NCF Nation: game-predictions-120111

Predictions: SEC Week 14

December, 1, 2011
There are a lot of things to be excited about on Thursday.

It's the first day of December, so the holiday season is in full swing.

Winter is just around the corner.

Bowl season is coming up.

My birthday is exactly 23 days away. (What do you get the soon-to-be 26-year-old who has everything?)

And it's a new season with our picks.

Chris and I finished up the regular season tied with 82-14 (.854) records after both of us went 6-2 last week. I missed on Vanderbilt, which blew out Wake Forest, while Chris picked Clemson, which was bounced by South Carolina. We both missed Kentucky's win over Tennessee.

We are basically 0-0 now, meaning every game means that much from here on out. That three-game lead that I held is long gone, while Chris has to be kicking himself for picking against the Head Ball Coach last weekend. This is the same Clemson team Chris has teased and tortured through the years. How he could make such a mistake like that is beyond me.

But it not only shows a sign of his age, but his strength. Mentally, you can tell that Chris is wearing down. Once he closed the gap, he thought it'd be smooth sailing to the finish line. He thought the rookie would crumble under the pressure with him making a strong late-season run.

I have new life, while Chris will be second-guessing himself throughout the bowl season.

Can't wait.

We only have the SEC title game to pick this week, so here's what we think:

GEORGIA vs LSU (in Atlanta)

Chris Low: Georgia’s defense has been the real deal this season under Todd Grantham. The second year in his system has made a world of difference. However, the bad news for the Dawgs is that LSU’s defense is even better … and deeper. That depth will be the difference in the second half, as the Tigers will do what they’ve done all season and pound the Bulldogs into submission. LSU 24, Georgia 13

Edward Aschoff: If LSU is the country's best team, it's hard to argue that Georgia isn't one of the hottest. The Bulldogs have reeled off 10 straight wins after an 0-2 start and are back in the Georgia Dome for the second time this season. The Dawgs are a better team since their first stop in Atlanta, when they lost to Boise State to start the season, but so is their opponent Saturday. LSU seems to get stronger and stronger each week, and while LSU might make it to the national title game regardless of Saturday's outcome, the Tigers want an SEC title. Saturday, they'll get it. LSU 27, Georgia 14

Prediction: ACC Week 14

December, 1, 2011
The regular-season picks are in the books, and I closed it out last week with a 6-2 record, striking out on Miami and Wake Forest, which both lost. That brought the grand total to 72-25 for a winning percentage of .742. It’s respectable, but it’s not the championship-caliber performance I had hoped for. Still, I’m packing my bags for Charlotte. There’s only one prediction to make this week, and it’s the Dr Pepper ACC championship game. They say history repeats itself. I say not this season.

Virginia Tech 35, Clemson 14: The Hokies are soaring and the Tigers are sinking. This prediction isn’t just about momentum and the better defense, which Virginia Tech has – it’s about confidence, which Clemson doesn’t. The staff and the players have both conceded in recent weeks that a lack of confidence has infiltrated the locker room, and that’s tough to regain after back-to-back losses, including to an in-state rival. Clemson has been held to 13 points in each of the past two games, and turnovers have been a trend in the past four.

Based on the way these two teams have been playing lately, Virginia Tech is the smart pick. The Hokies have won seven straight games, and they’ve got more than enough motivation on the line. Virginia Tech has wanted to avenge their regular-season 23-3 loss to the Tigers since that game ended, and now they’ve got their chance. Virginia Tech will come out determined to prove it’s the better team now. Until proven otherwise, the defending ACC champs remain the team to beat.

Predictions: Big 12 Week 14

December, 1, 2011
I've noticed a few trends of late, and after this week, I'll be tallying my picks record for each team. I've got a hunch as to who will be high and who will be low, but it'll be interesting.

I'm behind last year's pace, and I'll need some bowl magic to get back into it, but I'm not counting on that happening.

On to this week's picks!

Last week: 3-1 (.750)

Overall: 54-18 (.750)

Off: Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

No. 11 Kansas State 31, Iowa State 23: A reminder: When it comes to Farmageddon: finder's keepers. Hands off, Nebraska and Iowa. K-State gets a somewhat dramatic win in this one, yet again topping the plucky Cyclones. Collin Klein's not going to be stopped, though the Cyclones did as well as anyone stuffing Oklahoma's BellDozer last week. Klein is a different beast, and carries the Wildcats to their 10th win.

No. 17 Baylor 31, No. 22 Texas 27: It won't be easy for Robert Griffin III and the Bears against the best defense they've faced all season. Balance will be key, and Baylor will have just enough to knock off the Longhorns. Terrance Ganaway racks up 100 yards rushing, and RG3 does what RG3 does, even while Case McCoy has one of his best days of the season. Bears best the Longhorns for a second consecutive year.

No. 3 Oklahoma State 37, No. 10 Oklahoma 31: I picked Oklahoma State in this game last year, and got burned. This time around, though, I'm trying it again. I thought Oklahoma would win this game all year, but the stars have aligned for the Cowboys. Oklahoma isn't the same team since losing Ryan Broyles. OSU is the better team. It's the healthier team. It's the home team. They have more on the line. If they can't beat Oklahoma in this situation, when will they do it? More on this game later today in my Pick of the Week video.

Prediction: Pac-12 Week 14

December, 1, 2011
Went 6-1 last week, missing on Colorado's upset win at Utah -- how the heck did I not see that coming? -- and the season record is 65-24.

I won't miss more than one game this week, either.

Friday: Pac-12 championship game

Oregon 45, UCLA 17: The Bruins figure to come out fired up, and they will stick with the Ducks early. That sometimes happens against Oregon. But midway through the third quarter, the Ducks will start to get in rhythm, solve the Bruins' schemes and start to pull away. Oregon will win its third consecutive Pac-12 title and earn a Rose Bowl berth. UCLA will say goodbye to coach Rick Neuheisel and await its bowl fate, yoked with a 6-7 record but carrying a get-out-of-a-losing-record free card, provided by the NCAA.
Championship week is here.

Normally, we'd be kicking up our feet this weekend and watching the other leagues own the college football spotlight. But the arrival of the inaugural Big Ten football championship game changes everything. We'll both be in Indianapolis to see Legends Division champion Michigan State take on Leaders Division champ Wisconsin, and it's time to make our predictions.

Bennett ended the regular season with a commanding two-game lead in the standings. He needs to hold on through Saturday and through the bowl games to call himself a champion. Rittenberg is still licking his wounds from the fantasy league beat-down his Trombone Shorties received. He needs to close the gap before the bowls wrap up.

Prediction time.


No. 15 WISCONSIN vs. No. 13 MICHIGAN STATE (Indianapolis)

Adam Rittenberg: Wisconsin is heavily favored, but this will be a close game. Both teams are playing good football right now and you can argue Michigan State has played even better during the month of November. The Spartans will lead a good portion of the game as Kirk Cousins and his receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin find some gaps in the Wisconsin defense. But Wisconsin knows what it needs to do to win: play better third-down defense and avoid a special-teams meltdown. The Badgers play a clean game in the third phases and force some key stops in the second half. Russell Wilson and Montee Ball get it going in the fourth quarter and Wilson throws the game-winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes. Wisconsin knocks down a Hail Mary after five deflections to seal the win and head back to the Rose Bowl. ... Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 27

Brian Bennett: I've been going back and forth on this all week, and understandably so. The last five meetings between these two teams have been decided by an average of 5.6 points. The Spartans have won three of the past four in the series, but all those victories came in East Lansing. They won't have home field this time. But they will have William Gholston, unlike this year's earlier meeting, and I think Jerel Worthy can cause some more problems against Wisconsin's reshuffled center situation. I find it hard to believe that the Badgers will make as many mistakes as they did in their nightmarish second quarter earlier this year at Spartan Stadium, and they have plenty of motivation after losing on a Hail Mary. But I just get the sense that this Michigan State team is on a mission to get to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988, and Mark Dantonio's team will find a way to get there. No Hail Marys this time, but Cousins throws another game-winning touchdown pass to wrap it up in the final two minutes, setting off the biggest Sparty Party ever in the streets of Indy. ... Michigan State 35, Wisconsin 31


Brian Bennett: 73-24 (.753)

Adam Rittenberg: 71-26 (.732)

Predictions: Big East Week 14

December, 1, 2011
The final week of the regular season approaches, so does that mean there is one more week of crazy unpredictability in store for the Big East? I went 3-1 last week after UConn pulled the stunner over Rutgers, bringing the season total up to 44-22. For those looking for off-the-wall picks, you will be disappointed once again.


No. 23 West Virginia at USF, 8 p.m., ESPN. We are all well aware of the RayJay "jinx" on the Mountaineers, a team without any players who know how it feels to win in Tampa. We said the same thing about Louisville last week, and look at how that turned out for the Bulls. This is a defeated team right now, one that simply does not know how to win close games. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is questionable again, and the USF secondary is banged up at quite the inopportune time. I think the Bulls will be able to get pressure on Geno Smith, but I don't think they have enough healthy bodies in the back end to slow down Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey. USF will fight hard, but come up short again. West Virginia 30, USF 21.


UConn at Cincinnati, noon, ESPN. It's the battle of the dual-quarterback systems in Cincinnati, with at least a share of the Big East title on the line for the Bearcats and bowl eligibility on the line for the Huskies. UConn certainly turned in an impressive performance against Rutgers, but the Huskies were also helped when the Scarlet Knights turned the ball over six times. Cincinnati figured out it is better when Jordan Luallen is in the game, and Isaiah Pead is touching the ball as much as possible. Indeed, the battle on the ground is going to be huge in this one. The Huskies have held six of their 11 opponents below 100 yards and have held three teams to 20 yards or less. Cincinnati leads the nation in tackles for loss (8.5 per game). If West Virginia wins, does that mean Cincinnati comes out flat? I doubt it. This is a team that went 4-8 last season and is hungry for a BCS berth. Cincinnati has the advantage at the skill positions and will find a way to win. Cincinnati 28, UConn 17.

Syracuse at Pitt, noon, ESPN2. It's the battle for bowl eligibility between two of the most inconsistent teams in the Big East. Who wants to get to 6-6 more? Is it Syracuse, a team that has lost four straight after a 5-2 start? Or is it Pitt, a team that has failed to live up to high expectations? Tino Sunseri is coming off one of his worst games, and running back Zach Brown is questionable for the Panthers. Luckily for them, they have a much-improved defense that will be facing a Syracuse team that has forgotten how to score. In the last four losses, Syracuse has scored an average of 15 points a game. The Panthers haven't exactly lit up the scoreboard, either, but they've lost their last two games by a total of four points. Sunseri rebounds and leads Pitt to the win. Pitt 20, Syracuse 13.