NCF Nation: Game predictions 112112

SEC predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
They remember what you do in November.

And for me, this is my last chance in November to cut into the ATL Kid’s five-game lead. I did pick up a game two weeks ago because he’s still not a believer in the Music City magic that James Franklin is working at Vanderbilt.

Still, five games is a daunting deficit to make up, which is why it’s imperative that I narrow the gap this final weekend of the regular season.

If I can just get within striking distance, we saw last season that he still doesn’t have that “It” factor when it comes to picking games in the postseason. He’s still young and will mature, but postseason picking is a whole different ballgame.

I just need to be close enough that his palms get a little sweaty and his fingers get a little shaky when he goes to hit that keyboard and makes his picks in December and January.

We were both 10-1 during FCS Celebration Week. The game we both missed was Syracuse’s 31-27 win at Missouri.

The Kid is now 92-11 (.893), and I’m 87-16 (.845). And, no, there won’t be any “Animal House” references this week.

Instead, I want to wish everyone a blessed Thanksgiving holiday, and with that, on to this week’s picks:



Edward Aschoff: This game doesn't have the same feel as last year. This might be a rivalry game, but the Tigers are playing too well right now to let struggling Arkansas do much of anything on either side of the ball. ... LSU 31, Arkansas 14

Chris Low: The real treat might be Les Miles’ postgame news conference, although it’s going to be next to impossible to top his performance from a week ago. His Tigers are getting well offensively at just the right time, and can go a long way toward moving into the pole position for a Sugar Bowl bid. … LSU 31, Arkansas 21



Edward Aschoff: The Commodores come in riding a wave of momentum with a five-game winning streak and a blowout win against rival Tennessee. Wake is a win away from being bowl eligible, but Vandy's offense will be way too much. ... Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 14

Chris Low: Don’t look now, but the Commodores are bearing down on their first eight-win regular season in 30 years. They routed Wake Forest last season on the road and will find a way to win again this season, although it won’t be as lopsided. … Vanderbilt 24, Wake Forest 16


Edward Aschoff: Both will have new head coaches in the near future, so it's hard to say how either will perform mentally. It won't always be pretty, but the Vols get it done in what could be the final game for their top offensive playmakers. ... Tennessee 31, Kentucky 17

Chris Low: It won’t necessarily be winning one for Derek Dooley because Dooley elected not to coach in the finale after being fired this week. The Vols don’t have much in the way of defense, but they have too much offense to lose for a second year in a row to the Wildcats. … Tennessee 45, Kentucky 24


Edward Aschoff: These teams went in opposite directions in their first year in the SEC. The Aggies continue to roll right along and Missouri is just too banged up to extend its three-game winning streak against A&M or its seven-year bowl streak. ... Texas A&M 38, Missouri 14

Chris Low: Johnny Football has become the rage in college football, and he gets one more chance to impress the Heisman Trophy voters. The Aggies shouldn’t have much trouble in this battle of SEC newbies. … Texas A&M 42, Missouri 17


Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs got some good practice with the triple-option offense last week against Georgia Southern. And they won't be bothered by what Georgia Tech has to offer in a game that will bring Georgia one step closer to a national championship berth. ... Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 21

Chris Low: This is right where Georgia hoped to be when the season began. The Bulldogs, who didn’t look like a national championship contender for much of October, now control their destiny. Strange things tend to happen in rivalry games like this, but the Bulldogs aren’t about to have a slip-up now. … Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 20


Edward Aschoff: The Egg Bowl is a big deal again, and a lot will be on the line in Oxford. The Rebels have to win to make a bowl, and something tells me Hugh Freeze will have his players more than ready to finally get another four-quarter performance again. ... Ole Miss 27, Mississippi State 24

Chris Low: The atmosphere in Oxford on Saturday should be electric. Both teams have a ton to play for. The Rebels need to win to qualify for a bowl, and the Bulldogs are trying to secure their second nine-win season in the past three years. It goes down to the wire, but the Rebels' inability to finish a game will sting them again. … Mississippi State 28, Ole Miss 24


Edward Aschoff: Clemson has the high-flying offense and South Carolina has a solid defense. The Tigers are still in the running for a BCS bowl game, but that defense is still giving up too many yards and just surrendered 48 to NC State. Yes, NC State. ... South Carolina 31, Clemson 27

Chris Low: This rivalry has really been spiced up thanks to the war of words over the past year between the coaches. Steve Spurrier usually wins those battles, and his Gamecocks have won three in a row against the Tigers on the field for the first time since 1968-70. But with the game returning to Death Valley, the Tigers’ explosive offense will be too much for the Gamecocks. … Clemson 34, South Carolina 28


Edward Aschoff: This game has national importance again with major BCS implications. Florida State has the top statistical defense in the country, while Florida's offense has been awful of late and quarterback Jeff Driskel is hobbled. Don't expect either offense to do much of anything against these fantastic defenses, but expect the Noles to make enough plays with the home crowd behind it. ... Florida State 17, Florida 10

Chris Low: The Gators could still play their way into the national championship picture if Notre Dame loses this weekend at USC. Of course, doing that means the Gators need to find some offense, which won’t be easy to do against a Florida State team ranked first nationally in total defense. … Florida State 23, Florida 14


Edward Aschoff: Alabama has too much riding on this game to overlook the struggling Tigers. Plus, this team still remembers what happened the last time Auburn was in Tuscaloosa. ... Alabama 45, Auburn 3

Chris Low: The Iron Bowl is one of the fiercest rivalries in college football. Always has been and always will be. But this year, it has blowout written all over it, especially with the Crimson Tide still smarting from the bitter loss to the Tigers two years ago in Bryant-Denny Stadium and positioned to make another national championship run. … Alabama 42, Auburn 0

Pac-12 predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
Kevin went 4-2 last week. Ted went 3-3. Kevin is 61-22 for the season. Ted is 59-24.



Kevin Gemmell: Even though the Utes aren't going bowling this year, revenge is still a factor after what happened in the regular-season finale last year. Folks are trying to build this into a rivalry -- and maybe it will be. But Utah has to win one first. Utah 31, Colorado 17.

Ted Miller: This will become a rivalry as soon as both teams find their footing in the Pac-12. Utah is a bit closer to doing that than Colorado. Utah 38, Colorado 20.


Kevin Gemmell: Perhaps a quick burst of life from the Cougs before we pull the plug on what has been a complete bummer of a season. But not enough to top a Washington team that has taken care of its business against a weaker back-end schedule. Washington 35, Washington State 21.

Ted Miller: One of the worst things I heard all week was the likely absence of Cougars defensive end Travis Long, a guy who has busted his butt as a four-year starter for a bad team. He deserved better, and I hope he gets just that in the NFL. If the Huskies show up with focus, they should have no problem. Washington 30, Washington State 17.


Kevin Gemmell: Really, really tough call here. Both teams have so many similarities. And I think both new coaches will make this a great rivalry for years to come. But Ka'Deem Carey has blossomed into one of the nation's best runners, so I'll bank on him at home in a tight one. Arizona 38, Arizona State 35.

Ted Miller: The home team has lost the past three Territorial Cups. That and my need to catch up to Kevin -- he picks first -- are the foundation of my pick here. Arizona State 38, Arizona 35.



Kevin Gemmell: The smart money says pick Notre Dame against a USC team that doesn't have Matt Barkley. But I'm going against my instincts, because the Pac-12 homer in me says "Fight On." #beLEEve. USC 35, Notre Dame 21.

Ted Miller: I don't believe. I think a very good Notre Dame team is going to come into the Coliseum and open up a can of whup-butt. If the Trojans show up like they have about half the time this season, they will get embarrassed. Notre Dame 28, USC 17.


Kevin Gemmell: Toughest call of the week by far. I can't recall a team having faced Doak Walker Award finalists in back-to-back weeks to close out a season. But if Stanford's defense plays like it did last week, the Bruins will be hard-pressed to find the end zone. Stanford 21, UCLA 20.

Ted Miller: I know that the UCLA guys are really competitive and want to win this game because competitive folks always want to win. But there's surely just this little inkling that it might boost the Bruins' Rose Bowl chances to not go to Oregon next Friday in the Pac-12 championship game, which would happen if they beat the Cardinal and the Ducks beat Oregon State. UCLA, which has already won the South Division, probably would rather visit Stanford for Take 2 six days later with the Rose Bowl on the line than go to Eugene. Stanford 27, UCLA 20.


Kevin Gemmell: Love everything about the Beavers this year. But I suspect a bitter Oregon team that still has a shot at the conference championship and an outside chance at the national title game returns to form (at least offensively) in the Civil War. I still see a big day for Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Oregon 45, Oregon State 38.

Ted Miller: I would not be shocked if Oregon State pulled the upset because of how the Beavers have played this year, consistently thwarting all doubters. But I'm still going with the Ducks because I remain unconvinced -- call me stubborn or something more colorful -- that any other team in the nation is better than Oregon, no matter what happened last week. Oregon 40, Oregon State 28.

Big Ten predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
After a historic week off the field, the Big Ten steps between the lines Friday and Saturday for the final time in this regular season. All 12 teams are in action, and several rivalry games are on tap, highlighted by The Game between Michigan and Ohio State.

As for the blogger predictions race, Brian Bennett is sort of like his old league, the Big East. On life support. He's six games behind Adam Rittenberg with only one week to go.

Let's get to the predictions ...



Brian Bennett: Iowa needs a hero and will be holding out for one until the end of the night. Not happening. Nebraska is on a roll right now, and will push around a Hawkeyes team that has little to play for and no ability to keep up with the Huskers on the scoreboard. Taylor Martinez puts up one last argument for Big Ten offensive player of the year honors with 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing as Nebraska punches its ticket to Indy. ... Nebraska 38, Iowa 17

Adam Rittenberg: As you wrote last week, there's no stopping the Huskers now. Bo Pelini's team knows what it needs to do, and everyone has taken care of business against Iowa's flat-lining defense in recent weeks. Martinez continues his major awards push with four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), and RB Ameer Abdullah adds a long scoring run as Nebraska leads throughout and earns the right to represent the Legends Division at the championship game. ... Nebraska 35, Iowa 10



Adam Rittenberg: The Game has become a lot more interesting for two reasons -- Devin Gardner's emergence at QB for Michigan, and Ohio State's progress on the defensive side. Gardner will make some plays and get Michigan out to an early lead on a scoring pass to Roy Roundtree, but Ohio State will respond behind RB Carlos Hyde, who will get the ball more (as Urban Meyer said he would) and finish with 120 rushing yards and two scores. The Game lives up to its billing and goes down to the wire. Braxton Miller scores the game-winning touchdown with 25 seconds left. ... Ohio State 24, Michigan 21

Brian Bennett: Meyer said Tuesday he would open up the offense after getting conservative at Wisconsin. Combine that with Gardner and Denard Robinson on the other side, and I think we're in for a shootout. I could see either side winning, but after 11 straight wins, how can you pick against the Buckeyes? Miller wills them to another victory, finishing with 375 total yards and four touchdowns. ... Ohio State 35, Michigan 31


Brian Bennett: Both schools want to be known as Chicago's team. Unfortunately for Illinois, it has become the Cubs of the Big Ten. The Illini have given us no reason to think they will win a Big Ten game since the middle of last season, and that's not going to change in the finale against Northwestern. The Wildcats' defense steals the show here, holding Illinois without a touchdown in a low-scoring win. ... Northwestern 21, Illinois 9

Adam Rittenberg: Tim Beckman's squad will fight hard for a quarter or so, but if Northwestern's backfield of QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark is healthy, the Illini are in trouble. Mark breaks free for a long scoring run, and Northwestern pulls away early in the third quarter. The Wildcats record another defensive touchdown and end their mini slide against the Illini, who finish 2-10. ... Northwestern 27, Illinois 13


Adam Rittenberg: Purdue clearly has more to play for, but I kind of like Indiana to play Boiler Spoiler. Cameron Coffman rallies the Hoosiers with three second-half touchdown passes, and while Purdue gets good performances from QB Robert Marve and WR Antavian Edison, a fourth-quarter turnover allows the Hoosiers to win The Bucket in Ross-Ade Stadium and end Purdue's season. ... Indiana 31, Purdue 28

Brian Bennett: I agree this one will be close, but I think Purdue is hungry to get back to a bowl and atone for a terrible 0-5 start to Big Ten play. The Boilers have found a spark since Marve became the starting QB, and their defense has gotten healthier. Marve throws three TDs, and Josh Johnson picks off two passes as the Boilers hold on. ... Purdue 28, Indiana 27


Brian Bennett: Really tempted to pick Minnesota here, but the Gophers are banged up on both sides of the ball. Assuming Michigan State comes to play, the Spartans' physical style will take its toll. Minnesota jumps ahead early, but the Spartans mount a comeback in the second half and go ahead for good on an Andrew Maxwell TD pass to Dion Sims. Michigan State -- finally -- wins a close game to go bowling. ... Michigan State 24, Minnesota 17

Adam Rittenberg: Like you, it wouldn't shock me to see Minnesota win, but the injuries combined with a young quarterback facing a ferocious defense prove to be too much. The Spartans have their typical red zone stalls in the first half but come alive following a pick-six by CB Darqueze Dennard. Michigan State takes a second-half lead, and holds on behind Le'Veon Bell and the run game to squeak into a bowl. ... Michigan State 20, Minnesota 16


Adam Rittenberg: Penn State will have the emotional edge on senior day, but how well has that worked out for the Lions this season? It didn't help against Ohio in the opener or Ohio State under the lights in an electric atmosphere. Even an emotionally charged game at Nebraska didn't go the Lions' way (thanks in part to the replay crew). Penn State takes its customary early lead, but Wisconsin chips away behind two touchdowns from Montee Ball and moves ahead in the fourth quarter. However, the Lions have one final push, and senior QB Matt McGloin sneaks into the end zone with 10 seconds left and does the discount double check move as Penn State prevails. ... Penn State 21, Wisconsin 20

Brian Bennett: It should be an emotional day for Penn State's seniors, who will be remembered by Nittany Lions fans for a long time. I don't see how Wisconsin, coming off an overtime loss to Ohio State and knowing the Big Ten title game is next week, can possibly match Penn State's energy. The Badgers come out flat against the hot-starting home team and never catch up. Ball gets the touchdowns record, but it's not enough as McGloin and Allen Robinson continue their assault on the Penn State record books. ... Penn State 24, Wisconsin 14

Season records

Adam Rittenberg: 71-19 (.789)

Brian Bennett: 65-25 (.722)

ACC predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
You don't want to be reading while you eat your turkey, so chew on this first ...

It was almost another home run week for the predictions, but Virginia lost at home to North Carolina. (Still can’t believe how poorly UVa played in that one with so much still on the line.) The final tally last week was 6-1 for a grand total of 71-17 (80.7 percent) heading into the final week of the regular season.

This weekend is big-time. We’ve got rivalry games. ACC versus SEC. Bragging rights. All that good stuff. Can the ACC get it done?

You betcha …

Florida State 28, Florida 14: This game is in Tallahassee. It won't be a nail-biter. A defensive struggle at times? Sure, but Florida State is the better team with the better quarterback, and it will score. The Seminoles might be a bit naive to think they can still play for the national title, but fans should expect them to play as if the championship game was on the line because it is -- the state championship.

Clemson 31, South Carolina 17: Yeah, you read that right. And holding Clemson to fewer than 40 points will be a victory for the Gamecocks’ defense. No, Clemson’s defense isn’t championship-caliber, but it’s good enough to make South Carolina miss Marcus Lattimore. Quarterback Tajh Boyd will have the edge, and Clemson will snap its three-game losing streak to South Carolina.

Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 17: The ACC’s magic ends here. The Yellow Jackets turned the corner in the ACC, but the weaknesses in the defense will again be exposed against better competition. The Dawgs roll at home behind an outstanding defense that will be disciplined enough to slow down the spread option.

Vanderbilt 27, Wake Forest 10: Vandy is one of the hottest teams in the SEC right now, having won five straight. The Deacs are playing to become bowl-eligible, but they’re doing it with an inept offense that ranks No. 114 in the country in scoring (18.27), No. 111 in rushing (98.36) and No. 117 in total offense (300.55).

NC State 31, Boston College 21: This game isn’t going to be a complete blowout, but the Eagles won’t be able to stop Mike Glennon and NC State’s passing game. In what is likely to be coach Frank Spaziani’s last game as head coach of the Eagles, running back Rolandan Finch will give ‘em a chance, and the they'll give their usual relentless effort but come up short on the road.

North Carolina 38, Maryland 10: No, this isn’t the Big Ten blog. If it were, the score might be 52-3. OK, OK, I’ll stop. Seriously, injuries have been too much for Maryland to overcome this year, and the Tar Heels should have no problem closing the season with a home win.

Miami 41, Duke 38: This game went from meaning everything to meaning nothing -- unless you’re in either program. Once Miami declared itself ineligible for the postseason, Georgia Tech automatically won the Coastal Division. Odds are coach Al Golden is selling his players on finishing 5-3 in league play. Duke’s defense, meanwhile, continues to struggle against ACC opponents.

Virginia Tech 21, Virginia 20: Um, yeah. In what will never been deemed an instant classic, the Hokies will barely become bowl-eligible and take advantage of a mistake-prone Virginia team. If the Hoos were still playing for bowl eligibility, this might be a different story, but they squandered that opportunity last week and will now face a Virginia Tech in Blacksburg team with everything to lose.

Notre Dame prediction: Week 13 at USC

November, 21, 2012
Coming to you one day early because of the holiday.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Everett Golson has grown steadily over the course of the season, and now he has the chance to deliver a title-game berth for the Irish. As long as the quarterback doesn't get careless with the ball, Notre Dame should be able to move consistently against the Trojans. The ground game has been there for the Irish all season, and I'd expect them to rely on that early to try to open things up on the perimeter with Tyler Eifert and T.J. Jones. The offense is clicking at the right time, and it's facing a defense that has been reeling, with many calling for coordinator Monte Kiffin's job.

When USC has the ball: Don't get excited just because Matt Barkley isn't back there. Max Wittek is making his first career start, he's got probably the best receiver duo in the country and, frankly, he's playing with house money. For all their faults, the Trojans are loaded at the skill positions and are capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Notre Dame will look to do what it did to Oklahoma -- allow the short gains but stop the big play. Make the Trojans beat you by executing down the field, play after play. This is the No. 1 scoring defense for a reason, and as long as it does what got it to 11-0, the Irish should fare well Saturday night.

Intangible: USC loses its fifth game of the season, to the No. 1 team in the country? Few can fault a backup quarterback for that. Beat the rival Irish and ruin their national title hopes? This is how legends are born in this rivalry, so why not say you're going to win, as Wittek did Tuesday? Notre Dame's path to the title game is simple: Win. At risk of hyperbole, a loss Saturday could rank among the biggest letdowns in school history. How the Irish handle that pressure determines the outcome Saturday.

Prediction: Notre Dame 21, USC 10. Golson stays cool on the road, and the Irish punch their ticket to South Florida.

Big 12 game predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
Plenty of good games across the board this weekend. Here are my picks:

No. 6 Kansas State and Kansas are idle.

Last week: 3-1 (.750)
Overall: 49-18 (.731)


No. 16 Texas 23, TCU 21: A couple of maturing defenses make it tough for both offenses in the Thanksgiving showcase, but the Longhorns make the plays late to nip TCU. Johnathan Gray earns tough yards in the fourth quarter to keep the clock running, and the defense forces a pair of turnovers against quarterback Trevone Boykin.


West Virginia 38, Iowa State 34: The Tavon Austin Experience is coming to Ames. Now with more touches and a brand-new position. The running back is surely a weapon WVU wishes it had discovered earlier this season. More touches for Austin is absolutely a good thing. Iowa State will figure this one out pretty quickly. He's dangerous, and Iowa State does not have the speediest defense in the league.


Baylor 41, Texas Tech 37: This was by far the toughest pick of the week, but I'll show a little faith in Baylor, even though it might come back to bite me. I was buying the Bears earlier in the season, but that Iowa State loss soured me. I'm back on board after seeing what the defense can do and the offense when it's at its best. Texas Tech is a much different challenge than K-State, but the defense makes enough plays to get the win and reach bowl eligibility.

No. 13 Oklahoma 31, No. 21 Oklahoma State 24: I wanted to pick Oklahoma State in this one. Nobody in the league has been playing better than the Pokes this past month and a half. Couldn't do it. The Sooners remember too much about last year's game and won't lose another game in Norman this year. Landry Jones goes out in style at Owen Field against the Pokes' defense, which is quietly making big strides in recent weeks.

Big East predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
Because of Thanksgiving, we are moving our usual Thursday coverage up one day. So you get your picks early.

I got cute last week with my picks, and it backfired on me as I went 2-2. Tuna did, too, missing Syracuse and Rutgers.

AA season record: 43-17.


Syracuse at Temple, 11 a.m., ESPN2/WatchESPN. So what does Montel Harris do for an encore? It is going to be hard for Harris to run for another 351 yards against Syracuse, which has made strides in run defense. Clinton Granger played well at quarterback for the Owls as well, but that game against Army last week was just a reprieve. Temple has lost four straight Big East games by an average score of 43-14. Syracuse has won four of its past five games and could get another huge game from receiver Alec Lemon against a very shaky Temple secondary. Syracuse 37, Temple 21.

Matt's pick: Syracuse 28, Temple 13.

USF at Cincinnati, ESPN/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. When the Big East released its schedule, this one looked like it would have Big East race ramifications. Now it is just another game. The Bearcats are bowl eligible but out of the BCS hunt; USF is simply down and out. It is hard to say just how much success USF will have on offense with Matt Floyd, given what we saw last week against Miami, one of the worst defenses in the nation. The Bearcats could take advantage of a weak USF secondary and open up its pass game a little more. Cincinnati 30, USF 10.

Matt's pick: Cincinnati 35, USF 7.


UConn at No. 20 Louisville, noon, Big East Network/ESPN3. Both teams enter this game off a bye -- UConn beat Pitt the last time out, and Louisville lost to Syracuse. The Cardinals must win to keep their Big East and BCS hopes alive and are going to have to play better defense after their performance against the Orange. That may not be too difficult in this game, considering UConn barely plays any offense and has not scored a fourth-quarter point in six straight games. Louisville 31, UConn 14.

Matt's pick: Louisville 28, UConn 6

No. 18 Rutgers at Pitt, noon, ESPN2/WatchESPN. Believe it or not, Pitt is a slight favorite. It must be the home-field advantage. Hey, stop laughing out there. Pitt comes into this game off a bye following a loss to UConn, while Rutgers had a very strong win over Cincinnati. Rutgers needs to win to clinch at least a share of its first Big East title. The last time the Scarlet Knights were in that situation, they lost to UConn last year. I don't think history repeats itself. Rutgers is too strong on defense to lose this game. Rutgers 24, Pitt 13.

Matt's pick: Rutgers 20, Pitt 14.