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

Western Kentucky’s leading tackler taking grad transfer to Purdue

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A significant loss for Western Kentucky’s defense could prove to be a boon for Purdue on that side of the ball.

In an email to the West Lafayette Journal & Courier, Ben Holt confirmed that he has decided to transfer from Western Kentucky to Purdue and continue his collegiate playing career with the Boilermakers.  As he is expected to graduate from WKU in May, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2019 for the Big Ten school.

Holt is the son of Nick Holt, who has spent the past two seasons as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Purdue.  Ben Holt’s head coach his first two seasons with the Hilltoppers was Jeff Brohm, who is entering his third year in the same job with the Boilermakers.

This past season, Holt started all 12 games for the Hilltoppers.  He led the team in tackles with 116, tackles for losses with 11½ and quarterback hurries with nine.  His five pass breakups were good for third on the squad in 2018.

All told, Holt played in 38 games his past three seasons in Bowling Green.

Holt becomes the third former Hilltopper to transfer to the Boilermakers since Brohm came to West Lafayette.  Starting linebacker T.J. McCollum followed the coach in February of 2017, with starting offensive lineman Dennis Edwards following McCollum a year later.

Alabama LB Chris Allen undergoes surgery, per report

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The near-complete revamping of Nick Saban‘s coaching staff wasn’t the only football news coming out of Tuscaloosa late this past week.

According to al.com, outside linebacker Chris Allen underwent what was described as a minor surgical procedure on his knee Thursday.  The specific nature of the injury wasn’t detailed.

Allen, who missed the entire 2018 season after tearing an ACL, is expected to be healthy enough to participate in spring practice, which kicks off next month.

A four-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2017 recruiting class, Allen was rated as the No. 4 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Alabama.  As a true freshman, the Baton Rouge native played in seven games.

As noted by the website, Allen is set to be one of the Tide’s top backup linebackers on the outside this coming season.

Minnesota dismisses TE who allegedly punched cop in the face

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Yeah, that’ll do it.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minnesota tight end Max Janes is facing felony charges after allegedly assaulting a police officer very early in the morning of Feb. 8.  It’s alleged that an intoxicated Janes was in the process of breaking into a post office when police officers responded, with the football player ultimately turning violent and allegedly punching one of the cops in the face.

From the Star Tribune‘s report:

According to the criminal complaint: Officers were dispatched to a welfare check on reports of an individual improperly dressed for the cold weather loitering outside the post office. They located Janes just as he gained unlawful entry into the building’s loading dock. Officers placed Janes in their squad car, but opened the rear door after he informed them that he needed to vomit.

Instead, Janes got out and punched an officer — causing demonstrable bodily harm, the complaint says. He was eventually restrained and booked at Hennepin County jail, where he was charged with fourth-degree assault of a peace officer and obstructing the legal process.

As a result of the off-field incident, Janes was dismissed from the football team.

“We have extremely high standards for members of our team and when those standards are not met there are consequences,” head coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. “Law enforcement officers speak to our team and educate them multiple times a year, and we greatly appreciate those who protect and serve us on a daily basis.”

A preferred walk-on, Janes played in 13 games as a true freshman this past season.  The vast majority of his action came on special teams.

Wyoming’s OL coach shuffle continues with hiring of Ohio assistant

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Maybe the third time will be a charm?

Following the end of the 2018 season, Craig Bohl parted ways with his long-time offensive line coach Scott Fuchs and embarked on a search for a replacement. That search ended with Wyoming’s hiring of Klayton Adams; less than a month later, another search for a line coach was launched as Adams took a job as the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

A little over a week later, and while there’s nothing official yet from the Cowboys, Frank Solich confirmed to the Athens Messenger this past week that Ohio’s offensive line coach, Bart Miller, has taken the same job at Wyoming.

“Our coaches loved working with him, our players loved working with him. We appreciate what he was all about and how he helped our team be what it was last year,” the head coach told the Messenger.

Last season was Miller’s first with the Bobcats. As the newspaper noted, this will mark Miller’s fourth different school in as many years as he was on the coaching staffs at Minnesota and Air Force in 2016 and 2017, respectively.