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

Michael Oher: Hugh Freeze is ‘man of God, man full of integrity’

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Hugh Freeze may have been blindsided by his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, but at least one of his former players has his back.

Homeless for stretches of his teenage life, Michael Oher was taken in by the Freeze family — a 2014 Bleacher Report article notes that “Oher spent one to two nights a week at their house” — while Freeze was the head coach at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis.  Oher went on to play football for Freeze in high school, with his compelling life story forming the basis for the Academy Award-winning film “The Blind Side.”

The player and the coach have formed a deep bond that stretches back more than a decade, a bond that hasn’t been broken despite the latter’s resignation as Ole Miss head coach under a cloud of controversy.

“He is a man of God and a man full of integrity,’’ Oher told USA Today Sports of his former coach. “I don’t know the full story but I’m willing to bet that everyone in the world had made a mistake that they have wanted someone to forgive them for.”

The offensive lineman added that without Freeze, “there is no Michael Oher and no “The Blind Side.'”

The news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.  Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze said earlier this week in his first public comments since his departure. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” he added.

On the same day Freeze resigned, coincidentally, Oher was cut by the Carolina Panthers.  Earlier this offseason, Oher was arrested after an altercation with an Uber driver in which the player allegedly bit the driver on the back.

LSU still can’t say Arden Key will be available for opener vs. BYU

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The Magical Mystery Tour that has been Arden Key‘s offseason continues.

In mid-February, LSU announced that Key had “decided to take some time away from football… for personal reasons.” Four months later, the football program announced the defensive end had rejoined the team; at the same time, it was announced that Key had recently undergone shoulder surgery.

Thursday, first-year head coach Ed Orgeron indicated that Key will not be available for the start of summer camp because of the ongoing rehab — and couldn’t commit to the player being available for the opener as well.

“We don’t know when he’s going to be ready, but obviously we expect him to play this year and have a great year. We won’t know (his playing status) until the end of camp,” Orgeron said according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. “I’m going to listen to the doctors. Some days he’s able to get into uniform and practice, he’s going to do that, but I don’t see that happening in the next couple of weeks.”

When it comes to playing against BYU Sept. 2 in Houston? “There is a chance,” Orgeron allowed.

A four-star 2015 signee, Key was a consensus Freshman All-American his first season with the Tigers after starting nine games.  Last season as a true sophomore, he led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.  The latter total set a school record.

Following that breakout campaign, he was named second-team All-SEC.

Clemson transfer Scott Pagano progressing from foot surgery, but might miss Oregon’s opener

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There was good news and potentially not-so-good news on the Scott Pagano front Thursday for Oregon.

A transfer from Clemson this offseason, Pagano suffered a broken bone in his foot in the Tigers’ mid-November win over Pitt that forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season.  After moving on to the Ducks as a graduate transfer in mid-April, UO’s medical staff decided he needed to undergo surgery to repair the damage in his foot.

First-year head coach Willie Taggart Thursday declared the defensive lineman ahead of schedule in his recovery from the medical procedure, but didn’t guarantee he’d be on the field for the 2017 opener.

“Something he had that he needed to be corrected,” Taggart said of the surgery according to oregonlive.com. “He’s ahead of schedule right now. I don’t like putting certain weeks on guys because everybody heals differently.

“He’s one of those kids that has been rehabbing his tail off and is itching to get back out there. He’s ahead of schedule right now. Hopefully he’s there for the Southern Utah game.”

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. He started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Before opting for UO, Pagano had taken an official visit to Oklahoma as he had whittled his to-do list down to those two. Arkansas, Notre Dame and Texas were also among the lineman’s five allotted official visits in his second round of collegiate recruiting.

CB Ryan Mayes no longer part of Miami football team

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There’s been a slight tweak to Miami’s defensive secondary ahead of the start of summer camp.

In a press release that consisted all of two sentences, the Hurricanes announced that Ryan Mayes is no longer a member of Mark Richt’s football program.  No reason was given for the separation, nor is it known whether the move was voluntary or involuntary.

A three-star member of The U’s 2014 recruiting class, Mayes was rated as the No. 48 cornerback in the country and the No. 92 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He held offers from, among others, Boston College and Syracuse.

As a true freshman, Mayes played in three games, then saw action in just one game the following season as he took a redshirt.  In 2016, the defensive back played in 11 games, mainly on special teams.

Prior to his departure, the redshirt junior was expected to fill a reserve role in the Hurricanes’ secondary.