Predictions 101 — Week 2

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While we went 6-1 overall last week, we pulled a Houston when it comes to the pocketbook. It was bad, but no one “got resigned” … yet. Maybe we just need to add a “few bad citizens” around here to find more success.

The fear this week is that our team will get caught peeking ahead past this week’s task at hand — an uninspiring quintet rescued only by SEC expansion — to next week’s far more attractive board that includes: Alabama at Arkansas, Florida at Tennessee, USC at Stanford, Notre Dame at Michigan State and BYU at Utah.

Week 2 doesn’t contain a single game pitting ranked foes against each other. We really had to scrounge around to fill out our Top 5 this week. It’s such a sad Saturday that Thursday’s Pitt-Cincy pillow fight made it.

Oh well, still way better than baseball.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thursday, Sept. 6 thru Saturday, Sept. 8)

1) No. 7 Georgia at Missouri
Sat., Sept. 8 — 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2

With nearly half of its starting defense out of uniform (four suspensions and one injury), Georgia was underwhelming in a 45-23 victory over Buffalo last Saturday. Mark Richt will need more hands on deck in Columbia to slow down the Tigers’ slippery spread led by dual-threat quarterback James Franklin.

Missouri, which is making its SEC debut, also deserves your attention in the other phases of the game, after reaching the end zone four times while the offense wasn’t on the field in its 62-10 smackdown over Southeastern Louisiana. Punt returner Marcus Murphy accounted for half of those non-offensive scores in the opener.

Even with all that firepower on the opposite sideline, the Bulldogs still figure to set the pace. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray has a pair of senior wideouts to target and freshman running back Todd Gurley had an impressive debut last week with a TD hat-trick that included a 100-yard kickoff return.

They’ll put the Bulldogs out in front and Jarvis Jones & Co. will make sure they stay there.

Missouri defensive end Sheldon Richardson disagrees, but “old man football” still wins the games in this league.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 3 1/2

The pick: Georgia 27-20

2) No. 24 Florida at Texas A&M
Sat., Sept. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

As the Gators’ 27-14 victory over Bowling Green last Saturday illustrates, it’s good to open versus an opponent that you can work out the kinks against without a heavy threat of getting tagged with a loss.

The Aggies had their version of that sort of runout all set up against Louisiana Tech, but Hurricane Isaac forced a postponement, leaving this visit by Florida as their lidlifter. Yowza.

No pressure, Kevin Sumlin. Your first game in charge at College Station is just Texas A&M’s debut in the SEC. Don’t worry, no one will remember that billboard. And Herbie, Desmond and Coach Corso will be there with you to break the matchups down.

It’s a tough spot for redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. He has  wideouts Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, and rebuilt running back Christine Michael to lean on, but Florida’s ultra experienced defense will swallow up most of what the Aggies have to offer from their new attack.

On the other side, Gator sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel has emerged from a competition with Jacoby Brissett, but it’s still a shaky situation, which isn’t helped much by inexperienced receivers. But they’ll be going against an Aggie secondary that is similarly young and senior running back Mike Gillislee seems capable of shouldering a significant share of the offensive burden.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 2 1/2

The pick: Florida 23-17

3) Washington at No. 3 LSU
Sat., Sept. 8 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

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

Keith Price is back to trigger a Husky offense that’s expected to be explosive. Early in the opener versus San Diego State, the attack appeared as advertised, but when tackle Ben Riva went down, the offense went with him for the final three quarters.

Against a far-from-dominant defense, the Washington offense showed that it will struggle in the post-Chris Polk era. Without a take-charge running back, the play-action game will struggle and Price won’t be able to take advantage of an unsettled LSU defensive backfield.

Tigers in Seattle are nothing like Tigers in Death Valley. It’ll be a long night for the Dawg offense.

We’ve been hearing that new coordinator Josh Wilcox will work with a much improved Husky defense. Well, giving up 199 rushing yards to the Ronnie Hillman-less Aztecs doesn’t bode well when Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and a bigger, meaner offensive front brings it in the trenches. Both Tiger backs will go over the century mark for the second week in a row.

The Huskies are still a few years away from approaching college football’s elite.

Opening point spread: LSU by 22

The pick: LSU 38-10

4) No. 13 Wisconsin at Oregon State

Sat., Sept. 8 — 4 p.m. ET, FX

We don’t know what to expect from the Beavers, who had their opener versus Nicholls State postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. But, really, what would we have learned? Perhaps it serves them well that the Badgers didn’t get a peek and they’ll be better rested.

Wisconsin wasn’t impressive against Northern Iowa, needing to bat down a pass on fourth-and-1 to preserve a 26-21 victory in Madison.

The Badger offense led by new quarterback Danny O’Brien (a “Russell Wilson rule” graduate of Maryland), new coordinator Matt Canada and good ol’ Montee Ball was vanilla as usual and generally effective versus the FCS squad.

The Wisconsin defense, however, could be a concern in Corvallis as the Panthers seemed to figure out coverage schemes and took advantage in the second half.

Oregon State’s young backfield of Sean Mannion (sophomore) and running backs Storm Woods (redshirt freshman) and Malcolm Agnew (sophomore) could be just balanced enough to topple the visitors.

The Beavers are usually good for at least one of these a season, having beaten nine ranked teams since 2005.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 11

The pick: Oregon State 28-24

5) Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Thurs., Sept. 6 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Last week wasn’t a good one for teams from Pennsylvania with new coaches at the helm, hosting teams from Ohio.

Road games after wakeup calls have a way of bringing clear focus to a squad, at least that’s what Paul Chryst is hoping happens for his Panthers.

Except for the fact that Pitt has a short week to rest and retool before this Thursday tilt, this all puts Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones in a difficult spot. Not only would he have preferred the Panthers take care of Youngstown State as expected, but to have a played a game prior to this conference opener would have been nice too.

Pitt, which also might be bolstered by players coming off suspensions, has several wicked weapons. They just weren’t sharp right out of the box.

The Bearcats will go down that same road.

Opening point spread: Pittsburgh by 2

The pick: Pittsburgh 23-21

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Penn State at Virginia
Sat., Sept. 8 — noon ET, ABC

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

Maybe a home game against a team they were supposed to beat wasn’t the best recipe for the Nittany Lions to begin their new regime and get the attention back to business on the field.

Often times a road trip does a squad in turmoil some good. And while there’s no escaping the past and the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with it, Penn State players now have the experience of dealing with the distractions.

The Lions seemed in control of their opener versus Ohio, but the bubble burst after halftime when they surrendered 301 yards of total offense and allowed the Bobcats to convert on 11-of-12 third-down attempts.

Virginia junior triggerman Michael Rocco was 25-of-37 for 311 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s 43-19 victory over Richmond, spoiling the Spider coaching debut of his uncle, Danny Rocco.

Penn State might be drained and shorthanded, but it ain’t no FCS squad. If Nittany Lion running back Bill Belton can overcome an ankle injury and help control the ball on offense, the defense can regroup to avoid a repeat of the sloppy second half effort against Ohio that saw them outscored 21-0.

Smiling faces in Happy Valley are long over due.

Opening point spread: Virginia by 5

The pick: Penn State 24-20

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Iowa State at Iowa
Sat., Sept. 8 — 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

It’s the 60th renewal of the Cy-Hawk Series, which dates back to 1894.

This isn’t the most balance rivalry around as Iowa owns a 39-20 advantage. Last year, however, Iowa State broke a three-game losing streak with a 44-41 triple-overtime win in Ames. The last time the Cyclones won on the road in Kinnick Stadium was in 2002, but that 36-16 upset was a doozy (the Hawkeyes’ only setback of the regular season).

Judging from their respective openers, this one is a tossup, especially since our friends in the desert tend to underestimate the Cyclones.

Iowa waited until 2:15 remained in the fourth quarter to score its only touchdown in an 18-17 come-from-behind victory over Northern Illinois at Solider Field last Saturday. Four field goals normally won’t get the job done against anybody, but the Hawkeyes escaped. Credit the Iowa defense, which held the Huskies to just 201 total yards, only 54 of which came through the air.

Iowa State, on the other hand, overcame a horrific start and scored 24 unanswered to beat a decent Tulsa squad, 38-23, last week in Ames. Quarterback Steele Jantz was 32-of-45 for 281 yards. He sprayed his aerials around to nine different receivers and accounted for three touchdowns.

The Cyclones, who displayed a sturdy defense in the final three quarters versus the Golden Hurricane, will be tested by Hawkeye sophomore tailback Damon Bullock, who rushed for 150 yards and that lone touchdown (a 23-yarder on third-and-9). However, Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg passed for only 129 yards and was sacked six times, giving something new offensive coordinator Greg Davis to work on.

Opening point spread: Iowa by 4

The pick: Iowa 26-24

Week 1 record: 6-1

Ohio State knocks Clemson to No. 4 in latest AP Poll, SMU highest ranked Group of Five team

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Dabo Swinney remarked earlier this season that Clemson was back on the ROY (rest of you) bus… and perhaps there’s something to that for the defending champions.

Despite blowing out Louisville on Saturday, the Tigers actually dropped a spot to No. 4 in the latest AP Poll, getting pipped by new No. 3 Ohio State after the Buckeyes own blowout of a bad Northwestern team on Friday night.

That wasn’t the only notable change in the top 10 as Wisconsin predictably fell from No. 6 to No. 13 after their loss at lowly Illinois on Saturday afternoon, bumping nearly everybody else up in the pecking order and allowing Penn State to take their old spot just behind No. 5 Oklahoma.

Elsewhere in the poll, there’s a new highest ranked Group of Five team as No. 16 SMU supplants Boise State after the Broncos lost at BYU. BSU actually is behind No. 18 Cincinnati and No. 21 Appalachian State as well.

No. 23 Iowa State and No. 25 Wake Forest both returned to the top 25 this week after wins to supplant Washington and Missouri.

The full AP Poll heading into Week 9:

  1. Alabama
  2. LSU
  3. Ohio State
  4. Clemson
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Penn State
  7. Florida
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Auburn
  10. Georgia
  11. Oregon
  12. Utah
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Baylor
  15. Texas
  16. SMU
  17. Minnesota
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Michigan
  20. Iowa
  21. Appalachian State
  22. Boise State
  23. Iowa State
  24. Arizona State
  25. Wake Forest

Wisconsin, Boise State drop like a rock in latest Coaches Poll, Penn State moves into top six

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A weekend in college football that was filled with upsets of ranked teams predictably caused a bit of chaos in the latest edition of the polls on Sunday.

The biggest shuffling was left to the victim of the biggest upset of the still young 2019 season as Wisconsin fell like a rock seven spots to No. 13 in the latest Coaches Poll after the Badgers inexplicable loss to Illinois. Their vacation from the top 10 allowed pretty much everybody in front of them to move up a spot in the order, with Penn State the new No. 6 team in the country after beating new No. 20 Michigan.

Though UW tanked in the poll, they weren’t the biggest free fallers as that was reserved for Boise State, which fell eight spots to No. 21 after losing on the road to unranked BYU. The Broncos did start their backup QB in the game but voters likely only paid attention to the final score, which allowed new No. 17 SMU to become the highest ranked Group of Five team.

Washington and Temple both dropped out of the top 25 following losses, replaced by No. 23 Wake Forest and No. 25 Memphis.

The full Coaches Poll heading into Week 9:

  1. Alabama (44 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson (10)
  3. LSU (3)
  4. Ohio State (8)
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Penn State
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Florida
  9. Georgia
  10. Auburn
  11. Oregon
  12. Utah
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Baylor
  15. Texas
  16. Minnesota
  17. SMU
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Iowa
  20. Michigan
  21. Boise State
  22. Appalachian State
  23. Wake Forest
  24. Arizona State
  25. Memphis

Tennessee QB Brian Maurer suffers concussion against Alabama, his second in two games

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Jarrett Guarantano might be Tennessee’s quarterback a little longer than fans would like following the team’s loss at Alabama on Saturday.

According to head coach Jeremy Pruitt in his postgame press conference, Vols starting quarterback Brian Maurer was confirmed to have suffered a concussion against the Crimson Tide and that he is being placed under the standard evaluation protocol.

Complicating matters for UT and their freshman signal-caller is that this is not just a one-off injury but his second concussion in as many games. He was taken out of the first half in the team’s win against Mississippi State and then missed the final three quarters against Alabama after taking a hard hit that wasn’t flagged, much to the chagrin of the coaching staff.

Maurer was 5-of-7 passing for 62 yards (one interception) prior to exiting with the injury.

The Vols host South Carolina next weekend and then have UAB come to Neyland Stadium the week after, both contests that seem unlikely to feature Maurer as he recovers from such a concerning trend the past two games.

Tua Tagovailoa tells Alabama teammates ‘I’ll be back for LSU’

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It’s not exactly great injury news but, in the grand scheme of things, it could’ve been a lot worse.

Late in the first half of Alabama’s win over rival Tennessee, starting quarterback and Heisman front-runner Tua Tagovailoa went down with an apparent ankle injury. After spending time in the sideline medical tent, Tagovailoa went into the locker room for further observation.

Not long after that, Tagovailoa was seen exiting the stadium and getting into the back of an ambulance; he would ultimately return to the sidelines but not the game as Mac Jones finished out the win.

Immediately following the game, Nick Saban stated that Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain, a similar injury he worked through a season ago, and will “probably be out a week or two.” In the postgame press conference, the head coach all but ruled the junior out for next weekend’s home game against Arkansas.

Following next Saturday’s game, top-ranked Alabama will be on a bye in Week 10 before its huge showdown with No. 2 LSU in Tuscaloosa Nov. 9.  According to the current timeline provided by Saban, Tagovailoa should be healthy and available for the Tigers.

Additional testing, including an MRI, will be performed Sunday morning, so the timeline for a return is certainly fluid and will be the main topic of watercooler conversation in the coming days.  At the moment, though, the player and his teammates are optimistic for a return sooner rather than later.

“He said, ‘I’ll be back for LSU,’” linebacker Terrell Lewis said in the postgame aftermath. “I know how Tua is. It’s something he’s been through before, so I don’t doubt the fact that he’s a competitor. He’s going to get right back, and he’ll be fine.”

In Saturday night’s game, and prior to the injury, Tagovailoa failed to throw a touchdown pass for the only time as the Crimson Tide’s starter and for the first time overall since Oct. 14 of 2017.  He also threw his second interception on the season.

In replacing Tagovailoa, the redshirt sophomore Jones completed six of his 11 passes for 72 yards and had neither a touchdown nor an interception.