NCF Nation: game predictions 111810

SEC predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Of all the games I could have missed last week, I’m still kicking myself for whiffing on the Head Ball Coach going back to the Swamp and taking down the Gators.

I should have seen that one coming from a mile away. Yes, South Carolina has a history of losing those games. But this was Steve Spurrier with a championship on the line.

And it was the Swamp. I mean, that’s his own personal playground.

It was the lock of the year, and I blew it.

At least it was my only miss. I was 6-1 for the week and now 66-16 (.804) for the season.

I am indeed “playing my best football” when it matters most.

Here’s how I see it playing out in Week 12:


Alabama 45, Georgia State 7: The Crimson Tide get an early warm-up game before Auburn comes to town next week. This game was moved to Thursday to give Alabama some extra time to prepare for the Iron Bowl, especially with Auburn having the week off. Bill Curry, coaching Georgia State in its inaugural season, makes his return to Bryant-Denny Stadium. The good news for his team is that the Tide will take every opportunity to rest as many players as possible in the second half.


Arkansas 37, Mississippi State 24: This will be a closer game than the final score indicates. The Bulldogs fell behind early last week at Alabama and had to play catch-up. That’s not their forte. The Hogs are clicking on all cylinders right now offensively, but they’re also playing solid defense. A couple of Ryan Mallett touchdown passes will break this game open in the second half.

LSU 34, Ole Miss 14: It’s payback time for the Tigers. They’ve lost the past two games to the Rebels, and both losses were memorable for the wrong reasons. Last season was the clock debacle at the end of the game, and two seasons ago Ole Miss routed LSU 31-13 in Tiger Stadium. These are two teams going in opposite directions, and LSU is playing its best football right now and eyeing a trip to a BCS bowl.

Tennessee 30, Vanderbilt 21: After going 0-for-October, the Vols are now riding a two-game winning streak. Never mind that they beat up on a pair of reeling teams (Ole Miss and Memphis). They’re playing with more confidence and more precision and can recover from a 2-6 start by getting to a bowl game if they win these last two. The Commodores, decimated by injuries, simply haven’t been able to hold up for four quarters, which will again be the difference in this game.

South Carolina 38, Troy 17: Has the party ended yet in Columbia? The South Carolina football team might want to make sure it’s put away the party hats and balloons. There’s still some work to do before the Dec. 4 SEC championship game. The Gamecocks probably won’t be sharp this week, but they’ll be good enough to pull away for a comfortable win.

Florida 31, Appalachian State 10: The season highlight DVD from this season doesn't figure to be a top-seller at Florida. It’s been a turbulent season for the Gators all the way around, and their offensive struggles just keep getting worse. They get a chance Saturday to take out some frustration on an FCS team that’s had a history of playing giant-killer. Urban Meyer had better hope his team is more pumped for this game than the Florida fans.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Four straight weeks of going 7-3 -- is this as good as it gets? I did my upset special right, though I did not expect Utah to continue its implosion, or FIU to beat Troy for the first time ever.

With a 71-43 overall record and several tough games to call this week, bring on Week 12.

No. 4 Boise State 45, Fresno State 17. The Broncos have won four straight in the series, and a few of those wins have been “close” at least in Boise State terms. Last season, Boise State won 51-34, and in 2007 the Broncos on 34-21. Scores that “close” may make voters think twice about where the Broncos stand in the rankings, especially since they have the Friday night spotlight to themselves. The Bulldogs have good balance on offense, but the Boise State defense will be able to shut down Robbie Rouse, who has posted back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.

No. 18 Nevada 55, New Mexico State 10. The Wolf Pack have rebounded nicely from a loss to Hawaii, and relied on Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua to pull out a close game against Fresno State last week. With a combined five touchdowns in that game, Taua and Kaepernick set the NCAA record for the most touchdowns and most points scored by two players on the same team in a career. Taua and Kaepernick have combined for 103 touchdowns and 616 points.

No. 23 Utah 28, San Diego State 27. I have gone back and forth on this one this entire week, and was leaning Aztecs up until this morning. I love what Brady Hoke has done with the program, and think Ronnie Hillman is a future star. But Jordan Wynn usually comes up big at Qualcomm, and a return home should do him some good and help the offense get out of its doldrums. He is on notice, and he has got to respond.

Tulsa 35, UTEP 17. The Golden Hurricane are streaking now, having won four straight games, and find themselves in a tie atop the West. They need to win out and hope for SMU to lose at least once to get the division crown. Meanwhile, UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe has been hampered by injuries the last several weeks and won’t be 100 percent. Going with the hot team.

Western Michigan 35, Kent State 28. This one is for the battle to keep bowl hopes alive. Both teams are 4-6, and both have had disappointing seasons. But the Broncos have a good thing going with Alex Carder, Jordan White and Juan Nunez on offense. Kent State has some uncertainty at quarterback -- Spencer Keith played last week with a sprained thumb but was benched after throwing an interception. Backup Giorgio Morgan threw two.

Wyoming 33, Colorado State 30. Anything can happen in “The Border War” season finale between the two teams. The last two seasons, the road team has won this game. Wyoming is winless in the Mountain West and in desperate need of a positive note to close out the season. The Rams have not won a road game yet, and have scored just 29 points in their past two games.

UPSET SPECIAL: Army 28, Notre Dame 20. Sorry, I am not on the Irish bus despite the win over Utah. The Utes were totally deflated going into that game and imploded. I still have visions of Navy dancing for 367 rushing yards against the Irish in my head. While the Black Knights aren’t as proficient as the Midshipmen in the triple option yet, they are much improved will give them fits. No doubt Notre Dame will make adjustments, but I still think Army will be able to run.

FIU 30, Louisiana 20. I have a big fear the Panthers may suffer from a letdown in this game following their first ever win over Troy, a victory that has them in the driver’s seat for the Sun Belt. FIU has never been in that position. But they are streaking offensively, having scored a combined 94 points in the past two games. T.Y. Hilton is a big reason why. Louisiana, meanwhile, has lost six straight.

UPSET SPECIAL, PART II: Houston 28, Southern Miss 24. Houston has got to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. The Cougars are no strangers to pulling the road upset, with a win at SMU last month. If the Cougars limit the mistakes, they win. The Golden Eagles have had a terrible week after three players were shot following a fight at a club. You have to wonder whether they will be motivated to play for them, or distracted because of the events of the week. Southern Miss has lost its two league games by a combined two points.

ULM 27, North Texas 20. The Mean Green have won two of three under interim head coach Mike Canales, and have largely done it behind Lance Dunbar, who has combined for 677 yards and six touchdowns rushing and receiving. ULM has to win this to keep bowl hopes alive, and is unbeaten at home. Kolton Browning had thrown for 200 yards in eight straight games before that streak ended last week against LSU. He will do enough to win.

Big 12 predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Now, that was more like it. The Big 12 Blog got back on track with picks last week, missing only Colorado's surprise win over Iowa State. Now, we'll see about this week, which contains an upset special.

Last week: 5-1 (.833)

Overall: 66-17 (.795)

No. 10 Oklahoma State 51, Kansas 17: There's no reason to think the Cowboys won't post a big number in this one, and Oklahoma State's terrifying trio of Justin Blackmon, Kendall Hunter and Brandon Weeden get it done to head to Bedlam with the Big 12 South on the line.

Kansas State 31, Colorado 27: Kansas State is a better team than Iowa State, who Colorado beat in Boulder last week. Dan Hawkins making an appearance to support his son, Cody Hawkins, is overrated as an "awkward" sideplot, but only mistakes will keep Kansas State from getting the win. The biggest mistake they could make? Not putting Collin Klein on the field as much as possible. He and Daniel Thomas carry the Wildcats to the win with a strong second half on the ground.

Texas Tech 35, Weber State 24: Texas Tech is searching for motivation, but they should be be able to handle the Wildcats in the first of two yawn-worthy nonconference games to close the season.

Texas 27, Florida Atlantic 17: I've said it all week, and I'll say it again: there's no guarantee that Texas wins this game. They should. I think they will. But Texas hasn't shown they can beat very many teams this year, and they'll have to play well to do it. Rack up a handful of turnovers, give up a big play or two and try to force your way back into the game and this game is UCLA all over again. That said, I'll take the Longhorns with a comfortable, but hardly convincing win.

No. 15 Missouri 38, Iowa State 20: Iowa State hasn't been able to defend the spread all season, and a renewed Missouri offense takes advantage. The Cyclones have played well at home, but they won't be able to score enough to keep up with the Tigers, who'll likely key in on Alexander Robinson and force Jerome Tiller to make difficult throws to Iowa State's underwhelming receiving corps.

No. 14 Oklahoma 35, Baylor 30: This is my pick of the week. Come back later today for a video of me explaining my pick.

No. 19 Texas A&M 27, No. 8 Nebraska 24: I'll call my shot here in an upset special. I barely missed when I picked the Aggies to beat Oklahoma State. I missed by, let's say, a wide margin, when I picked Missouri to beat the Huskers. The third time's the charm, right? Let me explain:

1) Texas A&M got a lot of practice defending the zone read against Baylor last week, with Robert Griffin III and Jay Finley. They gave up a few big plays in the first half, but played a lot better in the second half. That'll continue this week.

2) Conservative, average, punchless, whatever. Call it what you want. Mediocre has many names. That's what Nebraska's offense has been without a full-strength Taylor Martinez. I have my doubts about how healthy Martinez's ankle is, and in this game, where Nebraska will have to put points on the board, that's a big deal. Their running offense won't be as effective, and the Aggies have athletes on the edge and in the middle at linebacker in Garrick Williams, Von Miller and Michael Hodges who can make the stops necessary to keep the Huskers at bay.

3) Oklahoma State couldn't stop Nebraska's offense. Missouri couldn't move the ball against Nebraska's defense. Texas A&M, however, has a better pass rush and a better secondary than Oklahoma State, and can run downhill with power, versus Missouri's slow-developing, east-west running attack that got swallowed up by the Huskers speed on defense. Taylor Martinez isn't throwing for 300 yards against Tim DeRuyter's defense, and as long as Cyrus Gray gets 20-plus touches, the Aggies should be able to run the ball where Nebraska has been vulnerable: right in the middle of the defense. The Aggies offensive line is getting better fast, and those two freshman tackles have turned from a liability into a strength, coach Mike Sherman said this week.

4) Missouri doesn't have the talent at receiver to get open, but Texas A&M does. Jeff Fuller probably won't have a big day against Prince Amukamara, but Uzoma Nwachukwu will occupy Alfonzo Dennard, and opportunities over the middle should be there for slot men Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal, as well as tight end Nehemiah Hicks and Gray out of the backfield. Ryan Tannehill will find them enough to help the Aggies spring the upset and finish the season strong.

Big Ten predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

See what I get for complaining about going 4-1 every week? The football gods gave me 3-2 and made me like it.

I've pretty much given up hope of recording a perfect week of picks before season's end. After going 11-0 in Week 1, it has been all downhill.

We've got an interesting slate of games to predict this week. Will Iowa bounce back and effectively end Ohio State's streak of Big Ten titles? Can Wisconsin overcome its historic struggles at Michigan Stadium? Big Ten teams are also playing games at both Wrigley Field and FedEx Field.

Should be an interesting Saturday, to say the least.

Here's how I see things shaking out.

Wisconsin 37, Michigan 28: The Badgers' offense isn't quite as dominant as it was last week, while Denard Robinson and the Michigan attack play a cleaner game against a Wisconsin defense that will allow some points. This is a close game for three quarters before Wisconsin pulls away in the fourth behind its offensive line and running backs Montee Ball and James White.

Michigan State 28, Purdue 10: It's Senior Day in East Lansing, and linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon will make it a memorable one. Both players put up big numbers as the Spartans smother Purdue's offense and record their 10th win. The Michigan State offense shows some signs of rust and has some trouble keeping Ryan Kerrigan out of the backfield, but Kirk Cousins has a strong second half with two touchdown passes.

Penn State 31, Indiana 20: Check back for a video post later today that breaks down my selection in further detail.

Ohio State 24, Iowa 21: This was one of the toughest games to predict all season. Ohio State has been erratic on the road and against quality opponents, while Iowa has responded well after its previous two losses. Both teams are loaded with experience, which will show up Saturday. The Hawkeyes jump ahead early, but Ohio State makes more plays on defense and in the kicking game to escape Kinnick Stadium with a victory.

Northwestern 21, Illinois 20: The season-ending loss of Dan Persa could swing this the other way, and Illinois could put it all together after a lackluster performance last week. But I don't like the vibe I'm getting from the Fighting Illini right now, and Northwestern could have more of a home-field edge at Wrigley Field than it does at Ryan Field. Wildcats quarterback Evan Watkins overcomes some early turnovers to lead the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.

Bye: Minnesota

Last week: 3-2

Season record: 64-13 (.831)

Pick o' the Irish: Week 12 vs. Army

November, 18, 2010
Like Notre Dame, my season record is a mediocre 5-5. Unlike the Irish, I'm saddled with a three-game losing streak.

I blew the Navy pick last month and now must try to make amends against another service academy. Just like Notre Dame.

Notre Dame 24, Army 21: Yes, I did actually watch the Irish look comically bad trying to defend the triple option earlier this season. So why on earth would I pick them to do better against the same type of team?

Well, for one, I don't think the Black Knights, though improved, are as good as the Midshipmen. Let's examine Army's six wins: Eastern Michigan, North Texas, Duke, Tulane, VMI and Kent State. Not exactly Murderers' Row. Heck, not exactly Jaywalkers' Alley.

Army will move the ball against Notre Dame, but I believe seeing the option a second time will greatly improve the Irish's chances at stopping it. And Brian Kelly will continue to employ the same conservative approach on offense with Tommy Rees that worked in the Utah game, thereby eliminating any big mistakes like the killer interception Dayne Crist threw near the end of the first half against Navy.

Notre Dame redeems itself against a service academy, wins the first college football game in Yankee Stadium and gains its bowl-clinching sixth victory in a close one.

Last week's pick: Incorrect

Season record: 5-5

ACC predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Well, it wasn’t perfect, but a 4-2 record last week puts me at 57-22 (72.1 percent). That’s my winning percentage, guys, not the odds of SEC blogger Chris Low having to write five more stories on Auburn that have nothing to do with any actual games. There are two elimination games this week -- in College Park, Md., and Miami -- but I’m also feeling some pressure this week to get these picks into championship form. Time is running out until the biggest pick of the season. Until then …

Boston College 14, Virginia 3 -- BC has given up one offensive touchdown in the past three games and won all three of them. BC is allowing just 1.9 points per quarter since the final quarter of the Maryland game on Oct. 23. The Eagles are one win away from bowl eligibility and this defense will help them get it against a Virginia team that has been plagued by penalties.

Florida State 28, Maryland 24 -- Maryland’s only losses this year have come on the road, but the last time the Terps were in this situation -- at home in 2008 against FSU -- the Seminoles won. These teams are similar statistically, but FSU will have the edge defensively up front and it will be the difference against a patchwork offensive line.

NC State 24, UNC 21 -- Russell Wilson will find a way to win this game, but he won’t do it until either the last play of the game or overtime. UNC’s defense will keep the Tar Heels in it, but Wilson’s athleticism and ability to throw the deep ball will eventually take them out of it. Tom O’Brien goes 4-0 against Butch Davis.

Clemson 21, Wake Forest 3 –- Poor Deacs. They haven’t won since Sept. 11 against Duke, and it’s unlikely to change this weekend. Clemson’s defense, which ranks No. 9 in the country in scoring defense, will create a short field and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers will feast on Tanner Price like it’s Thanksgiving Day.

Miami 35, Virginia Tech 28 -- I’ve said since this past summer that Virginia Tech wouldn’t get through its three-game stretch against Georgia Tech, UNC and Miami unscathed and I’m sticking to it. Miami’s ability to run the ball will wear down Bud Foster’s defense early and this time, the Hokies won’t be able to climb out of their first-half deficit.

Duke 35, Georgia Tech 31 -- Another prediction I had this past summer was that Duke would win a game it’s not supposed to. Consider this it. It’s going to be senior day in Atlanta, and the Yellow Jackets are playing for bowl eligibility, but that holds no sentimental value with the Blue Devils. They’re playing their best football of the season, not turning it over, and Miami exposed some weaknesses Duke is likely to repeat. Duke will also benefit from having played two other option teams this year.

Pac-10 predictions: Week 11

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Been mediocre of late. Went 2-2 last week and the season record is now 48-16. You might find the top comment amusing, though.

Won't go .500 this week, that's for sure.

Washington 28, UCLA 24
: Jake Locker can't really lose his final game in Husky Stadium, can he? The Huskies' -- very bad -- run defense will need to step up, though.

Stanford 28, California 20
: The Cardinal has too much at stake to lose the Big Game. Stanford's advantage at quarterback will be too much to overcome for Cal, even playing at home. And will this be Andrew Luck's final Big Game? And what about Jim Harbaugh?

USC 40, Oregon State 24: USC is rolling. Oregon State is not. The Trojans luck in the state of Oregon will change. It just doesn't seem reasonable to believe that a defense that got pushed around by Washington State has a chance to slow down USC.

OFF: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington State.