NCF Nation: Predictions Week 1 2010

SEC predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:37
AM ET
OK, I’m back for more after tearing up the SEC last season with a blistering 87-20 record (.813).

The glistening record aside, I also got it done in the big games. Some of my key picks from a year ago included Florida over LSU, Arkansas over Auburn, South Carolina over Clemson, Ole Miss over LSU, Georgia over Auburn, Tennessee over Georgia and Georgia over South Carolina.

And, oh yeah, I nailed Alabama over Florida in the SEC championship game and Alabama over Texas in the BCS National Championship Game.

But like coach Nick Saban says, there’s not a single thing I did last year that can help me this year. Every season stands on its own, and I have to prove myself all over again.

Unlike Coach Saban, though, I’m going to be more results-oriented than process-oriented.

Why?

I like bragging too much when I get on a roll.

Here goes with my Week 1 picks:

THURSDAY

South Carolina 27, Southern Miss 10: The Golden Eagles catch the Gamecocks at a good time with all of the off-the-field stuff swirling. Southern Miss also has enough talent to make this a fourth-quarter game if South Carolina doesn’t jump out quickly and force the Golden Eagles to play catch-up. Some players are likely to be missing for the Gamecocks, but their focus and energy won’t be. One of their young guns -- Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore or Marcus Lattimore -- will break it open in the second half with a big play.

SATURDAY

LSU 24, North Carolina 13: The wait is on to see whether or not the Tar Heels will be playing with their “B” team. If so, the Tigers won’t feel sorry for them. This game is too important to Les Miles’ club, and it wouldn’t matter if Michael Jordan showed up in baby blue. Oops, wrong sport.

Kentucky 28, Louisville 24: It’s billed as the Governor’s Cup, and Kentucky has won the last three. The Wildcats already seem to be winning most of the recruiting battles in the state under Joker Phillips. Winning this game should only help matters.

Vanderbilt 21, Northwestern 17: This battle of academic heavyweights has a chance to be one of the better games of the weekend. Northwestern’s strength is spreading it out and throwing the football. Vanderbilt’s strength is defending the pass. The edge goes to Jamie Bryant’s Vanderbilt defense.

Mississippi State 34, Memphis 14: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has pretty well locked it down this past week or so. Information has been hard to come by about his Bulldogs, and he likes it that way. He also likes the way this team has progressed. The Tigers will get an up-close view of just how much the Bulldogs have progressed on Saturday in Starkville.

Alabama 42, San Jose State 6: Who gets the most carries in this one: Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy or another back? The only other drama will be how many true freshmen play for the Crimson Tide, who will be breaking in the newly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Georgia 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 13: For a guy who’s never played, it sure seems like we’ve been talking about Georgia redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray for a while. Georgia fans are clamoring to see him, but they also want to see what this new-look 3-4 defense is all about under first-year coordinator Todd Grantham.

Florida 45, Miami (Ohio) 3: Boy, does this game have one of those name-your-score feels to it. Then again, when’s the last time the Gators have played an opener that didn’t have one of those feels? They scored 62 last season against Charleston Southern and 56 against Hawaii the year before that.

Ole Miss 24, Jacksonville State 7: The Rebels were already going to lean pretty hard on their defense this season. Now that it looks like quarterback Jeremiah Masoli won’t be eligible, they’ll lean even harder on Tyrone Nix’s guys. It's a good group to lean on.

Auburn 48, Arkansas State 13: Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn wants to play even faster, and he thinks he has the personnel to do so this season. It won’t take quarterback Cameron Newton long to endear himself to the folks on the Plains with his ability both run and pass.

Tennessee 34, Tennessee-Martin 10: Not since John Majors’ first season in 1977 have the expectations been this low for a Tennessee football team. The Vols are young and inexperienced and have a brutal schedule. Derek Dooley, though, likes the young talent in the program, and most of those guys will be on display right from the start.

Arkansas 45, Tennessee Tech 14: Don’t tell Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson that this is a tune-up game. The truth is that all coaches wince when they hear that. We’ve heard about the Hogs’ improvement on defense all preseason. We get to see for ourselves this Saturday.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:37
AM ET
It’s the most wonderful time of the year -- college football season. Watch as I put on my picking cap and make my supremely awesome predictions for 12 selected games involving non-AQ teams.

Now, on to the picks!

South Carolina 24, Southern Miss 14. We know Weslye Saunders is out for the Gamecocks, but we're unclear about anybody else. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said his team didn’t pay attention to the distractions. With those players or not, South Carolina is simply too talented, especially on defense. Southern Miss goes into the game with just three returning starters on offense.

Pittsburgh 21, Utah 17. The Utes won the last meeting in the Fiesta Bowl in 2005. But this time around the Panthers have Dion Lewis, and he should make the difference -- especially against a defense that only returns four starters.

Northern Illinois 28, Iowa State 27. One of the best teams in the MAC will pull the upset behind the legs of Chad Spann.

Minnesota 31, Middle Tennessee 20. If Dwight Dasher was playing in this game, I would have called for the upset. But the Blue Raiders aren’t going to be the same with Logan Kilgore at quarterback.

Washington 35, BYU 21. The Huskies break their 12-game road losing streak behind the arm and legs of Jake Locker. BYU has had problems against quarterbacks like Locker in the past. The two-quarterback rotation for BYU is going to be a work in progress.

Colorado 21, Colorado State 10. Both teams essentially have coaches on the hot seat, and quarterback uncertainty. While the Rams won the meeting last year, they go into this game with a freshman starting at quarterback in Pete Thomas. Only two first-time starters at quarterback have won this game for Colorado State.

SMU 44, Texas Tech 40. Upset indeed. Kyle Padron should have a big day and break the Mustangs’ 13-game losing streak to Texas Tech.

Navy 30, Maryland 10. The Midshipmen have the real deal in quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who should pose all sorts of problems for the Terrapins defense. Maryland gave up over 200 yards on the ground four times last season.

TCU 24, Oregon State 20. TCU is 9-2 against AQ teams in its past 11 games. Andy Dalton is eager to erase the memories of his Fiesta Bowl performance. The defense should be able to slow Jacquizz Rodgers down enough to limit his impact.

Fresno State 35, Cincinnati 34. The Bulldogs controlled the ball in their game last year and ran for 290 yards. Ryan Mathews is gone, but Robbie Rouse hopes to get the running game going. Fresno State lost that game because Cincinnati was able to score and score quickly on a defense not used to seeing the spread. The Bulldogs should be improved there, and that will make the difference.

Tulsa 27, East Carolina 17. G.J. Kinne, Damaris Johnson and the Golden Hurricane offense are going to be too much for the rebuilding Pirates to handle. Tulsa starts the season on the road for the third straight year but that might not be such a bad thing in this case. The home team in this series has lost three straight.

Drumroll please …

Boise State 21, Virginia Tech 20. The Broncos squeeze this one out on the strength of their offense, and their much improved defense. Darren Evans and Ryan Williams will get their yards, but their big games will be limited thanks to the great tacklers Boise State has in the open field -- Winston Venable and Jeron Johnson. Boise State will be able to take advantage of a Virginia Tech defense that lost seven starters, including three on the defensive line.

Pac-10 predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:34
AM ET
I was freaking brilliant last year. And that's just me being modest.

I went 60-21 (74 percent) picking games last season. The Pac-10 went 2-5 in the bowl season. I went 5-2 (though that Arizona over Nebraska pick didn't exactly go my way -- any Nebraska fans want to chime in because I'm sure I haven't heard from ALL of you?).

I know what you are thinking, though: Well, let's pin a rose on your nose and stop living in the past.

So here we are. New season. Everyone has a 0-0 record. And my little episode of braggadocio here is likely to ruin my prognostication karma.

Where's my voodoo gear?

Thursday

USC 40, Hawaii 9: You know what I think? I think assistant Ed Orgeron is going to whip these guys into a pre-game froth, and I think the Trojans are going to open up a can of whup-butt on the Warriors. And Matt Barkley is going to play well enough that some commentators will start throwing around the "H" word.

Friday

Arizona 42, Toledo 28: First of all, let's just celebrate me getting the day of this game right for the first time! I suspect you'll see some defensive growing pains vs. a solid Rockets offense. But I don't think the Rockets will be able to stop Nick Foles and company.

Saturday

Oregon 50, New Mexico 10: Quarterback controversy? What about a running back controversy when Kenjon Barner goes all ludicrous speed on the Lobos with LaMichael James serving a one-game suspension?

UCLA 27, Kansas State 24: Almost flagged an upset special here: The Bruins are beaten up on the offensive line and QB Kevin Prince has seen very little action during the preseason due to a nagging back injury. But UCLA has enough playmakers on both sides of the ball to, you know, make enough plays to win.

California 55, UC Davis 11: I love picking scores. Double-nickels and legs-11! An FCS school doesn't move the needle much on the interest meter.

Stanford 44, Sacramento State 11: See how I did that? I've given Stanford fans something to grouse about. It's for their own good. Now that your team is competitive again, Cardinal adherents, you need to adopt the irrational paranoia that infects all great fan bases. As in: "I can't believe Miller picked us to only score 44 on Sacramento State while he picked Oski-U to score 55 on UC Davis. He's clearly biased towards Cal!"

Washington 33, BYU 28: This is a tough road test for the Huskies. And it should be revealing. After an offseason of hype about QB Jake Locker and the program's resurgence under Steve Sarkisian, it's time to walk the walk.

Oklahoma State 31, Washington State 24: At some point in the first quarter, the Cowboys are going to look at each other in the huddle and go, "I thought these guys were supposed to be terrible." This might fit a pattern all season for the Cougs: Competitive close calls.

Arizona State 38, Portland State 10: This one should operate as a preseason game and confidence-builder for the Sun Devils new spread offense and QB Steven Threet. It will be interesting to see how much -- and how well -- backup Brock Osweiler plays when he gets the call.

Oregon State 27, TCU 24: Cool-as-a-cucumber Ryan Katz caps a late fourth-quarter drive with a 32-yard strike to James Rodgers for the winning score. Of course, Oregon State fans, my record picking your games through the years isn't great...

Big 12 predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:34
AM ET
For the first year in a long, long time, I won't be inside a stadium on the first Saturday of college football.

Only because I'll be heading to Lubbock this weekend for Texas Tech and SMU on Sunday, and I'm pretty excited to see what should be somewhat of a shootout.

But let's get to my picks for Week 1:

Iowa State 24, Northern Illinois 20: Beating the Wolves won't be easy for Iowa State, but they know how badly they need this game and should lean on Alexander Robinson heavily while the Cyclones' three linebackers pass a big test against Northern Illinois' Chad Spann. Robinson tops 150 yards and Iowa State continues its good vibes from last year's bowl win.

Missouri 38, Illinois 17: Missouri will need Derrick Washington at some point (likely in the red zone) this year, and he won't be there. This will not be one of those weeks. Missouri squashes the hopes of Illini fans hoping they won't spend 2010 in the Big Ten's basement. Blaine Gabbert lights up the Illini's limping secondary, and running backs De'Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence get plenty of fourth-quarter reps, reps they missed behind Washington in preseason camp.

Colorado 27, Colorado State 20: Colorado State true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas will struggle against experienced Colorado corners Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins makes up for last year's embarrassing start.

Kansas State 24, UCLA 21: The biggest toss-up of the weekend, I'll back up my pick of the Wildcats as the biggest surprise in the Big 12. They improved more than any team in the conference from September to November, and they'll continue that improvement into 2010. Daniel Thomas tops 100 yards easily and makes life easy for quarterback Carson Coffman.

No. 5 Texas 49, Rice 3: The Longhorns' last three games against Rice: 52-10, 58-14, 52-7. The Longhorns offense will have some early growing pains, but not enough to let the Owls seriously threaten.

Oklahoma State 35, Washington State 10: The Cougars are the worst BCS team in the country. Cowboys fans will get to see why in person on Saturday. Kendall Hunter runs wild in a big return.

Baylor 44, Sam Houston State 13: The Bears feast on an early-season FCS cupcake before heading to Fort Worth in Week 3 with an upset on their minds.

Kansas 31, North Dakota State 10: Turner Gill's honeymoon in Lawrence won't end against the FCS Bison. At least North Dakota is a state. I think. Sam Houston has some explaining to do.

No. 8 Nebraska 44, Western Kentucky 7: The only drama in this game (OMG who's the QB!?) will be over as soon as Nebraska takes its first offensive snap. But the Huskers quarterback will do a lot of handing off to push the Hilltoppers' losing streak to 21 games. One Big Red had to lose this one.

No. 7 Oklahoma 58, Utah State 7: Just a hunch: The Sooners' season opener this time around won't have quite as big an impact on their final 12 games. The big test comes next week against Florida State.

Texas A&M 51, Stephen F. Austin 10: Aggies should light it up against the Lumberjacks, but the most important score will be whatever Stephen F. Austin posts.

Texas Tech 35, SMU 27: SMU quarterback Kyle Padron is the real deal. Taylor Potts is realer. So is the rest of the Red Raiders two-deep. SMU will make it interesting in the second half, but Texas Tech gets a reasonably comfortable win to bring the Big 12 to 12-0 in Week 1.

Big Ten predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:32
AM ET
Let's get picky.

My Year 2 record dipped a little -- 69-26 (.726) -- but I vow to do better this fall. Every Thursday during the season, I'll identify a Game of the Week and explain my selection in a video blog post later in the day.

All 11 Big Ten teams make their season debuts this week, and here's how I see things shaking out.

THURSDAY

Minnesota 26, Middle Tennessee 20: My pick changed when Middle Tennessee star quarterback Dwight Dasher was ruled out for the game. Dasher made MTSU a lot more dangerous. The Gophers get a boost from Duane Bennett in the run game and keep their new-look defense off of the field just long enough to escape Murfreesboro with a big win.

Ohio State 37, Marshall 7: Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense deliver an efficient performance in the opener, jumping out to a 24-0 lead. Marshall struggles to move the ball against the Buckeyes' stout defense, which gets big performances from linebacker Brian Rolle and defensive lineman John Simon.

Indiana 31, Towson 14: Even without All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss, Indiana flexes its muscles in the passing game against an FCS foe. Quarterback Ben Chappell and receiver Damarlo Belcher hook up for two touchdown passes as the Hoosiers roll.

SATURDAY

Michigan State 41, Western Michigan 17: There will be no MAC disaster this year in East Lansing. Quarterback Kirk Cousins lights up Western Michigan and finds Keshawn Martin for several big plays as the Spartans roll to an impressive opening victory.

Penn State 30, Youngstown State 6: Evan Royster and the Penn State run game take the pressure off of true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden, who wows the crowd on several throws in his first career game (and start). Penn State plays all three quarterbacks and gets solid play from Devon Still and the defensive front seven in a win.

Iowa 34, Eastern Illinois 9: The Hawkeyes learn from last season and refuse to let an opponent hang around. Ricky Stanzi turns in a clean performance and tosses a pair of touchdown passes, one to Marvin McNutt. Adrian Clayborn and the Iowa defense make it a rough day for the visiting Panthers.

Missouri 35, Illinois 23: It's tough to beat Missouri with a healthy secondary, much less one as banged up as the Illini's. Illinois holds its own for two and a half quarters, but Blaine Gabbert proves to be too much and fires three touchdown passes. Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase shows some promise in his first career start, but it's not enough.

Michigan 28, Connecticut 27: The first game in the renovated Big House should be a great one. This certainly could go either way, but Michigan wins the game at the line of scrimmage with its size and athleticism. An improved offensive line creates enough room for its talented ball-carriers to make plays. Denard Robinson leads the winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame 31, Purdue 27: This is my Game of the Week. Check the blog later for a video breaking down my selection.

Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 17: It'll be tough for Pat Fitzgerald's crew, but the defense comes up big against a Vanderbilt team that won't have star Warren Norman at 100 percent even if he plays. Northwestern's run game doesn't do much, but new starting quarterback Dan Persa earns his stripes in the second half to secure win No. 1.

Wisconsin 41, UNLV 17: I could see the Rebels starting fast as they open the Bobby Hauck era, but Wisconsin is simply too strong and too balanced on offense. The Badgers mix in Montee Ball and James White with starting running back John Clay and wear down UNLV in the second and third quarters. Defensive end J.J. Watt has a big night for Wiscy.

Big East predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:32
AM ET
I turned in a robust 58-11 record in the 2009 regular-season predictions, picking at an 84 percent success rate. But it's a new year and you can't rest on your laurels. I haven't been reading my press clippings all offseason.

Week 1 of the 2010 season is officially upon us, and it's one of the tougher weeks to predict because of all the unknowns. But here goes:

Thursday

Utah 24, Pitt 21: I like the Panthers to have a strong season; I just doubt their ability to win on the road in such a tough spot in the opener, especially with a new quarterback. At least it's closer than the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. (For a more complete breakdown of this game, make sure to check out my video post later Thursday afternoon).

Rutgers 38, Norfolk State 3: The Scarlet Knights may have some questions on their offensive line and in the receiving corps, but that won't make any difference against the FCS Spartans. Look for a dominant effort by Rutgers' defense, which creates at least one score.

Saturday

Connecticut 31, Michigan 28: I've been driving -- or at least, riding shotgun -- on the Huskies' bandwagon all offseason. So while the Wolverines' speed scares me, especially if Denard Robinson (or Tate Forcier) get to the second level and force the secondary to make stops, I'm going with the confidence factor. I'm confident that UConn can run the ball, play fundamentally strong and not get rattled at the Big House. I'm not confident that Michigan has any confidence at all if the game gets tight. Huskies on a late field goal.

Cincinnati 35, Fresno State 34: This is a tough, tough opening game for Cincinnati, which must travel cross country in the first game under Butch Jones. Yet it's still a team that knows how to win, evidenced by its 18-game regular-season streak. I'm expecting big things out of the offense, and the defense will do just enough to allow Jones and the Bearcats to escape -- barely -- with that streak intact.

Kentucky 17, Louisville 14: I had been leaning toward the Cardinals this summer, relying on the excitement factor in their first game for Charlie Strong and the expanded stadium. But the talent differential, especially in the trenches, just seems too great. Louisville will be able to keep the score low thanks to Strong's knowledge of the Wildcats from his days as Florida's defensive coordinator. But he won't quite get Louisville over the hump.

Syracuse 23, Akron 13: Another tricky road game for a Big East team, and the difference in talent between these two isn't gaping. But if the Orange can't beat a MAC outfit that's coming off a 3-9 season and has replaced its coaching staff, then something is wrong. Syracuse wins, though it won't be all that pretty to watch.

West Virginia 48, Coastal Carolina 10: Noel Devine gets a couple of early scores, Geno Smith airs it out and the starters take an early shower in this one.

South Florida 28, Stony Brook 3: The Bulls will keep things simple in Skip Holtz's debut, not wanting to show too much before playing Florida next week. Simple, but effective enough against an outmanned FCS opponent.

ACC predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:31
AM ET
Thank you, Wake Forest and Miami, for ushering in the season early. The ACC begins the 2010 season tonight and the action continues through Monday with two games on Labor Day. Here are your first official predictions of the season (and yes, there’s a bit of competition, not to mention anyone’s Chris Low name.) Here's to a season of winning predictions:

Wake Forest 41, Presbyterian 6: New quarterback or not, this isn’t a win the Deacs should fumble away. Presbyterian was 0-11 last year. This should be a good initiation and confidence builder for Ted Stachitas.

Miami 38, Florida A&M 3: The Canes racked up 303 total yards in the first half alone last year in a 48-16 win against the Rattlers, and Damien Berry rushed for 162 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run. The defense had 11 sacks. A similar outcome is likely.

Florida State 56, Samford 6: Expect Jimbo Fisher to win convincingly and leave no doubt about the tone he plans to set for the season. Samford returns 15 starters from last year’s 5-6 team, including the school’s all-time leading rusher in Chris Evans (3,469).

Boston College 31, Weber State 14: It might not be pretty, but it will help BC figure out just how much trouble they’re in on the defensive line and at wide receiver. It’s one of four straight home games to open the season for the Eagles.

Georgia Tech 51, South Carolina State 10: Yes, the Bulldogs are two-time MEAC champs, but they’re not going to be able to stop Paul Johnson’s offense. S.C. State has a quarterback to be respected in Malcolm Long, who set several school records last year, but he won’t be able to match the production of Joshua Nesbitt and Co.

Clemson 52, North Texas 10: The Tigers are defending Atlantic Division champs, and they should look like it against the Mean Green. Still, North Texas has amassed more than 4,000 yards of total offense in back-to-back years.

NC State 38, Western Carolina 17: As Tom O’Brien said, any opponent with “Carolina” in it should be taken seriously by his team, but the Wolfpack should come out on top as Western Carolina finished 2-9 last year.

Virginia 28, Richmond 24: Mike London is almost too familiar with his alma mater and former team, and that should keep things interesting. The first step in changing the program will be to avoid a repeat of last year’s loss to an FCS team.

Duke 31, Elon 20: Elon has a fifth-year senior at quarterback while the Blue Devils will play their first game with Sean Renfree as the new starter, so a blowout shouldn’t be expected. Quarterback Scott Riddle threw for 3,345 yards and 23 touchdowns last season and had only seven passes intercepted in 439 attempts. Elon will keep it close throughout before Duke takes charge later in the second half.

LSU 38, North Carolina 14: The suspension of Marvin Austin and the uncertainty with the depth chart in the weeks preceding the game will be too much to overcome. And that’s only on the Tar Heels’ sideline. They also have to worry about cornerback Patrick Peterson, who could make it a long day for T.J. Yates.

Navy 21, Maryland 20: The Terps are desperate to win this one, their tight ends are injured, and Navy returns five of its top six rushers from last year’s 10-4 team. It will take more than just linebacker Alex Wujciak to stop Ricky Dobbs and the triple option.

Virginia Tech 28, Boise State 17: It wouldn’t surprise me if the Hokies ran the ball 60 times, and there won’t be any aerial circus against Bud Foster’s defense. Expect a typical Virginia Tech performance that includes something like a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Pick o' the Irish, Week 1

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
9:30
AM ET
Welcome back to the weekly Notre Dame game predictions. The 2010 opener against Purdue will be remembered for Brian Kelly's debut no matter what happens. So what will happen?

Notre Dame 38, Purdue 33: We know both teams can score, but can either one stop the other? I say not very often. The Irish defense, and especially the secondary, will be tested by Robert Marve, Keith Smith and Co. But the Purdue defensive backs may be even worse and will have no answers for Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. Kelly is a great game-planner, and we saw last year at Rutgers what he can do with an entire summer to prepare.

The Irish make one more big play and come up with one more big stop than the Boilermakers, and they make it a successful debut for Kelly.

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