Notre Dame USC

Predictions 101 — Week 13

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We were thankful to go 4-3 straight and versus “the number” last week.

Staying above water on a Saturday like that wasn’t easy. We didn’t have the two upsets that had everyone clamoring, but we did have a pair of others that got the job done.

So it’s on to rivalry week and what makes college football so special. Unlike the Yankees and Red Sox, who seemingly play each other 75 times a year, the Fighting Irish and Trojans get this chance to go at each other but once a year.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 22, thru Sat., Nov. 24)

1) No. 1 Notre Dame at USC
Sat., Nov. 24 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Look at these teams now. The Fighting Irish, who were unranked in the preseason, are undefeated and No. 1 in the land. Top-ranked in the preseason, the Trojans are currently unranked after losing three of their last four.

Adding injury to insult, USC is without quarterback Matt Barkley, who got K.O.’d in the final minutes of last week’s 38-28 loss to UCLA with an injury to his right shoulder.

Yup, everything seems to be moving in the direction of the Irish. When you have a linebacker being mentioned as a legit Heisman Trophy contender, that point can’t be denied.

Furthermore, the discrepancy in coaching ability is astounding.

Lane Kiffin is bringing about the fall of Troy in spectacular fashion on and off the field. His father, Monte, hasn’t got a clue in the world how to stop an opposing offense.

That certainly isn’t the case in South Bend. Brian Kelly’s team leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 10.1 points per game, and the Irish are adept at winning the close ones.

All that being said, this series is littered with surprising games involving spectacular scenarios and gallant heroes.

Could the next one be a confident youngster named Max Wittek?

It’s entirely possible.

Notre Dame has lived on the edge for much of the season. As Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State know all too well, undefeated seasons are elusive. And the pressure at the top of the BCS Standings this late in the season can be immense. Just ask the Wildcats.

The question here is if the thin Trojan offensive front can protect Wittek well enough for him to get the ball up in the air in the direction of Marqise Lee enough times. Or perhaps Wittek can rediscover somebody named Robert Woods, who Barkley lost touch with during the season.

Since “stuff” happens in this series, it’s tempting to call for the upset and more BCS chaos, especially since USC beat Notre Dame, 31-17, last season in South Bend. But what does that really mean anymore with Kiffin running the Trojan program into the ground? They beat Arizona, Oregon and UCLA last year, too.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 6

The pick: Notre Dame 28-20

2) No. 13 South Carolina at No. 12 Clemson
Sat., Nov. 24 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

After a year of verbal fisticuffs by their head coaches, the Gamecocks and Tigers finally get to settle the matter on the field.

We prefer the jabs that’ll be traded by South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw and Clemson signalcaller Tajh Boyd, than the silly haymaker quotes tossed around by Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney.

Shaw was outstanding in last year’s matchup, passing for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a game-high 107 yards and a score.

Boyd appears to be gearing up for that sort of outing after falling flat last year in an 11-for-29 performance the yielded only 83 yards. Last week, he accounted for eight touchdowns (five through the air, three on the ground) in a 62-48 victory over North Carolina State, which got Clemson to 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 1981.

The Gamecocks need to come out on top against their bitter rivals to get their 10th victory and become the first team in school history post back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins.

The Tigers have won their past 13 games in Death Valley (yeah, Ballcoach, there are at least a couple of ‘em), so this call isn’t easy to make, but we can’t go against the Gamecock defense. It’ll come up with the stops when needed.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 4

The pick: South Carolina 26-24

3) Auburn at No. 2 Alabama
Sat., Nov. 24 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Well, well, well … what do we have here? Anyone willing to bet that Nick Saban’s squad won’t take full advantage of its second chance? We’re talking about the Crimson Tide’s next three games, not just this one.

It’s too bad this Iron Bowl is more like Tinfoil Bowl, considering the flimsy state of the Tiger program. Aside from that fact that it will feature direct national title implications for the fifth consecutive year, this incredibly nasty series has always been one of our favorites.

If Alabama weren’t playing its archrivals, there might be a chance that they’d have Georgia on their minds. Oh wait … they’d also have to be opposed by a halfway decent team.

There’s a stunning amount of lumber to chop at, but the Tigers really aren’t able to put up much resistance.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 34

The pick: Alabama 42-6

4) No. 6 Florida at No. 10 Florida State
Sat., Nov. 24 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

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

It seems like forever since this series featured teams ranked in the Top 10 and in the thick of the BCS mix.

Both squads can credit their excellent defenses for making it to this point. Only the Seminoles, however, have an offense right now. The Gators have scored a total of only 73 points in their last four games.

Florida has a murky quarterback situation this week and its passing offense ranks last in the SEC and 114th in the nation. The Gators won’t get it done on the ground versus FSU, which leads the nation in rushing defense.

The Seminoles will patiently build a lead through three quarters. Then, when something has to happen in the final frame, the inept Gator offense will discover that taking chances against a Jimbo Fisher defense can really get you in trouble.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 7

The pick: Florida State 34-13

5) No. 22 Oklahoma State at No. 14 Oklahoma
Sat., Nov. 24 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

In their last two games — against Baylor and West Virginia — the Sooners have yielded a total of 710 rushing yards. Oklahoma came out of both contests with the victory, but that’s simply a grotesque amount of yardage on the ground.

That’s not where you’d like to be when getting set to host an Oklahoma State team that’s fresh off a 59-21 dismantling of Texas Tech.

It doesn’t seem to matter who Mike Gundy puts behind center, so we’re tempted to ride with an upset here. But in the end, it’s too hard to go against Landry Jones in his last home game in a yard that the Cowboys haven’t won in since 2001.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 9

The pick: Oklahoma 38-34

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 20 Michigan at No. 4 Ohio State
Sat., Nov. 24 — noon ET, ABC

It’s rivalry week, so all of the above qualifies to be considered for this spot, but if given the choice, relevancy is more important than rivalry when it comes to playing ball in Week 13.

Officially, these two archrivals have combined to win 76 Big Ten championships and 18 national championships, so this matchup usually has massive postseason implications attached.

Such is not the case for the on-probation Buckeyes this year, although they do have an undefeated record (and a petition).

This is a rivalry game — if not THE rivalry game — so we won’t make too big a deal out of this, but the extra incentive to put the cherry at the top of a 12-0 season is powerful. All that “us against the world” stuff goes a long way when things are pretty much even.

But in truth, Ohio State has enough tangible things going for it in this contest. Home-field advantage and a healthy offensive backfield are two of the biggies.

Opening point spread: Ohio State by 4 1/2

The pick: Ohio State 31-20

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Kentucky at Tennessee
Sat., Nov. 24 — 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.

We’ll make no apologies for last week’s winning dog that came with a thin price. A win is a win.

This week, the ante is upped, riding a two-touchdown pup on Rocky Top, in a game matching a pair of teams still winless in SEC play.

Making the home team the favorite is understandable as they’ve been much more competitive within the league than the ‘Cats. But losing is losing and Tennessee’s psychology is fragile with the ousting of head coach Derek Dooley.

The Volunteers could rally with their leader gone, but why bother ruining the perfect conference slate they’ve put together?

Kentucky, which snapped a 26-game losing streak to Tennessee last year, might have a modicum of confidence after snapping its eight-game losing streak by trashing Samford last week.

Opening point spread: Tennessee by 14

The pick: Kentucky 38-34

A Travone Valentine return to LSU in 2016 now a possibility

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 10:  Mike VI, mascot of the Louisiana State University Tigers, during pregame warmups before the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Back in January, Travonte Valentine was hoping Les Miles would give him another shot at a playing career at LSU. Specifically, Valentine was hoping that he’d get another shot at being a Tiger in 2017.

Not only does it appear Miles is ready to welcome the defensive lineman back, but that welcome could come a year earlier than expected. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Currently enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Valentine was expected to become a 2017 prospect, but NCAA rules may allow him to suit up for LSU in 2016, according to numerous sources with knowledge of Valentine’s academic situation.

Valentine and other sources have confirmed that LSU has checked with its compliance department about what it would take for him to enroll this fall. Valentine, who is currently in good academic standing, has to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, while completing the required number of course hours to qualify. The Tigers are taking a conservative approach to the situation, given the history between both parties, but multiple sources said the program is open to the idea if Valentine maintains his current course, and compliance decides that the transfer would meet NCAA guidelines.

Should Valentine ultimately return to Baton Rouge, it’d be the continuation of a lengthy — and bumpy — odyssey.

After signing with the Tigers in February of 2014, Valentine dealt with NCAA Clearinghouse issues — the player said another SEC program was the root cause — that forced him to miss the start of summer camp his true freshman season. While he was ultimately cleared to practice, he was not permitted to play in any games because of the lingering academic issues.

Then in April of last year, head coach Les Miles confirmed that Valentine had been suspended, with the specific reason being, again, academics.  At the time of his departure from the program, it was reported that Valentine, in addition to the academic issues, had failed multiple drug tests.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida. He had been expected to be an immediate contributor to LSU’s line rotation.

Nick Saban labels Alabama assistant’s departure as a ‘resignation’

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Despite surprisingly seeing just one player selected in the first round of the NFL draft, there might not have been a happier football program than the one at Alabama.  Thanks to the controversy swirling around Laremy Tunsil and his social media misadventures, the fact that a report surfacing shortly before the draft that had a Tide assistant leaving amidst potential NCAA issues had flown almost completely under the radar.

According to the report, defensive line coach Bo Davis was expected to resign or be fired after the school opened an inquiry into possible recruiting violations.  In the first public comments from the school, Davis’ departure is being labeled as a resignation.

“Bo Davis has submitted his letter of resignation,” a statement attributed to head coach Nick Saban began. “We appreciate all the contributions he made to the program and wish him and his family the very best in the future.”

The specific nature of the alleged violations are unknown.  The NCAA, though, has reportedly made multiple inquiries into the situation and the Tide is currently in the midst of investigating the allegations against the coach.

Davis first worked for Saban with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins before moving on to Tuscaloosa as part of Saban’s first Tide staff.  He left for five years before returning to the Tide in 2014.

Not only is Davis considered one of the best line coaches in the country, he’s also a premier recruiter in a program overflowing with such personnel.

The current thought process is that Tosh Lupoi, a Tide football staffer not unfamiliar with NCAA allegations himself, could slide into Davis’ role.  Lupoi had previously served as the line coach at Cal and Washington before moving on to ‘Bama in 2014.

For Atlanta satellite camp, Georgia to partner with… Michigan?

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 15:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white and uses filters) A view of a cat and a dog cuddling during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2013 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
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For those who think the Trump and Clinton supporters can’t find some common ground (they can’t), take note.

In “The Great Satellite Camp Debate of 2016,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh took exception to some of the comments made by his counterpart at Georgia, Kirby Smart, saying “he is barking up the wrong tree” with the implication there is “any intent on our part to break rules.”  Thursday, the NCAA put that issue to rest (for now) by rescinding a ban on satellite camps that had caused the Smart/Harbaugh sniping in the first place.

Just a few hours after the ban was lifted, it was announced that Smart’s coaching staff would be one of two featured at an Atlanta-area camp.  The other?  Lucifer, grab your skates.

While many will be stunned at this “dog dates cat” development, it’s not that shocking.

“That whole thing got so overblown,” Smart, per DawgNation.com, said at an event in Dallas a week ago. “Because he and I, he and staff members from his staff had communicated. That’s a big deal to the media, big deal to you guys. But in the coaching profession we’re a bit more light-hearted about it.”

Ole Miss issues statement on Laremy Tunsil’s money admission

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Mississippi Rebels scores runs in a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Opening night of the NFL draft in Chicago began with many, including the school itself, touting the fact that Ole Miss was on the precipice of creating some program history.  The Rebels did just that as, for the first time ever, they saw three players selected in the first round, but it was what happened in between that most will remember.

Laremy Tunsil, one of the trio expected to go as, ahem, high as No. 3 to the San Diego Chargers, saw his stock tumble as, shortly before the draft, “someone” hacked into his Twitter account and posted a video clip of the offensive lineman taking a bong hit through a gas mask.  The hacking of Tunsil’s social media accounts wasn’t over as, after he was selected with the 13th pick by the Miami Dolphins, someone posted incriminating text messages on his Instagram account, missives that indicated he had received impermissible benefits from Ole Miss staffers.

Adding to Ole Miss’ angst, Tunsil, who was sued by his stepfather the day before the draft, answered “I’d have to say yeah” when asked in a press conference if he took money from a coach.

What should’ve been the best NFL draft night in program history instead turned into an abject nightmare for Ole Miss, which is still in the midst of an NCAA situation in part related to Tunsil.  While Tunsil is free and clear of the ramifications of his bombshell and previously-acknowledged improprieties, it’s Ole Miss that’s left to deal with accusations that could, potentially, lead to further action from the NCAA.

“The university is aware of the reports from the NFL Draft regarding Laremy Tunsil and potential NCAA violations during his time at Ole Miss,” a statement from the school began. “Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

The 2016 early draft entrant missed the first seven games of the 2015 season as “it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.”

In January, Ole Miss was hit with a Notice of Allegations that included 28 violations spread across football, women’s basketball and track and field. Of those 28 violations, 13 are related to football, though the most serious of the allegations stem from the Houston Nutt era.  Also included in that baker’s dozen are Tunsil’s improper benefits.

Exactly a week ago, it was announced that the NCAA had granted Ole Miss a 30-day extension to issue its response to the Notice of Allegations.  Based on the events of Thursday night, both sides might need to clear additional room on their respective calendars to deal with Tunsil’s admissions.