Predictions 101 — Week 7

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Last week on “Shakeup Saturday,” we went 3-4 straight up and versus “the number.” That was typical of our mediocre season so far. It’s amazing to think that John L. Smith had a better weekend than us.

Let’s see if we can at least get into a 4-3 alignment or better this week, which features an intriguing slate of games.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Oct. 11, thru Sat., Oct. 13)

1) No. 3 South Carolina at No. 9 LSU
Sat., Oct. 13 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Gamecocks certainly looked like BCS material last Saturday as they dismantled Georgia, 35-7. Impressive in every phase of the game, this “USC” is the one that could make a run at the crystal football.

What remains to be seen is South Carolina’s ability to display that same sort of assertiveness and efficiency in Death Valley. If it can, will it be enough to get past LSU?

The Tigers had a far different experience last Saturday, losing their first regular-season game since Nov. 27, 2010. But let’s not jump to too many conclusions based on Florida’s 14-6 victory. LSU’s offensive limitations can be a sticking point, but its defensive prowess makes up for that.

If not for the crucial Gator drive in which Tiger linebackers Kevin Minter (leg cramps) and Kwon Alexander (broken ankle) were both sidelined, LSU very well could still be undefeated. Holding the Gators to 237 total yards — 85 of which came during the third-quarter drive mentioned above — is typically going to get it done.

No disrespect to South Carolina’s offense, but it will experience far more three-and-outs than usual in Baton Rouge. This will be tailback Marcus Lattimore’s first game against LSU and we don’t expect him to move the chains with his normal regularity.

That’ll put quarterback Connor Shaw in more obvious passing situations and the Tiger defense has the discipline to keep him in the pocket and force tough throws under duress. Not leaving lanes for Shaw to leak out into and run for the sticks is crucial.

The Gamecock defense is stout, as well, but in its only two road games this year both Vanderbilt and Kentucky held third-quarter leads over South Carolina, scoring a total of 30 points.

Opening point spread: LSU by 4

The pick: LSU 21-20

2) No. 17 Stanford at No. 7 Notre Dame
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i. He’s been the star of our team so far.

The last time they left “The Farm,” running back Stepfan Taylor had only 75 yards on 21 attempts, inexperienced quarterback Josh Nunes misfired all day and the Cardinal did not score an offensive touchdown. Washington’s defense dominated and took away the Stanford running game in that 17-13 victory.

Let’s not forget that Husky defense is the same one that Oregon lit up for 52 points and 497 yards, 299 of which came on the ground. Since the Cardinal could not get things going in Seattle, expect a nightmare in South Bend.

Led by All-America linebacker Manti Te‘o, the Fighting Irish defense ranks second in points allowed, 10th in passing efficiency defense, 13th in total defense and 17th in rushing defense. To top it all off, Notre Dame is also seventh best in the country in turnover margin.

That kind of buzz saw is made to dissect trees.

The Irish offense took a little while to get things rolling earlier in the season, putting up just enough points to beat three Big Ten teams. Of course, that defense which has held opponents to less than a touchdown over the last three games takes a lot of the pressure off.

Last Saturday at Soldier Field, following a bye week, the Notre Dame offense blossomed and dropped 41 points on Miami (Fla.). With that attack catching up to the dominant defense, Stanford won’t get close, as the Irish continue to build their case for not just the BCS, but the whole enchilada.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 7

The pick: Notre Dame 37-13

3) No. 15 Texas vs. No. 13 Oklahoma (at Dallas)
Sat., Oct. 13 — noon ET, ABC

Longhorn quarterback David Ash doesn’t remotely resemble the nervous wreck that alternated with Case McCoy in last year’s mistake-filled nightmare in the Red River Rivalry.

Ash was machinelike last Saturday, completing 22-of-29 for 269 yards and a touchdown in a 48-45 loss to West Virginia. If his counterpart was anyone but Geno Smith, Ash would have been on the winning side.

As is always the case, taking care of the football is paramount. Oklahoma has won the last two in the series by taking advantage of seven takeaways.

The Texas defense needs to do a much better job of stopping the run. Smith’s passing was impressive as usual, but the Mountaineers’ 192 yards on the ground is what really hurt.

Longhorn fans are happy their team doesn’t have to deal with the sort of spread offense that Oklahoma State and West Virginia used to engineer 36- and 48-point outbursts.

But let’s not forget that the Sooners dropped 55 on the Longhorns last year, despite having the ball for only 22 of the 60 minutes. So proceed with caution.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 2 1/2

The pick: Texas 28-27

4) No. 10 Oregon State at Brigham Young
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Could we possibly see a shutout here? Sure the Cougars roughed up Hawai‘i, 47-0, on Sept. 28, but what does that really mean these days? It’s more illuminating that in games on either side of that blowout BYU scored just six points in each contest.

The six-point output wasn’t enough in a 7-6 loss at Boise State on Sept. 20, but it did allow the Cougars to get past Utah State, 6-3, last Friday.

That limited amount of firepower, directed by rusty quarterback Riley Nelson (sat out last two weeks with a back injury and now his fill-in is out for the season), could get completely doused by a Beaver defense that kept Washington State out of the end zone last Saturday in a 19-6 win in Corvallis. And don’t forget about the stonewall that Oregon State put up in its 10-7 victory over Wisconsin on Sept. 8.

The chance of BYU’s defense finding success increases with backup quarterback Cody Vaz doing the pitching instead of injured starter Sean Mannion (knee). But the aerial assault will be a shock to the Cougars’ system nonetheless. This is likely to be the first time this season that BYU will be faced with 30 or more pass attempts.

Even with the change behind center, the Beavers will improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1939. But this is more “under” than Oregon State.

Opening point spread: BYU by 5

The pick: Oregon State 20-6

5) No. 5 West Virginia at Texas Tech
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

Aside from all the highlights and astounding statistics, you’ve got to wonder about how long the Mountaineers can survive on the tightrope they’ve been teetering on.

Giving up a total of 108 in its last two games put West Virginia on the brink each time. The Mountaineers beat Baylor and Texas by just seven and three points, respectively. Before that, they only defeated Maryland by 10 in Morgantown.

Geno Smith and Co. will likely do what they do once again, but something tells us that this trip to Lubbock will be tricky. The Red Raiders will certainly be ornery after their face-plant last week against Oklahoma.

We can’t really pull the trigger on the upset here (the Burbank office used its veto power), but we’d be very happy to take some free points.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 4

The pick: West Virginia 37-34

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

California at Washington State
Sat., Oct. 13 — 10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks

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

The corporate squabbles involving the Pac-12 Networks have reached the halfway mark of the season. That means many households continue to be blacked out from some exciting Pac-12 action, but we doubt many fans will be making angry calls late into the night to watch these two cellar dwellers.

That is, unless they’re on board with us cheering for the Washington State upset on the heels of a trio of conference losses, the last two coming in better-than-looked efforts against the ranked Oregon schools.

We expected Mike Leach to do good things on the Palouse, and while that hasn’t brought much winning in his first year, the Cougars do feature a potent aerial attack that ranks 14th in the nation, averaging 312 yards per game. That unit will have to find success against a Cal defense that allows more than 250 passing yards per game, if the men in maroon are to defeat the Golden Bears for the first time in eight years.

We always like to remind everyone that Cal is Cal. Therefore, after an impressive first conference win in Berkeley at the expense of UCLA, a misstep on the road is in order.

Quarterback Zach Maynard was allowed to stand upright and pick apart the Bruin defense last week, but he will feel the pressure of the Cougars’ new 3-4 alignment, which has generated the ninth most sacks in the country with 19.

Opening point spread: California by 4 1/2

The pick: Washington State 28-20

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Nevada at UNLV
Sat., Oct. 13 — 3 p.m. ET

This fight decides if the Silver State is a red state or a blue state.

The winner gets to paint the Fremont Cannon in its school color and for the past seven years, it’s been bathed in the blue of the Wolf Pack.

The Fremont Cannon holds the distinction of being the largest and most expensive trophy in collegiate sports. It’s a massive 545-pound replica of the mountain howitzer that accompanied Captain John C. Fremont on his expedition through Oregon, Nevada and California in 1843-44. It cost $10,000 to create in 1970.

Speaking of impressive weaponry, Nevada’s pistol offense is one of just two units in the nation averaging more than 275 yards through the air and on the ground. (Oklahoma State is the other.)

However, with the status of Wolf Pack starting quarterback Cody Fajardo in question, those numbers might not be attained versus the Rebels. Fajardo aggravated a nagging back injury last week against Wyoming. Nevada led 21-7 when he was sidelined in the second quarter. Backup Devin Combs struggled initially, allowing the Cowboys to take a 28-35 lead. But the sophomore rallied to lead the Wolf Pack to victory in overtime.

If Combs has to make his first start on the road in this rivalry game, don’t expect the pistol to fire smoothly. But whatever Nevada is able to muster should be enough.

UNLV’s only advantage is playing at home in Sam Boyd Stadium, but that’s where they lost to Northern Arizona last month, so what’s that worth?

It won’t be as gruesome as last year’s 37-0 blanking, in which the Rebels were held to just 110 total yards, but the Wolf Pack should have fun in Vegas.

Opening point spread: Nevada by 9 1/2

The pick: Nevada 32-24

Louisiana-Monroe RB Kayin White enters transfer portal

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For the first time in 2020, at CFT at least, we have a portal post related to the Louisiana-Monroe football program.

According to 247Sports.com, Kayin White is set to transfer from the Warhawks.  A Louisiana-Monroe football official subsequently confirmed that the running back is in the NCAA transfer database.

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.

White was a two-star member of the ULM Class of 2016.  The Baton Rouge native will be leaving the Sun Belt Conference school as a graduate transfer.  The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

White has played in 24 games the past three seasons.  He’s rushed for 320 yards and five touchdowns on 70 carries.  Just six of those attempts and 11 of the yards, though, came in 2019.

The playing time issue likely triggered the portal decision.

Louisiana-Monroe is coming off a 5-7 season in the fourth year under head football coach Matt Viator.   The Warhawks have finished .500 or worse seven straight seasons.  They have played in just one postseason game (2012 Independence Bowl) during their time as an FBS program.

Arizona State punter who declared for draft, signed with agent, went undrafted… granted waiver by NCAA to return to Sun Devils

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Thanks to Arizona State football, we have something never seen before.  Ever (we think).

Back in January, Michael Turk gave up two years of eligibility with Arizona State football to enter the 2020 NFL Draft early.  The punter signed with an agent.  Then promptly went undrafted.

After Turk went undrafted, though, ASU went to the NCAA to seek a waiver that would allow Turk to return to the Sun Devils.  The school’s reasoning?  The coronavirus pandemic cost Turk the opportunity to work out for NFL teams, thus causing his draft stock to plummet.  Not only couldn’t Turk work out privately for NFL teams, but ASU’s Pro Day was canceled because of the pandemic as well.

That tack worked for Turk as it’s now being reported that a special waiver has been granted by the NCAA.  One that should be granted to every player who leaves early and goes undrafted, incidentally.  But that’s another story for another day.

Turk came to Arizona State as a transfer from the junior college ranks as part of its 2018 recruiting class. Turk’s uncle is Matt Turk, the former NFL punter who spent one year of his professional career with a New York Jets team coached by current ASU head coach Herm Edwards.

As a redshirt sophomore this season, Turk was tied for 11th nationally and led the Pac-12 in averaging 46 yards per punt.  For that, he earned first-team all-conference honors.  He was also named as a handful of semifinalists for the 2019 Ray Guy Award.

Turk, though, won’t be handed his old job back without some competition. Last month, Florida State punter Logan Tyler transferred into the Arizona State football program.

As had been the case the previous three years, Tyler served as FSU’s starting punter in the 2019 opener against Boise State.  However, Tyler was involved in an automobile accident back in August and was under investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department for driving under the influence.  Tyler served a two-game suspension in Weeks 2 and 3 in connection to that off-field situation.

While Tyler dressed out for the two games after his suspension ended, walk-on Tommy Martin continued serving as the Seminoles’ primary punter.

Including the one game this season, Tyler has averaged 42.5 yards on his 209 punts during his career, with the average currently fourth in school history. His 82 punts and 3,545 yards in 2018 set a school record.  The Tallahassee Democrat noted that “Tyler currently holds FSU records for the most punt yards in a single game (499 vs. Clemson, 2018)… and punt yards in a single season (3,545).” His 8,879 career punt yards are also second all-time in school history.

Louisiana QB Brayden Hawkins in transfer portal, will be looking for FIFTH college football home in less than three years

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Louisiana is the latest football program to learn that the transfer portal giveth.  But, it taketh as well.

As we noted Tuesday, Arizona State offensive tackle Zach Robertson transferred into the Louisiana football program.  Now, it’s time to note that 247Sports.com is reporting that Brayden Hawkins has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.

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.

Hawkins signed with UTEP in February of 2018.  In late July of that same year, the North Carolina native joined the Maryland football program as a walk-on.  Hawkins then moved on to Northwest Mississippi Community College following the 2018 season.  In May of last year, he joined the Louisiana football program.

Add it all up, and Hawkins’ next stop will be his fifth collegiate home.  In less than three years.  Suffice to say, he’s never thrown a pass at this level of football.

Louisiana football is coming off a school-record 11 wins.  In fact, it’s the first time as an FBS program the Ragin’ Cajuns hit double-digit wins.  Part of that school-record victory total was a win in the Lendingtree Bowl.  Head coach Billy Napier was a candidate for the Baylor opening, but opted to remain with the Sun Belt Conference school.

Hawaii OL Solo Vaipulu arrested after violating state’s mandatory quarantine for travelers

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By way of Hawaii football, and thanks to the current times we’re living in, we have a new one to note in the CFT arrest ledger.

According to HawaiiNewsNow.com, offensive lineman Solo Vaipulu was arrested Monday for violating the state of Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day traveler quarantine.  The Hawaii football player was also charged with lying to authorities.

A witness had turned Vaipulu in, stating that the true junior lineman had left his designated quarantine location on a near-daily basis.

From the report:

Investigators said they went to the address Vaipulu had given them upon his arrival on May 18 to discover that he had also moved residences without informing authorities.

The Hawaii football program has not addressed the incident involving one of its football players.

“While everyone is anticipating the reopening of interisland travel on June 16, the quarantine rules for all visitors and returning residents from the mainland will remain in effect until further notice,” Clare Connors, the state Attorney General, said according to the website. “We encourage all travelers to respect the mandatory quarantine, as it has been an important component in helping Hawai‘i have the best metrics in the country, in terms of infection and coronavirus death rates.”

As a true freshman in 2018, Vaipulu started all 13 games at right guard for the Rainbow Warriors.  That season, he earned honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference honors.  Last season, Vaipulu started nine of the 10 games in which he played at the same position.

Hawaii football is coming off its best season since 2010. Included in a 10-win season was the program’s first appearance in the Mountain West Conference championship game.  Of course, that appearance ended in a loss to Boise State.

(Tip O’ the Cap: The Fulmer Cup)