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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

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says replay decision was the ‘worst call he’s ever seen’

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jim Harbaugh talks with a referee while playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Michigan won the game 41-8. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Jim Harbaugh has been known for using a bit of hyperbole from time to time but it sounds as though he was really, really, really upset at a call in the final few minutes of No. 2 Michigan’s 41-8 win over Illinois on Saturday.

Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn had completed a third-and-nine pass to Drake Harris that officials had marked short of the first down by nearly two yards. Harbaugh quickly challenged the spot but Big Ten replay officials upheld the call to force a fourth down decision that was a little longer than it should have been according to the coach.

“I’ve never seen a worse call in the game of football,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “My understanding of the rules and the review system is it’s the spot, it’s to get the correct spot.”

Michigan won the game in blowout fashion of course and the call was irrelevant to the final score as the Wolverines got the first down on the next play and then kneeled down to end the game. But the comments and decision to challenge a call over a few feet does show the level to which Harbaugh will compete on the field.

Apparently that is something that is now well-known by Big Ten officials too.

Clemson RB Wayne Gallman says hit that knocked him out of N.C. State game was “dirty”

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01: Wayne Gallman #9 of the Clemson Tigers carries the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)
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Clemson running back Wayne Gallman has been dealing with the aftereffects of a concussion that knocked him out of the team’s win over N.C. State.

He seemed pretty clear on what he thought about the hit that caused that concussion however, telling the Associated Press that the play was “dirty.”

“You saw him lead with his head,” Gallman said of Wolfpack defensive back Dravious Wright. “He came with his head.

“I wanted somebody to hurt him that was in the game if they could.”

Gallman was knocked out on the play and said he didn’t recall anything until a few minutes later. Clemson apparently sent video of the hit to the ACC office, but was told that it was a legal play (no flag was thrown on it either).

The tailback was held out of some of the Tigers practices last week as they rested on their bye but added that he will be good to go for this week’s matchup with Florida State in a game that could seal the ACC Atlantic division for Clemson with a win.

Gallman, a redshirt junior, is expected by many to enter the NFL Draft after the season so it means he likely won’t be facing N.C. State again on the field so it looks like he’ll have to take his frustration about the play out on the Seminoles on Saturday.

Bob Stoops defends brother Mike following Oklahoma defense’s performance at Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners talks to his players on the bench during the first half of the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Oklahoma Sooners on October 22, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Oklahoma’s defense has not had the best of weeks.

The Sooners gave up 59 points on Saturday to Texas Tech and allowed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to set an FBS record for total offense as he did just about whatever he wanted in the passing game. While the team ultimately won the game, giving up that many points and yards has naturally led to some questions about Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator.

Head coach Bob Stoops isn’t having any of that however, and it’s not just because the coordinator in question is his brother Mike Stoops.

“It’s all of us, too. It isn’t just my brother and I. It’s also coach [Kerry] Cooks, coach [Calvin] Thibodeaux, coach [Tim] Kish, everybody in there,” Stoops said Monday, according to the Associated Press. “It’s the same coordinator that also led the league in every defensive category a year ago, and made it to the final four. We’re not running a new defense. He didn’t bring in something different. It’s the same defense. If it’s worked before, it’ll work again, and I’ve got confidence in it. And I’m also part of what we’re doing.”

Oklahoma is ranked 16th in the country and remain one of the favorites to win the Big 12 this season but it’s clear that they won’t be doing that if things don’t improve on the defensive side of the ball. The Sooners are allowing over 40 points per game in conference play and are last in the league in pass defense.

Luckily there is a cure for some those defensive ills coming up this week as Oklahoma hosts 1-6 Kansas for homecoming. It’s probably safe in saying the defense will be able to bounce back against the lowly Jayhawks but if they struggle again, you can bet those calls for Stoops to make some changes on his coaching staff will grow even louder.

UCLA QB Josh Rosen dealing with nerve issue in his throwing shoulder

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 01:  Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first half of a game against the Arizona Wildcats  at the Rose Bowl on October 1, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has missed the team’s last two games dealing with a host of injuries but it turns out that one might be more serious than was initially indicated.

Rosen was hurt in two separate incidents in the Bruins’ loss at Arizona State three weeks ago. While he appears to have recovered from a minor lower leg injury, he has yet to play for the team in losses to Washington State and Utah as the result of his shoulder injury.

Backup Mike Fafaul has taken over and thrown for nearly 800 yards in Rosen’s absence but it’s clear that the team needs their star quarterback back if they want to end their current three-game losing streak and get a chance to make a bowl game.

If there’s one bit of good news it’s that the signal-caller is getting some extra time to rest up as UCLA is on their bye this week before traveling to Colorado next Thursday.