Predictions 101 — Fiesta Bowl

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No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 7 Kansas State
Thurs., Jan. 3 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Glendale, Ariz. – University of Phoenix Stadium

For a time last month, this was our BCS championship game.

The losses that each team absorbed on Nov. 17, to divert their paths away from Miami, tell us a lot about how this one might go.

Kansas State’s 52-24 loss at Baylor is cause for concern in Little Manhattan because the Bears are merely a poor man’s Oregon. The Wildcats allowed Baylor to gain 580 total yards, 342 rushing, 238 passing.

Those numbers are extremely close to what the Ducks are averaging — 550 total yards, 323 rushing, 227 passing.

If you allow Oregon (11-1) that kind of freedom, which always translates into 50-plus points, you’ve got no shot.

The way to beat the Ducks is to follow Stanford’s blueprint, but that’s WAY easier said than done. We don’t even think the Cardinal truly believe that they really bottled up Oregon for just a couple touchdowns and 405 yards in a 17-14 overtime victory.

Aside from a 77-yard blast by quarterback Marcus Mariota, Stanford did an amazing job limiting explosive plays. Incredibly, the Ducks averaged less than two yards on 15 rushing attempts outside the tackles.

Pac-12 teams are more used to this sort of madness and obsess about meeting the challenge. Stanford lost its previous two encounters with Oregon, 53-30 and 52-31. Painful yes, but learning experiences each time.

What Kansas State (11-1) has that Pac-12 teams never do is extra time to prepare. That has served Duck postseason opponents well in the past. But don’t forget that Chip Kelly knows the “Stanford blueprint” is out there and the most glorious part of his attack is its ability to make adjustments according to the defense.

Oregon has things to worry about as well, namely the fact that Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein has this habit of winning games. He even does it all by himself when necessary.

The workhorse got a little banged up in the win over Oklahoma State on Nov. 3, and experienced a slight dip in productivity over the final three games. Unfortunately for the Ducks, he’ll be rested and ready to fire on all cylinders.

We’re just not sure Klein will be able to make it work, trading his haymakers with Oregon’s barrage of lighting quick jabs.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 8 1/2

The pick: Oregon 42-31

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

Louisville to be without leading receiver vs. Kent State

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The reigning Heisman Trophy winner won’t have his favorite target in the passing game as his ongoing attempt at back-to-back stiff-armed hardware continues.

Bobby Petrino announced Saturday morning that Jaylen Smith will not play in today’s game against Kent State, set for a noon ET kickoff.  The wide receiver is dealing with an injury to his left wrist; it’s unclear when he sustained the injury.

The Louisville Courier-Journal writes that “[m]ore information on Smith’s injury should be available after the game.”

This season, Smith is far and away the Cardinals’ leading receiver, totaling 22 catches for 379 yards through the first three games of the season.  Seth Dawkins is next with 11 receptions, while Dez Fitzpatrick‘s 211 yards are second on the team.

Last season, Smith led the Cards in averaging 22.2 yards per catch.  This season, he was at 17.2 ypc.

Buckeyes backup QB has pointed words on Ohio State’s $1.5 billion valuation

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The archaic to some (most?) NCAA rules still won’t allow student-athletes to be compensated for the millions of dollars they make for the university nor do they allow them to profit off their likenesses or images — even as the universities do just that. One member of the Ohio State Buckeyes merely serves as the latest in a long line of players past and present to point out the hypocrisy of the current system.

Citing a study undertaken by Ryan Brewer, an associate professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the OSU football program is worth slightly north of $1.5 billion (with a “b”), making it the most valuable program in college football. Texas and Oklahoma were also part of the exclusive Billionaires Club.

Those financial numbers weren’t lost at all on Joe Burrow, a backup quarterback for the Buckeyes who took to social media to point out the how the current rules are severely tilted away from the student-athletes.

After getting some blowback from the “you’re on scholarship, you’re lucky you get an education for free, you whining, sniveling millennial” crowd, Burrow signed off for the night with another shot at the current system.

Somewhere, 2012 Cardale Jones applauds that latter effort. Also somewhere else, modern-day Jones no doubt applauds Burrow pointing out the NCAA’s ongoing exploitation of collegiate athletes.

17-year-old gets start at QB for Old Dominion vs. Virginia Tech… in Blacksburg

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Talk about being thrown straight into the fire. At least it’s not “Enter Sandman” at night, though, right?

Regardless, Old Dominion will travel to Blacksburg for an afternoon game at Lane Stadium in Week 4 later on today. Thanks to first-half struggles in ODU’s Week 3 loss to North Carolina, Bobby Wilder inserted Steven Williams at quarterback in the second half and he performed admirably in his first collegiate action — 139 yards passing, two passing touchdowns in two quarters of relief work.

Williams, it was confirmed earlier this week, will remain under center this weekend against Tech and will be tackling his first career start against the Bud Foster-led Hokies defense. The true freshman, though, is no ordinary first-time starter as he is just 17 years, 11 months (almost) old.

Based on our research, the 6-4, 196-pound Williams would become just the fourth FBS player in the last four-plus decades to start at quarterback before the age of 18. The others are Khalil Tate (Arizona, 2016), Nick Isham (Arizona, 2012) and David Walker (Texas A&M, 1973).

It’s believed that Walker, at 17 years, nine months, is the youngest ever to start at quarterback at the highest level of college football.

Despite his youth, Williams, a two-star 2017 signee, has the confidence of both his head coach and teammates.

“At 17 years old, he has to become the defined leader of this organization,” Wilder said according to the Virginian-Pilot. “I personally think he has the ability to do it. … He’s very dynamic. There’s a lot of things he does well.”

“I’ve been thinking about it over the past week, and I can’t imagine myself as a starting quarterback at 17,” redshirt junior wide receiver Travis Fulgham said. “But I think he can do it. That’s what’s crazy about it.”

Wyoming QB Josh Allen deleted Twitter off his phone following loss to Oregon

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Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was one of the most heavily discussed signal-callers in the country this offseason and labeled by many as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick. Some thought he has the physical tools to transition effortlessly from the Mountain West to the NFL just like Carson Wentz.

By late September though, people are starting to hit the brakes on the hype train for the Cowboys QB and so, too, is the player himself it appears. The Associated Press published a long profile of Allen this week and one nugget seemed to jump out: following a 49-13 loss to Oregon last Saturday in which he completed just nine passes for 64 yards and an interception, the quarterback promptly deleted Twitter of his phone.

“Those guys on Twitter aren’t making draft picks and putting together teams in the NFL,” Allen said. “All I really care about is respect from my teammates and my coaches here.”

We’ve seen players delete apps or jump off social media when they face a little adversity on the field and it seems that the Wyoming star is the latest to join the bandwagon and swear off tweeting in the foreseeable future. We’ll see if it makes any difference on Saturday as his team takes on Hawaii at home to open Mountain West conference play.