Predictions 101 — Week 12

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After that fast start, we’ve been “bowl eligible” for a while now, but our fans are getting restless due to recent mediocrity.

We went 5-6-1 vs. “the number” in Week 11 and that clearly isn’t up to the standards we set around here. A 10-2 straight-up mark ain’t too shabby, but we’re looking for a strong finishing kick.

After 132 games, we’re 74-53-3 (two games weren’t on the board) and 101-31 straight.

TOP 10 GAMES (Thurs., Nov. 17 thru Sat., Nov. 19)

1) No. 18 USC at No. 4 Oregon
Sat., Nov. 19 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

All the pressure is on the Ducks. Every trend points to them and so do most of the matchups. A two-touchdown favorite, Oregon is supposed to win comfortably. Saddled with probation, the Trojans have far less to gain or lose.

When a game shapes up like this, normally we start to envision the unexpected. However, Oregon (9-1, 7-0 in Pac-12) could be the least uptight team in the nation. The Ducks simply march along at their own ultra-rapid pace and seem to get the job done with relative ease, particularly against USC (8-2, 5-2) in recent years.

Oregon has totaled 100 points in its last two games against the Trojans, coasting to a pair of victories. Duck running back LaMichael James enjoys playing against USC more than any other team. The junior has rushed for 422 yards and four scores in those two previous outings versus Tailback U.

For the past couple games, USC has started freshmen at all three linebacker spots. Their speed will serve them well, but those youngsters will have their hands full pre-snap, getting aligned properly against the Ducks’ hurry-up, and post-snap, dealing with lightening fast weaponry, which now includes De’Anthony Thomas, an L.A. product and one-time Trojan commit.

USC has been unsuccessful in its last five visits to the state of Oregon (losses to the Ducks in 2007 and 2009, and to Oregon State in 2006, 2008 and 2010) and has won only twice in its last seven trips to Eugene. If this game were in Los Angeles, we’d go with the upset.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 14 1/2

The pick: Oregon 42-31

Final: USC 38-35

2) No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 25 Baylor
Sat., Nov. 19 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

If the Sooners can get beat at home by Texas Tech, they can lose to anybody. The Bears are certainly a far more qualified opponent than the Red Raiders, who came into their game at Oklahoma riding a two-game losing streak and since leaving Norman have lost three in a row by a stunning combined score of 159-33.

Baylor (6-3, 3-3 in Big 12) has won its last two games and leads the conference in scoring (40 points per game) and total offense (568 yards per game).

Superstar quarterback Robert Griffin III will get some business done, especially at home where the Bears are 5-0 this season. However, Baylor is allowing an average of 38 points per game (108th in the nation) and won’t be able to slow down a rested Oklahoma offense that will be without the services of all-everything wideout Ryan Broyles, who tore his left ACL in the Sooners’ last game, a 41-25 victory over Texas A&M on Nov. 5.

Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1) has been rejuvenated by Stanford and Boise State getting knocked from the ranks of the undefeated last Saturday, but the Sooners need to avoid the temptation of thinking about Bedlam too much.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 13 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma 45-38

Final: Baylor 45-38

3) No. 17 Nebraska at No. 20 Michigan
Sat., Nov. 19 — Noon ET, ESPN

The Cornhuskers did an admirable job blocking out all the distractions at Penn State last Saturday, coming away with a 17-14 victory that kept them in the running for the Big Ten’s Legends Division.

Michigan (8-2, 4-2 in the Big Ten) also won its game last week, taking care of Illinois, 31-14, but Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson picked up a slight injury to his right wrist. Michigan might not opt to go to the air too often against Nebraska, which allows a generous 161 yards rushing per game (eighth in the conference), but when Robinson does fling the football, a gimpy wrist won’t help him break his unfortunate streak of five consecutive games with an interception (total of 13 on the season).

This will be the second time this season that the Cornhuskers play on the road in consecutive weeks. In the first instance, Nebraska got whipped at Wisconsin, 48-17.

Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who rushed for 192 yards on 27 carries last week versus the Fighting Illini, will be the home team’s hero.

Opening point spread: Michigan by 2 1/2

The pick: Michigan 28-23

Final: Michigan 45-17

4) No. 1 LSU at Mississippi
Sat., Nov. 19 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The only thing the Rebels have going for them is history.

Last year, LSU needed a last-minute touchdown to beat Mississippi, 43-36, which was a huge upgrade for the Tigers, who inexplicably lost their previous two games to the Rebels.

Ole Miss (2-8, 0-6 in SEC), which got humiliated last week in a 27-7 loss at home to Louisiana Tech, doesn’t have a shot to pull off anything remotely similar against Louisiana State (10-0, 6-0).

Not only have the Rebels lost their last 13 conference games, their lame duck coach was forced to suspend quarterback Randall Mackey and running back Jeff Scott for this game due to a violation of team rules.

The Rebel offense was punchless with Mackey and Scott, ranking 113th in total offense and 109th in scoring offense. It’ll be sad to see what Ole Miss is able to generate without them against LSU’s rock solid defense.

The Tigers went through the motions in the first half of last week’s 42-9 victory over Western Kentucky, so they owe Les Miles (and P101) and full 60-minute effort against the Rebels as they tune up for next Friday’s showdown versus Arkansas.

Opening point spread: LSU by 28 1/2

The pick: LSU 42-6

Final: LSU 52-3

5) No. 21 Penn State at Ohio State
Sat., Nov. 19 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC

Tom Bradley vs. Luke Fickell. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Joe Paterno vs. Jim Tressel, but if you dig deep enough through the muck, it’s still Penn State vs. Ohio State and both teams have a lot to play for on the football field.

Penn State (8-2, 5-1 in Big Ten) can clinch at least a share of the Leaders Division title with a victory over Ohio State (6-4, 3-3).

Both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing losses that saw them fall three points short. The Nittany Lions got beat, 17-14, by Nebraska at home, while the Buckeyes fell, 26-23, in overtime at Purdue.

Unlike the oddsmakers, we see this as a toss up and we’ll adopt the opinion that Penn State will find refuge and focus by being together as a team on the road.

Opening point spread: Ohio State by 7

The pick: Penn State 21-17

Final: Penn State 20-14

6) North Carolina at No. 9 Virginia Tech
Thurs., Nov. 17 — 8 p.m. ET, ESP

The Hokies are close to wrapping up the Coastal Division crown. All Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1 in ACC) needs is a victory over fading North Carolina (6-4, 2-4) and Virginia to stumble at Florida State two days later.

This spotlight game matches two of the ACC’s top running backs against two of the league’s best run defenses. VT’s David Wilson leads the country with 1,360 rushing yards, while UNC’s Giovani Bernard is the nation’s top freshman ground gainer with 1,012 yards so far this season.

Wilson (career-high 175 yards rushing) and quarterback Logan Thomas (accounted for five touchdowns) came up big in the Hokies’ 37-26 victory last week at Georgia Tech. That stands in stark contrast to the Tar Heels who got blanked 13-0 at N.C. State on Nov. 5 and had to stew over that during last week’s bye.

Opening point spread: Virginia Tech by 10 1/2

The pick: Virginia Tech 31-14

Final: Virginia Tech 24-21

7) Kentucky at No. 13 Georgia
Sat., Nov. 19 — Noon ET, SEC Network

Remember when the Bulldogs opened the season with losses to Boise State and South Carolina, and Mark Richt was half-way out of Athens?

A reversal of fortune has Georgia (8-2, 6-1 in SEC) poised to clinch the Eastern Division title with a victory over Kentucky (4-6, 1-5).

Last season, Bulldog tailback Washaun Ealey rushed for 157 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-31 victory over the host Wildcats.

He won’t reach the end zone as often, but freshman Isaiah Crowell will pick up where Ealey left off against a Kentucky defense that allowed 38 points and 203 rushing yards last week in a miserable loss at Vanderbilt. That was a far cry from the 45-7 beating Georgia put on defending league and national champ Auburn last Saturday.

There’s also a huge gap between the quarterbacks with Aaron Murray lightyears ahead of UK freshman Maxwell Smith.

The Wildcats have not scored more than eight points in any road game this season, so the Bulldogs should have enough points to win by the time the first quarter ends.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 27 1/2

The pick: Georgia 41-6

Final: Georgia 19-10

8) No. 2 Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Fri., Nov. 18 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Powered by quarterback Brandon Weeden, wideout Justin Blackmon, running back Joseph Randle and a veteran offensive line, the Cowboy offense is incredibly efficient. Giving them extra possessions is simply deadly. But that’s exactly what’s been happening this season and why Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0 in Big 12) is undefeated and in position to play for the BCS title. The Cowboy defense leads the nation in takeaways (34) and turnover margin (+1.8).

Oklahoma State deserves a ton of credit for shutting out the Texas Tech offense in last Saturday’s 66-6 rout. That performance was the exact opposite of allowing 45 points to Kansas State at home the week before.

Iowa State (5-4, 2-4), which ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring offense and turnover margin, doesn’t match up at all against what the Cowboys have to offer.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 25

The pick: Oklahoma State 52-19

Final: Iowa State 37-31, 2OT

9) California at No. 8 Stanford
Sat., Nov. 19 — 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

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

With the Golden Bears coming to Palo Alto, the Cardinal have to quickly lick their wounds and move on.

The habit Stanford (9-1, 7-1 in Pac-12) had of winning their games by three touchdowns or more makes its return this week.

The Cardinal will buckle down and slow Isi Sofele and the rest of the Bear running attack, forcing them to take to the air.

Quarterback play for California (6-4, 3-4) has been spotty and although its wideouts are outstanding, you have to be able to get the ball to them. That won’t happen against an angry Stanford defense that feels it needs to redeem itself.

Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck will still be without some of his weapons, but he’ll rise above last week’s adversity and lead Stanford to a big victory over its arch rival.

Opening point spread: Stanford by 20

The pick: Stanford 52-24

Final: Stanford 31-28

10) Harvard at Yale
Sat., Nov. 19 — Noon ET, Versus

“The Game” is apparently bigger than “the scholarship.” At least it is to Yale quarterback Patrick Witt, who has chosen to play against Harvard on Saturday instead of attend a Rhodes Scholarship interview.

Witt, who was a finalist for the prestigious scholarship to Oxford, has withdrawn his application. Instead he hopes to lead the Bulldogs to their first victory over the Crimson in the last five years.

Harvard (8-1, 6-0 in Ivy), which was won nine of the last 10 meetings in this classic series, leads the Ivy League in both total offense and scoring. The Crimson haven’t scored less than 35 points in their last six games. Yale (5-4, 4-2), on the other hand, hasn’t scored that many in a single game since September.

Opening point spread: N/A

The pick: Harvard 38-24

Final: Harvard 45-7

TWO MORE YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE

Mississippi State at No. 6 Arkansas
Sat., Nov. 19 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

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

Despite taking a beating last week when they undervalued the Razorbacks, which resulted in enough action to move the line three points in an eventual 49-7 steamrolling of Tennessee, oddsmakers have once again made Arkansas (9-1, 5-1 in SEC) less than a two-touchdown favorite as the Hogs look to close out their home schedule a perfect 8-0 for the first time in over a decade.

Having allowed just 16 points per game over the their last eight contests, Mississippi State (5-5, 1-5) could offer some resistance against the SEC’s top-ranked offensive unit that has scored at least 38 points in each of its home games, but the Bulldog’s anemic offense isn’t likely to keep up regardless.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 12

The pick: Arkansas 34-13

Final: Arkansas 44-17

No. 10 Boise State at San Diego State
Sat., Nov. 19 — 8 p.m. ET

The last time the Broncos lost a game — these errant three-pointers seem to be their bugaboo — they took out their frustrations on Utah State, registering a 50-14 victory in their final game as a member of the WAC.

That’s not good news for San Diego State (6-3, 3-2 in MWC), which has the unenviable task of being next up for Boise State (8-1, 3-1).

Having to visit Qualcomm Stadium might further enrage the Broncos, who are now being talked about as a Poinsettia Bowl participant after having their national championship and BCS dreams dashed by TCU last Saturday.

The capable Aztec pass defense will make Kellen Moore put in an honest night’s work to wrap up his 47th collegiate victory.

Opening point spread: Boise State by 16

The pick: Boise State 35-17

Final: Boise State 52-35

Week 12 record: 9-3
Total: 110-34

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

Brandon Wade/AP Images for NFLPA
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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.