Mark Richt

Predictions 101 — Week 2


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


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


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

LSU LB Corey Thompson looking for a sixth season from NCAA

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Kenyan Drake #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes away from Corey Thompson #23 of the LSU Tigers during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Corey Thompson is hoping this season isn’t his last at LSU.

The linebacker sustained an unspecified lower-leg injury during the first few days of summer camp in August.  It was originally thought that Thompson would be back in 6-8 weeks, but interim head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed Tuesday that the fifth-year senior will likely be sidelined for all of 2016.

“I think he’s going to redshirt,” Orgeron said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I think he’s going to redshirt and that decision has been made, just final the other day. I don’t think I’m talking out of hand, but I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

Thompson has what’s seemingly a slam-dunk case for a sixth season of eligibility that would allow him to play in 2017.  In addition to all of 2016, Thompson sat out the entire 2014 season because of injury.

According to Orgeron, Thompson will seek a waiver from the NCAA.

In 2013 and 2015, Thompson started eight of the 19 games in which he played at safety.  He moved to linebacker after the 2015 season, and was penciled in as a starter prior to the injury.

Memphis WR’s car shot up after physical altercation with teammate

Getty Images
1 Comment

An odd and somewhat disturbing situation is ongoing in Memphis involving two Tiger football players.

According to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, several gunshots were fired at the vehicle of Tigers wide receiver Jae’Lon Oglesby, who wasn’t in the vehicle at te time but heard the shots from inside his apartment.  The Commercial Appeal writes that Oglesby “noticed bullet holes in two windows and both of the passenger-side doors of his Nissan Altima, as well as bullet damage to the roof of the car.”

Oglesby told police he did not see who fired the shots, but did indicate that he had been involved in what was described as a physical altercation with a teammate, cornerback Kam Prewitt, earlier in the day.

Police are currently investigating the incident, and the university is aware of the situation.

“We are aware of the incident involving two student-athletes on the University of Memphis campus yesterday and are cooperating fully with the investigation,” athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement. “All student-athletes are subject to the University of Memphis Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, as well as University and athletic department policies.

“In addition, we are monitoring a second situation involving shots fired at a student-athlete’s parked vehicle at an off-campus location. We have offered our full support to the local authorities investigating that incident.”

Following Wednesday’s practice, head coach Mike Norvell stated that “[w]e’re in the evaluation stage of everything that has happened.” Neither Oglesby nor Prewitt were at that practice.

The past two seasons, Oglesby, a sophomore, has caught 25 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.  Five of those catches and 46 of the yards have come in 2016.  He also has carried the ball eight times for 64 yards.

A redshirt freshman, Prewitt has yet to play a down for the Tigers.  According to the Commercial Appeal he was suspended during summer camp for undisclosed reasons.

WKU’s leading rusher suspended for first half for role in Week 8 brawl

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 21: Anthony Wales #20 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers rushes during the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl against the South Florida Bulls at Marlins Park on December 21, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The fallout from a “complete melee” in Week 8 will bleed into Week 9 for Western Kentucky.

Conference USA announced Tuesday that running back Anthony Wales has been suspended for the first half of WKU’s game this weekend against FAU. Wales was one of myriad players involved in an in-game, on-field brawl last Saturday against Old Dominion.

Every player on each team was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the officiating crew. Additionally, Monarch defensive back Jamshyer McUmber was ejected from the game.

“Conference USA takes sportsmanship and player safety very seriously,” a statement from the league began, “and the conference appreciates the efforts of both coaching staffs and the game officials to restore order following the incident and play the remainder of the game without any additional issues.”

“The league informed us of their decision,” WKU athletic director Todd Stewart said in his statement. “Coach [Jeff] Brohm addressed the situation from our perspective on Saturday and again today. Our focus is on this week’s game at FAU and our goal of winning another conference championship.”

In addition to Wales, ODU safety Christian Bynum has been suspended for the first half of this week’s game against UTEP.  WKU wide receivers Nicholas Norris and Kylen Towner and wide receiver Kesean Strong and defensive back Rob Thompson of ODU were issued public reprimands but were not suspended.

Wales is far and away the Hilltoppers leading rusher, topping the team in rushing yards (739), rushing touchdowns (11) and yards per carry (6.5). The rushing touchdowns are tied for fifth nationally.

Quinton Baker, second on the team with 310 yards, will get the start in place of Wales.

Gus Malzahn says ‘no doubt’ Kerryon Johnson will play vs. Ole Miss

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers dives into the end zone for a touchdown during their game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kerryon Johnson‘s absence from the field will apparently be a brief one.

The running back sustained a sprained ankle in Auburn’s Week 6 win over Mississippi State, and, coming off a bye, the football program was initially optimistic he’d be available for the Week 8 game against Arkansas.  Instead, he was a game-day decision for the Razorbacks.

While Johnson missed that game, that won’t be the case this Saturday as Gus Malzahn declared his starting back ready to go against Ole Miss.

“He practiced yesterday. He will play, there’s no doubt about that,” the head coach Gus Malzahn said during the weekly SEC teleconference Wednesday. “We’re trying to be smart about it.”

At the time of his injury, Johnson’s 538 yards rushing and six touchdowns were tops among all Tiger backs.  Kamryn Pettway ran for a career-high 192 yards against te Razorbacks, and now leads the team with 697 yards.  Both Johnson and Pettway are part of an offense that ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game (302.9).