Predictions 101 — Week 9

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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

TWO MORE YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE

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

Report: Oklahoma State adding Bob Stitt as offensive analyst

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Bob Stitt, who has become a bit of a cult hero in the college football coaching world over the last few years, is moving on up. Oklahoma State will reportedly add Stitt as an offensive analyst, according to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter.

Stitt was fired by Montana after this past season after missing the FCS playoffs for a second consecutive season and a second-round exit in his first season with the program in 2015. Stitt had become a rising star in the lower levels of college football after reshaping the offensive strategies with Colorado Mines in Division 2. The Nebraska native has coached a Harlon Hill Trophy winner (Division 2’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and has coached Colorado Mines to three conference championships. Stitt gained notoriety after being given credit for his offensive strategies by West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Stitt being let go by Montana came as a bit of a surprise after just three seasons with the program. Offensively speaking, Oklahoma State rarely needs any assistance in moving the football and scoring, but Mike Gundy is wise to bring in a mind like Stitt to add to the expanding of the offensive schemes in Stillwater.

As an offensive analyst, Stitt will be prevented from doing any on-field coaching and instead will focus on prepping the game plan and breaking down film. However, having Stitt on the staff in some capacity leaves a door open for a future position on the 10-man coaching staff should a position open at some point.

Jeff Banks looks to make Alabama’s special teams a strength

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If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.

“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”

Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.

The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.

Temple prepares for next step in quest for new on-campus football stadium

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With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.

“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”

One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.

Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”

The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.

In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.

Chuckie Keeton returns to Utah State as offensive assistant coach

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One of Utah State’s all-time best players is back with the program. Chuckie Keeton is joining the Utah State coaching staff, although his exact title has not yet been officially confirmed.

What role Keeton will take on remains to be officially announced, although the speculation is he will be an offensive assistant coach who will work with the Utah State quarterbacks. This will be Keeton’s second coaching job since his playing days came to a close. Keeton got started at Oregon State under former Utah State and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. Keeton joined the Oregon State coaching staff in 2016. With changes in the Oregon State program with a coaching change this offseason, now was as good a time as any for Keeton to return to Utah State, where he became one of the top players from a non-power conference program to become a bit of a household name.

Keeton shared his reaction to returning to his alma mater on Twitter.

Keeton holds a number of Utah State records including career records for completion percentage and pass efficiency and season records for most touchdown passes, passing yards, total offensive yards, and completion percentage. Utah State finished the 2017 season ranked 69th in the nation in passing offense and ended the year with 17 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Keeton’s college career was sidetracked by injuries far too often, but it will be good to see Keeton back with the Utah State program as he continues his coaching career.