NCF Nation: Game predictions 092012

ND prediction: Week 4 vs. Michigan

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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I got a taste of humble pie by whiffing on last week's prediction. You'll have to forgive me if it happens again, because there is no telling what can happen whenever the Irish and the Wolverines take the field together. Michigan has pulled out three straight against Notre Dame by four points each time, and each contest was decided in the final minute. Can the Irish put an end to the misery and start 4-0?

When Michigan has the ball: Denard Robinson. Denard Robinson. Denard Robinson. The man is capable of a big play every time the ball is in his hands, and Notre Dame's defense cannot get caught snoozing at any point. The Irish's front seven will need to get pressure on Shoelace and force him into some untimely throws, which will make life easier for Notre Dame's depleted secondary. Fortunately for the Irish, they should have no problem winning the battle in the trenches against the Wolverines.

When Notre Dame has the ball: The Irish found great success in last season's game by pounding it up the middle early, and they should do that again. Notre Dame has three very good running backs and an offensive line that will be facing a significantly easier task than the ones they had against the fronts of Purdue and Michigan State. A sound attack will suit the Irish well, as it won't require Everett Golson to do too much and should create some openings in the passing game when Michigan decides to blitz.

Intangible: Notre Dame has better personnel than Michigan. The Irish have played better football than the Wolverines through the season's first three weeks. They are playing at home, under the lights, with a chance to atone for last season's letdown and head into the bye week at 4-0. But Michigan and Robinson always seem to come up big when it matters most. The Irish must block that out and play their game, which is good enough to win.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Michigan 21. The Irish jump out to an early lead, withstand a late charge from Robinson and ultimately have enough to end the Wolverines' reign of terror.

Predictions: SEC Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Well, well, well. It looks like The Kid knows a little bit about what he’s yapping about these days.

After two weeks of having identical picks, we have some separation after I correctly picked that Florida would walk into Neyland Stadium and snatch a win away from the Vols. I thought the Gators would win because of their defense -- and that unit did just what I thought it would in the second half -- but I didn’t think Florida’s offense would step up like that. My goodness.

Talk about Rocky Bottom.

That’s exactly where Chris sits heading into Week 4 with a record of 31-4 (.886), which is one game behind my 32-3 (.914) record. We both missed on Kentucky losing to Western Kentucky last week, but the most important thing in my eyes is that I have a one-game lead, and I can tell that Chris is scrambling.

You should have heard our conversation after his alma mater let the Gators off the hook Saturday. The mental games for him started when Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter both dropped those key second-half passes for the Vols. They just fueled his realization that he'd leave the weekend a game behind The Kid.

It’s funny how he has time to take jabs at my love for soccer (the world’s most popular sport, I might add), but doesn’t have the time to remember that defense wins championships. Going with offense last week was a true gaffe by the vet.

For the sake of competition, I hope he has learned his lesson.

On to the picks:

OLE MISS AT TULANE

Edward Aschoff: The Rebels are coming off quite the blowout loss to Texas, in which the defense was totally overmatched. The Rebels face one of the nation's worst offenses, so the outcome will be much different. ... Ole Miss 31, Tulane 14

Chris Low: Ole Miss’ defense is reeling following the Texas stampede last weekend. The good news for the Rebels is that Tulane has been anemic offensively in its first two outings. … Ole Miss 31, Tulane 13

FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT ALABAMA

Edward Aschoff: The only real question for Alabama is whether the defense can pitch its third straight shutout. One will get past this defense. ... Alabama 45, Florida Atlantic 3

Chris Low: One of these days, the Crimson Tide are going to have a game where somebody comes within 40 points of them again. But it won’t be this one. … Alabama 56, Florida Atlantic 3

SOUTH ALABAMA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs got caught sleeping a little bit in last week's win against Troy, but expect to see a little more life out of Mississippi State this weekend. ... Mississippi State 45, South Alabama 14

Chris Low: The Sun Belt Conference tour continues for Mississippi State, although this one is at home. The Bulldogs need to play better after playing just well enough to survive last week at Troy. … Mississippi State 38, South Alabama 10

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE AT TEXAS A&M

Edward Aschoff: We saw a good bit of offense and points from the Aggies last week, and they shouldn't have a problem keeping that up Saturday. ... Texas A&M 51, South Carolina State 7

Chris Low: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel already has established himself as one of the most exciting players in the SEC. Look for him to roll up Xbox numbers for the second straight week. … Texas A&M 45, South Carolina State 14

AKRON AT TENNESSEE

Edward Aschoff: The Vols have to move on from last week's loss to Florida. Getting the offense back on track against the Zips is the best way to do that. ... Tennessee 45, Akron 14

Chris Low: A lot of air came out of the Vols’ Big Orange balloon last weekend following their collapse in the second half against Florida. They ought to have this one in hand well before the second half. … Tennessee 42, Akron 17

KENTUCKY AT FLORIDA

Edward Aschoff: The Gators are brimming with confidence after back-to-back road wins, and offensive coordinator Brent Pease said he wanted to hang 50 on the Cats. He'll come close. ... Florida 45, Kentucky 10

Chris Low: Kentucky has snapped a couple of long losing streaks over the past two years against Tennessee and South Carolina, but the drought against Florida will grow to 26 in a row Saturday. … Florida 38, Kentucky 14

LSU AT AUBURN

Edward Aschoff: LSU has quietly been one of the most impressive teams in the country, while Auburn barely got by Louisiana-Monroe. Auburn has too many questions remaining to hang with the other Tigers. ... LSU 38, Auburn 10

Chris Low: The battle of the Tigers has been one of the most entertaining rivalries in the SEC over the past decade, but a more physical and more talented LSU team is poised to make it two blowouts in a row. … LSU 31, Auburn 13

RUTGERS AT ARKANSAS

Edward Aschoff: The Razorbacks are at a real low point right now, while Rutgers is riding a three-game winning streak. Tyler Wilson is still questionable and Rutgers' running game is much improved. That's bad news for the Hogs. ... Rutgers 24, Arkansas 20

Chris Low: With or without Tyler Wilson, the Hogs have to figure out a way to stop somebody. They’ve given up 110 points in three games, but the bleeding stops Saturday. … Arkansas 34, Rutgers 21

VANDERBILT AT GEORGIA

Edward Aschoff: Last year's game had a very dramatic ending, both in the game and after it. The Commodores are fired up for this one, but Georgia just has more going for it all around. ... Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 14

Chris Low: The game last year ended with James Franklin and Todd Grantham going nose-to-nose. That little dust-up will ensure that the Bulldogs don’t sleepwalk into this game. … Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 14

MISSOURI AT SOUTH CAROLINA

Edward Aschoff: Both teams have banged-up quarterbacks, and while both could play, we aren't sure how long either will be in. This one will come down to line play, and South Carolina has the advantage both ways. ... South Carolina 27, Missouri 20

Chris Low: It’s Columbia versus Columbia. It’s also one banged-up quarterback versus another banged-up quarterback. The difference will be a South Carolina defensive line that takes over in the second half. … South Carolina 27, Missouri 21

Pac-12 predictions: Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Welcome to Week 4. Ted and Kevin both went 7-3 in Week 3. Kevin picked Arizona State over Missouri. And Ted may have been just a bit outside with his selection of Colorado to notch the upset at Fresno State.

For the season, Ted is 23-10 and Kevin is 22-11.

California at USC

Kevin Gemmell: The Bears showed a lot of heart in their loss to Ohio State. But they are getting a USC team that is salty and vengeful. The Trojans have owned Cal of late and I expect that to continue. Though the wide receiver talent that will be on the field -- Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, Keenan Allen -- is worth tuning in for. USC 28, Cal 14.

Ted Miller: There's a temptation to think the Stanford loss could double-dip USC, which might still be pouting. Cal certainly showed at Ohio State it can physically match a quality foe. But I suspect center Khaled Holmes will return for the Trojans, and that will give them a boost on the offensive line. And Matt Barkley will bounce back. USC 33, California 17.

Arizona at Oregon

Kevin Gemmell: I think Oregon wins this game -- probably by a couple of touchdowns. But I'm most excited to see what the combined yards, first downs and offensive drives are. The Wildcats kick off three consecutive games against very good defenses, so I'm curious to see how they respond. Oregon 49, Arizona 35.

Ted Miller: I suspect this might be competitive at halftime but the Ducks will assert themselves in the second half when the Wildcats' thin defense starts to wear down. Oregon 52, Arizona 28.

Utah at Arizona State

Kevin Gemmell: I think this is the toughest one to predict this week. Lots of unknowns with Utah -- how healthy is John White? How much of last week was just raw emotion against a rival? Penalties and turnovers hurt the Sun Devils, but they rallied hard. When it's a coin flip, go with the home team. ASU 24, Utah 17.

Ted Miller: This is a key separation game in the Pac-12 South. I think playing at home gives the Sun Devils the edge. ASU 28, Utah 20.

Oregon State at UCLA

Kevin Gemmell: Well, we know the Beavers will be rested. And they've had two weeks to prepare. But the Bruins are playing fantastically on both sides of the ball. Datone Jones' emergence (finally) has been a real bright spot for the Bruins on defense. UCLA 31, Oregon State 27.

Ted Miller: Wisconsin's poor showing against Utah State diminished the Beavers' impressive victory over the Badgers. Still, Oregon State should be well rested and has had a lot of time to devise a game plan. Of course, if I pick Oregon State to win, many of their fans will give up all hope. Don't do that. Maybe the curse is over? Oregon State 35, UCLA 33.

Colorado at Washington State

Kevin Gemmell: Connor Halliday? Jeff Tuel? Probably won't matter. While I admire the Buffs' resiliency and commitment to keep grinding, their young secondary will have problems with the Cougars' passing attack. Things are starting to click on offense for Washington State. Washington State 35, Colorado 17.

Ted Miller: Will Colorado man up or will it wave a white flag over its season? I took a long shot last week on the Buffs. Not this week. Washington State 40, Colorado 20.

ACC predictions: Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Who could have possibly predicted Virginia Tech’s loss to Pitt last week?

Not I.

With erroneous picks last week for Maryland and the Hokies, it was an 8-2 finish in Week 3. My overall record stands at 25-6. I’m not impressed.

Let’s go …

Florida State 24, Clemson 21: We’ve talked a lot this week about the importance of Clemson’s offensive line against FSU’s defensive line, but the No. 1 issue Clemson has right now is poor rushing defense, and that’s what FSU is doing best right now. Clemson is good enough offensively that it will give the Noles’ D some problems. They’ll create some plays with Sammy Watkins, in space and on special teams, but the Tigers will struggle to stop the run in a game that will be closer than some might think.

West Virginia 35, Maryland 21: Let’s be honest, this game could get really ugly. Maryland’s defense is good, but WVU quarterback Geno Smith is better. The Terps will hang around for a while, but Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen doesn’t seem like the kind of coach who’s going to back down in the fourth quarter.

NC State 21, The Citadel 20: I put the Pack on upset watch this week, but this isn’t a game NC State should lose. The Bulldogs are going to treat this like their bowl game, though, and they just piled up 618 total yards last Saturday in snapping Appalachian State’s 18-game regular-season home winning streak. This one could be too close for comfort.

Wake Forest 38, Army 35: The Deacs will rebound from their humbling loss to Florida State and extend their home winning streak against Army to six straight games. The Deacs’ defense won’t be able to slow down the Black Knights' running game, which saw three players rush for more than 100 yards last week, but it will make just enough plays on offense to keep Army winless.

Duke 48, Memphis 28: The Blue Devils will again keep things interesting before pulling away in the second half. This score is just keeping up with the trend of what Duke does best. The Blue Devils have scored at least 40 points nine times under coach David Cutcliffe and are 8-1 when that happens, including a 2-0 mark this season.

Georgia Tech 42, Miami 21: Sorry, Canes, but I’ve got three words for you: Not even close. The Jackets will have home-field advantage, confidence from a division win over Virginia and the better defense.

North Carolina 38, East Carolina 12: The Tar Heels will rebound from their loss at Louisville, and it will be another good day for the offense. Quarterback Bryn Renner should have a good day against the nation’s No. 111 pass defense.

TCU 28, Virginia 17: This is a chance for the ACC to get a road win over a ranked Big 12 opponent, but Virginia’s defense will struggle to limit TCU quarterback Casey Pachall, who threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s win over Kansas. The Hoos’ struggles in the running game will continue against the No. 10 rushing defense in the nation.

Virginia Tech 35, Bowling Green 3: Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is going to light a fire under his players this week, and they’re going to take out their frustrations from a poor performance against Pitt on poor Bowling Green, a winless MAC team with one of the statistically worst offenses in the country. If Bowling Green scores much, it will be late in the game against the Hokies’ backups.

Predictions: Big Ten Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Prediction time!

It's our final regular-season chance to pad our stats make predictions for a Saturday filled with nonconference games. Although both Purdue and Indiana have one nonleague game remaining, those contests will take place during the Big Ten season.

The Week 4 slate isn't very appetizing, although the three prime-time games, especially the one in South Bend, should fill you up. Both bloggers rebounded from the Week 2 debacle to go 10-2 last week, but we're both seeking our first perfect predictions performance of the 2012 season.

Let's get started ...

UAB at No. 16 OHIO STATE

Brian Bennett: The Buckeyes should enjoy a laugher against a bad UAB team before Big Ten play starts. Braxton Miller racks up three touchdowns before getting an early rest, and the defense comes up with a pick-six. ... Ohio State 45, UAB 14

Adam Rittenberg: UAB ranks 109th nationally in rush defense, so it can load up all it wants against Miller, and he'll still go nuts with 120 yards and two scores. I actually think Buckeyes running back Jordan Hall has a bit of a breakout game in this one as Ohio State starts fast and avoids the mid-game lull, while the defense produces only one takeaway but also very few missed tackles. ... Ohio State 41, UAB 10

UTEP at WISCONSIN

Adam Rittenberg: Is this the week Wisconsin finally gets it together? I'll go out on a limb and say sorta. The Badgers start slowly again but gain confidence after new starting quarterback Joel Stave finds wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for a long touchdown pass. Montee Ball, James White and the run game then get going against a shaky Miners rush defense. ... Wisconsin 31, UTEP 17

Brian Bennett: Baby steps, Badgers, baby steps. Still not sold on this offense, especially against a UTEP team that did manage to hold Oklahoma to 24 points. Wisconsin once again leans on its defense, and the Stave/Danny O'Brien debate rages on as both play and have middling stats. ... Wisconsin 24, UTEP 10

CENTRAL MICHIGAN at IOWA

Brian Bennett: Who steps up at running back for Iowa this week? The lead trombonist in the marching band? It shouldn't matter much against Central Michigan, as the Hawkeyes start to get back on track offensively. James Vandenberg finds Kevonte Martin-Manley for two scores, and the Mark Weisman legend grows. ... Iowa 31, Central Michigan 14

Adam Rittenberg: More Weisman? Yes, please. Central Michigan gets a heavy dose of the walk-on fullback, who records another 100-yard performance. Iowa's defense records two takeaways against the Chippewas, including a pick-six, and pulls away in the third quarter. ... Iowa 31, Central Michigan 17

SOUTH DAKOTA at NORTHWESTERN

Adam Rittenberg: South Dakota beat Minnesota in 2010 and isn't a pushover, but Pat Fitzgerald has his Wildcats locked in and looking to improve. Expect a big day from running backs Mike Trumpy and Venric Mark, who combine for 250 rush yards and three touchdowns. Northwestern's wide receivers also step up as the team improves to 4-0. ... Northwestern 38, South Dakota 13

Brian Bennett: These Coyotes may be wily, but they can't keep up with a Northwestern team brimming with confidence right now. I see a big game from Kain Colter coming -- 300 total yards and a couple of scores. The Wildcats keep on winning, this time easily. ... Northwestern 35, South Dakota 16

EASTERN MICHIGAN at No. 21 MICHIGAN STATE

Brian Bennett: Le'Veon Bell promised he would not let Michigan State lose again after the Notre Dame debacle. An angry Bell is the last thing the nation's worst rush defense wants to see. Bell goes for 150 and two scores -- in the first half -- and the Spartans take out some frustration on EMU. ... Michigan State 49, Eastern Michigan 3

Adam Rittenberg: This is the perfect opponent for Michigan State to re-establish its offensive identity with Bell. As we saw last week at Purdue, the Eagles can't stop the run at all, and Bell goes for 200 yards and three touchdowns. DeAnthony Arnett gets more involved in the pass game with a touchdown catch as the Spartans roll. ... Michigan State 37, Eastern Michigan 6

IDAHO STATE at No. 25 NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: Superman (Rex Burkhead) returns and breaks off a big run early to show Huskers fans he's just fine. The coaches wisely don't overdo it with No. 22, and Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross combine for 300 rush yards and four scores. Nebraska breezes through its final tune-up before Big Ten play. ... Nebraska 49, Idaho State 7

Brian Bennett: What, you weren't impressed with Idaho State's win over Black Hill State last week? The Cornhuskers make mashed potatoes out of the Vandals on both sides of the ball. Taylor Martinez completes 13 of 15 passes and throws two scores and a bevy of backs finds the end zone in a romp to welcome back Bo and Rex. ... Nebraska 56, Idaho State 10

TEMPLE at PENN STATE

Brian Bennett: I could see this one going either way. But I think Penn State got some much-needed confidence in the Navy win, and Temple's loss to Maryland was less than inspiring. Michael Mauti won't let the Lions lose to the Owls for the first time since 1941 and comes up with a key interception late to seal a close one. ... Penn State 21, Temple 19

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State players expect a close game and get one, at least early, from the upset-minded Owls. But there will be no history made Saturday as Mauti turns in another big performance against Temple, recording four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Quarterback Matt McGloin has a few struggles early but steps up in the fourth quarter as Penn State prevails. ... Penn State 24, Temple 16

No. 18 MICHIGAN at No. 11 NOTRE DAME

Adam Rittenberg: Denard Robinson once again keeps Michigan in the game, but Notre Dame refuses to lose this time and capitalizes on its advantages at the line of scrimmage. Manti Te'o and the Irish defense bottle up Robinson in the fourth quarter and Michigan squanders an early lead as Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood has a big day on the ground. ... Notre Dame 27, Michigan 20

Brian Bennett: Everything is pointing in Notre Dame's direction for this one ... except that it's Michigan and Robinson on the other sideline. No. 16 has huge game No. 3 against the Irish and actually gets some help this time from Fitz Toussaint and a couple of big catches by Devin Funchess. ... Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24

SYRACUSE at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: Love the 3-0 start by the Gophers, but this is a big step up in competition from the first three games. And while Max Shortell should be fine, Minnesota will miss the playmaking abilities of MarQueis Gray. A late turnover dooms their chances, and Ryan Nassib throws for more than 300 yards as the Gophers get Orange-crushed. ... Syracuse 31, Minnesota 28

Adam Rittenberg: I'm impressed with the Gophers so far, and they'll pick up some wins in the Big Ten. But Syracuse desperately needs this one after a 1-2 start, and Nassib is by far the best quarterback Minnesota has faced. Shortell has some ups and downs in his first start of the season at quarterback, and Nassib rallies the Orange in the fourth quarter for the win. ... Syracuse 28, Minnesota 27

LOUISIANA TECH at ILLINOIS

Adam Rittenberg: The Illini defense is better than what it showed at Arizona State, but Illinois hasn't been a lock-down unit against up-tempo spread offenses like Louisiana Tech's. While Nathan Scheelhaase's return at quarterback is an encouraging sign, Illinois has too many injuries and not enough offense to keep pace with the high-powered Bulldogs, who steal one in Champaign. ... Louisiana Tech 31, Illinois 28

Brian Bennett: Very tempted to go with the upset pick, as the Bulldogs' offense, averaging 56 points per game, could go nuts. But the Illini defense will be much tougher than anything Louisiana Tech has seen so far this season. The apparent healthy returns of Scheelhaase and Josh Ferguson should be just enough for Illinois to hold on at home. ... Illinois 28, Louisiana Tech 25

Purdue and Indiana both are off this week.

SEASON RECORDS

Rittenberg: 28-8 (.778)

Bennett: 27-9 (.750)

Big 12 game predictions: Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Last week was a good one, my second week this season without a missed pick. That wasn't too difficult, though. This week, it gets harder.

No big surprises in my Saturday location: I'm heading to Norman to see the Sooners and Wildcats tangle in a Saturday night prime-time showdown.

Here's who I've got in this weekend's games:

Last week: 8-0

Season record: 22-3 (.880)

Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are off this week.

Baylor 41, Louisiana-Monroe 28: I don't buy the upset potential here. Tyler Wilson looked fine against the Warhawks before he got hurt. Nick Florence should do the same. Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese give Louisiana-Monroe fits. The Bears will take care of business and have too much offense, though Kolton Browning will make plenty of plays to make Baylor's defense sweat.

No. 8 West Virginia 55, Maryland 17: Maryland is better this year under Randy Edsall, but not good enough to make this a game. West Virginia is playing like a top-10 team and will keep it going to close out nonconference play. Stedman Bailey will grab two more touchdowns and Tavon Austin will hit double digits in receptions once again. Business as usual for the 'Eers.

No. 17 TCU 44, Virginia 20: Gary Patterson is not sweating the turnovers from last week because the fumbles were so out of character for his team. The Horned Frogs will prove it this week, dominating the line of scrimmage against the Cavaliers. Matthew Tucker will clear 100 yards easily, and Skye Dawson will finally get in the mix after a Week 1 suspension and quiet game at KU last week.

Kansas 28, Northern Illinois 27: This was by far the toughest pick of the week. Ultimately, I think NIU is a bit overrated based on its reputation this season and won't be able to stop Kansas' running game. Tony Pierson and James Sims are quite the duo in the backfield, and Sims will be fired up after returning from suspension. He's ready, and KU will get a big win on the road against the Huskies. Dayne Crist should learn from his mistakes and make a couple of big throws late, instead of interceptions.

No. 6 Oklahoma 37, No. 15 Kansas State 31: This is (obviously) my game of the week. Come back later today for a video explaining why I picked the game to play out like this.

Big East predictions: Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Given my track record over the first three weeks, pencil in two losses on these picks. I am 14-6 headed into Saturday. Ho hum.

UConn at Western Michigan, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN3. The Huskies and Broncos got into a wild shootout last season in Connecticut. Western Michigan pulled off the upset victory behind quarterback Alex Carder, who threw for 479 yards and five touchdown passes. Carder is back, but he is without his top playmaker from last season, Jordan White. UConn, meanwhile, has not been able to do much on offense. The Huskies have scored twice on punt returns and once on an interception return this season, but do not yet have a touchdown pass. The defense will be relied on once again to win this game. UConn 23, Western Michigan 17.

Gardner-Webb at Pitt, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. Pitt plays its second Football Championship Subdivision opponent of the season and can only hope things go better this time around, after losing the opener to Youngstown State. The Panthers should go into this game with major confidence after upsetting Virginia Tech last week, but the last thing coach Paul Chryst needs is this team getting ahead of itself. That is what spells trouble. He needs to see continued development from Tino Sunseri and both his offensive and defensive lines, which made major strides last week. Pitt 38, Gardner-Webb 3.

Temple at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. The Owls nearly pulled the upset last season, losing 14-10 after Penn State scored with 2:42 remaining. But this game seems to provide Temple its best shot yet at beating the Nittany Lions for the first time since 1941. Penn State is a team that has been left depleted because of sanctions leveled as a result of an unthinkable sexual-abuse scandal, and just picked up its first victory of the season last week. Temple did get the extra week to prepare, so here's hoping the Owls straightened out their turnover and penalty problems. But are Montel Harris and Matt Brown 100 percent? Reports say yes. They need to be at their best to pull the upset. I just think Penn State has enough on defense to slow this team down. Penn State 20, Temple 17.

USF at Ball State, 4:30 p.m., Big East Network. The Bulls are in desperate need of a bounce-back win and have to go on the road to get it. The biggest question in this one: Can USF play better up front along the offensive and defensive lines? Both groups did not play up to their capabilities last week against Rutgers. Ball State likes to spread the ball around and has run for more than 200 yards in each of its first three games. I think USF will win, but this is not going to be an easy one. USF 30, Ball State 20.

Rutgers at Arkansas, 7 p.m., ESPNU. I started changing my mind on this game this past Saturday, after I saw the train wreck that is Arkansas football right now. Rutgers has looked great on defense, so-so on offense and terrible with penalties, but at least this is one unified team playing behind its coach. Not sure what is going on in Fayetteville. Bottom line for me: If Tyler Wilson plays, Arkansas wins. I think he has the capability of making plays against the Rutgers secondary, undersized compared to the Arkansas receivers. If he does not play, Arkansas has nothing in the way of offense. As I write this today, it does not look good for Wilson. So I think Rutgers will rely heavily on Jawan Jamison and the D to pull the ... Upset! Rutgers 23, Arkansas 17.

No. 20 Louisville at Florida International, 7 p.m., ESPN3. Louisville lost at home to FIU last season, but the chances of the Cardinals dropping two straight to this team are pretty remote. Teddy Bridgewater is playing incredibly well for Louisville right now, the run game is working better than at any point last season and FIU no longer has T.Y. Hilton, the man who scorched the defense a year ago. Louisville 38, FIU 17.

Syracuse at Minnesota, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Orange hit the road to play another team from an automatic-qualifying conference in Minnesota, off to a surprising 3-0 start. Minnesota will be without starting quarterback MarQueis Gray and rely on Max Shortell as the starter in this one. Shortell is not nearly the running threat Gray is, so that could be an advantage for Syracuse. As is having quarterback Ryan Nassib, who has thrown for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. Marcus Sales is having an outstanding year as well. Syracuse 33, Minnesota 27.

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