Dantonio Kelly

Predictions 101 — Week 3

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Once again, the team here is seeing things clearly. In Week 2, we went 4-3 straight, gave you Oregon State over Wisconsin, nearly came through with another big dog in Penn State and pegged the points scored for both Missouri and Texas A&M in their SEC debuts.

Even better, we were 6-0-1 versus “the number.” Not that anybody cares about such things, right?

That’s what we’ve done for you lately. Now, on to what’s up next.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Sept. 13 thru Sat., Sept. 15)

1) No. 20 Notre Dame at No. 10 Michigan State
Sat., Sept. 15 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Whaddaya know, the Fighting Irish have a shot to become relevant again. All they need to do is beat the Spartans.

Such an occurrence would mean Notre Dame improves to 3-0 for the first time in 10 years, breaks a six-game losing streak to ranked opponents on the road and effectively eliminates the Big Ten from BCS title contention in mid-September. All fairly amazing. Also quite difficult.

We don’t have much confidence in the Irish offensive line that was able to carve out just 52 rushing yards against Purdue last week. That spells trouble when going against a rugged Michigan State defensive unit that has yet to allow a touchdown, especially with an inexperienced quarterback starting his first game in a hostile environment.

Good luck to redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who had some pre-snap difficulty last week at home, and Tommy Rees when he comes in from the bullpen.

Irish backers will point to their team’s success in last year’s 31-13 victory over the Spartans, but it’s hard to imagine Mark Dantonio’s crew laying another egg like that at home. It hasn’t happened since and there’s certainly no reason to expect a recurrence in this spot.

Opening point spread: Michigan State by 2 1/2

The pick: Michigan State 24-16

2) No. 1 Alabama at Arkansas
Sat., Sept. 15 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

As we all know, the Razorbacks had an utterly forgettable outing last Saturday. Allowing Louisiana-Monroe to leave Little Rock with a 34-31 overtime victory was an all-time low for Arkansas, which went from No. 8 to No. Nothing in a flash.

The Warhawks made themselves at home, racking up 550 yards of offense (412 through the air) and routinely converted on fourth down (6-of-7). Unreal.

Aside from A.J. McCarron’s expert quarterbacking (14-of-19 for 219 yards and four TDs), the Crimson Tide didn’t have a particularly stellar Saturday either. That sounds strange, considering that Alabama registered a 35-0 victory over Western Kentucky, but you gotta shake your head at the fact that the all-world Tide offensive line gave up six sacks and the Hilltopper offense generated more first downs through the first three quarters.

However, this is less about waving red flags and more about knowing Nick Saban won’t let it happen again anytime soon. All of this and a growing injury list is bad news for the Hogs.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 13

The pick: Alabama 35-13

3) No. 2 USC at No. 21 Stanford
Sat., Sept. 15 — 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX

The Cardinal have dominated this series as of late. They’re on a three-game winning streak and have taken four of the last five from the Trojans, beginning, of course, with that upset of all upsets, the 24-23 stunner over No. 2 and 41-point favorite USC at the Coliseum in 2007.

The Trojans are ranked No. 2 in this spot as well, but judging from recent results, they pale in comparison to Pete Carroll’s juggernaut from five years ago.

Sure, USC has a distinct quarterbacking advantage with Matt Barkley, eons more experienced than Stanford’s Josh Nunes. But Lane Kiffin should show off a little more.

Who else could have a Heisman Trophy caliber quarterback share the field with a pair of seemingly unstoppable All-America wideouts and end up with only 187 yards passing against a limp Syracuse team as Barkley did last Saturday?

He did toss six touchdown passes, because stats are supreme at Troy these days, but to win “Pac-10” (we won’t recognize Utah and Colorado until they are deserving) games on the road, Barkley will have to direct an offense more diverse and explosive than the one that saw him toss 21 of his 23 completions to either Robert Woods or Marqise Lee out in the flats versus the Orangemen.

The Trojans should be wary of Cardinal safety Ed Reynolds, who already has three interceptions and 144 return yards this year, and linebacker Shayne Skov, a playmaker who is back for his senior season after being sidelined by injury.

USC isn’t Duke, but the recipe Stanford used to bottle up the Blue Devil running game and limit pass plays downfield should have some level of success.

We get the feeling that Kiffin plays to not lose. Maybe that’s the scholarship reduction talking. Maybe it’s the paranoia. In any case, the Cardinal won’t need Andrew Luck to give the Trojans, sans their kicker Andre Heidari, all they can handle up on The Farm.

Opening point spread: USC by 6 1/2

The pick: USC 29-27

4) No. 18 Florida at No. 23 Tennessee
Sat., Sept. 15 — 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Here’s how coaches earn those big bucks: Texas A&M’s offense had it all figured out in the first half of its SEC debut against Florida last week. But after working in some halftime adjustments, the Gator defense rose up and put a halt to it all, forcing five consecutive three-and-outs on its way to an easy second-half shutout.

Next up for Will Muschamp and the rest of the Florida braintrust is figuring out a way to slow down the Volunteer pass-catch combo of Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter, who judging by his sensational performance in last week’s 51-13 victory over Georgia State (eight receptions for 146 yards and three scores) appears fully recovered from ACL surgery.

Expect an unpolished performance out of Gator signalcaller Jeff Driskel, who will find himself under siege by a Tennessee defense that has shown a nose for the football.

It’s good to see this matchup return to an elevated status with ranked squads on both sidelines for the first time since 2007.

Could the Vols possibly drop four in a row to Florida in Knoxville and eight overall in this series? Nah.

Opening point spread: Even

The pick: Tennessee 24-20

5) California at No. 12 Ohio State
Sat., Sept. 15 — noon ET, ABC

The Buckeyes carry the extra weight of the Big Ten’s nightmarish showing against the “Pac-10” (Utah and Colorado not worthy) last week as Wisconsin whiffed at Oregon State, Nebraska made UCLA famous and Arizona State rocked Illinois.

The Bears were less than golden in their opener, losing to Nevada. Yet to impress, Cal bounced back last Saturday, sleepwalking to a 50-31 victory over Southern Utah. A rash of penalties this season calls coaching and overall focus into question. And key injuries aren’t helping either.

Ohio State will need someone other than sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller (296 yards and four scores in last week’s 31-16 win over Central Florida) to carry the mail. With a banged up backfield, that would normally be difficult. But the Bear run defense appears to be soft and unorganized.

As we have said in the past, Cal is Cal and will always be Cal. That ain’t a good thing.

Opening point spread: Ohio State by 13

The pick: Ohio State 34-10

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Virginia at Georgia Tech
Sat., Sept. 15 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

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

Incomprehensible placekicking inefficiency got in the way of last week’s upset special as favored Virginia escaped with a 17-16 win over visiting Penn State thanks to a quartet of shanks and a blocked extra point.

We’ll give credit to Cavalier quarterback Michael Rocco, who capped a game-winning 86-yard touchdown drive by tossing a six-yard scoring strike with just 1:28 left. The Virginia defense deserves some credit too, forcing the Nittany Lions to settle for field goal attempts after inheriting excellent field position throughout the contest thanks to four turnovers.

Georgia Tech was victimized by field goals, as well, in its overtime loss at Virginia Tech and gets no bonus points for racking up more than 700 yards of total offense against Presbyterian last week.

The Yellow Jacket wishbone should find sticky going against a Virginia defense that has allowed less than 75 rushing yards per game this season.

Virginia returns 14 starters from a squad that spoiled then-No. 12 ranked Georgia Tech’s 6-0 start last season, becoming the first team to out rush the Yellow Jackets since Iowa did it in the Orange Bowl, following the 2009 season.

Don’t look now, but the Cavs break into the Top 25 after improving to 3-0.

Opening point spread: Georgia Tech by 9 1/2

The pick: Virginia 23-17

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 25 Brigham Young at Utah
Sat., Sept. 15 — 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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

The Cougars take their undefeated start, national ranking and the sour taste from last year’s turnover-plagued 54-10 loss to the Utes into Salt Lake City for the latest battle in the “Holy War” (sorry, the new politically correct “Desert Duel Rivalry Game” moniker doesn’t get us going).

This will be a defensive battle between teams in their sophomore seasons of independence and the Pac-12.

Utah has the brightest individual standouts on both sides of the ball, in running back John White and nose tackle Star Lotulelei, but BYU has the team edge on offense and defense.

With quarterback Jordan Wynn now retired from football due to repeated shoulder injuries, senior Jon Hays and/or freshman Travis Wilson will have a hard time leading the Utes to the Promised Land in this one.

BYU ballcarrier Michael Alisa will outrush White, atoning for last year’s limp team output of just 11 yards on the ground. That’ll give quarterback Riley Nelson enough run support to make this game manageable.

Sadly this old and bitter rivalry, which Utah claims began in 1896, won’t be played in 2014 and 2015, and its future after a meeting in 2016 is in question. Enjoy it while you still can.

Opening point spread: Utah by 1

The pick: Brigham Young 31-21

Week 2 record: 6-1
Overall record: 12-2

BC suspends Troy Flutie following drunk-driving arrest

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Troy Flutie #16 of the Boston College Eagles makes a pass during the first quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Alumni Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, one member of the Boston College football team is being sent off on a forced sabbatical.

Monday, BC announced that Troy Flutie has been indefinitely suspended from the program.  The move came a few hours after his arrest on alcohol-related charges was made public.

After hitting a curb with a vehicle very early Saturday morning, Flutie was ultimately arrested and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of liquor, possession of an open container of liquor while driving and being a person younger than 21 in possession of liquor.  He was also issued a citation for a marked lanes violation.

The school said that the quarterback/wide receiver faces “additional university sanctions pending the outcome of the court proceedings” as well.

Flutie began his BC career as a quarterback and, after redshirting as a true freshman, played in eight games in 2015. He completed 24-of-49 passes for three touchdowns and an interception during his limited action.  Because of injuries at the position, Flutie was one of four Eagles quarterbacks to attempt at least 42 passes last season.

This spring, Flutie,the son of former BC wide receiver Darren Flutie and nephew of 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie, was moved to wide receiver.

Social media post indicates ex-Miami FB Walter Tucker’s headed to FIU

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 01:  Walter Tucker #44 of the Miami Hurricanes takes the field during a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels  at Sun Life Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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While Walter Tucker has left Miami, it doesn’t appear he’l be leaving the state of Florida.

On social media over the weekend, Walter Tucker, by way of Matt Porter of Palm Beach Post, has indicated that he will continue his collegiate playing career at FIU. That football program has not announced one way or the other the fullback’s connection to the football program.

In his Instagram post, Tucker, in addition to revealing his father has cancer, posted a photo of himself superimposed over FIU’s football stadium as well as the hashtags “#FIUNATION,” “#PANTHERNATION.” and “#PANTHERPRIDE.”

 

It’s unclear if Tucker would be eligible to play immediately in 2016 with the Panthers.

Tucker played in 32 games the past three seasons, mainly on special teams. He carried the ball three times for eight yards in 2015, and caught one pass for eight yards the year before.

In February, new Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt announced that Tucker had decided to transfer from The U.

Utah DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu transferring, reportedly visiting Nebraska over the weekend

Stevie Tu'ikolovatu
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A couple of months before the start of summer camp, Nebraska is in the market for some interior line help.

According to a report from HuskerOnline.com, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu visited Lincoln over the weekend as he continues his search for a new football home. Tu’ikolovatu had decided very recently to transfer out of the Utah football program.

Tu’ikolovatu would provide immediate help to the ‘Huskers as he would be coming in as a graduate transfer.

Last season with the Utes, Tu’ikolovatu played in all 13 games, starting two of those contests. His four fumble recoveries were tied for the lead in the Pac-12 and second nationally.

Pitt RB James Conner tweets his ‘body is clean of cancer’

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: Tailback James Conner #24 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes during a college football game at Heinz Field on September 20, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Hawkeyes defeated the Pitt Panthers 24-20. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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How about some excellent news for a change?

Late Monday afternoon, Pittsburgh running back James Conner tweeted out the words he’s been waiting months to say: “Just got the call that my body is clean of cancer!!!”  The news comes five months after Conner revealed that he had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest.

It also comes less than two weeks after the back completed his chemotherapy treatments.

The treatment hadn’t kept Conner completely away from the Panthers, however, as the running back was seen on video working out with teammates last month while he has been doing some individuals drills since the start of spring practice this month.  He’s also gotten the “celebrity treatment” during his battle as the back threw out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said earlier this offseason that he expects Conner to play in 2016.

As a sophomore, Conner was named the ACC’s Player of the Year in 2014.  He was fully expected to leave for the NFL following the 2015 season before the combination of a season-ending knee injury suffered in September and the cancer diagnosis prompted a return to Pitt.

UPDATED 7:47 p.m. ET:  Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi released a statement addressing Conner’s positive medical update.

Over the past six months, James Conner fought cancer the same way he plays football: relentlessly and without surrender. He has inspired and touched so many people in how he has handled this challenge. James is an incredibly special person, and I’m not even thinking about his football ability when I say that. Everyone at Pitt feels blessed to know him and we are tremendously thankful for the wonderful news he received today.