NCF Nation: Game-predictions-111711

Predictions: Pac-12 Week 12

November, 17, 2011
Went 5-1 last week -- Arizona State! -- and the season record is now 56-20.

Oregon 42, USC 35: Don't be surprised if the Ducks start slowly. Last weekend was emotional. It's also possible, however, that the Ducks will assert themselves as they did last year against the Trojans and win decisively. Just have a hunch that this one will be highly competitive, though, with Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley playing at a high level.

Stanford 35, California 20: Stanford and Andrew Luck will bounce back with a strong performance in the Big Game. The Bears' chances hinge on QB Zach Maynard passing effectively and efficiently and he's been hot and cold all season.

Washington 33, Oregon State 21: The Huskies should wear down the Beavers with a steady diet of running back Chris Polk -- right, left and up the middle -- no matter who plays quarterback.

Utah 28, Washington State 24: The Utes will win in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and Cougars QB Connor Halliday won't find the going as easy in his first career start against a sound, aggressive Utes defense.

UCLA 30, Colorado 27: The Buffs are hungry to end a 22-game road losing streak, but the Bruins will have just enough to make the South Division be in doubt until the final weekend of the season.

Arizona State 44, Arizona 31: The Sun Devils play much better at home, and they will be able to score as much as they need to against a struggling Wildcats defense.

Predictions: SEC Week 12

November, 17, 2011
Things certainly are getting pretty interesting around the SEC blog.

After holding a strong lead over veteran (old) writer Chris Low in our picks, I find myself just up a game with two weeks left in the regular season.

I’ll admit, I let my early lead go to my head. I expected to just keep adding to that lead, watching as Chris grew weaker and sadder. There were even people inside SEC programs praising me and trying to keep Chris’ spirits up. Coaches were actually worried that he had lost his luster.

True story. Actually not kidding about that last paragraph.

No one saw “The Kid” coming out and taking Chris’ precious picks from him.

Now, things are tight. When Chris and I talk (which is hardly ever now) he always brings up the picks. He’s trying to get into my head. And hey, that’s cool. I still hold the lead after going 6-1 last week, making my record 69-11 (.863) on the year. Chris was perfect last week because he took Louisiana Tech at Ole Miss to make him 68-12 (.850).

You’d think a team could win the homecoming game …

Things are close now, but I have a feeling Chris has made a grave mistake (as usual) in one of his picks.

Let’s check out where he went wrong:

Georgia Southern at No. 3 Alabama

Chris Low: Alabama’s defense has shut down every offense it's faced this season. Now, the Crimson Tide will take a stab at Georgia Southern’s triple-option attack. It’s not the kind of offense you see every day. But it’s not every day that you see a defense as stifling as Alabama’s. … Alabama 41, Georgia Southern 6

Edward Aschoff: To my surprise, Alabama came out extremely flat against Mississippi State last week. This can't happen again. If the Tide wants to make a title run it has to win in style during these last two weeks. That won’t be a problem Saturday. … Alabama 51, Georgia Southern 3

Samford at No. 24 Auburn

Chris Low: The Tigers are still reeling from that 45-7 whipping at the hands of Georgia last week. That’s twice in their last three games that they’ve given up 45 points. They’re probably in a mood to blow off a little steam, and Samford just happens to be in the way. … Auburn 42, Samford 17

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers were in last week’s game at Georgia for only about a quarter. This team is better than that and will have the opportunity to show it against an overmatched Samford team. Auburn has to work things out before the Iron Bowl next week. … Auburn 41, Samford 13

Furman at Florida

Chris Low: After the nightmare Florida went through offensively last season, there was no way it could get worse this season, right? New coach. New coordinator. New system. Well, the Gators haven’t scored more than 13 points on offense in five of their last six games. Furman comes up on the schedule at just the right time. … Florida 34, Furman 3

Edward Aschoff: Florida’s offense has been hard to watch for two straight seasons and all has not been right in Gainesville. But Saturday will prove to be one of the happier moments for this football program. The Gators will make some offensive plays and will put some points on the board before Florida State comes to town. ... Florida 48, Furman 10

The Citadel at No. 12 South Carolina

Chris Low: It doesn’t look like the Gamecocks are going to win a second straight Eastern Division crown, even though they won all of their games against East opponents. But they can win nine games or more for a second straight year, which would be the first time in school history that they’ve accomplished that feat. … South Carolina 37, The Citadel 7

Edward Aschoff: Steve Spurrier said he isn’t expecting to see Kentucky pull the upset over Georgia Saturday, so he certainly won’t be scoreboard watching. His players might still have a glimmer of hope out there, but chances are Georgia will walk away with the East. So, a focused Gamecocks squad will come out for a solid win Saturday. … South Carolina 44, The Citadel 6

No. 1 LSU at Ole Miss

Chris Low: Before you dismiss this one as just another blowout, don’t forget about the last time Houston Nutt went up against a No. 1-ranked LSU team. Unranked Arkansas shocked the Tigers 50-48 in triple overtime in 2007. The Hogs had Darren McFadden that day, though, and D-Mac won't be suiting up for the Rebels on Saturday. … LSU 35, Ole Miss 7

Edward Aschoff: This will be Houston Nutt’s final home game as Ole Miss’ coach and he gets the No. 1 team in the country. Nutt might be 2-1 against LSU during his tenure in Oxford, but this is the best Tigers team he’s faced since his days at Arkansas. Ole Miss’ recent suspensions add to the team's distractions and LSU will just roll right along. … LSU 41, Ole Miss 7

Kentucky at No. 14 Georgia

Chris Low: Georgia has proved the old adage that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. It’s also nice when you don’t have to face Western Division heavyweights Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. The Bulldogs have been the ultimate survivors this season and will make it nine in a row Saturday when they beat Kentucky to win the Eastern Division title. … Georgia 38, Kentucky 10

Edward Aschoff: This is all Georgia wanted: a shot at the SEC. Well, it’s right in front of you, Bulldogs. All you have to do is win in Athens Saturday and you’re headed back to Atlanta for the first time since 2005. Coach Mark Richt was being ushered out by fans at the beginning of the year. Now, those fans can't get enough of him. Kentucky just doesn’t have the offense to put up enough of a fight. … Georgia 34, Kentucky 10

Vanderbilt at Tennessee

Chris Low: The Vols aren’t sure how effective sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray will be coming off his broken thumb, but any spark offensively would be welcomed. The Commodores are riding high right now and playing excellent football under first-year coach James Franklin, but they still have to prove they can win away from home. The Vols will make enough key defensive plays in the second half to end their SEC skid and qualify for a bowl. … Tennessee 24, Vanderbilt 20

Edward Aschoff: Believe it or not, this is a big one. Vanderbilt needs a win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, while Tennessee needs a win to stay in the bowl hunt. Vanderbilt has been the better team for most of the year, but the Vols could get Tyler Bray back, who was the league’s best quarterback before a thumb injury sidelined him for the last few weeks. But how effective will he be against a talented, veteran secondary? Vandy coach James Franklin keeps saying this isn’t the old Vandy. Well, win an SEC game on the road. … Vandy 24, Tennessee 21

Mississippi State at No. 6 Arkansas (in Little Rock, Ark.)

Chris Low: The scene shifts to Little Rock this Saturday for the Hogs, who still have aspirations of playing for the SEC championship and national championships. They’ve scored 93 points in their last two games and seem to be playing their best football of the season. That’s bad news for Mississippi State, which has had trouble scoring all season and simply hasn’t been able to put together a complete game against a quality opponent. … Arkansas 31, Mississippi State 14

Edward Aschoff: From what Hogs fans tell me, Little Rock will be off the chain for this one. The matchup to keep an eye on is Mississippi State’s secondary vs. Arkansas’ wide receivers. These two units have seen plenty of each other and there could be some exciting moments from both sides. But Arkansas is on a BCS mission and is playing its best football right now. … Arkansas 34, Mississippi State 14

Irish Prediction: Week 12 vs. Eagles

November, 17, 2011
Boston College awaits Notre Dame this Saturday, the third of three consecutive overmatched ACC opponents before the Irish close out their season next weekend at Stanford.

The Eagles have been hapless for much of the year, winning just three games and losing four by double-digits. The question, really, is which Notre Dame team will show up and, consequently, how long will this game be competitive?

Notre Dame played arguably its most complete game of the season last weekend against Maryland, which is easier said than done against an opponent that inspires little in the way of intimidation. A week earlier against a Wake Forest team that plays much better than it has any reason to, the Irish found themselves in a first-half slugfest before escaping in the third quarter.

Expect the emotions of Senior Day to lead to a slow start, as the longer-than-usual pregame ceremony and later-than-usual kickoff make for a different feeling once the players take the field. An early 17-0 lead is certainly another possibility, but I wouldn't expect it. The Eagles, after all, did put a scare into then-No. 12 Virginia Tech earlier this season, actually going into halftime with a 7-6 lead before falling, 30-14.

But make no mistake about it: it would be only a slow start, and nothing more. Boston College poses little to no offensive threat against the Irish defense, and the Eagles' defense is, at best, solid. Like Notre Dame's defense, though, it has had trouble forcing turnovers this season (both have 11).

Tommy Rees took another step in his development against Maryland, and the offense will look to establish a similar tempo this weekend. While Boston College's defense will be less forgiving of a few early errors, the Irish offense should have little trouble eventually settling into a rhythm and pace resembling last week's.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Boston College 16

Predictions: Big Ten Week 12

November, 17, 2011
The Big Ten division races could be decided Saturday. As for the Big Ten blogger predictions race, it's far from over.

Rittenberg takes a one-game lead on Bennett into Week 12, but Bennett, being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, knows all about erasing deficits to win championships. Several intriguing matchups are on the slate this week, so let's get to the predictions ...


Brian Bennett: The Wildcats have won three in a row and won't stop now that they're this close to bowl eligibility. Minnesota's shaky pass defense will lead to a big day for Dan Persa, who throws two touchdowns to Jeremy Ebert and three overall. ... Northwestern 35, Minnesota 20

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern might be peaking at the right time, but the Wildcats can't let up against a Minnesota team that should play better than it did a week ago. A healthy MarQueis Gray makes plays, but Persa finds Ebert, Drake Dunsmore and Kain Colter for touchdown passes against the leaky Gophers' D. ... Northwestern 34, Minnesota 21


Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State needs to keep its emotions in check on Senior Day, and the Spartans must avoid a Minnesota-like performance against an Indiana team with a potent offense. But the Spartans sense what's ahead of them and take care of business, receiving big performances from running backs Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. ... Michigan State 35, Indiana 17

Brian Bennett: The winningest class in Michigan State history isn't going to lose on Senior Day to a 1-9 Indiana team. The Spartans defense lives in the Hoosiers backfield and Kirk Cousins throws for 300 yards in an easy win. ... Michigan State 38, Indiana 14


Brian Bennett: Nebraska is playing very well, but the Huskers have been banged up on both lines and just played a very physical game at Penn State. A second straight win in a tough road spot is too much to ask. Denard Robinson bounces back with a pair of touchdown passes as Michigan helps out rival Michigan State in the Legends' race. ... Michigan 20, Nebraska 17

Adam Rittenberg: Tough one to call, as plenty is at stake for both teams. Both teams can run the ball and play a little defense, but someone is going to make Michigan pay for the mistakes it makes on offense. Nebraska records three takeaways, two against Robinson, and gets a big performance from Rex Burkhead to rally for another big road victory. ... Nebraska 24, Michigan 21


Adam Rittenberg: The Badgers have new life in the Leaders Division, while Illinois and embattled coach Ron Zook look like they're on life support. I actually think Illinois comes to play in this one, especially on defense, and hangs around for a while. But the Illini can't slow down Wisconsin, which gets three more touchdowns from Montee Ball and pulls away. Illinois will score in the first half, but won't outscore the Badgers. ... Wisconsin 35, Illinois 24

Brian Bennett: Zook will want to walk away from this one. Illinois simply can't score any more, and Wisconsin can't be stopped. Even on the road, the Badgers cruise behind three TDs from Russell Wilson. ... Wisconsin 31, Illinois 14


Brian Bennett: The Boilers are on a high after knocking off Ohio State and Iowa hasn't won on the road all year. But Purdue has had trouble staying consistent, and I think the Hawkeyes' balanced offense creates problems. A late Marcus Coker TD run seals it. ... Iowa 28, Purdue 24

Adam Ritenberg: Although Purdue hasn't followed up any of its previous four wins with another victory, the Boilers end the trend this week. Danny Hope's squad has been good at home, and Iowa has had its struggles away from Kinnick Stadium. Purdue contains Coker and records a special teams touchdown to get bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007. ... Purdue 27, Iowa 21


Adam Rittenberg: Tough game to predict as both teams have had issues offensively and Ohio State has been somewhat inconsistent on defense as well. Penn State's seniors will ensure the team remains focused in its first road game since the scandal, and the Lions take an early lead. But Ohio State comes back behind Braxton Miller and DeVier Posey, and the defense rebounds a bit against a banged-up Silas Redd. ... Ohio State 16, Penn State 14

Brian Bennett: I can't pick Penn State to win on the road after all the team has been through, especially not in the Horseshoe on Senior Day. It will be a physical, at times unsightly game, but Boom Herron makes the difference. ... Ohio State 14, Penn State 10


Adam Rittenberg: 63-22 (.741)

Brian Bennett: 62-23 (.729)

Predictions: Big East Week 12

November, 17, 2011
I went into this week thinking I would go with all underdogs. Then I looked at the odds. The combined lines for all three Big East games on Saturday: 4.5. USF and Connecticut are each favored to win by 1; Cincinnati by 2.5. I really, really think all three teams are going to win. Do I dare go with favorites again, after going 1-3 last week? The overall record has slipped now to 39-20.

Cincinnati at Rutgers, noon, ESPNU. There is really only one question going into this game -- Can the Bearcats win without Zach Collaros? If you saw my bowl picks, then I clearly think the answer is yes. Asking backup quarterback Munchie Legaux to go on the road in his first college start and win is a tall order to be sure. But he has a terrific running back in Isaiah Pead, a solid offensive line and a good defense with him as well. I think Rutgers has a chance to take advantage of matchup problems with Mohamed Sanu against a secondary that gives up big plays. But Chas Dodd has an affinity for taking sacks, and Cincinnati has been terrific in that department. Derek Wolfe has the potential for a huge day. Home teams have not exactly dominated in Big East play this season (all three lost last week). The Bearcats might be favored, but who expects them to win? Me. Cincinnati 27, Rutgers 23.

Lousiville at UConn, noon, Big East Network. The Cardinals had a big problem stopping the run against Pitt last week. Most disturbing is that the Panthers are without leading rusher Ray Graham, and have one of the shakiest offensive lines in the Big East. Now they play a team that has found its groove in the run game. Lyle McCombs has three straight 100-yard games, and Scott McCummings is coming off a career day, with 59 yards and two touchdowns against Syracuse. Neither of these teams moves the needle much when it comes to offensive fireworks. It's all going to come down to the run game -- whoever is most effective wins. UConn has not lost a Big East home game yet, but the Huskies will on Saturday. Coach Charlie Strong has stomped those video games to the ground. Louisville 21, UConn 20.

Miami at USF, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. USF fans have directed me to never pick the Bulls again. What if I pick them right here? The Bulls got a much needed win over Syracuse last week, and as has been the case throughout their history, they "get up" for the big nonconference games. Big East games, not so much. Miami might be down, but it would not diminish the impact of a win here any less. Both teams are fighting for their bowl lives. The big key is going to be whether or not USF continues its stellar play against the run. Lamar Miller is an explosive back who averages 5.7 yards a carry and has more than 1,000 yards this season. I really do think USF is going to win, so I am picking Miami. Hope that makes you happy, USF fans. Miami 30, USF 28.

Predictions: ACC Week 12

November, 17, 2011
See what happens when I pick Georgia Tech to win? A vote of confidence and Virginia Tech knocks ‘em out of the Coastal Division race. It was one of two strikes against me last week, the other being BC’s win over NC State. Go figure. I was 4-2 in the picks last week for a grand total of 62-20. My winning percentage stands at 75.6 percent. Nothing spectacular, I know, but it wouldn’t be a week in the ACC without picking at least one surprise, right? See if you can find it:

Virginia Tech 38, North Carolina 24: It will be Senior Day for the Hokies in Lane Stadium, and Virginia Tech has a lot to lose, which is why the Hokies won’t. Virginia Tech is an astounding 25-2 against ACC teams in the month of November. Virginia Tech will play another complete game and clinch the Coastal Division title because ...

Florida State 35, Virginia 17: The Seminoles’ defense is just too good, particularly against the run, which has been Virginia’s strength. The Cavaliers are very well-coached, but they’re not ready to go into that venue and win just yet. FSU's defensive line will fluster quarterback Michael Rocco into a turnover, and quarterback EJ Manuel and the offense will get back on track.

Georgia Tech 35, Duke 21: Those who follow the blog regularly know that during the preseason and earlier this year this is the one game I had predicted the Blue Devils to win, but last week’s loss appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for Duke. The Blue Devils are no longer bowl eligible, and Duke still looks like Duke. The Jackets rebound from the loss to the Hokies.

South Florida 31, Miami 28 (OT): Yes, South Florida just snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over Syracuse, and yes, the Bulls are a 1-4 Big East team, but this game is at South Florida and Miami’s defense will struggle to contain quarterback B.J. Daniels. Don’t forget South Florida beat Notre Dame, a team that is 2-0 against the ACC this month and will improve upon that on Saturday ...

Notre Dame 24, Boston College 10: This will be a competitive game, and BC’s defense will be a major reason for that, but the Eagles simply aren’t as good offensively as the Irish. After a second half against NC State in which BC was held to minus-2 rushing yards, the Eagles will have a tough time keeping up with an offense that averages 33 points per game.

Wake Forest 21, Maryland 14: The Terps will allow another 100-yard rusher, and Wake’s defense will force quarterback C.J. Brown into a costly turnover just as it did last week against Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. Wake Forest will rebound from its heartbreaker and become bowl eligible in the final ACC game of the season.

Clemson 35, NC State 31: This one comes down to the last play of the game -- again. The Tigers follow their pattern of falling behind, but come roaring back again in the second half. Receiver Sammy Watkins needs to play for the Tigers, as he could be the difference.

Predictions: Big 12 Week 12

November, 17, 2011
A decent week of predictions last week, but I whiffed on a Texas pick for the second consecutive week. Longhorns, who are you?

On to this week's picks!

Last week: 3-1 (.750)

Overall: 48-15 (.762)

Here's a look at where we were at this point last year.


No. 2 Oklahoma State 48, Iowa State 20: The Cyclones slow OSU's offense a little bit, but not enough to make a serious threat. The Cowboys are just too good. The fourth quarter is spent focusing on Oklahoma for the starters on the sideline, the first few moments of a 15-day wait for the Sooners' arrival on game day. Jared Barnett's got a lot of upside, but OSU's offense has too many playmakers for ISU to keep pace.


Texas A&M 34, Kansas 24: I'm starting to believe in Kansas' growth, and A&M has to stay focused against a 2-8 opponent with a disappointing 5-5 record. The Jayhawks have played one of the nation's toughest schedules, but hang with A&M in this one for awhile, before A&M and Cyrus Gray flex late with a few big plays to break it open and grab a safe win. Kansas is inching closer to that win, and could be in for a great game next Saturday against Mizzou.

Missouri 34, Texas Tech 21: Texas Tech, though? Nobody in the Big 12 has fallen faster, and the banged-up Raiders are feeling around for something good to happen. It's been awhile. Missouri's been competitive in just about every game. Tech hasn't been competitive in a month. Welcome to the postseason, Mizzou. The Tigers' Kendial Lawrence picks up the slack for the injured Henry Josey and goes for 150 yards.

No. 13 Kansas State 17, No. 23 Texas 13: Bill Snyder won't need much Texas wizardry in this one. K-State is the better team, and inexplicable 9.5-point underdogs. The Longhorns lock down on the K-State offense, but the Wildcats are more than capable of doing the same. We may see the fewest passes thrown in a Big 12 game all season in this one.

No. 5 Oklahoma 47, No. 22 Baylor 31: Make it 21. Baylor moves to 0-21 against Oklahoma in this one. The Sooners have won eight consecutive games away from home, including five against teams in the top 13. This makes nine. Oklahoma's defense is one of a few that can slow Baylor's offense (credit fumbles and Kansas' running game for the three points in three quarters last week), and it'll do enough for the offense to get the win.