NCF Nation: Game predictions 102512

Big 12 predictions: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
Pretty good week of picks for me last week, let's try to get a perfect week in Week 9.

I'll be heading to Manhattan, Kan., this week to see Kansas State try to stay undefeated against Texas Tech, but you can find plenty of coverage of Oklahoma and Notre Dame's game here on the blog from my colleagues at Sooner Nation and columnist Ivan Maisel.

On to the picks!

Last week: 4-1 (.800)
Overall: 37-11 (.770)

West Virginia is idle.

Texas 44, Kansas 17: There's more upset potential here than it would appear, so don't be surprised if this one's close in the first half. Ultimately, though, the Longhorns dominate the line of scrimmage and take care of business. David Ash predictably looks much better against the Jayhawks than he did against the Sooners. Kansas' linebackers might have nightmares about trying to tackle Joe Bergeron.

TCU 34, Oklahoma State 31: Really, really tough pick here. I'm going to go with the underdog Frogs on the road, though. Oklahoma State's quarterback spot is pretty unpredictable, and I wouldn't be surprised if Wes Lunt returns and has a huge game to get a win. Still, I'm going with the Frogs here, who continue to get better week by week and are sticking together through a whole lot of mess this offseason. Trevone Boykin has another big day. Oklahoma State's defense isn't as good as Iowa State made it look last week.

No. 3 Kansas State 31, No. 15 Texas Tech 24: The recipe is here for an upset. Texas Tech is better than people think, and a very balanced squad coached by Tommy Tuberville, who is 6-2 against top five teams. That includes wins in each of the past two seasons. Still, I'm betting on Bill Snyder poring over that Oklahoma game tape and figuring out how to slow the Red Raiders' offense. K-State does enough and runs the ball consistently yet again. Is there anybody left to stop the Wildcats from rolling to a Big 12 title, their first since 2003?

Baylor 38, Iowa State 34: Nick Florence has to be more careful with the ball, but the Bears' speed at receiver is too much. Iowa State's quarterbacks look like world-beaters against a Bears defense that needs a ton of improvement, but BU goes on the road and gets a massive, massive win. The chase for a bowl bid at season's end is going to be really, really compelling here. Both teams would have four wins after Saturday.

No. 8 Oklahoma 31, No. 5 Notre Dame 21: This is my game of the week, so come back for more today on this game. Oklahoma hasn't seen a defense like Notre Dame's but Notre Dame hasn't seen an offense like Oklahoma's. The Sooners receivers are getting more and more in sync with Landry Jones as the season goes on, and Oklahoma looks dominant at home once again, flexing against a ranked team.

Big Ten predictions: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
Some weeks are better than others, and Week 9 in the Big Ten is a very good one. All six games pair fairly evenly matched teams, and there's something at stake in all six contests (yes, even Indiana-Illinois).

These might be our most challenging picks of the season, which could be a good thing for Brian Bennett, who trails Adam Rittenberg by a whopping five games in the season standings.

Without further ado, let's get to the picks ...


Brian Bennett: Both teams are searching for some answers on defense, but the Wildcats are much healthier than the Hawkeyes, who are banged up at offensive line and running back. I think we'll see Northwestern get back to running the ball more with Kain Colter and Venric Mark this week, which works well enough to hold back an Iowa team whose quarterback is under fire. ... Northwestern 23, Iowa 17

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern does have some injury issues of its own at cornerback, but James Vandenberg hasn't been able to take advantage of much this season. I like this matchup for Northwestern, even though the Wildcats have an identity crisis on offense right now. Iowa takes the early lead, but Northwestern finally puts the ball in Colter's hands, and he rushes for two second-half touchdowns. Mark Weisman bullies his way to 100 rush yards, but Northwestern gets it done on Homecoming. ... Northwestern 24, Iowa 20


Adam Rittenberg: I really think Illinois will be better following the open week -- the Illini can't get much worse -- and should capitalize on Indiana's defensive woes. But Indiana's spread offense matches up very well against an Illinois defense that, while talented, struggles mightily against spread teams. Hoosiers receivers Shane Wynn, Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes each catch touchdowns and Indiana finally finds a way to hold on for its first Big Ten win under Kevin Wilson. ... Indiana 31, Illinois 27

Brian Bennett: I guess I can't pick both to lose this week, huh? The Hoosiers have been much more competitive for the past several weeks than Illinois has, and their offense is better than any unit the Illini can put out there right now. Expect some new wrinkles from Tim Beckman after the bye week, but Indiana's passing game is too much as Nate Sudfeld comes off the bench for a pair of second-half touchdown passes. ... Indiana 28, Illinois 27


Brian Bennett: One of these teams has to get itself off the mat, and I think it's going to be Minnesota. Purdue has to be feeling a bit of a hangover from last week's heartbreaking loss to Ohio State, and another week of experience will do wonders for Gophers freshman quarterback Philip Nelson. He throws a key touchdown pass to MarQueis Gray, and a late field goal wins it. ... Minnesota 20, Purdue 19

Adam Rittenberg: This game is all about Purdue's demeanor after last week's heartbreaker. If we see the team that showed up in Columbus, the Boilers will win. If not, Nelson and the Gophers will get it done. I've been burned before, but I don't think Purdue is finished just yet. The Boilers' defense pressures Nelson, forces some takeaways and limits a low-scoring Gophers offense to 17 points. Purdue hits on some big plays to Gary Bush and Antavian Edison and gets a win it absolutely has to have. ... Purdue 23, Minnesota 17


Adam Rittenberg: I nearly went with the Spartans here, as I just can't believe Mark Dantonio's squad is on the verge of falling below .500. Then again, Wisconsin doesn't lose at Camp Randall Stadium, especially to teams that have no offense. This game follows a familiar script for Michigan State, which hangs around for a while behind its defense but allows a late score. Le'Veon Bell has 120 rush yards, but both Montee Ball and James White score in the second half as Wisconsin prevails. ... Wisconsin 20, Michigan State 13

Brian Bennett: Pretty simple here: Michigan State can't score, and I don't see how that changes this week against an underrated Wisconsin defense that's playing well. Ball & Co. won't find as much running room as normal against this Spartans defense, so quarterback Joel Stave will have to play well. He does well enough to get the win, hitting big passes to Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen to set up scores in a close one. ... Wisconsin 17, Michigan State 14


Brian Bennett: I learned my lesson in picking against Penn State last week. Ohio State is getting thinned by injuries, and quarterback Braxton Miller might not be at full strength after last week's brief hospitalization. Bill O'Brien's offense will pick apart the Buckeyes' questionable back seven as Matt McGloin throws three TD passes. That and a crazed home-field atmosphere are enough to ruin Ohio State's perfect season. ... Penn State 28, Ohio State 21

Adam Rittenberg: The Buckeyes' slow starts, Miller's injury issues and Ohio State's lack of depth at linebacker are real concerns here. Penn State tight ends Kyle Carter and Jesse James find enough gaps in Ohio State's defense, and Bill Belton racks up 115 rush yards and two scores. Miller plays and keeps his team in the game, but Penn State has too much offense and a huge edge with the Beaver Stadium crowd. Buckeyes go down for the first time. ... Penn State 27, Ohio State 24


Adam Rittenberg: I know Nebraska plays much better at home, and quarterback Taylor Martinez has made obvious improvement this season. But Michigan is the steadier team right now, and the better defensive squad. The Wolverines got over the hump last week against rival Michigan State, and they'll find a way to record a signature road win. Linebacker Jake Ryan recovers two Nebraska fumbles and Denard Robinson breaks off a long touchdown run in the fourth quarter as the Wolverines silence the Sea of Red. ... Michigan 26, Nebraska 24

Brian Bennett: The Legends Division race could get pretty boring if Michigan wins in Lincoln. One thing this league has not been this year is predictable. The Wolverines' recent conservative ways on offense will play into the hands of a Huskers defense that plays better when it knows what to expect. Martinez will pick on Michigan cornerbacks and turn in one of the finest moments of his career as Nebraska roars back from an early double-digit deficit to win. ... Nebraska 28, Michigan 23

Season records

Adam Rittenberg: 54-14 (.794)

Brian Bennett: 49-19 (.721)

ACC predictions: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
I’ve had one wrong pick over the past two weeks, and that was Duke’s 33-30 win over North Carolina last weekend. Congrats to Duke for becoming bowl-eligible and proving me wrong. My overall record stands at 53-12 heading into Week 9 (81.5 percent). Clemson and Wake Forest get things started tonight. Who will win? …

Clemson 35, Wake Forest 24: The Deacs will put forth one of their better efforts of the season, but it won’t be enough to match Clemson’s offensive playmakers. The return of receiver Michael Campanaro will be a huge boost to the Wake Forest offense, but the Deacs’ defense won’t be able to slow down an offense that averages 40.8 points per game.

Maryland 17, Boston College 10: The Eagles are favored in this game, but Maryland has been relentless. No matter what the situation, coach Randy Edsall has found a way to keep his players believing this year. Regardless of who starts at quarterback -- Caleb Rowe or Devin Burns -- the Terps’ defense will make more plays and the offense will get just enough to leave Chestnut Hill with a win.

Florida State 38, Duke 14: This is arguably the most meaningful game Duke has played in over a decade, but the Blue Devils just don’t match up well against the speed and athleticism of the Seminoles. FSU is No. 2 in the country in total defense, and No. 7 in scoring offense. As long as the Noles don’t beat themselves with penalties and turnovers, they should win.

North Carolina 24, NC State 21: The hex is over. NC State’s inability to run the ball consistently will be the difference in the game. In last Saturday’s win over the Tar Heels, Duke’s ability to establish a ground game was the difference. The Pack is too one-dimensional to control the clock and keep Giovani Bernard off the field.

Georgia Tech 28, BYU 24: This one could go either way, but the Jackets got off to a good post-bye week start with the win over BC last weekend and have a little confidence and momentum. They’ve also taken better care of the ball and have a much more productive offense. BYU is No. 100 in the country in turnover margin. The Cougars are one of the better defensive teams in the country, though, so Georgia Tech has to do what it does best and sustain drives.
The moment of truth is finally here. Do the 7-0 Irish keep it going in Norman, Okla.?

When Notre Dame has the ball: Establish the run early. The Irish have moved the ball successfully against a pair of very good run defenses in Stanford and BYU the past two weeks, and they will have their hands full again Saturday. They need to mix and match their three backs, get home run threat George Atkinson III on the field more and have Everett Golson at least show that he's a threat to run when things break down. Brian Kelly is not a time-of-possession guy, but that formula can prove beneficial if things open up early for the Irish. Protecting the ball is priority No. 1.

When Oklahoma has the ball: Get after Landry Jones early and often. The quarterback has been phenomenal the past three weeks, but he has yet to win over the entire Sooners fan base in large part because of his penchant for untimely mistakes, which already cost Oklahoma earlier this year against Kansas State. Notre Dame needs to limit chunk plays and control the line of scrimmage, giving its young defensive backs a chance against the most talented group of skill players it has faced to this point.

Intangible: Notre Dame can't look ahead, but I can. With a 7-0 start and games left against Pitt, BC and Wake, this is, at minimum, a BCS-bowl season for the Irish. They are huge underdogs despite being the No. 5 team in the country. If ever there were an underrated good Irish team, this may be it. The pressure is all on Oklahoma to avoid a second home loss and stay in the national title mix. Notre Dame has a path to 11-0 going into the finale at USC if it can escape Owen Field victorious, and there's something to be said for the looseness of the team going into another big game. Big 12 defenses don't come close to Notre Dame's, either.

Prediction: Oklahoma 20, Notre Dame 13. The more I study this, the more I think the Irish have a very good chance to win, but I just don't have it in me yet to pull the trigger and pick the upset over a Sooners team that's been on a roll lately.

Big East predictions: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
Tuna and I went 4-1 last week, as we both incorrectly picked Cincinnati to beat Toledo. As we have all learned, upsets do happen in the Big East. Anybody on upset alert this week?

AA season record: 33-11 (.750)

Friday night

Cincinnati at No. 16 Louisville, 8 p.m., ESPN. The Bearcats have won four straight in the series, but they go into this one as the underdog. A little bit of luster may have been lost from this game because Cincinnati is coming off a loss, but both teams are undefeated in Big East play and have the longest-running rivalry in the Big East, so there is plenty on the line. I give the edge to Louisville based on the way Teddy Bridgewater is playing. I know Munchie Legaux believes he is the better quarterback, but Bridgewater is playing lights-out and will be able to hit some deep passes on this secondary. I also think Cincinnati will feel the loss of Walter Stewart even more in this game. The Bearcats are going to need to get after Bridgewater, and I wonder how effectively they can with Stewart out. Louisville has a much better offensive line than Toledo. Louisville 30, Cincinnati 21.

Matt's pick: Louisville 28, Cincinnati 24


Temple at Pitt, noon, Big East Network/ESPN3. This is a matchup between two teams with similar styles: Both are going to try to control the line of scrimmage and just pound the football. Neither looked great last week, but Pitt comes in off a victory over Buffalo. I give the Panthers the edge because they have more balance on offense, and are better defensively. If given the opportunity, Tino Sunseri may be able to take advantage of the Temple secondary with his two good receivers, Devin Street and Mike Shanahan. Pitt 24, Temple 17.

Matt's pick: Pitt 21, Temple 10

Kent State at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m., Big East Network/ESPN3. You guys have already read about the challenges Kent State presents to Rutgers, particularly the fabulous Dri Archer. But the Golden Flashes have yet to play anybody as good as Rutgers this season. Their only loss came to Kentucky, and Kentucky is not exactly lighting up the SEC this year. Still, Rutgers will have to find a way to contain Archer and remain focused on the season ahead, despite taking a break from league play for the next several weeks. Rutgers 28, Kent State 13.

Matt's pick: Rutgers 21, Kent State 6

Syracuse at USF, 7 p.m., ESPN3. I was going to call this an upset alert, but then I saw USF was favored to win. I think the Orange looked outstanding last week and are playing much better defensively. It was good to see the run game get going as well, with Jerome Smith notching the first 100-yard game of the season for Syracuse. But USF has always presented problems for Syracuse and so has mobile B.J. Daniels. USF is 6-1 all time against the Orange, and showed major heart against Louisville. I give the Bulls the home-field edge and say they pull this one off. USF 23, Syracuse 20.

Matt's pick: Syracuse 27, USF 21

Pac-12 predictions: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
Welcome to Week 8.

Kevin and Ted both went 4-1 last week. For the season, Ted is 44-15 and Kevin is 43-16.

All games are Saturday.


Kevin Gemmell: Unlike Washington last week, the Trojans are much better equipped to handle a shootout. And if the USC passing attack is really back to the level it showed last week, the Trojans have enough firepower to pull away. USC 45, Arizona 35.

Ted Miller: This one gives off the slight scent of an upset. But I'm with Kevin. USC 44, Arizona 28.


Kevin Gemmell: I think the bye week helps UCLA tremendously, while ASU will likely still be trying to pick up the pieces of last week's loss. A rested UCLA team balances out the fact that it is on the road. UCLA 35, Arizona State 27.

Ted Miller: The Sun Devils will be without defensive tackle Will Sutton, and that's not good. But the Bruins struggle on the road, and I think Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly bounces back. Arizona State 30, UCLA 24.


Kevin Gemmell: Just when I start to put my faith in Cal, they rush for 3 yards. And Utah's defense is coming off probably its best game of the season against Oregon State. Recent history suggests Utah's second-half run starts now. Utah 17, Cal 10.

Ted Miller: It's gut-check time for both teams. The loser might kiss bowl hopes goodbye. We like the Bears to step up for Jeff Tedford. Cal 24, Utah 17.


Kevin Gemmell: Stanford's defense had as good of a performance as any team in the conference last week. No reason to think that won't carry over with the Cardinal back at home against an offense that has failed to reach the end zone twice this season. Stanford 27, Washington State 10.

Ted Miller: Stanford should be able to control both lines of scrimmage. End of story. Stanford 35, Washington State 13.


Kevin Gemmell: So... next week should be fun. Oregon 49, Colorado 14.

Ted Miller: I suspect Oregon's starters will get plenty of rest in the second half. Oregon 45, Colorado 10.


Kevin Gemmell: Mike Riley has faith in Sean Mannion, and Mannion has been given the green light to play. CenturyLink is a very hostile environment, but the Beavers have done some of their best work on the road this year. Oregon State 24, Washington 14.

Ted Miller: The Huskies have lost three in a row since upsetting Stanford, and quarterback Keith Price has not been himself. The Beavers should keep on trucking, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one was hotly contested deep into the fourth quarter. Oregon State 28, Washington 24.

SEC predictions: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
It’s no time to panic, but it’s never ideal to be going into the last weekend of October trailing by five games.

No excuses, though.

The ATL Kid is on fire. He’s gone unbeaten each of the past two weeks and is 65-5 (.929) on the season.

I’ve finished with 6-1 records each of the past two weeks, but managed to lose ground. I took a bit of a flier on Texas A&M last week against LSU and whiffed.

Gotta lean on my experience over the next few weeks because I’ve got a feeling The Kid will get ultra conservative down the stretch with his big lead. He's already moving his cat's bed in his apartment to make room for a whole new trophy case.

I would have thought he learned his lesson last year. Oh well.

Let’s take a look at this week’s picks:


Edward Aschoff: Coach James Franklin might not "know" what anyone is talking about when it comes to b-o-w-l games, but his team will actually get one step closer to one of those things Saturday. ... Vanderbilt 41, UMass 7

Chris Low: The schedule has softened for the Commodores, and they’re making a run at their second straight bowl appearance. They break away from the SEC grind this weekend and shouldn’t have any trouble evening their overall record at 4-4. … Vanderbilt 45, UMass 10


Edward Aschoff: Both teams are limping into this game. Neither has its original starting quarterback, but the bye week should have helped the Tigers' offensive weapons get back to basics. ... Missouri 27, Kentucky 14

Chris Low: This ought to be dubbed the Injury Bowl. Both teams have been decimated by injuries, and Missouri quarterback James Franklin will miss his second straight game. The Wildcats hope to get a few guys back in the secondary, but it won’t be enough to avoid their seventh straight loss. … Missouri 30, Kentucky 14


Edward Aschoff: Both teams gained some good momentum going into the bye week, but both defenses will have their hands full Saturday. Arkansas is in must-win mode if it's going to make it to a bowl game and the offense will be too much for Ole Miss in the second half. ... Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 30

Chris Low: Talk about a game with huge bowl implications. Ole Miss could move within a game of becoming bowl eligible, while Arkansas almost has to win to keep its postseason chances alive. The Hogs are playing their best football and will find a way to win in a shootout. … Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 27


Edward Aschoff: The Aggies struggled on offense in the second half against LSU but get a great chance to turn things around against a struggling Auburn defense. ... Texas A&M 31, Auburn 10

Chris Low: The Tigers have struggled on defense against spread offenses, and the Aggies and Johnny Manziel are as good as anybody at spreading you out and speeding up the game. Manziel came back to reality last week in the loss to LSU, but will return to his Johnny Football form this week. … Texas A&M 38, Auburn 17


Edward Aschoff: It's an early game, which means both teams will be a little slow out of the gate. Both teams were battered last weekend, but the Gamecocks could still be playing for a big bowl game and that defense will clamp down on Tyler Bray in the second half. ... South Carolina 31, Tennessee 17

Chris Low: The Head Ball Coach is still steaming over the way his Gamecocks repeatedly coughed up the ball last week at Florida. That’s probably not good news for Tennessee, which has given up 173 points in four SEC games this season. … South Carolina 35, Tennessee 21


Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs are looking for more respect and will get a ton of it if they can upset the Tide. Alabama played its most complete game of the season last week and will try to keep things simple against Mississippi State's talented secondary. Expect Alabama's running game to wear down Mississippi State's front. ... Alabama 31, Mississippi State 20

Chris Low: This is Dan Mullen’s best team at Mississippi State and the Bulldogs’ best chance since he has been there to win a game of this magnitude. The only problem is that Alabama is steamrolling everybody in sight. … Alabama 28, Mississippi State 10


Edward Aschoff: The SEC East is riding on this one. A Florida win, and the Gators are headed to Atlanta. A Georgia win, and the Bulldogs are in the East driver's seat. Georgia's back is against the wall, but this team has been here before and succeeded. The pressure is on Florida, but the Gators haven't dropped back-to-back games to Georgia since the late 1980s. ... Florida 24, Georgia 20

Chris Low: We won’t use the politically incorrect nickname for this game, but the stakes are as high as they’ve been in some time for these two bitter rivals. The Gators can clinch the SEC East title with a win. They’re not real flashy, but all they do is win -- and they’ve made a habit over the past two decades of beating up on the Bulldogs. … Florida 27, Georgia 21