Predictions 101 — Week 5

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We went 4-3 last week (both straight up and vs. “the number”), but feel left out.

How come only the fortunate folks who do this sort of thing for NFL games, get to have fun with the wild card of ridiculous replacement refs? Hey, we’d like to go on rants and blame our losses on officiating too.

Oh well.

Is it just us or does the college football season seem like it’s fast-forwarding away? Here we are at Week 5 already.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Sept. 27, thru Sat., Sept. 29)

1) No. 25 Baylor at No. 9 West Virginia
Sat., Sept. 29 — noon ET, FX

It’s all been building up to this for the Mountaineers, who are making their Big 12 debut. And the Bears have been holding up their end rather well, perhaps unexpectedly.

Some doubted Baylor’s ability to soldier on without Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Terrance Ganaway and wideout Kendall Wright, but Nick Florence has stepped up admirably, throwing for at least 312 yards and three scores in all three games this season.

On the flip side, the West Virginia offense led by quarterback Geno Smith has lived up to its lofty preseason hype. With 1,072 passing yards, 12 touchdown passes and zero interceptions on Smith’s resume so far, he is the Heisman frontrunner.

Along with wideouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Smith has to be licking his chops. The prospect of a team that’s allowing 492.7 yards per game coming into Morgantown for the first time is quite inviting and could signal a landslide of points.

Baylor, which is averaging 51.3 points per game (fifth in the nation), should generate some success of its own against a West Virginia defense that allowed Maryland to pass for 305 yards and convert on half of its 14 third-down attempts in a closer-than-expected 31-21 victory last Saturday. We just don’t expect it to be nearly enough.

The Bears are 0-25 versus ranked Big 12 foes on the road and don’t figure to break through on Mountaineer Field.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 10

The pick: West Virginia 45-27

2) No. 14 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

This is as good as it gets for the Big Ten at this point, but it sadly feels so incomplete.

Spartan signalcaller Andrew Maxwell has been underwhelming so far, but a sloppy fleet of receivers should share the blame. Thankfully for Michigan State, running back Le’Veon Bell has held up his end of the bargain, grinding out 152.5 yards per game (although only 77 versus Notre Dame).

Perhaps that group will find its groove against a Buckeye defense that’s far below its usual caliber, ranking last in the B1G in yards allowed (394.8).

Michigan State’s defense, on the other hand, leads the league in every major statistical category. That includes surrendering just 69.3 yards per game on the ground.

Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, who has recovered from a sprained knee, have their sights set on rushing for many more yards than that, but it remains to be seen … just like the overall revival expected under the direction of Urban Meyer.

Perhaps they’ve been waiting for this stage to make a statement.

Opening point spread: Even

The pick: Ohio State 24-23

3) No. 12 Texas at Oklahoma State
Sat., Sept. 29 — 7:50 p.m. ET, FOX

Both teams had last week off to look forward to this one.

They also had an opportunity to look around the country and see who was doing what, especially teams they’ve played recently. What each camp saw was quite different.

Last time out, the Longhorns wrecked Ole Miss, 66-31. The Rebels, however, bounced back last week with a 39-0 victory at Tulane. RPI geeks love that stuff!

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are still smarting from a 59-38 loss at Arizona on Sept. 8. Watching those same Wildcats get melted down by Oregon, 49-0, last Saturday must have been pure agony for Mike Gundy.

Oddly enough, Texas visiting Stillwater isn’t the worst thing in the world for Oklahoma State. Although the Cowboys have won only four of the 26 games in the series, half of those victories have come in the last two years.

Most of the early talk about this matchup has focused on who’ll be behind center for OSU, but we won’t quibble either way without that knowledge. Whether it’s Wes Lunt at less than 100 percent or J.W. Walsh, we’re still talking about a young player who hasn’t yet got a taste for the big-time in primetime. No matter who takes the snaps, capable Cowboy running back Joseph Randle will have to carry a large portion of the mail against the Longhorn defense.

Texas’ quarterbacking isn’t in question. Sophomore David Ash has been sensational so far this season, completing 76 percent of his passes, with seven touchdown tosses and zero interceptions. However, astronomical passer ratings built at the expense of Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss don’t really get us going enough to envision a win on the road for the Longhorns, who have won just six league games in the previous two seasons.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 5 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma State 37-31

4) No. 18 Oregon State at Arizona
Sat., Sept. 29 — 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

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

Utilizing good blue-collar football to produce two wins over ranked teams, while holding a pair of Heisman Trophy contending running backs to just 61 and 45 yards on the ground, Oregon State has been impressive and we are Beaver believers.

Oddsmakers aren’t as sold. We aren’t sure if they realize that the Beavs have taken six in a row from the Cats in Tucson.

Coach Mike Riley has the defense to do it again. Oregon State defenders are disciplined in their assignments, limit big plays and tackle well. However, the Arizona offense will see more production within the comfortable confines of the Zona Zoo.

We have to understand that the Oregon defense played well in last week’s 49-0 cruise past Arizona, but the football Gods also were smiling down on the Ducks. The Cats really set themselves up for the shutout by botching a field goal that would have put the first points on the board. In the end, they had six fruitless trips into the red zone and four turnovers.

That won’t happen two weeks in a row. The Arizona offense will get back into rhythm and Oregon State is in for a fight.

One might wonder how the Beavers will counter the Cats’ speedy 3-3-5 defense, which limited Oregon to just 13 first-half points. They’ll use freshman running back Storm Woods to control the pace, wear the UofA D down and win on a last-second score.

Opening point spread: Arizona by 3

The pick: Oregon State 33-31

5) Tennessee at No. 5 Georgia
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

It’s a bit of unfamiliar territory for the SEC’s marquee matchup to be this far down the P101 list. But most of that has to do with us being unable to trust a Volunteer defense that has been prone to give up big plays.

That bad habit won’t serve them well against a Bulldog offense triggered by Aaron Murray and powered by freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, which hasn’t scored less than 41 points in any game this season.

Not only is Georgia fresh off an impressive 48-3 victory over Vanderbilt, it might (only Mark Richt knows for sure) regain the services of safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, who have been sidelined by suspension since the start of the campaign.

The Bulldog defense has been stout, but some reinforcements would help in the effort to slow down the effectiveness of Vol quarterback Tyler Bray, who has the luxury of two show-stopping wideouts in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 15 1/2

The pick: Georgia 38-27

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

No. 17 Clemson at Boston College
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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

For the second time in three weeks, the P101-USOTW suffered a one-point defeat courtesy of a kicker failing in spectacular fashion. We’ll safeguard against that happening again by leaning on the leg of Eagle placekicker Nate Freese, who has connected on all 15 of his attempts this season (seven field goals and eight PATs).

Despite a 1-2 record, Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig has settled in nicely in his third year on Chestnut Hill, tossing just one interception while leading the ACC with 317 passing yards per game. He should continue his prolific connection with junior wide receiver Alex Amidon to give the Eagles scoring opportunities against a Clemson defense that was picked apart for 380 passing yards by Florida State’s E.J. Manuel last week.

After getting the better of the Seminoles for nearly three quarters, the Tigers will have to regroup from a devastating loss, which is much easier said than done. Last year, Clemson pulled a Clemson, going into a swoon that saw it go 2-3 the rest of the way after suffering its first defeat.

The Eagle defense features the nation’s leading tackler in senior linebacker Nick Clancy. He can help muck things up to produce a result similar to their 16-10 victory at Alumni Field two years ago.

Perhaps this is more “under” than upset.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 11

The pick: Boston College 19-13

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Houston vs. Rice (at Reliant Stadium)
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET,

Separated by less than five miles, the warring factions in the Bayou Bucket Classic are as close as you’ll find at the FBS level.

Last year’s matchup, however, wasn’t close at all, as Houston accounted for 73 of the game’s 107 points.

Rice’s defense seems intent on repeating that limp performance. The Owls currently rank dead last in the country in scoring defense, allowing nearly 46 points per game.

But they won’t have to deal with Case Keenum this time. In fact, Rice might have the more effective offense.

Houston has turned the football over 10 times already this season, which is one of the reasons the Cougars have yet to hold a lead over anyone.

The Bayou Bucket hasn’t stayed in the same place since the Cougars won three in a row from 2005 to 2007. It’s the Owls’ turn to take it over to their side of town.

Opening point spread: Houston by 7

The pick: Rice 35-34

Bovada likes Alabama to beat Georgia, but Oklahoma has odds in their favor

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Alabama has long been considered the favorite to win the national championship in college football according to Bovada this season, and that is not exactly changing with the College Football Playoff here. But if the Crimson Tide get paired up with Oklahoma, Alabama could be playing the role of underdog.

The latest odds released for each possible College Football Playoff national championship scenario have been updated by Bovada, and they continue to bode well for Alabama if they end up facing Georgia in Atlanta. Alabama is a 7/2 favorite against Georgia, while Georgia has been given 25/4 odds to beat the Crimson Tide. Georgia also has 13/2 odds against Clemson, while the Tigers have been given 4/1 odds against the Bulldogs.

The odds continue to bode well for Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma, however. The Sooners have been given 6/1 odds against Alabama and 7/1 odds against Clemson should Oklahoma get by Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal to play for their first College Football Playoff national championship.

Here are the different odds for the College Football Playoff national championship as updated by Bovada on Monday morning;

  • Alabama over Georgia – 7/2
  • Alabama over Oklahoma – 4/1
  • Clemson over Georgia – 4/1
  • Clemson over Oklahoma – 6/1
  • Georgia over Alabama – 25/4
  • Georgia over Clemson – 13/2
  • Oklahoma over Alabama 6/1
  • Oklahoma over Clemson – 7/1

Which bet do you like the most?

Crunch time for Temple’s on-campus stadium plans approaching quickly

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For about as long as anyone can probably remember at this point, Temple has been flirting with the idea of building an on-campus football stadium to serve as the home of the Owls. With the current lease agreement to play games in Lincoln Financial Field now set to expire at the end of the 2019 season, the idea of building an on-campus stadium has reached a point where it may be now or never.

According to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Temple is expected to provide an update on the potential plans for an on-campus stadium during a board of trustees meeting on Tuesday. With the construction of a possible 35,000-seat stadium structure expected to take between 18 and 24 months, time is beginning to be more of a factor moving forward. If plans for an on-campus stadium fail to move forward soon, then Temple must work with the Philadelphia Eagles to secure Lincoln Financial Field as a site for home games. According to a previous report from Philly Voice, the Eagles had been asking for a 30-year lease at $2 million per year and $12 million upfront. Temple has been paying $1 million per year for use of the NFL stadium and has called it home since the building opened in 2003. The original lease was a 15-year agreement with two options to tack on two additional seasons.

Temple’s on-campus football stadium has lacked the support from the Temple community and the surrounding neighborhood the stadium would potentially be constructed, making this a decision that does not come easily for the Owls and the university. Despite some recent good seasons out of the Temple football program, the Owls historically have not fared well with packing stadiums for games. Unless Temple is hosting Penn State or Notre Dame, Temple has struggled to be a draw that brings in many fans. The thought is having an on-campus stadium may make it more accessible for the Temple community for less-marquee games, but that is not a fail-proof strategy at this time for Temple either.

Temple’s issues with an on-campus stadium are not unique to the Owls. Even Miami has similar issues with playing home games in an NFL stadium off campus. Despite a strong season of football, Miami took a while to fill the seats until they were playing Notre Dame in November. But Miami has many advantages that Temple does not. And simply having an on-campus stadium does not immediately translate into national success. South Florida plays in an NFL stadium and they have fared well the past few years. Cincinnati has an on-campus stadium, yet they have continued to struggle. Regardless of where the team plays, it all comes down to simply having the best combination of staff and players. Having the best facilities possible is a big factor in recruiting both.

An on-campus stadium for Temple has its perks, but it is not a perfect plan according to those with concerns in the community. We’ll see if anything comes out of this latest board meeting, if the stadium idea remains on the agenda.

Oregon strikes big money deal to retain Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator

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Oregon may have dropped the first game of the Mario Cristobal era on Saturday, but the Ducks came out of the weekend with reason to feel energized about the future of the program. According to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, Oregon has reached a deal with defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to keep him on the staff through the 2021 season.

As reported by Feldman, Leavitt will be paid $1.7 million per year for the next four seasons, making him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the country. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is paid $1.8 million and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is paid $1.7 million according to a record of coaching salaries compiled by USA Today. Leavitt had been the 12th highest-paid coordinator in college football prior to this significant bump in pay to make him the third highest-paid coordinator in the country.

Keeping Leavitt in Eugene is a big win for Cristobal as he takes over the job as head coach. Leavitt had been expected to be a target of former Oregon head coach Willie Taggart as he assembles his new staff at Florida State. Leavitt had been discussed as a potential target for other jobs as well, with one report suggesting he may have been sought after as a replacement for Bill Snyder at Kansas State.

Leavitt played a big role in turning the Oregon defense around in just one season. Inheriting a defense that ranked 115th in the nation in 2016, Leavitt transformed the Ducks into the 32nd-best defense in the country this season.

Pitt landing another ex-USC QB as a transfer

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Max Browne made the move from USC to Pitt work.  Ricky Town could be hoping for some of the same transferring magic.

Town’s private quarterback coach confirmed to 247Sports.com that Town has committed to continuing his FBS playing career at Pitt.  The move to the Panthers comes after Town took a visit to the football program this past weekend.

“This is the perfect system for him,” Town’s tutor, Donovan Dooley, told the recruiting website. “I think the pro-style system is good for him.”

Originally a USC signee, Town announced in mid-August of 2015 that he would be transferring from the Trojans. Less than a week later, after considering Florida as well, Town landed at Arkansas.  In December of 2016, Town transferred from the Razorbacks as well.

Town spent the 2017 season at a California junior college, which would allow him to play immediately for a Panthers program that has already lost two quarterbacks to transfer in the last week.  The California native has two years of eligibility remaining.

Town was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 15 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 79 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  In January of 2014, Town pulled his verbal commitment from Alabama and gave it to USC.