NCF Nation: game predictions 092613

Pac-12 predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
9:00
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Kevin Gemmell went 7-0 last week and improved to a scintillating 33-3. Ted Miller went 6-1, missing with his Holy War pick, a selection he made only to put the stink on BYU. But Utah fans shouldn't send any more checks his way.

Miller therefore fell to 31-5. Gemmel; is already making plans for the $1 million he gets if he wins the season.

All games are Saturday.

Arizona at Washington

Gemmell: Not sure what to make of Arizona yet. It hasn’t been pressed, and the passing game is still a question mark. Taking on a Washington team that has been pushed -- and is at home -- seems like a lot to overcome. And I wouldn’t worry about Washington looking over the horizon to the Stanford game next week. It'll be focused on revenge after what happened last year in Tucson. Washington 38, Arizona 24.

Miller: The Wildcats have had two weeks to prepare, but a team can't really prepare for an atmosphere like Husky Stadium. While Wildcats QB B.J. Denker has played in road games, this will be a new level of extreme. The real issue is how effective Denker is throwing the football. If the Wildcats can achieve efficient balance, the holes will be bigger for RB Ka'Deem Carey. It also will be interesting to see how the Wildcats newly stout defense holds up against the Huskies' highly rated offense. Washington 35, Arizona 20.

USC at Arizona State

Gemmell: Plenty of great sidebars and storylines in this must-win game for both teams. The Sun Devils are holding on to whatever national credibility they have by a thread. USC is riding the coattails of its defense. If Arizona State can put together 60 minutes instead of 15, I think it wins by a couple of touchdowns. If it doesn't, it could be tight. ASU 24, USC 21.

Miller: We know USC's defense is good. Do we yet know if the Trojans' offense is going to be this bad all season? The first question is whether Trojans QB Cody Kessler's throwing hand is 100 percent. The passing game went south against Utah State last weekend after he got hurt. And what will Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly be able to do against that tough USC defense? Arizona State 21, USC 17.

Colorado at Oregon State

Gemmell: Much like Arizona, I’m waiting to see what Colorado is really made of. I love the start, and everyone feels good about the Buffaloes being 2-0. But Oregon State’s passing game has been wickedly efficient and the Sean Mannion-to-Brandin Cooks connection is one of the best in the country. The Buffs will score points, but before I start picking them in a league game on the road, I need to see just how much they’ve grown up. The two weeks off is also a wrench in predictions. They could be super rested, or super rusty. Oregon State 48, Colorado 38.

Miller: Colorado is a better team than it was in 2012, we know that. But being better and being ready to win on the road in the Pac-12 are two different things. I want to see what Buffs QB Connor Wood and WR Paul Richardson can do against a suspect Beavers defense. Oregon State 40, Colorado 28.

California at Oregon

Gemmell: Another step in the maturation of Jared Goff. Being down defensively isn’t where you want to be when playing Oregon -- especially on the road. No reason why the Ducks don’t keep things rolling. Oregon 49, Cal 21.

Miller: Both teams were off last weekend, and Cal needed a break. But Autzen Stadium isn't a place to go to heal a season. I think this one might get a bit lopsided. Oregon 50, California 20.

Stanford vs. Washington State (in Seattle)

Gemmell: Will be interesting to see how the Cougars attack Stanford early with Ed Reynolds out for the first half. I'm guessing they go at the heart of the Stanford secondary because running against the Cardinal will be a chore. Turnovers have been Washington State’s Achilles Heel (11 total, minus-3 ratio, worst in the league). Stanford will do what Stanford does. And what Stanford does should be more than enough. Stanford 31, Washington State 17.

Miller: Stanford will be missing All-American OG David Yankey, too, so the Cougs' front-seven will be catching a break. No guard in the country is better at pulling, so that hits the Cardinal's bread-and-butter. But Stanford figures to take this one seriously because the Cougars gave them trouble last year, is an obviously improved team and the Cardinal turned in a woeful fourth quarter last weekend against Arizona State. Stanford 35, Washington State 22.

Big 12 predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
9:00
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Our guest picker this week is Omar Ahmad, out of Huntington, W.Va. Here was Omar’s clever submission:

I should be your Big 12 guest picker for Week 5. Why? Because when it comes to challenging the experts at ESPN, nobody Bears down like I do. I'm like an unstoppable Cyclone of correct predictions. I'm not a Wildcat with my selections (you'll never catch me picking a Longhorn to do anything other than be a horn that's long). I strive for the highest summits of analysis the likes of which no Mountaineer has ever seen. While you may be a college football maverick, I'm the Red Raider with guns-up accuracy. No Jayhawk can hang with my stuff (or anyone's stuff, for that matter). So stop being a Cowboy with your reckless game-picker selections. You know you're gonna tab me Sooner or later. Horned Frogs.

Last week, I correctly picked Texas to bounce back and beat Kansas State, but Omar’s Mountaineers burned me with a no-show performance in Baltimore. I was also called out in front of my ACC colleagues via this tweet from a @beedubss: “I hope Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich get to give @ESPN_Big12 a really hard time about his #WVUvsMD prediction. #GirlsRuleBoysDrool #GoTerps”.

Come on, guys. We’re better than this.

If you want to be next week’s guest picker, contact me here, and tell me why. And, as always, creativity counts.

To the Week 5 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)

Guest picker last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 25-5 (.833)

Guest picker overall: 10-3 (.769)

Tulsa 30, Iowa State 27: Dating back to last year, Iowa State has now lost six of seven, which includes a two-touchdown loss to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl. Tulsa, meanwhile, has played better since an embarrassing 27-point loss at Bowling Green in its opener. This game is in Tulsa, where the Hurricane has not lost since falling to eighth-ranked Houston in November 2011. The Cyclones just don’t have the offensive firepower right now around quarterback Sam Richardson, who also faces the possibility of playing the rest of the season on a bum ankle.

Omar’s pick: The Golden Hurricane is a young team, but can still run the ball. The Cyclones cannot, and the return of Tom Farniok won’t change the fact that Sam Richardson is currently the team’s biggest threat on the ground. Tulsa, 31-27

TCU 31, SMU 16: Coach Gary Patterson rode his team hard during the off week, even calling them out in the media for “feeling sorry for themselves.” Despite the disappointing 1-2 start, the Horned Frogs have too many veteran players to feel sorry for themselves for very long. This is still a good team, with good players on both sides of the ball. If TCU can uncover an offensive identity post QB Casey Pachall -- perhaps running the ball more with B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to take pressure off QB Trevone Boykin -- the Frogs will be fine. This SMU game is a golden opportunity for TCU to figure out some things before going to Norman next weekend.

Omar’s pick: Despite the 1-2 start, TCU’s defense is still arguably the best in the Big 12. Garrett Gilbert will get his yards, but Boykin and Catalon run wild on a Mustang front seven that’s one of the smallest and most inexperienced in the nation. TCU, 36-20

Oklahoma State 42, West Virginia 14: Both teams are running Dana Holgorsen’s offense. Only one is running it well. After the 37-0 loss to Maryland, Holgorsen rightfully called West Virginia’s offense as inept as it could be. Omar's Mountaineers don’t have any playmakers at receiver, the offensive line is not getting any push in the run game and QB Ford Childress is too young to overcome either deficiency. Poor Charles Sims, by the way, picked the wrong year to transfer. Imagine Sims on the same team with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Now that would be an offense that could outscore Oklahoma State. This West Virginia offense cannot.

Omar’s pick: The Cowboys are getting it done by land and air so far, while the Mountaineers are trying to rebuild the offense through Ford Childress. The WVU defense keeps it closer than most expect. OSU, 34-21

Notre Dame 24, Oklahoma 21: The Sooners feel good about themselves after Blake Bell’s performance against Tulsa. But this isn’t Tulsa. And this game won’t be played in Norman. The Irish have looked lackluster so far this season, but they’ve played a difficult schedule featuring Michigan and Michigan State. The Sooners, meanwhile, have yet to play anybody. Notre Dame will win the battle in the trenches, force Bell into a couple of critical mistakes in his first start on the road and make the plays in the fourth quarter like it did last year in Norman. They will move to 10-1 all-time in the series while preventing the Big 12 from picking up its first Top 25 non-conference victory.

Omar’s pick: Blake Bell has a cool nickname; Tommy Rees does not. OU, 28-23

ACC predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
9:00
AM ET
Like the ACC, we went 7-0 with our picks last week. Andrea is now 34-4 through four weeks, while Heather is 33-5, but Week 5 brings one big disagreement.

On to the picks!

Thursday

Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0) at Georgia Tech (3-0, 2-0), 7:30 p.m., ESPN. #VTvsGT. One of these teams has gone to the ACC title game every single year. Will the same hold true in 2013? Both teams come in off a short week and hard-fought wins, but this happens to be the ACC opener for Virginia Tech. The Hokies are 8-1 in ACC openers, with the lone loss coming from Clemson in 2011. They also are good at beating the Jackets, winning three straight meetings and five of the last six. AA gives the nod to Virginia Tech this year based on the defense, ranked No. 5 in the nation. Bud Foster generally finds a way to slow down the Georgia Tech offense enough to give the Hokies a chance at the win. In the last two years, Georgia Tech posted rushing and total offense numbers below its season averages. The Jackets, meanwhile, looked sluggish for most of the day offensively last week against North Carolina. Virginia Tech is much better defensively and that is the difference. AA calls for an UPSET. Virginia Tech 21, Georgia Tech 20.

HD picks: Georgia Tech 24, Virginia Tech 21. The Hokies are coming off a triple-overtime win against Marshall and had a five-day turnaround to prepare for a completely different offense. Foster said he is going to be relying on the retention of his veteran defenders who have played against the spread option offense and have had success against it before. Georgia Tech, though, is No. 2 in the country in third-down conversion percentage, and while the Hokies’ D will do enough to keep them in this game, the offense will struggle enough again that this time it won’t be enough to win it.

Saturday

No. 15 Miami (3-0) at USF (0-3), noon, ESPNU. #MIAvsUSF. Only three seasons ago, USF upset Miami to end the regular season. But things have been downhill for the Bulls since then. USF is off to an 0-3 start for the first time in school history, in large part to its offense and its tendency to turn the ball over. Five times in three games so far, the opponents have scored defensive touchdowns. Penn State transfer Steven Bench gets the start at quarterback this week, while Miami plans to play Stephen Morris, working through a bruised ankle. Truthfully, Miami could win this game even without Morris.

AA says: Miami 35, USF 3

HD says: Miami 51, USF 10

East Carolina (2-1) at North Carolina (1-2), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #ECUvsUNC. East Carolina plays its second straight ACC opponent, having lost to Virginia Tech a few years ago. The Pirates run the same type of tempo offense the Tar Heels run so there will be plenty of no huddle in this game. What North Carolina coach Larry Fedora wants to see is better offense overall. He called the performance of the group in the second half of a loss to Georgia Tech "inept." Bottom line -- the Tar Heels are averaging more than 100 yards fewer on offense this year than last. North Carolina, in fact, ranks an unsightly No. 82 in the nation in total offense.

AA says: North Carolina 35, East Carolina 17

HD says: North Carolina 31, East Carolina 28

Virginia (2-1, 0-0) at Pitt (2-1, 1-1), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #UVAvsPITT. The Hoos cannot afford to get in a shootout with the Panthers because they do not have the type of offense that can keep up. What Virginia does have is a more aggressive defense that will try to ramp up the pressure on Tom Savage, rattling him enough so he has a more difficult time getting the ball to Tyler Boyd and Devin Street on the perimeter. Pitt has its own problems on defense it has to deal with, but Virginia is still trying to find its identity there with a consistent run game. Give the nod to the Panthers based on their offensive playmakers.

AA says: Pitt 30, Virginia 23

HD says: Pitt 28, Virginia 24

Troy (2-2) at Duke (2-2), 3 p.m., ESPN3. #TROYvsDUKE. The Blue Devils need to find a way to fix their problems on defense in a hurry after dropping two straight ACC games. The big key is limiting the explosive plays. In the loss to Pitt, the Panthers had 17 plays that picked up 25 or more yards. Troy does not have the same type of offensive skill players as Pitt, or even Georgia Tech for that matter. The Trojans also do not have anybody on their roster like Duke receiver Jamison Crowder, who had nearly 300 all-purpose yards in the loss to the Panthers.

AA says: Duke 35, Troy 20

HD says: Duke 52, Troy 21

No. 8 Florida State (3-0, 1-0) at Boston College (2-1, 1-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. #FSUvsBC. The Eagles had a bye to prepare for Florida State, along with the experience of playing against one of the best defenses in the nation in a loss to USC two weeks ago. But those combined may not really do much to help the Eagles in their upset bid. Here is a stat that sums up how good the Seminoles have been early: Through their first three games, 11 different players have scored touchdowns.

AA picks: Florida State 45, Boston College 13

HD picks: Florida State 35, Boston College 17

Central Michigan (1-3) at NC State (2-1), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #CMUvsNCST. NC State coach Dave Doeren is quite familiar with Central Michigan, having played the Chippewas the last two years as Northern Illinois coach. He went 1-1 in those games. The key here is to see how the Wolfpack bounce back after a tough loss to Clemson last Thursday night. The last time they played a team they were favored to beat, they struggled with Richmond. The focus has to be better.

AA picks: NC State 35, Central Michigan 13

HD picks: NC State 31, Central Michigan 10

Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1) at No. 3 Clemson (3-0, 1-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #WAKEvsCLEM. Wake Forest has not won in Death Valley since 1998. That streak is not going to end Saturday. The Deacs have too many problems on offense to keep pace with the Tigers, who are trying to get back in sync after an up-and-down performance against NC State. Two of the best receivers in the ACC will be featured in this game – Sammy Watkins and Michael Campanaro – but Vic Beasley could end up making headlines once again for the Tigers.

AA picks: Clemson 45, Wake Forest 10

HD picks: Clemson 48, Wake Forest 13

Big Ten predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
9:00
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We're past the quarter pole of the Big Ten season, and the predictions race is all even at 40-6. It's Week 5 on the schedule, but there are only four games involving Big Ten teams, as half of the league is off.

Let's get started ...

MIAMI (OH) at ILLINOIS

Brian Bennett: Miami is 0-3 and has been outscored 107-21. Have fun, Nathan Scheelhaase. I see a 350-yard passing day in your future. ... Illinois 38, Miami 10


Adam Rittenberg: The first open week fell at a good time for Illinois, which had a chance to regroup on both sides of the ball. This might feel like another Saturday off as Miami is truly awful. The Illini's defense rebounds and Josh Ferguson reaches the end zone twice as Tim Beckman's squad exceeds last year's wins total. ... Illinois 31, Miami 13

NORTHERN ILLINOIS at PURDUE

Adam Rittenberg: Northern Illinois hasn't been overly impressive so far and could easily be 1-2. Purdue is a desperate team doing some "soul searching," according to coach Darrell Hazell, after a 1-3 start. The Boilers take an early lead but Northern Illinois' run game, led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, proves to be too much in the second half. Lynch scores two fourth-quarter touchdowns as NIU prevails. ... Northern Illinois 38, Purdue 27

Brian Bennett: It would be hard to pick Purdue against any half-decent FBS team right now with the way the Boilermakers' offense is sputtering. Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson helped slow down the Huskies in last year's Orange Bowl as a Florida State assistant, and Hazell knows Northern Illinois very well from his MAC days. That should help a little, but Purdue has a hard enough time staying out of its own way right now. ... Northern Illinois 28, Purdue 20.


IOWA at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: Very difficult call, as both teams are similar in their approach. I think Iowa has a better chance of moving the ball through the air than Minnesota, though Jerry Kill might surprise us. I'd pick Iowa if the game were in Iowa City, but I think the home field may be just enough to get Minnesota over the top. The Gophers pick up a defensive score, and the legend of Mitch Leidner grows as he runs for 125 and two scores. ... Minnesota 23, Iowa 21


Adam Rittenberg: Toughest pick of the week, for sure. I really liked what I saw from Minnesota against San Jose State, but sooner or later, the lack of a passing game will catch up with the Gophers. Iowa is showing better balance on offense and should do just enough to contain Minnesota's ground game. Jake Rudock finds C.J. Fiedorowicz for the winning touchdown pass in the final minute as Iowa keeps the bacon. ... Iowa 28, Minnesota 24

WISCONSIN at OHIO STATE

Adam Rittenberg: It wouldn't shock me if Wisconsin records the upset, but Ohio State has too much firepower, and the Badgers remain one-dimensional on offense. Melvin Gordon shows why he's arguably the nation's top running back with 180 yards and two touchdowns, but Ohio State rallies in the second half behind Braxton Miller, who accounts for three touchdowns in his return. This will be a fun one in Columbus ... Ohio State 37, Wisconsin 30

Brian Bennett: Fun one is right. Wisconsin never gets blown out anymore, and the Badgers have the run game to give Ohio State's young defense fits. But I agree that the Buckeyes have a few too many weapons on offense, particularly with Miller's return, while the Badgers' passing game is too shaky. Miller leads the Buckeyes out to a big early lead before Wisconsin makes a late comeback behind scores from James White and Gordon. Bradley Roby intercepts Joel Stave to seal it. ... Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 28


There's our forecast. Now it's time to reach out to our adoring public. As a reminder, throughout the season we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

This week's guest picker has been all over the Big Ten map. Phillip Mykleby from Minneapolis, the floor is yours.
I'd like to be a guest picker for this weeks games if you don't mind. I guess you can say I've been all around the Big Ten in my lifetime. I'm a lifelong Iowa Hawkeye fan growing up and undergrad (I actually met you once in Iowa City for Iowa-Michigan in 2009), then off to Nebraska for grad school, and now I work for the U of Minn. This weekend's game for the Floyd of Rosedale has some added meaning for me. And my entire family will be coming up from Iowa and cheering for the Hawkeyes in the Gopher student section!

Here are Phillip's Week 4 picks:

Illinois 45, Miami (Ohio) 10
Northern Illinois 41, Purdue 28
Iowa 28, Minnesota 24
Ohio State 42, Wisconsin 24

SEASON RECORDS

Adam Rittenberg: 40-6
Brian Bennett: 40-6
Guest pickers: 36-10

SEC predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
9:00
AM ET
And just like that, The Kid has a nice two-game lead. For two straight weeks, I tried to help Chris out. I tried to feed him the goods, but he just wouldn't listen.

When he seemed so confident about Texas rebounding against the Rebels, I told him to have some faith in Ole Miss. But Chris put too much faith in a wounded Bevo.

Last week, I distinctly remember when I submitted my picks that Chris said, "Just send them in when you get a chance. There's no way we have anything different." Naturally, I assumed he was thinking like me and had Rutgers winning at home over Arkansas. Alas, Chris was blinded by all those rushing yards the Hogs churned out during the first three weeks of the season.

Chris was too busy hollerin' Pig Sooie when I tried to tell him about Brandon Allen's health and Rutgers' run defense. I heard rumblings from Baton Rouge, La., that Chris was trying to get media members to call the hogs with him in the press box when Arkansas went up 24-7 in the third quarter.

What's the old saying about counting your chickens?

It's just good to be The Kid.

After going 9-0 last week (yes, that makes two straight perfect weeks), I own a 40-3 (.930) record, while Chris is 38-5 (.884) after going 8-1.

Here's to our picks and me taking a three-game lead:

ARKANSAS STATE at MISSOURI

Chris Low: Missouri is putting up a ton of points and rolling right along. The Tigers return home after winning at Indiana a week ago and won’t have any problem with Arkansas State to go to 4-0 on the season. … Missouri 48, Arkansas State 21

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers have looked great on offense thus far, and I don't anticipate that stopping this week with Arkansas State in town. … Missouri 45, Arkansas State 17

SOUTH ALABAMA at TENNESSEE

Low: Justin Worley is back as Tennessee’s starting quarterback, and the important thing for the Vols is everybody playing better around him on offense. After two straight losses, they’ll take out a little frustration this week at home against South Alabama. … Tennessee 34, South Alabama 17

Aschoff: There's no question that Tennessee has a lot to work on on both sides of the ball, but this game will give Worley a chance to get some of the rhythm back that he lost in the Swamp. … Tennessee 38, South Alabama 13

UAB at VANDERBILT

Low: It was anything but a rousing performance last week by Vanderbilt at UMass. The Commodores played well enough to win, but that’s about it. Look for James Franklin’s bunch to turn up the volume this week at home. … Vanderbilt 37, UAB 14

Aschoff: The Commodores didn't exactly excite anyone with their win over UMass last week, but something tells me we'll see a much more explosive offensive performance this week. … Vanderbilt 38, UAB 17

SOUTH CAROLINA at UCF

Low: Talk about a game that has danger written all over it. The Gamecocks had better clean up their mistakes and take their A-game to UCF, or they’re going to be in trouble. They’ve had an extra week to prepare, and Connor Shaw and the offense are clicking right now. … South Carolina 31, UCF 21

Aschoff: This isn't an easy road trip for the Gamecocks. UCF is undefeated and averaging more than 30 points a game. The bye week gave South Carolina time to rest, but this one will be closer than Steve Spurrier will like. … South Carolina 31, UCF 24

FLORIDA at KENTUCKY

Low: One of these days, Kentucky is going to beat Florida again, but it won’t be this Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. The Gators will make it 27 in a row over the Wildcats. … Florida 24, Kentucky 7

Aschoff: The Gators lost two of their top players for the season in less than seven days and have to go on the road with a first-time starter at quarterback. Still, the defense has too many weapons not to get the Gators to 2-0 in SEC play. … Florida 27, Kentucky 7

TEXAS A&M at ARKANSAS

Low: It sounds like Arkansas will be without starting quarterback Allen for the second straight week, and when you’re playing Johnny Manziel & Co., you better be ready to score points in bunches. The Hogs won’t be able to keep up Saturday. … Texas A&M 41, Arkansas 21

Aschoff: The Aggies offense is running on all cylinders, while the Razorbacks will likely be without their starting quarterback again. Not a good sign for the Hogs. … Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 20

OLE MISS at ALABAMA

Low: Ole Miss is healthy and bubbling with confidence. The Rebels also have the playmakers on offense to give Alabama problems. The Crimson Tide have sort of turned it off and on this season, which drives Nick Saban crazy, but they know what’s at stake Saturday. … Alabama 35, Ole Miss 21

Aschoff: This was actually a closer game than the score indicated last season. The Rebels have the offense to top the Tide, but you have to think that Alabama's defense is tired of hearing about its shortcomings. This one will come down to the fourth quarter, and Alabama will have just a little more in the tank. … Alabama 31, Ole Miss 23

LSU at GEORGIA

Low: It’s the Zach Mettenberger Bowl. Well, not really, but Mettenberger’s return to Sanford Stadium has certainly dominated the headlines this week. The difference in this top-10 matchup, though, will be Aaron Murray and a Georgia offense that will produce enough big plays to keep the Bulldogs unbeaten in the SEC. … Georgia 38, LSU 31

Aschoff: It sounds cliché, but whichever team wins the battle up front is going to win this game. Both teams want to establish the run, and both teams have monster running games. The Todd Gurley-Jeremy Hill matchup might be one for the ages, too. Georgia survived a similar game against South Carolina, but something tells me LSU's defense is going to make a play or two late to seal this one. … LSU 35, Georgia 31

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