Predictions 101 — Week 11

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Last week, we went 5-2 straight, but only 2-5 versus “the number.” Not good.

So, we felt compelled to rush over to the boss’ office in Redmond, Wash., and say that we’re still 16-11-1 ahead of the bookmakers over the course of the last four weeks.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 8, thru Sat., Nov. 10)

1) No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama
Sat., Nov. 10 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

After seeing LSU’s previously limp offense move the football to the tune of 475 yards last week against their team (the most allowed by a Nick Saban squad since 2007), Crimson Tide supporters ought to be wary of an Aggie attack that’s averaging 44.7 points and 559.6 total yards per game.

Led by electrifying quarterback Johnny Manziel, the no-huddle Texas A&M offense took 97 snaps and gained 693 yards (361 rushing, 332 passing) in a 38-13 victory over Mississippi State last Saturday.

In a home game against Florida (admittedly way back on Sept. 8 in A&M’s opener), the Aggies scored 17 points in the first quarter and a half, but was shut out thereafter, and dropped a 20-17 decision.

More recently and against a similarly elite defense, Texas A&M scored 19 points against LSU in what ended up a five-point loss in College Station. If not for five turnovers, the tables easily could have been turned.

Such an occurrence would be highly unlikely in Tuscaloosa, where the home crowd will help replenish some of the emotional energy that was spent and remains in Death Valley, following that breathtaking 21-17 comeback victory.

This is certainly Alabama’s biggest hurdle on the way to the BCS title game until facing the SEC East champ in Atlanta on Dec. 1. Following this contest — the Tide clinches the SEC West with a win  — there’s only dates with Western Carolina, a 1-9 FCS team, and 2-7 Auburn remaining.

Alabama’s offensive line will be too much for A&M to overcome. The Aggies defensive front has little chance to slow down the Bama running game and when the back seven try to compensate for that, they’ll get burned by play-action from A.J. McCarron.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 16

The pick: Alabama 35-14

2) No. 13 Oregon State at No. 16 Stanford
Sat., Nov. 10 — 3 p.m. ET, FOX

The Cardinal defense is simply scary versus the run. Not only does Stanford lead the nation in rushing defense, yielding just 55.8 yards per game, it has pushed its last three opponents — California, Washington State and Colorado — backward for a total of minus-34 yards on the ground.

The Beavers aren’t much for that mode of travel anyway. With the emergence of former backup quarterback Cody Vaz and the production of the dynamic duo of wideouts Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton, Oregon State prefers to air it out.

Stanford also is currently being led by a former backup quarterback as freshman Kevin Hogan has unseated senior Josh Nunes. The difference is that his only previous experience came in last Saturday’s 48-0 victory at Colorado and that 18-of-23 performance, which produced 184 yards and two touchdowns, doesn’t really tell us much. The Buffaloes are a far cry from the Beavers (and anybody for that matter).

Hogan should be fine though. His first start will be at home on The Farm and he’ll be lining up in the backfield with senior running back Stepfan Taylor, who is capable of pounding out tough yards against an Oregon State defense that allows only 91.8 yards per game on the ground.

Opening point spread: Stanford by 5 1/2

The pick: Stanford 24-20

3) No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 9 LSU
Sat., Nov. 10 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Both tanks figure to be a bit empty.

The Tigers will be thinking about their come-from-ahead loss to Alabama for a long time. Seemingly in control until the Tide rolled on its last drive, LSU gave away a 21-17 decision at home that nixed its SEC and BCS title dreams.

For the Bulldogs, they’ve known this week was coming ever since the schedule was posted. This tail end of a three-game gauntlet that has already seen Mississippi State drop games against Alabama (38-7) and Texas A&M (38-13) was always going to be a doozy.

Last year, the Tigers and Bulldogs engaged in one of those SEC field goal parades as LSU led 9-6 early in the fourth quarter. The Tigers ended up winning, 19-6, but that game was at Davis Wade Stadium.

This one is in Death Valley, where LSU hasn’t lost to Mississippi State since 1991. The nighttime atmosphere will suitably fill up the Tiger tanks.

Opening point spread: LSU by 17

The pick: LSU 26-14

4) No. 3 Kansas State at TCU
Sat., Nov. 10 — 7 p.m. ET, FOX

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

Since Bill Snyder isn’t likely to show his cards until game time, we can’t show ours either.

But, we are willing to say this: If Collin Klein doesn’t start and finish this road game, the Wildcats won’t be able to trade blows with a Horned Frog offense that is finding a rhythm at the right time. He is that important. Think Auburn without Cam Newton in 2010.

This could be one of the shakeups in the BCS that people are waiting for.

Opening point spread: none

The pick: none

5) Penn State at No. 18 Nebraska
Sat., Nov. 10 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

The leaders in the Leaders aren’t eligible for Indy. But the leaders in the Legends are poised to earn that trip to the Big Ten Championship Game.

Assuming they don’t flub up versus Minnesota and Iowa, the Cornhuskers just need to get past the visiting Nittany Lions to make that happen.

That seems to be in the cards, but let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly. Penn State has been a winning ticket in Vegas for most of the last two months.

Nebraska’s offense generates 487.3 yards per game (tops in the Big Ten), but it’s a bit scary for Cornhusker fans that quarterback Taylor Martinez has thrown seven interceptions in the last four games.

Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin hasn’t been intercepted four times yet this season and has thrown for 282 or more yards in each of his past four games, but the Huskers rank fifth nationally in pass defense and eighth in pass efficiency defense.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 9

The pick: Nebraska 24-23

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Northwestern at Michigan
Sat., Nov. 10 — noon ET, ESPN

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

We’ll remind ourselves never again to roll with a squad relying on a converted freshman linebacker under center as we did last week with Maryland. Instead, this week in a critical Big Ten match-up, we’ll go with the Wildcats coming off a bye, and against a Wolverine team with a cloudy quarterback situation.

Denard Robinson missed last week’s 35-13 victory over Minnesota, due to a lingering ulnar nerve issue that affects his throwing hand. While some Wolverine fans are jumping on the Devin Gardner bandwagon after an efficient start against the lowly Gophers, the sometimes wideout is not in the same league as Robinson, who accounted for 450 total yards in Michigan’s win in Evanston last year.

No matter who takes the snaps for the Wolverines, the Wildcat offense led by running back Venric Mark, who leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (183.6 per game), will be more dependable. Michigan’s forte is stopping the pass.

The Wolverines are 16-0 under head coach Brady Hoke when scoring 20 or more points, but they’ll find it tough to reach that barrier, especially if they continue the charity that has led to a minus-6 turnover margin. In contrast, the Wildcats have four more takeaways than giveaways.

The double-digit price tag that comes with the Wolverines is more than curious.

Opening point spread: Michigan by 13

The pick: Northwestern 20-19

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 4 Notre Dame at Boston College
Sat., Nov. 10 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

With only two notches in the win column, Boston College’s bowl prospects are limited to the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl, which is given by the Notre Dame Club of Boston to the winner of football games between the Fighting Irish and Eagles.

While the likelihood of BC capturing that bowl and the Ireland Trophy, which will be presented to the winners by the Notre Dame student government, is extremely remote, please recall that the Eagles have blown up Irish national title attempts twice before.

In 1993, Boston College toppled the top-ranked Domers, 41-39. And in 2002, another 8-0 Notre Dame squad fell victim to the Eagles.

This season, however, due in part to the fact that the Fighting Irish got a triple-overtime wake-up call from Pittsburgh last week, Notre Dame should have as little trouble with Boston College as Barack Obama had with Electoral College.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 20

The pick: Notre Dame 32-16

Alabama reportedly raids Penn State staff for new WRs coach

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Nick Saban‘s latest reshaping of his coaching will reportedly come at the expense of a Big Ten school.

Earlier Thursday, a report surfaced that Mike Locksley was being promoted by Saban to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  As Locksley served as Alabama’s wide receivers coach this past season, it left Saban in search of a new coach for that positional group.

According to FootballScoop.com, that search has ended as Penn State’s Josh Gattis is expected to take the job.  Gattis will also serve as the Tide’s co-offensive coordinator.

A couple of other outlets confirmed the initial report.

Gattis had spent the past six seasons on James Franklin-led coaching staff, the first two at Vanderbilt and the last four at Penn State.  In addition to receivers coach, Gattis held the title of passing-game coordinator and assistant special teams coordinator with the Nittany Lions.

UTSA names Auburn staffer Al Borges as offensive coordinator

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Frank Wilson is adding a very experienced voice to his offensive staff at UT-San Antonio.

UT confirmed in a press release Friday morning that Al Borges has been hired as the Roadrunners’ new offensive coordinator.  The 36-year coaching veteran will also serve as the team’s quarterback coach.

Borges had spent the 2017 season as an offensive analyst at Auburn.

“I am thrilled to be able to announce the hiring of Al Borges as our new offensive coordinator,” Wilson said in a statement. “Al Borges has a masterful offensive mind and a coaching style that takes advantage of the talent and skillset of the players on the roster. His unique ability to develop quarterbacks is second to none. Our coaching staff got better today.”

Prior to the one-year stint at Auburn, Borges had been an offensive coordinator at the FBS level for most of the previous 24 years.  Those stints included time at San Jose State (2015-16), Michigan (2011-13), San Diego State (2009-10), Auburn (2004-07), Indiana (2002-03), Cal (2001), UCLA (1996-2000), Oregon (1995) and Boise State (1993-94).

Twice, Borges has been named as a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Purdue announces co-OC Tony Levine has left to pursue opportunities outside of coaching

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This is certainly an abrupt and unexpected development.

In a rather brief and terse press release, Purdue announced that Tony Levine is no longer a member of Jeff Brohm‘s (pictured) Boilermakers coaching staff.  Per the school, Levine will be pursuing unspecified opportunities outside of the coaching profession.

Below is the text of the release, in its entirety:

Purdue head football coach Jeff Brohm announced today that assistant coach Tony Levine has resigned to pursue opportunities outside of coaching.

That’s it.

The loss of Levine leaves a rather sizable hole for Brohm to fill.  Not only was the 45-year-old assistant the team’s co-offensive coordinator, but he served as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach as well.  Levine had just completed his first season with the Boilermakers.

Levine was the head coach at Houston from 2011-14 and the special teams coordinator/tight ends coach at Western Kentucky prior to coming to West Lafayette.

Report: Nick Saban promoting Mike Locksley to OC

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Nick Saban has found his fourth offensive coordinator in 14 months, and he didn’t have to go very far do so.

With rumors swirling around a certain disgraced former SEC head coach, signs had seemingly been pointing to Saban possibly, or even likely staying in-house for his next Alabama coordinator on the offensive side of the ball.  According to Chris Low of ESPN.com, the head coach plans to do just that as Mike Locksley is expected to be promoted to offensive coordinator.  It’s expected Locksley will assume responsibilities as the Tide’s quarterbacks coach as well.

Locksley would replace Brian Daboll, who left after one season in Tuscaloosa for the same job with the Buffalo Bills earlier this month.

Locksley has spent the past two seasons with the Crimson Tide, the first as an offensive analyst and last year as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.

The former New Mexico head coach last served as a coordinator at Maryland from 2012-15.  He also spent three seasons (2006-08) in the same job at Illinois.