NCF Nation: Game-predictions-091511

SEC predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
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Just like the grind of the SEC separates the contenders from the pretenders on the field, it also separates those who can pick games and those who can't.

We have three league games on tap this week plus an ACC vs. SEC battle over in Death Valley (yes, LSU fans, there is another Death Valley). You know ACC blogger Heather Dinich is all fired up about the Auburn-Clemson tilt. She loves to talk a lot of smack early in the season and spout off about what the ACC's record is against the SEC. It's funny, though, that when the games start counting and the BCS national championship picture starts taking shape in November, she's never around.

I guess she's off chasing Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski by then.

Anyway, maybe there will be some separation between fellow SEC blogger Edward Aschoff and myself this week. We're both 19-3 (.864) after two weeks. I was 9-1 last week, and he was 8-2. We both missed Auburn's 41-34 win over Mississippi State, and Edward showed James Franklin and his Vanderbilt football team absolutely no love by picking Connecticut.

Obviously, he's been talking to Dinich and was confused. He thought we were picking basketball games. I've got him straightened out for this week.

Here's how we see it going in Week 3:

THURSDAY

No. 3 LSU at No. 25 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Chris Low: The middle of that Mississippi State defense looked vulnerable last week in the loss to Auburn. There’s nothing vulnerable about LSU’s defense, which looks faster and more menacing by the week. The Bulldogs will make a few plays on offense, but the Tigers will make a few more on defense. … LSU 27, Mississippi State 21

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs couldn't stop the run to save their lives last week and as a result they lost to Auburn. Thursday night, they face an even tougher challenge against LSU. Having the game at home should help, but the Tigers are clicking on all cylinders and won't be bothered by a few cowbells clanking at inappropriate times. … LSU 28, Mississippi State 17

SATURDAY

NORTH TEXAS at No. 2 ALABAMA

Chris Low: The Crimson Tide’s opener against Kent State was a runaway, and that was Nick Saban’s alma mater. This one will be even more of a romp as Alabama gears up for next week’s big showdown with Arkansas. … Alabama 48, North Texas 0.

Edward Aschoff: This is a game where Alabama could really get a good look at both quarterbacks. AJ McCarron appears to be the starter, but coach Nick Saban said this week that he wants to continue to develop Phillip Sims. The offense will also welcome Darius Hanks back to the passing game, so expect a little more offensive production. … Alabama 49, North Texas 3

COASTAL CAROLINA at GEORGIA

Chris Low: Maybe we can get Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett to re-create his dogs and cats speech. Something says it would be a lot more entertaining than this game will be. … Georgia 41, Coastal Carolina 7.

Edward Aschoff: Georgia hasn't won a football game since last November. That has Bulldog Nation angry and uncomfortable. But the losing streak stops this weekend. This is a chance to build some confidence and clean things up on both sides of the ball. … Georgia 48, Coastal Carolina 14

TROY at No. 14 ARKANSAS

Chris Low: Troy’s never a team to fool around with, but Arkansas has too much firepower on offense and too much muscle on defense to slip up at home. The Hogs might also get away with holding out a couple of their starters who are banged up. … Arkansas 42, Troy 14.

Edward Aschoff: The Razorbacks haven't had trouble putting points on the board and they shouldn't this week, either. Maybe we'll see more of Brandon Mitchell to give the quarterback spot some variety. Also, running back Dennis Johnson could return to Arkansas' backfield, adding another weapon to help get this running game going. … Arkansas 48, Troy 10

LOUISVILLE at KENTUCKY

Chris Low: The first team to 20 points wins. Maybe the first team to two touchdowns wins. It hasn’t been pretty for the Wildcats on offense, but they’re winning with defense, which will be enough for them to extend their winning streak in the Governor’s Cup to five straight games. … Kentucky 16, Louisville 10.

Edward Aschoff: The Wildcats' offense has been hard to watch at times, while Louisville is coming off a tough loss to Florida International. But this is a rivalry game, which means both teams will be pulling out new treats and wrinkles. Louisville coach Charlie Strong will be looking for revenge after dropping his first game in the rivalry last year. What better place to do it than Lexington? … Louisville 28, Kentucky 17

NAVY at No. 10 SOUTH CAROLINA

Chris Low: For a guy whose team has already won at Georgia and is ranked No. 10 nationally, the Head Ball Coach doesn’t sound real happy. Maybe that’s because he knows his team is living dangerously. The Gamecocks better not go through the motions against the Midshipmen. … South Carolina 41, Navy 21.

Edward Aschoff: South Carolina's defense has struggled through the first two games and will have its hands full with Navy's triple option. Steve Spurrier made his displeasure with his team known this week, so the Gamecocks won't be feeling tremendously good about themselves. Expect a more complete performance this weekend. … South Carolina 38, Navy 17

OLE MISS at VANDERBILT

Chris Low: Something about this game seems to bring out the best in Vanderbilt and the worst in Ole Miss. The last thing Houston Nutt needs to do is lose to the Commodores for a second straight year. Good thing his defense is playing better. … Ole Miss 20, Vanderbilt 17.

Edward Aschoff: The Commodores are sizzling after their first two games, while Ole Miss is still trying to figure things out on offense. The Rebels have lost two of their past three to Vandy and playing the Commodores' more aggressive defense could cause problems for a struggling offense. … Vanderbilt 24, Ole Miss 17

No. 21 AUBURN at CLEMSON

Chris Low: Welcome to the Lewis Grizzard Bowl, Part II. The SEC’s Tigers rallied from 17 points down to win last year. They better not fall that far behind this year or they can kiss that 17-game winning streak goodbye. There’s something to be said for knowing how to win, and Gene Chizik’s bunch certainly knows how to do that. … Auburn 31, Clemson 28.

Edward Aschoff: I don't know how Auburn does it, but the Tigers keep pulling games out late. Last week, Auburn was less than an inch away from going to overtime, and the week before, the Tigers needed a perfect onside kick to beat Utah State. This one is the first road challenge, but why bet against this young Auburn squad now? … Auburn 34, Clemson 30

TENNESSEE at No. 16 FLORIDA

Chris Low: Both teams have a lot to prove, and both teams hope to use this game as a springboard to bigger and better things this season. The Vols love to throw the ball all over the field and are only going to get better as the season progresses, but the Gators win in the Swamp thanks to big plays from Chris Rainey and a better all-around kicking game. … Florida 34, Tennessee 24.

Edward Aschoff: We still don't know a ton about either one of these teams, but the winner could solidify the No. 2 spot in the SEC East, and maybe even move itself to the top of the division. Can Tyler Bray's arm outlast Florida's defense? Will Charlie Weis open things up against Tennessee's young defense? We'll know more Saturday and with all the questions surrounding both teams, the advantage goes to the home team. … Florida 27, Tennessee 23

Pac-12 predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:00
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Went 8-2 last week as my upset predictions for Utah and Colorado went splat in the waning moments.

Season record stands at 17-5.

Some of you might not like these picks. In advance, sorry. I won't mind being wrong.

All games are Saturday.

Stanford 35, Arizona 24: Two great QBs going at it, but the Cardinal also have a running game and a defense. The Wildcats' chances will be a lot -- A LOT -- better if receiver Juron Criner plays.

Arizona State 40, Illinois 28: In the past, we'd circle this as a game the Sun Devils might blow. But we're leaning toward believing these Sun Devils are different. And we like QB Brock Osweiler's play and leadership.

Nebraska 30, Washington 24: Lincoln is a tough place to play for a new starting quarterback, but the Huskies will give the Cornhuskers all they can handle in what will be the best-played game in the three-game series.

BYU 28, Utah 27: Both teams are coming off tough losses, but BYU is at home, and that's the difference after the Utes won by a single point at home in 2010.

Texas 27, UCLA 14: Texas has positive momentum after a comeback victory over BYU and it's highly motivated after getting embarrassed by the Bruins in Austin in 2010. That San Jose State effort by UCLA was hard to stomach.

USC 35, Syracuse 20: With just five starters back on defense, Syracuse will have a hard time stopping Matt Barkley, Robert Woods & company. And the Orange have zero running game, which will make things easy for the Trojans' D.

San Diego State 33, Washington State 30: The Cougars are 2-0, but they've yet to play a quality foe. The Aztecs are a quality foe and they are playing at home. Seems like there will be just a little too much Ryan Lindley and Ronnie Hillman for the Cougs' defense.

Colorado 30, Colorado State 21: The Buffaloes will get the win because they'll finally get running back Rodney Stewart going, even with a beaten-up offensive line.

Oregon 80, Missouri State 2: Chip Kelly will be unhappy with the shotgun snap from the backup center that costs the Ducks a shutout.

California 742, Presbyterian 5: We won't be taking this game seriously.

Predictions: Big East Week 3

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
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Week 3 will test my picking mettle. I made the wrong upset pick last week -- should have gone with FIU over Louisville instead of Cincinnati over Tennessee. Still, a 6-2 week is not bad. I will take a 13-3 start to the season.

Now on to the picks:

Iowa State (2-0) at UConn (1-1), 8 p.m., Friday, ESPN2. The Huskies' problems on offense are well documented. Their run game has been fine, but the quarterback situation has not. Coach Paul Pasqualoni has been coy about what he will do against the Cyclones, but whoever starts cannot turn the ball over and expect this team to win. I think Iowa State is in line for a letdown game after an emotional win over Iowa last week, and the UConn defense will be able to do enough to slow down Steele Jantz to pull out the win. UConn 23, Iowa State 20.

Pitt (2-0) at Iowa (1-1), noon, Saturday, ESPN2. The Panthers have been inconsistent on offense and defense in their first two games. Ray Graham has been terrific, and should be able to rip off some yards against a run defense that ranks No. 82 in the nation. The big question is whether Tino Sunseri can string together enough good plays and limit his mistakes to put Pitt in position to win on the road. I am not so sure that will happen after two games in a brand-new offense. Iowa might not be used to playing against the hurry-up spread, but Pitt is not running it the way it needs to be run right now. Iowa 28, Pitt 27.

No. 18 West Virginia (2-0) at Maryland (1-0), noon, ESPNU. The Mountaineers have not looked consistent on offense and defense, either, and really need to get off to a much faster start than they have in their first two games. The offense should be able to make plays in the pass game. Bruce Irvin & Co. have to get better pressure on Danny O'Brien, coming off a nice game in a win over Miami. Maryland has had an extra week to prepare, but coach Randy Edsall is 1-6 all-time against the Mountaineers. West Virginia won this game at home last year and should do just enough to win this one on the road. West Virginia 30, Maryland 23.

Akron (0-2) at Cincinnati (1-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. The Bearcats need to put the memories of last week's loss to Tennessee behind them, and there is no better way to do that than against Akron, one of the worst teams in college football. The Zips have scored three points in two games and Cincinnati should handle them easily. Cincinnati 48, Akron 7.

Florida A&M (1-1) at No. 20 USF (2-0), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. This may be an in-state game, but the Rattlers are not in the same stratosphere as the Bulls, who should be able to play their reserves for a majority of this game. USF 45, Florida A&M 3.

Louisville (1-1) at Kentucky (2-0), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPNU. The Cardinals have not done much in two games to inspire a lot of confidence going into this contest. But then again, Kentucky hasn't, either. Let's be honest -- both teams have played poorly in their first two games. And the past two times this game has been played in Lexington, the games have been decided by a total of 10 points. Coach Charlie Strong has gone the motivational speaker route, telling everyone who would listen that his team isn't good enough to beat Kentucky this year. Maybe. Maybe not. Rivalry games are a different animal. Kentucky does not have T.Y. Hilton, the biggest reason Louisville lost last week. Take away his 201 yards and FIU had 92 yards of total offense. In fact, Kentucky has not shown much of anything on offense, ranking No. 110 in the nation. I think the Cardinals will play better on the offensive line and finally have a solid performance up front on defense. They will limit the turnovers in critical situations, and they will beat Kentucky for the first time in five games in my UPSET PICK OF THE WEEK. Louisville 24, Kentucky 23.

Syracuse (2-0) at USC (2-0), 8 p.m., Saturday, 8 p.m., FX. The Orange face a difficult task, having to go across the country to face an opponent that has had its way with the Big East. No Big East team has won at USC since Pitt in 1957. Neither Syracuse nor USC has been overly impressive in its first two games. The Trojans are supposed to have a high-powered offense but they have struggled. Still, I think they are going to have an advantage up front on the offensive line, especially with Chandler Jones out for a second straight game. That makes the difference. USC 30, Syracuse 20.

Big 12 predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:00
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Holy cow. So, before we get to this week's picks, there's an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

Last week was by far the worst week I've ever had picking games. So, on paper, it's ugly. I have no idea what I'm talking about, right?

Well, here's my defense: Sure, I missed four games, but all I have to say is all four of those games were decided in the final minutes, including two in overtime. Missouri missed a kick to win the game in regulation before losing in overtime. Iowa State converted two fourth downs late before knocking off Iowa in triple overtime. Texas erased a double-digit deficit in the second half to win by a point and Kansas mounted a late drive to win the game in the final seconds.

They all could have gone the other way. But last week, every single game went against my picks. Thanks, guys.

On to this week's embarrassment:

Last week: 1-4 (.200)

Overall: 10-5 (.667)

FRIDAY

Iowa State 27, Connecticut 20: Connecticut has a big offensive line, but no big-time back with Jordan Todman gone to the NFL. Iowa State's defensive line needs to play well, but the ISU linebackers will be called upon. Fortunately for the Cyclones, that's their biggest strength. ISU won't play many more teams that lack the ability to sling it like UConn does.

SATURDAY

Georgia Tech 34, Kansas 28: Can Kansas keep the good times rolling? I'm not quite sold on the Jayhawks just yet, but this game will be close. Expect somewhere between 10-15 passes in this game.

No. 23 Texas 17, UCLA 14: This will not be pretty, but it will be physical. If you love zone reads, watch every second of this. If you value precise, accurate passing, look away. Here's guessing Malcolm Brown cements his status as Texas' lead back in this game.

Texas Tech 48, New Mexico 17: I'm excited to see what Darrin Moore does in his followup to the opener, but the Red Raiders won't run into many problems with a weak Lobos squad.

Missouri 34, Western Illinois 10: Missouri played two underrated teams to begin its season, but the Leathernecks shouldn't be quite the same challenge. The focus for the Tigers should be getting and staying healthy.

No. 19 Baylor 41, Stephen F. Austin 14: Wins are better to look at for two weeks than losses. Baylor learned this well after notching the Big 12's best win so far this season when it beat TCU in Week 1. The Bears are back, and continue their season with a win over another in-state opponent.

No. 9 Texas A&M 51, Idaho 7: The Aggies' offense can do it all, more so than any other offense in the Big 12. The Vandals' offense isn't one that's going to make the Wrecking Crew struggle, either.

Kansas State 27, Kent State 10: The Wildcats' defense is better, and it will have to be. If Kansas State wins games this year, it won't be by outscoring teams. Last year, this team was third in the Big 12 in scoring. Expect that to drop, but the defense is much faster. David Garrett, Arthur Brown & Co. get it done against the Golden Flashes.

No. 1 Oklahoma 34, No. 5 Florida State 30: This is my pick of the week. Come back later today for a video of me explaining my pick.

No. 8 Oklahoma State 51, Tulsa 27: We might find a defense this year that can slow down the Cowboys' offense (next week, maybe?) but it's not going to be Tulsa. And simply put, without Damaris Johnson, Tulsa won't be able to keep up. Easy pick here.

Big Ten predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:00
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Before we get to pad our stats (hopefully) in Week 4, it's time to forecast an intriguing slate of Week 3 games.

Thus far, neither of us has had anything resembling perfection. Will it change this week?

Let's get to the picking ...

EASTERN MICHIGAN at MICHIGAN

Brian Bennett: Michigan's biggest problem will be adjusting to the weirdness of playing during the day. Other than that, former Wolverines defensive coordinator Ron English's team has no answer for Denard Robinson. ... Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 10

Adam Rittenberg: I see the Wolverines starting off a bit slowly against the 2-0 Eagles, but Robinson and the running backs will get going in this one and coordinator Al Borges can stick to his system more. Don't see Brady Hoke running up the score on English and Mike Hart. ... Michigan 36, Eastern Michigan 14

PENN STATE at TEMPLE

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State's ongoing indecision at quarterback concerns me, especially against a Temple defense playing well. Like last year's game, this contest will be low scoring but Silas Redd and Brandon Beachum come up big in the second half with touchdowns. ... Penn State 23, Temple 16

Brian Bennett: I agree Temple will keep it close behind the running of Bernard Pierce at home. Penn State does just enough to win on a late TD pass to Derek Moye -- just don't ask me who throws it. ... Penn State 21, Temple 17

PITTSBURGH at IOWA

Brian Bennett: I covered Pitt closely the past three seasons and have no confidence in the Panthers to win a tough road game, especially the way quarterback Tino Sunseri has played. Iowa's defense rebounds after a rough day in Ames and grounds the High Octane. ... Iowa 28, Pitt 19

Adam Rittenberg: No love for the Big East? I hereby revoke your Primanti Bros. privileges. Pitt takes an early lead against a reeling Hawkeyes defense, but Iowa rallies in the second half behind running back Marcus Coker (last chance, Marcus). ... Iowa 27, Pitt 20

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE at PURDUE

Adam Rittenberg: The heat is rising on coach Danny Hope, but Purdue should get through the fourth quarter without tension for the first time this year. Both Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve play at quarterback, but Purdue's run game makes the big difference in this one. ... Purdue 34, SE Missouri State 17

Brian Bennett: Just what Purdue needs after two shaky performances: a highly beatable FCS team. No field goal blocks needed this time. ... Purdue 35, SE Missouri State 10

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: And just what Indiana needs, too. Finally a big offensive performance for Kevin Wilson's club against an overmatched FCS squad. ... Indiana 41, SCSU 17

Adam Rittenberg: Wilson can be as reckless as he wants to with big decisions and still get his first win as IU's coach. Matt Perez and the Hoosiers' run game show some signs of life for the first time this season. ... Indiana 30, SCSU 17

NO. 15 MICHIGAN STATE at NOTRE DAME

Adam Rittenberg: Las Vegas isn't giving Michigan State any respect, and the Notre-Dame-is-actually-good-honest-to-God rhetoric is getting tiresome. The Spartans typically play well in South Bend and win another close one against a desperate Irish team that doesn't know how to close. ... Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 24

Brian Bennett: How can anyone pick Notre Dame at this point? I wouldn't pick the Irish in an intrasquad scrimmage. The Spartans get a big step up in competition, but Kirk Cousins leads them to the first of what they hope are many road wins. ... Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 28

MIAMI (OHIO) at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: A tough game to predict, not knowing how the players will respond to the Jerry Kill situation. I'm thinking Kill returns to the sidelines and they play inspired to give their coach a dramatic first victory with the Gophers. ... Minnesota 21, Miami 20

Adam Rittenberg: I thought Minnesota would lose this game before the season, and then felt differently after the Gophers' gutsy performance at USC. But last week's clunker against New Mexico State soured me on Minnesota, and Miami has had two weeks to prepare. ... Miami 27, Minnesota 21

WASHINGTON at NO. 11 NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: After a week of enduring Bo Pelini's wrath, the Blackshirts respond against young quarterback Keith Price as Nebraska pulls ahead in the fourth quarter. ... Nebraska 28, Washington 16

Brian Bennett: The defense simply has to get better, and I think it will slow down Washington's Chris Polk. Taylor Martinez atones for the bowl game as Huskers-Huskies III goes the home team's way. ... Nebraska 31, Washington 14

NORTHWESTERN at ARMY

Brian Bennett: If Dan Persa doesn't play, will either team pass the ball more than five times? Army's unique style will give the Wildcats fits, but they pull it out in the end. ... Northwestern 24, Army 20

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern has to show more willingness to throw the ball with Kain Colter, as the Wildcats boast great weapons at receiver and tight end and Army struggles against the pass. Coordinator Mick McCall opens up the offense and the Wildcats' defensive line plays well enough for a win. ... Northwestern 27, Army 21

NO. 7 Wisconsin vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (at Chicago)

Adam Rittenberg: There will be no shutout this week as Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish makes some plays against Wisconsin. While former Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren will improve the Huskies' defense eventually, NIU's youth and inability to stop the run proves costly against Montee Ball and James White. ... Wisconsin 45, Northern Illinois 31

Brian Bennett: Doeren's knowledge of the personnel makes this one interesting, and Northern Illinois is better offensively than Oregon State. Russell Wilson is the difference as Doeren sells out against the run. ... Wisconsin 38, Northern Illinois 24

NO. 22 ARIZONA STATE at ILLINOIS

Brian Bennett: Illinois is out to prove itself, but Arizona State is a little more battle tested after beating Missouri last week. Brock Osweiler throws the game-winning pass in overtime of a wild shootout. ... Arizona State 51, Illinois 48

Adam Rittenberg: This is the type of game both of these programs tend to lose. But I'm buying into Illinois and think the Illini rise to the occasion and notch a statement win at home. Vontaze Burfict introduces himself to Nathan Scheelhaase a few times, but Scheelhaase scores a touchdown in the final minute for the game winner. ... Illinois 33, Arizona State 31

NO. 17 OHIO STATE at MIAMI

Adam Rittenberg: This will be a slog for the Buckeyes, who remain shorthanded at key positions. Both Ohio State quarterbacks play and Jordan Hall helps in his return, but the main reason I'm picking the Buckeyes is because I simply don't trust Jacory Harris to limit mistakes. Ohio State 20, Miami 17

Brian Bennett: I'd rather purchase snake oil in bulk from a traveling salesman than pin my hopes on Harris. And yet ... I just don't think Ohio State can make enough explosive plays on offense after that Toledo showing. The Fightin' Shapiros pull the upset. ... Miami 21, Ohio State 16

SEASON RECORDS

Bennett: 19-5 (.792)

Rittenberg: 17-7 (.708)

Prediction: Week 3 vs. Michigan State

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:00
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Well, I must say I was feeling pretty good about last week's prediction after Tommy Rees' touchdown pass with 30 seconds left made it 31-28 Notre Dame. Of course, Denard Robinson changed everything.

A new week brings a new team from Michigan, with Notre Dame still searching for win No. 1. It will likely take the Fighting Irish winning out for their BCS bowl aspirations to be met, but that should be the last thing on everyone's mind. For now, to be cliché, it really is about one game at a time.

Kirk Cousins and the Michigan State offense won't throw a bag of tricks at the Irish the way B.J. Daniels and Robinson did in the first two weeks, but they provide a stiff test nonetheless. The Spartans have a stable of four running backs who get meaningful carries and can wear out opposing defenses. But this is exactly the brand of football the Irish were built for, with a strong front seven and finally some depth on the defensive line that wants to hit hard and hit fast.

Behind Rees, Notre Dame's offense likely won't click the way it did early last week, not against an MSU defense that ranks fourth in the country. But, as is the case with his defense, Rees should know what to expect from a deliberate unit, as opposed to the schemes Michigan threw at him a week ago. The Irish's offensive line, meanwhile, has been champing at the bit for a game like this, especially after the squad's fourth-quarter shortcomings on third-and-short against the Wolverines. Expect that to be an area the Irish better execute in.

Of course, none of this will matter if the Irish can't hang on to the ball. Call me crazy, and forgive me if I sound like I'm repeating myself, but I just don't see a scenario with this team shooting itself in the foot again and again. Ten turnovers through two games is abnormal, to say the least, and the conditions Saturday should be ideal compared to Week 2's rowdy atmosphere and Week 1's torrential downpour.

Throw in the fact Notre Dame has played opponents of note so far compared to MSU's competition (Youngstown State of the FBS, Florida Atlantic), and I just have a hard time seeing the Irish lose this game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 23, Michigan State 17

ACC predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:00
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I went 9-1 in my picks last week. You’d think that was a good week, right? Heck, it’s a good season. But no. As soon as the Jackets took the lead over Middle Tennessee, I heard from more Georgia Tech fans in a skinny minute than I have all offseason. Some of them conceded via Twitter that they were happier about my erroneous pick than they were about the actual win. Seriously. Hey, whatever I can do to make you Jackets happy. Watch out, though, I’m picking Georgia Tech to win today.

After last week, my grand total is a 16-5, for a 76.1 winning percentage. Not bad, but could be better, starting now:

Duke 24, Boston College 21 (OT): Despite their struggles in the first two games, the Blue Devils seem to be on the brink of breaking through for their first win. The Eagles, however, seem to be on the brink of a breakdown. There has been more turnover at the coordinator position and more injuries for BC to deal with. Duke’s staff and preparation will be the difference.

Auburn 28, Clemson 27: Clemson continues to say it's a “work in progress,” but time has run out for the teaching phase. This begins a tough three-week stretch, and it's either ready or it's not. Based on what we’ve seen in unconvincing performances against Troy and Wofford, the past two weeks, it's not.

Oklahoma 21, Florida State 17: The Seminoles will play much better than they did a year ago, but in the end, the Sooners’ passing game and maturity will be the difference. The Seminoles have a lot of young talent and the defense has been outstanding, but FSU won’t be able to stop Landry Jones & Co. while at the same time eke out enough from its own offense.

West Virginia 31, Maryland 24: The Terps will have the advantage in the running game, quarterback Geno Smith will pick apart Maryland’s secondary, but West Virginia's stingy defense will be the difference. The Mountaineers got off to slow starts in their first two games, but Maryland coach Randy Edsall was 1-6 against West Virginia while at Connecticut.

NC State 42, South Alabama 7: The Wolfpack will get a chance to regroup from their loss to Wake Forest, but this victory will ring hollow, as it will be the second FCS opponent on the schedule. It will be another chance, though, for quarterback Mike Glennon to get more comfortable and for the defense to both heal and make strides.

Wake Forest 45, Gardner-Webb 10: The Deacs could be without one of their top playmakers, receiver Michael Campanaro, who is doubtful because of a hamstring injury, but it shouldn’t matter. Wake Forest should overpower Gardner-Webb, and quarterback Tanner Price should have another impressive performance.

Georgia Tech 56, Kansas 21: The Yellow Jackets were embarrassed on the road last year at Kansas, so the chances of it happening again at home are slim, especially considering how strong Georgia Tech has looked in its first two games. Georgia Tech’s running backs have only been pushed back 5 yards for losses in the first two games.

Miami 27, Ohio State 24: The Buckeyes’ suspensions will be a factor, as will the return of five of Miami’s suspended players, including quarterback Jacory Harris. Harris will prove to Miami fans that he’s a better quarterback than he was the last time he faced Ohio State and threw four picks.

North Carolina 21, Virginia 17: The Tar Heels will look much better than they did a week ago when they had five turnovers in the win over Rutgers and will win the turnover battle against the Hoos. UNC’s D will force quarterback Michael Rocco into one or two costly mistakes like he had when he played sparingly against the Tar Heels last year.

Virginia Tech 42, Arkansas State 3: The Hokies should return to the comfort of their home with a comfortable win against another unheralded opponent. It should be yet another chance for quarterback Logan Thomas to learn from his mistakes against East Carolina, and for the offensive line to regroup after some injuries.

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