The Swami

Predictions 101 — Week 11


West Virginia ruined our shot to sweep the entire dozen last week. Well, at least we had Louisville covering.

It’s just too bad that we didn’t have more success vs. “the number,” going just 6-6 in Week 10.

Naturally, we had the right call in the so-called Game of the Century and continued to deliver in the “two more you shouldn’t ignore” section, running our record down there to 16-3.

Once again, skip down to the bottom. That should be our motto.

After 120 games, we’re 69-47-2 (two games weren’t on the board), with a straight-up record of 91-29.

TOP 10 GAMES (Thurs., Nov. 10 thru Sat., Nov. 12)

1) No. 6 Oregon at No. 3 Stanford
Sat., Nov. 12 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

The Ducks have done an admirable job of trying to reinvent the game of football. Obviously, what Chip Kelly has brought to Eugene is wildly successful. The vast majority of opponents can’t keep up with the pace of the super speedy quack attack.

However, as much as that is the a new reality in the Pac-12, so is the fact that the Ducks have been unsuccessful against a certain type of ball club.

Stanford (9-0, 7-0), playing at home on The Farm, fits that bill.

We’ve seen it before with Oregon (8-1, 6-0). Remember the Rose Bowl two years ago? Last year’s BCS Championship Game? This year’s opener? In those games against Ohio State, Auburn and LSU, the Ducks came up with a not-so-grand total of 63 points. Our math isn’t always so good, but that seems like an average of just 21 points against elite teams that play with a high level of physicality.

You might not consider the Cardinal to be worthy of inclusion in that club because of a lack of team speed, and you’d be right. But we’re not calling for a stonewalling of the Oregon spread-option, just that The Tree will stand tall in the end.

Although injuries have started to mount in Palo Alto, superstar quarterback Andrew Luck and that sledgehammer Stanford offense will limit the Ducks’ offensive opportunities and have yet to misfire in the red zone (52-of-52).

Opening point spread: Stanford by 3

The pick: Stanford 32-26

Final: Oregon 53-30

2) No. 10 Virginia Tech at No. 20 Georgia Tech
Thurs., Nov. 10 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai’i. “Coach Hedanz” also would like to go on record with his disagreement with the prediction above. Things are not always harmonious within the P101 consortium.

The Hokies roll into the ATL with their conference destiny in their own hands. Win out and a rematch with Clemson could be on the horizon.

Oddly enough, the Yellow Jackets recently got back on track by beating the only team to knock off Virginia Tech (8-1, 4-1), those same Clemson Tigers.

This matchup features the Hokie rushing defense (fifth in the country) against the Jacket run game (second in the

country). In Georgia Tech’s two losses, its ground game was held in check. Although Georgia Tech (7-2, 4-2) has an explosive passing attack, its success in that department depends on its ability to run the football.

VT will win that particular battle with aggressive yet disciplined defense, thus grounding GT’s aerial assault.

Expect some Beamer Ball magic in the special teams to ignite this one and put the game away for the visitors.

Opening point spread: Virginia Tech by 1 1/2

The pick: Virginia Tech 29-17

Final: Virginia Tech 37-26

3) No. 19 Nebraska at No. 12 Penn State
Sat., Nov. 12 — Noon ET, ESPN

No matter what unfolds in the days since posting this prediction, this contest will be unlike any of the previous 1,219 games in Penn State football history.

As difficult as it may be, we’ll try to focus on football here … the only certainty being that a game will be played.

If Nebraska (7-2, 3-2 in Big Ten) didn’t have problems of its own, it would run a larger risk of getting swept up in the controversies that have engulfed Penn State (8-1, 5-0). At the top of the Cornhusker to-do list is shoring up a defense that yielded 468 yards in a deflating 28-25 loss to Northwestern last week in Lincoln.

The Nittany Lions, who rank near the bottom of the Big Ten and 88th nationally in total offense, aren’t equipped to take full advantage of Nebraska’s defense if it remains in a giving mood. Penn State’s attack is heavily focused on in-form tailback Silas Redd, who has already gone over 1,000 yards.

Redd’s counterpart, Husker junior Rex Burkhead will be the key. If he is able to break into triple-digits on the road, which under normal circumstances would be highly unlikely, Happy Valley gets even sadder.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 2

The pick: Nebraska 23-17

Final: Nebraska 17-14

4) TCU at No. 5 Boise State
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, Versus

Already rivals due to their BCS-buster brotherhood and a pair of bowl clashes within the past three years, this de facto MWC Championship Game is the first — and likely only — conference matchup between these two ambitious programs.

It’ll also be the first time TCU (7-2, 4-0 in MWC) sets foot on the blue stuff in Boise, and we know how that usually ends up.

In addition, Boise State (8-0, 3-0) might not recognize this particular edition of the Horned Frog defense, which bares little resemblance to the rock-solid units it faced at the Poinsettia and Fiesta Bowls following the 2008 and 2009 seasons. TCU allowed a total of 90 points in its two losses this season to Baylor and SMU.

One can be certain that Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore, who didn’t toss a TD pass in either of the previous two meetings versus the Frogs, will enjoy one of his typical Xbox 360 afternoons.

Opening point spread: Boise State by 13

The pick: Boise State 42-24

Final: TCU 36-35

5) No. 24 Auburn at No. 14 Georgia
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

When we last saw these Tigers and Bulldogs on the field together, punches were being thrown after a game that included 10 personal foul penalties.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who was knocked out of last year’s game by a late hit that fueled the fire of this ancient rivalry, will have much more fun this time around. He ranks first in the SEC in passing efficiency and Auburn (6-3, 4-2) ranks next to last in the league in passing efficiency defense.

Georgia (7-2, 5-1) also will be bolstered by the return of freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell, who served a one-game suspension last week, sitting out the ridiculous 63-16 annihilation of New Mexico State.

The Dawgs claim they won’t be scoreboard watching, but if Florida beats South Carolina earlier in the afternoon, they can clinch the Eastern Division with a win over the defending BCS champs, who have been anything but Tigers on the road this season.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 13

The pick: Georgia 31-14

Final: Georgia 45-7

6) Tennessee at No. 8 Arkansas
Sat., Nov. 12 — 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Only two teams in the country have a worse rushing offense than the Volunteers. Averaging just 87 yards per game and 2.6 per carry is bad enough, but when you combine that with a true freshman quarterback making his first start on the road, you’ve got some serious problems.

Tennessee (4-5, 0-5 in SEC) doesn’t stand a chance of sticking with Arkansas (8-1, 4-1), which is averaging nearly 38 points per game.

Expect the hungry Hogs to come up with a focused and crisp effort, further motivated by the fact that a 44-28 victory over South Carolina somehow translated into a drop in the BCS standings.

The price here seems rather cheap.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 13

The pick: Arkansas 38-16

Final: Arkansas 49-7

7) Wake Forest at No. 9 Clemson
Sat., Nov. 12 — noon ET, ESPNU

The Tigers have had an extra week to stew about their ragged performance in the 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech. That’s not good news for the Demon Deacons, who are solidly headed in the wrong direction.

Unless you consider barely beating Duke, 24-23, something to brag about, Wake Forest (5-4, 4-2 in ACC) has been slip-sliding away ever since wrapping up a 35-30 victory over Florida State on Oct. 8.

Coming into the game against the Yellow Jackets, Clemson (8-1, 5-1) was averaging more than 40 points per game, but didn’t get anywhere near that. Starting tailback Andre Ellington not playing in that contest due to an ankle injury had a lot to do with that as it took a pair of freshmen to replace him and both lost fumbles.

Ellington will be back on Saturday and so should the Tigers.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 15 1/2

The pick: Clemson 38-19

Final: Clemson 31-28

8) No. 4 Alabama at Mississippi State
Sat., Nov. 12 — 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson wasn’t able to buck the odds and have a Heisman highlight night versus LSU last week. But the 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards that he did gain weren’t really expected either.

Imagine what kind of numbers he’s going to have against the Bulldogs, who rank eighth in the SEC in both rushing defense and total defense.

Alabama (8-1, 5-1 in SEC) won’t need any field goals to beat Mississippi State (5-4, 1-4), which has exhibited a lack of quality depth in recent weeks, particularly on offense.

The Bulldogs haven’t come within 20 points of the Tide in their last three meetings and have lost 20 consecutive games to top-10 foes.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 17

The pick: Alabama 34-10

Final: Alabama 24-7

9) No. 2 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Sat., Nov. 12 — Noon ET, ABC

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

With each passing week, and especially now that they’ve elevated themselves into BCS Championship Game contention, the pressure mounts for Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0 in Big 12).

Two road wins over a pair of teams at the bottom of the conference standings before the Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma for all the marbles. Easy, right?

“Not so fast, my friend,” as Coach Corso likes to say.

If the Red Raiders’ upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman three weeks ago doesn’t make them a dangerous barking dog, maybe the Cowboys can be reminded of what happened in Lubbock on the first week in November in 2008 when the Red Raiders handed No. 1 Texas their first loss of the season.

Surprisingly, the Pokes’ wins in this series the past two years have been relatively low scoring, and we expect that trend to continue with the visitors playing a little more close to the vest to prevent costly mistakes and Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4) fired up to make amends for the embarrassments the past couple weeks.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 19 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma State 27-20

Final: Oklahoma State 66-6

10) Miami (Fla.) at Florida State
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC

This matchup used to be a shoe-in to be at the top of this list rather than the bottom, but you still can’t deny the awesome appeal of the annual renewal of this rivalry.

Lamar Miller, the first 1,000-yard rusher in Coral Gables since 2002, is the best back your neighbor hasn’t heard of, and Hurricane quarterback Jacory Harris is quietly in tip-top form. Together they give Miami (5-4, 3-3 in ACC) a fighting chance against Florida State (6-3, 4-2), which ranks first in the league and fourth in the nation in total defense.

Incredibly, the favorite has lost the last six meetings.

Sometimes we’ll buck a bizarre trend because it figures to end. But we can’t go all the way. We just won’t pass up the freebie points.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 9 1/2

The pick: Florida State 27-23

Final: Florida State 23-19


Washington at No. 18 USC
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, FX

Is there a team in the country that cares more about numbers than the Trojans?

Witness last Friday’s 42-17 victory at Colorado, where USC (7-2, 4-2 in Pac-12) shamelessly sought and captured a six-touchdown night for quarterback Matt Barkley. We won’t even go into that whole final score mess that erupted after Troy’s 23-14 (or 17-14) win over Utah … oops, we just did.

Washington (6-3, 4-2) has an even worse pass defense than the Buffaloes, ranking dead last in the conference and 113th in the nation (allowing 283 yards through the air per game).

Those numbers seem to spell doom for the Dawgs, but let’s not forget that Steve Sarkisian has won both of his previous games against his previous employer.

Opening point spread: USC by 13

The pick: USC 34-27

Final: USC 40-17

Western Kentucky at No. 1 LSU
Sat., Nov. 12 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Normally we jump all over games like this, figuring that a drastic emotional drop-off will translate into something that will fall within the massive margin established by our friends in the desert. But this one is a bit tricky.

The freshly crowned “Game of the Century” champions are on top of world, after out-defensing Alabama, 9-6.

Western Kentucky (5-4, 5-1 in Sun Belt) prevailed in a scoring-challenged struggle of its own, edging Florida International, 10-9, on a walk-off field goal to run their winning streak to five games. All five of those victories have been in Sun Belt play, putting the Hilltoppers in position to capture the conference crown.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a program that has never played in a bowl game and won only two league games within the previous two seasons. So in a sense, WKU has bigger — yet smaller — fish to fry. What the Hilltoppers really need to do is get out of Death Valley alive (and with their paycheck) and get ready for North Texas and Troy.

Besides, what do you think is going to happen when a team ranked 101st in both scoring offense and total offense goes against the Tigers’ NFL-caliber defense, which can score as well?

Opening point spread: LSU by 41 1/2

The pick: LSU 52-0

Final: LSU 42-9

Week 11 record: 10-2
Total: 101-31

SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 all have 5 teams in coaches top 25 poll

Johnny Jefferson, Micah Awe
1 Comment

With multiple teams in the coach spill top 10 losing this week, there was bound to be some shaking up the rankings this week. The coaches poll still has Ohio State on top, followed by TCU, Michigan State and Baylor. Florida had the biggest jump in the rankings while Georgia had the biggest drop The coaches poll also welcomes some new additions this week.

The Florida Gators, fresh off a stomping of previous No. 3 Ole Miss (down to No. 13) moved up 11 spots in this week’s coaches poll. Florida is one of five SEC teams in this week’s coaches poll. The Big Ten has five as well. So does the Pac-12.

No. 23 Iowa, No. 24 Boise State and No. 25 Memphis make their debuts in the coaches poll this week, giving us our first glimpse on the national perception in the Group of Five race. I may have Boise State down a few pegs, but the coaches, or those who actually submit the votes, have the Broncos on top of the Group of Five pack. Memphis is right there as well, but not Toledo.

Here is this week’s coaches poll:

  1. Ohio State ( first place votes)
  2. TCU
  3. Michigan State
  4. Baylor
  5. LSU
  6. Clemson
  7. Utah
  8. Florida State
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Alabama
  11. Texas A&M
  12. Florida
  13. Ole Miss
  14. Northwestern
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Georgia
  17. USC
  18. Stanford
  19. Oklahoma State
  20. UCLA
  21. Michigan
  22. California
  23. Iowa
  24. Boise State
  25. Memphis

Brian Kelly defends decisions on two-point conversion attempts

Brian Kelly

Notre Dame fell two points shy of tying a road game at Clemson Saturday night, partly because the decision to go for two-point conversion on one early fourth-quarter touchdown backfired on the Irish. Down 12 points early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly chose to go for two-points to cut the Clemson lead to 10 points, meaning Notre Dame would need a touchdown, extra point and a field goal to tie. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Irish trailed by 12, 21-9.

Had the Irish gone for the easier and more likely extra point, Notre Dame would have been down 11 points. That is still a bit of an uphill battle that would require a two-point conversion later on anyway, but it also meant Notre Dame had to score two touchdowns instead of a touchdown and a field goal for a shot at tying the game. Making things worse, Notre Dame burned a timeout after the touchdown before deciding which two-point conversion play to run.

Notre Dame’s execution of a late two-point conversion with the game on the line with under 10 seconds to play also came into question as the Irish looked to give freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer the call on a run-pass option. This was stuffed by Clemson as Kizer held on to the football. Kelly, after the game, defended his quarterback’s decision to try and run for the two points.

“We had fair numbers,” Kelly said. “He’s reading it at the line of scrimmage, if the numbers were fair, they were in zone coverage. It was the right call. He made the right call.”

Sometimes a player can make the right decision and still come up short. Perhaps that is exactly what happened in the rain at Clemson Saturday night. Kizer made the best possible decision in the heat of the moment, but Clemson came out on top with solid work up front on the line of scrimmage. Of course, as it turned out late in the game, Notre Dame would have only needed an extra point to tie Clemson in the final seconds after the Tigers tacked on a field goal to set up a seven-point deficit with an Irish extra point earlier. The Irish were forced to go for two because they chased the points earlier in the quarter. Hindsight might be 20/20, but Kelly is not looking back on that decision.

Kelly is hardly the only coach to make some questionable decisions under pressure this season, or this weekend. He is, however, another example of a coach being paid millions to put his program in the best position making some questionable calls that have come back to bite him. Maybe Notre Dame would have won in overtime. The Irish certainly had the momentum in their hands. Or maybe Clemson wins anyway. Who knows?