NCF Nation: Game-predictions-090811

Big Ten predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
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The Big Ten is stepping up its game in Week 2, and we hope to do the same. After mediocre results the opening weekend, we're both shooting for perfection, or something like it.

The slate features some tricky games, a potential upset special or two, and a handful of gimmes.

Let's get picky.

IOWA at IOWA STATE

Brian Bennett: The Cyclones have barely scratched the scoreboard recently against Iowa, and I liked the way the Hawkeyes defensive line played in the opener. Feel free to sigh, Hawks ... Iowa 24, Iowa State 9

Adam Rittenberg: He's the resident comedian, folks. Be sure and tip your waitress. Speaking of tips, here's one: Go with Marcus Coker on your fantasy team. Oh, wait, I already have him. Coker rebounds with 3 touchdowns as the Hawkeyes roll. ... Iowa 27, Iowa State 13

FLORIDA ATLANTIC at NO. 17 MICHIGAN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: The Spartans have a cleaner start, limit silly penalties and rack up a bunch of rushing yards against Howard Schnellenberger's crew. B.J. Cunningham gets the receptions record in the first quarter. ... Michigan State 33, Florida Atlantic 10

Brian Bennett: Pipe down. Michigan State's offensive line shows some improvement, and the Spartans will roll into South Bend next week at 2-0. ... Michigan State 35, Florida Atlantic 7

TOLEDO at NO. 15 OHIO STATE

Brian Bennett: The Rockets pose far more of a threat than Akron, and they might catch Ohio State peeking ahead to Miami. Still, the Buckeyes defense is too much despite some offensive struggles ... Ohio State 28, Toledo 10

Adam Rittenberg: I agree, the Buckeyes can't space out against the Rockets (I know, lame), who have a good coach (Tim Beckman) and provide a much better test for Ohio State's defense. Still, I see another big game for Carlos Hyde and the Ohio State running backs ... Ohio State 31, Toledo 13

OREGON STATE at NO. 8 WISCONSIN

Adam Rittenberg: The Beavers rarely fare well in early season big games, and you have to wonder about their confidence level after the Sac State debacle. Wisconsin's defense is hungry and makes a statement. ... Wisconsin 35, Oregon State 13

Brian Bennett: I could see the Badgers taking this one too lightly with that Sacramento State score fresh in their minds. But Montee Ball and James White still run wild. ... Wisconsin 42, Oregon State 20

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE at ILLINOIS

Brian Bennett: I like South Dakota State's nickname: Jackrabbits. That's about all I like about them. Illini roll behind another big passing day from Nathan Scheelhaase ... Illinois 44, SDSU 7

Adam Rittenberg: Fear the bunnies. They nearly knocked off Minnesota in 2009. But Illinois avoids the same fate as Scheelhaase steps up more in the run game and gets help from Jason Ford. ... Illinois 40, SDSU 12

EASTERN ILLINOIS at NORTHWESTERN

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern's offensive line builds off of a strong opening performance and gets the run game going against overmatched Eastern Illinois, while Dan Persa sits again. ... Northwestern 38, EIU 10

Brian Bennett: No Persa, no problem -- at least for another week. ... Northwestern 31, EIU 13

NEW MEXICO STATE at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: The Aggies are bad. Real bad. Perfect opponent for Jerry Kill's debut, as Troy Stoudermire sets Big Ten return record ... Minnesota 35, NMSU 14

Adam Rittenberg: You worry a bit about a letdown as Minnesota has been hearing how impressive they looked in the opener at USC. The Gophers start off a little slowly before MarQueis Gray and the offense surge against the Aggies. ... Minnesota 31, NMSU 13

NO. 3 ALABAMA at NO. 23 PENN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: OK, time to get serious. Penn State's defense keeps the Lions in this one, but I don't have enough faith in either Nittany Lions quarterback to predict an upset. Trent Richardson has a big fourth quarter as Alabama squeaks out a win. ... Alabama 19, Penn State 13

Brian Bennett: It sure would be great for the Big Ten if Penn State could pull this one off. Alabama's quarterback situation is a little shaky, too. But the Tide's defense is just too good against a Penn State offensive line that wasn't overly impressive against Indiana State. ... Alabama 24, Penn State 12

PURDUE at RICE

Brian Bennett: I'm putting Purdue on upset alert for the second straight week against a team that battled Texas pretty well for three quarters. For the second straight week, the Boilers eke one out, this time on a late Ralph Bolden touchdown. ... Purdue 19, Rice 16

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue has a lot to fix on both sides of the ball, but Rice doesn't seem like a team that can capitalize, even at home. Caleb TerBush builds on his late-game heroics and the defense makes enough plays to improve to 2-0. ... Purdue 26, Rice 18

VIRGINIA at INDIANA

Adam Rittenberg: Thing is, Indiana didn't look that shaky on offense in the opener. But getting pushed around by Ball State at the line of scrimmage is inexcusable. IU gets a better effort, but it's still not enough. ... Virginia 27, Indiana 17

Brian Bennett: Agree with you on all counts but think there will be more points scored, especially after the Hoosiers gave up 27 to Ball State. ... Virginia 34, Indiana 23

FRESNO STATE at NO. 10 NEBRASKA

Brian Bennett: Bo Pelini didn't sound too excited about the Cornhuskers' 40-7 opening win over Chattanooga (not that he ever sounds that excited). Nebraska has a few more hiccups on offense but shuts down the Bulldogs on defense. ... Nebraska 31, Fresno State 10

Adam Rittenberg: I agree it'll take some more time for Tim Beck's offense to click. But Fresno disappointed me in Week 1, and Pat Hill's crew isn't nearly the giant killer it once was. Rex Burkhead has a big night. ... Nebraska 33, Fresno State 14

NOTRE DAME at MICHIGAN

Adam Rittenberg: Either Notre Dame implodes or the Irish come together behind Tommy Rees and a defense that actually looks better. Call me crazy, but I think the Irish bounce back. ... Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21

Brian Bennett: Notre Dame is better than it showed against South Florida and would have won if not for a slew of turnovers. Crazy things happen in this game. But Michigan just seems to have the Irish's number, and that atmosphere will help immensely as Denard Robinson pulls off more heroics. ... Michigan 31, Notre Dame 30

Season records

Bennett: 10-2 (.833)

Rittenberg: 9-3 (.750)

ACC predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
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It wasn’t a stellar debut for the ACC in Week 1, nor were my picks anything to brag about. I went 7-4 in the opening week with erroneous picks for Boston College, Wake Forest, Duke and Miami. The first three, I still argue, should have won their respective games. Miami was a gamble, I admit, but the Terps deserve credit for that win.

This week holds some gambles as well.

Upsets, anyone?

Central Florida 31, Boston College 20: UCF has a talented, athletic quarterback in Jeff Godfrey, and the Knights will cause the Eagles’ defense some problems. UCF allowed Charleston Southern to gain more than seven yards on only three of its 11 drives last week. BC’s offense took another hit when receiver Ifeanyi Momah suffered a season-ending injury.

Wake Forest 28, NC State 24: The Deacs likely would have hung onto their 15-point lead over Syracuse last weekend had quarterback Tanner Price not been injured in the fourth quarter. He is expected to play on Saturday, and will be the difference along with running back Josh Harris.

Clemson 42, Wofford 17: Wofford will control the football with the triple option, but they won’t be able to stop Clemson. The Tigers failed to convert on their first nine chances on third down against Troy, but will continue the success they had in the second half against Wofford.

Florida State 52, Charleston Southern 0: The Seminoles will get their first back-to-back shutouts during their time in the ACC. FSU held Louisiana-Monroe to 191 yards of total offense and the Noles had 10.5 tackles for loss.

Stanford 41, Duke 21. Stanford wins easily, but Duke will score some points. It’s one thing to come across the country to play a bowl game, it’s another to do it in a weekend. Still, the Blue Devils will be overmatched and won’t be able to slow down quarterback Andrew Luck.

Middle Tennessee 28, Georgia Tech 27: The Blue Raiders are well-versed in defending the triple option, and they’re coming off an impressive performance in a near-win over Purdue. Middle Tennessee led at Purdue until the Boilermakers hit a 35-yard TD pass with 49 seconds left last week.

North Carolina 28, Rutgers 3: Quarterback Bryn Renner will shine again, and the Tar Heels’ defense will stifle the Scarlet Knights. Interim coach Everett Withers praised the Knights’ offensive line, but his is better and UNC will win the game up front.

Virginia 34, Indiana 24: Statistically, Virginia is one of the best teams in the country now. The Hoosiers will have a tough time stopping Kevin Parks and the Cavaliers’ running game, and Virginia will be able to control the ball just like Ball State did in a 27-20 win over IU last weekend.

Virginia Tech 48, East Carolina 17: The Hokies will control the ball and go up and down the field. They’re good enough defensively that they won’t allow ECU a chance to be a real threat. This will be the toughest nonconference test of the season for the Hokies and they will pass -- and run, and pass, and run some more.

SEC predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
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We have one week in the bag and it looks like the new guy is on top.

Yes, it was a week littered with cupcakes, but like every coach in America says, "A win is a win."

After the first week of games, I sit at 11-1 (.917), while fellow SEC blogger Chris Low is 10-2 (.833). Chris and I both missed on Ole Miss and Chris went with Georgia. I tried to tell him, but he just wouldn't listen.

And while I'm gloating, how about my almost dead-on picks? I had Mississippi State beating Memphis 52-14 and the score was 59-14. I had Tennessee beating Montana 44-13 and the Vols won 42-16. And I had Alabama topping Kent State 56-7 and the Tide won 48-7.

I know, the kid is good.

Oh, and Chris, remember that Nick Saban likes his bad questions loud and right after some player has ticked him off.

We finally start the conference season with South Carolina visiting Georgia and Auburn hosting Mississippi State, so things are getting even more interesting.

On to the picks:

Edward Aschoff: This weekend is all about tuning up that passing game. Jarrett Lee passed for less than 100 yards, but was efficient in the win over Oregon. Look for him to reach triple digits before halftime. ... LSU 48, Northwestern State 3

Chris Low: The Tigers deserve at least one glorified scrimmage in the month of September, although the real trick might be getting their starters out of the game by halftime with next Thursday’s trip to Mississippi State looming. … LSU 42, Northwestern State 0

Edward Aschoff: Tyler Wilson was good, but not great in his starting debut last week. The Razorbacks didn't need him to be great, but he should improve this week and spread the ball around even more. ... Arkansas 44, New Mexico 7

Chris Low: The Hogs put a couple of special teams touchdowns on the board last week in the opener thanks to Joe Adams’ punt return prowess. Don’t be surprised if the defense gets into the act this Saturday in a second straight rout for the Hogs. … Arkansas 48, New Mexico 10

Edward Aschoff: Ole Miss' offense sputtered through the opener, while the defense looked much sharper than it did last year. It even scored a touchdown, while the offense didn't. The Rebels could use all three quarterbacks, but should win comfortably Saturday. ... Ole Miss 31, Southern Illinois 10

Chris Low: It’s hard to find much wrong with Ole Miss’ defensive performance in the opener, but the Rebels have to get a lot better on offense and will be without top running back Brandon Bolden for the next few weeks. … Ole Miss 35, Southern Illinois 7

Edward Aschoff: Kentucky's offense was mostly nonexistent until that very late game-winning drive, but the defense took a step forward. The Wildcats' offense needs to find playmakers and this week would be a good start. ... Kentucky 27, Central Michigan 14

Chris Low: It looks like Rick Minter has the Wildcats’ defense playing with an edge. Now, it’s on quarterback Morgan Newton, his receiver sand that offensive line to get it going. True freshman running back Josh Clemons looks like a keeper. … Kentucky 27, Central Michigan 13

Edward Aschoff: Vanderbilt's offense will get a nice test with UCONN's aggressive defense coming to town. This is a chance for Larry Smith to show that he can lead Vandy in the big game, but will it be enough? ... UCONN 23, Vanderbilt 21

Chris Low: Remember what happened the last time the Commodores started out 2-0? They had their first winning season in 26 years and won their first bowl game in 53 years. Here’s a great chance at home to get off to a similar start as the 2008 season. … Vanderbilt 24, Connecticut 20

Edward Aschoff: This is the kind of a game I love: an all-out southern shootout! Tennessee's passing game looked solid last week, but this will be a major test for the Vols' young defense. First one to 35 wins! ... Tennessee 41, Cincinnati 35

Chris Low: If you like offense, this one has a chance to be a dandy. Both teams can score quickly and from long distance. The home field will be enough for the Vols to survive along with three more Tyler Bray touchdown passes. … Tennessee 35, Cincinnati 31

Edward Aschoff: Chris Rainey said the Gators ran just six different plays on offense last week. I predict at least three new ones as Florida prepares for Tennessee. I also expect the offense click even more this week. ... Florida 45, UAB 7

Chris Low: The Gators historically don’t break much of a sweat in their first two games as they warm up for the SEC opener. They cruised last week in Will Muschamp’s debut and shouldn’t have much trouble in Week 2, either. You’ve got to be impressed with that front seven on defense. … Florida 37, UAB 7

Edward Aschoff: I'm going to put the over/under on how many times we hear the name Cam Newton during the broadcast at 10. I will also put the number of cowbells confiscated at the gates at 20, which is probably low. Oh, and Mississippi State's offensive players must be salivating at the chance to play Auburn's defense. ... Mississippi State 34, Auburn 23

Chris Low: We’ll dub this the Cecil Newton Bowl. Something says Mississippi State won’t be warmly greeted on the Plains, but the Bulldogs look ready to take that next step and become a legitimate contender in the West this season. That starts with winning on the road. … Mississippi State 31, Auburn 24

Edward Aschoff: Penn State is older and deeper this season, but so is Alabama, and that's going to be an issue. Alabama is taking two young quarterbacks on the road, but the defense should keep Penn State from giving the Tide a scare. ... Alabama 27, Penn State 13

Chris Low: Penn State couldn’t generate enough offense to have a chance last season against Alabama. Playing at Beaver Stadium will level the playing field a bit for the Nittany Lions, but not enough to take down the Crimson Tide. … Alabama 28, Penn State 13

Edward Aschoff: Mark Richt says he doesn't feel pressure. Aaron Murray says there is no pressure. But this game will go a long way to determining the SEC East champ and the Bulldogs came away from Week 1 with more questions than before. South Carolina's defense looked far from great last week, but the offense was actually in good hands with Stephen Garcia. ... South Carolina 31, Georgia 24

Chris Low: Regardless of what anybody in Athens says, this is one of those win-or-else games for Georgia. The Bulldogs will play with emotion and play with intensity. They just won’t be able to stop Marcus Lattimore when it counts. … South Carolina 28, Georgia 23

Pac-12 predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
9:00
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The Pac-12 went 8-4 last week. I went 9-3.

This week I'm going to try harder.

Thursday

Oklahoma State 38, Arizona 24: Even without wideout Juron Criner's uncertain status, this was going to be a tough trip for the Wildcats. The Cowboys look like a better team than the one that blew Arizona out in the 2010 Alamo Bowl.

Friday

Arizona State 30, Missouri 24: Both teams have injury issues, but the Tigers' are more recent, therefore more taxing for their preparation. The Sun Devils will make a statement on both sides of the ball, with quarterback Brock Osweiler and linebacker Vontaze Burfict both stepping up.

Saturday

Wisconsin 48, Oregon State 20: A week after losing to an FCS team, the Beavers head to Madison to play a national title contender. Oregon State wants to put in a respectable performance, get home in one piece and get healthy for Pac-12 play.

Colorado 24, California 21: This week's upset special! The Bears look better on paper, and they whipped the Buffs 52-7 in Berkeley last year. But think about it: This is EXACTLY the type of game in which Cal throws up on itself.

Oregon 44, Nevada 27: I suspect the Ducks will start a bit flat and this one won't be in the bag until the fourth quarter. So much was invested in the LSU game, it seems likely the Ducks won't be at their best on either side of the ball. But, most important, they will survive.

Washington 33, Hawaii 30: Warning! Warning! Huskies, warning! Hawaii shut down Colorado's running game, and quarterback Bryant Moniz is one of country's best playmakers. The difference should be Husky Stadium. And the poor performance last weekend versus Eastern Washington should help the focus.

Stanford 48, Duke 13: The Blue Devils already lost to Richmond, an FCS powerhouse best known for producing awesome college football bloggers. Will quarterback Andrew Luck get to play in the fourth quarter? Will he put up Heisman-worthy numbers after a solid but unspectacular performance in Week 1? Do the Blue Devils have any say in this one?

Washington State 33, UNLV 21: The Cougs improve to 2-0 -- just four wins away from bowl eligibility -- as backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael does a solid job replacing Jeff Tuel.

Utah 27, USC 24: Upset special No. 2! Don't like the Matt Barkley-Robert Woods matchup with the Utes secondary, but do like the Utes D-line vs. the USC O-line? Utah is going to come in hungry and well-coached and I don't know if the Trojans will match that intensity. Utah announces itself to the Pac-12 WITH AUTHORITY!

UCLA 35, San Jose State 17: The Bruins will bounce back from the Houston loss with a victory, playing better on both sides of the ball.

Prediction: Week 2 at Michigan

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
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Notre Dame yanked its starting quarterback after one mediocre half Saturday against South Florida. It committed five turnovers, three of which came in the red zone. And the Fighting Irish gave away 73 yards on eight penalties.

All of this coming in front of a friendly home crowd.

Things certainly won't get easier this weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich. Not against a rival that has handed the Irish crushing last-second defeats the past two seasons. Not with ESPN's "College GameDay" in town. And not with the winningest program in college football history hosting its first-ever night game.

But I saw enough good in Notre Dame five days ago to make me think this weekend will be different. For one, the Irish offense put up 508 yards against a defense superior to Michigan's. And it did so with two different quarterbacks, something that (we think) shouldn't be a problem this weekend with Tommy Rees in the fold.

Denard Robinson will get his. He always does. But I expect Notre Dame's defense to hang on just enough to support the Rees-led offense and come out on the winning end of a rivalry that has ended with Irish heartbreak all-too-often in recent years.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Michigan 27

Big East predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
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I wish I could say I was as perfect as the Big East in Week 1. I called for a Notre Dame win, and USF proved me wrong. The Bulls had the biggest win on the slate, 23-20 over the Irish. What are the chances for another undefeated week for the Big East? I think it will be much tougher. But maybe I will be proven wrong again.

On to the picks.

FIU at Louisville, 7 p.m., Friday, ESPN. This is a danger game for the Cardinals, with the in-state rival Kentucky looming next week. FIU is not a patsy anymore and has a veteran team that has come close to pulling off some major upsets. But I think the Cardinals' defense will do just enough to slow down T.Y. Hilton and pull out a close one at home. Louisville 24, FIU 20.

Rutgers at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3.The Scarlet Knights posted a 48-0 win in Week 1 against NC Central, but this is a vastly different team from North Carolina. The Tar Heels are going to give the Rutgers all they can handle up front. I am not sure the Scarlet Knights will have an answer for North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, who had two sacks in the opener. North Carolina 27, Rutgers 17.

Maine at Pitt, 1 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. The Panthers had a much better performance in the second half than they did in the first last week. Coach Todd Graham is going to be looking for better execution for the entire game, specifically from quarterback Tino Sunseri. Pitt 45, Maine 6.

Norfolk State at West Virginia, 1 p.m., ESPN3. West Virginia is just hoping to play a full four quarters this week after a weather-shortened win over Marshall. This will be a good opportunity to get the running game better established after a dismal performance in the opener. West Virginia 55, Norfolk State 7.

Cincinnati at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2. This is a huge game for the Bearcats, who would love nothing more than to get more eyes on them after going 4-8 last season. Winning on the road in a hostile environment would do the trick. Tennessee showed a few weaknesses last week, most notably its run game. But the Vols are probably going to try to pass on a Bearcats defense that needs to prove it is vastly better in that area. Cincinnati has good balance with Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead, and its explosive offense should do just enough to get the upset win. Cincinnati 30, Tennessee 27.

Rhode Island at Syracuse, 4:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. The Orange need to have more consistency out of their offense and defense after an uneven performance in Week 1. Playing an FCS opponent should help before they go on the road to play USC. Syracuse 40, Rhode Island 10.

Ball State at USF, 7 p.m., ESPN3.The Bulls have to beware of the let down factor, after getting a big win over Notre Dame and jumping into the AP Top 25. Ball State had an upset win over Indiana last week, and is now running more of an up-tempo spread offense, similar to what Notre Dame ran last week. But the Bulls are much more talented and should hold off the MAC challenge. USF 35, Ball State 14.

UConn at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m., ESPN3.This is a critical test for the three-headed quarterback system Connecticut plans to use. I have never been in favor of shifting quarterbacks in and out. Meanwhile, D.J. Shoemate is expected to return to the run game with Lyle McCombs. They could see lots of Chris Marve, one of the best tacklers in the SEC. Last year's game was a wild 40-21 win for UConn. I think this is going to be more low-scoring game, and Vanderbilt will do just enough to stop Connecticut on offense to win. Vanderbilt 20, Connecticut 17.

Big 12 predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
9:00
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After taking in a pair of games (coverage here and here) we're doubling up again in Week 2.

I'm heading to Stillwater today for Oklahoma State's Alamo Bowl rematch with Arizona, and I'll head south to Austin after the game for BYU and Texas on Saturday. Should be another great weekend of football.

Last week, I wanted to pick Baylor to beat TCU, but I didn't have the guts to do it. Thus, we enter Week 2 with an imperfect record, unlike the Big 12's.

On to this week's picks ...

Last week: 9-1 (.900)

Overall: 9-1 (.900)

Off: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

THURSDAY

No. 9 Oklahoma State 41, Arizona 31: We may have another Big 12 nonconference thriller on our hands. After Baylor and TCU put on an air show on ESPN on Friday night, expect the Cowboys and Wildcats to do the same with a national ESPN broadcast on Thursday. Once again, Justin Blackmon gets the best of Arizona, but saves himself a celebration penalty this time around.

FRIDAY

No. 21 Missouri 20, Arizona State 17: Missouri is actually the underdog in this one by a touchdown, but Arizona State is somehow unranked in The Associated Press poll. The Sun Devils are great, but Missouri grabs an early lead in the desert and James Franklin's legs prove to be a huge asset.

SATURDAY

Iowa 24, Iowa State 21: My apologies, Iowa State. In my fearless predictions to begin the season, I picked you to win this game. But your season opener did nothing to confirm my faith in the new faces on the offense. And this game goes on my permanent record. Marcus Coker goes for 100+ and though Steele Jantz is much better in Week 2, he's unable to engineer heroics this time around. Call me a flip-flopper if you must, but I'll call me "right" on Saturday afternoon.

Northern Illinois 27, Kansas 20: Kansas is better, but not quite good enough yet to knock off the Huskies. Chandler Harnish is solid, and Kansas looks like it will be without receiver Daymond Patterson on Saturday. The Jayhawks rely on the running game and move the ball well, but come up just short.

BYU 21, No. 24 Texas 20: This is my pick of the week. Come back later Wednesday for a video of me explaining why I picked the Cougars to win.

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