Predictions 101 — Week 11

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West Virginia ruined our shot to sweep the entire dozen last week. Well, at least we had Louisville covering.

It’s just too bad that we didn’t have more success vs. “the number,” going just 6-6 in Week 10.

Naturally, we had the right call in the so-called Game of the Century and continued to deliver in the “two more you shouldn’t ignore” section, running our record down there to 16-3.

Once again, skip down to the bottom. That should be our motto.

After 120 games, we’re 69-47-2 (two games weren’t on the board), with a straight-up record of 91-29.

TOP 10 GAMES (Thurs., Nov. 10 thru Sat., Nov. 12)

1) No. 6 Oregon at No. 3 Stanford
Sat., Nov. 12 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

The Ducks have done an admirable job of trying to reinvent the game of football. Obviously, what Chip Kelly has brought to Eugene is wildly successful. The vast majority of opponents can’t keep up with the pace of the super speedy quack attack.

However, as much as that is the a new reality in the Pac-12, so is the fact that the Ducks have been unsuccessful against a certain type of ball club.

Stanford (9-0, 7-0), playing at home on The Farm, fits that bill.

We’ve seen it before with Oregon (8-1, 6-0). Remember the Rose Bowl two years ago? Last year’s BCS Championship Game? This year’s opener? In those games against Ohio State, Auburn and LSU, the Ducks came up with a not-so-grand total of 63 points. Our math isn’t always so good, but that seems like an average of just 21 points against elite teams that play with a high level of physicality.

You might not consider the Cardinal to be worthy of inclusion in that club because of a lack of team speed, and you’d be right. But we’re not calling for a stonewalling of the Oregon spread-option, just that The Tree will stand tall in the end.

Although injuries have started to mount in Palo Alto, superstar quarterback Andrew Luck and that sledgehammer Stanford offense will limit the Ducks’ offensive opportunities and have yet to misfire in the red zone (52-of-52).

Opening point spread: Stanford by 3

The pick: Stanford 32-26

Final: Oregon 53-30

2) No. 10 Virginia Tech at No. 20 Georgia Tech
Thurs., Nov. 10 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai’i. “Coach Hedanz” also would like to go on record with his disagreement with the prediction above. Things are not always harmonious within the P101 consortium.

The Hokies roll into the ATL with their conference destiny in their own hands. Win out and a rematch with Clemson could be on the horizon.

Oddly enough, the Yellow Jackets recently got back on track by beating the only team to knock off Virginia Tech (8-1, 4-1), those same Clemson Tigers.

This matchup features the Hokie rushing defense (fifth in the country) against the Jacket run game (second in the

country). In Georgia Tech’s two losses, its ground game was held in check. Although Georgia Tech (7-2, 4-2) has an explosive passing attack, its success in that department depends on its ability to run the football.

VT will win that particular battle with aggressive yet disciplined defense, thus grounding GT’s aerial assault.

Expect some Beamer Ball magic in the special teams to ignite this one and put the game away for the visitors.

Opening point spread: Virginia Tech by 1 1/2

The pick: Virginia Tech 29-17

Final: Virginia Tech 37-26

3) No. 19 Nebraska at No. 12 Penn State
Sat., Nov. 12 — Noon ET, ESPN

No matter what unfolds in the days since posting this prediction, this contest will be unlike any of the previous 1,219 games in Penn State football history.

As difficult as it may be, we’ll try to focus on football here … the only certainty being that a game will be played.

If Nebraska (7-2, 3-2 in Big Ten) didn’t have problems of its own, it would run a larger risk of getting swept up in the controversies that have engulfed Penn State (8-1, 5-0). At the top of the Cornhusker to-do list is shoring up a defense that yielded 468 yards in a deflating 28-25 loss to Northwestern last week in Lincoln.

The Nittany Lions, who rank near the bottom of the Big Ten and 88th nationally in total offense, aren’t equipped to take full advantage of Nebraska’s defense if it remains in a giving mood. Penn State’s attack is heavily focused on in-form tailback Silas Redd, who has already gone over 1,000 yards.

Redd’s counterpart, Husker junior Rex Burkhead will be the key. If he is able to break into triple-digits on the road, which under normal circumstances would be highly unlikely, Happy Valley gets even sadder.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 2

The pick: Nebraska 23-17

Final: Nebraska 17-14

4) TCU at No. 5 Boise State
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, Versus

Already rivals due to their BCS-buster brotherhood and a pair of bowl clashes within the past three years, this de facto MWC Championship Game is the first — and likely only — conference matchup between these two ambitious programs.

It’ll also be the first time TCU (7-2, 4-0 in MWC) sets foot on the blue stuff in Boise, and we know how that usually ends up.

In addition, Boise State (8-0, 3-0) might not recognize this particular edition of the Horned Frog defense, which bares little resemblance to the rock-solid units it faced at the Poinsettia and Fiesta Bowls following the 2008 and 2009 seasons. TCU allowed a total of 90 points in its two losses this season to Baylor and SMU.

One can be certain that Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore, who didn’t toss a TD pass in either of the previous two meetings versus the Frogs, will enjoy one of his typical Xbox 360 afternoons.

Opening point spread: Boise State by 13

The pick: Boise State 42-24

Final: TCU 36-35

5) No. 24 Auburn at No. 14 Georgia
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

When we last saw these Tigers and Bulldogs on the field together, punches were being thrown after a game that included 10 personal foul penalties.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who was knocked out of last year’s game by a late hit that fueled the fire of this ancient rivalry, will have much more fun this time around. He ranks first in the SEC in passing efficiency and Auburn (6-3, 4-2) ranks next to last in the league in passing efficiency defense.

Georgia (7-2, 5-1) also will be bolstered by the return of freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell, who served a one-game suspension last week, sitting out the ridiculous 63-16 annihilation of New Mexico State.

The Dawgs claim they won’t be scoreboard watching, but if Florida beats South Carolina earlier in the afternoon, they can clinch the Eastern Division with a win over the defending BCS champs, who have been anything but Tigers on the road this season.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 13

The pick: Georgia 31-14

Final: Georgia 45-7

6) Tennessee at No. 8 Arkansas
Sat., Nov. 12 — 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Only two teams in the country have a worse rushing offense than the Volunteers. Averaging just 87 yards per game and 2.6 per carry is bad enough, but when you combine that with a true freshman quarterback making his first start on the road, you’ve got some serious problems.

Tennessee (4-5, 0-5 in SEC) doesn’t stand a chance of sticking with Arkansas (8-1, 4-1), which is averaging nearly 38 points per game.

Expect the hungry Hogs to come up with a focused and crisp effort, further motivated by the fact that a 44-28 victory over South Carolina somehow translated into a drop in the BCS standings.

The price here seems rather cheap.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 13

The pick: Arkansas 38-16

Final: Arkansas 49-7

7) Wake Forest at No. 9 Clemson
Sat., Nov. 12 — noon ET, ESPNU

The Tigers have had an extra week to stew about their ragged performance in the 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech. That’s not good news for the Demon Deacons, who are solidly headed in the wrong direction.

Unless you consider barely beating Duke, 24-23, something to brag about, Wake Forest (5-4, 4-2 in ACC) has been slip-sliding away ever since wrapping up a 35-30 victory over Florida State on Oct. 8.

Coming into the game against the Yellow Jackets, Clemson (8-1, 5-1) was averaging more than 40 points per game, but didn’t get anywhere near that. Starting tailback Andre Ellington not playing in that contest due to an ankle injury had a lot to do with that as it took a pair of freshmen to replace him and both lost fumbles.

Ellington will be back on Saturday and so should the Tigers.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 15 1/2

The pick: Clemson 38-19

Final: Clemson 31-28

8) No. 4 Alabama at Mississippi State
Sat., Nov. 12 — 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson wasn’t able to buck the odds and have a Heisman highlight night versus LSU last week. But the 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards that he did gain weren’t really expected either.

Imagine what kind of numbers he’s going to have against the Bulldogs, who rank eighth in the SEC in both rushing defense and total defense.

Alabama (8-1, 5-1 in SEC) won’t need any field goals to beat Mississippi State (5-4, 1-4), which has exhibited a lack of quality depth in recent weeks, particularly on offense.

The Bulldogs haven’t come within 20 points of the Tide in their last three meetings and have lost 20 consecutive games to top-10 foes.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 17

The pick: Alabama 34-10

Final: Alabama 24-7

9) No. 2 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Sat., Nov. 12 — Noon ET, ABC

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

With each passing week, and especially now that they’ve elevated themselves into BCS Championship Game contention, the pressure mounts for Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0 in Big 12).

Two road wins over a pair of teams at the bottom of the conference standings before the Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma for all the marbles. Easy, right?

“Not so fast, my friend,” as Coach Corso likes to say.

If the Red Raiders’ upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman three weeks ago doesn’t make them a dangerous barking dog, maybe the Cowboys can be reminded of what happened in Lubbock on the first week in November in 2008 when the Red Raiders handed No. 1 Texas their first loss of the season.

Surprisingly, the Pokes’ wins in this series the past two years have been relatively low scoring, and we expect that trend to continue with the visitors playing a little more close to the vest to prevent costly mistakes and Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4) fired up to make amends for the embarrassments the past couple weeks.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 19 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma State 27-20

Final: Oklahoma State 66-6

10) Miami (Fla.) at Florida State
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC

This matchup used to be a shoe-in to be at the top of this list rather than the bottom, but you still can’t deny the awesome appeal of the annual renewal of this rivalry.

Lamar Miller, the first 1,000-yard rusher in Coral Gables since 2002, is the best back your neighbor hasn’t heard of, and Hurricane quarterback Jacory Harris is quietly in tip-top form. Together they give Miami (5-4, 3-3 in ACC) a fighting chance against Florida State (6-3, 4-2), which ranks first in the league and fourth in the nation in total defense.

Incredibly, the favorite has lost the last six meetings.

Sometimes we’ll buck a bizarre trend because it figures to end. But we can’t go all the way. We just won’t pass up the freebie points.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 9 1/2

The pick: Florida State 27-23

Final: Florida State 23-19

TWO MORE YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE

Washington at No. 18 USC
Sat., Nov. 12 — 3:30 p.m. ET, FX

Is there a team in the country that cares more about numbers than the Trojans?

Witness last Friday’s 42-17 victory at Colorado, where USC (7-2, 4-2 in Pac-12) shamelessly sought and captured a six-touchdown night for quarterback Matt Barkley. We won’t even go into that whole final score mess that erupted after Troy’s 23-14 (or 17-14) win over Utah … oops, we just did.

Washington (6-3, 4-2) has an even worse pass defense than the Buffaloes, ranking dead last in the conference and 113th in the nation (allowing 283 yards through the air per game).

Those numbers seem to spell doom for the Dawgs, but let’s not forget that Steve Sarkisian has won both of his previous games against his previous employer.

Opening point spread: USC by 13

The pick: USC 34-27

Final: USC 40-17

Western Kentucky at No. 1 LSU
Sat., Nov. 12 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Normally we jump all over games like this, figuring that a drastic emotional drop-off will translate into something that will fall within the massive margin established by our friends in the desert. But this one is a bit tricky.

The freshly crowned “Game of the Century” champions are on top of world, after out-defensing Alabama, 9-6.

Western Kentucky (5-4, 5-1 in Sun Belt) prevailed in a scoring-challenged struggle of its own, edging Florida International, 10-9, on a walk-off field goal to run their winning streak to five games. All five of those victories have been in Sun Belt play, putting the Hilltoppers in position to capture the conference crown.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a program that has never played in a bowl game and won only two league games within the previous two seasons. So in a sense, WKU has bigger — yet smaller — fish to fry. What the Hilltoppers really need to do is get out of Death Valley alive (and with their paycheck) and get ready for North Texas and Troy.

Besides, what do you think is going to happen when a team ranked 101st in both scoring offense and total offense goes against the Tigers’ NFL-caliber defense, which can score as well?

Opening point spread: LSU by 41 1/2

The pick: LSU 52-0

Final: LSU 42-9

Week 11 record: 10-2
Total: 101-31

Jimbo Fisher doesn’t ‘know anything about’ report alleging NCAA violations, injury mishandling

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Not surprisingly, Sgt. Schultz showed up at the podium in College Station Tuesday night.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, a report surfaced in which Arizona’s Santino Marchiol, a transfer from Texas A&M, is seeking a waiver from the NCAA that would give him immediate eligibility with the Wildcats in 2018 if granted.  The details of Marchiol’s waiver application, though, are what’s causing some significant waves on multiple fronts as the linebacker is claiming, as a partial basis for his appeal, that an A&M assistant coach gave him hundreds of dollars in cash this past spring that was to be used to entertain Aggie recruits on unofficial visits.  Additionally, Marchiol alleged that the A&M coaching staff, under new head coach Jimbo Fisher, flouted NCAA bylaws in regards to summer workouts as well as alluding to the mishandling of injuries.

Following practice Friday, Fisher was asked about accusations contained in the report that, if pursued and proven, could result in NCAA violations and potential, albeit minor, penalties for the football program.

“I’ll comment on the players on our team right now,” Fisher said by way of 247Sports.com. “That’s all I can do.”

A&M lured Fisher away from Florida State late last year with a 10-year, $75 million contract.  Fisher replaced Kevin Sumlin, who was fired as A&M’s head coach in November of last year and now holds the same job at… Arizona.

Les Miles makes cameo in Dr. Pepper’s new college football ad campaign

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The college football offseason is a time of transition in what can be a volatile business with very little job security. That’s true for the coaches and, apparently, the commercial pitch men. Dr. Pepper, one of the leading ad buyers in college football and a lead sponsor of the College Football Playoff, shelved its concession salesman Larry Culpepper (played by Jim Connor) after four seasons.

“Larry Culpepper has been a great part of our Dr Pepper college football sponsorship for the past four years and has helped us delight fans throughout the season. With the renewal of our college football sponsorship, we’ve decided to take our football-related advertising in a new creative direction and are planning an all-new campaign this season,” a Dr. Pepper spokesperson told Ad Age in May.

The new campaign is now out, and the soft drink brand has replaced one over-the-top character with another. Exit, Larry Culpepper. Enter, Les Miles. Also making cameos are College Football Hall of Famers Brian Bosworth and Eddie George.

The former Oklahoma State and LSU head coach and current aspiring actor makes a cameo in Dr. Pepper’s new “Fanville” universe that will surely have you begging for mercy by the first of October.

If you didn’t notice the first time around, make sure you rewind to the 49-second mark and check out the bag Miles snacks out of.

Texas Tech RB Da’Leon Ward arrested on felony theft charge

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Texas Tech running back Da’Leon Ward was arrested Tuesday on a charge of theft between $2,500 and $30,000, a felony.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Ward was the subject of a Texas Tech Police Department investigation after three cell phones were reported stolen from Texas Tech’s student recreation center in a 20-minute period last Nov. 14. He was indicted in June, but the indictment was sealed.

Texas Tech did not have a comment on Ward’s arrest, because the Avalanche-Journal broke the news of Ward’s arrest to the Tech athletics department.

A Dallas native, Ward became the first true freshman since 1999 to lead the Red Raiders in rushing in 2016, carrying 103 times for 428 yards and three touchdowns while catching 18 passes for 131 yards. Despite playing sparingly or not at all until late October, Ward exploded late in the year. He rushed 23 times for 98 yards against TCU and rushed a combined 67 times for 272 yards against Texas, Iowa State and Baylor to close that year.

Ward, however, redshirted in 2017, to improve his “academics and maturity.”

Entering the year, Texas Tech expected Ward to pair with senior Tre King to handle the majority of the Red Raiders’ carries.

Former Texas A&M linebacker alleges recruiting, practice violations by Jimbo Fisher’s staff

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Former Texas A&M linebacker Santino Marchiol revealed in June he intended to transfer to Arizona. The Aggies had hired a new coach, Jimbo Fisher, and the coach who recruited him, Kevin Sumlin, was now in Tucson. Marichol enrolled at Texas A&M in January of 2017 and redshirted his first season in College Station, meaning to make the move to Arizona, he’d have to sacrifice a season of eligibility unless the NCAA granted him a waiver.

And as Dan Wolken of USA Today details, Marichol tried a perhaps unprecedented path to gain immediate eligibility at Arizona: by alleging NCAA violations at his old school. According to Marichol, he was handed hundreds of dollars in cash by Aggies assistant Bradley Dale Peveto to host recruits on official visits:

On two separate weekends this spring, Marchiol told USA TODAY Sports, he was given hundreds of dollars in cash by linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto to entertain prospects on unofficial visits. Those recruiting visits occurred, he said, following the April 14 spring game with Zach Edwards, a three-star linebacker from Starkville, Mississippi, and the second weekend in June with four-star linebacker Christian Harris (now a Texas A&M verbal commitment) and Nakobe Dean from Horn Lake, Mississippi, ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com.

While NCAA rules at the time allowed schools to give a student host $40 a day to entertain recruits during official visits, prospects must pay their own expenses for unofficial visits, meaning any money provided by coaches would be an NCAA rules violation. Recruits are allowed to take up to five all-expenses-paid official visits each, but many also add unofficial visits to see other schools or make additional visits to a favorite school. News accounts of the visits that Marchiol discussed indicate all were unofficial.

Marchiol describes being taken aback after the spring game when Peveto pulled him into a bathroom near the coaches’ offices and handed him $300.

“There were coaches having meetings in the other office, and he said, here, come in the bathroom real quick because he’d just asked me to host the recruit,” Marchiol said. “So I went in the bathroom and it was just me and him in there, and he’s like, ‘Take this, if you need any more just text me and make sure they have a good time.’ ”

On the second occasion, Marchiol said, the money exchange took place in the bathroom at Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe in College Station, a restaurant where the team frequently takes recruits to eat. Marchiol said he received $400 in cash from Peveto and  that a teammate Marchiol identified in his waiver request was handed another $300 during the exchange.

“You know how you tip people in Vegas? He had the cash in his hand and he like handed it to us like, here (with a handshake),” Marchiol said.

But that wasn’t the only way in which current Aggies coaches have skirted NCAA rules, according to Marichol. Over this summer, Aggies defensive coordinator Mike Elko directed players to spend time at the football facility working on football activities far beyond the allowable levels as permitted by the NCAA.

When Texas A&M’s players returned after Memorial Day weekend, defensive coordinator Mike Elko brought his players into a meeting and made clear what he expected of them: “He said, ‘We’re going to have a lot of meetings and practices that aren’t technically required, but you guys have to be here because you’re way behind. We need to win,’ ” Marchiol said. 

Marichol said players were required to be at the facility from 9 a.m. until “well after” 6:30 p.m. four days a week through the summer and that coaches observed and instructed their 7-on-7 practices, with Elko demonstrating proper technique and alignment, as would be typical of a fall or spring practice but disallowed in the summer by NCAA bylaws.

Finally, Marichol said Aggies trainers mishandled an ankle injury he suffered in June.

Marchiol said he believes he was pushed to play through the injury because of a belief coaches frequently shared loudly with the players: The Aggies program had been like a country club under Sumlin. In fact, he said, everything in the message of Fisher and his assistants had been themed to demand more toughness, from the duration of workouts to the language coaches used on the field to players being told outright that highly rated recruits were coming to replace them.

Marichol is being represented by Thomas Mars, an Arkansas-based lawyer who represented Houston Nutt in his suit against Ole Miss. The NCAA does not comment on current or potential cases. A Texas A&M spokesperson said: “Texas A&M Athletics takes these allegations seriously, and we are reviewing the situation with the NCAA and the SEC Office.”

The Aggies open their first season under Fisher on Sept. 1 against Northwestern State (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).