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Predictions 101 — Week 12


Last week, we went 5-2 straight (you can probably guess what one of the losses was) and 3-2-1 versus “the number.”

This week’s slate is probably the worst we’ve ever examined this close to the end of a season. But what are you going to do? The SEC’s scheduling practices and the Big Ten’s irrelevance are what they are.

Here we go.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 15, thru Sat., Nov. 17)

1) No. 14 Stanford at No. 1 Oregon
Sat., Nov. 17 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

We’ve got total respect for what the Cardinal have done, proving that their relevancy wasn’t tied to Andrew Luck. In fact, it wasn’t even tied to Josh Nunes. With redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan looking like he’s the real deal, Stanford will easily continue to be a primetime player in the Pac-12 North.

The only problem with that is the presence of Oregon in the division. The Cardinal are just not geared to deal with the Ducks … as if any team really is.

Since Luck led a 51-42 victory over Oregon in 2009, the Cardinal have lost their last two games to the Ducks by a total of 44 points.

Taking into account the known factors, there isn’t any indication that the results will be different this time. Chip Kelly’s bunch will pull away in the second half to win this showdown for the North title.

Despite holding an advantage over Oregon in several departments, Stanford doesn’t have the ability to adjust on the fly to accentuate its strengths and minimize those of its opponents. That, of course, is the domain of the Ducks and the secret to their success, particularly on offense.

If limited to playing the game within the box and at a normal pace, the Cardinal, who lead the nation in run defense (58.6 yards per game), sacks (4.2) and tackles for loss (9.1), would win. Oregon, however, doesn’t let you breathe and expertly gets the ball out into space where it’s hard to tackle lightning bolts.

Stanford has the ability to control the pace and shorten the game when it has the ball, utilizing sledgehammer running back Stepfan Taylor and the athleticism of Hogan, but getting something out of every drive is a requirement if you’re going to upset the Ducks. We don’t see them putting together a perfect performance at the fortress that is Auzten Stadium.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 24

The pick: Oregon 45-27

2) No. 2 Kansas State at Baylor
Sat., Nov. 17 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

No team in the country allows more yards per game than the Bears … 519.8 to be exact. Of course, yards don’t determine who wins. Points do.

Baylor is really generous with those, as well, allowing 39.4 per game. Only five of the 120 FBS teams are worse in that department. Unfortunately for the Bears, they aren’t playing any of those schools.

They’re hosting Kansas State, which leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (17.7) and is in position to play for the BCS title if it can avoid banana peels and/or magazine cover jinxes.

The difference defensively is the key as both teams average more than 42 points per game.

The Bears hung tough on the road last week, dropping a 42-34 decision at Oklahoma. Some of that had to do with winning the takeaway battle, 2-0.

That won’t happen versus the Wildcats, who lead the nation in turnover margin with a sparkling +20.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 10

The pick: Kansas State 49-31

3) Wake Forest at No. 3 Notre Dame
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

The Demon Deacons have the Fighting Irish right where they want them.

Slow down … we aren’t saying Wake Forest is gonna pull the massive upset. But if you are hoping for such a thing, South Bend would be the location for it.

Notre Dame hasn’t been particularly impressive in defending its home field this season. The Irish needed three overtimes to beat Pittsburgh, edged BYU by three points, got the calls to squeak past Stanford in OT, held off Michigan 13-6 and defeated Purdue by three.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise though. Notre Dame is attempting to go undefeated at home for the first time in 14 years. Until now, playing in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus wasn’t what it used to be.

But Deacon fans can’t like their chances against an Irish defense that hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in five games this season.

In last week’s 37-6 loss at North Carolina State, Wake Forest needed standout wideout Michael Campanaro to THROW a touchdown pass to avoid a shutout.

Brian Kelly will turn up the heat and do his best to build a case for the BCS title game, but there are the usual limitations.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 22

The pick: Notre Dame 29-10

4) No. 22 Rutgers at Cincinnati
Sat., Nov. 17 — Noon ET, Big East Network

For whatever it’s worth, this game will go a long way toward determining who wins the Big East and gets to spend New Year’s Day losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

Last year, the Scarlet Knights broke a five-game losing streak to the Bearcats. Running back Jawan Jamison rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores in that 20-3 victory in Piscataway.

Jamison is a bit of a question mark in this one as he was knocked out of last week’s 28-7 win over Army, but did return to the game and finished with 90 rushing yards and threw a halfback pass for a touchdown.

In any case, Rutgers’ advantage in this game is on the defensive side. The Knights are allowing only 13.4 points and 309.4 yards per game.

Bearcat quarterback Brendon Kay, who made his first career start last week at Temple, will have trouble. We smell turnovers.

Opening point spread: Cincinnati by 6 1/2

The pick: Rutgers 24-23

5) Mississippi at No. 8 LSU
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Could we possibly get out of here without an SEC game? Nope. And in terms of which one, we didn’t have much choice.

Even more incredible than seeing Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina all listed in a row from Nos. 4 through 9 in the BCS Standings was the fact that five of their opponents this week are Western Carolina, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville State, Sam Houston State and Wofford. And then you have Mississippi’s trip to LSU, of course.

The Tigers did allow Mississippi State to pass for 304 yards in last Saturday’s 37-17 victory in Baton Rouge. But when the Bulldogs were forced to become one dimensional late in the game, the LSU pass rush was devastating.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace can sling the ball around the yard, but we wonder how the Rebels will keep ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo from crashing down on him if they fall behind early.

In a way, Ole Miss is OK with being on the road. In contrast to last year’s 52-3 loss to LSU at home, the Rebels hung tough in Death Valley in 2010 (coming from ahead to lose, 43-36) and won there in 2008 (31-13).

Opening point spread: LSU by 20

The pick: LSU 35-19


Ohio State at Wisconsin
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

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

We can add Michigan’s miraculous “Hail Mary” pass, which led to an overtime defeat for last week’s underdog, to the pair of one-point losses suffered earlier in the season thanks to placekicking miscues. That being said, we’ve nabbed some outright victories in between and have been within the “number” in most instances.

There’s not much margin for that to happen this week, as we get a field goal while backing the undefeated Buckeyes in their Big Ten Leaders Division match-up with the Badgers.

This setup is reminiscent of last year’s edition of P101’s current “Rivalry Game of the Week” (see below), when UCLA limped into the Pac-12 title game after getting embarrassed by on-probation USC, 50-0. For Wisconsin, it’s the beneficiary of having already clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game despite two losses, thanks to a pair of teams in the NCAA’s naughty corner.

Urban Meyer deserves loads of praise for what he’s accomplished in Columbus with The Vest’s players and the mess he left behind. The potent backfield combo of quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde have accounted for 41 touchdowns and their playmaking will prove to be the difference against a stout Wisconsin stop unit.

The four Badger wins that have them in line for a Big Ten title three-peat have come against squads that are a combined 5-19 in conference play. With starting quarterback Joel Stave out for the season, Curt Phillips filled in last week going 4-for-7 for 41 yards against Indiana.

Wisconsin was able to light up the Hoosiers for 62 points by rushing 64 times for 564 yards with senior running back Montee Ball finding the end zone three times.

That kind of one-dimensional attack won’t work against a Buckeye defense ranked 16th in the nation, allowing 107.9 yards per game on the ground.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 1

The pick: Ohio State 23-13


No. 21 USC at No. 17 UCLA
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:05 p.m. ET, FOX

The winner of this matchup gets the Victory Bell. Not the bootleg ones that go to the North Carolina-Duke or Miami (Ohio)-Cincinnati winners, we’re talking THE Victory Bell, a 295-pound bell from a Southern Pacific freight locomotive.

A couple years after the bell was given to UCLA by its alumni association in 1939, USC students stole it … and even used the Bruins’ own truck to do it!

The bell was then hidden in various parts of the Southland, spurring a rash of pranks on both sides of town, which caused USC president Dr. Rufus B. von KleinSmid to threaten to cancel the football game between the archrivals.

Following that warning, the student body presidents of both schools met at the “Tommy Trojan” statue and signed an agreement that made the bell a rivalry trophy.

For the first time in a while, more than just the Victory Bell is on the line for both teams. Each has the opportunity to lock up the Pac-12 South with a win. It could be said that each squad is trying to repeat. USC “won” the division on the field last season, but UCLA took the probation-saddled Trojans’ place and embarrassed itself in Eugene at the inaugural Pac-12 title game.

UCLA has enjoyed possession of the Victory Bell for only a single year since 1999. In the last five meetings, all Trojan victories, the Bruins have been eviscerated by an aggregate score of 158-35, including last year’s 50-0 waste of time.

Despite all this, UCLA and its supporters are feeling frisky. But, really, how much has changed?

Ask yourself this question: “Would you be looking at this game differently if UCLA had played Stanford yet or had Oregon on its schedule?”

That’s what we thought.

Opening point spread: USC by 3

The pick: USC 34-27

TCU swims way to 2OT upset of Baylor, hands Bedlam Big 12 keys

Associated Press

Entering the 2015 season, most observers thought tonight’s Baylor-TCU game would be for all of the Big 12 marbles.  Instead, that honor will fall to tomorrow’s night Bedlam matchup.

In some of the wettest conditions you’ll see this side of Noah’s ark,  the Horned Frogs and Bears slogged their way through a scoreless second half before two TCU overtime touchdowns to BU’s one handed the homestanding Frogs a 28-21 win in double overtime.

Both teams scored on their initial overtime possessions, TCU on Trevone Boykin‘s one-yard touchdown run and BU on Devin Chafin‘s four-yard touchdown reception from first-time quarterback starter Chris Johnson; that was the Bears first completed pass since the first half.  Boykin’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Kavontae Turpin in the second overtime, with the defense turning out the biggest stop of the game on the Bears second overtime possession. On a fourth-and-1 from the 16-yard line, Chafin was stuffed for no gain as the rain-soaked TCU faithful stormed the field.

The story of the game for nearly 60 minutes, though, was the weather.

21 of the points in this game were scored prior to the heavens opening and a downpour of Biblical proportions commenced for essentially the last three-and-a-half quarters, with the other seven in regulation coming on a fumble return for a touchdown.  The last offensive points prior to overtime were scored with 7:28 left in the first quarter; the last non-overtime points were scored with 12:55 remaining in the second.

If you were unable to watch, there’s one statistic that sums up just how borderline unplayable the conditions in this game were: 210. That’s the number of passing yards for which both teams combined to throw.  The Horned Frogs came into the game averaging 363.5 yards per game, fifth in the country, while the Bears were 14th at 350.7.  Or how about this: the teams combined for nearly as many turnovers (seven) as third downs converted (eight, on 38 tries).

Or this: There were a combined 23 punts, which were only slightly trumped by 25 pass completions.  Johnson accounted for just seven completions — on 24 attempts — for 62 yards, the lowest aerial output of the Art Briles era in Waco.

It was a night fit for neither man nor beast, but in the end it was the Horned Frogs that made just enough plays to knock the Bears out of not only Big 12 but playoff contention as well.

With the loss, BU joins TCU as being officially eliminated from the Big 12 title race.  Instead, the winner of tomorrow night’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State matchup will be crowned conference champions.

Hawaii opts for Nevada OC Nick Rolovich as head coach

Nick Rolovich
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In the end, there’ll be no June Jones reunion on the islands.

A short time after reports surfaced that the former head coach was one of five finalists for the job, Hawaii announced that one of the other former players up for the job, Nick Rolovich, has instead landed the job.  Rolovich, who played quarterback for Jones during his time with the Rainbow Warriors, spent the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Nevada.

This will be Rolovich’s first job as head coach.

“I’m pleased to welcome back Nick Rolovich to the UH ‘ohana,” athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “Nick is a Warrior at heart and someone I know our fans will support. He understands what it means to be a Warrior having played and coached here and what affect a winning program has with this community. I have no doubt we picked the right man for this job. The future is bright for Hawai‘i football.”

“Being raised a Warrior, there is a great sense of excitement and responsibility about bringing back a winning tradition to Hawai‘i football,” Rolovich said. “I can’t wait to get started. I’m honored to be selected to run this program which has made me into the man I am today.”

Not only was Rolovich a player at UH, but he was also an assistant there from 2008-11, serving as the team’s primary play-caller before moving on to Nevada. Rolovich’s final game as Nevada’s coordinator will be tomorrow night against San Diego State as he will not be with the Wolf Pack for their bowl game.

“Both Nick and UH have been transparent throughout the whole process and I appreciated that very much,” Nevada head coach Brian Polian said in his statement. “I am confident that his candidacy did not affect our preparation for SDSU. We will handle any decisions regarding the staff internally and make those decisions known when the time is appropriate.”

In addition to Rolovich and Jones, former Army head coach Rich Ellerson, current UH football analyst Rich Miano and Tulsa co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood were reportedly finalists.

With Rolovich’s hiring, there are now a dozen openings for head coach at the FBS level.  10 of those openings are with Power Five programs.

Baylor, TCU battle each other, rain in 14-all first-half tie

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs throws against the Baylor Bears in the first quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 27, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Last year’s Baylor-TCU game was a wild 61-58 affair won by the Bears.  Through two quarters of play in this year’s edition of the rivalry, and thanks in very large part to the weather, it doesn’t appear that a repeat is in order.

In a game delayed nearly 50 minutes because of lightning in the Fort Worth area and that’s currently being played in a steady downpour, the No. 7 Bears and No. 19 Horned Frogs slipped and slogged — and fumbled and intercepted and muffed — their way to a 14-all tie at halftime.  BU turned the ball over three times — the trifecta of a fumble, interception and muffed punt — while TCU had one  interception and one fumble.  In last year’s game, which TCU was winning 31-27 at the half, the Bears had three turnovers while the Horned Frogs turned it over just once.

It actually looked as if a repeat of last year was in order as the Bears scored on their first two possessions and the Horned Frogs their first halfway through the opening quarter.  However, as the rain increased, the offensive production predictably decreased as just seven points were scored on the remaining 14 possessions of the half — and those came courtesy of a defensive score.

Even the return of Trevone Boykin couldn’t help the Horned Frogs get past the weather.  After missing the Week 12 loss to Oklahoma because of a sprained ankle, Boykin, playing on a heavily-taped joint, was back under center for the Frogs, completing 7-of-15 passes for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Boykin’s counterpart, QB-turned-WR-turned-QB Chris Johnson, was making his first start, and in a driving rainstorm on the road no less.  He was responsible for two of the turnovers, an interception and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and passed for a meager 50 yards as the Bears attempted just 12 passes.

Devin Chafin was the offensive “star” of the game for both sides.  While the Bears back had just eight yards rushing, he accounted for both BU touchdowns.

Report: June Jones one of five finalists interviewed for Hawaii job

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Head coach June Jones of the Hawai'i Warriors hangs his head against the Georgia Bulldogs during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 1, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, former Hawaii head coach June Jones would indeed apply for the opening with the Rainbow Warriors.  Three weeks later, not surprisingly, Jones is decidedly in the mix.

Citing sources familiar with the process, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting that Jones is one of five coaches who have interviewed for the job.  In addition to Jones, the others who were given one-hour interviews were former Army head coach Rich Ellerson, current UH football analyst Rich Miano, Tulsa co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood and current Nevada offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich.  All four of those candidates, as well as Jones, played their college football for the Rainbow Warriors.

The Star-Advertiser writes that “[b]arring a late addition, they would be the only finalists interviewed by athletic director David Matlin and his advisory panel.”

The 62-year-old Jones, of course, was the head coach at Hawaii for nearly a decade and led the Rainbow Warriors to its winningest stretch in the program’s history.

From 1999-2007, UH went 76-41 under Jones. Prior to Jones’ arrival, the Rainbow Warriors won nine or more games four times and 10-plus once the previous 28 years; in Jones’ nine seasons, they won nine-plus six times and 10-plus in three seasons. The pinnacle of his career at the island school was his last season as he led UH to a 12-1 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2007.

He left for SMU in January of the following year and went 36-43 with the Mustangs before abruptly resigning two games into his seventh season at the school in 2014.