama reportedly fills defensive assistant vacancy with Derrick Ansley

Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) is mobbed by teammates after intercepting a pass in the end zone during the first half against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP
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When Alabama lost defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to a head coaching position at Georgia, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban stressed his program always manages to find good coaches to fill spots left by coaches going to accept other positions. Needing to fill out its staff following the latest changes in the coaching carousel, Alabama looks to have filled a defensive assistant role with the addition of Derrick Ansley.

According to a report Sunday morning from TideSports.com (a Rivals affiliate covering Alabama), Ansley will join the coaching staff at Alabama after serving as a co-defensive coordinator for Kentucky. While in Lexington, Ansley coached the secondary for the Wildcats. It is reported he is expected to fill the same role with Alabama under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Ansley previously coached under Saban as a graduate assistant in 2010 and 2011 before moving to Tennessee for one season. He joined the Kentucky staff in 2013. At Alabama, Ansley will fill the vacancy left by Mel Tucker, who moved to Georgia with Smart. Tucker was Alabama’s secondary coach as well.