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

Texas Tech WR Antoine Wesley declares for NFL draft

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He didn’t win enough games at his alma mater, but Kliff Kingsbury did succeed at placing his skill players on NFL rosters. Patrick Mahomes is the MVP front-runner with three weeks left to play, and there are more Red Raider wide receivers in the League than any other college program.

And now we can go ahead and add one more.

Wide receiver Antoine Wesley declared for the NFL draft on Monday. He made the announcement through a Twitter post and a highlight video that paired with the post.

A Las Vegas native by way of Cibolo Steele High School in the San Antonio area, Wesley exploded on the scene as a junior. After catching 10 passes total in his first two seasons, Wesley recorded 88 receptions for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He ranked ninth nationally in catches and seconds in yards and yards per game.

A rangy target at 6-foot-5, Wesley hauled in 13 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-49 win over Houston on Sept. 15, and in back-to-back November games against Oklahoma and Texas he combined to catch 20 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns.

Wesley was named a Second Team All-Big 12 performer this fall.

Report: American considering Grant of Rights for new TV deal

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You ready for the next round of conference realignment rumors? Ready or not, they’re coming.

The American is the first conference to the table to re-up the television deals that blew up the college sports landscape at the early part of this decade, and AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is trying to stave off a raid on his conference roster before it can even start.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the conference is asking its member schools to sign a Grant of Rights agreement before signing its new TV deal(s). For those who did not take a crash course in media law during the Realignment Apocalypse of the 2010s, a Grant of Rights locks in a school’s media rights to that conference, essentially — just for the purse sake of argument — making UCF worthless to the Big 12, since the Knights’ media rights would remain property of the American for the length of the contract.

Such a deal would make the American’s TV much more valuable, since networks bidding on the league would know for a fact they’re getting UCF, Cincinnati and Houston and not — for the pure sake of argument — Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green and UTSA.

It’s no secret that UCF, Cincinnati, Memphis and Houston are the conference’s most valued members, and thus would have the least incentive to commit their media rights to the AAC. So, why then would they do it? The SBJ addresses this:

Part of the negotiations have explored the possibility of top AAC schools making more revenue than others, which is drastically different than the conference’s current deal in terms of revenue distribution. Currently, the conference splits revenue evenly among its members. It’s unclear how a new distribution system that pays more to certain schools would be received by the rest of the conference, but the presence of UCF is expected to lead to a bigger media rights deal for the conference.

So, Aresco will try to convince UCF and the like that the bird in the hand is worth more than a non-existent offer from the Big 12, while telling Tulsa, Temple and the rest that a tilted media deal is still better than what they’d get in a deal without UCF and company. It’s the same strategy Dan Beebe used to keep the Big 12 from complete implosion in the summer of 2010.

The AAC’s current deal is worth an average of $18 million per year — for the entire conference, which is less than half the Big Ten pays each school.

Obviously, the AAC’s new deal won’t approach the Big Ten’s current payouts, but the American’s current contract was put together as the conference was trying to piece together its survival, so the next deal is expected to shoot up significantly. How significant depends on if the conference’s more popular members are willing to commit to the league in the long term.

Ole Miss LT Greg Little declares for NFL draft

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It’s possible that the first offensive tackle off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft just joined the draft.

Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little announced Monday he will enter the draft early, declaring after his junior season.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the prestigious Ole Miss. However, after several in depth discussions with my family, I have chosen to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft,” Little wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account.

A consensus 5-star recruit and the No. 1 offensive tackle in the Class of 2016, Little played to his billing from the moment he arrived in Oxford. He was a First Team Freshman All-SEC honoree by the league’s coaches in 2016 after appearing in all 13 games and starting five as a true freshman, a Second Team All-SEC player as a sophomore after starting all 12 games at left tackle as a sophomore, and then a First Team All-SEC player this season.

The Allen, Texas, native was also a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award as the top college football player with Texas ties.

Ole Miss names ex-Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre defensive coordinator

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Mike MacIntyre has a new coaching gig for 2019. The former Colorado head coach has been named the new defensive coordinator of Ole Miss, the Rebels football program announced today.

“I could not be more excited to add Mike’s leadership, values and high-level experience to our program,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said in a released statement. “Throughout our years together at Duke and Ole Miss, I have seen firsthand his ability to turn around a defense, and I look forward to seeing his veteran influence on that side of the ball. Mike is also a tremendous recruiter and should make an immediate impact as we assemble this important class.”

This will be the second time with the Ole Miss program for MacIntyre. MacIntyre previously coached at Ole Miss from 1999 through 2002 as a wide receivers coach and later a defensive backs coach. MacIntyre and Luke were on the same staff in 1999 when the current Rebels head coach was starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant. Luke moved on to be an offensive line coach the following season at Murray State but returned to Ole Miss in 2002 to fill the same role in addition to taking on coaching tight ends. MacIntyre took his coaching career to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys after the 2002 season.

MacIntyre was fired by Colorado as head coach on Nov. 18, prior to the end of the regular season.