The Swami

Predictions 101 — Week 9


It was bound to happen. No, not Oklahoma finally losing in Norman. P101 having a losing week.

For the first time all season, we were sub .500 vs. “the number,” going 5-7 in Week 8. With all that heavy lumber littering last week’s board, we just couldn’t seem to end up on the right side.

Despite a historic Hail Mary and Dayne Crist’s inability to take a snap, we still posted a 8-4 straight-up mark.

After 96 games, we’re 59-33-2 (two games weren’t on the board) and 73-23.

TOP 10 GAMES (Thurs., Oct. 27 thru Sat., Oct. 29)

1) No. 6 Clemson at Georgia Tech
Sat., Oct. 29 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

It’ll be interesting to see how the Tigers handle being up on the pedestal. It’s one thing for young players and coaches to climb, but an entirely different challenge to stay.

Clemson (8-0, 5-0 in ACC), which is now ranked fifth in the BCS standings, hasn’t opened a season with nine consecutive victories since its 1981 national championship team rolled all the way to 12-0. Pretty lofty stuff all the way around.

After a pair of disappointing losses at Virginia and Miami, Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2) is happy to be back at home, hosting an opponent that offers the opportunity to have some of its swagger stolen.

The Yellow Jackets have won six of their last eight meetings with the Tigers, who didn’t look particularly sharp in their previous road game, needing to embark on a torrid comeback to beat Maryland, 56-45.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 4 1/2

The pick: Georgia Tech 32-31

Final: Georgia Tech 31-17

2) No. 11 Oklahoma at No. 10 Kansas State
Sat., Oct. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

After last Saturday’s debacle in Norman, the Sooners are jumping at the opportunity to get out of town and escape to the seclusion of the Little Apple.

Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1 in Big 12) clearly showed in its shocking 41-38 loss to Texas Tech that it can be hurt through the air. Unfortunately for Kansas State (7-0, 4-0), Collin Klein isn’t the sort of quarterback who can take advantage. He rushed for four touchdowns in last week’s 59-21 victory over Kansas and is more of a dual-threat type.

Although its passing component ranks last in the Big 12 and 110th in the nation, the Wildcats’ ball-control offense has a shot to limit Sooner possessions, but can’t be expected to match scores. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has already passed for 2,589 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, and should eventually wear down the hosts.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 13 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma 31-21

Final: Oklahoma 58-17

3) No. 9 Michigan State at No. 13 Nebraska
Sat., Oct. 29 — noon ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai’i.

Sparty won an incredible game last Saturday on a Hail Mary and controls its own destiny in the Legends Division and could possibly earn a rematch versus Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 in Big Ten) is the country’s darling right now.

Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) wants some love too. The Cornhuskers also control their own Legends destiny and have Michigan State right where they want them … in Lincoln, following an emotional game and likely tired from a brutal stretch.

The Spartans, who have had to deal with Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin already this month, are not the same team on the road, where miracles are hard to come by. Don’t forget about the 31-13 decision they dropped to less-than-impressive Notre Dame.

William Gholston is returning to Michigan State after a suspension. This beast of a defensive end will get optioned by Nebraska as the Huskers go “old school” and stick to its strength at home, the run game.

The Nebraska running attack will open things up for the occasional shot down the field. Although Taylor Martinez is no Andrew Luck, the Spartans will be so focused on stopping the run that Husker wideouts will be wide open for a couple big plays.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 3 1/2

The pick: Nebraska 27-24

Final: Nebraska 24-3

4) Baylor at No. 3 Oklahoma State
Sat., Oct. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

The arrival of Robert Griffin III in Stillwater should garner lots of attention, but it’ll still be a challenge for the Cowboys to concentrate on the now.

Being slotted third in the BCS standings is more than enough to weigh on the mind of a team, but that gets even heavier when the top two teams have a date to lock horns next week. Furthermore, Oklahoma State (7-0, 4-0 in Big 12) has a humongous game of its own next week as it hosts Kansas State (currently undefeated at 7-0).

Baylor (4-2, 1-2) has dropped both of its road games this season, including its most recent outing, a 55-28 loss at Texas A&M in which the Bears surrendered 681 total yards. Yikes.

Both defenses allow more than 425 yards and 26.7 points per game. Combine that with the offensive weaponry on both squads and we will be looking at a total somewhere north of 80.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma St. by 15

The pick: Oklahoma State 52-34

Final: Oklahoma State 59-24

5) No. 4 Stanford at No. 20 USC
Sat., Oct. 29 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

What’s with the ‘World Wide Leader?’ We’ve got this matchup ranked in the middle of the road, but ‘College GameDay’ is caravanning out to the Coliseum. Besides Desmond really wanting to go purse shopping on Rodeo Drive, we don’t get it.

Stanford (7-0, 5-0 in Pac-12) plays the kind of football that USC (6-1, 3-1) was synonymous with for decades — physical on both sides of the line, balanced on offense, unrelenting on defense. The Cardinal are simply machine-like in their destruction of the opposition, winning their last 10 games by at least 26 points. Last week, they rushed for a school-record 446 yards in a 65-21 victory over Washington.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that playing at the Coliseum benefits the Trojans. Incredibly, Stanford has won four of its last six games on USC’s home turf. And remember that this year’s Trojans were gracious hosts to Minnesota (two-point win), Utah (17-14, before score magically changed) and Arizona (surrendered 41 points).

Opening point spread: Stanford by 9 1/2

The pick: Stanford 37-21

Final: Stanford 56-48, 3OT

6) No. 22 Georgia vs. Florida (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sat., Oct. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Ever since John Brantley injured his ankle against Alabama on Oct. 1, the Gators haven’t tasted victory. The senior quarterback should be back in the saddle on Saturday, giving Florida (4-3, 2-3 in SEC) a good shot at avoiding a four-game losing streak, which would be its longest since 1988.

Georgia (5-2, 4-1), however, is intent on winning its sixth game in a row and turning things around against the Gators, who have won the last three games in the series and 18 of the last 21.

The Bulldogs still have a lot to prove. Their four SEC wins have come against teams with a combined conference record of 1-15, which is truly horrific since the lone victory among that group came at the expense of a member (Vandy over Ole Miss).

Having a pair of key defenders — lineman Kwame Geathers and safety Shawn Williams — suspended for the first half doesn’t help.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 1

The pick: Florida 24-21

Final: Georgia 24-20

7) Navy at Notre Dame
Sat., Oct. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Under normal circumstances — meaning no five-game losing streak for a team that’s been to eight consecutive bowl games — nothing this side of Army means more to the Midshipmen than butting heads with the Fighting Irish.

This season, with a bowl game in jeopardy and a loss to Air Force having already dented Commander-in-Chief Trophy hopes, Navy (2-5) has an ultra-intense focus on Notre Dame (4-3).

Conversely, the Irish are candidates to play this one scared. Having already lost three of its last four to the Middies, there’s lots of pressure on Notre Dame, which self-destructed last Saturday in a 31-17 loss to USC. Not only did the Irish give away the football three times in the second half, they also demonstrated a stunning inability to stop the run.

“I’m not going to tolerate it,” Brian Kelly said, after the loss to the Trojans. “It’s not going to be pretty this week in practice. If we gotta go back and tackle every day, we’ll tackle every day.”

Maybe that’ll help, but if USC can rush for 219 yards at Notre Dame, working with a previously maligned offensive line, what will the triple-option Midshipmen, who average 325 rushing yards per game and 5.7 per carry, do to the Irish?

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 20

The pick: Notre Dame 38-31

Final: Notre Dame 56-14

8) No. 12 Wisconsin at Ohio State
Sat., Oct. 29 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

The damage has been done. Michigan State’s Hail Mary was answered. The Badgers just can’t let that play beat them for a second time. Carrying any sort of woe-is-me hangover into another road game would be a disaster for Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1 in Big Ten), which needs this one to stay on course to winning the Leaders Division.

Ohio State (4-3, 1-2) doesn’t have anything even remotely resembling the passing attack that Michigan State used last Saturday to beat the Badgers. Buckeye freshman quarterback Braxton Miller hasn’t completed more than five passes or thrown for more than 95 yards in any game since the opener. That’s a far cry from Spartan veteran Kirk Cousins, who went 22-of-31 for 290 yards and three touchdowns to get it done last week versus Wisconsin.

We trust that Bret Bielema will make sure the Badgers bounce back strong.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 7 1/2

The pick: Wisconsin 31-13

Final: Ohio State 33-29

9) No. 25 West Virginia at Rutgers
Sat., Oct. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Last year, the Mountaineers were two-touchdown favorites over Syracuse and dropped a 19-14 decision.

Last week, West Virginia (5-2, 1-1 in Big East) was a 14-point favorite over the Orange and it happened again … only worse. This time, the Mounties got pummeled, 49-23.

If you’re expecting Rutgers (5-2, 2-1) to feel the brunt of a let’s-bounce-back-and-get-this-right effort from West Virginia, please remember that the Mountaineers followed up last season’s loss to Syracuse by getting upset by Connecticut in overtime, 16-13.

After getting picked off twice and sacked four times versus the Orange, WVU QB Geno Smith will have his hands full with a Scarlet Knight pass rush that ranks first in the Big East with 24 sacks on the season.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 5 1/2

The pick: Rutgers 24-23

Final: West Virginia 41-31

10) No. 14 South Carolina at Tennessee
Sat., Oct. 29 — 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2

This prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

The future is now for a pair of teams in the midst of opposite campaigns.

Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 in SEC) turns to true freshman quarterback Justin Worley, last year’s Gatorade National Player of the Year, who gets thrown into the fire in his first collegiate start as the top-ranked and well-rested South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) pass defense travels to Knoxville.

With all-everything tailback Marcus Lattimore lost for the season due to a knee injury, the Gamecocks’ hopes of remaining atop the SEC East standings rest with sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw, who is likely to struggle as he did two weeks ago against Mississippi State since his ground attack becomes much easier to contain with freshman Brandon Wilds carrying the load.

The Vols, who came up empty through the first four games of their SEC gauntlet, have beaten South Carolina in all but one of its last 15 trips to Neyland Stadium.

Opening point spread: South Carolina by 3 1/2

The pick: Tennessee 23-17

Final: South Caroliona 14-3


Rice at No. 18 Houston
Thurs., Oct. 27 — 8 p.m. ET, FSN

The Cougars have one more Thursday night game to consider watching (Nov. 10 at Tulane), but this “Bayou Bucket” matchup is sure to be something else with the nation’s No. 1 squad in terms of total offense hosting a team that ranks 115th in total defense. Let the fun begin!

Led by record-setting quarterback Case Keenum, who has accounted for 17,173 yards of total offense and 150 touchdowns in his collegiate career, Houston (7-0, 3-0) has scored a total of 224 points in its last four games.

Rice (2-5, 1-3), on the other hand, has scored more than 28 points just once this season and that was in a 56-31 loss at Baylor on Sept. 24.

The last time the Owls made the six-mile trek across town to Robertson Stadium, they got eviscerated, 73-14. The fact that Rice upset Houston last year, 34-31, doesn’t help the Owls’ chances.

The price might seem steep, but we feel it’s a bargain.

Opening point spread: Houston by 25 1/2

The pick: Houston 56-23

Final: Houston 73-34

Missouri at No. 16 Texas A&M
Sat., Oct. 29 — Noon ET, FX

This soon-to-be-SEC matchup isn’t quite Alabama-LSU, but it will be intriguing.

Missouri (3-4, 1-3 in Big 12) ran out of gas and into turnovers in last Saturday’s attempted upset of Oklahoma State. If the Tigers can be less generous, their balanced attack, which averages 238 yards on the ground (tops in the league) and 253 through the air, could give Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1) all sorts of problems.

The Aggies, who rank dead last in the nation in pass defense, also might have a distracted eye on next week’s trip to Norman.

We wouldn’t be surprised if overtime were required.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 15

The pick: Texas A&M 35-28

Final: Missouri 38-31, OT

Week 9 record: 7-5
Total: 80-28

Mizzou loses LB Mike Scherer and DL Terry Beckner Jr. to torn ACL injuries

COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 27:   Tailback Mike Davis #28 of the South Carolina Gamecocks tries to outrun linebacker Michael Scherer #30 of the Missouri Tigers during the second quarter on September 27, 2014 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages)
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Missouri’s defensive depth just got hit with a serious injury big. Missouri head coach Barry Odom announced today linebacker Mike Scherer and defensive lineman Terry Beckner Jr. have been lost for the rest of the season due to ACL injuries.

“It rips my heart out that he’s done everything he’s done and it ends for him with that injury,” Odom said when reflecting on the injury to Scherer. The senior also suffered a torn MCL in addition to the ACL injury. Scherer’s season comes to an end after leading the Tiger sin tackles this season.

This is the second season in a row Beckner has injured his ACL. Beckner tore his ACL and MCL last November, but the latest injury was to the opposite knee.

While Scherer will be forced to call it a career, Odom said Beckner will most likely be able to make a return to the team in 2017. It is just a matter of when he will be able to rejoin the team, as his rehab would likely linger into the winter and spring months. As noted by Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Beckner did not miss any preseason camp activities this year.

There was some positive injury news for report from Missouri. Defensive back John Gibson and safety Thomas Wilson each returned to practice on Tuesday after having a strained knee and taking a hit that required a concussion test, respectively. Wilson was not diagnosed with a concussion, allowing him to return to practice.

Navy QB Tago Smith denied extra year of eligibility by Naval Academy

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback Tago Smith #2 of the Navy Midshipmen celebrates after rushing for a first quarter touchdown against the Fordham Rams at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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It was considered a bit of a long shot for Navy quarterback Tago Smith to receive an extra year of eligibility from the Naval Academy, but today it became official. Smith was denied an extra year of eligibility by the academy, meaning his college football career is over.

Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the season. Had this been almost any other college football program, Smith would have had little problem filing the paperwork to the NCAA to apply for an extra year of eligibility given the circumstances. Things work differently in the service academies, however, and Smith needed to get approval from Vice Admiral Walter Carter, the superintendent of the Naval Academy. After reviewing the situation, Carter’s decision was made, and it was not what Smith had probably hoped.

“The mission of the Naval Academy is to graduate officers for the Navy and the Marine Corps,” Commander David McKinney said in a statement to The Capital Gazette. “This is a four-year academic institution and midshipmen are expected to graduate in that period of time unless the superintendent determines there is a significant reason why they cannot do so.

“Vice Admiral Carter looked at this particular situation and decided that is not the case with Midshipman Smith. While we are sympathetic to Tago’s athletic career, we aren’t an institution that exists to develop professional athletes, we exist to develop leaders.”

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo could not help but feel for Smith upon learning of the decision. After backing up Keenan Reynolds for three years, Smith’s time as starter could not even last one full game this season.

“I would have loved for Tago to have the opportunity to come back, but I have to support the superintendent’s decision,” Niumatalolo said. “I just feel really bad for the kid. Tago has worked so hard and it’s heartbreaking to see his career end this way.”

Helmet sticker to The Capital Gazette.

Herm Edwards visits Illini to give pep talk

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Herm Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game on November 30, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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Former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards paid a visit to another former NFL coach on Tuesday. Edwards was in Champaign to visit Lovie Smith and his Illinois football program. While there, Edwards was scheduled to give the Illini a good old-fashioned pep talk. He’s good at that.

This is a reminder that the NFL coaching fraternity remains a strong bond over the years. Smith and Edwards were never a part of the same coaching staff in the NFL, but the two have remained friends over the years. Smith having these types of connections should be exploited at every opportunity to help promote the Illini program and boost it when needed. Edwards has been a vocal supporter of Smith, so it makes sense Smith would have his pal stop by and do what he does best. And he’s done it a number of times…

At Alabama in 2013…

Or the previous year before the Las Vegas Bowl…

Or this past summer with NC State…

Illinois is 2-5 this season and now flirting with the likelihood of not going to a postseason bowl game in Smith’s first season on the job. We’ll see if Edwards is able to give the program the extra juice it needs.

Here’s hoping we get some video footage of Edwards speaking to the Illini.

PJ Fleck tells Cubs to Row the Boat, and a brief look at longest conference title droughts in college football

EVANSTON, IL- SEPTEMBER 03: P.J. Fleck head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos reacts after his teams win against the Northwestern Wildcats on September 3, 2016 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. the Western Michigan Broncos won 22-21. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The World Series gets underway tonight in Cleveland. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs are each looking to bring an end to a championship drought that dates back over 70 years. The Cubs are playing in their first World Series since 1945. The Indians have been back to the Fall Classic a small handful of times since last winning a World Series in 1948. There are three college football programs from the Power Five that have similar droughts they continue to look to end, as far as a conference championship is concerned.

No team has waited as long to win a conference title than Iowa State, who last saw a conference championship in 1912. That came in the old Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. That conference would pave the path to the old Big Eight Conference, which of course later merged with departing members from the Southwest Conference. As the conference has evolved, Iowa State has struggled to compete for a conference crown.

The only two conference championship droughts comparable to the current droughts of the Cubs and Indians reside in the SEC. Mississippi State has not won a conference championship since 1941 (SEC), and Vanderbilt has to go all the way back to 1923 for its last conference title (Southern Conference). Playing in the same conference as college football powers like Alabama, LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia over the years has not allowed for much opportunity for either SEC program, and that likely will remain the case for many years to come.

While not quite as long of a wait, Western Michigan looks to be on track to snapping their conference championship drought that goes back to 1988. The Broncos are undefeated and have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, aside from a regular season finale against Toledo. Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck gave the Cubs a pep talk during a stop on SportsCenter this morning.

Row the boat, Cubs (or Indians, depending on your rooting interests)!

Longest Conference Title Droughts By Conference

ACC: North Carolina State (1979)

Big 12: Iowa State (1912)

Big Ten: Minnesota (1967)

Pac-12: Arizona (1993)

SEC: Vanderbilt (1923)

American: Temple (1967)

Conference USA: Rice (1994)

MAC: Ohio (1968)

Mountain West Conference: New Mexico (1964)

Sun Belt Conference: New Mexico State (1978)