NCF Nation: Game-predictions-092211

Predictions: ACC Week 4

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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Just call me Oklahoma. I’m winning big. In each of the past two weeks I’ve gone 9-1 for a winning percentage of 80.6 after three weeks. Clemson proved me wrong last week with its upset of Auburn, but I’m not making the same mistake twice. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has me convinced about the Tigers’ offense. Florida State? Not so much. Here’s a look at this week’s picks, and just for the record, I came really, really close to picking UMass …

Cincinnati 33, NC State 30: The Bearcats’ experience at quarterback and success in the running game will be too much for NC State’s defense, which has been plagued by injuries to key players. Cincy quarterback Zach Collaros has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions in 69 pass attempts this season, and the Bearcats are averaging 51.33 points.

Clemson 24, Florida State 21: The prediction is that EJ Manuel will play, but the Noles still won’t be able to surpass Clemson’s offensive output. Clemson hasn’t been as good as advertised defensively, but Tajh Boyd is making a believer out of doubters, and he’s got plenty of playmakers to get the ball to. FSU’s running game is No. 100 in the nation, and the lack of production there will be a factor in this game.

Maryland 28, Temple 17: The Terps will rebound at home and won’t suffer the same kind of scare the Owls gave Penn State last weekend. Quarterback Danny O'Brien will redeem himself for his three interceptions against West Virginia, and Maryland will improve its record in the series to 7-0.

Boston College 14, Massachusetts 13: UMass will play in the FBS next season, and this game will show you why. It's ranked No. 19 in the latest FCS coaches’ poll, and has the No. 1 rushing defense in the Colonial Conference. BC is still looking for its first win of the season, has struggled in all three phases of the game, but should still be expected to beat an FCS team.

Duke 38, Tulane 24: Unless the Blue Devils turn it over, they should get their second straight win. Quarterback Sean Renfree seemed to turn the corner in last weekend’s win over Boston College, and the defense showed improvement. Tulane’s biggest asset might be its ability to pressure quarterbacks this season, as it is No. 16 in the country with 3.3 sacks per game.

Georgia Tech 31, North Carolina 21: The Yellow Jackets will be contained better than they have been all season, but not enough for the Tar Heels to get their second Coastal Division win. Georgia Tech will wear down UNC’s defense, control the clock, and make one-too-many big plays. This game will determine whether Georgia Tech is for real, and based on what we’ve seen so far, UNC has reasons to worry.

Miami 45, Kansas State 14: K-State barely beat Eastern Kentucky in its season opener, and its best win so far has been a 37-0 romp of Kent State. If Miami plays as soundly as it did against Ohio State, the combination of the Canes’ running game and stingy defense should make for a convincing win.

Virginia 31, Southern Miss 24: This should be a bounce-back game for the Cavaliers. This is not 2009, when Southern Miss edged the Hoos for a home win. Southern Miss does have one of the nation’s best rushing defenses, but so does North Carolina, and UVa ran for 170 yards against the Tar Heels.

Virginia Tech 42, Marshall 7: Virginia Tech’s offense has been exposed the past few weeks, and this is the final opportunity for the Hokies to show improvement before conference play begins. Marshall’s struggling defense should help them look good, though, and Virginia Tech’s defense should have a chance for a shutout against a scoring offense that ranks No. 107 in the country with 15.33 points per game.

Predictions: Big 12 Week 4

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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Oh, yes. It's time to celebrate. A week after enduring the worst week of predictions ever in my tenure as Big 12 blogger, I follow it up with the best ever. It was a perfect week on the Big 12 Blog, rebounding from what could have been a questionable start.

I'll be in College Station this weekend, which should come as no real surprise, but I'm excited for what should be an unbelievable atmosphere with two great teams.

Let's get to the picks.

Off: Iowa State, Texas, Kansas

Last week: 10-0 (1.000)

Overall: 20-5 (.800)

No. 8 Texas A&M 34, No. 7 Oklahoma State 31: This is my pick of the week. Come back later today for a video of why I picked it.

Miami 27, Kansas State 14: Collin Klein has to be a better passer. He hasn't shown tons of promise through two weeks, and the Hurricanes' defense is the first one that will expose it. The Wildcats will be able to move the ball with the zone read, but the lack of balance costs them on the road against a pretty good team.

No. 17 Baylor 51, Rice 13: We get it: Baylor's pretty good. The Bears' only good nonconference game is out of the way, and they took care of business. Now, it's cupcake time. The only interesting thing in this one will be what RG3's stat line looks like.

Texas Tech 47, Nevada 17: In another year (like 2010), this could have been a great game. Not so this time. The Wolfpack aren't of the one-man variety, but Tech's offense is too strong. Nevada can't keep up.

No. 1 Oklahoma 42, Missouri 24: This one will be close early, but Missouri took its best team into Norman and couldn't finish within single digits. When the schedule softens and the team jells, the Tigers will get on a late-season roll. But now? The Sooners are too good on both sides of the ball. Only turnovers make this a single-digit game.

Predictions: SEC Week 4

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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Another week and another stellar performance by the young kid in the predictions section.

Fellow SEC blogger Chris Low talked a pretty big game about how he was going to straighten me out after I picked Connecticut to beat Vanderbilt. He made some sort of comment regarding picking a basketball school and something about listening to ACC blogger Heather Dinich. I can’t really remember exactly what he said because I was too busy listening to the wins pile up last week.

After three weeks, I have retaken the lead with a 27-4 (.871) record after going 8-1 last weekend. Chris isn’t far behind at 25-6 (.806), but picking Ole Miss over Vandy and Kentucky over Louisville has him rethinking his strategy this time around.

We both missed on Auburn, but heading into the week we refused to pick against the Tigers until they lost. We knew the winning streak would eventually come to an end.

This week, we have some fun games on tap, starting with Arkansas at Alabama and LSU heading to West Virginia. Maybe Chris can get a couple more right this week because I know I will.

Here are our picks:

SATURDAY

Georgia at Ole Miss

Chris Low: Houston Nutt needs this win in the worst way. Mark Richt needs not to lose this game in the worst way. His Bulldogs will see to that and stay alive in the East race. … Georgia 27, Ole Miss 17

Edward Aschoff: This is a must-win game for both teams, but Georgia needs it more. Actually, Mark Richt needs it more and he’ll get it against a struggling Ole Miss offense, putting the Bulldogs back in the East hunt. … Georgia 31, Ole Miss 14

No. 14 Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama

Chris Low: For the second straight year, this game will come down to the final few possessions. And for the second straight year, Alabama will make enough plays to win. The Crimson Tide have only lost one SEC game at home since Nick Saban’s first season. … Alabama 23, Arkansas 21

Edward Aschoff: This game features Arkansas’ high-powered offense and Alabama’s dominating defense. Naturally, something has to give. The Tide will have the home crowd on its side, and with three new offensive linemen, Arkansas will struggle against Alabama’s pass rush, losing another close one to the Tide. … Alabama 27, Arkansas 23

No. 15 Florida at Kentucky

Chris Low: The last three games in this series have been ugly, as Florida has now won 24 in a row. That streak will grow to 25 on Saturday with Chris Rainey having another big game. … Florida 31, Kentucky 14

Edward Aschoff: Since 2006, the Gators have blocked six Kentucky kicks. How long before Florida blocks another one? Florida’s offenses always play their best against Kentucky, and expect that trend to continue Saturday. … Florida 38, Kentucky 10

Vanderbilt at No. 12 South Carolina


Chris Low: South Carolina knows from experience it better not take Vanderbilt lightly. Of course, with how shaky the Gamecocks have been in the first three weeks, they better not take anyone lightly. Vandy will play well enough defensively to win, but just won’t be able to score enough points against a South Carolina defense that’s still looking for its A-game. … South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 13

Edward Aschoff: Vanderbilt has looked great on defense this year, capitalizing on tons of its opponents' mistakes, most of which were caused by the Commodores. South Carolina is prone to make those kinds of mistakes. However, having Marcus Lattimore in the backfield will be the difference for the Gamecocks --- again. ... South Carolina 24, Vanderbilt 17

Florida Atlantic at Auburn

Chris Low: Auburn’s defense, or lack thereof, has been hard to watch the first three weeks. The Tigers don’t tackle well nor do they stop anyone. They went back to fundamentals on the defensive side this week in practice and get to take out a little frustration on Florida Atlantic. … Auburn 42, Florida Atlantic 10

Edward Aschoff: We knew Auburn’s defense would struggle, but not like this. The Tigers have let each of their three opponents march up and down the field against them. This week, Auburn’s defense rebounds against the worst offense in the country. ... Auburn 45, Florida Atlantic 17

Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State

Chris Low: Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs didn’t expect to be 1-2 at this point, but the season is not lost. There’s enough talent on this team to still have a big year. The Bulldogs get back on track Saturday with a convincing win. … Mississippi State 35, Louisiana Tech 14

Edward Aschoff: Mississippi State expected better at this point, but a rough rushing defense is a main reason for a 1-2 record. Things should get cleaned up against Louisiana Tech, and the receivers should get more involved as well. ... Mississippi State 48, Louisiana Tech 17

No. 2 LSU at No. 16 West Virginia

Chris Low: There’s no magic formula right now for LSU. The Tigers are doing it with defense, a commitment to running the football and an in-your-face attitude that all the great teams have. This game won’t be easy, but the Tigers have proved that they know how to grind it out away from home. … LSU 24, West Virginia 14

Edward Aschoff: Three teams have tried and failed against LSU’s menacing defense. However, walking out of West Virginia’s home with a win isn’t easy. Expect the Tigers to stick to their running game, pound the Mountaineers’ offensive line and slow that spread attack to remain unbeaten. ... LSU 31, West Virginia 17

Notre Dame Prediction: Week 4 at Pitt

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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Notre Dame finally got in the win column last weekend, and so did I. We'll go our separate ways in seeking win No. 2, but there's plenty of reason for optimism for the Fighting Irish heading into Saturday after a decisive win over Michigan State.

For one -- and forgive my Denny Green impression here -- but the Irish were who we thought they were, or at least could be. The run defense was top-notch, holding the Spartans to 29 yards on 23 carries. And the pass defense was much improved after a poor fourth quarter against Michigan, making the plays when it mattered most.

I'm looking at the offensive side of the ball for Notre Dame in this one, though. Pitt's pass defense is currently 119th out of 120 FBS teams. Michael Floyd is currently second in the nation in both catches and receiving yards. And his quarterback, Tommy Rees, was able to distribute the ball much better against MSU when the defense made things more difficult for Floyd in the early going.

Ball protection, once again, will have to be managed better. Regardless, I have a hard time seeing a close game this weekend. The Panthers are the worst opponent Notre Dame has faced so far, and the Irish seem to have found their footing after a rough start to 2011.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Pitt 17

Pac-12 predictions: Week 4

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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Went 8-2 last week -- missed on Utah (good job Utes) and Arizona State (drrr, Sun Devils) -- and the season record stands ot 25-7.

Conference play! Which is much harder to pick (my degree of confidence is high on only one of these picks).

All games are Saturday.

California 28, Washington 24: The Huskies defense is struggling and this is the best offensive line it will have faced. Cal QB Zach Maynard making his first start in a tough road venue is a concern, but not as much as Huskies QB Keith Price running around on a pair of sprained knees. And, Cal, I'm warning you ... don't make me wrong (again). You wouldn't like me when I'm wrong.

Ohio State 30, Colorado 17: My hunch is the Buckeyes are going to come out highly motivated in front of the Horseshoe crowd to show folks they are still relevant after falling out of the top-25 for the first time since 2004. And, well, the Buffs haven't won outside the state in 19 games.

Oregon State 33, UCLA 30: The edge goes to the Beavers because of home field and the return of receiver James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni. If you want a basis for reservations, it's not good that the Beavers are missing their two best defensive tackles and their starting running back, or that my Twitter feed lit up with reports of INTs from new starting QB Sean Mannion during Wednesday's practice.

Oregon 44, Arizona 28: It would be pretty cool if these two teams put on another show like they did in Tucson in 2009, but the Ducks defense is good enough to handle a one-dimensional team. That said: If the Wildcats find a running game against a Ducks run-D that has been curiously suspect, this could be closer than the experts think. And by "experts," I mean all Oregon fans, of course.

Arizona State 27, USC 24: I really wish that Sun Devils defensive end Junior Onyeali didn't get hurt because I love how he plays and his presence would make me more confidence in this pick. But I like the Sun Devils bouncing back at home and ending an 11-game losing streak in the series. And I'm wondering if we might get one of those flat performances we saw from the Trojans in 2010.

Predictions: Big Ten Week 4

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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Bennett might be the new guy around here, but you wouldn't know it from the predictions. At this rate, Rittenberg might want to find a new conference home. I hear the Big East needs bodies.

Week 4 brings both bloggers a chance to pad their stats, only one opponent from a major conference, Colorado, is on the docket.

Let's get to the predictions!

CENTRAL MICHIGAN at MICHIGAN STATE

Brian Bennett: The first of our many directional Michigan school games this week. The Chippewas don't have enough firepower to counteract a tough Spartans' D. ... Michigan State 31, Central Michigan 13

Adam Rittenberg: The Chips are no longer the world beaters they were under Brian Kelly. Michigan State's defense performs well and a patchwork offensive line does enough to help Kirk Cousins have a big day. ... Michigan State 28, Central Michigan 14

SAN DIEGO STATE at NO. 22 MICHIGAN

Adam Rittenberg: Ah, the Brady Hoke Bowl. The Aztecs will be fired up for this one, and they'll give Michigan a very good test before Big Ten play begins. Ronnie Hillman makes some plays, but Denard Robinson makes more as Michigan survives. Michigan 31, SDSU 27

Brian Bennett: Michigan better avoid its slow starts this week, because the last thing it wants is a confident, revenge-minded bunch of Aztecs on its hands. Robinson does his thing, though, and the Wolverines get a couple of key turnovers to stay unbeaten. ... Michigan 28, SDSU 23

EASTERN MICHIGAN at PENN STATE

Brian Bennett: The Eagles hung tough for a half at the Big House last week, and Penn State's offense will let a lot of teams hang around. But the talent gap is still too large, and Silas Redd goes for more than 100 yards on the ground. ... Penn State 27, E. Michigan 3

Adam Rittenberg: I think this is the week when Penn State gets clarity at the quarterback position. Just don't ask me which guy separates himself. Either way, the Lions' defense rolls, recording at least two takeaways. ... Penn State 30, E. Michigan 7

LOUISIANA-MONROE at IOWA

Adam Rittenberg: ULM isn't a bad defensive team (38th nationally in yards allowed), but Iowa has some confidence in the passing game as several options emerged last week alongside Marvin McNutt. James Vandenberg tosses two touchdown strikes in this one. ... Iowa 31, ULM 14

Brian Bennett: The Warhawks got off to a great start last week at TCU before fading. Iowa should have some momentum from last week's comeback, though. ... Iowa 35, ULM 17

COLORADO at OHIO STATE

Brian Bennett: My boldest prediction: the Buckeyes complete more than four passes. Braxton Miller starts and has an up-and-down day, but the Silver Bullets clamp down the Buffs. ... Ohio State 21, Colorado 10

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, you truly are a gambler, BB. It definitely sounds like Miller time in Columbus. Can't see Ohio State lighting up anyone right now, but the Buckeyes do enough in the second half to win this one. Ohio State 19, Colorado 12

SOUTH DAKOTA at NO. 6 WISCONSIN

Adam Rittenberg: Bucky Badger had better bulk up this week. He'll be doing plenty of push-ups in this one as Wisconsin keeps it on the ground with Montee Ball and James White. ... Wisconsin 66, South Dakota 10

Brian Bennett: I actually feel kind of sorry for the Coyotes. Since Bret Bielema was still passing up 49-7 on Northern Illinois last week, this one could get real ugly. ... Wisconsin 70, South Dakota 13

WESTERN MICHIGAN at NO. 24 ILLINOIS

Brian Bennett: Trap Game Alert! Sandwiched between the Arizona State upset and the Big Ten opener against Northwestern, I think the Illini are due for a letdown. But the defense showed me last week that it's better than I thought, and it will slow Alex Carder and the Broncos just enough. ... Illinois 31, Western Michigan 23

Adam Rittenberg: I agree on the letdown front. Illinois has some holes in the secondary that Carder will exploit, but Western Michigan won't be able to stop a revived run game from Jason Ford, Nathan Scheelhaase and Donovonn Young. ... Illinois 35, Western Michigan 24

NORTH DAKOTA STATE at MINNESOTA

Adam Rittenberg: The Gophers have no reason to overlook North Dakota State after their recent struggles against FCS foes. Jerry Kill will make sure his team is ready. That doesn't mean it won't be close, but MarQueis Gray again shows why he's the best athlete on the field. ... Minnesota 28, North Dakota State 23

Brian Bennettt: As I said in my chat, it's not a good idea to sleep on the Bison, figuratively or literally. This is a very good FCS team that will be highly motivated. But I liked what I saw from the Gophers last week, and they win on a late field goal. ... Minnesota 24, NDSU 21

INDIANA at NORTH TEXAS

Brian Bennett: The Polite Green rank No. 6 in our Bottom 10 this week and are about as big a pushover as it gets in the FBS. But it's not like Indiana can just show up and beat anyone, especially on the road. The Hoosiers offense is getting a little better, though, and Ed Wright-Baker comes through in the fourth quarter. ... Indiana 35, North Texas 24

Adam Rittenberg: I worry about Indiana's young offensive line on the road, especially after false start fever last week at home. But North Texas is truly abysmal, and Indiana will find a way to prevail in Denton. ... Indiana 27, North Texas 21

NO. 9 NEBRASKA at WYOMING

Adam Rittenberg: Wyoming is undefeated but hasn't faced any team close to Nebraska's level. The Pokes hold their own in the first quarter or so before Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead run away with this one. ... Nebraska 38, Wyoming 14

Brian Bennett: The Huskers offense will have a field day, and I also see a bounce back for the Blackshirts against Wyoming's true freshman quarterback. ... Nebraska 44, Wyoming 13

Byes: Northwestern, Purdue

Yes, it's lame that we agree on every game, but given this sorry slate, what did you expect?

SEASON RECORDS

Rittenberg: 25-11 (.694)

Bennett: 28-8 (.778)

Predictions: Big East Week 4

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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I had a better weekend than the Big East did. Thanks to Louisville, I nailed the upset pick and went 6-1. Would have been perfect had UConn held onto its fourth-quarter lead. That makes me 19-4 through three weeks. There are some big nonconference games this weekend, so let us see how I think they will shake out:

NC State (2-1) at Cincinnati (2-1), 8 p.m., Thursday, ESPN. The Bearcats have a chance to redeem themselves after a disappointing performance against Tennessee in their previous nationally televised game. The secondary needs to play much better or Mike Glennon could have a big day. It is hard to get a gauge on both these teams. They have dropped their only contests against teams from AQ conferences. Last year, NC State had its way with Cincinnati. But this time around, the Bearcats will not be pushovers. They will take advantage of a depleted NC State defense to come out with a victory. Cincinnati 33, NC State 30.

Toledo (1-2) at Syracuse (2-1), noon, Saturday, ESPN3. The Orange should be on upset alert in this one, because Toledo is a talented team that threw a scare into Ohio State on the road a few weeks ago. The Rockets play two quarterbacks and have a speedy receiver/returner in Eric Page who has the potential to cause problems against a banged-up secondary. Kellen Moore picked the Rockets defense apart last week, and many of the big gains were on short screen passes or underneath routes. The Orange should use a similar game plan, especially with the way Ryan Nassib has played. Syracuse 27, Toledo 24.

Notre Dame (1-2) at Pitt (2-1), noon, ABC. The Panthers should be 3-0, but blew a 24-3 lead to Iowa last week and lost. Turnovers were the undoing of the Irish in their first two games, but they showed their potential last week against Michigan State. I fear for Pitt in this game because of the way the Irish have been able to pass the ball, averaging 289 yards a game. This is one area Pitt has struggled to defend so unless the Panthers make the Irish cough up the ball, I see a Notre Dame win. Notre Dame 27, Pitt 21.

Ohio (3-0) at Rutgers (1-1), 2 p.m., ESPN3. The Bobcats are one of the best teams in the MAC and run a unique style of offense that incorporates some of the Pistol, making it a challenge to defend. The defense is solid, too, and has a pretty decent pass rush, with seven sacks already on the season. The Scarlet Knights are going to try Savon Huggins a bit more at running back, but I think Chas Dodd to Mohamed Sanu will be the difference in this one. Rutgers 30, Ohio 21.

Connecticut (1-2) at Buffalo (1-2), 6 p.m., ESPN3. The Huskies have been dreadful on offense, and need to find some consistency at quarterback. Here is hoping coach Paul Pasqualoni comes to a decision and fast. The Bulls put a scare into Pitt in the season opener and are capable hitting some big passes. But the UConn defense is going to stop giving up the big plays which will help the Huskies win. UConn 24, Buffalo 17.

UTEP (2-1) at No. 18 USF (3-0), 7 p.m., ESPN3. The Bulls should not have much of a problem with UTEP, which has played three different quarterbacks already this season. One thing to watch is the USF offensive line against the UTEP front -- the Miners have nine sacks this season. They have an opportunistic defense as well, with six takeaways. But B.J. Daniels should have another big game. One note: UTEP has never won in the Eastern Time Zone. USF 45, UTEP 13.

No. 2 LSU (3-0) at No. 16 West Virginia, 8 p.m., ABC. Now we arrive at the game of the week. I have been getting questions about this game since my first day on the blog back in May, and have been anticipating it as much as you. I think the Mountaineers can absolutely hang with the Tigers. Geno Smith will make some big plays in the passing game. I bet Bruce Irvin picks up at least a sack. But to me, the big advantage is along the Tigers' defensive front. Their size and speed are a challenge, and they also rotate players in so they stay fresh. I think that is going to be the difference in the game. As much as I would love to pick an upset, I am going with LSU 24, West Virginia 20.

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