Predictions 101 — Week 13

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We were thankful to go 4-3 straight and versus “the number” last week.

Staying above water on a Saturday like that wasn’t easy. We didn’t have the two upsets that had everyone clamoring, but we did have a pair of others that got the job done.

So it’s on to rivalry week and what makes college football so special. Unlike the Yankees and Red Sox, who seemingly play each other 75 times a year, the Fighting Irish and Trojans get this chance to go at each other but once a year.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 22, thru Sat., Nov. 24)

1) No. 1 Notre Dame at USC
Sat., Nov. 24 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Look at these teams now. The Fighting Irish, who were unranked in the preseason, are undefeated and No. 1 in the land. Top-ranked in the preseason, the Trojans are currently unranked after losing three of their last four.

Adding injury to insult, USC is without quarterback Matt Barkley, who got K.O.’d in the final minutes of last week’s 38-28 loss to UCLA with an injury to his right shoulder.

Yup, everything seems to be moving in the direction of the Irish. When you have a linebacker being mentioned as a legit Heisman Trophy contender, that point can’t be denied.

Furthermore, the discrepancy in coaching ability is astounding.

Lane Kiffin is bringing about the fall of Troy in spectacular fashion on and off the field. His father, Monte, hasn’t got a clue in the world how to stop an opposing offense.

That certainly isn’t the case in South Bend. Brian Kelly’s team leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 10.1 points per game, and the Irish are adept at winning the close ones.

All that being said, this series is littered with surprising games involving spectacular scenarios and gallant heroes.

Could the next one be a confident youngster named Max Wittek?

It’s entirely possible.

Notre Dame has lived on the edge for much of the season. As Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State know all too well, undefeated seasons are elusive. And the pressure at the top of the BCS Standings this late in the season can be immense. Just ask the Wildcats.

The question here is if the thin Trojan offensive front can protect Wittek well enough for him to get the ball up in the air in the direction of Marqise Lee enough times. Or perhaps Wittek can rediscover somebody named Robert Woods, who Barkley lost touch with during the season.

Since “stuff” happens in this series, it’s tempting to call for the upset and more BCS chaos, especially since USC beat Notre Dame, 31-17, last season in South Bend. But what does that really mean anymore with Kiffin running the Trojan program into the ground? They beat Arizona, Oregon and UCLA last year, too.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 6

The pick: Notre Dame 28-20

2) No. 13 South Carolina at No. 12 Clemson
Sat., Nov. 24 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

After a year of verbal fisticuffs by their head coaches, the Gamecocks and Tigers finally get to settle the matter on the field.

We prefer the jabs that’ll be traded by South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw and Clemson signalcaller Tajh Boyd, than the silly haymaker quotes tossed around by Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney.

Shaw was outstanding in last year’s matchup, passing for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a game-high 107 yards and a score.

Boyd appears to be gearing up for that sort of outing after falling flat last year in an 11-for-29 performance the yielded only 83 yards. Last week, he accounted for eight touchdowns (five through the air, three on the ground) in a 62-48 victory over North Carolina State, which got Clemson to 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 1981.

The Gamecocks need to come out on top against their bitter rivals to get their 10th victory and become the first team in school history post back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins.

The Tigers have won their past 13 games in Death Valley (yeah, Ballcoach, there are at least a couple of ‘em), so this call isn’t easy to make, but we can’t go against the Gamecock defense. It’ll come up with the stops when needed.

Opening point spread: Clemson by 4

The pick: South Carolina 26-24

3) Auburn at No. 2 Alabama
Sat., Nov. 24 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Well, well, well … what do we have here? Anyone willing to bet that Nick Saban’s squad won’t take full advantage of its second chance? We’re talking about the Crimson Tide’s next three games, not just this one.

It’s too bad this Iron Bowl is more like Tinfoil Bowl, considering the flimsy state of the Tiger program. Aside from that fact that it will feature direct national title implications for the fifth consecutive year, this incredibly nasty series has always been one of our favorites.

If Alabama weren’t playing its archrivals, there might be a chance that they’d have Georgia on their minds. Oh wait … they’d also have to be opposed by a halfway decent team.

There’s a stunning amount of lumber to chop at, but the Tigers really aren’t able to put up much resistance.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 34

The pick: Alabama 42-6

4) No. 6 Florida at No. 10 Florida State
Sat., Nov. 24 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

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

It seems like forever since this series featured teams ranked in the Top 10 and in the thick of the BCS mix.

Both squads can credit their excellent defenses for making it to this point. Only the Seminoles, however, have an offense right now. The Gators have scored a total of only 73 points in their last four games.

Florida has a murky quarterback situation this week and its passing offense ranks last in the SEC and 114th in the nation. The Gators won’t get it done on the ground versus FSU, which leads the nation in rushing defense.

The Seminoles will patiently build a lead through three quarters. Then, when something has to happen in the final frame, the inept Gator offense will discover that taking chances against a Jimbo Fisher defense can really get you in trouble.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 7

The pick: Florida State 34-13

5) No. 22 Oklahoma State at No. 14 Oklahoma
Sat., Nov. 24 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

In their last two games — against Baylor and West Virginia — the Sooners have yielded a total of 710 rushing yards. Oklahoma came out of both contests with the victory, but that’s simply a grotesque amount of yardage on the ground.

That’s not where you’d like to be when getting set to host an Oklahoma State team that’s fresh off a 59-21 dismantling of Texas Tech.

It doesn’t seem to matter who Mike Gundy puts behind center, so we’re tempted to ride with an upset here. But in the end, it’s too hard to go against Landry Jones in his last home game in a yard that the Cowboys haven’t won in since 2001.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 9

The pick: Oklahoma 38-34

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 20 Michigan at No. 4 Ohio State
Sat., Nov. 24 — noon ET, ABC

It’s rivalry week, so all of the above qualifies to be considered for this spot, but if given the choice, relevancy is more important than rivalry when it comes to playing ball in Week 13.

Officially, these two archrivals have combined to win 76 Big Ten championships and 18 national championships, so this matchup usually has massive postseason implications attached.

Such is not the case for the on-probation Buckeyes this year, although they do have an undefeated record (and a petition).

This is a rivalry game — if not THE rivalry game — so we won’t make too big a deal out of this, but the extra incentive to put the cherry at the top of a 12-0 season is powerful. All that “us against the world” stuff goes a long way when things are pretty much even.

But in truth, Ohio State has enough tangible things going for it in this contest. Home-field advantage and a healthy offensive backfield are two of the biggies.

Opening point spread: Ohio State by 4 1/2

The pick: Ohio State 31-20

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Kentucky at Tennessee
Sat., Nov. 24 — 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network

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

We’ll make no apologies for last week’s winning dog that came with a thin price. A win is a win.

This week, the ante is upped, riding a two-touchdown pup on Rocky Top, in a game matching a pair of teams still winless in SEC play.

Making the home team the favorite is understandable as they’ve been much more competitive within the league than the ‘Cats. But losing is losing and Tennessee’s psychology is fragile with the ousting of head coach Derek Dooley.

The Volunteers could rally with their leader gone, but why bother ruining the perfect conference slate they’ve put together?

Kentucky, which snapped a 26-game losing streak to Tennessee last year, might have a modicum of confidence after snapping its eight-game losing streak by trashing Samford last week.

Opening point spread: Tennessee by 14

The pick: Kentucky 38-34

Former four-star Florida State lineman moves on from football

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With the start of the 2018 season less than two weeks away, Florida State will have one fewer option in the trenches than expected.

Corey Martinez took to his personal Twitter account Monday to announce that he has decided “to move on from football and do what’s best for myself and my family.” The lineman also provided some details as to what his post-football future will hold.

“As I continue my life journey,” the fifth-year senior wrote, “I look forward to stepping foot into the construction industry so that I can work my way into becoming a project manager and apply for my General Contractors license in the near future.”

On 247Sports.com‘s composite board, Martinez was rated as four-star 2014 signee. That same board had the Tampa product as the No. 14 offensive guard in the country and the No. 33 player at any position in the state of Florida.

Martinez played in 11 games the past three seasons after redshirting as a true freshman. He started three games during his time with the Seminoles, with all three of those starts coming during the 2016 season.

Florida State AD Stan Wilcox takes over Oliver’s Luck’s old NCAA job

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Boston College at Florida State
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As had been rumored, Florida State is in search of a new athletics boss.

The NCAA announced Monday that Stan Wilcox has accepted the position of executive vice president of regulatory affairs. Wilcox has been the athletic director at Florida State since August of 2013, and FSU will now be forced to launch a national search for a replacement.

Wilcox will replace Oliver Luck, the former West Virginia athletic director who left the NCAA in June of this year to take on the job of XFL commissioner.

“Stan is a highly-respected, visionary leader in intercollegiate athletics, and I’m excited to have him join our senior leadership team at the national office,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Stan’s nearly three decades of experience working in athletics administration at Notre Dame, Duke and Florida State, among others, have clearly demonstrated his commitment to providing student-athletes with the opportunity to excel in both academics and athletics while being successful in life.”

“I want to thank Stan for everything he has done at FSU. We’re excited for him, and we all wish him the best in his new position,” said FSU president John Thrasher in his statement. “Our success on the playing fields under his leadership has been exceptional, with national championships in football, soccer, and softball over that time. We finished ninth in the 2017-18 Learfield Director’s Cup last year, and our student-athletes reached a cumulative 3.0 GPA this past year.”

Below is Wilcox’s full statement on his departure from Tallahassee:

I am honored and humbled to join Mark Emmert’s leadership team at the NCAA.

I am so grateful for the opportunities and experiences that have led me to this point. The Big East Conference, Notre Dame University, Duke University and most recently Florida State University have provided a depth and breadth of experiences on which I will rely heavily moving forward.

I am excited to return to the NCAA, where my intercollegiate athletics career began.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to former Florida State University Presidents Eric Barron and Garnett Stokes, and current President John Thrasher. The success we have enjoyed in Tallahassee would not have been possible without their trust, guidance and support, and without the fine efforts of our student-athletes, coaches and athletics support staff.

My wife Ramona and I are excited to start this new chapter in my career and in our lives together.

Ohio State board likely to recommend suspension for Urban Meyer

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In the last few days, there’s been a growing sense that Urban Meyer could very well survive and keep his job at Ohio State.  One report Monday did nothing to extinguish the hopes of Buckeye Nation.

OSU announced earlier in the today that the university’s Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday morning to discuss “personnel matters related to the investigation involving Urban Meyer.” The two-week probe into the head coach’s handling of domestic abuse allegations leveled against a now-former assistant was completed Sunday.

The 19-member board will review the investigative committee’s final report on the results of their investigation, with OSU president Michael V. Drake determining Meyer’s fate after receiving a recommendation from the regents. And, according to a pair of Columbus Dispatch sources, “the likely recommendation [from the board] is a suspension for Meyer.” Just how long of a suspension potentially facing Meyer was not relayed by the newspaper.

Not only that, Meyer might also avoid any further punitive measures, period. “Drake and the board could also opt for a ‘time served’ punishment since Meyer has been removed from football activities for more than two weeks.” the Dispatch wrote.

While the board will meet Wednesday and present its recommendation to Drake the same day, it’s unclear at this point when the university’s president will make his announcement.

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1 as questions into his handling of domestic abuse allegations made against his now-former assistant coach, Zach Smith, surfaced.  The university announced the launching of an investigation into Meyer’s actions the day after the head coach’s leave was announced.

Zach Smithfired by Meyer as OSU wide receivers coach July 23 in the wake of allegations that he abused his ex-wifeCourtney Smith, during their marriage, met with the investigative team on Tuesday of last week.  Courtney Smith, along with her attorneys, met with investigators the day before her ex-husband.

In a statement Aug. 3, Meyer claimed that he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.” Allegations of domestic abuse stemmed not only from Zach Smith’s time at OSU, but while he was on Meyer’s Florida staff in 2009 as well.

Meyer’s boss in Gainesville, former UF athletic director Jeremy Foleydeclined comment on that 2009 incident earlier this month.  Meyer’s current boss in Columbus, OSU athletic director Gene Smith, could also be in the university’s crosshairs as Zach Smith alleged that the AD contacted him about the allegations in October of 2015.

As the investigation reached its midway point, Gene Smith was on vacation but “available to speak with the investigative team.” It’s unclear if Smith spoke to the investigators; it’s also unclear if Smith, also on the selection committee for the College Football Playoff, will continue on as OSU’s athletic director moving forward.

As Meyer is barred from interacting with his players and coaches during his leave, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day has been handling OSU’s preparations for the Sept 1 opener against Oregon State after being named as the Buckeyes’ acting head coach. The university has also kept players or coaches from speaking to the media throughout Meyer’s leave.

Louisville places TE coach Klenakis on leave following DUI arrest

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Louisville tight ends coach Chris Klenakis was arrested early Sunday for driving under the influence, and now he has been placed on administrative leave by the Cardinals.

According to an Associated Press report, Klenakis was driving with a BAC of 0.165, which is more than twice the legal limit. From the report, it sounds as though Klenakis was lucky to have been caught with by police, because a police report says Klentakis walked into the road during a sobriety test and was nearly hit by a passing truck.

Police charged Klenakis with reckless driving, wanton endangerment and possession of open containers on top of the DUI charge.

How long Klenakis remains suspended by the university remains to be seen, as does his overall job status with the football program. Klenakis has been Louisville’s coaching staff since 2014 and has previously coached offensive line.

Louisville opens the 2018 season on September 1 against No. 1 Alabama in Orlando, Florida.