Nick Saban

Predictions 101 — Week 14

32 Comments

Last week, we went 5-2 straight and versus “the number,” nailing the three biggies at the top of the list.

Let’s see how we do with the regular season’s final set, which is dripping with BCS implications.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 29, thru Sat., Dec. 1)

1) No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia in SEC title game at Atlanta
Sat., Dec. 1 — 4 p.m. ET, CBS

This SEC championship game doubles as a national semifinal, but in our mind it’s also for all the marbles. Either the Crimson Tide or Bulldogs will earn the honor of winning the SEC’s seventh consecutive BCS championship with a victory over No. 1 Notre Dame in Miami on Jan. 7.

While quick to jump to the conclusion above, we’re slow to adopt the prevailing opinion that Alabama will beat Georgia.

If we had the choice, we’d take the Bulldog defense over the Tide’s. Georgia linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree are as good as it gets at their respective positions, and they’re just the beginning.

Despite the rock steady quarterbacking of junior A.J. McCarron, the Alabama offense will experience its share of three-and-outs.

When the Bulldogs have the football, the same can be said. The big question revolves around how Georgia triggerman Aaron Murray rises to the occasion.

Against the two toughest teams he’s played this season, Murray struggled. In the Dawgs’ lone loss, a 35-7 debacle at South Carolina on Oct. 6, he was just 11-of-31 for 109 yards with an interception. Although Georgia beat Florida, 17-9, three weeks later to earn this trip to Atlanta, Murray wasn’t the reason. In fact, the Bulldogs won in spite of the three INTs he threw during a 12-of-25 performance that yielded 150 yards and a touchdown pass.

Murray hasn’t been picked off in any of the four games since the Cocktail Party, but the fact that four of his seven interceptions this season came against the only two teams that are even remotely capable of playing defense at Alabama’s level is worrisome.

Murray, who also hasn’t been able to get Georgia over the hump in its past two bowl games, is trying something new this week. He imposed his own personal media blackout, presumably to restrict questions about not being a big-game quarterback from affecting his performance.

We don’t look at that as a good sign and it tipped the scales.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 7 1/2

The pick: Alabama 23-20

2) No. 14 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin in Big Ten title game at Indianapolis
Sat., Dec. 1 — 8:17 p.m. ET, FOX

The Badgers haven’t had the season they expected, losing five regular-season games and going .500 in league play. But they aren’t about to conclude that this just isn’t their year and roll over for the Cornhuskers.

It’s quite the opposite actually. This is Wisconsin’s second chance, a holiday gift like no other.

If they play their cards right, the Badgers are potentially 120 minutes of football away from being crowned Rose Bowl champions. (No Oregon in Pasadena … just Stanford or UCLA!)

Remember that Wisconsin gave Nebraska all it could handle in Lincoln on Sept. 29. The Badgers appeared headed to victory after taking a 27-10 lead in the third quarter, but the Huskers scored 20 answered points on four consecutive drives.

Wisconsin had a chance to win the game in the final minutes, but tailback Montee Ball fumbled on a fourth-and-one, allowing the Cornhuskers to run out the clock.

Ball ran for 90 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. But in the end, his team netted only 56 rushing yards.

Nebraska had far less difficulty, rumbling for 259 yards on the ground.

That’ll even out a bit in the rematch and the game will go down to the wire. Something tells us the Badgers will go for a two-point conversion or take some chances in the fourth quarter to avoid overtime, which has been a 0-3 proposition for them this season.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 2 1/2

The pick: Nebraska 24-23

3) No. 17 UCLA at No. 8 Stanford in Pac-12 title game
Fri., Nov. 30 — 8 p.m. ET, FOX

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

After winning Round 1, which determined that there would be a rematch with Oregon watching on TV, Cardinal head coach David Shaw said: “I expect them to give us everything. I expect this to be a very tough, physical game. It’s going to be 10 times harder. We’re going to get their best shot.”

We share that belief. After exchanging opening drive touchdowns and holding Stanford to a trio of three-and-outs, UCLA head coach Jim Mora clearly called off the dogs.

Following the 35-17 Cardinal victory, an ornery L.A Times columnist asked Mora if he treated the contest like an NFL preseason charade in order to avoid playing Oregon and hide game plan elements from Stanford. The exchange was supremely entertaining.

After the first-quarter stalemate, who could blame Mora for going vanilla against a team that’s clearly a far easier matchup than the Ducks? Why not avoid Eugene as if the plague had broken out there? Palo Alto is beautiful this time of year.

Check how many times Mora had Jonathan Franklin run the ball on first down. The predictable play calling was designed to finish the game, not win it.

Round 2 will be a back-and-forth affair that will surprise many. In the end, Mora’s gamesmanship will come up short in a tight contest. A final clock-killing drive, showing what Stanford is made of, will seal it.

Opening point spread: Stanford by 10

The pick: Stanford 34-27

4) No. 13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech in ACC title game at Charlotte, N.C.
Sat., Dec. 1 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Both teams are busy licking their wounds on the way to this ACC Championship Game.

The Seminoles saw their faint BCS title hope go up in flames in a 37-26 loss to Florida last Saturday, while the Yellow Jackets were brushed aside, 42-10, by Georgia on its way toward a possible BCS title game appearance.

The difference in this contest is that Florida State’s defense has the ability to bounce back from its leaky outing. Georgia Tech’s problems on that side of the ball figure to persist.

That’s not to say that the Seminoles will shut down the Yellow Jacket option attack, after allowing the Gators to roam for 240 yards on the ground, but even with the loss of defensive end Tank Carradine to a knee injury, they clearly have the athletes to keep it in check.

Look for E.J. Manuel and the rest of the FSU offense to spring a bunch of big plays to easily claim a spot in the Orange Bowl (against … see below).

Opening point spread: Florida State by 13

The pick: Florida State 37-20

5) Louisville at Rutgers
Thurs., Nov. 29 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Cardinals are ticketed for the ACC and the Scarlet Knights are bound for the Big Ten, but we’re still talking about the Big East here, so this predicting business is unquestionably an effort in futility.

Nevertheless, there’s important stuff going on in Piscataway. If the Scarlet Knights win, they play in their first BCS game. If the Cardinals are victorious, they’ll likely get the Orange Bowl nod.

Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will play with a broken left wrist. The Louisville running game is equally banged up with running back Senorise Perry on the shelf (ACL). In its last two games, Louisville has rushed for a total of only 75 yards.

All of that doesn’t add up to success versus Rutgers, which is allowing only 13.7 points per game.

Opening point spread: Rutgers by 2

The pick: Rutgers 26-17

Report: Jim Delany to retire as B1G commish in 2020

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26:  Commissioner of The Big Ten Conference Jim Delany speaks at The Big Ten Network Kick Off Party at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 26, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Wink Public Relations)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the most powerful men in collegiate athletics is nearing the end of his reign.

During his time at the podium during Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, commissioner Jim Delany hinted very strongly that he would not be around when the conference’s new media rights deal expires in 2022.  In fact, the 68-year-old commish sounded fairly positive that he’ll be somewhere other than the league’s headquarters in Rosemont, Ill., when that deal comes up for negotiations.

“I have a lot of energy and a lot of interest in what’s going on in the college space today,” Delany said. “I will be around for a bit. Whether I’m around here for six years is probably a little bit beyond how I see it.”

A short time later, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today, citing a person with direct knowledge of the situation, reported that Delany will step down in 2020.  Jut when in 2020 Delany would ceded control after more than three decades on the job isn’t clear.

Delany took over as commissioner of the conference in 1989.  Arguably his greatest accomplishment in that role was helping the league to develop the Big Ten Network, an in-house ATM that has helped the conference stay in step with the SEC financially.

During his tenure, he also helped shepherd the Big ten through the maze of expansion, first with Penn State in the early nineties and then with Nebraska in 2011 and Maryland and Rutgers three years later.

Marshall announces dismissal of LB Raheim Huskey

HUNTINGTON, WV - SEPTEMBER 6: Raheim Huskey #45 of the Marshall Thundering Herd celebrates in the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on September 6, 2015 in Huntington, West Virginia. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The up-and-down playing career of Raheim Huskey, at least in Huntington, has officially come to an end.

Marshall announced in a press release that Huskey has been dismissed from the Thundering Herd by head coach Doc Holliday. The only reason given was “a violation of team rules and policies.

The dismissal is the latest misstep/setback for the middle linebacker.

Projected as the starter heading into summer camp last year, Huskey was leapfrogged on the depth chart by Devontre’a Tyler. Then, in October, Huskey was indefinitely suspended for unspecified violations of team rules. He was reinstated and returned to the team in time to participate in spring practice earlier this year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman in 2013, Huskey played in 20 games the past two seasons. He played in seven last season prior to his suspension.

In the 2014 Conference USA championship game, Huskey, starting place of the injured Jermaine Holmes, was credited with eight tackles and 2.5 sacks in the win over Louisiana Tech.

Ole Miss’ Charles Wiley arrested on domestic violence charge

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels and team enter the field before playing against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the first quarter of the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As if Ole Miss didn’t have enough off-field issues with which to deal, now this situation pops up.

According to online jail records first obtained by HottyToddy.com, Charles Wiley was arrested Monday evening and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence.  A female was arrested on the same charge as well.

No details of what led to the arrests have been divulged.  The defensive lineman posted bond and was released from the Lafayette County Jail late this morning.  According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Wiley is scheduled to appear in court next month.

In a statement sent to the media, head coach Hugh Freeze indicated that Wiley “is being withheld from all team activities” as the program gathers more information.

“We are aware of the situation and recognize the proper authorities responsible for the matter,” the statement began. “Charles is being withheld from all team activities while the process moves forward. We take incidents like this very seriously and will make decisions once the course of actions is complete.”

A four-star member of Ole Miss’ 2016 recruiting class, Wiley was rated as the No. 20 weakside defensive end in the country.  He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice earlier this year, and had been expected to be a part of the line rotation this season.

Texas transfer Ryan Newsome to choose between Ariz. St., Mich. St.

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 15:  A Michigan State Spartans helmet on the bench during a college football game against the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on November 15, 2014 in College Park, Maryland.  The Spartans won 37-15.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

And then there were two.

A week ago, Ryan Newsome took to Twitter to announce his decision to transfer from Texas.  A couple of days later, the wide receiver revealed that he already has a Top Six list: Alabama, Arizona State, Michigan State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC.

Over the weekend, Newsome revealed he had whittled that list down to the Spartans and Sun Devils.

In an interview with the Lansing State Journal late last week, Newsome stated that MSU was “the first school to reach out to me” after his transfer decision was announced. Newsome is expected to visit both campuses before making a final decision.

Regardless of where he lands, Newsome will be forced to sit out the 2016 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He’d then have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Newsome was a four-star member of the Longhorns’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country and the No. 32 player at any position in the talent-rich state of Texas. As a true freshman last season, Newsome caught four passes for 23 yards.