Predictions 101 — Week 10

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After a perfect Week 9, the fall from grace last week was inevitable.

Last week, we went 5-2 straight, losing the two biggest games (good for Georgia and Notre Dame, bad for us), and 3-4 versus “the number.”

On the bright side, the USOTW is on a roll (good news for Maryland on Saturday).

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 1, thru Sat., Nov. 3)

1) No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU
Sat., Nov. 3 — 8 p.m. ET, CBS

No offense to the parties involved, but we’re tickled that another rematch between these two in January appears to be out of the question. We like old school football, but it’s kind of “too much of a good thing,” and also a lack of fireworks issue.

In this one, we’re seriously wondering if the Tigers will get into the end zone. When you’re saying that about a Top 5 team playing at home, that’s really something, but LSU was able to muster only three field goals in its two meetings with Alabama last season. Of course, that was good enough to earn a split with the Crimson Tide, who were able to register just one touchdown in that twin-bill.

Considering the fact that the Tigers have had to play with five different offensive line combinations this season, in front of rocky quarterbacking, it’s hard to figure where the points are going to come from against Alabama’s rock-solid defense.

LSU ranks eighth in the SEC in both scoring and total offense, and is particularly challenged in the pass game (11th in SEC in passing efficiency and 12th in passing offense).

Playing in Death Valley, however, will be a significant plus for Les Miles’ crew, which is also more battle tested than the Tide. This will be the Tigers’ fourth consecutive game against ranked opposition. Prior to last Saturday’s 38-7 victory over Mississippi State, Alabama hadn’t faced a ranked foe since the season opener versus Michigan.

Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron counteracts many of LSU’s advantages through his leadership and decision making under fire. He leads the nation in passing efficiency and has yet to throw an interception this season.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 7

The pick: Alabama 20-6

2) No. 2 Oregon at No. 18 USC
Sat., Nov. 3 — 7 p.m. ET, FOX

The Trojans won’t need any help from themselves to lose to the Ducks. Oregon is more than capable of flying past USC all by its lonesome, unlike Arizona, which needed Troy to participate by burying itself last Saturday.

The deadly mix of five turnovers, 13 penalties and Lane Kiffin’s wretched coaching will get you every time, even in Tucson.

And now the Trojans step way up in class as they host the Ducks, who have no shortage of motivation to add USC to their growing list of victims. The Trojans are the only non-SEC team to beat Oregon since the start of the 2010 season and since that 38-35 defeat last November, the Ducks have won 11 straight, scoring 40 or more points each time.

Oregon currently leads the nation in scoring with 53.4 points per game.

USC leads the nation in getting the least out of their talent.

The once-thought-to-be-mighty Trojans rank fifth in the Pac-12 in total offense and sixth in total defense. The writing is already on the walls in Troy. Mr. Kiffin will shepherd USC through the rest of the probationary period and then be shown the door. (Unless some poor misguided soul decides that Kiffin is the answer and hires him away first. Don’t laugh. It has happened a couple times before.)

It’ll be surreal to see the Trojans melt in their own Coliseum, but we just can see it going down any other way.

The Ducks are incredibly fast starters, outscoring opponents, 290-56, in the first half this season. But, while Oregon won’t be able to turn the game over to backups after the second quarter as it normally does, USC isn’t capable of playing catch up.

The Trojans have scored only 28 points in the third quarter all season. Yes, eight games, 28 points. Yikes. Obviously, making the proper halftime adjustments is a concept that’s completely foreign to the Kiffin brain trust.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 6

The pick: Oregon 49-31

3) Oklahoma State at No. 3 Kansas State
Sat., Nov. 3 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

This one seems very clear on paper. That’s the only thing that makes us nervous.

The Wildcats have already dealt with the likes of Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas Tech, limiting each of them to 24 points or less. Therefore, what reason would there be to not side with a Kansas State team that’s averaging more than 44 points and has scored 55 points in back-to-back games?

Furthermore, the Wildcats rank first in the Big 12 and fifth in the nation in turnover margin (+1.9). Giving extra possessions to quarterback Collin Klein equals “no chance.”

Klein’s counterpart, Wes Lunt, returned to action last week in a victory over TCU, after missing the three previous games with a knee injury. He completed 18-of-33 for 324 yards and got into a groove as the game went on, leading the Cowboys to 36 unanswered points after falling behind 14-0.

We doubt Lunt will continue with that momentum in Manhattan in what will be only the second start on the road for the redshirt freshman.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 7

The pick: Kansas State 41-24

4) Pittsburgh at No. 4 Notre Dame
Sat., Nov. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

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

The Panthers roll into South Bend hoping to wreck the Fighting Irish’s perfect season and BCS title dreams. The possibility does exist since we’ve got a double-digit favorite coming home off a massive victory on the road to face a scrappy spoiler with nothing to lose. We’ve seen this sort of upset many times before, even under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus.

But with Notre Dame’s return to relevance and so much on the line, including a Heisman Trophy campaign for linebacker Manti Te‘o, we believe focus won’t waver. The Irish are further bolstered by the third-quarter display at Oklahoma last week that featured clock killing 12- and 13-play drives.

Pitt won’t see the ball nearly enough to even think about pulling off a shocker. And when they do, Te‘o will be in the way. He might even get into the end zone for a Heisman moment and match the Panthers’ scoring output.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 19

The pick: Notre Dame 41-6

5) No. 16 Texas A&M at No. 17 Mississippi State
Sat., Nov. 3 — noon ET, ESPN

Last week’s divergent results and America’s growing fascination with Johnny Manziel cloud the reality here in our book.

We aren’t saying to discount the fact that the Aggies dropped 63 points on Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium or forget about the way the Bulldogs were dominated at Alabama last Saturday. However, when looking at this particular game on its own, it appears to be close to a draw.

Manziel’s ability to make plays is simply amazing, but Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins will be able to counterpunch effectively.

This season ending gauntlet for the Bulldogs is off the charts (Bama, A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss), but something is telling us that they’ll pickup at least a couple wins and this is one of them.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 2 1/2

The pick: Mississippi State 28-27

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Georgia Tech at Maryland
Sat., Nov. 3 — 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

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

This is an intriguing matchup as Georgia Tech can only move the football on the ground and Maryland boasts one of the nation’s best defenses, which allows less than 78 rushing yards per game.

In the past two weeks, the Terrapins combined to allow just 48 yards rushing, but suffered a pair of heart-breaking ACC setbacks to North Carolina State and Boston College. Maryland has lost by a field goal or less in three of their four defeats.

How will the Terps move the ball? Their 116th ranked offense hasn’t done much of that all year and they are without a healthy scholarship quarterback after seeing all four of them go down with injuries.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and that means true freshman Shawn Petty, who was previously a linebacker, gets the nod. Last year at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Petty tossed 15 touchdown strikes against four interceptions, and added another nine scores on the ground while running an option offense.

The Yellow Jackets enter below .500 and are still searching for their first road win.

In the battle of options, we’ll go with the home team that has played close games all year and might just get another big special teams play from freshman wideout Stefon Diggs.

Opening point spread: Georgia Tech by 7

The pick: Maryland 16-13

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Michigan at Minnesota
Sat., Nov. 3 — noon ET, Big Ten Network

In 1903, legendary Michigan head coach Fielding Yost feared that Minnesota fans might contaminate his water supply, so he instructed student manager Tommy Roberts to get something to hold their own water. Roberts came back from a Minneapolis store with a five-gallon earthenware jug that cost him 30 cents.

Following that first game between the Wolverines and Golden Gophers — a 6-6 tie called with two minutes remaining due to chaos (gotta love it!) — Yost left the jug behind and it became a beloved “trophy” for Minnesota officials, who looked upon the tie as a momentous victory over a Michigan team that was on a 28-game winning streak.

Yost eventually asked for his jug back, but was told: “If you want it, you’ll have to win it.” Thus began this whole business of rivalry trophies. Yup, “The Little Brown Jug” … neither little, nor brown … but the granddaddy of them all.

The “point-a-minute” Wolverines of Yost’s day wouldn’t even recognize the Michigan team of the previous two weeks, which hasn’t visited the end zone. Four field goals were enough to beat Michigan State, 12-10, on Oct. 20, but three three-pointers didn’t come close to getting the job done at Nebraska in a 23-9 loss last Saturday.

Of course, not having Denard Robinson at quarterback was a huge problem in Lincoln. After Robinson re-aggravated a nerve injury that affects his throwing hand and arm, backup signalcaller Russell Bellomy struggled mightily. Bellomy attempted 16 passes and completed only three to teammates. Worse yet, three of his passes connected with Cornhuskers.

Minnesota broke a three-game losing streak last week, winning its first Big Ten game with a 44-28 decision over Purdue. A balanced Gopher offense finished with 458 total yards, committed zero turnovers and scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions.

If Robinson isn’t right, the Wolverines could lose their grip on Yost’s jug once again.

Opening point spread: Michigan by 12 1/2

The pick: Michigan 24-21

Boise State blasts Colorado State, keeps pace in MWC Mountain

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At 2-1 in Mountain West play, Boise State entered Friday night’s game looking to keep pace with league and divisional unbeaten Utah State. After 60 minutes, it was the Broncos who maintain conference title hopes while the Rams could very well have seen theirs dashed.

On the strength of Brett Rypien‘s right arm, the Broncos jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead and never looking back, crushing the Rams 56-28 in Boise.  Three of Rypien’s touchdown passes came in a first half that included a wild punt return that featured a fumble recovered by Boise and ended with Kekaula Kaniho being credited with a 74-yard touchdown as time ran out in the second quarter.

Rypien would finish the night with 304 yards passing and as many incompletions (four) as touchdown passes (four) on his 26 attempts.  The Rams actually led the Broncos in total yards 489-472, but committed three turnovers (one lost fumble, two interceptions) that led to 14 Boise points

Pending the result of Utah State (2-0 in MWC play) vs. Wyoming this afternoon, Boise State (3-1), with the only league loss to the West Division’s San Diego State) will exit Week 8 either a half-game ahead or behind USU in the divisional standings. Depending on how the next several weeks play out, the Nov. 24th meeting between the Broncos and Aggies on the blue turf could determine the Mountain Division’s representative in the conference championship game the following week.

Louisville not looking for new naming rights sponsor for Cardinal Stadium until the spring

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It’s been nearly three months since Louisville took Papa John’s name off Cardinal Stadium and it sounds like the status quo will be that way for a while more.

Speaking to the Louisville Courier Journal on Thursday, Cardinals AD Vince Tyra sounded as though finding a new sponsor for the stadium naming rights is far from his (or anybody else at the school’s) mind at the moment.

“There’s no deadline for us on that,” Tyra said. “I think we wanted to, as we’ve said before, let’s get through the season, let’s kind of move our way into the spring and distance ourselves from it.”

Those comments probably are not to surprising considering the team is 2-5 at the moment and dealing with plenty of issues under Bobby Petrino but it’s notable in the grand scheme of things considering how visible Papa John’s was at the school previously and how much founder John Schnatter donated to the program.

It will be interesting to see just how much Louisville can get for their naming rights when they do go through a bid process given the school’s location, recent performance and the fact that these deals are few and far between at the Power Five level nowadays. Just recently, Colorado State secured a $37.7 million deal for their new on-campus venue while USC cashed the richest deal in college football for a whopping $70 million.

The Cardinals figure to be somewhere in between those two numbers but any little bit could help if the school wants to consider cutting ties to their head coach any time soon.

Duke backups 3D-printed brace to help QB Daniel Jones return from fractured clavicle

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File this under stories that can only happen at a few schools across the country — that are very on-brand for the academic reputation of the place too.

A story published in The Chronicle this week detailed the efforts that Duke utilized to get quarterback Daniel Jones back from a fractured clavicle in a remarkable three weeks. One unconventional part of the recovery? A 3D-printed brace that was designed in conjunction with backup center Clark Bulleit and reserve linebacker Kevin Gehsmann.

In order to implement any of their ideas, Bulleit and Gehsmann needed approval from the team’s medical personnel. The training staff did more than just simply give the okay, opting to fully collaborate on the process.

“The training staff helped us to identify pressure points, and took Daniel through his range of motion, telling us where the brace could or could not go,” Bulleit said. “We would determine how to change the shape of the brace to cover the collarbone and retain its integrity while not hitting the pressure points.”

Jones wound up missing just two games with the Blue Devils and has played well with the brace underneath his pads in recent weeks, completing over 63% of his passes with four touchdowns as Duke has cracked the Top 25 with a 5-1 overall record.

While it’s still crazy that the signal-caller was even able to bounce back from a fracture so quickly, the extra bit of help he had (in the most unconventional way possible) from his teammates certainly made things a lot easier on Jones and the Blue Devils overall.

Baylor, Oregon schedule home-and-home series for 2027 and 2028

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If you like neon colors on college football uniforms, boy have we got a future series for you.

In an announcement made on Friday, Oregon and Baylor confirmed the two schools have agreed to a home-and-home series on the gridiron in their first-ever meeting between the two programs. The Bears and Ducks will play at McLane Stadium in Waco on Sept. 11, 2027; while the return game will take place at  Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Sept. 9, 2028.

The move certainly beefs up the non-conference slate for both sides after years of rather lackluster scheduling for various reasons. Baylor recently scheduled a series with Auburn for 2025/2026 and Oregon was similarly busy over the summer adding an SEC opponent with a future date with Georgia in 2022.

This series between the Ducks and Bears is the first on either team’s schedule for the 2027/2028 seasons so each has a few more slots to fill nearly a decade ago.