Notre Dame USC

Predictions 101 — Week 13


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


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


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

Jury awards former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary $7.3 million after defamation suit

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JANUARY 24: Former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary stands in line with other mourners as they wait to pay respect to former Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno during a public viewing at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the campus of Penn State on January 24, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno, who was 85, died due to complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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A Pennsylvania jury has awarded former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary a whopping $7.3 million on Thursday evening in a case that found the school defamed him for his role in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the jury (which included two PSU employees) took just under four hours to render the verdict. While the lawsuit is not completely over because a judge has to rule on McQueary’s whistleblower claim, the verdict is nevertheless a blow to the Nittany Lions after the school was found guilty of defamation and misrepresentation in the case.

McQueary, a former quarterback in State College and an assistant under Joe Paterno, was at the center of the Sandusky scandal back in 2011. He allegedly witnessed Sandusky’s sexual assault of a boy in team facilities back in 2001 and reported what he saw to Paterno and others, but nothing was done about the crime. The revelations a key part in a case against Sandusky and eventually led to the ouster of Paterno and McQueary’s subsequent loss of his own job at the school.

The timing of the news is probably not what Penn State fans wanted to hear about this week after they celebrated the program’s biggest win since the scandal last Saturday in a come from behind victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State.

Report: Steve Addazio’s job could be safe even without bowl berth in 2016

COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Steve Addazio of the Temple Owls celebrates after the Owls scored against the Maryland Terrapins during the second quarter at Byrd Stadium on September 24, 2011 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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It’s been a rough slate for the “dudes” at Boston College the past few years.

The Eagles are 3-4 with very few wins over FBS teams the past two seasons and are on a 12 game losing streak in ACC play. N.C. State, Louisville, Florida State, UConn and Wake Forest are coming up on the schedule and so it goes without saying that winning three of those in order to make it to a bowl game in 2016 is going to be tough.

Even with that run of losses in the league and a second straight year without a postseason berth, it appears unlikely for the school will make a move to fire head coach Steve Addazio according to USA Today‘s Dan Wolken.

Addazio, who is 20–25 overall in Chestnut Hill, has two things working in his favor per the report: a decently-sized buyout at a school with some tight purse strings and the potential for having a new athletic director after Brad Bates’ contract expires next year.

“In other words, there’s a school of thought at Boston College that it might just be better from a timing perspective to give Addazio one more chance to turn it around and start fresh with a new athletics director next year,” writes Wolken.

It probably isn’t what Boston College fans want to hear after two 7-6 seasons have given way to potential two years without a bowl under Addazio and one of the most frustrating offenses in the country to watch on a weekly basis. Perhaps the head coach can turn things around in the coming weeks and months but it probably helps lessen the pressure knowing he’ll at least have some additional time to get the program back on track.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh could make over $10 million during the 2016 season

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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When USA Today released their annual series on college football coaching salaries, it wasn’t a complete shock to see Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh top the list given how much the school has invested in him since he returned to Ann Arbor from the NFL.

What was a little surprising was the total compensation figure listed for the Wolverines’ head coach at a whopping $9,004,000. That’s a figure that’s more than $2 million more than the second highest paid coach (Nick Saban) and $3 million more than Big Ten rival Urban Meyer.

As it turns out, that lofty salary is mostly the result of the way Harbaugh’s contract is structured and due to roughly $4 million in insurance premium payments on top of his standard half a million salary. But that’s not going to be the coach’s final compensation number at all this year as he has a chance to top the $10 million mark through a variety of bonuses.

Per USA Today:

  • $125,000 if the team plays in the Big Ten Conference championship.
  • $125,000 if the team wins the Big Ten title game.
  • $300,000 if the team plays in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
  • $500,000 if the team wins the national championship.
  • $50,000 for being voted Big Ten coach of the year by the conference’s coaches.
  • $75,000 for winning any one of six national coach of the year awards.
  • At athletics director Warde Manuel’s discretion, up to $150,000 based on the team’s academic performance, as long as its single-year and multi-year NCAA Academic Progress Rate figures are at least 960.

Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the country and has a fairly clear path to the College Football Playoff and national title game if they keep playing like they have so it’s not hard to see Harbaugh hitting most of those bonuses to become the sport’s first $10 million man.

While fans at many other schools may throw their hands up in disgust as a result of those figures, you can bet maize and blue fans believe Harbaugh to be worth every single penny.

Duke’s leader in receiving yards ruled out of Georgia Tech game

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 14: Anthony Nash #83 of the Duke Blue Devils dives for the end zone at the end of a 52-yard pass reception against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, Duke will be without one of its biggest and most productive threats in the passing game this weekend.

In releasing the injury report ahead of Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils confirmed that Anthony Nash will not play against the Yellow Jackets.  The wide receiver suffered a broken clavicle during the Oct. 14 loss to Louisville.

There’s no timetable for the redshirt senior’s return.

Nash currently leads the Blue Devils in receiving yards (398) and yards per reception (13.7).  His two receiving touchdowns are tied for second on the team.

Prior to the injury, Nash had started 16 consecutive games.