Predictions 101 — Week 10

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Suddenly we’re the pick ‘em equivalent of Texas A&M.

In the first half of the 2011 season, we were 54-26-2 vs. “the number.” Ever since the second half started, we seem like a different team, going 9-15 in the last two weeks (4-8 in Week 9).

If not for our continued success in the “two more you shouldn’t ignore” realm, we’d have nothing to smile about. We’re 14-3 down there, so if you’re into that sort of stuff, you might want to just skip to the bottom where we have more freedom to peruse the board.

But, hey, it’s not like we’re out looking for work. After 108 games, we’re 63-41-2 (two games weren’t on the board), with a straight-up record of 80-28.

TOP 10 GAMES (Sat., Nov. 5)

1) No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama
Sat., Nov. 5 — 8 p.m. ET, CBS

With so much being said about this titanic battle between the Tigers and Tide, here’s an attempt to boil away their similarities and simplify their differences.

LSU (8-0, 5-0 in SEC) is the superior team along all the edges.

Alabama (8-0, 5-0) is tougher through the middle and across the lines.

Even when matching up those strengths against each other, it seems like a draw.

Nevertheless, the thinking here is that Tiger cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne have a significant advantage in their chess match with Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron, who doesn’t have the luxury of a “Julio Jones” at wideout. LSU won’t need to offer either of those elite corners much help over the top with a safety. Those guys will be focused on the action in the box, if not already in there.

That’ll make it tougher on Alabama to gain the yards necessary on first down to stay out of predictable down-and-distance situations, that will allow the LSU to turn up the heat.

The Tigers, on the other hand, have Rueben Randle, who can expertly stretch the field from his wide receiver position, and the mischievous nature of Les Miles. Those two men will at some point generate a key set of yards that’ll provide the turning point.

Believe it or not, the visitor in this series is 27-13-1. The home team has captured the last two meetings, but the hosts have never taken three in a row.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 6

The pick: LSU 19-17

Final: LSU 9-6, OT

2) No. 10 South Carolina at No. 8 Arkansas
Sat., Nov. 5 — 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

It’s not a total surprise to have a pair of top-10 battles featuring SEC squads in the same week, but to see Arkansas and South Carolina involved is rather unexpected. Last year’s tilt between the Razorbacks and No. 1 Alabama was the first top-10 battle in Fayetteville since 1979 and the Gamecocks haven’t been involved in a contest between top-10 teams since the 1987 Gator Bowl when they were defeated by LSU.

Both teams have been prone to slow starts, with Arkansas (7-1, 3-1 in SEC) posting a trio of double-digit comebacks this season and South Carolina (7-1, 5-1) allowing the opposition to score first in each of their eight games this year and the last 11 overall. The similarities stop there.

With a pair of young replacements in the backfield who have led the offense to just 14 points in each of the last two weeks, the Gamecocks have relied on the nation’s top-ranked pass defense to walk away victorious in each of those road contests.

The Hog passing attack (321 yards per game, ninth in the nation), led by junior quarterback Tyler Wilson, has helped the offense put up at least 38 points in each of its five home victories. Efficiency is the key, as Wilson has not thrown an interception in his last 176 attempts, spanning 18 quarters, while having four of the top-10 receivers in Razorback history at his disposal.

Additionally, Arkansas ranks second nationally with three kick returns for scores and its ball-hawking defense has snagged an interception in each of the last four games.

It all adds up to Razorback Stadium hosting its sixth consecutive Homecoming victory and the Gamecocks falling for the third straight time there to snap a six-game road winning streak.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 5

The pick: Arkansas 33-17

Final: Arkansas 44-28

3) No. 17 Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma State
Sat., Nov. 5 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

Three is the loneliest number in the BCS. To the top two go the spoils. The team slotted third — where the Cowboys currently find themselves — is left to wonder what might have been (and complain about the system along with the rest of us).

Since No. 1 and No. 2 are going to butt heads on Saturday, Oklahoma State (8-0, 5-0 in Big 12) is a virtual lock to move into the “championship game zone” if it can get past visiting Kansas State (7-1, 4-1).

The Wildcats had their bubble burst last week by Oklahoma, which rolled up 690 total yards against K-State in a 58-17 rout. They’ll have their hands equally full with the Cowboys, who have a wicked offense led by quarterback Brandon Weeden, with assistance from running back Joseph Randle and wideout Justin Blackmon.

Oklahoma State’s defense doesn’t get the highlight coverage, but it’s dangerous as well, leading the nation with 29 takeaways, which supports a national-best turnover margin of +2.38.

After bottling up Baylor, 59-24, there’s no reason to think that the Cowboys won’t do something similar to the ‘Cats.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 21

The pick: Oklahoma State 52-27

Final: Oklahoma State 52-45

4) Texas A&M at No. 7 Oklahoma
Sat., Nov. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

The Sooners might want to let the Aggies run out to an early lead.  All three of Texas A&M’s losses this season (including last week’s 38-31 loss to Missouri, which P101 correctly tabbed to require overtime) have been of the come-from-ahead variety, leading by a combined 46 points at halftime.

A more likely scenario involves Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 in Big 12) leaning on quarterback Landry Jones even more than usual with the absence of tailback Dominique Whaley (fractured ankle) to shred the porous Aggie pass defense (dead last in the nation).

Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2) beat the Sooners last year in College Station, but have historically performed poorly in Norman, where the Sooners will be focused on starting a new home winning streak.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 13 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma 42-31

Final: Oklahoma 41-25

5) No. 6 Oregon at Washington
Sat., Nov. 5 — 10:30 p.m. ET, FSN

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

Most of the country looks at Stanford and Oregon as the clear elite teams in the Pac-12 North, but we don’t want to overlook the Huskies. They got taken to the woodshed by Stanford on “The Farm,” 65-21, but get to host the Ducks in an emotional home game that’ll be the last played at the current Husky Stadium.

The key for Washington (6-2, 4-1 in Pac-12) is running back Chris Polk (1,016 yards on the ground), who has been showing that he is the one with “BEAST MODE” in town. Only Cal has held him under 100 yards rushing this year. He provides the balance the Huskies needs for quarterback Keith Price to be successful. But, Oregon (7-1, 5-0) has the talent in the secondary (No. 8 in pass efficiency defense) to focus on slowing Polk down.

On the other side of the field, Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt now has to be prepared for multiple offensive units. Any combination of Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas and Bryan Bennett can be in the Oregon backfield, all bringing something a little different to the table.

The rust will be dusted off and the Ducks will be in “BEAST MODE” to make sure they leave UW with the W.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 15

The pick: Oregon 45-34

Final: Oregon 34-17

6) No. 23 Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Sat., Nov. 5 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

There’s a vast difference between how these two teams spent last week.

Cincinnati (6-1, 2-0) rested up and crafted its plan to stay undefeated in Big East play.

Pittsburgh (4-4, 2-1) was fully engaged in a 35-20 victory over Connecticut, which came at a supreme price as superstar running back Ray Graham tore ligaments in his right knee on the fourth play of the game. With Graham on the shelf, the Panthers turned to uneven quarterback Tino Sunseri and he responded beautifully with a 29-of-42 outing that resulted in 419 passing yards.

Sunseri also accounted for three touchdowns against the Huskies, but don’t count on him having that same type of night against the Bearcats, who have the type of defense that will easily stonewall the Graham-less running game and focus on making life miserable for the Panther triggerman.

Opening point spread: Cincinnati by 2 1/2

The pick: Cincinnati 34-23

Final: Cincinnati 26-23

7) Texas Tech at Texas
Sat., Nov. 5 — noon ET, FX

The Red Raiders are a picky bunch. They only pay attention to big fish. Iowa State? Nah, let them go.

Texas Tech (5-3, 2-3 in Big 12) is only interested in bagging trophies like Oklahoma.

Although Texas (5-2, 2-2) isn’t on the Sooner scale this season, its big brand name means the Red Raiders will be there for a full fight.

Opening point spread: Texas by 10

The pick: Texas 31-28

Final: Texas 52-20

8) No. 4 Stanford at Oregon State
Sat., Nov. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

The Beavers specialize in traps like this.

While we doubt that the Cardinal, who can turn on the brute strength and turn to Andrew Luck, are going to get toppled, it would be foolish to not think that there will be a letdown between the emotionally draining three-overtime victory at USC and next week’s showdown versus Oregon.

The Trojans know all about scenarios like this. In 2008, top-ranked USC, fresh off a huge victory over No. 5 Ohio State, got bushwhacked by the Beavers, who were a 25-point underdog.

Granted, Oregon State (2-6, 2-3 in Pac-12) isn’t as talented as that squad three years ago, but it is speedy enough to take advantage of some of the weaknesses that Stanford (8-0, 6-0) exhibited last Saturday at the Coliseum.

Opening point spread: Stanford by 20 1/2

The pick: Stanford 42-27

Final: Stanford 38-13

9) Notre Dame at Wake Forest
Sat., Nov. 5 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

November is here and Irish eyes are smiling.

Last season, Notre Dame (5-3) was 3-0 in November, extending Brian Kelly’s personal 11-game winning streak during the month, which extends back to his days at Cincinnati.

The Irish begin this month’s three-game ACC test drive at Wake Forest (5-3, 4-2) and should go 3-0 before getting crushed at Stanford on Nov. 26.

The Demon Deacons are not well at this point in the season, having just committed five turnovers en route to a 49-24 loss at North Carolina. That sort of thing should sound all too familiar to the Irish.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 13 1/2

The pick: Notre Dame 31-27

Final: Notre Dame 24-17

10) Army at Air Force
Sat., Nov. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

The Black Knights got a lift from backup quarterback Max Jenkins in last week’s 55-0 drubbing of Fordham. Subbing for an injured Trent Steelman, who had started the previous 32 games, Jenkins rushed for a pair of scores while triggering an attack that rolled up 514 rushing yards.

Considering the Falcons’ familiarity with this sort of attack, Army (3-5) might need a little more than the 30 yards of passing offense that Jenkins provided against the Rams.

Air Force (4-4, 1-3 in MWC) had a similar afternoon last week as Conner Dietz came on in relief of an injured Tim Jefferson and piloted a 42-0 victory at New Mexico.

We’ll have to side with a fired up Falcon squad playing at home with the chance to clinch their second consecutive Commander-in-Chief Trophy with a victory.

Opening point spread: Air Force by 15

The pick: Air Force 34-13

Final: Air Force 24-14

TWO MORE YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE

Louisville at No. 24 West Virginia
Sat., Nov. 5 — Noon ET

The Mountaineers and Cardinals have played the same teams — Syracuse and Rutgers — in their last two games.

West Virginia (6-2, 2-1 in Big East) got stunned by the Orange, 49-23, and then struggled mightily against Rutgers before pulling out a 41-31 victory (much to P101’s chagrin).

Louisville (4-4, 2-1), on the other hand, turned around what was a 2-4 season with back-to-back wins over Rutgers (16-14) and Syracuse (27-10).

That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re riding with the Cardinals here, especially in Morgantown, but we like what their freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has cooking and the defense has a strong backbone.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 12 1/2

The pick: West Virginia 24-20

Final: Louisville 38-35

Purdue at No. 19 Wisconsin
Sat., Nov. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET

Who would have thought two weeks ago — or ever — that the Badgers and Boilermakers would be tied in the standings of the Leaders Division at this point in the season.

There are now two things that we know about Wisconsin (6-2, 2-2 in Big Ten). First of all, if a game comes down to defending against a desperation pass, the Badgers are in deep trouble. Secondly, they are not the same team away from Madison.

That’s not good news for Purdue (4-4, 2-2), which is fresh off a sound 36-14 whipping at the hands of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has lost its last 13 road games against ranked opponents.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 26 1/2

The pick: Wisconsin 42-10

Final: Wisconsin 62-17

Week 10 record: 11-1
Total: 91-29

No. 10 Washington rides defense to win over slumping Arizona State

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Take one of the Pac-12’s best rushing attacks, mix in the league’s best receiver on the other sideline and stir after dark to get some wild, offensive-laden craziness in Seattle, right? Uh, not even close.

No. 10 Washington rode their incredible defense and used a handful of big plays from their offensive veterans to secure a bruising 27-20 win on Saturday night and drop the fighting Herm Edwards’ of Arizona State to a slumping .500 on the season.

Huskies QB Jake Browning crossed the 10,000 yard passing plateau for his college career and continued closing in on several school records with an efficient 202 yard game. That included three excellent throws into the end zone for touchdowns, one to Aaron Fulleranother to Ty Jones and the best of the bunch in the fourth quarter to help salt the game away to a tip-toeing Cade Otton.

The signal-caller’s play balanced out another solid (if not quite the usual spectacular) effort from Washington’s one-two punch in the backfield as Myles Gaskin recorded 86 yards on the ground and Salvon Ahmed chipped in with 71 more on limited carries. The team punted just three times all game and probably could have gotten off to a better start had their signature Chris Petersen trick play on the first play of the game — in this case, a double-pass — not been picked off.

The real star of the show might have been the defense though. Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven looks like a budding All-American and finished with 20 tackles and two forced fumbles while the entire front seven was a load for the Sun Devils to handle. Eno Benjamin had just one long run on his way to 104 yards plus a TD and otherwise had to fight for running room on every carry.

He was still a bright spot for ASU all things considered… namely how rough of an outing it was for QB Manny Wilkins (104 yards passing) and star receiver N'Keal Harry (five catches, 20 yards). The entire group seemingly continued their struggles from last week’s loss against San Diego State and will now need to find some way to regroup with the heart of their Pac-12 slate coming up next month. After grabbing the nation’s attention with a victory over Michigan State, now will really be the time we’ll find out what Edwards can do as a college coach as he tries to rebound from a losing streak for the first time.

The Huskies, meanwhile, can rest easy knowing they didn’t get swept up in the wild nature of the day in college football with so many ranked teams falling to unranked squads. It was by no means a crisp outing for Petersen’s group but it is a precious win nevertheless and does set up a very intriguing game next Saturday night against a ranked BYU squad. At this point late into the night on Saturday, surviving and advancing is nothing to overlook and, thanks mostly to their defense, Washington did just that against Arizona State.

No. 15 Oklahoma State one of five ranked teams to lose to unranked teams in Week 4

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Especially when it comes to the middle of the rankings, it was a brutal Week 4 for ranked teams.  The most recent example: No. 15 Oklahoma State.

Coming off a huge Week 3 win over then-No. 17 Boise State, OSU was expected to handle business against Texas Tech in Stillwater — oddsmakers had installed them as essentially a 14-point favorite.  Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the game is played on the field and not on a betting slip as the Red Raiders stunned the previously-unbeaten OSU in a 41-17 win at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Alan Bowman, the true freshman who passed for 60-plus yards a week ago, was “held” to 397 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win that pushed the Red Raiders’ record to 3-1.  Tech also took advantage of its hosts in the running game as they gouged the Cowboys, who came into the game seventh nationally in run defense at 74 yards per game, for 224 yards and three of its touchdowns; OSU had allowed just one rushing touchdowns in its first three games combined.

Including OSU, five ranked teams lost to unranked teams in Week 4*.  In fact, just one of the teams ranked between Nos. 13-17 came out of the week unscathed — No. 16 UCF.  The others?  Not nearly as fortunate.

  • No. 13 Virginia Tech — lost 49-35 to Old Dominion.
  • No. 14 Mississippi State — lost 28-7 to Kentucky.
  • No. 15 Oklahoma State — well, ya know.
  • No. 17 TCU — lost 31-16 to Texas.

Throw in a 30-13 loss by No. 23 Boston College to Purdue, and there’s certain to be quite a bit of movement when the Associated Press Top 25 is released Sunday afternoon.

(*No. 10 Washington is currently playing Arizona State and, as of this posting, holds a slim 17-10 lead at halftime.)

Late TD pushes No. 18 Wisconsin past upset-minded Iowa

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Iowa has a proud history of knocking off ranked teams in night games at Kinnick Stadium, and No. 18 Wisconsin’s visit on Saturday had a chance to be another, but a number of crucial mistakes and clutch plays by the Badgers allowed the visitors to escape with a 28-17 win.

In a game without many scoring opportunities, Iowa’s list of mistakes started when Kirk Ferentz made a very un-Ferentz like decision and it immediately came back to bite him.

After forcing a Wisconsin punt to open the game, Iowa marched from its own 15 to the Wisconsin 12 when Nate Stanley hit running back Ivory Kelly-Martin for a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-8, taking the ball to the Badgers’ 5, setting up a 4th-and-1. The Iowa offense hurried to the line, but a pair of false starts by Iowa’s guards were wiped out when the replay official stopped play to review the spot. Given the chance to think it over, Ferentz chose to go for it again, and Stanley’s sneak was stuffed.

Wisconsin immediately took advantage, moving 95 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a 6-yard Alex Hornibrook pass to Jake Ferguson at the 14:31 mark of the second quarter.

The teams traded punts on their next possessions and Iowa seemed primed to punt again when Stanley loaded up to throw on a 3rd-and-9 from his own 34, but his rainbow found T.J. Hockenson for a 46-yard gain, which he hauled in despite defensive pass interference on the play. Stanley put Iowa on the board with a 20-yard scoring strike to Noah Fant on the next play, evening the game at the 5:15 mark of the first half.

Iowa forced another Wisconsin punt on the ensuing possession, but the Hawkeyes’ momentum was wiped out when Kyle Groeneweg‘s 23-yard punt return to midfield ended in a fumble forced and recovered by Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon.

Still, Iowa’s defense forced another punt, and the Hawkeyes expired the final minute to send the game to the half.

Iowa accepted the ball to open the second half and notched a 24-yard Miguel Recinos field goal to take its first lead of the game and forced another Wisconsin punt, but another special teams disaster cost the Hawkeyes a chance to take control of the game. As Anthony Lotti‘s punt spun to a stop on the Kinnick Stadium turf, an unaware Shaun Breyer touched the ball with his foot at his own 10-yard line, and Wisconsin’s Travian Blaylock hopped on the loose ball.

Three plays later, Hornibrook hit Danny Davis III to put Wisconsin back on top, 14-10.

Iowa answered immediately, moving 75 yards in eight plays and scoring on a 1-yard toss from Stanley to Fant at the 1:37 mark of the third quarter.

The score remained at 17-14 when Wisconsin took over at its own 12 with 5:40 remaining, and the Badgers consumed 4:43 of the available clock, taking a 21-17 lead on a 17-yard pass to A.J. Taylor with 57 seconds to play.

Needing a touchdown to win the game, Iowa (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) took over at its own 24, but Stanley was intercepted by T.J. Edwards, and Alec Ingold scored the capper on a 33-yard rush with 22 ticks to play.

Hornibrook was the star of the game, hitting 17-of-22 passes for 205 yards with three touchdowns and no picks, while Jonathan Taylor rushed 25 times for 113 yards.

Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) successfully bounced back from last week’s loss to BYU and won in Iowa City for the fifth straight time. Overall, Wisconsin has won six of the past seven Heartland Trophy meetings, and the winner of the Heartland Trophy game has gone on to win the Big Ten West in each of the past four seasons.

No. 7 Stanford storms back to beat No. 20 Oregon in OT and make huge Pac-12 statement at Autzen

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The faces may change through the years but whenever Oregon and Stanford get together in the Pac-12 era, a classic tends to break out. Such was certainly the case once again on Saturday night in Eugene.

The No. 7 Cardinal had an incredible turnaround starting in the third quarter and stormed back to beat No. 20 Oregon 38-31 in overtime and send a statement to the Pac-12 and the rest of the country that they’re still among the elite in the sport.

Despite Oregon controlling the game convincingly early, Stanford found late life in the third quarter thanks to their defense. After a replay took a touchdown off the board, the Ducks were at their one yard line when they were set to punch the ball in… but fumbled the snap. Linebacker Joey Alfieri scooped-and-scored from 80 yards out to quiet the rambunctious crowd in Eugene and a three-and-out followed. The Cardinal continued to make things interesting after that incredible swing of momentum as Bryce Love then punched it in from 22 yards out to complete the 21-point swing.

While it looked like the Ducks had regained control of things with a 70-yard touchdown drive, the visitors from the Farm would not give up. They answered with a score in less than 90 seconds and then incredibly forced a fumble on the ensuing possession. After some big time passes down the field, Jet Toner knocked home a 32-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime and the team secured an interception to seal the deal in the extra frame.

Love (89 yards) was generally held in check outside of that one scoring run as the Stanford offense mostly had to move the ball through the air. Signal-caller K.J. Costello made several big throws down the field and finished with 327 yards passing. He also threw for three touchdowns, two of which went not surprisingly to jump ball machine JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Tight end Kaden Smith chipped in with six catches for 95 yards and Coby Parkinson found the end zone from 23 yards out in OT for the game-winner.

The stunning comeback ruined what should have been a momentous day for Mario Cristobal at Oregon. Quarterback Justin Herbert managed to insert himself into the Heisman conversation by playing nearly perfect, throwing for 346 yards with just seven incompletions, a touchdown and a pick. He also ran for 35 yards for good measure and his scrambles to keep plays alive were key to sustaining drives throughout the game.

CJ Verdell led the way for the Ducks on the ground with 115 yards rushing and a touchdown but his fumble trying to ice the game was the critical mistake that seemed to doom the team. It also spoiled big play machine Dillon Mitchell‘s huge performance as the junior wideout finished the night with a whopping 14 catches for 239 yards — the most at the school since 2003.

The loss not only sets Oregon back in the Pac-12 North race (with rivals Washington coming to town in three weeks), but also hampers their good start to the year against weaker competition. While there’s plenty of season left to go, defeats like that are never easy to get over and Cristobal in particular still has plenty to prove to the fan base that he was the right choice to replace Willie Taggart last December.

As for Stanford, they will likely tick up some in the polls and can now legitimately enter the College Football Playoff conversation. That clash against Notre Dame in South Bend next week on NBC is one of the biggest games of the young season so far and both teams are no stranger from hard-fought battles over the years themselves. While that will have more national implications going forward, the Cardinal already made an impressive statement in Pac-12 play on Saturday night as they look more and more like the class of the league after quieting the crowd and stunning Oregon at Autzen.