NCF Nation: game predictions

Pac-12 predictions: Week 14

November, 29, 2012
Ted Miller went 5-1 last week, while Kevin Gemmell went 3-3. That leaves them tied at 64-25.



Kevin Gemmell: No team in the Pac-12 has gotten better, more consistent line play this year than Stanford. And while I expect this to be a more competitive game because of adjustments (and two outstanding coaches who know how to adjust), UCLA's offensive line can't get that much stronger and that much more experienced in six days. And if you watch last weekend's game between the Cardinal and Bruins again, you'll notice that Stanford didn't blitz much -- meaning it was able to slow the Bruins in its base defense and didn't have to play its hand when it comes to pressure. That alone will keep UCLA's young offensive line guessing this week. Stanford 28, UCLA 21.

Ted Miller: Stanford was in control throughout the first game last weekend, a 35-17 victory, but it had a lot more to play for, as it needed a victory to win the Pac-12 North Division. The Bruins won't have motivation questions this time. The question, however, are twofold: (1) Did they hold anything back in the first meeting? (2) And, if not, do they have some wrinkles to add this time that will make a difference? The most obvious thing is the Bruins using quarterback Brett Hundley as a runner to soften the Cardinal's defense. The problem is Stanford is playing as well as any team in the nation right now, including the two that will play in Atlanta on Saturday for a berth in the national title game. Stanford 24, UCLA 20.



Kevin Gemmell: Who knows how/if Oregon State's season would have been different had these teams played as originally scheduled Sept. 1. But I'm guessing after the loss to Oregon, the Beavers are happy to be back on the field this week and have a chance to end the regular season with a win. Oregon State 49, Nicholls State 10.

Ted Miller: What this game does is give the Beavers a final 9-3 record, which is a reverse of last year's misery. That should feel really good in Corvallis. Oregon State 45, Nicholls State 13.

Big 12 game predictions: Week 14

November, 29, 2012
Time for one final week of picks. I'm headed to Fort Worth, Texas, this weekend for Oklahoma versus TCU. The staff at HornsNation will have you covered out in Manhattan, Kan., for Kansas State-Texas. You'll be covered from all angles this weekend, as usual.

Let's get to the picks.

Iowa State and Texas Tech have completed their regular seasons.

Last week: 3-1 (.750)
Overall: 52-19 (.732)

No. 23 Oklahoma State 44, Baylor 34: There's something to Oklahoma State's mastery of Baylor. The Bears are better, but Oklahoma State is playing great football late in the season and has found its stride with Clint Chelf taking care of the ball and producing. The Bears' defense faces a much tougher test in a more balanced Oklahoma State offense, and the Pokes make them pay. Solid day for Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith.

No. 11 Oklahoma 27, TCU 21: There's lots of upset potential here; I just couldn't bring myself to pick it. The Sooners are tired and susceptible to teams strong against the run. This one gets uglied up by the TCU defense, and the Frogs have success with the zone read with Trevone Boykin and Matthew Tucker. Too much aerial attack by Landry Jones and his growing set of receivers. He turns it over one or twice but finds Kenny Stills and Jalen Saunders enough to outweigh the mistakes against ball-hawking TCU secondary that has 20 interceptions, four more than any team in the Big 12 and tied for third-most nationally.

West Virginia 51, Kansas 21: Fast-paced offense. Lots of talented players in one-on-one matchups. That spells all kinds of trouble for Kansas, which has played decent team defense, but the Jayhawks don't have the talent on defense to slow down Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. The KU running game might make a difference and keep West Virginia's offense off the field, but I'm not betting on it. KU's imperfect season is complete.

No. 6 Kansas State 31, No. 18 Texas 20: With Case McCoy against a really disruptive Kansas State defense, I just don't see the Horns pulling off the upset. Meshak Williams is all over McCoy for 60 minutes, and Arthur Brown does a solid job spying and making sure he doesn't get loose scrambling on broken plays. Collin Klein bounced back with a good game, but one that's just average for him this season, accounting for all four touchdowns.

Big East predictions: Week 14

November, 29, 2012
I was wondering when all the upsets would start happening in the Big East! Louisville and Rutgers' losses left Tuna and I at 2-2 last week. We have another chance to finish the season off right.

AA season record: 45-19

Thursday night

Louisville (9-2, 4-2) at Rutgers (9-2, 5-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN. They say defense wins championships, right? Well, I am going with Rutgers in this one based largely on its defense. If Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater were healthy, I may have reconsidered. But given the facts that the Cardinals all of a sudden can't run the ball, have an injured quarterback and are going to be facing a defense just as aggressive as UConn, Rutgers has the clear advantage. Plus, the Scarlet Knights are way better on special teams. Rutgers has a history of failing to rise to the occasion in big games, but the Scarlet Knights will change that tonight and get to their first BCS game. Rutgers 21, Louisville 20.

Matt's pick: Rutgers 23, Louisville 16


Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2) at UConn (5-6, 2-4), 3:30 p.m., ABC. We will know late Thursday night whether the Bearcats have a shot at a share of their fourth Big East title in the past five seasons. If not, the Huskies will have way more to play for, with bowl hopes on the line. UConn has won back-to-back games for the first time under coach Paul Pasqualoni and has finally gotten its running game going. It is no coincidence that UConn has won two straight just as Lyle McCombs has run for two straight 100-yard games. UConn's defense is looking ferocious after its performance last week against Louisville. Still, Cincinnati will be able to do enough to win. But I wouldn't be shocked if the Huskies pulled this one out. Cincinnati 23, UConn 17.

Matt's pick: Cincinnati 20, UConn 10.

Pitt (5-6, 2-4) at USF (3-8, 1-5), 7 p.m., ESPN2. I was tempted to pick USF in this game for a few reasons. First, Pitt has played down to the level of competition for a majority of the season and, well, USF is just not a good team. Second, I feel as if the Bulls could have extra motivation to win this game, given that it's senior night and they are playing at home. But the Bulls have been completely decimated by injuries, so it's hard to find a way on paper for them to win this game. Matt Floyd made some nice progress in the second half last week against Cincinnati, but he needs more help from the guys around him. And the last time the Bulls saw Ray Graham, he gashed them for 226 yards. Pitt is going bowling. Pitt 30, USF 10.

Matt's pick: Pitt 21, USF 9
The regular-season predictions race is over, and Brian Bennett is still choking on Adam Rittenberg's dust. Fortunately for Mr. Bennett, the postseason brings new hope for bragging rights.

One final Big Ten game remains on the schedule, and it's for the right to go to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Nebraska faces Wisconsin on Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Here's how we see things shaking out:

No. 12 Nebraska versus Wisconsin

Adam Rittenberg: Nebraska is three games better than Wisconsin in the win column, but the teams are fairly evenly matched, as we saw Sept. 29 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Wisconsin has been in every game this season and, with a few bounces here and there, could have the same record as Nebraska. The championship game ultimately will be a microcosm of both teams' seasons. Nebraska starts sloppily and commits two first-quarter turnovers, one of which Wisconsin converts into a Montee Ball touchdown run. The Badgers attack the middle of Nebraska's defensive line effectively in the first half and lead 14-10 at halftime. But Nebraska makes the right personnel adjustments and turns in a big third quarter behind Rex Burkhead (120 rush yards, 2 TDs). Wisconsin's defense stabilizes in the fourth, and Curt Phillips leads a late scoring drive to tie things up and send it to overtime. In the extra session, Nebraska's defense holds Wisconsin to three points, setting up a game-winning touchdown run by Taylor Martinez. Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 24 (OT)

Brian Bennett: Overtime, eh? I see you're predicting a long night for us at Lucas Oil Stadium. Wisconsin wouldn't want to see an extra period, since the Badgers are 0-3 in overtime games this season. Every Badgers game is close, but I don't see a lot of ways that they can upset Nebraska, which has gotten a lot better on defense since Sept. 29. The Huskers fell behind big early in that one primarily because of turnovers, which are always a concern for Bo Pelini's team. I don't think Nebraska will be as sloppy with the ball in this one, but I could see the Huskers coming out a little tight as the favorites with more to lose. A Ball touchdown run puts the Badgers up early as Wisconsin pounds the ball at a defensive line missing Baker Steinkuhler. Ultimately, though, Nebraska's speed and depth wear down a very good Wisconsin defense on the turf with its endless array of sweeps and quick-hit passes. Martinez throws for two touchdowns and runs for another, and Burkhead breaks off a long scoring run against a tiring Badgers D in the second half. Curt Phillips and the Wisconsin passing game struggle against what has become one of the nation's best pass defenses, and Ciante Evans shows All-Big Ten voters what they missed with a key interception. Nebraska pulls away late and celebrates with roses. Nebraska 28, Wisconsin 20

Final regular-season records

Adam Rittenberg: 76-20 (.792)
Brian Bennett: 71-25 (.740)

SEC predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
They remember what you do in November.

And for me, this is my last chance in November to cut into the ATL Kid’s five-game lead. I did pick up a game two weeks ago because he’s still not a believer in the Music City magic that James Franklin is working at Vanderbilt.

Still, five games is a daunting deficit to make up, which is why it’s imperative that I narrow the gap this final weekend of the regular season.

If I can just get within striking distance, we saw last season that he still doesn’t have that “It” factor when it comes to picking games in the postseason. He’s still young and will mature, but postseason picking is a whole different ballgame.

I just need to be close enough that his palms get a little sweaty and his fingers get a little shaky when he goes to hit that keyboard and makes his picks in December and January.

We were both 10-1 during FCS Celebration Week. The game we both missed was Syracuse’s 31-27 win at Missouri.

The Kid is now 92-11 (.893), and I’m 87-16 (.845). And, no, there won’t be any “Animal House” references this week.

Instead, I want to wish everyone a blessed Thanksgiving holiday, and with that, on to this week’s picks:



Edward Aschoff: This game doesn't have the same feel as last year. This might be a rivalry game, but the Tigers are playing too well right now to let struggling Arkansas do much of anything on either side of the ball. ... LSU 31, Arkansas 14

Chris Low: The real treat might be Les Miles’ postgame news conference, although it’s going to be next to impossible to top his performance from a week ago. His Tigers are getting well offensively at just the right time, and can go a long way toward moving into the pole position for a Sugar Bowl bid. … LSU 31, Arkansas 21



Edward Aschoff: The Commodores come in riding a wave of momentum with a five-game winning streak and a blowout win against rival Tennessee. Wake is a win away from being bowl eligible, but Vandy's offense will be way too much. ... Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 14

Chris Low: Don’t look now, but the Commodores are bearing down on their first eight-win regular season in 30 years. They routed Wake Forest last season on the road and will find a way to win again this season, although it won’t be as lopsided. … Vanderbilt 24, Wake Forest 16


Edward Aschoff: Both will have new head coaches in the near future, so it's hard to say how either will perform mentally. It won't always be pretty, but the Vols get it done in what could be the final game for their top offensive playmakers. ... Tennessee 31, Kentucky 17

Chris Low: It won’t necessarily be winning one for Derek Dooley because Dooley elected not to coach in the finale after being fired this week. The Vols don’t have much in the way of defense, but they have too much offense to lose for a second year in a row to the Wildcats. … Tennessee 45, Kentucky 24


Edward Aschoff: These teams went in opposite directions in their first year in the SEC. The Aggies continue to roll right along and Missouri is just too banged up to extend its three-game winning streak against A&M or its seven-year bowl streak. ... Texas A&M 38, Missouri 14

Chris Low: Johnny Football has become the rage in college football, and he gets one more chance to impress the Heisman Trophy voters. The Aggies shouldn’t have much trouble in this battle of SEC newbies. … Texas A&M 42, Missouri 17


Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs got some good practice with the triple-option offense last week against Georgia Southern. And they won't be bothered by what Georgia Tech has to offer in a game that will bring Georgia one step closer to a national championship berth. ... Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 21

Chris Low: This is right where Georgia hoped to be when the season began. The Bulldogs, who didn’t look like a national championship contender for much of October, now control their destiny. Strange things tend to happen in rivalry games like this, but the Bulldogs aren’t about to have a slip-up now. … Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 20


Edward Aschoff: The Egg Bowl is a big deal again, and a lot will be on the line in Oxford. The Rebels have to win to make a bowl, and something tells me Hugh Freeze will have his players more than ready to finally get another four-quarter performance again. ... Ole Miss 27, Mississippi State 24

Chris Low: The atmosphere in Oxford on Saturday should be electric. Both teams have a ton to play for. The Rebels need to win to qualify for a bowl, and the Bulldogs are trying to secure their second nine-win season in the past three years. It goes down to the wire, but the Rebels' inability to finish a game will sting them again. … Mississippi State 28, Ole Miss 24


Edward Aschoff: Clemson has the high-flying offense and South Carolina has a solid defense. The Tigers are still in the running for a BCS bowl game, but that defense is still giving up too many yards and just surrendered 48 to NC State. Yes, NC State. ... South Carolina 31, Clemson 27

Chris Low: This rivalry has really been spiced up thanks to the war of words over the past year between the coaches. Steve Spurrier usually wins those battles, and his Gamecocks have won three in a row against the Tigers on the field for the first time since 1968-70. But with the game returning to Death Valley, the Tigers’ explosive offense will be too much for the Gamecocks. … Clemson 34, South Carolina 28


Edward Aschoff: This game has national importance again with major BCS implications. Florida State has the top statistical defense in the country, while Florida's offense has been awful of late and quarterback Jeff Driskel is hobbled. Don't expect either offense to do much of anything against these fantastic defenses, but expect the Noles to make enough plays with the home crowd behind it. ... Florida State 17, Florida 10

Chris Low: The Gators could still play their way into the national championship picture if Notre Dame loses this weekend at USC. Of course, doing that means the Gators need to find some offense, which won’t be easy to do against a Florida State team ranked first nationally in total defense. … Florida State 23, Florida 14


Edward Aschoff: Alabama has too much riding on this game to overlook the struggling Tigers. Plus, this team still remembers what happened the last time Auburn was in Tuscaloosa. ... Alabama 45, Auburn 3

Chris Low: The Iron Bowl is one of the fiercest rivalries in college football. Always has been and always will be. But this year, it has blowout written all over it, especially with the Crimson Tide still smarting from the bitter loss to the Tigers two years ago in Bryant-Denny Stadium and positioned to make another national championship run. … Alabama 42, Auburn 0

Pac-12 predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
Kevin went 4-2 last week. Ted went 3-3. Kevin is 61-22 for the season. Ted is 59-24.



Kevin Gemmell: Even though the Utes aren't going bowling this year, revenge is still a factor after what happened in the regular-season finale last year. Folks are trying to build this into a rivalry -- and maybe it will be. But Utah has to win one first. Utah 31, Colorado 17.

Ted Miller: This will become a rivalry as soon as both teams find their footing in the Pac-12. Utah is a bit closer to doing that than Colorado. Utah 38, Colorado 20.


Kevin Gemmell: Perhaps a quick burst of life from the Cougs before we pull the plug on what has been a complete bummer of a season. But not enough to top a Washington team that has taken care of its business against a weaker back-end schedule. Washington 35, Washington State 21.

Ted Miller: One of the worst things I heard all week was the likely absence of Cougars defensive end Travis Long, a guy who has busted his butt as a four-year starter for a bad team. He deserved better, and I hope he gets just that in the NFL. If the Huskies show up with focus, they should have no problem. Washington 30, Washington State 17.


Kevin Gemmell: Really, really tough call here. Both teams have so many similarities. And I think both new coaches will make this a great rivalry for years to come. But Ka'Deem Carey has blossomed into one of the nation's best runners, so I'll bank on him at home in a tight one. Arizona 38, Arizona State 35.

Ted Miller: The home team has lost the past three Territorial Cups. That and my need to catch up to Kevin -- he picks first -- are the foundation of my pick here. Arizona State 38, Arizona 35.



Kevin Gemmell: The smart money says pick Notre Dame against a USC team that doesn't have Matt Barkley. But I'm going against my instincts, because the Pac-12 homer in me says "Fight On." #beLEEve. USC 35, Notre Dame 21.

Ted Miller: I don't believe. I think a very good Notre Dame team is going to come into the Coliseum and open up a can of whup-butt. If the Trojans show up like they have about half the time this season, they will get embarrassed. Notre Dame 28, USC 17.


Kevin Gemmell: Toughest call of the week by far. I can't recall a team having faced Doak Walker Award finalists in back-to-back weeks to close out a season. But if Stanford's defense plays like it did last week, the Bruins will be hard-pressed to find the end zone. Stanford 21, UCLA 20.

Ted Miller: I know that the UCLA guys are really competitive and want to win this game because competitive folks always want to win. But there's surely just this little inkling that it might boost the Bruins' Rose Bowl chances to not go to Oregon next Friday in the Pac-12 championship game, which would happen if they beat the Cardinal and the Ducks beat Oregon State. UCLA, which has already won the South Division, probably would rather visit Stanford for Take 2 six days later with the Rose Bowl on the line than go to Eugene. Stanford 27, UCLA 20.


Kevin Gemmell: Love everything about the Beavers this year. But I suspect a bitter Oregon team that still has a shot at the conference championship and an outside chance at the national title game returns to form (at least offensively) in the Civil War. I still see a big day for Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Oregon 45, Oregon State 38.

Ted Miller: I would not be shocked if Oregon State pulled the upset because of how the Beavers have played this year, consistently thwarting all doubters. But I'm still going with the Ducks because I remain unconvinced -- call me stubborn or something more colorful -- that any other team in the nation is better than Oregon, no matter what happened last week. Oregon 40, Oregon State 28.

Big Ten predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
After a historic week off the field, the Big Ten steps between the lines Friday and Saturday for the final time in this regular season. All 12 teams are in action, and several rivalry games are on tap, highlighted by The Game between Michigan and Ohio State.

As for the blogger predictions race, Brian Bennett is sort of like his old league, the Big East. On life support. He's six games behind Adam Rittenberg with only one week to go.

Let's get to the predictions ...



Brian Bennett: Iowa needs a hero and will be holding out for one until the end of the night. Not happening. Nebraska is on a roll right now, and will push around a Hawkeyes team that has little to play for and no ability to keep up with the Huskers on the scoreboard. Taylor Martinez puts up one last argument for Big Ten offensive player of the year honors with 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing as Nebraska punches its ticket to Indy. ... Nebraska 38, Iowa 17

Adam Rittenberg: As you wrote last week, there's no stopping the Huskers now. Bo Pelini's team knows what it needs to do, and everyone has taken care of business against Iowa's flat-lining defense in recent weeks. Martinez continues his major awards push with four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), and RB Ameer Abdullah adds a long scoring run as Nebraska leads throughout and earns the right to represent the Legends Division at the championship game. ... Nebraska 35, Iowa 10



Adam Rittenberg: The Game has become a lot more interesting for two reasons -- Devin Gardner's emergence at QB for Michigan, and Ohio State's progress on the defensive side. Gardner will make some plays and get Michigan out to an early lead on a scoring pass to Roy Roundtree, but Ohio State will respond behind RB Carlos Hyde, who will get the ball more (as Urban Meyer said he would) and finish with 120 rushing yards and two scores. The Game lives up to its billing and goes down to the wire. Braxton Miller scores the game-winning touchdown with 25 seconds left. ... Ohio State 24, Michigan 21

Brian Bennett: Meyer said Tuesday he would open up the offense after getting conservative at Wisconsin. Combine that with Gardner and Denard Robinson on the other side, and I think we're in for a shootout. I could see either side winning, but after 11 straight wins, how can you pick against the Buckeyes? Miller wills them to another victory, finishing with 375 total yards and four touchdowns. ... Ohio State 35, Michigan 31


Brian Bennett: Both schools want to be known as Chicago's team. Unfortunately for Illinois, it has become the Cubs of the Big Ten. The Illini have given us no reason to think they will win a Big Ten game since the middle of last season, and that's not going to change in the finale against Northwestern. The Wildcats' defense steals the show here, holding Illinois without a touchdown in a low-scoring win. ... Northwestern 21, Illinois 9

Adam Rittenberg: Tim Beckman's squad will fight hard for a quarter or so, but if Northwestern's backfield of QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark is healthy, the Illini are in trouble. Mark breaks free for a long scoring run, and Northwestern pulls away early in the third quarter. The Wildcats record another defensive touchdown and end their mini slide against the Illini, who finish 2-10. ... Northwestern 27, Illinois 13


Adam Rittenberg: Purdue clearly has more to play for, but I kind of like Indiana to play Boiler Spoiler. Cameron Coffman rallies the Hoosiers with three second-half touchdown passes, and while Purdue gets good performances from QB Robert Marve and WR Antavian Edison, a fourth-quarter turnover allows the Hoosiers to win The Bucket in Ross-Ade Stadium and end Purdue's season. ... Indiana 31, Purdue 28

Brian Bennett: I agree this one will be close, but I think Purdue is hungry to get back to a bowl and atone for a terrible 0-5 start to Big Ten play. The Boilers have found a spark since Marve became the starting QB, and their defense has gotten healthier. Marve throws three TDs, and Josh Johnson picks off two passes as the Boilers hold on. ... Purdue 28, Indiana 27


Brian Bennett: Really tempted to pick Minnesota here, but the Gophers are banged up on both sides of the ball. Assuming Michigan State comes to play, the Spartans' physical style will take its toll. Minnesota jumps ahead early, but the Spartans mount a comeback in the second half and go ahead for good on an Andrew Maxwell TD pass to Dion Sims. Michigan State -- finally -- wins a close game to go bowling. ... Michigan State 24, Minnesota 17

Adam Rittenberg: Like you, it wouldn't shock me to see Minnesota win, but the injuries combined with a young quarterback facing a ferocious defense prove to be too much. The Spartans have their typical red zone stalls in the first half but come alive following a pick-six by CB Darqueze Dennard. Michigan State takes a second-half lead, and holds on behind Le'Veon Bell and the run game to squeak into a bowl. ... Michigan State 20, Minnesota 16


Adam Rittenberg: Penn State will have the emotional edge on senior day, but how well has that worked out for the Lions this season? It didn't help against Ohio in the opener or Ohio State under the lights in an electric atmosphere. Even an emotionally charged game at Nebraska didn't go the Lions' way (thanks in part to the replay crew). Penn State takes its customary early lead, but Wisconsin chips away behind two touchdowns from Montee Ball and moves ahead in the fourth quarter. However, the Lions have one final push, and senior QB Matt McGloin sneaks into the end zone with 10 seconds left and does the discount double check move as Penn State prevails. ... Penn State 21, Wisconsin 20

Brian Bennett: It should be an emotional day for Penn State's seniors, who will be remembered by Nittany Lions fans for a long time. I don't see how Wisconsin, coming off an overtime loss to Ohio State and knowing the Big Ten title game is next week, can possibly match Penn State's energy. The Badgers come out flat against the hot-starting home team and never catch up. Ball gets the touchdowns record, but it's not enough as McGloin and Allen Robinson continue their assault on the Penn State record books. ... Penn State 24, Wisconsin 14

Season records

Adam Rittenberg: 71-19 (.789)

Brian Bennett: 65-25 (.722)

Notre Dame prediction: Week 13 at USC

November, 21, 2012
Coming to you one day early because of the holiday.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Everett Golson has grown steadily over the course of the season, and now he has the chance to deliver a title-game berth for the Irish. As long as the quarterback doesn't get careless with the ball, Notre Dame should be able to move consistently against the Trojans. The ground game has been there for the Irish all season, and I'd expect them to rely on that early to try to open things up on the perimeter with Tyler Eifert and T.J. Jones. The offense is clicking at the right time, and it's facing a defense that has been reeling, with many calling for coordinator Monte Kiffin's job.

When USC has the ball: Don't get excited just because Matt Barkley isn't back there. Max Wittek is making his first career start, he's got probably the best receiver duo in the country and, frankly, he's playing with house money. For all their faults, the Trojans are loaded at the skill positions and are capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Notre Dame will look to do what it did to Oklahoma -- allow the short gains but stop the big play. Make the Trojans beat you by executing down the field, play after play. This is the No. 1 scoring defense for a reason, and as long as it does what got it to 11-0, the Irish should fare well Saturday night.

Intangible: USC loses its fifth game of the season, to the No. 1 team in the country? Few can fault a backup quarterback for that. Beat the rival Irish and ruin their national title hopes? This is how legends are born in this rivalry, so why not say you're going to win, as Wittek did Tuesday? Notre Dame's path to the title game is simple: Win. At risk of hyperbole, a loss Saturday could rank among the biggest letdowns in school history. How the Irish handle that pressure determines the outcome Saturday.

Prediction: Notre Dame 21, USC 10. Golson stays cool on the road, and the Irish punch their ticket to South Florida.

Big East predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
Because of Thanksgiving, we are moving our usual Thursday coverage up one day. So you get your picks early.

I got cute last week with my picks, and it backfired on me as I went 2-2. Tuna did, too, missing Syracuse and Rutgers.

AA season record: 43-17.


Syracuse at Temple, 11 a.m., ESPN2/WatchESPN. So what does Montel Harris do for an encore? It is going to be hard for Harris to run for another 351 yards against Syracuse, which has made strides in run defense. Clinton Granger played well at quarterback for the Owls as well, but that game against Army last week was just a reprieve. Temple has lost four straight Big East games by an average score of 43-14. Syracuse has won four of its past five games and could get another huge game from receiver Alec Lemon against a very shaky Temple secondary. Syracuse 37, Temple 21.

Matt's pick: Syracuse 28, Temple 13.

USF at Cincinnati, ESPN/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. When the Big East released its schedule, this one looked like it would have Big East race ramifications. Now it is just another game. The Bearcats are bowl eligible but out of the BCS hunt; USF is simply down and out. It is hard to say just how much success USF will have on offense with Matt Floyd, given what we saw last week against Miami, one of the worst defenses in the nation. The Bearcats could take advantage of a weak USF secondary and open up its pass game a little more. Cincinnati 30, USF 10.

Matt's pick: Cincinnati 35, USF 7.


UConn at No. 20 Louisville, noon, Big East Network/ESPN3. Both teams enter this game off a bye -- UConn beat Pitt the last time out, and Louisville lost to Syracuse. The Cardinals must win to keep their Big East and BCS hopes alive and are going to have to play better defense after their performance against the Orange. That may not be too difficult in this game, considering UConn barely plays any offense and has not scored a fourth-quarter point in six straight games. Louisville 31, UConn 14.

Matt's pick: Louisville 28, UConn 6

No. 18 Rutgers at Pitt, noon, ESPN2/WatchESPN. Believe it or not, Pitt is a slight favorite. It must be the home-field advantage. Hey, stop laughing out there. Pitt comes into this game off a bye following a loss to UConn, while Rutgers had a very strong win over Cincinnati. Rutgers needs to win to clinch at least a share of its first Big East title. The last time the Scarlet Knights were in that situation, they lost to UConn last year. I don't think history repeats itself. Rutgers is too strong on defense to lose this game. Rutgers 24, Pitt 13.

Matt's pick: Rutgers 20, Pitt 14.

Notre Dame prediction: Week 12 vs. Wake

November, 15, 2012
Senior Day!

When Wake Forest has the ball: Keep an eye on Michael Campanaro, who averages more than 8 catches and 77 receiving yards per game. The Demon Deacons, like most teams against the Irish, should have trouble establishing any semblance of a ground game. They rank 111th nationally running the ball, as their retooled offensive line has struggled immensely. Notre Dame's front seven should have some fun.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Much of the same from last week. Notre Dame is strong enough up front to push Wake around and give its backs plenty of running lanes. Quarterback Everett Golson has been more and more active each week with his legs; expect that to continue with the offense still growing under the first-year signal-caller.

Intangible: It's senior day. Many of these Irish upperclassmen have helped restore the glory at Notre Dame, and it will be an emotionally charged day. Expect that to work against the Irish early, as slow starts have become the norm at home.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Wake Forest 6. The Irish have just too much for the Deacs, who won't be able to hang around much beyond the first half.

Big East predictions: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
I saw the Pitt and Louisville losses coming from a mile away, but I was not woman enough to make the upset picks. So I went 2-2 last week, and so did Tuna.

Any upsets in store this week?

AA season record: 41-15.

No. 22 Rutgers (9-1, 4-0) at Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1), noon, Big East Network/ESPN3. #RUTGvsCINCY. I honestly thought Rutgers was going to be the favorite, considering it is ranked and the only team unbeaten in Big East play. Then I looked at the line and saw that I was wrong. So I guess this is not going to qualify as an upset special. Here is why I like Cincinnati to win: Rutgers has had difficulty scoring this season. That may be putting it mildly. While Cincinnati is not the Steel Curtain on defense, its front is pretty solid. If Jawan Jamison cannot play, Rutgers must make plays in the pass game to win. Will Gary Nova be allowed? Rutgers has a terrific defense, there is no question. Last season, the Scarlet Knights were much more physical and dominated up front. But they will be facing a Cincinnati offense with a clear identity on offense this time around, and the Bearcats will find a way to make a few plays and win. And by the way, Cincinnati has won nine straight at Nippert. Cincinnati 24, Rutgers 20.

Matt's pick: Cincinnati 20, Rutgers 12.

Temple (3-6) at Army (2-8), noon, CBS Sports Network. Temple has to stop this losing streak at some point, right? The Owls have lost four straight, but that should not come as a huge shock considering they have just finished up their toughest stretch of the season, playing the top three teams in the Big East in the past month. Now comes a nonconference game against an Army team that gave Rutgers all it could handle a week ago. The Owls have struggled with consistency because they are so young this season, and they may have a new starting quarterback under center. Montel Harris is banged up as well. Still, this is a game on paper that Temple should win. I'm just not sure if the Owls are playing well enough on defense right now to stop the Army rushing attack. Army 30, Temple 28.

Matt's pick: Temple 28, Army 21.

USF (3-6) at Miami (5-5), 3 p.m., GamePlan.#USFvsMIA. We have no idea whether Matt Floyd or Bobby Eveld will start at quarterback for USF. Compound that uncertainty with the loss of several other starters on offense, and the Bulls are going to have a MASH unit going to Miami. There is some reason for hope, though. Miami has one of the worst defenses in the country, and USF gets highly motivated for games like this. The Bulls have won in Miami, so they are not going to be intimidated. Here is where I think Miami has the huge advantage: freshman all-purpose player Duke Johnson. USF will have a hard time slowing him down. Miami 30, USF 17.

Matt's pick: Miami 28, USF 10.

Bonus pick! Heather Dinich from the ACC blog stops by: Miami 34, South Florida 20. The Canes become bowl eligible this week and win their final home game of the season. The Bulls’ defense won’t have an answer for Johnson, and Miami will still get its passing game going despite an injury-laden receiving corps. South Florida ranks No. 114 in the country in turnover margin, and that will be the difference in this game.

Syracuse (5-5) at Missouri (5-5), 7 p.m., ESPNU/WatchESPN. #CUSEvsMIZZ. Syracuse has been a radically different team on the road than it has been at home, and not in a good way. After beating West Virginia in 2011, it could not win another game the rest of the season. Two strikes against picking the Orange in this game. But I was in Syracuse last week and sensed a different vibe around this team. The players know they really only have themselves to blame for their record because they made some terrible mistakes to cost them chances at more wins. Missouri is part of the SEC in name only. This team has struggled all year. UPSET! Syracuse 28, Missouri 24.

Matt's pick: Missouri 24, Syracuse 21.

Big 12 game predictions: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
I'll be heading south to Waco this week for another Kansas State game. The new BCS No. 1 travels to Baylor to face the Bears, which are still fighting for bowl eligibility. Should be a good one.

Without further ado, let's get to the picks!

Last week: 4-1 (.800)
Overall: 46-17 (.730)

TCU and Texas are idle.

No. 24 Oklahoma State 44, No. 23 Texas Tech 31: Oklahoma State has quarterback issues, but it's solely regarding personnel, not production. Tech is again leading the Big 12 in total defense, but this is the highest-ranked offense Tech will have faced all season. Joseph Randle gets back with a big game, and Clint Chelf keeps the train rolling. This is my game of the week, so come back later today for a video looking further into the matchup.

No. 12 Oklahoma 47, West Virginia 27: Oklahoma's defense is the Big 12's best against the pass, and the Sooners' secondary gets the job done. Like WVU's past four opponents, Landry Jones takes advantage and earns Big 12 Player of the Week honors with a huge night. He tops 350 yards through the air, and WVU's offense can't keep up with the defense. Oklahoma's BCS hopes truck onward.

Iowa State 27, Kansas 20: So close yet again, but Iowa State needs this win even more than KU. The Cyclones have put themselves on the doorstep of the postseason, not needing a mammoth upset like last season to reach a bowl. ISU takes advantage of the opportunity and gets it done against KU, despite giving up major yardage on the ground.

No. 1 Kansas State 44, Baylor 20: What pressure? Kansas State picks off Baylor's Nick Florence twice, and the Wildcats turn in another great performance to get within a win of the BCS title game. The Kansas State faithful travel in force to Floyd Casey Stadium. Collin Klein bounces back with another Heisman-worthy stat line to add to his lead in the race while Johnny Football beats up on Sam Houston State.

Big Ten predictions: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
It's the home stretch of Big Ten play, and Adam Rittenberg already has the champagne on ice. Rittenberg holds a commanding five-game lead against Brian Bennett, who seems likely to suffer the same fate as his beloved St. Louis Cardinals this fall.

There's still time for Bennett to catch up, but he needs to make a major push beginning this week. Fortunately, the Big Ten has a full slate of games, as every team is in action.

Let's get picky ...


Brian Bennett: Both teams have struggled to finish games in the fourth quarter, so which one will do so this week? Northwestern matches up well with the Spartans in a lot of ways, but I just have a hard time believing Michigan State will go winless at home in Big Ten play. The Spartans' outstanding run defense will slow down Kain Colter and Venric Mark, holding them both under 100 yards. Le'Veon Bell scores two touchdowns in perhaps his home finale, including the game winner in the final 90 seconds. ... Michigan State 21, Northwestern 20

Adam Rittenberg: Someone has to finish, and I think it'll be Northwestern. This is a good matchup for the Wildcats, who have moved the ball on just about everyone, including Michigan's stout defense, and do much better against teams with good run games and shaky pass attacks. Mark records 110 rush yards and two touchdowns and S Ibraheim Campbell records an interception down the stretch as Northwestern wards off another late collapse. Michigan State fights hard on senior day, but it's the same old story. ... Northwestern 20, Michigan State 17


Adam Rittenberg: All signs point to a big Michigan win, and like a good driver, I obey the signs. Iowa is a mess right now, and the Hawkeyes don't match up well against Michigan on either side of the ball. Yes, Iowa has a three-game win streak in the series, but that will fuel Michigan's seniors more in their final home game. QB Devin Gardner fires three touchdown passes and racks up 275 pass yards, and Jordan Kovacs records two sacks of James Vandenberg as the Wolverines march on to "Ohio." ... Michigan 38, Iowa 17

Brian Bennett: The Hawkeyes have beaten Michigan three straight times, but they couldn't do much of anything right in the past few weeks. I don't like the way Iowa is trending, and it is going to have a hard time scoring on Michigan's defense. I like Gardner to have a big game here and Denard Robinson to line up at least once at a different position. Big blowout in the season finale at the Big House. ... Michigan 38, Iowa 10


Brian Bennett: Both teams are dealing with different types of hangovers. One thinks it has been worked over by the refs, while the other knows it was worked over by Wisconsin. I see Indiana bouncing back a bit with a better offensive performance. The Nittany Lions get out to a two-touchdown lead, but Cameron Coffman brings the Hoosiers back in the third quarter with a couple of scoring drives. Ultimately, the Lions win it on a Zach Zwinak touchdown run and a key interception from Adrian Amos. ... Penn State 31, Indiana 23

Adam Rittenberg: It's been a long season and I need some ZZs, as in Zach Zwinak touchdowns. Zwinak goes for 130 rush yards and three scores as Penn State capitalizes on the woeful Hoosiers rushing defense. I also see the Hoosiers hanging in there for a while and getting touchdown receptions from Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes. But Michael Mauti and the Penn State defense buckle down in the second half and the Lions prevail. ... Penn State 34, Indiana 23


Adam Rittenberg: Nebraska has had letdown games at home under Bo Pelini, and this would qualify following a grueling stretch against Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. But the Huskers can taste a Big Ten title, and they'll respond well against a Gophers team that should play loose after getting bowl-eligible. Minnesota jumps ahead behind a Donnell Kirkwood touchdown run, but the Huskers are once again too much in the second half as RB Ameer Abdullah and QB Taylor Martinez combine for 225 rush yards and four touchdowns. ... Nebraska 33, Minnesota 20

Brian Bennett: Here's the biggest upset pick of the week -- Nebraska won't need a second-half comeback. The Legends Division title is too close now for the Huskers to mess up, and they will overwhelm the Gophers on senior day. Martinez and Abdullah both eclipse 100 yards on the ground, and Rex Burkhead gets a ceremonial carry in his final game at Memorial Stadium. ... Nebraska 37, Minnesota 16


Brian Bennett: The Badgers looked ridiculously good last week in rushing for 564 yards at Indiana, but the Buckeyes are not the Hoosiers. They will bring safeties down into the box and make Curt Phillips beat them over the top. He'll find Jared Abbrederis a couple of times for big plays but will also get picked off by Travis Howard and Bradley Roby. Meanwhile, Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde have fresh legs after the bye week and combine for four touchdowns. ... Ohio State 28, Wisconsin 25

Adam Rittenberg: I seriously considered picking Wisconsin, perhaps putting some faith in the Vegas oddsmakers, who favored the Badgers. But the Buckeyes twice have burned me when I've lost faith in them. This time, it won't happen. Both Miller and Wisconsin RB Montee Ball turn in big performances, and Ball sets the NCAA career touchdowns record with his second score in the third quarter. But it'll be too much Miller in the fourth quarter, and for the second consecutive year he finds Devin Smith for the game-winning touchdown to beat the Badgers. ... Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 28


Adam Rittenberg: I don't know if I've correctly picked a Purdue game in Big Ten play, but the bad luck can't last forever. Illinois will show some life offensively in the first quarter, scoring on a Donovonn Young run. But Purdue settles down behind QB Robert Marve, who fires two more touchdown passes and avoids a turnover. The Boilers take their first lead midway through the second quarter and never look back, scoring a special-teams touchdown in the second half. Illinois' misery continues. ... Purdue 27, Illinois 14

Brian Bennett: Believing Purdue can win two straight games is a dangerous activity. But I'd rather have an inconsistent team capable of playing well than a reliably bad one like Illinois. The Illini have shown some faint signs of competitiveness the past two weeks but still have major problems on the offensive line, which Kawann Short will exploit for three sacks. The Purdue defense scores a touchdown, and Akeem Shavers runs for two more. ... Purdue 24, Illinois 14

Season records

Adam Rittenberg: 65-19 (.773)

Brian Bennett: 60-24 (.714)

SEC predictions: Week 11

November, 8, 2012
I realize many of you are probably over election rhetoric by now, but I’m not ready to give my concession speech.

Not yet, anyway. It’s still too early.

What I will say is that my performance hasn’t been up to par this season, and I will do a complete evaluation at season’s end of my approach to picking games, who I’m listening to, who I’m not listening to (my wife) and whether I need to look at making a change.

I’m still well over 80 percent -- 72-13 (.847) -- but the ATL Kid is over 90 percent. He had another unbeaten record last week and is now 78-7 (.918). I was 7-1 last week and missed Texas A&M’s win over Mississippi State.

I guess somebody hit me upside the head with a cowbell when I made that pick, and I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Now six games behind, I’ve got to start making up some ground this week and get within three games heading into the bowl season. If I can do that, then I have a chance.

It’s never over. In the immortal words of Bluto Blutarsky, it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

And it’s not over now.

On to this week’s picks:


Edward Aschoff: Before the Gators can huddle around a TV to watch what happens with Georgia and Auburn, they'll have to get through a glorified scrimmage early Saturday. Florida wins big, but the goal should be to find a receiving target not named Jordan Reed. ... Florida 45, Louisiana-Lafayette 3

Chris Low: The Gators have had a hard time scoring points the past two weeks and have been even harder to watch on offense. The Ragin’ Cajuns might be the perfect cure. They’re ranked 89th nationally in total defense. … Florida 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 14


Edward Aschoff: Missouri's offense is sputtering along and Tennessee's defense has been every offense's best friend. Something has to give, and the Vols will essentially crush the Tigers' bowl hopes with a far superior offense. ... Tennessee 28, Missouri 20

Chris Low: The Tigers lost another offensive lineman last week, the seventh lineman that has suffered an injury this season. They’re going to need a big game from quarterback James Franklin to win this one. The Vols are a disaster on defense, but they’re explosive enough on offense to win a second straight shootout at home. … Tennessee 31, Missouri 30


Edward Aschoff: The Tigers are surely banged up after that physical loss to Alabama, but there's a ton for this team to play for. Mississippi State is looking to rediscover its swagger after back-to-back blowouts. LSU is just too tough for the Bulldogs. ... LSU 24, Mississippi State 13

Chris Low: If the Bulldogs lose this one badly, it’s only fair to wonder if they had a good team or just a good schedule. They need to stop the bleeding after getting blown out each of the past two weeks against Texas A&M and Alabama, but they run into an angry bunch of Bengal Tigers this week. … LSU 28, Mississippi State 13


Edward Aschoff: Both of these teams would become bowl eligible with a win, so this game has a ton riding on it. Vandy has had a lot of success against the Rebels lately, but Ole Miss will feed off of its home crowd and have a little too much offense for the Commodores. ... Ole Miss 27, Vanderbilt 24

Chris Low: The winner of this game qualifies for a bowl game. Everybody predicted that back in August when they saw this game on the schedule, right? Both coaching staffs have done an outstanding job, but the Commodores are better on defense and will find a way to win their fourth game in the past five years against the Rebels. … Vanderbilt 27, Ole Miss 20


Edward Aschoff: The Gamecocks haven't exactly had a lot of recent success against the Hogs, but these aren't the same Hogs we've seen the past couple of years. South Carolina will be playing with a lot of emotion and will be very rested after a much-needed bye week. ... South Carolina 31, Arkansas 20

Chris Low: The Hogs have owned the Gamecocks in this series, and very few of their recent meetings have even been close. But this has been a season that’s been on life support from the very beginning for Arkansas, and South Carolina still has big plans. … South Carolina 31, Arkansas 21


Edward Aschoff: All the Bulldogs have to do is win this weekend and they are headed back to the SEC championship game. Auburn is at the bottom of the SEC, but this is the South's Oldest Rivalry ... at night. Still, Auburn just doesn't have enough on either side of the ball to pull the major upset. ... Georgia 27, Auburn 10

Chris Low: The Bulldogs looked so bad in that 35-7 loss to South Carolina back in October that it was a stretch to think that they would battle their way back into the East race. But here they are, and they’re not about to stumble now. … Georgia 31, Auburn 14


Edward Aschoff: Like LSU, Alabama has to be exhausted after last week's game. But this team has too much to play for to not come out strong against red-hot Texas A&M. We saw some holes in Alabama's defense against the Tigers, but they won't be there this weekend. ... Alabama 27, Texas A&M 17

Chris Low: The come-from-behind win at LSU last week took its toll on Alabama, both physically and emotionally, and Texas A&M is the most explosive offensive team the Crimson Tide have faced this season. The Aggies still need to prove they can light it up against a quality defense. They bogged down against Florida and LSU and will meet a similar fate against the Crimson Tide. … Alabama 28, Texas A&M 10

Notre Dame prediction: Week 11 at BC

November, 8, 2012
Upset special? Not a chance.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Boston College ranks 116th nationally against the run. Who have the Irish faced that is worse? Miami (119th). How did that work out? Notre Dame rushed for 376 yards, including 197 in the third quarter, when the Irish ran the ball on 19 of 21 plays. The Irish have rushed for more than 200 yards in each of their past three games and should have a field day pounding it against the Eagles defense.

When Boston College has the ball: Quarterback Chase Rettig is coming off a three-turnover performance in a loss to Wake Forest, but the Eagles average better than 289 passing yards per game. They will try to take advantage of Alex Amidon, who has six 100-yard receiving games this season, including the past three weeks. Their ground game ranks 118th nationally and has virtually no shot of making anything happen against the Irish's stout run defense.

Intangible: Boston College is actually first in something -- punt returns, averaging 25 yards per return. The Irish's special-teams woes have been pretty well documented. BC also has the history on its side, ruining perfect Notre Dame seasons in 2002 and 1993, games current Notre Dame players have said are not on their minds. (Who can blame them?) Coach Brian Kelly, who has said that history will play no role with this year's team, will also be experiencing a homecoming of sorts in the Boston area.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Boston College 6. This will be the Navy and Miami games all over again.