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Predictions 101 — Week 1

Nick Saban AP

Here we go!

It’s been 33 long weeks without college football games to keep us occupied and the offseason was generally one that we’d like to forget.

Thankfully, the best season in sports is finally upon us and we’re digging right in.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thur. Aug. 30 thru Mon., Sept. 3)

1) No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 2 Alabama at Arlington, Texas
Sat., 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Thanks to Brady Hoke, Michigan got back to being Michigan last year, but three starting defensive linemen are not back this season. That doesn’t bode well for the Wolverines in this matchup versus the defending BCS champs.

Led by Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones and three other returning starters, the Crimson Tide offensive line is the best in the country and it’s looking for more ways to prove it.

Alabama averaged 5.5 yards per rush last season, but the offense generated just 13 plays that went for 40 or more yards. Nick Saban is looking for new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to add more explosiveness to the passing game led by junior quarterback A.J. McCarron.

Michigan’s offense suffers from no such lack of explosiveness. Senior quarterback Denard Robinson is a powder keg and has been a particularly strong performer out of the gate in September. However, opening against Alabama is a different ballgame.

Someone with a penchant for throwing interceptions might be in for a long night against a Crimson Tide defense that shouldn’t fall off much from last year’s showing that saw it allow only 3.3 yards per play and permit third-down conversions at a stingy rate of 24.5 percent.

Michigan’s corresponding numbers from last season were 5.2 and 36.4 percent. Take nothing away from Wolverine defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who did a masterful job last season, bringing Michigan’s defense out from the muck, but this is too tough a task.

Trent Richardson is gone and his replacement, Eddie Lacy, is nursing knee and ankle sprains, but that doesn’t mean the Tide will be searching for answers at running back. If Lacy is limited or ineffective, expect to see true freshman T.J. Yeldon show his considerable stuff.

Opening point spread: Alabama -11

The pick: Alabama 26-19

2) No. 24 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State
Fri., 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

This will be the fourth consecutive time that the Broncos open the season against a ranked foe from a BCS automatic qualifying conference. Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia were each previously victimized. However, this is a bit different because it’s the first of the four played on the opponent’s home field … and the first played without Kellen Moore available to take snaps.

Thankfully for Boise State, both teams are starting new quarterback eras. Like Moore, Michigan State hero Kirk Cousins will be remembered for a long time at his alma mater.

Quarterback Joe Southwick won’t be the only new starter for the Broncos. Most of the skill positions around him will be manned by newcomers, as well as all but two spots on defense. Wow.

We keep hearing that Boise State has become one of these schools that reloads instead of rebuilds. Amazing.

Chris Petersen is indeed a miracle worker, but rolling into East Lansing where the Spartans have eight starters returning from a defense that allowed less than 280 yards and 19 points per game is a mighty tough task with a new signalcaller.

After this trip, the Broncos likely will fall out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since September of 2008. That’s nothing to mourn … rather something to marvel.

Opening point spread: Michigan State by 7 1/2

The pick: Michigan State 31-20

3) No. 14 Clemson vs. Auburn at Atlanta
Sat., 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The last time we saw Clemson, the Tigers were being humiliated by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

Reportedly Brent Venables, who came over from Oklahoma to be Clemson’s new defensive coordinator, hasn’t watched all the footage of that 70-33 debacle. We wouldn’t either. It would not only be depressing, but also barely relevant as he reworks what remains from that unit into his favored 4-3 alignment.

Similarly, the last time these two Tigers were on the same field a year ago, the ones representing Auburn surrendered 624 yards of total offense on their way to a 38-24 defeat that snapped a 17-game winning streak. At one point, Auburn inexplicably allowed Clemson to convert on 10 consecutive third-down attempts. Ouch.

Unlike Venables’ situation, that tape is something new Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder needs to take a long look at.

With Gene Chizik recently announcing that sophomore Kiehl Frazier will start at quarterback, the Auburn defense might need to hold Clemson under 19 points to win the ballgame. The future is bright for the young dual-threat signalcaller, but we aren’t sure how he’ll perform on such a big stage this early in the season. He’ll also be working with a new coordinator (Scot Loeffler, who takes over for Gus Malzahn) and without suspended starting center Reese Dismukes.

Even though suspended wideout Sammy Watkins isn’t available to lean on, we’ve got more confidence in Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was 30-of-42 for 386 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s matchup. And tailback Andre Ellington and receiver DeAndre Hopkins are ready to roll for the defending ACC champs.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 7 1/2

The pick: Clemson 27-19

4) Georgia Tech at No. 16 Virginia Tech
Mon., 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

There’s lots of hype around jumbo quarterback Logan Thomas being the “next Cam Newton.” He has the size and some of the tools, but we just need to see if his young supporting cast compliments him well enough to get the job done each week.

Thankfully, the Hokie offense won’t be overly pressed to produce since the Virginia Tech defense, which has a host of experience at every level, will keep the majority of its opponents significantly under wraps.

Last year, the Hokies put the clamps on the Yellow Jackets in the fourth quarter of a 37-26 victory in Atlanta.

With Georgia Tech severely inexperienced at the receiving positions, it’s hard to picture the Ramblin’ Wreck keeping pace in this crucial Coastal Division showdown in Blacksburg.

Opening point spread: Virginia Tech by 7 1/2

The pick: Virginia Tech 27-17

5) No. 9 South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Thurs., 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Gamecocks surpassed all expectations last year, winning a school-record 11 games. What’s even more amazing is that they played nearly half the season with All-Everything tailback Marcus Lattimore on the sidelines.

With his recovery from knee surgery complete and Connor Shaw solidified at quarterback (if back spasms don’t get in the way), South Carolina is dreaming big.

Vanderbilt, however, doesn’t give a hoot about all this and there is some danger looming in Nashville as second-year head coach James Franklin has the Commodores feeling good about notching back-to-back bowl seasons.

Of course, good times in the opener will last only as long as quarterback Jordan Rodgers (Aaron’s little brother) remains upright while facing South Carolina’s skyscraper defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney (6-6) and Devin Taylor (6-8).

Remember how poorly the Gamecocks played in last season’s lid-lifter against East Carolina?

This will be tight.

Opening point spread: South Carolina by 8

The pick: South Carolina 24-23


Notre Dame vs. Navy at Dublin, Ireland
Sat., 9 a.m. ET, CBS

How could we pass up the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in college football? And this time it’s a season opener in Ireland!

Newly named starting quarterback Everett Golson has that electric quality to him, but he also won the confidence of Brian Kelly by displaying good decision making in practice. According to Kelly, he was intercepted just one time in his first 126 attempts of fall camp.

Following that sort of trend was the bright side of the offseason for Kelly, who spent (and continues to spend) considerable time getting tough with his misbehaving players.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has been laying down the law regarding another kind of toughness, the physical kind. He and his Midshipmen feel that’s what was missing as they slipped to a 5-7 mark last season and missed out on a bowl game for the first time in eight years.

Navy has only 11 returning starters and is particularly inexperienced in both trenches. After losing its entire starting defensive front, it’s frightening to think of how punchless the Midshipmen pass rush will be after barely generating any penetration and pressure a year ago.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 14

The pick: Notre Dame 28-16


Washington State at BYU
Thurs., 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

We like Mike Leach. We admit it. We don’t like pirates. We don’t like Pullman. But we like Leach. And, guess what, his act and attack is going to work up in the Palouse.

Like the oddsmakers, we realize that Wazzu has no business waltzing into Provo thinking that they’ve got this won. But once the bullets start flying, BYU will know that it’s in for a 60-minute shootout against Leach and his senior triggerman Jeff Tuel.

Of course, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson, a seventh-year senior, is capable of grabbing a hold of the game and not letting go, especially against Washington State’s limp defense, but at least the experienced Cougar secondary has been there before against similar attacks.

Maybe it’s not a moneyline play, but there’s a lot to like.

Opening point spread: BYU by 12 1/2

The pick: Washington State 31-30

2011 regular season record: 121-43
2011 bowl record: 20-15

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41 Responses to “Predictions 101 — Week 1”
  1. th56 says: Aug 27, 2012 6:55 PM

    Still waiting for the day that one of these “Great” SEC teams has the guts to play a top 10 team away from their home turf.

  2. cuckflemson says: Aug 27, 2012 7:03 PM

    Well you won’t have to wait long because once SEC division play gets under way there will be plenty of top ten match ups.

  3. burm61 says: Aug 27, 2012 8:01 PM

    ACC is garbage. But we’re the best of a bad situation. Go HOKIES! CrimiNOLES are overrated as usual.

  4. th56 says: Aug 27, 2012 8:08 PM

    I’m sorry, I’ll correct that.

    Still waiting for the day that one of these “Great” SEC teams has the guts to play an out of conference top 10 team away from their home turf.

  5. fcmlefty1 says: Aug 27, 2012 8:44 PM

    The Boise State cupboard isn’t as bare as many would like to believe. Yes, they are breaking in a new QB. But DJ Harper is a 6th year Sr. at RB – and before his injuries, he started ahead of Doug Martin. 4 of the 5 starting linemen have previous extended stretches of being starters, just not last year. The top back up lineman has also made starts, including the Fiesta Bowl win vs TCU a few years ago. The FB missed all of 2011, but was a multi year starter before that. Matt Miller is as sure handed as they come at WR, and 2 of the TE’s have major experience and are very versitile.

    On defense, DE’s will both be new – thats admittedly a wild card. Both DT’s have played alot in the past. LB’s have experience. FS was a starting corner at times last year.

    All in all, you’d be surprised just how experienced of a team they’ll field considering they lost 17 starters from the 2011 squad.

  6. thegeneral7694 says: Aug 27, 2012 8:59 PM

    @56: How about this Saturday night, when Alabama plays #8 Michigan away from Bama’s home turf….that soon enough for you? After 6 straight BCS titles, the SEC doesn’t have anything left to prove to anybody.

  7. th56 says: Aug 27, 2012 10:33 PM

    sorry, that doesn’t cut it. They need to play on the other teams home turf. Something they have refused to do for years.

  8. monsterright says: Aug 27, 2012 10:42 PM

    Alabama will win by 21

  9. wmack1914 says: Aug 27, 2012 11:22 PM

    Couple things: AJ McCarron is a Junior.

    Secondly, these games are scheduled a couple years in advance in most cases. Can’t wait until the preseason polls come out and then decide to schedule them.

    And when I look at the Top 10, they’re mostly SEC teams anyway. 5 of the AP Top 10 are SEC teams and will all play each other at some point anyway.

  10. ferristide says: Aug 27, 2012 11:57 PM

    th56 are you midly? “Refused to do for years”…yeah you got it! LOL sounds like sour grapes to me…Let’s see, in 2008 Bama played a top 10 Clemson team AWAY from home…2009 Bama played a top 10 Va. Tech AWAY from home…last year Bama played Penn State (not top ten but top 20) AT Penn State…What about Texas in 2009(although it was a bowl game it was in California…oh yeah Bama won 37-21…)…This year Bama plays a top 10 team(Michigan) AWAY from home…stop crying little lady…

  11. thegeneral7694 says: Aug 28, 2012 1:27 AM

    Well, 56, I was just going by what you said, which was “away from their turf”. You’re asking the SEC teams to predict something that is impossible to predict, namely, who’s going to be in the Top 10 3 years from now. I mean, come on…after having won 6 BCS titles in a row, and a total of 8 out of 14, no rational observer is still questioning the SEC’s superiority. Those who do remind me somewhat of the few whackjobs that still believe the moon landings were faked. Like Morrie from Goodfellas….talk, talk, talk, but nobody ever listens to them, because they’re full of it. President GW Bush was only a year into his 2nd term the last time anybody other than an SEC team won it all, and nobody had ever heard of an iphone yet…

  12. florida727 says: Aug 28, 2012 9:06 AM

    th56 says:
    Aug 27, 2012 6:55 PM
    Still waiting for the day that one of these “Great” SEC teams has the guts to play a top 10 team away from their home turf.
    I was completely unaware that Arlington, TEXAS was a suburb of Tuscaloosa, ALABAMA. Thanks for straightening that out for me though. My geography skills were lacking. Should have paid more attention in that remedial class I guess.

    Why don’t you also make the argument that ANY BCS conference school needs to go on the road to play all those FCS schools that dot their schedule every year, you know, because they have to prove they can win away from home?

  13. gtizzo says: Aug 28, 2012 9:20 AM

    This guy is dreaming if he thinks Washington State beats BYU. I wouldn’t be so quick to pick Clemson either that defense is still suspect.

  14. dchambers144 says: Aug 28, 2012 10:28 AM

    @ferristide: neutral site does not equal away. Alabama vs. Michigan is in Arlington, Texas and I know Clemson vs. Alabama was in Atlanta, GA. While Atlanta is probably a neutral site (2 hrs from Clemson, 3 hrs from Tuscaloosa) I’m not sure Arlington can be considered neutral.

  15. newlydead says: Aug 28, 2012 10:44 AM

    i’ll take Michigan and the points … i’ll also take Navy and the points.

  16. ferristide says: Aug 28, 2012 1:13 PM

    Hey “dchambers”, you missed the point of my comment. Which was to let our mildly friend, “th56”, know that Bama does play top 10 teams AWAY from their HOME TURF…Oh and Bama also went to Pedo Bear’s house to play a ranked Penn State team…

  17. twardyyy says: Aug 28, 2012 2:12 PM

    Jeeez, when reading a couple of these comments, one thing comes to mind — people are jealous of the SEC. Simply put. The SEC can’t help that they have the best players in the nation’s best conference. I already know whenever the SEC doesn’t win the title, whichever conference’s fans are gonna be spouting, “We’re the best conference in the nation because the SEC didn’t win the title for the first time in at least six years!” It’s not the SEC’s fault that they win the titles — maybe the other teams should play better. In the last six title games, the SEC has outscored their opponents, 183-92 (even though last year’s title game was SEC vs. SEC). People just need to stop hating on the SEC, period.

  18. dchambers144 says: Aug 28, 2012 2:59 PM

    @ferristide: agreed, I’ll give you that ‘Bama has been better at scheduling quality opponents that a lot of teams (SEC or not). But not all of your mentioned “away” games were true away games. Point is, more teams should schedule quality opponents; don’t worry about top 10, 15 etc. because you can’t predict when a team will have an off year when scheduling games 5 years out.

  19. mtaror says: Aug 29, 2012 6:04 AM

    There is no way Va Tech hangs with Ga Tech in this one. Jackets by at least 10.

  20. schuck259 says: Aug 29, 2012 2:55 PM

    Inevitably the SEC will EVENTUALLY lose a NC and all the haters will conveniently forget that for the better part of the last decade they have had their rears handed to them by “the 2nd best team the BCS could find.”

    Stop making excuses, support your team, and hope they figure it out sooner than later.

    It’s all defense, it’s not a secret. The PAC10, Big 12, and Big 10 have won their entire fanbase over with 50+ point games and flashy quarterbacks that can’t do squat in a bowl game.

    Remember all the analysts drooling over how no one could keep up with Oregon’s offense? Surprise.

  21. polegojim says: Aug 29, 2012 2:58 PM

    It’s really a ‘no lose’ scenario for Michigan.

    Bama is the better team, everyone knows it. Hat’s off to them.

    Michgan gets beat, it’s expected. Aint no shame getting beat by #1.

    Michigan makes it closer than expected but still gets beat… it’s a good thing.

    Michigan beats Bama… buckle up and WOW.

    Go BLUE!

  22. jamkarat says: Aug 29, 2012 3:32 PM

    Go Blue..
    I applaud Michigan for taking on a heavyweight their 1st game out. polegojim is shame in getting beat by a top team..but it’s not gonna happen. Michigan 32-27.

  23. CBFAN says: Aug 29, 2012 4:00 PM

    I am a Buckeye fan so I can’t believe I am saying this but…

    Go Blue!

    Argh…. now I need to go take a shower.

  24. eslebederkaiser says: Aug 29, 2012 4:11 PM

    The SEC has been so dominate the last half decade and longer is because of great recruiting. Long gone are the days where you play near where your from. Most of the best states to recruit from are from warm climate areas and have a high population rate such as Florida, California and Texas just to name a few. A large percentage of players recruited to Michigan are from Michigan or Ohio. It is almost impossible to get a recruit from a warm weather southern state to go up north. You have places like USC, Texas, and Oklahoma out of the SEC that are fairly warm but those schools are few and far between. I am from Michigan and I have lived in Alabama for the past 8 years . I am a fan of both, (They say when you love here you have to pick one) never been a problem before this year since 2000. I have to say I am a Much bigger Michigan fan I have been my whole life just what I grew up with.

  25. garyfromil says: Aug 29, 2012 5:15 PM

    I am a huge SEC fan even though I live in the middle of Big 10 country. I am very pleased with the Alabama/Michigan match up. They are both taking a risk. As many have pointed out, Texas is a neutral site and Alabama had a home and home series with Penn State in the past 2 years. The Tide played Clemson in 2008 and Virgina Tech in 2009, so they have a history of tough out of conference openers. I would love to see more big guns from big conferences schedule each other. It would be great for the game and would help with strength of schedule points.

    I still think the SEC is the best, but do look forward to USC playing Alabama/LSU/Arkansas/ Florida/Auburn/Georgia or whomever the SEC sends to the title game.

    Despite the great talent of USC, they just don’t same the same level of competition week in and week out.

  26. jdennison1983 says: Aug 29, 2012 6:28 PM


    Michigan is out of conference, in the top 10, AND the game is in Texas. When are you all going to stop hating on the SEC? Just root for your team and hope that they can catch up because the SEC has been running college football for the past decade. Whoever said it was lonely at the top clearly wasn’t from my neck of the woods. Roll tide roll. That is all.

  27. ferristide says: Aug 29, 2012 9:32 PM

    jdennison…epic post…”that is all”, lol…

  28. jamkarat says: Aug 30, 2012 2:10 AM

    Really, I am just looking forward to what should be a good game. As a Michigan Alumni, and fan, who has a deep respect for the SEC, and currently lives in Knoxville, via Florida, I think it is a good choice for Michigan. It will ignite their fans. Don’t think it has as much affect on Bama fans-they always come out strong, and Sabin is one of the best. Still Michigan has great momentum, and something to prove, which is why I give Michigan the edge.

  29. selmaborntidefan says: Aug 30, 2012 7:57 AM

    For Pete’s sake can we drop the excuses before the games even start?

    1) In the past few years SEC teams have had OOC road games against USC, Washington, Oregon, Penn State, games scheduled years in advance. It’s not our fault where a team is ranked five years up the line.

    2) It’s about money and the SEC has 9 of the 14 largest venues and a rabid fan base that means dollars.

    3) Michigan opened against App St at home in 2007 and lost, so let’s not be talking about tough road openers. In recent years they’ve opened against Central Michigan and Vandy & UCONN.

  30. londonlion81 says: Aug 30, 2012 11:08 AM

    Notre Dame to go 10-2 this year and play in a BCS Bowl. Book it.

  31. t16rich says: Aug 30, 2012 4:44 PM

    Nice record. Holy s#it. Like Michigan and Michigan State to cover. As well as Clemson. Washington State is and has been my play of the week for over a month. Tuel and Leach are going to spread that ball to every single player. At least I hope. Good luck to the gamblers whatever side your on.

  32. hitdog042 says: Aug 30, 2012 6:41 PM

    The SEC has cleaned up on home games since BCS was created. They even play the BCS bowl games in their back yards.

    Everyone outside of SEC country gets and understands that.

    SEC folks are just cocky. Come to Columbus. Come to Ann Arbor. Come to Madison.

    Yeah.. .I didn’t think so.

    Yeah.. its happened like once or twice in the last 20 years.

  33. murman1111 says: Aug 30, 2012 6:42 PM

    Notre Dame and USC is the longest continuous intersectional rivalry. Doesn’t anyone to research anymore?

  34. ferristide says: Aug 30, 2012 8:33 PM

    Nice try hitdog042…….please remind me, what is Ohio States record against the SEC? Yeah, didn’t think so…Also, Bama came to Happy Valley and took it easy on Penn State(but still won by double digits)..SEC= Best conference in college football…Get over it, son…

  35. ferristide says: Aug 30, 2012 8:36 PM

    Oh yeah hitdog…Arizona and California are not in the South East…you need to think before you comment or you shall continue to look like a tool…

  36. suprmous says: Aug 31, 2012 1:02 AM

    You guys have started the season off with such a welcome till it’s sickening. To listen to what you’ve had to say makes me think of it as a funeral in Louisiana with a departed family member lying in state and family members arguing over what kind of beer they want later at the Celebration of Life. Football from all of the Conferences has some good teams and some of the schedules may seem somewhat off kilter but you’ve still got good teams comin from good Conferences. Now get on your Big Boy Panties and enjoy the season rather than go at one another like rabid animals.

  37. foreverlsu says: Aug 31, 2012 11:43 AM

    nice upset special of the week

  38. proudwhodat says: Aug 31, 2012 11:19 PM


    Last season LSU was 6-1 against top 25 teams having beat the eventual number 1 Alabama on the road, top 5 Oregon on the road, top 25 West Virginia on the road, top 5 Arkansas. Top 25 Georgia on the road and top 25 Auburn. And the only game that was close was the Alabama game. The only loss was the BCS Championship game. Let’s see a Big Ten, er Twelve team run that gauntlet. Heck, y’all can’t even count.

  39. 1historian says: Sep 1, 2012 7:47 AM

    I’m not particularly a fan of the SEC but it’s pretty plain that SEC fans here do have bragging rights.

    This means that they can be loud, arrogant, obnoxious, insulting and pretty well say whatever they damn well please because they have the facts to back them up.

    And we’ve got a choice – argue with them (hint – they love that!!) or just sit back and enjoy the arguments, which is my choice.

  40. laidbackinhouston says: Sep 1, 2012 11:03 AM

    Man!! It’s great football season is here again and we can trash each others teams!!

    th56 says:
    Aug 27, 2012 6:55 PM
    “Still waiting for the day that one of these “Great” SEC teams has the guts to play a top 10 team away from their home turf.”

    Answer: I’m still waiting too but there just is not any “top 10 team” other than SEC to play… :)

  41. Deb says: Sep 1, 2012 7:13 PM

    @polegojim …

    I know you’re at Jerrah’s World preparing for kickoff–you lucky dog 😀 Here’s hoping for a good safe game for both our teams!

    Roll Tide!

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