Mark Richt

Predictions 101 — Week 2

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While we went 6-1 overall last week, we pulled a Houston when it comes to the pocketbook. It was bad, but no one “got resigned” … yet. Maybe we just need to add a “few bad citizens” around here to find more success.

The fear this week is that our team will get caught peeking ahead past this week’s task at hand — an uninspiring quintet rescued only by SEC expansion — to next week’s far more attractive board that includes: Alabama at Arkansas, Florida at Tennessee, USC at Stanford, Notre Dame at Michigan State and BYU at Utah.

Week 2 doesn’t contain a single game pitting ranked foes against each other. We really had to scrounge around to fill out our Top 5 this week. It’s such a sad Saturday that Thursday’s Pitt-Cincy pillow fight made it.

Oh well, still way better than baseball.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thursday, Sept. 6 thru Saturday, Sept. 8)

1) No. 7 Georgia at Missouri
Sat., Sept. 8 — 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2

With nearly half of its starting defense out of uniform (four suspensions and one injury), Georgia was underwhelming in a 45-23 victory over Buffalo last Saturday. Mark Richt will need more hands on deck in Columbia to slow down the Tigers’ slippery spread led by dual-threat quarterback James Franklin.

Missouri, which is making its SEC debut, also deserves your attention in the other phases of the game, after reaching the end zone four times while the offense wasn’t on the field in its 62-10 smackdown over Southeastern Louisiana. Punt returner Marcus Murphy accounted for half of those non-offensive scores in the opener.

Even with all that firepower on the opposite sideline, the Bulldogs still figure to set the pace. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray has a pair of senior wideouts to target and freshman running back Todd Gurley had an impressive debut last week with a TD hat-trick that included a 100-yard kickoff return.

They’ll put the Bulldogs out in front and Jarvis Jones & Co. will make sure they stay there.

Missouri defensive end Sheldon Richardson disagrees, but “old man football” still wins the games in this league.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 3 1/2

The pick: Georgia 27-20

2) No. 24 Florida at Texas A&M
Sat., Sept. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

As the Gators’ 27-14 victory over Bowling Green last Saturday illustrates, it’s good to open versus an opponent that you can work out the kinks against without a heavy threat of getting tagged with a loss.

The Aggies had their version of that sort of runout all set up against Louisiana Tech, but Hurricane Isaac forced a postponement, leaving this visit by Florida as their lidlifter. Yowza.

No pressure, Kevin Sumlin. Your first game in charge at College Station is just Texas A&M’s debut in the SEC. Don’t worry, no one will remember that billboard. And Herbie, Desmond and Coach Corso will be there with you to break the matchups down.

It’s a tough spot for redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. He has  wideouts Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, and rebuilt running back Christine Michael to lean on, but Florida’s ultra experienced defense will swallow up most of what the Aggies have to offer from their new attack.

On the other side, Gator sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel has emerged from a competition with Jacoby Brissett, but it’s still a shaky situation, which isn’t helped much by inexperienced receivers. But they’ll be going against an Aggie secondary that is similarly young and senior running back Mike Gillislee seems capable of shouldering a significant share of the offensive burden.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 2 1/2

The pick: Florida 23-17

3) Washington at No. 3 LSU
Sat., Sept. 8 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

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

Keith Price is back to trigger a Husky offense that’s expected to be explosive. Early in the opener versus San Diego State, the attack appeared as advertised, but when tackle Ben Riva went down, the offense went with him for the final three quarters.

Against a far-from-dominant defense, the Washington offense showed that it will struggle in the post-Chris Polk era. Without a take-charge running back, the play-action game will struggle and Price won’t be able to take advantage of an unsettled LSU defensive backfield.

Tigers in Seattle are nothing like Tigers in Death Valley. It’ll be a long night for the Dawg offense.

We’ve been hearing that new coordinator Josh Wilcox will work with a much improved Husky defense. Well, giving up 199 rushing yards to the Ronnie Hillman-less Aztecs doesn’t bode well when Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and a bigger, meaner offensive front brings it in the trenches. Both Tiger backs will go over the century mark for the second week in a row.

The Huskies are still a few years away from approaching college football’s elite.

Opening point spread: LSU by 22

The pick: LSU 38-10

4) No. 13 Wisconsin at Oregon State

Sat., Sept. 8 — 4 p.m. ET, FX

We don’t know what to expect from the Beavers, who had their opener versus Nicholls State postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. But, really, what would we have learned? Perhaps it serves them well that the Badgers didn’t get a peek and they’ll be better rested.

Wisconsin wasn’t impressive against Northern Iowa, needing to bat down a pass on fourth-and-1 to preserve a 26-21 victory in Madison.

The Badger offense led by new quarterback Danny O’Brien (a “Russell Wilson rule” graduate of Maryland), new coordinator Matt Canada and good ol’ Montee Ball was vanilla as usual and generally effective versus the FCS squad.

The Wisconsin defense, however, could be a concern in Corvallis as the Panthers seemed to figure out coverage schemes and took advantage in the second half.

Oregon State’s young backfield of Sean Mannion (sophomore) and running backs Storm Woods (redshirt freshman) and Malcolm Agnew (sophomore) could be just balanced enough to topple the visitors.

The Beavers are usually good for at least one of these a season, having beaten nine ranked teams since 2005.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 11

The pick: Oregon State 28-24

5) Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Thurs., Sept. 6 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Last week wasn’t a good one for teams from Pennsylvania with new coaches at the helm, hosting teams from Ohio.

Road games after wakeup calls have a way of bringing clear focus to a squad, at least that’s what Paul Chryst is hoping happens for his Panthers.

Except for the fact that Pitt has a short week to rest and retool before this Thursday tilt, this all puts Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones in a difficult spot. Not only would he have preferred the Panthers take care of Youngstown State as expected, but to have a played a game prior to this conference opener would have been nice too.

Pitt, which also might be bolstered by players coming off suspensions, has several wicked weapons. They just weren’t sharp right out of the box.

The Bearcats will go down that same road.

Opening point spread: Pittsburgh by 2

The pick: Pittsburgh 23-21

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Penn State at Virginia
Sat., Sept. 8 — noon ET, ABC

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

Maybe a home game against a team they were supposed to beat wasn’t the best recipe for the Nittany Lions to begin their new regime and get the attention back to business on the field.

Often times a road trip does a squad in turmoil some good. And while there’s no escaping the past and the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with it, Penn State players now have the experience of dealing with the distractions.

The Lions seemed in control of their opener versus Ohio, but the bubble burst after halftime when they surrendered 301 yards of total offense and allowed the Bobcats to convert on 11-of-12 third-down attempts.

Virginia junior triggerman Michael Rocco was 25-of-37 for 311 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s 43-19 victory over Richmond, spoiling the Spider coaching debut of his uncle, Danny Rocco.

Penn State might be drained and shorthanded, but it ain’t no FCS squad. If Nittany Lion running back Bill Belton can overcome an ankle injury and help control the ball on offense, the defense can regroup to avoid a repeat of the sloppy second half effort against Ohio that saw them outscored 21-0.

Smiling faces in Happy Valley are long over due.

Opening point spread: Virginia by 5

The pick: Penn State 24-20

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Iowa State at Iowa
Sat., Sept. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

It’s the 60th renewal of the Cy-Hawk Series, which dates back to 1894.

This isn’t the most balance rivalry around as Iowa owns a 39-20 advantage. Last year, however, Iowa State broke a three-game losing streak with a 44-41 triple-overtime win in Ames. The last time the Cyclones won on the road in Kinnick Stadium was in 2002, but that 36-16 upset was a doozy (the Hawkeyes’ only setback of the regular season).

Judging from their respective openers, this one is a tossup, especially since our friends in the desert tend to underestimate the Cyclones.

Iowa waited until 2:15 remained in the fourth quarter to score its only touchdown in an 18-17 come-from-behind victory over Northern Illinois at Solider Field last Saturday. Four field goals normally won’t get the job done against anybody, but the Hawkeyes escaped. Credit the Iowa defense, which held the Huskies to just 201 total yards, only 54 of which came through the air.

Iowa State, on the other hand, overcame a horrific start and scored 24 unanswered to beat a decent Tulsa squad, 38-23, last week in Ames. Quarterback Steele Jantz was 32-of-45 for 281 yards. He sprayed his aerials around to nine different receivers and accounted for three touchdowns.

The Cyclones, who displayed a sturdy defense in the final three quarters versus the Golden Hurricane, will be tested by Hawkeye sophomore tailback Damon Bullock, who rushed for 150 yards and that lone touchdown (a 23-yarder on third-and-9). However, Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg passed for only 129 yards and was sacked six times, giving something new offensive coordinator Greg Davis to work on.

Opening point spread: Iowa by 4

The pick: Iowa 26-24

Week 1 record: 6-1

Report: Wisconsin DBs coach Daronte Jones leaving for Miami Dolphins

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 27:  Wisconsin Badgers cheerleader waves the flag after the team scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the South Florida Bulls on September 27, 2014 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the South Florida Bulls 27-10. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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The post-National Signing Day coaching carousel is now in full tilt.

According to a report from Adam Caplan of ESPN, Wisconsin defensive backs coach Daronte Jones is leaving to become the assistant defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins.

The Badgers already endured a significant loss this winter after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda took a lateral position with LSU. He was replaced in January by former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Jones spent but 13 months in Madison, a January 2015 addition to Paul Chryst‘s first staff after spending three seasons at Hawaii.

Wisconsin possessed one of college football’s top pass defenses in 2015; the Badgers ranked seventh nationally in pass defense, tied for sixth in yards per attempt allowed, placed third in opponent completion percentage and finished second in pass efficiency defense.

Former Baylor walk-on RB Silas Nacitas takes his game abroad

Northwestern State inebacker Adam Jones (3) gives chase as Baylor's Silas Nacita (31) fights his way into the end zone for a score late in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 70-6. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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The past year has been quite a ride for running back Silas Nacita. The former Baylor walk-on is now playing football in Germany after signing a contract with the Marburg Mercenaries.

“Signed a contract today with a professional football team in Germany,” Nacita announced on his Instagram account. “When I said I’d go anywhere to play, I meant it. It’s obviously not the NFL, but this is the opportunity that is in front of me. I have always wanted to travel the world, but because of football I haven’t been able to. Now, because of football, I’ll have that chance. Furthermore, and most importantly, I’ll have the opportunity to answer Jesus’ call to go into all the world and preach the gospel! Upon receiving my college degree, it’s off to Marburg. I’m excited for this next step in my crazy journey!”

For those who do not remember, Nacita was ruled to be an ineligible player by Baylor last spring after accepting help from a friend. After being bounced out of Baylor, Nacita took off for the NAIA, where he once again ran into some eligibility hurdles.

Helmet sticker to Sports Illustrated.

SEC wants to keep Michigan spring football practices out of the south

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh calls for a flag in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Michigan and Florida both entered the season hoping to revive storied programs that had begun to look more pedestrian than they were accustomed to. Enter Wolverines coach Harbaugh and Gators coach Jim McElwain, who both brought their own style and approach to the sidelines in their first seasons on the job. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
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Don’t say I didn’t warn you this was coming. Last week when we learned Jim Harbaugh plans to bring Michigan’s spring football practices to Florida for a week over Michigan’s spring break, I suggested this was news that would not sit well with coaches from the ACC and SEC. Here we are now and the SEC is asking the NCAA to prevent Michigan from following through on their spring break plans.

The SEC has reportedly asked the NCAA to block teams from holding spring practices over that school’s spring break, according to CBSSports.com. The timing speaks for itself, as it comes less than a week after Harbaugh confirmed the spring practice plan to travel to Florida.

“Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we’ve got one program taking what has been ‘free time’ away,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said to CBS SportsDennis Dodd. “Let’s draw a line and say, ‘That’s not appropriate.'”

Sankey and the SEC have asked the NCAA to make a ruling on this situation “as soon as possible.”

There are no NCAA rules about holding spring football practices off campus or out of state. Spring football games are a different story than practices. What Harbaugh has announced falls within the NCAA rules. The SEC company line will be to address the issue of plauyer safety and well-being by suggesting practicing over spring break reduces the down time for players, but it doesn’t take a bloodhound to sniff out the truth behind the request to the NCAA.

The SEC is not necessarily scared of Harbaugh and Michigan. The conference is afraid this will be a trend that catches on with programs throughout the north that can afford to pick up and travel south for a full week in the cold days of March. The last thing the SEC wants to see is half or more of the Big Ten and perhaps other programs located in the north planting flags in their borders for a week.

The question the SEC should be asked is if they would have the same concerns over spring break practice times if it was North Dakota State or Montana traveling south for a week in Florida. You can probably guess the answer to that.

Kyle Allen rips Texas A&M’s post-Johnny Manziel culture

This Sept. 26, 2015 photo shows Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen standing on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. Kyle Allen is headed to Houston. Cougars coach Tom Herman announced the transfer on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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There was a time when being a part of the Texas A&M family was what Kyle Allen wanted out of his college experience, but his quick departure from the program raised more than a few eyebrows. The culture around the Aggies program following Johnny Manziel turned out to be something Allen was not comfortable being a part of, which is why he opted out and transferred to Houston.

“I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny’s era there — the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there,” Allen said in an interview with Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. “They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny … and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.”

“A lot of people were riding off that, ‘I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'”

Allen’s statements and explanations about his time in College Station shed some light on the state of the program under Kevin Sumlin, who himself has come under some heat in the last few months after losing both Allen and Kyler Murray to transfers after the regular season (Allen transferred to HoustonMurray ended up at Oklahoma). Given how much Texas A&M is paying Sumlin, the bar has been raised and the Aggies have struggled to live up to the hype it has generated the past couple of years without Manziel. As Allen describes it, Texas A&M’s players were going in too many different directions to allow Texas A&M make any run for an SEC division championship.

“When you don’t have players like Johnny and [others] there anymore, you have to really come together as a team and scrap for wins,” Allen said. “We had a lot of people who were talking about the same goal but weren’t all committed and on the same page to get to that goal. For you to win in the SEC — especially the SEC West — 10 games a year and be a controlling powerhouse in that conference, you can’t have a bunch of people going different ways.”

Allen wasn’t done. He also seemed to take a shot at Sumlin and the Texas A&M coaching staff.

“Everyone wasn’t in a straight line. Everyone was going this way, this way, this way. We had a ton of talent there. I think that, once you get all the right coaches there and get the vision right, you can do a lot of things.”

There are always two sides to every story, of course.