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

Ex-Houston safety Earl Foster killed in shooting

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Houston is the latest college football program to be hit with a tragedy involving a current or former player.

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle has reported that Earl Foster (pictured, right) was killed in an East Houston shooting Tuesday night. According to the report, Foster was found dead outside of a gas station.

Duarte also wrote that “[a] female companion was transported to a local hospital in critical condition.”

The shooting reportedly happened somewhere other than the gas station. “The vehicle arrived at the gas station and asked for help,” the report stated.

As of this posting, no arrests have been made. The shooting remains under investigation by the Houston Police Department.

Foster, a three-star prospect coming out of Lamar High School in Houston, was a safety for the Houston football team from 2012-15. He appeared in 49 games for the Cougars. All of his action came in a reserve role or on special teams.

The Houston football program expressed sadness over Foster’s death.

Craig Naivar, who was Foster’s position coach in 2015, posted on Twitter his sadness over the development.

“The relationships & bonds built thru competition, the grind & fellowship last forever,” the new USC safeties coach wrote. Very saddened today to hear of the loss of one of our brothers. Please keep Earl & his family close you your hearts, in your thoughts & prayers, Love you buddy.”

Oregon expected to land Boston College grad transfer QB Anthony Brown

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A very experienced player who could replace Justin Herbert has been added to the Oregon football roster.  Reportedly.

In mid-December, Anthony Brown took the first step in leaving Boston College by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  Four months later, the quarterback is ready to take the next step as Yahoo Sports! is reporting that Brown is set to be added to the Oregon football roster.

As a graduate transfer, Brown would be eligible to play for the Oregon football team in 2020.  The upcoming season would serve as his final year of eligibility.

In mid-October, Brown suffered a knee injury that was serious enough to sideline him for the remainder of the 2019 season.  He also saw his redshirt freshman season in 2017 cut short because of a knee injury.

In between the twin knee injuries, Brown had started 18 straight games under center for the Eagles — 12 in 2018, six in 2019.  All told, he started 28 games during his time with the ACC school.

Brown, whose decision to transfer came a week or so after head coach Steve Addazio was fired, will apparently finish his time at BC with 4,738 yards, 40 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in completing nearly 55 percent of his 680 pass attempts.  he also ran for 421 yards and another four touchdowns.

Oregon currently has three quarterbacks on its football roster.  Those are redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough, redshirt freshman Cale Millen and true freshman Jay Butterfield.  Shough is the only one in that group who has actually attempted a pass at the collegiate level.  As Herbert’s primary backup in 2019, Shough completed 12-of-15 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns.

Butterfield was a four-star member of the Oregon football Class of 2020.  The California high schooler was rated as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country in this year’s class.  He’s widely viewed as as the quarterback of the future for the Ducks.

Iowa State announces one-year, temporary reductions in pay, bonuses for coaches

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Iowa State is the first FBS athletic department to address the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  They certainly, though, won’t be the last.

Because of the crisis, there are growing fears that the 2020 college football season could be canceled.  While all options are being considered, a complete cancellation of the season would have a steep impact on the financial bottom line of most FBS schools, especially those in the Group of Five.

Because of previous revenue streams in the tens of millions, a Power Five program would be better equipped to handle such a development.  One Power Five school, though, is getting ahead of the cash-cow spigot that is college football potentially being shut off.  In a letter posted Wednesday night, Iowa State athletic director Scott Pollard unveiled “several initiatives that we are implementing in the athletics department to best prepare for, both the known and the unknown, financial challenges that we will be facing soon.”

For our audience, the most noteworthy initiative involves coaches’ pay.  That one-year reduction will save the athletic department — Pollard made sure to note the department “is funded almost entirely by external sources” — in excess of $3 million.  Additionally, bonuses for coaches have been suspended.  That move will save in the neighborhood of $1 million

From the release:

  1. A one-year, temporary pay reduction for athletics department coaches and certain staff. This comprehensive plan will reduce total payroll by more than $3M.
  2. A one-year, temporary suspension of all bonuses/incentives for all coaches. This decision will save the department $1M.
  3. Delaying (from January 2021 to January 2022) a previously announced increase in Cyclone Club annual giving levels. The delay will save donors approximately $2.5M for required seating donations.
  4. A freeze on season / individual game ticket prices for all sports.
  5. An extension to the deadline for this year’s Cyclone Club donations and football season ticket renewals to May 29, 2020.
  6. Providing multiple payment options for season tickets and donations. Those required payments can be made monthly, quarterly or semi-annually.

In December of last year, and amidst rumors of other job opportunities, Iowa State announced a contract extension for head football coach Matt Campbell.  His $3.6 million in salary was sixth among Big 12 head coaches in 2019.

At this point, it’s unclear how much Campbell’s pay will be reduced.

Michigan State equipment manager sewing facemasks to help fight against COVID-19

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The need for facemasks in the country has never been so high, and many are attempting to chip in and help produce as many a possible. Among those taking action to produce facemasks for those who need them is Michigan State head equipment manager Andrew Kolpacki. Kolpacki, with his friends, has been spending time learning how to make facemasks suitable for those working in high-risk jobs fighting COVID-19, and he is committed to making the facemasks for as long as he is in isolation.

“Sewing is used in football equipment we usually are repairing jerseys but obviously without being on the football field right now for spring football we can use that skill that we’ve developed and put it towards good use,” Kolpacki said in a story published by WLNS.

According to the report, Kolpacki and two of his friends have produced around 100 masks while working about four hours a day. The masks are being distributed to local health care workers, nursing homes, and family and friends.

Every little bit helps in times like these, especially with medical facilities sometimes having to scramble just to find facemasks, and others preserving the facemasks they do have so they can be sure masks are available when treating patients with coronavirus symptoms.

They learned how to make the facemasks by watching videos on YouTube, as anyone can do these days. And Kolpacki, whose mother is a nurse, has his own sewing machine, so he was ready to step into action.