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

After 53 straight losses, D3 program decides to take 2019 off

Earlham College Athletics
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There will be no football played at Division 3 Earlham College in Indiana next season. The school is taking next season off with the intent on returning to the field in 2020, hopefully, with a game plan for improving the football program.

The news of Earlham shutting the program down for a year comes following a 53rd straight loss, an NCAA Division 3 record. Head coach Nick Johnson has already been informed he will no longer be a part of the program but will take on a new role within the university. The last time Earlham celebrated a win was Oct. 26, 2013, according to a Richmond Palladium-Item report.

“As President of Earlham College, I am well aware of the many ways in which a successful athletics program can enhance and strengthen the overall well-being of a college,” interim Earlham College president Avis Stewart said in a released statement. “However, it can reasonably be argued that our inability to field competitive teams has significantly hampered our ability to recruit a sufficient number of student-athletes who seek a positive, quality intercollegiate athletics football experience. Therefore, I have decided that our community needs to take a fresh approach to building and sustaining a competitive football program.”

A year off for any college football program is a difficult decision to make, and at the lower levels of football, it comes with more doubt about the potential return of a program. Fortunately, perhaps, this plan is already mapped out as opposed to when UAB decided to shut its program down for good, only to reverse course and bring the football program back after a brief hiatus.

Earlham College will plan on bringing the football program back in 2020 as long as it is determined doing so will not pose a risk to the school’s academic integrity, the school feels secure in the ability to fund the program, and it can find a suitable head coach to lead the program.

Well, Bobby Petrino is available.

Week 12 division clinching scenarios in college football

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Two teams from the state of Illinois will play for their respective conference championships in a couple of weeks. Northwestern wrapped up the Big Ten West Division last week with a win at Iowa and a bit of help from around the conference. Last night, Northern Illinois clinched the West Division in the MAC without having to play a down, as a loss by Western Michigan guaranteed the Huskies a trip to the MAC Championship.

Tonight, Buffalo can clinch the other spot in the MAC Championship Game with a win at Ohio. A win by the Bulls would capture the MAC East Divison and should help make a case for including Buffalo on your radar for the Group of Five New Years Six, even if that requires Buffalo to get some help from the AAC and Mountain West Conference.

With two weeks of the college football regular season to play, a few more divisions could potentially be clinched this week. Some are more complicated than others, but here is a rundown of what it will take for teams in clinching scenarios to clinch their respective divisions this week in college football.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

East Division

  • UCF clinches with win vs. Cincinnati AND Temple loses to South Florida

Temple plays South Florida at home Saturday afternoon, which means UCF will know whether or not it can clinch the division that night. If Temple beats the Bulls, things could get pretty interesting in the division as a Cincinnati win over the Knights would open up a three-team tie for first place with one week to play, thus giving UCF, Cincinnati and Temple something to play for in the final week of the regular season.

Nobody can clinch the West Division this weekend with SMU, Houston and Tulane tangled in a three-team tie and Memphis just one game out of first place.

ACC

Coastal Division

  • Pittsburgh clinches with win at Wake Forest or Virginia loses at Georgia Tech

The Pitt Panthers are in a good spot to wrap up their first division championship since joining the ACC. With head-to-head tiebreakers already stacked up against Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, Pat Narduzzi’s program can clinch the division outright with a win or a Virginia loss this weekend. And having that all locked up before having to travel to Miami, where the Hurricanes could be looking for revenge after last year’s game, would be nice.

Clemson clinched the Atlantic Division last week.

BIG 12

The Big 12 may not have divisions, b a spot in the Big 12 championship game could be clinched this week by Oklahoma. The Sooners would guarantee themselves one of the two spots in the Big 12 championship game with a victory over Kansas and an Iowa State victory over Texas. In that scenario, Oklahoma would finish conference play with no more than two losses and they own a head-to-head tiebreaker with Iowa State (Texas owns the H2H tiebreaker with Oklahoma).

West Virginia would still have to beat Oklahoma in Morgantown or see Iowa State lose next week to avoid any possible tiebreaking situation with Iowa State.

BIG TEN

East

  • Michigan clinches with win vs. Indiana AND Ohio State loss at Maryland

It is highly likely the East Division will be decided by the result of next week’s regular-season finale between Ohio State and Michigan in Columbus, but the Wolverines could potentially take care of the division this week. Beating Indiana at home should not be too much of a problem, although the chances Maryland stuns Ohio State to send the Buckeyes home with a loss are not very inspiring for the Maize and Blue.

Northwestern clinched the Big Ten West last week.

CONFERENCE USA

East

  • Middle Tennessee clinches with FIU loss at Charlotte

The Blue Raiders are stepping out of conference this week to play at Kentucky. While they do that, they will pay attention to what Florida International does on the road at Charlotte. A loss by the Panthers against the 49ers would ensure Middle Tennessee State can do no worse than finish the regular season with two conference losses and a tie for the top spot in the division with FIU or Marshall. Middle Tennessee owns head-to-head victories against each, which would give Middle Tennessee the nod in the East division before having to play UAB in the regular season finale. If FIU wins this week, Middle Tennessee would clinch the division next week with a win at home against UAB or an FIU loss to Marshall.

UAB clinched the West division last week.

MAC

East

  • Buffalo clinches with win vs. Ohio

Buffalo and Ohio square off in Wednesday night play with the division on the line. A Buffalo win would wrap up the East division for the Bulls, but a win by Ohio leaves the Bobcats in the running for another week. A loss to Ohio still leaves Buffalo sitting in a favorable spot as they would have to beat a two-win Bowling Green team next week to clinch the division. An Ohio loss to Akron would clinch the division for Buffalo as well.

NIU clinched the West on Tuesday night as a result of Western Michigan losing to Ball State.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

Mountain

  • Utah State clinches with win at Colorado State AND Boise State loss at New Mexico

West

  • Fresno State clinches with win vs. San Diego State

It is possible both divisions in the Mountain West Conference could be clinched this weekend, although it is more likely the Mountian Diviosn will have to wait a week to see who wins a matchup between Utah State and Boise State. The West Division is probably the more likely division to be clinched this week with Fresno State getting a chance to play at home against San Diego State. Things get a bit more interesting for the final week of the season if the Aztecs come away winners though, as it opens the door for Nevada to have a shot. We can explore that more in the event San Diego State does win, but for now we’ll keep it simple. If Fresno State wins, the division is a wrap.

PAC-12

North

  • Washington State clinches with win vs. Arizona AND Washington loses to Oregon State

South

  • Utah clinches with win at Colorado AND Arizona State loses at Oregon AND Arizona loses at Washington State

Odds are the North is going to be decided in next week’s Apple Cup between rivals Washington and Washington State, but the Cougars do have a scenario to root for this week. And even though it is a more complicated path to clinching for Utah, it may be the more likely scenario to play out this week. The Utes have to win a game at Colorado to finish up their Pac-12 record at 6-3 with just one non-conference game to play next week against BYU. If they do that and both Arizona and Arizona State lose on the road, then the division is theirs.

SEC

Alabama and Georgia already clinched their respective divisions and are heading to a potential College Football Playoff play-in game in the SEC Championship.

SUN BELT

East

  • Troy clinches with win vs. Texas State AND Appalachian State loses to Georgia State

West

  • UL Monroe clinches with win at Arkansas State AND Louisiana loses vs. South Alabama

The stage for the inaugural Sun Belt championship game could be set this weekend, although it is more likely to come down to the wire next week. Troy and UL Monroe are each in positions to clinch their respective divisions this week. Troy will likely have to take care of business next week in a matchup with Appalachian State to decide the East Division. UL Monroe may have a tough time doing what needs to be done to gain the crown in the West this week with a road game at Arkansas State. A loss by UL Monroe sets up a good finish in the West Division next week.

As USC struggles, can Chip Kelly and UCLA seize an opportunity?

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No matter what happens this weekend, UCLA will not be going to a bowl game in the first season with Chip Kelly as a head coach. At 2-8, that end result was determined weeks ago. Despite taking a while to get things seemingly together, UCLA will meet with their crosstown rivals from USC this week, and the timing could not have been better for Kelly and the Bruins.

USC was officially ruled out of the running for the Pac-12 South Division last week as they fell to 5-5 this season. The pressure on head coach Clay Helton has seemed to be on the rise as frustrations about the Trojans continues to build this season. The possibility of a coaching change has become a bit of a popular talking point for some as college football gets the coaching carousel greased up and ready to go at full force. And with Notre Dame coming to Los Angeles next week with their own College Football Playoff hopes potentially on the line, this week against the Bruins feels like it could be a must-win game for USC.

That alone makes this a pretty important game for Kelly and UCLA as well, even more so than it already was destined to be by default. Kelly will have an opportunity to really stick it to his new rival with an opposing head coach under an increasing amount of pressure by putting USC’s own bowl hopes on the edge of a cliff, with the Irish coming to town to give the final nudge.

A win for Kelly would help give UCLA’s recruiting efforts an extra sales pitch to make. As UCLA is looking to build something, they could be responsible for potential changes going on at USC. USC is rarely going to lose out in the recruiting battles and the Trojans will always have quality recruiting hauls, but Kelly would benefit by having a head-to-head win against USC, and this year would be a great way to end his first season at UCLA.

UCLA DL Moses Robinson-Carr has been indefinitely suspended

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UCLA defensive lineman Moses Robinson-Carr has apparently been in the doghouse of Chip Kelly for a few weeks. The head coach of the Bruins confirmed to reporters today Robinson-Carr has been indefinitely suspended for violation of team rules.

The news of the suspension appears to answer some questions about his lack of availability in the last few weeks, as Kelly confirmed the suspension is a couple of weeks old. This would be the second time this season Robinson-Carr has been suspended by Kelly this season. Robinson-Carr was one of six players suspended by Kelly for UCLA’s season opener against Cincinnati.

Robinson-Carr previously played tight end and special teams for the Bruins, but he was converted to the defensive line to provide some depth. Robinson-Carr ha splayed in six games for UCLA this season.

UCLA faces rival USC this weekend.