Predictions 101 — Week 5

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We went 4-3 last week (both straight up and vs. “the number”), but feel left out.

How come only the fortunate folks who do this sort of thing for NFL games, get to have fun with the wild card of ridiculous replacement refs? Hey, we’d like to go on rants and blame our losses on officiating too.

Oh well.

Is it just us or does the college football season seem like it’s fast-forwarding away? Here we are at Week 5 already.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Sept. 27, thru Sat., Sept. 29)

1) No. 25 Baylor at No. 9 West Virginia
Sat., Sept. 29 — noon ET, FX

It’s all been building up to this for the Mountaineers, who are making their Big 12 debut. And the Bears have been holding up their end rather well, perhaps unexpectedly.

Some doubted Baylor’s ability to soldier on without Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Terrance Ganaway and wideout Kendall Wright, but Nick Florence has stepped up admirably, throwing for at least 312 yards and three scores in all three games this season.

On the flip side, the West Virginia offense led by quarterback Geno Smith has lived up to its lofty preseason hype. With 1,072 passing yards, 12 touchdown passes and zero interceptions on Smith’s resume so far, he is the Heisman frontrunner.

Along with wideouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Smith has to be licking his chops. The prospect of a team that’s allowing 492.7 yards per game coming into Morgantown for the first time is quite inviting and could signal a landslide of points.

Baylor, which is averaging 51.3 points per game (fifth in the nation), should generate some success of its own against a West Virginia defense that allowed Maryland to pass for 305 yards and convert on half of its 14 third-down attempts in a closer-than-expected 31-21 victory last Saturday. We just don’t expect it to be nearly enough.

The Bears are 0-25 versus ranked Big 12 foes on the road and don’t figure to break through on Mountaineer Field.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 10

The pick: West Virginia 45-27

2) No. 14 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

This is as good as it gets for the Big Ten at this point, but it sadly feels so incomplete.

Spartan signalcaller Andrew Maxwell has been underwhelming so far, but a sloppy fleet of receivers should share the blame. Thankfully for Michigan State, running back Le’Veon Bell has held up his end of the bargain, grinding out 152.5 yards per game (although only 77 versus Notre Dame).

Perhaps that group will find its groove against a Buckeye defense that’s far below its usual caliber, ranking last in the B1G in yards allowed (394.8).

Michigan State’s defense, on the other hand, leads the league in every major statistical category. That includes surrendering just 69.3 yards per game on the ground.

Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, who has recovered from a sprained knee, have their sights set on rushing for many more yards than that, but it remains to be seen … just like the overall revival expected under the direction of Urban Meyer.

Perhaps they’ve been waiting for this stage to make a statement.

Opening point spread: Even

The pick: Ohio State 24-23

3) No. 12 Texas at Oklahoma State
Sat., Sept. 29 — 7:50 p.m. ET, FOX

Both teams had last week off to look forward to this one.

They also had an opportunity to look around the country and see who was doing what, especially teams they’ve played recently. What each camp saw was quite different.

Last time out, the Longhorns wrecked Ole Miss, 66-31. The Rebels, however, bounced back last week with a 39-0 victory at Tulane. RPI geeks love that stuff!

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are still smarting from a 59-38 loss at Arizona on Sept. 8. Watching those same Wildcats get melted down by Oregon, 49-0, last Saturday must have been pure agony for Mike Gundy.

Oddly enough, Texas visiting Stillwater isn’t the worst thing in the world for Oklahoma State. Although the Cowboys have won only four of the 26 games in the series, half of those victories have come in the last two years.

Most of the early talk about this matchup has focused on who’ll be behind center for OSU, but we won’t quibble either way without that knowledge. Whether it’s Wes Lunt at less than 100 percent or J.W. Walsh, we’re still talking about a young player who hasn’t yet got a taste for the big-time in primetime. No matter who takes the snaps, capable Cowboy running back Joseph Randle will have to carry a large portion of the mail against the Longhorn defense.

Texas’ quarterbacking isn’t in question. Sophomore David Ash has been sensational so far this season, completing 76 percent of his passes, with seven touchdown tosses and zero interceptions. However, astronomical passer ratings built at the expense of Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss don’t really get us going enough to envision a win on the road for the Longhorns, who have won just six league games in the previous two seasons.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 5 1/2

The pick: Oklahoma State 37-31

4) No. 18 Oregon State at Arizona
Sat., Sept. 29 — 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

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

Utilizing good blue-collar football to produce two wins over ranked teams, while holding a pair of Heisman Trophy contending running backs to just 61 and 45 yards on the ground, Oregon State has been impressive and we are Beaver believers.

Oddsmakers aren’t as sold. We aren’t sure if they realize that the Beavs have taken six in a row from the Cats in Tucson.

Coach Mike Riley has the defense to do it again. Oregon State defenders are disciplined in their assignments, limit big plays and tackle well. However, the Arizona offense will see more production within the comfortable confines of the Zona Zoo.

We have to understand that the Oregon defense played well in last week’s 49-0 cruise past Arizona, but the football Gods also were smiling down on the Ducks. The Cats really set themselves up for the shutout by botching a field goal that would have put the first points on the board. In the end, they had six fruitless trips into the red zone and four turnovers.

That won’t happen two weeks in a row. The Arizona offense will get back into rhythm and Oregon State is in for a fight.

One might wonder how the Beavers will counter the Cats’ speedy 3-3-5 defense, which limited Oregon to just 13 first-half points. They’ll use freshman running back Storm Woods to control the pace, wear the UofA D down and win on a last-second score.

Opening point spread: Arizona by 3

The pick: Oregon State 33-31

5) Tennessee at No. 5 Georgia
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

It’s a bit of unfamiliar territory for the SEC’s marquee matchup to be this far down the P101 list. But most of that has to do with us being unable to trust a Volunteer defense that has been prone to give up big plays.

That bad habit won’t serve them well against a Bulldog offense triggered by Aaron Murray and powered by freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, which hasn’t scored less than 41 points in any game this season.

Not only is Georgia fresh off an impressive 48-3 victory over Vanderbilt, it might (only Mark Richt knows for sure) regain the services of safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, who have been sidelined by suspension since the start of the campaign.

The Bulldog defense has been stout, but some reinforcements would help in the effort to slow down the effectiveness of Vol quarterback Tyler Bray, who has the luxury of two show-stopping wideouts in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Opening point spread: Georgia by 15 1/2

The pick: Georgia 38-27

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

No. 17 Clemson at Boston College
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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

For the second time in three weeks, the P101-USOTW suffered a one-point defeat courtesy of a kicker failing in spectacular fashion. We’ll safeguard against that happening again by leaning on the leg of Eagle placekicker Nate Freese, who has connected on all 15 of his attempts this season (seven field goals and eight PATs).

Despite a 1-2 record, Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig has settled in nicely in his third year on Chestnut Hill, tossing just one interception while leading the ACC with 317 passing yards per game. He should continue his prolific connection with junior wide receiver Alex Amidon to give the Eagles scoring opportunities against a Clemson defense that was picked apart for 380 passing yards by Florida State’s E.J. Manuel last week.

After getting the better of the Seminoles for nearly three quarters, the Tigers will have to regroup from a devastating loss, which is much easier said than done. Last year, Clemson pulled a Clemson, going into a swoon that saw it go 2-3 the rest of the way after suffering its first defeat.

The Eagle defense features the nation’s leading tackler in senior linebacker Nick Clancy. He can help muck things up to produce a result similar to their 16-10 victory at Alumni Field two years ago.

Perhaps this is more “under” than upset.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 11

The pick: Boston College 19-13

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Houston vs. Rice (at Reliant Stadium)
Sat., Sept. 29 — 3:30 p.m. ET,

Separated by less than five miles, the warring factions in the Bayou Bucket Classic are as close as you’ll find at the FBS level.

Last year’s matchup, however, wasn’t close at all, as Houston accounted for 73 of the game’s 107 points.

Rice’s defense seems intent on repeating that limp performance. The Owls currently rank dead last in the country in scoring defense, allowing nearly 46 points per game.

But they won’t have to deal with Case Keenum this time. In fact, Rice might have the more effective offense.

Houston has turned the football over 10 times already this season, which is one of the reasons the Cougars have yet to hold a lead over anyone.

The Bayou Bucket hasn’t stayed in the same place since the Cougars won three in a row from 2005 to 2007. It’s the Owls’ turn to take it over to their side of town.

Opening point spread: Houston by 7

The pick: Rice 35-34

One of FAU’s highest-rated 2018 signees won’t play for Owls

Marshall v Florida Atlantic
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A key piece of Lane Kiffin‘s 2018 recruiting puzzle is no more.

On his personal Twitter account very late Tuesday night, Charles Cameron announced that “[it is] with great regret that I inform you of my decision to not continue my education and football career at Florida Atlantic University.” Cameron gave no indication as to what his football future holds, including whether or not he’ll move on to another program.

The defensive tackle had transferred into the Owls from a Mississippi junior college earlier this offseason.

Cameron was a three-star member of FAU’s 2018 recruiting class.  Only one signee in the Owls’ class this year was rated higher than Cameron — fellow defensive tackle Marcel Southall out of a Texas junior college.

Prior to his departure, the lineman had been expected to play immediately this coming season.

Clemson, LSU announce future home-and-home series

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The talk has officially come to fruition.

Earlier this month, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich confirmed that he had been involved in scheduling talks with several Power Five programs, including LSU.  Wednesday, both of those football programs announced a future home-and-home series pitting the ACC Tigers against the SEC Tigers.

The two teams will meet first at Memorial Stadium (aka Death Valley) in Clemson, South Carolina on August 30, 2025.  The following season, LSU will play host to Clemson Sept. 5 in Baton Rouge’s Tiger Stadium (aka Death Valley).

“The series against LSU continues the philosophy we have had at Clemson for many years of looking to add another Power 5 opponent to our schedule outside of our annual rivalry game with the University of South Carolina,” Radakovich said in a statement. “We are excited about playing a school with LSU’s rich football tradition. We know our fans will enjoy visiting Baton Rouge, and we know they will provide our renowned Clemson hospitality to the fans from LSU.”

“We have put an emphasis on bringing Power 5 teams outside of the Southeastern Conference to Tiger Stadium as often as we can,” Radakovich’s LSU counterpart, Joe Alleva, said in his statement. “It’s what we want and most importantly it’s what our fans want.”

The 2025 game will mark the first-ever regular season matchup between the two schools.  They have met in the postseason three different times — the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl, 1996 Peach Bowl and 1959 Sugar Bowl.

The SEC Tigers hold a 2-1 edge in those bowl games.

Pair of transfers leave LSU with just two scholarship QBs

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Texas A&M at LSU
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And then there were two

Earlier in the day Tuesday, rumors surfaced that, after neither showed up for practice, two LSU quarterbacks, Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse, were considering transfers from the Tigers.  Tuesday night, Narcisse announced on his personal Twitter account that he has indeed pulled the trigger on a transfer.

The redshirt sophomore came to his decision “[a]fter sitting down and talking with my parents.” Narcisse wrote that he wants “a fresh start and be able to have an opportunity to showcase my Abilities.”

Just over 13 hours later, McMillan took to the same social media website to announce the same decision.  McMillan pulled the trigger on a transfer after meeting with the Tigers’ coaching staff Wednesday morning.

With the departures of McMillan and Narcisse, LSU is left with just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster — presumptive front-runner to start and Ohio State transfer Joey Burrow; and four-star 2017 signee and last year’s primary backup Myles Brennan.  There are two other quarterbacks currently listed on the Tigers’ roster — Tennessee Tech transfer sophomore Andre Sale and true freshman Jordan Loving.

There is some level of good news in the seemingly dire depth at the position as, if something were to happen to Burrow and Brennan, Sale started seven games for his former FCS school before transferring to the Tigers in January of this year.  So the quarterback room has that going for them, which is nice.

As for the first of the two departed ones, Narcisse, the St. James, LA, product was a four-star member of LSU’s 2017 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt last season after enrolling early as he continued to rehab significant knee injuries he sustained in high school.

McMillan, meanwhile, has already graduated from LSU.  He’s thrown exactly one more pass in his collegiate career than I have, but would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school if that’s the tack he takes.

Alabama RB Najee Harris misses second straight day of practice

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It’s not even remotely worrisome to the point of full-blown fretting, but there’s at least a pause for concern.

Alabama running back Najee Harris missed Monday’s practice with what is being described as a lower-body injury. Tuesday, Harris missed his second consecutive day of practice because of the same injury.

BamaCentral.com wrote that “Harris was seen before practice with his leg in a small scooter so he can keep his weight off of it.” It’s believed the sophomore suffered the injury during the Crimson Tide’s scrimmage this past Saturday.

It remains unclear how much longer Harris will be sidelined, although al.com reported the injury, which that website is saying involves one of the back’s feet, will probably sideline him for the next couple of weeks of practice.  On a positive front, that same site notes that there’s a “good chance” Harris is available for the opener Sept. 1 against Louisville.

Head coach Nick Saban is not scheduled to meet again with the media until Thursday, which will likely be the next official update on Harris’ status moving forward.

Last season as a true freshman, Harris finished fourth on the Tide in rushing yards (370) and rushing touchdowns (three). He averaged more than six yards per on his 61 carries.

The good news is that, outside of Harris, ‘Bama returns two of its leading rushers from a year ago — Damien Harris (team-leading 1,000 yards) and Josh Jacobs (284) — should the other Harris’ injury linger on beyond the next couple of weeks.