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

Minnesota new home for Michigan transfer Benjamin St-Juste

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Benjamin St-Juste may have left Ann Arbor, but he hasn’t left the Big Ten.

Taking to Twitter Tuesday night, St-Juste announced that he will be continuing his collegiate playing career at Minnesota.  As a graduate transfer, the cornerback is eligible to play immediately for the Golden Gophers in 2019.

Not only that, but St-Juste will have two more years of eligibility after this season as he graduated from his previous school in less than two-and-a-half years.

In late March, Michigan confirmed that St-Juste, who dealt with hamstring issues last year, had decided to medically retire from the sport.  A little over a month later, the cornerback took to social media to announce that, instead, he would be entering his name into the NCAA transfer database while also disputing that he had retired from playing football as U-M had originally claimed.

A four-star 2017 signee, St-Juste was the No. 39 cornerback in the country coming out of high school in Canada.  After playing in 12 games as a true freshman, the 6-3, 196-pound corner didn’t see the field at all due to the hamstring issue.

Mizzou QB Shawn Robinson alleges mistreatment at TCU in appeal for immediate eligibility

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In early 2018, Kolby Listenbee, a former wide receiver at TCU, filed a lawsuit taking aim at the university and Big 12 for alleged abuse and harassment he claims never allowed him to fully recover from an injury that may have impacted his outlook for a playing career in the NFL.  Earlier this month, that lawsuit was settled.

Nearly three weeks later, TCU is back in the headlines with additional, albeit vague, mistreatment allegations.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Shawn Robinson, who transferred from TCU to Missouri late last year, has filed an appeal with the NCAA that would grant the quarterback a waiver for immediate eligibility in 2019.  The waiver claims Robinson was the victim of unspecified mistreatment during his time with the Horned Frogs; “TCU is contesting the grounds that waiver is supported on,” the Star-Telegram wrote.

The Kansas City Star further adds that TCU is not expected to object a favorable ruling for Robinson, but “is determined to defend itself against Robinson’s accusations.”

Regardless of what happens during Robinson’s appeal process, Mizzou will head into the summer portion of the 2019 offseason with Kelly Bryant, a transfer from Clemson, firmly entrenched as the Tigers’ starter under center.  If Robinson’s appeal is successful, though, he would provide a veteran presence as the backup should something happen to the starter.

Robinson, who has another year of eligibility he can use in 2020 irrespective of the appeal, completed nearly 61 percent of his passes this past season for 1,334 yards.  He averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt, though, and had nine touchdowns versus eight interceptions in his 204 attempts.

South Carolina in play for Clemson transfer RB Tavien Feaster

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This would certainly add a little bit of spice to the annual Palmetto Bowl if it were to come to fruition.

Late last month, and amidst rumors of a potential departure, Clemson confirmed that Tavien Feaster had entered the NCAA transfer database and was looking to continue his collegiate playing career at somewhere other than the home of the defending national champions.  Speaking to the Charleston Post and Courier this week, Feaster acknowledged that Clemson’s in-state rival, South Carolina, is one of a handful of schools that have shown interest.

“They are recruiting me like most teams. Obviously, they want to talk to me and see where I’m at with everything,” Feaster told the Post and Courier. “That’s really how it’s been with everybody. Everybody is seeing where my head is and where I’m at with everything. But, I look at it (USC) as a place that’s providing me with an opportunity to better myself and better my future.

“I haven’t really looked at it from a fan’s aspect because that’s not my job and that’s not what I’m doing it for. That doesn’t really matter to me. What really matters to me is that I go to a place that’s going to use me and play me in the way that I need to be played.”

It had previously been reported that Power Five programs such as Alabama, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia Tech had already been in touch with the running back since he entered the portal.  East Carolina has shown interest as well.

Feaster has not yet taken any visits to potential landing spots, and won’t make a decision on his football future until he’s had a chance to take trips to various campuses.

If he follows through with the transfer — the back has the option of pulling his name from the portal — Feaster would finish the Clemson portion of his playing career with 1,330 career rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 222 carries, as well as 183 receiving yards and one touchdown on 23 receptions.  The Spartanburg, SC, native, who ran for 11 yards on three carries in the Tigers’ title game win over the Crimson Tide, started 11 of the 41 games in which he appeared for the Tigers.

In the Tigers’ 63-9 win over the Gamecocks last season, Feaster ran for 63 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.  In three career games against the SEC’s USC, The back carried the ball 21 times for 117 yards and a pair of scores.  He also caught three passes for another 19 yards.

As a grad transfer, Feaster would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school.  The upcoming season will be the back’s final year of eligibility.

2020 three-star CB prospect Joshua Ancrum killed in shooting

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Yet again, a young man with the rest of his life ahead of him has had it snuffed way too early.

Citing multiple sources, 247Sports.com confirmed Tuesday night that Joshua Ancrum, a Class of 2020 football recruit, was killed in a shooting earlier that day.  The details of what led to the tragedy have not yet been divulged.

In a tweet posted early Tuesday evening, Ancrum’s 7-on-7 team mourned the high school junior’s passing.

A three-star cornerback, Ancrum held offers from Bowling Green, FIU, Southern Miss and USF. “That list was likely to grow, thanks to his strong showing at The Opening Miami,” 247Sports.com wrote. “Ancrum was named the MVP of the defensive backs at the camp with a couple of interceptions.”

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Ancrum’s senseless and tragic death.