Predictions 101 — Week 12

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Last week, we went 5-2 straight (you can probably guess what one of the losses was) and 3-2-1 versus “the number.”

This week’s slate is probably the worst we’ve ever examined this close to the end of a season. But what are you going to do? The SEC’s scheduling practices and the Big Ten’s irrelevance are what they are.

Here we go.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 15, thru Sat., Nov. 17)

1) No. 14 Stanford at No. 1 Oregon
Sat., Nov. 17 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

We’ve got total respect for what the Cardinal have done, proving that their relevancy wasn’t tied to Andrew Luck. In fact, it wasn’t even tied to Josh Nunes. With redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan looking like he’s the real deal, Stanford will easily continue to be a primetime player in the Pac-12 North.

The only problem with that is the presence of Oregon in the division. The Cardinal are just not geared to deal with the Ducks … as if any team really is.

Since Luck led a 51-42 victory over Oregon in 2009, the Cardinal have lost their last two games to the Ducks by a total of 44 points.

Taking into account the known factors, there isn’t any indication that the results will be different this time. Chip Kelly’s bunch will pull away in the second half to win this showdown for the North title.

Despite holding an advantage over Oregon in several departments, Stanford doesn’t have the ability to adjust on the fly to accentuate its strengths and minimize those of its opponents. That, of course, is the domain of the Ducks and the secret to their success, particularly on offense.

If limited to playing the game within the box and at a normal pace, the Cardinal, who lead the nation in run defense (58.6 yards per game), sacks (4.2) and tackles for loss (9.1), would win. Oregon, however, doesn’t let you breathe and expertly gets the ball out into space where it’s hard to tackle lightning bolts.

Stanford has the ability to control the pace and shorten the game when it has the ball, utilizing sledgehammer running back Stepfan Taylor and the athleticism of Hogan, but getting something out of every drive is a requirement if you’re going to upset the Ducks. We don’t see them putting together a perfect performance at the fortress that is Auzten Stadium.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 24

The pick: Oregon 45-27

2) No. 2 Kansas State at Baylor
Sat., Nov. 17 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

No team in the country allows more yards per game than the Bears … 519.8 to be exact. Of course, yards don’t determine who wins. Points do.

Baylor is really generous with those, as well, allowing 39.4 per game. Only five of the 120 FBS teams are worse in that department. Unfortunately for the Bears, they aren’t playing any of those schools.

They’re hosting Kansas State, which leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (17.7) and is in position to play for the BCS title if it can avoid banana peels and/or magazine cover jinxes.

The difference defensively is the key as both teams average more than 42 points per game.

The Bears hung tough on the road last week, dropping a 42-34 decision at Oklahoma. Some of that had to do with winning the takeaway battle, 2-0.

That won’t happen versus the Wildcats, who lead the nation in turnover margin with a sparkling +20.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 10

The pick: Kansas State 49-31

3) Wake Forest at No. 3 Notre Dame
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

The Demon Deacons have the Fighting Irish right where they want them.

Slow down … we aren’t saying Wake Forest is gonna pull the massive upset. But if you are hoping for such a thing, South Bend would be the location for it.

Notre Dame hasn’t been particularly impressive in defending its home field this season. The Irish needed three overtimes to beat Pittsburgh, edged BYU by three points, got the calls to squeak past Stanford in OT, held off Michigan 13-6 and defeated Purdue by three.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise though. Notre Dame is attempting to go undefeated at home for the first time in 14 years. Until now, playing in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus wasn’t what it used to be.

But Deacon fans can’t like their chances against an Irish defense that hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in five games this season.

In last week’s 37-6 loss at North Carolina State, Wake Forest needed standout wideout Michael Campanaro to THROW a touchdown pass to avoid a shutout.

Brian Kelly will turn up the heat and do his best to build a case for the BCS title game, but there are the usual limitations.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 22

The pick: Notre Dame 29-10

4) No. 22 Rutgers at Cincinnati
Sat., Nov. 17 — Noon ET, Big East Network

For whatever it’s worth, this game will go a long way toward determining who wins the Big East and gets to spend New Year’s Day losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

Last year, the Scarlet Knights broke a five-game losing streak to the Bearcats. Running back Jawan Jamison rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores in that 20-3 victory in Piscataway.

Jamison is a bit of a question mark in this one as he was knocked out of last week’s 28-7 win over Army, but did return to the game and finished with 90 rushing yards and threw a halfback pass for a touchdown.

In any case, Rutgers’ advantage in this game is on the defensive side. The Knights are allowing only 13.4 points and 309.4 yards per game.

Bearcat quarterback Brendon Kay, who made his first career start last week at Temple, will have trouble. We smell turnovers.

Opening point spread: Cincinnati by 6 1/2

The pick: Rutgers 24-23

5) Mississippi at No. 8 LSU
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Could we possibly get out of here without an SEC game? Nope. And in terms of which one, we didn’t have much choice.

Even more incredible than seeing Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina all listed in a row from Nos. 4 through 9 in the BCS Standings was the fact that five of their opponents this week are Western Carolina, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville State, Sam Houston State and Wofford. And then you have Mississippi’s trip to LSU, of course.

The Tigers did allow Mississippi State to pass for 304 yards in last Saturday’s 37-17 victory in Baton Rouge. But when the Bulldogs were forced to become one dimensional late in the game, the LSU pass rush was devastating.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace can sling the ball around the yard, but we wonder how the Rebels will keep ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo from crashing down on him if they fall behind early.

In a way, Ole Miss is OK with being on the road. In contrast to last year’s 52-3 loss to LSU at home, the Rebels hung tough in Death Valley in 2010 (coming from ahead to lose, 43-36) and won there in 2008 (31-13).

Opening point spread: LSU by 20

The pick: LSU 35-19

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Ohio State at Wisconsin
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

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

We can add Michigan’s miraculous “Hail Mary” pass, which led to an overtime defeat for last week’s underdog, to the pair of one-point losses suffered earlier in the season thanks to placekicking miscues. That being said, we’ve nabbed some outright victories in between and have been within the “number” in most instances.

There’s not much margin for that to happen this week, as we get a field goal while backing the undefeated Buckeyes in their Big Ten Leaders Division match-up with the Badgers.

This setup is reminiscent of last year’s edition of P101’s current “Rivalry Game of the Week” (see below), when UCLA limped into the Pac-12 title game after getting embarrassed by on-probation USC, 50-0. For Wisconsin, it’s the beneficiary of having already clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game despite two losses, thanks to a pair of teams in the NCAA’s naughty corner.

Urban Meyer deserves loads of praise for what he’s accomplished in Columbus with The Vest’s players and the mess he left behind. The potent backfield combo of quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde have accounted for 41 touchdowns and their playmaking will prove to be the difference against a stout Wisconsin stop unit.

The four Badger wins that have them in line for a Big Ten title three-peat have come against squads that are a combined 5-19 in conference play. With starting quarterback Joel Stave out for the season, Curt Phillips filled in last week going 4-for-7 for 41 yards against Indiana.

Wisconsin was able to light up the Hoosiers for 62 points by rushing 64 times for 564 yards with senior running back Montee Ball finding the end zone three times.

That kind of one-dimensional attack won’t work against a Buckeye defense ranked 16th in the nation, allowing 107.9 yards per game on the ground.

Opening point spread: Wisconsin by 1

The pick: Ohio State 23-13

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 21 USC at No. 17 UCLA
Sat., Nov. 17 — 3:05 p.m. ET, FOX

The winner of this matchup gets the Victory Bell. Not the bootleg ones that go to the North Carolina-Duke or Miami (Ohio)-Cincinnati winners, we’re talking THE Victory Bell, a 295-pound bell from a Southern Pacific freight locomotive.

A couple years after the bell was given to UCLA by its alumni association in 1939, USC students stole it … and even used the Bruins’ own truck to do it!

The bell was then hidden in various parts of the Southland, spurring a rash of pranks on both sides of town, which caused USC president Dr. Rufus B. von KleinSmid to threaten to cancel the football game between the archrivals.

Following that warning, the student body presidents of both schools met at the “Tommy Trojan” statue and signed an agreement that made the bell a rivalry trophy.

For the first time in a while, more than just the Victory Bell is on the line for both teams. Each has the opportunity to lock up the Pac-12 South with a win. It could be said that each squad is trying to repeat. USC “won” the division on the field last season, but UCLA took the probation-saddled Trojans’ place and embarrassed itself in Eugene at the inaugural Pac-12 title game.

UCLA has enjoyed possession of the Victory Bell for only a single year since 1999. In the last five meetings, all Trojan victories, the Bruins have been eviscerated by an aggregate score of 158-35, including last year’s 50-0 waste of time.

Despite all this, UCLA and its supporters are feeling frisky. But, really, how much has changed?

Ask yourself this question: “Would you be looking at this game differently if UCLA had played Stanford yet or had Oregon on its schedule?”

That’s what we thought.

Opening point spread: USC by 3

The pick: USC 34-27

2019 finalist Justin Fields highlights preseason Davey O’Brien watch list

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The Davey O’Brien Award is next up as watch list season is in fall swing.

The Bednarik Award opened the proceedings Monday.  A day later, the Davey O’Brien Award released a preseason watch list that includes 30 of the top quarterbacks in the country.  And, according to the award’s press release, “new transfers were eligible to be included for the first time in the award’s history.”

Justin Fields of Ohio State, a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award in 2019, is among the players on the watch list. Fields is joined by seven semifinalists from last year: Baylor’s Charlie Brewer, Shane Buechele of SMU, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, Brock Purdy of Iowa State and Memphis’ Brady White.

The Big 12 and SEC both landed five watch listers, the most of any single conference.  Both the ACC and Big Ten placed four apiece in the group, while the Pac-12 has two.  With three, the AAC leads all Group of Five leagues.

Fourteen seniors, eight juniors and eight sophomores combine to make up the list.

Below are all 30 members of this year’s watch list.

Hank Bachmeier, Boise State, So., 6-1, 200, Murrieta, Calif.
Ian Book, Notre Dame, Sr., 6-0, 206, El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Alan Bowman, Texas Tech, So., 6-3, 210, Grapevine, Texas
Charlie Brewer, Baylor, Sr., 6-1, 206, Austin, Texas
Shane Buechele, SMU, Sr., 6-1, 207, Arlington, Texas
Jack Coan, Wisconsin, Sr., 6-3, 221, Sayville, N.Y.
Sean Clifford, Penn State, Jr., 6-2, 219, Cincinnati, Ohio
Dustin Crum, Kent State, Sr., 6-3, 201, Grafton, Ohio
Micale Cunningham, Louisville, Jr., 6-1, 200, Montgomery, Ala.
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State, So., 6-3, 175, San Bernardino, Calif.
Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Sr., 6-3, 230, Austin, Texas
Justin Fields, Ohio State, Jr., 6-3, 228, Kennesaw, Ga.
Dillon Gabriel, UCF, So., 6-0, 186, Mililani, Hawai
Donald Hammond III, Air Force, Sr., 6-2, 220, Hampton, Ga.
Sam Howell, North Carolina, So., 6-1 1/4, 225, Indian Trail, N.C.
Mac Jones, Alabama, Jr., 6-2, 205, Jacksonville, Fla.
D’Eriq King, Miami, Sr., 5-11, 195, Manvel, Texas
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, Jr., 6-6, 220, Cartersville, Ga.
Levi Lewis, Louisiana, Sr., 5-10, 190, Baton Rouge, La.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M, Sr., 6-3, 217, San Antonio, Texas
Tanner Morgan, Minnesota, Jr., 6-2, 215, Union, Ky.
Jamie Newman, Georgia, Sr., 6-4, 230, Graham, N.C.
Bo Nix, Auburn, So., 6-2, 207, Pinson, Ala.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State, Jr., 6-1, 212, Gilbert, Ariz.
Chris Robison, Florida Atlantic, Jr., 6-1, 200, Mesquite, Texas
Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State, So., 6-1, 199, Denton, Texas
Kedon Slovis, USC, So., 6-2, 200, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Zac Thomas, Appalachian State, Sr., 6-1, 210, Trussville, Ala.
Kyle Trask, Florida, Sr., 6-5, 239, Manvel, Texas
Brady White, Memphis, Sr., 6-3, 215, Santa Clarita, Calif.

Tommy Tuberville defeats Jeff Sessions, is the Republican nominee from Alabama for a seat in the United States Senate

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For the first time in a while, Tommy Tuberville is front and center in the headlines in the great state of Alabama.  This time, though, it’s for a different sport.

In April of 2019, Tommy Tuberville announced that he would be running for one of the Alabama seats in the United States Senate.  The seat Tuberville was running for is currently held by Democrat Doug Jones, who won an extremely close (and contentious) special election back in 2017.

Before facing Jones, however, Tuberville would need to win the Republican runoff.  Against Jeff Sessions, the former U.S. Senator from the state of Alabama with deep ties to the Yellowhammer State.  Sessions, though, had his issues, you could say, with President Donald Trump, who, even amidst some football gaffes, wholeheartedly endorsed Tuberville.

Tuesday night, that endorsement likely paid off as the 65-year-old Tuberville claimed the Republican nomination in a resounding win.  Tuberville will now face Jones in the November general election.  Given the fact that the state of Alabama skews heavily toward the right, a Tuberville win is expected.

Not surprisingly, the current POTUS basked in the glow of Tuberville’s win.

Tuberville spent 10 seasons as the head coach at Auburn, famously guiding the Tigers to a six-game winning streak over the rival Alabama Crimson Tide during his tenure. “If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have Nick Saban,” Tuberville said in a radio interview when asked why Alabama football fans should vote for him.

A head coach most of the past two decades, Tuberville had a 159-99 record in stops that included Ole Miss (1995-98), Texas Tech (2010-12) and Cincinnati (2013-16) in addition to his time on The Plains.

UTSA confirms signing of highest-rated signee in Houston’s 2018 recruiting class

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UTSA has officially bolstered its football roster via the transfer portal.  Again.

In late June, Julon Williams committed to the UTSA football program.  The Houston wide receiver had entered the NCAA transfer database earlier that same month. Monday, the Roadrunners confirmed Williams’ addition to the football team.

Williams won’t be coming to UT-San Antonio football as a graduate transfer.  As a result, he’ll have to sit out the 2020 season for the Roadrunners.  Barring an unlikely waiver, of course.  That will leave the receiver two years of eligibility starting in 2021.

Williams was a three-star member of the Houston football Class of 2018.  He was also the highest-rated signee for the Cougars that cycle.

The production on the field, however, failed to match that recruiting pedigree.  In two seasons, the Converse, Texas, native played in just two games.  Both of those appearances came as a true freshman.

In that limited action, Williams caught three passes for 61 yards.

As noted in its release, Williams is the younger brother of Jarveon Williams, UTSA’s career rushing leader who played in 2013-16.  The elder Williams brother is also currently a graduate assistant at UTSA.

UTSA is coming off a 4-8 2019 football campaign.  That led to Frank Wilson being fired in December and Jeff Traylor being hired a week later.

Texas football will officially play at Campbell-Williams Field at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

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It’s a Lone Star State-sized mouthful, but Texas football will officially step onto a newly-named field if/when the 2020 season kicks off.

Myriad Texas student-athletes, including football players, requested last month that several issues be addressed.  Monday, UT confirmed that it had initiated several changes on the athletic and academic side of the university, many of which addressed the concerns of the student-athletes.  One that didn’t?  The “Eyes of Texas” will remain the school song.

The school did note, though, that, “[a]t the suggestion of the Jamail family, [the university would] rename Joe Jamail Field at the stadium in honor of Texas’ two great Heisman Trophy winners, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, two Longhorn legends with a record of commitment to the university.”

Tuesday, the university confirmed that, moving forward, the home for Texas football will officially be known as Campbell-Williams Field at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

In 1977, Campbell became the first-ever Texas football player to win the Heisman Trophy.  Two decades later, Williams became the second in 1998.  Those two running backs remain the only Longhorns to ever claim the most prestigious individual trophy in the sport.

“This is such a great tribute and so well deserved,” former Texas and current North Carolina head coach Mack Brown told the Austin American-Statesman via email. “And what an awesome tribute it is to Joe Jamail, and an amazing gesture by his family that they wanted to do this for Ricky and Earl. But that’s who the Jamail family is. Joe loved Ricky, Earl and all of the players.

“This is such a fitting way for the family to honor Joe and to say thank you to all of the players and the university they care for so deeply.”

Joe Jamail, a renowned attorney, passed away in 2015.  His name has been on the field since 1997, shortly after he gave yet another multi-million gift to the football program.  The first game played on Joe Jamail Field, Texas lost to UCLA 66-3.  Jamail’s response?

“How much f***ing money does it take to get my name off the field?”