Cocktail

Predictions 101 — Week 9

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There we were, sitting as pretty as pretty can be. Six games already nestled comfortably in P101’s bag, half of which were upsets.

We really didn’t need to pull off a clean sweep. We’d be as proud of 6-1 as Maria Sharapova. And any “player” worth his salt would have hedged his way into the winner’s circle, turning the Florida State-Miami game into an exercise to see how much gravy could be found.

But there we were, watching the Hurricanes do more than hold their own. The pregame smoke and the first quarter mirrors had them up 10-0 … a good thing in our book. We knew what was coming.

It came … and the Seminole margin was oh so sweet in the fourth quarter. That is until the entire gridiron became four-down territory for Miami, which led to a touchdown being gifted to FSU with 2:45 remaining.

The Seminoles led, 33-13, and we’re dealing with opening lines (+17.5) here at P101, not closing ones (+21). So, we were sunk. The Hurricanes still had a couple minutes to work with, but they weren’t going to kick a field goal and hadn’t mounted a touchdown drive since a meager 22-yarder within the first four minutes of the game.

But Brent & Herbie seemed to share some belief, cheering Miami on down the field. They giggled while mentioning “interested mathematicians” a couple times along the way.

Sure enough, the Hurricanes went 75 yards in eight plays and got the job done.

Yes. Finally. Last week, we went 7-0 straight and 7-0 versus “the number.” Holy Toledo (thank you, Rockets), 14-0!

Oh well … on to this week, where we can only go down from here.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Oct. 25, thru Sat., Oct. 27)

1) No. 3 Florida vs. No. 12 Georgia (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

If South Carolina players were to judge this fight, there’s no question who they’d predict as winners. Two weeks after they hosted and routed Georgia, 35-7, the Gamecocks got roughed up at Florida, 44-11.

Too bad the transitive property doesn’t apply to college football. If it did, we could just call for a 61-point Gator victory and be done with it.

All that aside, Florida does hold a clear edge in this game.

Despite the fact that Georgia had the most fun at the last “Cocktail Party,” winning 24-20, the Gators have dominated this rivalry for more than a couple decades, taking 18 of the last 22. And this one doesn’t seem to match up well for the Bulldogs.

Last week, Georgia allowed Kentucky to rush for 206 yards. Please note that the Wildcats came into that contest ranked 106th in the country in rushing offense. Granted, the poor run defense and less-than-impressive 29-24 victory in Lexington came without the services of outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was resting a sprained right ankle, and defensive end Abry Jones, who injured his left ankle in the first quarter, but we’re still talking Kentucky here.

It doesn’t look promising for the disappointing Bulldog defense, which is yielding 24 points and 367 total yards per game, as it lines up against the Gators’ powerful run game.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is one of the more efficient passers in the nation, but in the loss at South Carolina he showed that consistent pressure from a variety of sources can really knock him off-kilter. The Bulldogs can’t afford for that to happen since running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are finally starting to look like freshmen.

Last week, we talked up Florida’s excellent punt unit and it did play a large role in the Gator victory over South Carolina. Here we go again. Georgia ranks dead last in the SEC and 109th in the country in net punting. It might be most apparent on special teams, but the Gators have a significant advantage over the Bulldogs in all three phases of the game.

Opening point spread: Florida by 3 1/2

The pick: Florida 31-20

2) No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma
Sat., Oct. 27 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

As they roll into Norman for the first time in 46 years, the Fighting Irish will encounter a Sooner team far different from the one Ara Parseghian’s 1966 squad squashed, 38-0, on its way to a national championship.

The current Oklahoma team, which has scored 156 points in its last three games, won’t be blanked. This will be the Sooners’ third consecutive home game and in the previous two — a 63-21 slaying of Texas, followed by a 52-7 rout over Kansas — the offense scored on 15 of 20 drives, 12 of which were touchdowns.

After this week, we won’t be hearing about how Notre Dame hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all year.

We’ll take Oklahoma’s duo of Landry Jones and Blake Bell (leads team with eight rushing touchdowns) over ND’s Everett Golson and Tommy Rees. While Jones and Bell operate efficiently in their clearly defined roles, the feeling here is that the Sooner defense, which has come up with nine takeaways in the last three games, will squeeze game-changing turnovers out of the Irish backfield.

Yes, college football is much better off when the Golden Domers are relevant, but put the hype aside for a moment and take a long look at their schedule and results. You’ll realize that our friends in the desert are seeing this one clearly.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 9

The pick: Oklahoma 27-13

3) No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX

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

The Red Raiders have the talent and coaching to beat the Wildcats, but do they have the answer for “Optimus Klein.”

Led by quarterback Collin Klein, the current Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Kansas State is also talented and well coached. The Wildcats will scratch and claw to defend their conference and national title hopes. Bill Snyder’s balanced team doesn’t make mistakes. Only one squad in the country (Ohio, which also is 7-0) has had fewer turnovers than the Wildcats (just four).

You wouldn’t know it by his throwing motion, but Klein ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency. His counterpart, Seth Doege, isn’t far behind in fifth and directs an aerial assault that averages 362 yards per game.

But it isn’t all about offense at Texas Tech, which is home to a stout defense that’s ranked seventh in total defense and is particularly effective versus the pass.

Something’s got to give, but maybe it’ll require some extra time to happen.

We’ll take a stab and say that Red Raiders get held to a field goal on their first overtime possession, leaving “Optimus” the opportunity for a Heisman moment as he pounds into the end zone for the win.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 8

The pick: Kansas State 33-30

4) No. 13 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama
Sat., Oct. 27 — 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

We can’t remember a game between teams ranked within the top 13 that is so disparate on paper.

Off paper, however, it has the makings of a trap game for the Crimson Tide, who travel to LSU next week. That’s where Nick Saban comes in … and we go back to what we see in black and white.

We’ll be the first to dump loads upon loads of credit at the feet of Dan Mullen for the job he’s done in Starkville. Nine consecutive victories versus anybody, is still nine consecutive victories. No less than 117 FBS teams would love to boast of such a winning streak.

But we have to be honest and point out that the Bulldogs’ sparkling 3-0 record in SEC play comes at the expense of Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. Those three teams not only weren’t able to beat Mississippi State, they haven’t won any conference games so far this season in a total of 14 tries.

Alabama leads the nation in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing efficiency defense, so it ain’t any shock that only one team has lost by less than 27 points to the Tide this season. That tight 33-14 victory over Ole Miss essentially served as their “wake up call.” Saban’s gang isn’t falling into any traps.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 24

The pick: Alabama 41-13

5) Duke at No. 11 Florida State
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

How could we exclude a game between the undisputed leaders of the ACC’s Atlantic and Coastal Divisions? Yup, you read that right.

Hooray for the Blue Devils, who are bowl eligible for the first time in 18 years, but still hungry.

After their big 33-20 victory at Miami last Saturday night, the Seminoles will spend a full week in Tallahassee having their backs slapped.

Duke’s defense is porous, but it does force turnovers. Something’s telling us that the Blue Devils will stay within range.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 26

The pick: Florida State 41-17

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Mississippi at Arkansas
Sat., Oct. 27 — 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network

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

Forgive us if we’re not impressed by blowout victories over Auburn and Kentucky, who are a combined 0-10 in SEC play. We don’t see it as a signal that the Razorbacks ship has been righted after four painful defeats earlier in the season, which produced some epic press conference moments for John L. Smith.

With kickoff at just past 11 a.m. local time in Little Rock, the Hog faithful are likely to lack their typical fervor, if there is any left after the last time Arkansas played at War Memorial Stadium and were knocked from their lofty perch in the Top-10 with a 34-31 overtime loss to mighty Louisiana-Monroe (still the only team Auburn’s been able to beat).

Both teams enter with a pair of conference losses to the same schools, but Ole Miss was much more competitive while falling a field goal short against Texas A&M and losing by just 19 at Alabama. Conversely, Arkansas was taken to the woodshed by a combined score of 110-10 against those same foes.

Each offensive unit can move the ball through the air, but a Rebel defense that allows just 210 yards passing per game is much more likely to slow the opposition down than a Razorback unit that ranks near the bottom of the FBS, allowing 304 yards through the air.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 4 1/2

The pick: Mississippi 31-27

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Cincinnati at No. 16 Louisville
Fri., Oct. 26 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

If the “Keg of Nails” were actually a keg filled with nails, it would be the best rivalry trophy in the land. But even though it’s merely a painted empty keg, it’s still in the conversation. It just sounds so awesome! No wonder the Bearcats and Cardinals annually lay it all on the line for the “Keg of Nails.”

The original “Keg of Nails” (yes, this one is actually “Son of Keg of Nails”) was first awarded in 1929, signifying that the players on the winning team were as “tough as nails.” Ah … college football …

As a side note: We don’t believe the tale about the original “Keg of Nails” being misplaced and lost during some office construction at Louisville. C’mon, who would lose track of a keg of nails, trophy or not? Seriously now, the Cardinals should be docked three points in each game until they come up with it.

Last week, we gave you Toledo over Cincinnati. This week, we’re tempted to give you the Bearcats. Cincinnati has been in control of the series as of late, winning the past four, and should have the emotional edge as they drive along Interstate 71.

But, when your problems are turning over the football and giving up big plays, the corrections aren’t easy to find.

The Cardinals, led by sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (21-of-25 for 256 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s over South Florida), are much more reliable at this point.

Opening point spread: Louisville by 6

The pick: Louisville 27-26

Western Michigan’s leading tackler granted release, will transfer

KALAMAZOO, MI - NOVEMBER 19:  Robert Spillane #10 of the Western Michigan Broncos sacks Grant Rohach #19 of the Buffalo Bulls in the third quarter at Waldo Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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The most productive player on the defensive side of the ball during Western Michigan’s breakout 2016 season is moving on.

The football program announced via its official Twitter account that Robert Spillane has asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship. A rising true senior, it’s unclear if the linebacker will be leaving WMU as a graduate transfer.

If he is, he’ll be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2017. If not, he’d have to sit out the upcoming season before using his final season of eligibility in 2018.

Last season, Spillane led the Broncos in tackles with 111 — next closest was Asantay Brown‘s 95 — while he was second in tackles for loss with 10.5 and tied for third in sacks with three. His three interceptions were tied for second as well. The last of those three picks came at the end of the MAC championship game that helped seal WMU’s win over Ohio.

The past three seasons, Spillane started 28 games for the Broncos. He started all 14 games last season.

Surgery knocks out MTSU starting QB Brent Stockstill for the spring

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback Brent Stockstill #12 of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders throws a pass during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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In early November, a right shoulder injury knocked Brent Stockstill out for the remainder of Middle Tennessee State’s season.  Four months later, a procedure on the other side of the same area has sidelined the starting quarterback yet again.

MTSU announced Tuesday that Stockstill will miss the whole of spring practice, which is set to kick off March 15.  The rising junior recently underwent surgery on his left (throwing) shoulder.

The procedure is not expected to have any impact on his availability for the upcoming season.

“The doctors just went in and cleaned some stuff up in his shoulder but he should be ready to go this summer,” Rick Stockstill, MTSU’s head coach and the player’s father, said in a statement. “He will be held out of spring drills.”

After just two seasons as the starter, Stockstill already owns school records in touchdown passes (61), 300-yard passing games (14), 400-yard passing games (2) and passing yards per game (303.3).

Idaho suspends LB Charles Akanno after shoplifting arrest

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Head coach Paul Petrino of the Idaho Vandals signals in the game against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Idaho may be bolting for the FCS after this coming season but they’re still in the FBS for now, which makes them the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker to double zeroes.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, redshirt freshman Charles Akanno was arrested Sunday on a charge of receiving/possessing stolen property. The charge stems from an alleged Feb. 20 shoplifting incident involving two other males, including a former Vandals football player.

As a result, the linebacker has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.

“We have high expectations for every member of our program,” head coach Paul Petrino said in a statement. “It is an honor and a privilege to represent the University of Idaho. Until this matter is resolved by the courts, Charles will be suspended from all team activities.”

A three-star 2016 signee, only three other members of that year’s class for the Vandals were rated higher.

Akanno took a redshirt as a true freshman. He has been expected to compete for a starting job in 2017.

LSU hoops player might make move to Tigers football

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 13:  Craig McFerrin #15 of the McNeese State Cowboys shoots over Darcy Malone #22 and Brian Bridgewater #20 of the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on November 13, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Brian Bridgewater appears willing to attempt to become the latest student-athlete to make the transition from the hardwood to the gridiron.

A basketball player at LSU, Bridgewater (pictured, No. 20) confirmed Monday that he will look to make the transition to football for the Tigers this fall. While Bridgewater, who is scheduled to graduate in August, has spoken to unnamed LSU staffers about the transition, he has yet to speak to head coach Ed Orgeron regarding any move.

Based on his comments, it appears he might look to another football program if LSU falls through.

“That’s a possibility, if things go according to how they’re supposed to,” Bridgewater said of joining the Tigers football team. “Hopefully that’s an option. If not I’ll have to see what door opens for me.”

A 6-5, 282-pound power forward in basketball, Bridgewater would likely make his football hay as a tight end. He last played football in 2012 at the high school level.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune writes that “[d]espite only playing one season of high school ball, Bridgewater was ranked as the No. 27 tight end in the country by 247 Sports.”

Bridgewater is expected to finish out the 2016-17 college basketball season before turning his focus to football.