NCF Nation: Game predictions 100412

The 4-0 and ninth-ranked Irish return from their bye week to clash with the 4-1 Hurricanes in their annual Shamrock Series game, this one at Chicago's Soldier Field. The two last met in the 2010 Sun Bowl, a 33-17 Notre Dame win, but this is their first regular-season game since 1990.

When Miami has the ball: Beware of Stephen Morris and the rest of the Hurricanes' playmakers at the skill positions. Morris threw for an ACC-record 566 yards in last week's win over NC State, including 271 in the first quarter alone. Miami has eclipsed 600 yards of offense in each of its past two games, totaling 86 points. Notre Dame's passing defense ranks 19th nationally but has yet to face an offensive attack with the explosive weapons that Miami has. The question is if Miami will have the chance to let those guys shine. The Hurricanes young starting offensive line will be going against one of the best defensive fronts in the country one week after losing fifth-year senior Ben Jones, who left his first career start at right tackle with a knee injury and is out Saturday.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Has Everett Golson put a forgettable performance against Michigan in the rearview mirror? Brian Kelly said this week that Golson had a bit of a shoulder issue that has since been cleared up. The Irish will need more out of their signal caller, who once again will be facing a big opponent on a big stage. Fortunately for him, Miami's defense is ranked 91st or worse in four major categories -- rushing, passing, total and scoring. This could be the perfect opportunity for Golson to answer several lingering questions over the past two weeks, and he and the rest of the offense needs to play within itself.

Intangible: Duke Johnson has made as big of an impact as a freshman can through his first month in college. He averages 6.9 yards per carry, has rushed for five touchdowns, caught one score and has returned a kickoff back for a score. But he managed just 19 rushing yards in Miami's loss to Kansas State, which has the nation's No. 14 rushing defense.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Miami 14

Big 12 game predictions: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
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Time to pick this week's games across the Big 12. It's a small slate -- only four games -- but it should be interesting. Outside of Kansas State-Kansas, I'd say anything could happen in the other three games. Could be a very upset-filled Saturday.

I'll be in Austin, Texas, on Saturday to see the Longhorns host West Virginia in the Mountaineers' first Big 12 road game. I'm pretty excited about it.

Oklahoma State and Baylor are off this week.

On to the predictions!

Last week: 4-0 (1.000)

Overall: 29-5 (.853)

No. 7 Kansas State 44, Kansas 17: Nobody is taking this game more seriously than Bill Snyder. The man gets his teams ready for Kansas. Ron Prince never beat the Jayhawks. Snyder, meanwhile, is 16-4 against his in-state rival, including two of the most complete beatdowns the Turner Gill-coached Jayhawks ever received. Snyder gets his guys up for this game, and Collin Klein takes care of business against an improving KU defense.

Texas Tech 28, No. 17 Oklahoma 27: Give me the upset. Texas Tech's revamped defense harasses Landry Jones and proves it's here to stay. Meanwhile, Oklahoma's struggles in Lubbock continue. Seth Doege has a big game against the Sooners secondary and Texas Tech propels itself into the top 25. Art Kaufman might be something of a miracle worker with this defense.

No. 15 TCU 17, Iowa State 16: This will be a rare defensive struggle in the Big 12. Iowa State has an underrated defense and its linebackers are well-equipped to shut down TCU's running game. TCU's defense will force Steele Jantz into more mistakes, too. The Horned Frogs have major problems, but make the necessary plays in the fourth quarter to get a clutch win.

No. 8 West Virginia 41, No. 11 Texas 38: I'm taking the upset here, too. West Virginia's offense is too much in Austin and though Geno Smith throws his first interception of the season, his four touchdown passes are just enough to get one of the biggest wins in WVU history. The Mountaineers negate a Texas pass rush with a healthy diet of screens, and Texas' tackling issues are a major problem against a slippery Tavon Austin, who all too often looks like he's covered in some sort of grease. More on this game later today in my Game of the Week video.

SEC predictions: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
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It's "Separation Saturday" in the SEC, so we're pretty fired up here on the SEC blog.

Matchups between Florida and LSU should be fantastic, and Georgia's trip to South Carolina might be the game of the year to this point.

Entering the weekend, I still own a two-game lead with a 48-3 (.941) record, while Chris sits with a 46-5 (.902) record after we both went 6-0 last week.

It feels good to have the lead, and I expect to extend it this weekend. I thought we'd have a couple of differences last week, but Chris was wiser than expected. This week, one of the big games has us split, so things should be interesting come Sunday morning.

Chris is the veteran, so I know that he still feels pretty confident about his picks going forward. And that's great. I love a challenge. And I'll admit that mistakes were made last year with my picks. His vast knowledge of all things SEC proved to be too much.

But things are different. I've gone through this league now and I see things clearer. I won't be like the Carolina Panthers or the U.S. Ryder Cup team. This time, I'll keep my lead.

Chris is right. No need to live in the past. All I see is a championship in my future.

On to the picks:

ARKANSAS AT AUBURN

Edward Aschoff: Both teams might not make it to a bowl game this year, but I have a feeling this one will be exciting. Two struggling defenses go at it, but Arkansas' will help Auburn's struggling offense look good. ... Auburn 30, Arkansas 27

Chris Low: Between them, Arkansas and Auburn are 0-4 this season in the SEC. The Tigers have had their own issues, but the Hogs have given up 179 points in their past four games. Bad defenses don’t get better overnight. ... Auburn 37, Arkansas 24

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT KENTUCKY

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs are refreshed coming off a bye, while the Wildcats are really hurting -- with injuries and their play. Mississippi State should feast on Kentucky's freshman quarterbacks. ... Mississippi State 38, Kentucky 10

Chris Low: Mississippi State’s unbeaten, but how good really are the Bulldogs? The schedule has been pretty cushy to this point. Coming off a bye, though, they shouldn’t have any trouble in the Bluegrass. ... Mississippi State 30, Kentucky 14

VANDERBILT AT MISSOURI

Edward Aschoff: Both offenses are struggling, but tweaks are coming for both units. Vanderbilt has the advantage of coming off a bye, but that quarterback controversy is too unsettling. ... Missouri 24, Vanderbilt 14

Chris Low: Missouri’s first two SEC games ended in 21-point losses. A Vanderbilt team struggling to score points is just what the doctor ordered for the Tigers in this battle of James Franklins. ... Missouri 24, Vanderbilt 17

TEXAS A&M AT OLE MISS

Edward Aschoff: Get ready for some points! Both teams enter with very fun offenses to watch, but the Rebels have to clean some things up on defense if they are truly going to stay in this shootout. Expect another big day from Johnny Manziel. ... Texas A&M 38, Ole Miss 27

Chris Low: If you like football played at warp speed, this is your game. Texas A&M and Ole Miss both want to run as many plays as possible on offense and leave the opposing defense gasping for air. The red-hot Manziel will see to it that the Aggies win their fourth in a row. ... Texas A&M 38, Ole Miss 24

LSU AT FLORIDA

Edward Aschoff: LSU hasn't looked great for the past two weeks, but this team has been much more focused heading into its showdown in the Swamp. The Gators are rested and healthy and have been on a roll. This one will come down to the fourth quarter, and that's where Florida has thrived. ... Florida 24, LSU 20

Chris Low: LSU’s last two performances have hardly been top-10 worthy, while Florida has already won two SEC games on the road. Both teams are physical, and both teams are excellent on defense. The Tigers, though, are due to break out and play their most complete game of the season. ... LSU 24, Florida 20

GEORGIA AT SOUTH CAROLINA

Edward Aschoff: It's hard to find a more exciting and more balanced offense than Georgia's. The Bulldogs are moving the ball better than any SEC school out there. But they haven't met a defensive front like South Carolina's. More pressure will come. And Marcus Lattimore has to be licking his chops after Georgia's last defensive outing. ... South Carolina 24, Georgia 21

Chris Low: South Carolina has never beaten Georgia three straight times. Then again, the Gamecocks hadn’t done a lot of things until the Head Ball Coach arrived. It won’t be as wild as last season’s shootout in Athens, but the Gamecocks will make enough big plays in the fourth quarter to outlast the Bulldogs. ... South Carolina 31, Georgia 28

ACC predictions: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
9:00
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If you said Georgia Tech would lose to Middle Tennessee last week, please, tell me what numbers to play in the lottery, too. With losses by Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech last weekend, my record for Week 5 was 6-2. Got to love the Coastal Division. Heading into Week 6, my overall winning percentage stands at 81.3 (39-9). Yeah, I rounded up. Here’s to a more accurate Week 6:

Army 42, Boston College 41: This game could go either way, but it would be surprising if BC’s run defense didn’t continue its friendly trend. The Eagles are allowing almost 200 rushing yards per game, and Army is No. 2 in the country with 367.5 rushing yards per game. Army is winless, yes, but BC’s only win is over Maine. Advantage: home team.

Clemson 48, Georgia Tech 35: Get ready for another high-scoring affair, as both defenses have allowed an average of 26 points per game this season. The Tigers’ offense has more speed and playmakers, though, and it also has more on the line. The Yellow Jackets couldn’t win back-to-back games at home. There’s no reason to think they could pull an upset on the road at this point.

Florida State 28, NC State 21: This one is going to be closer than some might think, and that’s because NC State is going to play one of its best games of the season. It’s a night game at home in Carter-Finley, and the crowd is going to be a factor. This one has the last-play-of-the-game feel to it. FSU can’t revert to its old ways of turning it over and making foolish penalties. The Noles didn’t play too well at South Florida, but FSU’s speed will kick in and it will win up front against the Pack’s O-line.

Maryland 28, Wake Forest 21: This is a dangerous situation for the Deacs in terms of their bowl eligibility, but the Terps have had a bye week to prepare and will have home-field advantage. Wake Forest will be without its top playmaker, injured receiver Michael Campanaro.

Virginia 45, Duke 31: If quarterback Sean Renfree is out, it could be the difference in the game, but we won’t know until Duke releases its injury report later today. Regardless, the Blue Devils’ injury-laden defense will have a tough time stopping Virginia, which put up 625 yards against Louisiana Tech last weekend.

Notre Dame 31, Miami 28: The Canes will look a lot better than they did on their trip to Kansas State, but Notre Dame’s defense and Miami’s lack thereof will be the difference. Miami’s speed on special teams will help set up a short field to help out the offense, but it’s not going to be another record-setting day for Stephen Morris against the Irish.

North Carolina 31, Virginia Tech 21: The Tar Heels’ defense is starting to play better, and they’ve given up only six points at home all year. Granted, it’s been to inferior competition, but the Hokies haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. The UNC team we saw in the second half against Louisville is the one we see for four quarters against Virginia Tech.

Big East predictions: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
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Matt did a great job filling in last week with the predictions post. So great, that we were both 4-0 on the week! Will I ruin the unbeaten streak now that I am back?

AA season record: 23-8.

Friday

Pitt at Syracuse, 7 p.m., ESPN. Both teams enter the game off a bye and appear to be heading in different directions. The Panthers have won two straight; Syracuse looked terrible in a loss to Minnesota. Pitt has won seven straight in the series, but Syracuse has played well in national spotlight games and showed glimpses of greatness in the first two games against Northwestern and USC. Its last Big East victory came on a Friday night -- against West Virginia a season ago. I believe the Orange will cut down on their silly mistakes and benefit from having tackle Justin Pugh back in the lineup. I can see this one turning into a shootout, and I give Syracuse the edge at home. Syracuse 31, Pitt 30.

Matt's pick: Pitt 27, Syracuse 20

Saturday

UConn at Rutgers, noon, ESPNU. Nobody thought Rutgers would lose this game last season and the Scarlet Knights did. Nobody thinks Rutgers will lose this game -- so what ends up happening? This should be a great defensive battle between the two best units in the league. But ultimately, Rutgers has the better quarterback in Gary Nova, better running back in Jawan Jamison and better offensive line. I don't think this one will be as close as it has been in years past. Rutgers 27, UConn 17.

Matt's pick: Rutgers 28, UConn 10

USF at Temple, noon, Big East Network. The Bulls have a tendency to get up for their big games, and play down in their Big East games, something coach Skip Holtz addressed earlier this week. USF is more talented than Temple, but then again, the Bulls were more talented than Ball State. Still, I think this team will be encouraged by the way it played against the Seminoles a week ago and will be able to slow down the Temple rushing attack. Temple is too one-dimensional right now on offense and has to show it can be a threat in the pass game. USF 24, Temple 13.

Matt's pick: USF 20, Temple 13

Miami (Ohio) at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., ESPN3. These two teams play in the oldest nonconference rivalry in the nation and will meet Saturday for the 117th time. Cincinnati has won six straight, but struggled in the first half last year before pulling away for the shutout win. This year's game should feature some good quarterback play between Munchie Legaux of Cincinnati and Zac Dysert of Miami. Last week against Akron, Dysert became the first FBS player to pass for at least 500 yards and rush for at least 100 in the same game. Akron's defense is nowhere near Cincinnati's. Cincinnati 35, Miami 13.

Matt's pick: Cincinnati 34, Miami 13.

Pac-12 predictions: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
9:00
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Welcome to Week 6. Both of us went 4-1 last week, with both missing on Stanford-Washington.

For the season, Ted is 31-12 and Kevin is 29-14.

USC at Utah (Thursday)

Kevin Gemmell: I expect Rice-Eccles to be loud and raucous. But I also expect that the week off did the Trojans more good than it did the Utes. Expecting USC to look like the team we all thought they were in front of a national TV audience. USC 42, Utah 21.

Ted Miller: Will the USC offense get on track with center Khaled Holmes likely out? Fifth-year senior Abe Markowitz did a mostly nice job replacing Holmes against California (he also was out with an injury during the loss to Stanford), but you can expect the Utes be eager to see what a backup center can do against 325-pound DT Star Lotulelei. USC 28, Utah 17.

Arizona at Stanford

Kevin Gemmell: This is a critical game for both teams -- with Arizona entering a brutal stretch of games and the Cardinal coming off their first loss of the season. I'll give Josh Nunes a better chance to rebound at home than if this game was on the road. Stanford 24, Arizona 21.

Ted Miller: Stanford played poorly against Washington. I suspect it will play much better this week, particularly against a Wildcats defense that is struggling. The matchup of Arizona QB Matt Scott and his offense against the tough Cardinal defense should be interesting. Stanford 30, Arizona 20.

UCLA at California

Kevin Gemmell: The young Bruins showed a great deal of maturity in their efficient dismantling of Colorado. Memorial Stadium isn't having the 12th man effect that many were hoping. The Bruins are the hotter, more confident team. UCLA 35, Cal 24.

Ted Miller: There is every reason to believe UCLA will win this game, based on the play of both teams so far. Call this one a hunch. California 31, UCLA 28.

Washington at Oregon

Kevin Gemmell: Great win for the Huskies last week. But I'm expecting that Oregon probably will put a better offensive product on the field than the Cardinal did. Plus Oregon's defense is comparable to Stanford's and outside of two big plays, the Huskies struggled to move the ball. Ducks make it nine in a row. Oregon 52, Washington 28.

Ted Miller: A lot of things worked well for Washington against Stanford, and that should bolster the Huskies' confidence in Autzen Stadium. There may be a feeling-out period here, which has been a recent pattern between these rivals, but I expect the Ducks to surge in the second half, which also has been a recent pattern between these rivals. Oregon 42, Washington 20.

Washington State at Oregon State

Kevin Gemmell: Oregon State has the best résumé of wins in the conference and after tough back-to-back road wins, they should pick up a double-digit victory at home. I liked Washington State's moxie against the Ducks and Arizona exposed some holes in the Beavers' secondary. I suspect that will be patched by Saturday. Oregon State 38, Washington State 24.

Ted Miller: Oregon State needs to be wary of complacency. The Cougars showed some fight against Oregon. Beavers fans, feel free to worry about this one. I think it's justified. But I also don't think the Cougars can cover Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Oregon State 40, Washington State 28.
It's that time again. Thankfully, there's only one nonleague game left to predict (Indiana-Navy) and it's not this week.

Five games on tap, all in the Big Ten, and several that could play a huge role in which teams end up in Indianapolis. The games are getting tougher, and so are the predictions, especially this week with several toss-up games.

Adam Rittenberg holds a four-game lead on Brian Bennett entering Week 6, but things can change in a hurry.

Prediction time ...

MICHIGAN STATE at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: Mark Dantonio says he wants to see his team come out and make a statement, and I think the Spartans will. Indiana's defense should be just what Michigan State's scuffling passing game needs, as Andrew Maxwell fires two touchdown passes and Johnny Adams has a pair of interceptions. ... Michigan State 28, Indiana 13

Adam Rittenberg: A nonfactor a week ago, Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell gets back into the mix in a big way in Bloomington. The Spartans junior goes for 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Indiana once again has some success in the passing game early, but Michigan State takes control in the third quarter as Aaron Burbridge hauls in a touchdown catch in his first start. ... Michigan State 34, Indiana 20

No. 24 NORTHWESTERN at PENN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: Matt McGloin has torched Northwestern while quarterbacking a bad offense, and though the Wildcats are better defensively, so is McGloin. The Penn State senior connects for three touchdown passes to three different receivers. Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter keep Northwestern in this one, but McGloin leads the way in the fourth quarter. ... Penn State 28, Northwestern 24


Brian Bennett: I'm way behind in the standings, so I need to take some chances. And while Penn State's defense has been playing very well, the Lions haven't exactly played stellar offenses the past three weeks. Northwestern's two-headed quarterback monster and Venric Mark will get their yards and points, and an improving Wildcats defense comes up with an interception of McGloin in the final minute to seal the deal. ... Northwestern 23, Penn State 17

ILLINOIS at WISCONSIN

Brian Bennett: Wisconsin has its share of issues but looks like a top-10 team compared to the hot mess at Illinois. Jared Abbrederis hauls in two touchdown passes, and the Badgers stuff the wobbly Illini offense to get a much-needed Leaders Division victory.... Wisconsin 31, Illinois 14

Adam Rittenberg: Both teams need a win, and while Illinois can't be this bad week after week, I can't see the Illini pulling off the upset. Wisconsin gets multiple backs involved and gets three rushing touchdowns, two from Montee Ball. Joel Stave gets Jacob Pedersen more involved as Wisconsin pulls away in the third quarter. ... Wisconsin 28, Illinois 17

MICHIGAN at PURDUE

Adam Rittenberg: Tough one to call, and I've been going back and forth on it all week. Purdue will be geared up for its biggest game in recent memory and take an early lead. But Denard Robinson eventually finds enough gaps in the Boilers' defense and records two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally the Wolverines. Caleb TerBush fires two early touchdown passes, but his interception in the closing minutes seals it for Michigan. ... Michigan 27, Purdue 24

Brian Bennett: I agree that this is an intriguing game. My biggest question: Is Purdue ready to take that next step? I think the Boilermakers are close, but ultimately not quite there yet. As disastrous as Michigan's turnovers were against Notre Dame, I saw improvement on both lines in that loss. And after a week off, I expect the Wolverines to come out with a better game plan, and to feature Robinson's legs much more. Robinson runs for 175 and three scores as Michigan gets a badly needed win. ... Michigan 35, Purdue 28

No. 21 NEBRASKA at No. 12 OHIO STATE

Brian Bennett: It seems like most weeks I'm wondering how Ohio State just won. The Buckeyes have been getting by on a little good fortune and a whole lot of Braxton Miller in their 5-0 start. Nebraska will be by far the best offense Ohio State has faced. But the Huskers still seem a little too loose with the ball and too susceptible to mobile quarterbacks. Miller gets it done again with 350 yards and four total touchdowns as the Buckeyes work their magic once more. ... Ohio State 31, Nebraska 30

Adam Rittenberg: Ohio State took a nice step in Week 5, but the Buckeyes have been a pretty fortunate team so far this season. They've survived turnovers on the road and defensive breakdowns at home. Saturday night, their luck runs out as Nebraska records its first true signature road win in the league. Miller does his thing and records two rush touchdowns and a passing touchdown, but he also throws a costly interception in the fourth quarter. Taylor Martinez rebounds from an early turnover to spark the Huskers against the Buckeyes, who haven't seen an offense like this. Martinez records his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance and Brett Maher nails a 50-yard field goal to win it for Big Red. ... Nebraska 30, Ohio State 28

Iowa and Minnesota both are off this week.

Season records

Adam Rittenberg: 41-11 (.788)

Brian Bennett: 37-15 (.712)

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