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

Colorado LB Jashua Allen tosses name into the transfer portal

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Colorado football has already seen one portal reversal this offseason.  They are now hoping for another change of heart.  Maybe?

Earlier this offseason, Sam Noyer took the first step in leaving the Colorado football team by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  In early April, the quarterback pulled his name from the portal and remained with the Buffaloes.

Three months later, 247Sports.com is reporting that Jash Allen has entered the portal as well.  While the linebacker didn’t confirm the news specifically, he did retweet reports of his impending departure.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Allen began his collegiate career at the JUCO level.  In 2019, he was a four-star member of the Colorado football recruiting class that cycle.

His first season with the Buffs, Allen played in 10 games.  Most of that action came on special teams, although he did appear in three games on defense.  In that limited action on the defensive side of the ball, he was credited with four tackles and two quarterback pressures.  His official CU profile also notes he had “four special teams points on the season, one tackle inside the 20, one first down field and one knockdown or springing block on kick return.”

Allen will be leaving the Pac-12 school as a graduate.

It cost Indiana $44,000 to lose to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl

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Talk about adding financial insult to on-field injury for the Indiana football program.

Indiana faced Tennessee in the Gator Bowl this past college football bowl season.  Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers held a 22-9 lead.  IU was on the verge of claiming its first postseason win since the 1991 Copper Bowl.  The Vols, though, scored a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute of game time to come away with a 23-22 win.

For participating in the bowl game, Indiana’s athletic department received $2.125 million from the Big Ten.  The expenses surrounding the trip to Jacksonville, though, were $2,169,416.  So, in other words, it cost IU a little over $44,000 to lose that heartbreaker of a game.

From HoosierSportsReport.com:

Nearly $2 million of those expenses were for the football team specifically, with the most costly line item being travel. Flights to Jacksonville, Fla., cost $690,333, plus there was another $145,406 in ground travel.

Meals were the next biggest expense at $337,236. Hotel costs amounted to $219,240. Uniforms and bowl apparel were a nearly quarter-of-a-million-dollar expense, at $249,150.

There was also a $110,930 expense for awards, which includes commemorative rings for players in the game.

IU’s band and cheerleading team accounted for a combined $174,262 in expenses, including $156,272 for IU’s Marching Hundred.

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that the 15 extra practice sessions that came along with the bowl trip — especially since spring practice was gutted by the pandemic — helped ease the financial loss.  For the head coach, at least.

Name of Wake Forest’s football home will be Truist Field moving forward

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A banking merger has led to a name change for the home of Wake Forest football.

Since 2007, the Wake Forest football stadium has gone by the name BB&T Field.  In February of 2019, however, BB&T and SunTrust banks merged.  Eventually, the company’s name was changed to Truist.

As such, Wake Forest announced this past week that, moving forward, its football home will be known as Truist Field.

“Wake Forest University is proud of its affiliation with the people of Truist and grateful for their longtime support of Demon Deacon student-athletes,” said Wake athletic director John Currie said in a statement. “As Truist continues its climb as one of America’s leading financial institutions, we are excited that the 21st century’s best college football program in North Carolina will now call Truist Field its home.”

The facility that now goes by the name of Truist Field was built in 1968.  It has a seating capacity of 31,500, although the record attendance is 37,623 set in November of 2013.  For that game against North Carolina, temporary bleachers were installed.

Wake is scheduled to open the 2020 college football season Sept. 4 at Old Dominion.  They’ll face Appalachian State the following weekend in the home opener.

Wake Forest is coming off an 8-5 2019 campaign in Dave Clawson’s sixth season with the Demon Deacons.  Wake has played in four straight bowl games for the first time in school history.  Last April, Clawson signed a contract extension that would keep him at the ACC school through the 2026 season.

Forbes: Car dealership group part-owned by Nick Saban received millions in PPP loans

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This certainly won’t serve as fodder for the Nick Saban haters in the audience, will it?  Nah.  Of course it won’t.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has doled out in the neighborhood of five million loans to small businesses.  This facet of the stimulus package helps companies with 500 or fewer employees retain those workers by covering eight weeks worth of payroll expenses.

Which brings us to Nick Saban.

The Alabama head coach is part-owner of a string of car dealerships located in four states throughout the Southern U.S. called the Dream Motor Group.  This week, the United State Small Business Administration, which oversees the PPP, released data on the companies that applied for and received loans through the program.  And, according to Forbes.com, Dream Motor Group received between $5 million and $11 in PPP loans the past few months.

Before getting all bent out of shape, there’s more nuance to the story.  From the report:

Saban is a partner in Dream Motor Group, which is run by CEO Joe Agresti.

Agresti says that the loan money was used only for payroll purposes, and that it kept his and Saban’s 480 workers employed. They’ve also continued to pay the roughly 9% of high-risk employees who they instructed to stay home since the pandemic began, he says. Agresti adds he hasn’t taken a salary since March. Saban doesn’t take a salary but instead receives a percentage of profits, Agresti explains. Saban did not reply to a request for comment.

“I’m proud of the way we handled it,” Agresti says. “I don’t know that we would be bankrupt today [if we didn’t take the money]. But it would have been bad.

Saban, of course, has done quite well financially as a football coach.  In 2019, Saban’s $8.7 million salary was second in the country behind only the $9.3 million pulled in by Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.  In July of 2018, Alabama announced a revamped contract that would pay Saban in the neighborhood of $75 million over eight years.

Not surprisingly, Saban is far from the only one connected to the sport to benefit from the PPP program.  From SportsBusinessDaily.com:

In the college realm, Conference USA received a loan worth between $350,000 and $1M, which preserved 21 jobs. The National Football Foundation and College Football HOF, Ole Miss Athletics Foundation and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) also received loans in the same range.

And then you have Tom Brady and his TB12 company as well.  So there’s that.