NCF Nation: Game-predictions-102011

Predictions: Big East Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
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I now see why picking games in the Big East is so hard. You really never know what is going to happen. I was 2-2 thanks to Pitt and USF losses, bringing my season total to 35-10. What does Week 8 hold in store?

Rutgers (5-1) at Louisville (2-4), 8 p.m., Friday, ESPN2. This one is setting up to be a low-scoring game, featuring two teams with solid defenses but so-so offenses. The difference here for Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights should be able to put major pressure on the quarterback against a shaky offensive line. They also are the best in the league at creating turnovers, while Louisville is at minus-4 in turnover margin this season. True freshman Gary Nova has gone on the road and won already for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights become bowl eligible in a slight upset (Louisville is favored by 2). Rutgers 20, Louisville 17.

No. 15 West Virginia (5-1) at Syracuse (4-2), 8 p.m., Friday, ESPN. You know the Mountaineers are going to be looking for a measure of redemption after losing to Syracuse last season. The Orange pass defense has been shaky all season, and now it faces one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. The Orange should get help from the return of Olando Fisher, and the general health of the defense -- coach Doug Marrone says this is the healthiest his team has been all season. Geno Smith is much better in this offense, and he and his teammates are finding a good rhythm, so it is going to be much harder to rattle him into making mistakes. This is my pick for Big East game of the week, so stay tuned for my video analysis later this afternoon. West Virginia 38, Syracuse 20.

Cincinnati (5-1) at USF (4-2), noon, Saturday, Big East Network. The Bulls are in desperate need of a win, and now they face one of the most improved teams in the Big East. But I think USF has a shot here for a few reasons: (1) This is one of the best offensive lines the Bearcats have faced this season, so they are going to have a harder time putting pressure on the quarterback (USF has given up only seven sacks all season); (2) USF has been much better running the ball (No. 1 in the league), and that will provide a huge challenge for the No. 1 run defense in the Big East. Darrell Scott is a load to take down, and averages 6.2 yards a carry. Playing at home, coupled with the increased sense of urgency, also helps. An astute USF reader pointed out I have been terrible with my USF picks (3-3), so we will see how this one turns out. USF 27, Cincinnati 24.

Predictions: Big 12 Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
9:00
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This blogger is truly hitting his stride. Last season, I didn't have a single perfect week of predictions. Last week, I completed my second consecutive perfect week and third overall this season through just seven weeks of football. If not for an ugly 1-4 record in Week 2, I'd be careering it.

Even still, here's a look back at my perfect weeks in Week 3, Week 6 and Week 7, for a combined 20-0 record.

Now, on to this week's picks!

Last week: 5-0 (1.000)

Overall: 36-9 (.800)

Off: Texas, Baylor

No. 4 Oklahoma State 44, Missouri 38: Make no mistake about this one: The Cowboys are firmly on upset alert against a good Missouri team with three quality losses. The road atmosphere for the noon kick won't be amazing, but it wouldn't rattle the Cowboys anyway, who will make it nine consecutive road wins. This will be a great game and must-see TV, but the Cowboys are just too good on offense, even for an underrated Mizzou defense.

No. 11 Kansas State 27, Kansas 20: Can't wait to see both of these games. Kansas' offense is better than K-State's, but you'd never know it because the Jayhawks are too busy giving up big plays. They've given up 45 plays longer than 20 yards in six games, more than any team in the country. This will be a tight game played at the line of scrimmage between two running games, but the Wildcats get it done.

No. 17 Texas A&M 44, Iowa State 24: Too much offense from the Aggies, who can do anything on that side of the ball. Long day for the Cyclones against the nation's leader in sacks. The dam has been broken for the Aggies forcing turnovers. Expect lots of big plays from the defense, too.

No. 3 Oklahoma 47, Texas Tech 17: Norman is no country for Red Raiders. Tech has lost its last two games in Norman by an average of 41 points. This Tech team is no juggernaut, and the Sooners are salty. This will get ugly.

Predictions: Big Ten Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
9:00
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Seven weeks into the season, and we're all tied up.

Rittenberg's 16-for-16 start to Big Ten play has drawn him even with Bennett, a Cardinals fans who is looking more like the Atlanta Braves by the week. Hey, given Bennett's dominance in Big Ten fantasy football, we wanted to give you some drama down the stretch.

Five games are on the Week 8 slate, and there appear to be some tricky ones.

Let's get to the picks!

INDIANA at IOWA

Brian Bennett: The Hoosiers nearly upset the Hawkeyes in Bloomington last year, but I don't think IU can do the same in Iowa City. James Vandenberg, Marvin McNutt and Marcus Coker all enjoy big days as Iowa starts to put together a little winning streak ... Iowa 38, Indiana 17

Adam Rittenberg: Indiana has given Iowa some trouble the past two years, and it will be interesting to see how the Hoosiers receivers respond after being called out by coach Kevin Wilson this week. Ultimately, Iowa's offense is far too powerful. McNutt gets the touchdowns record and Coker builds on his strong performance from last week ... Iowa 35, Indiana 17

NO. 23 ILLINOIS at PURDUE

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue did some nice things last week and could pull off the upset, but Illinois' playmakers on defense will make the difference in this one. Whitney Mercilus and Michael Buchanan gets after the Boilers' quarterbacks, and while Ralph Bolden has a nice day, the Illini pull out a close one as Nathan Scheelhaase has a big fourth quarter. ... Illinois 24, Purdue 21

Brian Bennett: I don't expect Scheelhaase to throw two interceptions again. And A.J. Jenkins will have a much better day. Purdue seems to be getting closer, and a win here wouldn't surprise me. But I think the Illini just have a few too many playmakers and will escape. ... Illinois 27, Purdue 23

NO. 13 NEBRASKA at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: This one could get real ugly, fast. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead each run for 150 in three quarters of play, and the Blackshirts get to have some fun against a struggling Gophers offense. ... Nebraska 58, Minnesota 7

Adam Rittenberg: I don't see things getting that bad, but Nebraska won't be sweating it out in Minneapolis. The Huskers run it plenty, but Martinez and his receivers also build some confidence against Minnesota's flimsy defense. Minnesota's offense makes some big plays here and there, but Nebraska cruises. ... Nebraska 44, Minnesota 17

NO. 21 PENN STATE at NORTHWESTERN

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern's back is against the wall, and this is an absolute must-win for Dan Persa and his fellow seniors. Persa is due for one of those ridiculous performances, and he gets it at home against his home state team. While Penn State boasts a great defense, the Lions haven't been impressive on the road this season and are due for a loss after escaping last week against Purdue. Calling the upset ... Northwestern 24, Penn State 21

Brian Bennett: Any team that can score 21 points against Penn State has a chance, and Northwestern can certainly do that. But the Wildcats defense is playing so bad that I'm not sure it would matter. Silas Redd runs over the Wildcats and Matthew McGloin tosses a pair of touchdown passes to get No. 408 for Joe Paterno. ... Penn State 28, Northwestern 17

NO. 6 WISCONSIN at NO. 16 MICHIGAN STATE

Brian Bennett: The Spartans' defense is going to cause some problems for Wisconsin, with or without the personal fouls. But you don't stop the Badgers as much as you slow them down. Russell Wilson stays cool under pressure, and Wisconsin overcomes some East Lansing demons with a big second half ... Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 21

Adam Rittenberg: Third-down efficiency will be huge in this game, as Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in conversions and Michigan State leads the league in preventing conversions. The Spartans get some stops early, but Wilson and the Wisconsin offense settles into a rhythm in the second and third quarters. The Badgers simply don't beat themselves, and they'll make fewer mistakes than Michigan State to win a big one. ... Wisconsin 30, Michigan State 24

BYE: Michigan, Ohio State

SEASON RECORDS

Bennett: 49-13 (.790)

Rittenberg: 49-13 (.790)

Predictions: ACC Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
9:00
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I fumbled last week. Big time. With a 2-3 record, my first losing week of the season, even my own mother suggested I wear a bag over my head during videos this week. I may or may not be wearing one now as I type this. My overall record stands at 46-13 heading into Week 8, a winning percentage of 77.9 percent. I’m like BC and NC State, though. Comebacks in the second half of the season are my specialty.

Just not this week …

Virginia Tech 35, Boston College 14: The Eagles’ turnaround isn’t going to start in Lane Stadium. Not against a Hokies’ offense that continues to make strides each week under quarterback Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson. Virginia Tech has outscored the Eagles 97-26 in winning the past three games, and this week will continue that trend.

Virginia 28, NC State 24: It won’t be easy, but Virginia will build upon last week’s upset win against Georgia Tech by running the ball against a depleted NC State defense. The bye week helped the Wolfpack’s younger players get better, but it didn’t do much for the players on the injured list. Virginia ran for a season-high 272 yards against Georgia Tech, and will again rely on the running backs to move the chains.

Clemson 38, North Carolina 21: Clemson’s defense doesn’t have as many holes as it might have seemed against Maryland last week. UNC tailback Giovani Bernard will get his yards, but the Tigers will pressure quarterback Bryn Renner into at least one turnover and Clemson will improve to 8-0.

Florida State 48, Maryland 21: Terps’ quarterback C.J. Brown isn’t a secret anymore, and the Seminoles will be prepared for him to run. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel will take advantage of a defense that has been riddled with injuries and overcome by youth.

Wake Forest 38, Duke 35 (OT): The Demon Deacons have won 11 straight games in this series, and they’ve shown more consistency and improvement than Duke this year. If history repeats itself, though, it should be another close, high-scoring game. Duke has scored 30 or more points in each of the past four meetings. Scoring won’t be the problem. Allowing big plays again will.

Miami 35, Georgia Tech 28: Things were going well for the Hurricanes until the announced suspension of starting defensive tackle Micanor Regis, who punched UNC receiver Dwight Jones in the groin last weekend. The loss of Regis will impact the game, as he was the team’s healthiest and most experienced defensive tackle, but it won’t lose it for them. Miami will get its offense going with Lamar Miller, and Georgia Tech’s run defense will struggle more than Miami’s.

Predictions: SEC Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
9:00
AM ET
Another week of picks is in the books and at this point it should come to no one's surprise that I still have a comfortable lead.

It's easy if you pay attention to the teams that play and study what each one and its opponents can do. Maybe, Chris, who childishly refers to me as "The Kid," can learn from me and my strategies. Instead of concentrating on getting his predictions correct, he turns to mudslinging. It's quite sad.

I'd love to stoop to your level and partake in this elementary school hissy fit. Really, I would, but winners don't need to. You just rely on verbal barbs to get you by.

You brought up ridiculous rumors dealing with me and the NCAA, called me names and then dragged former Florida coach Urban Meyer into the whole thing. Are those flashy championship rings he has too snazzy for you, Chris? If you want to wear one, I'm sure he'll let you if you just ask.

After going 5-0 last week, my record is now 49-7 (.875), while Chris is three games back with a 46-10 (.821) record. I tried to help him with his Mississippi State pick over South Carolina, but you know how stubborn people of that age can be.

This week, I expect more of the same on my part. See, I know all about winning in the now, while Chris relies on his past wins to help him. I have the "It" factor, just ask my softball team (Turbo Hyped-up Chargers) about my walk-off inside-the-park home run on Monday. Yeah, Chris I did that, and I was sick, too.

Sounds a lot like Michael Jordan, right?

Let's get to the picks:

JACKSONVILLE STATE AT KENTUCKY

Chris Low: Hopefully the Wildcats have been reminded several times what Jacksonville State did to Ole Miss last season, because as bad as it's been for the Cats, a loss in this game would make it unbearable for everyone in blue. A week off, though, should give Kentucky new life and a much needed win. ... Kentucky 27, Jacksonville State 17

Edward Aschoff: Kentucky might have had a bye week to prepare for the Gamecocks, but the Wildcats' offense is limping into this one. The hope is that there were vast improvements made on that side of the ball and I think we'll see a couple new wrinkles out of Kentucky's offense. ... Kentucky 28, Jacksonville State 13

ARKANSAS AT OLE MISS

Chris Low: With how poorly the Rebels are playing, it's a close race to see whether Houston Nutt is less popular to the Ole Miss fans or the Arkansas fans. The Rebels get the Hogs just as they're starting to get healthy, which could be bad news for anyone who plays Arkansas the rest of the way. ... Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 17

Edward Aschoff: Ole Miss had better hope that Tyler Wilson's arm cooled off during the bye. Yeah, right. Don't count on it. Not only is Wilson on a roll, but the Hogs are getting healthier and healthier, while the Rebels lost two key defenders last week against Alabama. ... Arkansas 44, Ole Miss 10

AUBURN AT LSU

Chris Low: From now on we'll refer to LSU as Team Turmoil. It's been one thing after the other for the Tigers, but they just keep winning. A lot of teams wouldn't be able to survive losing thee key starters, but LSU isn't a lot of teams. ... LSU 28, Auburn 14

Edward Aschoff: Les Miles was all "no comment" when it came to the status of three of his players suspected of being suspended for this game, but it might not matter. Even though Auburn has surprised folks with its five wins, I don't think it will have enough to keep up with this group of Tigers, even if LSU is without three key players. ... LSU 24, Auburn 10

ARMY AT VANDERBILT

Chris Low: We know the Commodores aren't going to sit back anymore and take it from anybody. Just ask James Franklin. There's an edge about this Vanderbilt team you gotta like. You also gotta like the way the Commodores have gotten after people on defense this season and that will be the difference in this game. ... Vanderbilt 24, Army 20

Edward Aschoff: Who would have thought that a brawl would almost take place following a Vanderbilt game? Unreal. James Franklin said things would change in and around that football program, and they certainly have. I think there will be some extra juice flowing through the Commodores this weekend and Army won't be ready for it. ... Vanderbilt 27, Army 17

TENNESSEE AT ALABAMA

Chris Low: For the second straight year, the month of October has been ugly for Tennessee. It's about to get a lot uglier. The Vols simply can't match up with the Crimson Tide's overall talent and depth. Get ready for another Tide blowout, their fifth in a row in the SEC. ... Alabama 38, Tennessee 7

Edward Aschoff: Alabama is clicking better than any team in the country right now. The Crimson Tide beat up on Ole Miss last week and you can tell that it's going to be hard for anything to break this team's focus. ... Alabama 41, Tennessee 7

Predictions: Pac-12 Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
9:00
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Went 5-1 last week and the season record is now 40-12.

Oregon State fans: Look, I know it's my fault. I am more than willing to save the season and pick against your team in every game, but can you get the word out so I don't get angry email about how I always disrespect the Beavers?

Thanks for you consideration.

Thursday

Arizona 35, UCLA 30: Is this about the Wildcats playing looser now that volatile coach Mike Stoops is gone? No. Probably would have picked the same score with Stoops still madly gesticulating and grimacing on the sidelines. It's more about Wildcats QB Nick Foles being the best player on the field.

Saturday

Stanford 42, Washington 24: I expect this to play to the pattern for most of Stanford's games thus far: Close at the half, then BOOM! Andrew Luck and a tough Cardinal defense assert themselves.

Notre Dame 28, USC 24: The Trojans are much better on offense, while Notre Dame is much better on defense. The tipping point is the Fighting Irish playing at home under the lights.

Oregon 48, Colorado 17: Whether the Ducks have quarterback Darron Thomas and/or running back LaMichael James doesn't really matter. The Buffaloes are injury-ravaged and might have lost what little confidence they had.

Utah 24, California 21: This pick is based in large part in the belief that the Bears will be missing two starting linebackers, most painfully leading tackler Mychal Kendricks (shoulder). That will help the Utes establish the run, which in turn will make life easier for QB Jon Hays.

Washington State 38, Oregon State 30: The Cougars will get it done in a must-win game for their bowl hopes. Home-field advantage helps, but there's also the expectation we'll see QB Jeff Tuel far less rusty after making his first start of the season since a shoulder injury last weekend against Stanford.

Notre Dame Prediction: Week 8 vs. USC

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
9:00
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Lane Kiffin called this game Notre Dame's Super Bowl because it is coming off the Irish's bye week. He is also upset that the Irish announced it was a night game in March, somehow messing with USC's travel plans.

No, this isn't the '70s, when this annual intersectional matchup often had national title implications. Neither team is ranked, and USC won't even be able to play in a conference title game, let alone a bowl game, due to NCAA sanctions. But Kiffin has done what he can to inject some juice into this showdown, which will certainly make for an enhanced atmosphere under the lights of Notre Dame Stadium.

On the field, USC is the better team in the standings, at 5-1. But Notre Dame has the better personnel. This is a Trojans team that managed just a two-point season-opening home win against Minnesota, after all.

Did USC's defense turn a corner last week against Cal? A unit that gave up 40-plus points in consecutive weeks shut down the Golden Bears in a 30-9 victory. It remains to be seen, but one thing I'm certain of is USC's offense has the firepower to hang with the Irish.

I see this one similarly to the way I saw Notre Dame-Air Force -- to an extent. Both offenses are capable of exploding, but only the Irish's defense appears capable of making a stop when push comes to shove. And, for the second game in a row, I think the Irish jump to an early lead and never look back, leaving USC to play catch-up in another high-scoring affair.

No alleged flukes here. And no injury excuses, either, regardless of how much Marc Tyler can actually play, if at all. The Irish start a winning streak of their own against USC with their second win in as many years, and just maybe help restore this rivalry in the process.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, USC 24

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