NCF Nation: Game-predictions-100611

Predictions: SEC Week 6

October, 6, 2011
I understand that there are a lot of rumors going around about me and the validity of my picks each week.

Last week, fellow SEC blogger Chris Low brought to light an issue with the NCAA and myself concerning my consistency of picking the winners week in and week out.

At this time, I can't comment one way or the other about my interaction with the NCAA, but at the appropriate time I will make an official statement. This has been hard on me, Chris and my cat Meeko, who has had to endure weeks of having a frustrated owner, who only wants the truth to come out.

It says a lot about my colleague that he would want to break this news to the public. I can only classify him as one thing: a sore loser.

As of Thursday, I am in the lead with a record of 39-6 (.866), while Chris is trailing with a record of 36-9 (.800). Chris told me this week that he needed a gimme pick, pleading that I choose an obvious loss to help him out. For shame, Chris. Begging (without money) will get you nowhere in this world. You're better than that.

Now, on to the picks.


Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs are looking to get their execution right on offense, while continuing to shuffle bodies along the offensive line. If this were an SEC team, I'd say the Bulldogs were in trouble, but they should be fine this weekend. Yes, UAB took Mississippi State down to the wire last year, but these Blazers are still looking for their first win. ... Mississippi State 27, UAB 10

Chris Low: The Bulldogs won’t get a chance to end their three-game SEC losing streak this weekend because they step out of conference to play UAB on the road. This is one of those no-win types of games for the Bulldogs, who nearly lost at home two weeks ago to Louisiana Tech. We’ll see how much they learned from that scare. … Mississippi State
31, UAB 14


Edward Aschoff: There is a new quarterback under center for the Gamecocks and it's time to revitalize this South Carolina offense. Coach Steve Spurrier can't be so quick to yank Connor Shaw Saturday and with a week to prepare as the starter, the offense should look better, right? As for Kentucky, the offense has struggled to get anything going and has to face a defense that is finally playing up to its potential. ... South Carolina 24, Kentucky 6

Chris Low: Both teams are making changes to try to jump-start lethargic offenses. Connor Shaw is replacing Stephen Garcia as South Carolina’s starting quarterback, while Kentucky is thinking about pulling true freshman quarterback Bookie Cobbins’ redshirt and playing him at receiver. The good news for the Gamecocks is that they appear to be hitting their stride defensively, which means the Wildcats are staring down the barrel of a fourth straight loss. … South Carolina 30, Kentucky 7


Edward Aschoff: Vanderbilt is clearly overmatched on paper, but Vanderbilt's secondary concerns Alabama coach Nick Saban. No need to worry, Tide faithful -- Alabama's running game will wear down Vandy and any chance of a Commodores upset. Alabama's defense should also keep Vandy's struggling offense grounded for most of the day. ... Alabama 31, Vanderbilt 3

Chris Low: Alabama’s really good at not giving up touchdowns, and Vanderbilt’s really bad at scoring touchdowns, at least on offense. Nothing gets under Nick Saban’s skin more than seeing his team let down against an inferior opponent. But then, this bunch hasn’t shown any signs of letting down against anybody. … Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 3


Edward Aschoff: This game is pretty big as far as the East is concerned, and the winner will momentarily assume the role of favorite in the division. Tennessee has a dangerous high-flying offense, while the Bulldogs' defense has really improved over the last three games. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is looking for his first big SEC win and with a ferocious home crowd, the Vols squeak by. ... Tennessee 28, Georgia 23

Chris Low: After all the gloom and doom to start the season, Georgia is right back in the middle of the Eastern Division race. For that matter, who isn’t? This is a big game for Derek Dooley and the Vols, who are in search of that first signature win. But if the Bulldogs can win, especially with their schedule the rest of the way, they’re probably the favorite to win the East. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray is red-hot for the Vols, but Georgia’s defense is even hotter. … Georgia 31, Tennessee 24

No. 15 AUBURN at No. 10 ARKANSAS

Edward Aschoff: Arkansas is fresh off a valiant second-half comeback against Texas A&M, but is still pretty banged up. Auburn, on the other hand, somehow found a way to drive the ball late and upset South Carolina on the road. Auburn's defense improved mightily against the Gamecocks, but South Carolina was barely playing with a manageable quarterback. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson is still gaining yards on the Aggies and that trend could continue this weekend. ... Arkansas 38, Auburn 27

Chris Low: If only this game is half as wild as the one last season, then we’re all in for a treat. Auburn exploded in the fourth quarter to win 65-43. Both teams have injury issues coming in, and both teams have also had their issues when it comes to stopping people. Arkansas seemed to find something in the second half last week in its comeback win over Texas A&M and will ride that momentum at home to a key Western Division win. … Arkansas 34, Auburn 30

No. 17 FLORIDA at No. 1 LSU

Edward Aschoff:
Florida is heading to Death Valley with a freshman quarterback and a hurt ego to face the No. 1 team in the country. Fortunately for the Gators, this isn't a night game. Jeff Driskel will likely get the start for the Gators; expect LSU's defense to try to punish the young gun early and often. Florida went into Baton Rouge with a true freshman quarterback in 2003 and won, but that was with a guy (Chris Leak) who started two games prior. Things will be much different this time around. ... LSU 27, Florida 13

Chris Low: It really ought to be against the rules to have to face Alabama’s defense one week and LSU’s the next. But that’s the predicament Florida finds itself in this week, and does so with a true freshman (Jeff Driskel) making his first start at quarterback. The Gators are good enough defensively to keep it close for a while, but they’re not good enough to go into Tiger Stadium and win. … LSU 24, Florida 14

Predictions: Pac-12 Week 6

October, 6, 2011
Another mediocre 3-2 week -- missed on Washington and Washington State wins -- and the season record now stands at 31-11.

Does it mean anything that I nearly nailed three exact scores (if Colorado and Washington State are reversed)?

No? OK, tough crowd.


Oregon 44, California 17: The Ducks are a different team at home, and they are tired of hearing about how Cal shut down their offense last year.


Arizona 41, Oregon State 38: The Desperation Bowl II. The difference appears to be Arizona is good at something -- passing the ball with QB Nick Foles -- and Oregon State is not.

Arizona State 24, Utah 17: The Utes' defense will give the Sun Devils trouble, particularly a good D-line that will have an advantage against an offensive line that will be missing two starters. The key is the Sun Devils avoiding offensive mistakes and playing smart on defense against new Utes QB Jon Hays. There was a flicker of making this an "upset special."

Stanford 38, Colorado 20: Don't be surprised if this game is not unlike last weekend's Stanford-UCLA matchup. The Buffaloes will fight hard and stay within striking distance, then the Cardinal will assert its will as it has done in the fourth quarter over and over this season.

UCLA 33, Washington State 30: Confession: Went back and forth -- with the same score -- twice on this one. The homestanding Bruins get the advantage because they are absolutely desperate -- coach Rick Neuheisel is cooked if the Bruins lose -- and the Cougars might not know how to deal with success just yet.

Predictions: Big 12 Week 6

October, 6, 2011
I'll be sticking around Dallas this weekend for the Red River Rivalry. Fret not, I'll have my eyes on lots of other games, too.

A decent week last week, but A&M keeps hurting my average. Thanks, Ags.

Last week: 3-2 (.600)

Overall: 26-9 (.743)

Here's what I see happening:

No. 3 Oklahoma 27, No. 11 Texas 24: This is my pick of the week. Come back later today for a video with my explanation.

No. 20 Kansas State 31, Missouri 27: This was one of the most difficult picks of the year, but I'm not sure any team is composed of more underrated elements than K-State. Collin Klein isn't a pretty passer, but he's the toughest quarterback in the league and moves the ball. The defense will key on the Tigers' lack of big-play ability in the passing game.

No. 6 Oklahoma State 55, Kansas 24: This one will end similarly to many of OSU's earlier games. Kansas' defense won't do much to slow the Cowboys, but the Jayhawks will add a score of two late in the game.

No. 25 Baylor 47, Iowa State 31: I'm still full in on Baylor's legitimacy as a Top 25 team. Iowa State? Tough times ahead in Waco. Baylor's defense is still a work in progress, but Iowa State lacks the offensive firepower to keep up.

No. 24 Texas A&M 44, Texas Tech 38: Texas A&M bounces back with a big day offensively and enough defense to slow the Red Raiders' passing game.
Both of us achieved perfection in Week 5.

Let's do it again, shall we?

Week 6 features five games -- all within the Big Ten -- on the slate. How will things play out Saturday? Unlike last week, we disagree on one of the picks.

Here's our best stab at forecasting the action ...


Brian Bennett: Someone has to win, right? At least Purdue has beaten an FBS team that has a victory this season, unlike Minnesota. Given all the Gophers' problems and the fact this game is in West Lafayette, the Boilers get their first Big Ten win behind a nice day for Twitter expert Robert Marve. ... Purdue 28, Minnesota 17

Adam Rittenberg: Both teams have serious problems, but Minnesota has more and will be on the road. It'll be an ugly first half at Ross-Ade before Purdue quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Marve feast on the Gophers' secondary. ... Purdue 30, Minnesota 17


Adam Rittenberg: Illinois will make some mistakes in its first road appearance, but the Illini once again will have the talent to overcome its miscues. The Nathan Scheelhaase-to-A.J. Jenkins connection works, and the Illini defense forces two turnovers as the Fighting Zookers improve to 6-0. ... Illinois 35, Indiana 17

Brian Bennett: When this is your only road game in the first seven weeks, the schedule-makers have been kind. The Hoosiers hung around with Penn State last week, but Illinois is much better offensively. I predict a 100-yard rushing day for Donovonn Young and an easy Illini victory. ... Illinois 38, Indiana 14


Brian Bennett: The Hawkeyes have owned the Nittany Lions for most of the past decade. And while Penn State's defense will throw some major roadblocks in James Vandenberg's way, the Nittany Lions just don't have enough offensive firepower to keep up. ... Iowa 23, Penn State 16

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State linebacker Glenn Carson spiced up the rivalry this week, and he and his fellow defenders back it up. The Lions' sputtering offense gets a bunch of help from the defense and edges Iowa in a low-scoring game. Not a 6-4 repeat, but close. ... Penn State 12, Iowa 10


Adam Rittenberg: Dan Persa is the type of quarterback who will test Michigan's secondary and give us a better gauge on how much the Wolverines' defense has improved. Persa will make plays in this game, but I can't see Northwestern's defense stopping an offense like Michigan's or a quarterback like Denard Robinson. ... Michigan 38, Northwestern 30

Brian Bennett: Scares me a little how much I agree with you. I believe in the Persa-Jeremy Ebert combo. I do not believe in Northwestern's defense. Another solid day of passing for Denard, and some late heroics. ... Michigan 35, Northwestern 28


Brian Bennett: Finally a cure for the Blackshirts' defense: the sputtering Ohio State offense. I think the Buckeyes move the ball a little better this week with Mike Adams helping the run game, and they get help from another costly Taylor Martinez turnover. But it's still not enough to win in Lincoln against a team that can actually, you know, score. ... Nebraska 24, Ohio State 16

Adam Rittenberg: Martinez is mad and Bo Pelini was embarrassed by the Nebraska defense's performance at Wisconsin. This isn't a good situation for a reeling Ohio State team to enter. The Buckeyes' defense keeps this close for a while, but the offensive struggles continue as the Huskers lock it down. ... Nebraska 27, Ohio State 14

BYE: Michigan State, Wisconsin


Bennett: 42-10 (.808)

Rittenberg: 39-13 (.750)

Predictions: ACC Week 6

October, 6, 2011
Georgia Tech and Clemson weren’t the only ones who were undefeated last weekend. That’s right, 8-0 in the Week 5 picks. Hey, it’s not easy being perfect. That brings the grand total to 39-9 this season for an 81.25 winning percentage. Don’t worry, I’m not thinking of leaving you for the SEC. You’re stuck with me.

This week’s picks weren’t too difficult if everyone follows the script, but that’s a big "if" in the ACC. The toughest games to call were in Blacksburg and Winston-Salem, but here are your winners and losers for Week 6:

Clemson 31, Boston College 17: BC’s defense will keep it respectable, but Clemson is just too good. The Tigers are faster, more athletic, and have more options offensively. BC linebacker Luke Kuechly can’t be held responsible for the likes of quarterback Tajh Boyd, receiver Sammy Watkins AND tight end Dwayne Allen, just to name a few.

Florida State 35, Wake Forest 31: Wake Forest can win this game, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Deacs do. But Florida State has had a week to prepare for this matchup and to heal. The quarterbacks will be key, as both teams are struggling to run the ball, but the defenses could determine the game.

Georgia Tech 38, Maryland 28: The Yellow Jackets’ defense has been unconvincing this year, and while Georgia Tech isn’t without a few flaws, it is the better team. Maryland’s rushing defense was exposed by Temple, and the Terps will give up too many big plays.

Virginia Tech 17, Miami 14: It would be shocking to see Virginia Tech lose at home two weeks in a row. If this game were at Miami, I probably would have picked the Canes, but back-to-back losses in Lane? I don’t see it. Miami’s offensive line will have the edge and Lamar Miller will get his yards, but Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and David Wilson will help the Hokies redeem themselves, and VT will get some points off a turnover.

North Carolina 31, Louisville 17: There’s no reason the Tar Heels should lose this one. Louisville is coming off a loss to Marshall, and it lost to FIU, which lost to Duke. Louisville is one of the worst teams in the Big East right now, and UNC has yet to lose to a conference opponent.

NC State 35, Central Michigan 17: This should be a manageable task, even for NC State’s defense. Central Michigan is No. 102 in the country in rushing offense, and No. 99 in scoring offense at 20 points per game. Quarterback Mike Glennon will take another step forward, the defense will create a turnover or two, and NC State will get back on track.

The Central Michigan at NCSU game was accidentally left off of the earlier version of this post.

Prediction: Notre Dame Week 6

October, 6, 2011
So does Air Force do something special on offense? Seriously, though, the Falcons attack is a potent one, good enough to rank third nationally in rushing and fourth nationally in pass efficiency. Air Force lines up in a variety of different formations, will hand the ball off to any and every eligible player in the backfield and has a quarterback, Tim Jefferson, who has completed 70 percent of his passes.

But let's talk about the defense. Notre Dame's has been great for 19 out of 20 quarters so far this season and is tied for the national lead in rushing touchdowns allowed, with one. It has seen nothing like this offense before, and it struggled immensely in the fourth quarter against Denard Robinson and Michigan, but it is a veteran group in the back-seven -- one that knows its opponent this week cannot be overlooked with a bye and USC looming afterward.

I'm looking more at Air Force's defense, which is missing two of its top linemen in Zach Payne and Ryan Gardner. This is a defense that ranks no better than 70th statistically in any of the four major defensive categories -- rushing, pass efficiency, total and scoring. And it will be going up against a Notre Dame offense coming off its most complete performance of the season, a unit that has eclipsed the 500-yard mark in three of its first five games.

Notre Dame took a big step last Saturday by getting out of its own way and blowing out Purdue. That's something the Fighting Irish can build on this week. Sure, there will be some challenges early against the Falcons' offense, but the disparity between the two teams when Notre Dame has the ball is what will come to light Saturday.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Air Force 17

Predictions: Big East Week 6

October, 6, 2011
Three upsets left me at 3-3 last week, but 30-7 overall through five weeks. Not too bad, but now I see why this league is so unpredictable. Only four games on tap this week. How do I see them shaking out?

Louisville (2-2) at North Carolina (4-1), noon, ESPN2. The Cardinals are struggling to run the ball and score, two big factors in their 2-2 start. It is unknown whether Will Stein or Victor Anderson will play. The last time North Carolina played a team from the Big East, the Tar Heels were sloppy but still came out with a win. I think they are better on offense, and that makes the difference. North Carolina 24, Louisville 14.

UConn (2-3) at No. 16 West Virginia (4-1), noon, ESPN3. The Huskies beat West Virginia for the first time ever last year, thanks to four Mountaineers turnovers. You think that is going to happen again? I don't. After seeing UConn have a tough time stopping Alex Carder and Western Michigan, how on earth are the Huskies going to stop Geno Smith? West Virginia 38, UConn 13.

Pitt (3-2) at Rutgers (3-1), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. Both teams are coming off wins, but Pitt looked better in its victory over USF than Rutgers did in its win over Syracuse. The Panthers finally had a complete effort for an entire game. Rutgers has yet to announce who will start at quarterback. Pitt 28, Rutgers 17.

Syracuse (3-2) at Tulane (2-3), 8 p.m. The Orange are coming off a tough double-overtime loss to Rutgers, but they did have a defensive performance worthy enough of a win. Plus, safety Shamarko Thomas is expected back and that should add even more help. Watch for Ryan Nassib and Antwon Bailey to rebound from sub-par games last week. Syracuse 35, Tulane 20.