NCF Nation: week 10 picks
Hubris. It will bite you ever time.
I got a little too cocky about my 17-0, four-week run last week, and then I crashed and burned to a 2-2 record (though I was just 22 seconds away from a respectable 3-1 mark). I'm taking a more modest approach this week to the light slate of three games.
Cincinnati 34, Connecticut 17: The Huskies have been impossible to blow out this year, with their four losses coming by a total of 13 points. Cincinnati is winning by an average margin of nearly 26 points. So something's got to give. I lean toward the Bearcats' dominance, especially at home and given Zach Frazer's erratic play at quarterback for UConn.
Pittsburgh 31, Syracuse 14: Pitt has had a week off to heal and get ready, while Syracuse has had all kinds of turmoil this week with the Mike Williams situation, suspensions and fan debate over Greg Paulus. That's not a good combination in the Orange's favor, especially on the road. Pitt wins big and turns its attention to its crucial three-game finishing stretch.
West Virginia 35, Louisville 10: Hey, remember when this used to be the league's hottest rivalry? Steve Kragthorpe's teams have actually played pretty well against the Mountaineers the past two years, but West Virginia is steaming mad after the loss at South Florida. Louisville will pay the price. The Cardinals' spotty offense won't be good enough to keep up in Morgantown.
Last week: 2-2
Season: 42-8 (84 percent)
Both the Irish and I had an easy go of things last week against Washington State, a massive underdog. In fact, I nearly nailed the actual score and had the right margin of victory.
Could Notre Dame notch a relatively comfortable victory for the second straight week? Let's peer into the crystal ball:
Notre Dame 31, Navy 19: The Irish have won 44 of the past 45 meetings against the Midshipmen, but of course that lone Navy victory came in 2007. Notre Dame barely held on last year in this game as well.
Stopping the triple-option is never easy, and quarterback Ricky Dobbs will be back after missing most of Navy's last two games. But even though the Midshipmen are statistically much better than Notre Dame on defense and have what Charlie Weis calls their best defense in a long time, I don't see them containing the explosive Irish offense. Especially with Michael Floyd back, if even in a limited role, Notre Dame has far too many athletes and will break this one open in the second half.
Last week's pick: Notre Dame 42, Washington State 16.
Actual score: Notre Dame 40, Washington State 14.
Season record: 7-1
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
As South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier noted earlier this week, this is the time of season when all the upsets start happening, which means picking games gets more precarious by the week from here on out. I was a disappointing 4-3 last week, missing the Auburn-West Virginia, Georgia-LSU and Duke-Vanderbilt games. The SEC killed me with two bad out-of-conference losses. I'm now 50-15 for the season, which would probably get you fired at Auburn and Tennessee. That's a .769 winning percentage. I had hoped to finish the season above .800, which means I'll have to go 28-4 over these last 32 games, counting the SEC Championship Game. Whew! Anyway (as the Head Ball Coach would say) on to my picks in Week 10:
Florida 38, Georgia 31: Loosen up your necks, because this one has all the ingredients to be a track meet. In fact, a lot of people (outside the two defensive coordinators) will be upset if it's not. You'd have to look long and hard to find a more important game in this rivalry over the years or a game that featured more firepower offensively. In the end, the Gators' speed on offense will be the difference, thwarting the Bulldogs' bid to win their first back-to-back games in this series since 1989.
South Carolina 24, Tennessee 14: The way Tennessee's offense has been going, 10 points is about all anybody needs to beat the Vols. The Gamecocks (5-3, 2-3 SEC) are good enough on defense to load the box and play a lot of man coverage on defense, daring the Vols to beat them deep. Tennessee (3-5, 1-4 SEC) has to win out if it's going to finish the regular season with a winning record. Also, Phillip Fulmer is trying to avoid a repeat of 2005 when he lost to Eastern Division rivals Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all in the same season.
Kentucky 20, Miss. State 17: For both teams, this is probably the last chance to salvage the season. To have a realistic chance of being bowl eligible, the Bulldogs (3-5, 1-3 SEC) need to win this game at home. The Wildcats (5-3, 1-3 SEC) have lost three of their last four games after starting out 4-0. They're going with true freshman Randall Cobb at quarterback in this game over Mike Hartline, and Cobb's versatility will be enough for Kentucky to pull out the win on the road.
Ole Miss 27, Auburn 17: Their records might be the same, but these two teams sure seem headed in opposite directions. The Rebels (4-4, 2-3 SEC) have literally given some games away this season and trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since the 2004 season. The Tigers (4-4, 2-3 SEC) are trying to keep this season from unraveling after starting the year ranked in the top 10. Until Auburn shows that it can consistently move the ball and score points, it's hard to pick the Tigers against anybody.
Alabama 34, Arkansas State 10: Arkansas State can run the football. The Red Wolves are ranked 12th nationally in rushing offense and averaging 225.1 yards per game. Unfortunately for them, Alabama's forte is stopping the run. The Crimson Tide are second nationally in rushing defense and are holding opponents to 62.4 yards per game. Alabama will be without nose tackle Terrence Cody for the second straight game, but the Tide held up just fine last week at Tennessee with Josh Chapman manning the middle and will again this week at home.
Tulsa 38, Arkansas 28: Everybody talked about Georgia's schedule being so grueling before the season. As it turns out, what Arkansas has gone through is as tough as any schedule in the country. This will be the Hogs' seventh straight game without a break because they had to move the Texas game. Other than the Longhorns, they've also had to face two other teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS (Alabama and Florida) during this current stretch and get unbeaten Tulsa on Saturday. The Golden Hurricane haven't scored under 37 points all season, which is more bad news for the Hogs.
LSU 42, Tulane 13: The Tigers are hurting right now after being spanked at home last week by Georgia. Costly mistakes by redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee have been a big problem, but an underachieving defense has been a bigger problem. The most interesting thing about this game will be how much true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson plays. The plan was to seek a medical redshirt for him. But with Andrew Hatch ailing, LSU coach Les Miles is talking like Jefferson may play some this week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
World order was restored last weekend. I went 4-0 and improved to 41-11.
Things are not as rosy with my stock picking.
On to it...
Oregon 30, California 24: The Ducks proved they could win on the road last weekend at Arizona State, but California is a better team than the Sun Devils. The Bears' 3-4 defense should slow down the Oregon rushing attack, so count on Jeremiah Masoli having to make a few plays with his arm. The big difference is on the offensive line, where Oregon is healthy and Cal is down three starters and a top reserve.
Oregon State 33, Arizona State 21: Oregon State is rested, healthy and at home with a lot to play for. Arizona State is wounded and on the brink of the program's first six-game losing streak since 1929. Because this is college football, the Beavers should be worried. But they also just need to take care of business. Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter, making his 39th consecutive start, is nursing a sprained ankle, so expect the Beavers to put a lot of pressure on him.
Stanford 41, Washington State 10: Stanford owns a dominant rushing attack. Washington State owns the worst run defense in the nation. That's not a good recipe for the Cougars. It will be interesting to see if WSU opens up the offense a bit after basically waving a white flag against USC. Quarterback Kevin Lopina obviously is fragile with his bad back, which was the justification for pulling the redshirt off J.T. Levenseller, who will play this weekend. Stanford also would like to see its quarterback, Tavita Pritchard, get back on track.
USC 51, Washington 3: Will the Huskies show up angry and fight hard for their lame duck coach Tyrone Willingham? And if they do will it matter? Probably not. If Washington doesn't get some good breaks early, this could go much like the Trojans' bludgeoning of Washington State. Expect the Trojans to want to work on their passing game rhythm, which was off at Arizona last week, against the woeful Huskies pass defense.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas 45, Texas Tech 42 -- The Longhorns are finishing up a grueling four-game stretch of facing Top 25 opponents after earlier victories over Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State. It could be understandable if they had a little bit less in their tank this week, particularly after the nicks their secondary has taken. That's not a good sign against Texas Tech's high-powered offensive attack, which has always seemed to have success against Texas despite the Longhorns' five-game winning streak in the series. In the end, defense has always been the problem for the Red Raiders against Texas. And while Tech will take a much better, more-balanced team on the field this week than in recent games with the Longhorns, it still won't be enough. Texas just has too many weapons. And I look for the game to be settled on special teams. Texas has a consistent kicker in Hunter Lawrence and Tech is struggling with sputtering Donnie Carona. That will provide just enough of an advantage that enables the Longhorns to escape with a tight victory. But it won't be easy.
Oklahoma 45, Nebraska 31 -- The Big Eight's most storied former rivalry will be replayed Saturday in its new form in Norman. The Sooners simply have too many offensive weapons for the Cornhuskers. They should be able to consistently run the ball against a banged-up Nebraska linebacking corps that will be missing Phillip Dillard. And Sam Bradford should be up for another big passing game as well. The Cornhuskers will try to continue their recent offensive recipe of controlling the clock and trying to keep their outmanned defense off the field. It will work for a while, but look for the Sooners to pull away late.
Texas A&M 27, Colorado 24 -- The new-look Aggies will continue their recent winning streak, riding the strong passing skills of Jerrod Johnson to victory. I like the matchup of the Aggies' young receiving corps against Colorado's secondary, which still might be a little shell-shocked from their struggles last week against Missouri. The Aggies' defense remains their biggest question, but I don't think that Colorado has enough weapons to claim its first road victory of the season against them.
Kansas 35, Kansas State 31 -- Look for the beleaguered Jayhawks defense to rise up with a stronger performance after being torched for 108 points in the last two weeks. Kansas State is a little bit too turnover-prone and Ron Prince is still looking for his team's first victory against its in-state rival. Kansas running back Jake Sharp needs a big game in order to allow the Jayhawks to take advantage of the undermanned Kansas State rush defense. And I think he'll do it, providing an edge silencing some of the more lippy Wildcats who were popping off earlier in the week about winning the game.
Oklahoma State 49, Iowa State 20 -- The Cowboys can't afford to look back at last week's disappointing loss to Texas if they want to keep their slim Big 12 South title hopes alive. And they shouldn't against an Iowa State team that has been struggling defensively, particularly against the pass. That sounds like a recipe for big games by Dez Bryant and Brandon Pettigrew as the Cowboys take to the air more than usual to claim the victory, extending Iowa State's 33-game road losing streak to ranked opponents. ISU's last victory against a ranked team on the road came on Oct. 20, 1990, at Oklahoma. It won't come on Saturday.
Missouri 45, Baylor 21 -- The Tigers rebounded nicely with an impressive shutout victory over Colorado and still control their own destiny in the North Division. Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin should have a big days against an improving but still outmanned Baylor defense. Robert Griffin will have some moments but not nearly enough to allow his team to snap a six-game losing streak against the Tigers.
My picks last week: 4-2 (66.7 percent)
My picks for the season: 62-10 (86.1 percent)
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
You'd think it would be an easy week for predictions since four teams have an open date, but the teams that are playing are still tough to call. Heading into this week I'm 48-19 (71.6 percent). The winning percentage is dropping and I'm only undefeated on one school -- Florida State at 7-0. There's a very good possibility that streak will be broken this week, though, seeing as how I'm picking ...
Georgia Tech 21, Florida State 17 -- I just don't see Georgia Tech losing at home twice. Nor do I expect FSU's young offensive line to hold up against the Yellow Jackets' front four, not considering the vulnerabilities they showed in the first half against NC State.
Virginia 24, Miami 21 -- Revenge only works for a quarter. After that, the Hurricanes will struggle to stop Cedric Peerman, who has been helped by a much-improved offensive line. And Virginia, albeit surprisingly, has had the more consistent quarterback play in recent weeks.
Boston College 21, Clemson 17 -- The Tigers will move the ball, but the Eagles' defensive front seven is the real deal and will expose the Tigers' inexperienced offensive line, even if it is the healthiest it has been all season. Turnovers will be key in this game.
Wake Forest 21, Duke 20 -- The Demon Deacons will mix it up a bit on offense, but will still need a touchdown from defense or special teams. Wake has won five straight ACC home games since the start of the 2007 season, and nine straight over in-state opponents, including three against Duke, since 2005.
Off: Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia Tech.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Both Penn State and Ohio State are off this week, but the Big Ten slate still has plenty of intrigue. For all the talk about the spread offense, this league has been dominated by defense and running backs. Some of the scores below reflect those trends.
Not an easy week to forecast, but that will be the case from here on out.
Central Michigan 27, Indiana 24: Kellen Lewis should be back from a high ankle sprain, but backup Ben Chappell performed well last week in leading the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten win. Who should coach Bill Lynch start at quarterback against Central Michigan? Indiana's offense makes some plays, but Central Michigan and standout quarterback Dan LeFevour have things rolling right now. A strong second half lifts the Chippewas to their fifth straight victory.
Michigan State 21, Wisconsin 17: Expect a quick game with lots of running from Javon Ringer, John Clay and P.J. Hill. Wisconsin gained some confidence last week behind quarterback Dustin Sherer, but Michigan State has a better defense than Illinois and will limit the Badgers' scoring chances. For the Spartans, there's some concern about an emotional letdown following the Michigan win, but this team is mentally tough and will win a close one.
Minnesota 24, Northwestern 14: The Gophers have played virtually mistake-free football, going 7-1 despite being outgained. A letdown could come soon, but not against a Northwestern team likely playing with a new starting offensive backfield (quarterback Mike Kafka and running back Omar Conteh). Both teams are improved on defense, but Minnesota forces tons of turnovers and Northwestern is prone to giveaways. The Gophers march on.
Michigan 19, Purdue 14: The Big Ten's two worst offenses meet at Ross-Ade Stadium in a game that could be hard to watch. Both teams are dealing with injury issues (Purdue's Curtis Painter, Michigan's Sam McGuffie), and both struggle in the red zone, so the game likely will come down to defense and turnovers. This could go either way, but Michigan forces a late turnover and sends Purdue to its sixth straight defeat.
Iowa 27, Illinois 21 -- This one was a real struggle, as both teams desperately need a win to boost their both hopes. Illinois Ron Zook called out his team and promised changes this week, which could ignite what has been a very inconsistent product. But Iowa's defensive line will pressure Juice Williams and force mistakes. The Hawkeyes are becoming more balanced and wear down Illinois' defense with Shonn Greene. Plus, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has owned Illinois.
Byes: No. 3 Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten), No. 12 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1)
Season record: 56-10 (84.8 percent)
Well, I was feeling pretty good about myself after correctly picking West Virginia to beat Auburn last Thursday. Then Saturday came and ... well, let's not talk about Saturday. I did not predict that Rutgers and Connecticut, who played a Jurassic 12-10 game the week before, would combine for 94 points the following week. How'd that one get past me? Anyway, I soldier on for another week:
South Florida 27, Cincinnati 24: Both teams need this win badly, and the Bearcats have beaten the Bulls the past two years. But even though South Florida has lost two of its past three, it has still played better than Cincinnati, which was awful at Connecticut and struggled past Rutgers and Akron. It's unclear whether Tony Pike or Chazz Anderson will start for the Bearcats, and the unsettled situation at quarterback leads me to lean toward Matt Grothe and the Bulls.
West Virginia 28, Connecticut 20: The Huskies will come as close as they ever have to knocking off West Virginia but will fall just short in the end. The Mountaineers' offense is finally clicking, and Pat White has owned UConn throughout his career. The underrated West Virginia defense will do enough to slow Donald Brown and whomever Randy Edsall puts in at quarterback.
Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 24: Jimmy Clausen and Charlie Weis can't wait to get after that Pitt secondary after Rutgers burned it for six touchdowns. The Panthers won't be as bad this week because they won't have to respect the Irish's running game as much. But with Pat Bostick likely in at quarterback and a hastily revamped offensive line, Pittsburgh won't score enough to win in South Bend.
Louisville 23, Syracuse 10: The Orange have had two weeks to prepare and believe they can beat the Cardinals after doing it last year. Louisville took an emotional hit with the loss of Scott Long to a season-ending knee injury this week, so expect this one to stay close for awhile. The talent divide is too great, however, and Syracuse will pull its usual late-game fade.
Last week: 1-3
Season results: 30-17 (63.8 percent)
Central Michigan 35, Indiana 20: Finally, Central Michigan and quarterback Dan LeFevour get off the BCS schneid with a win over the Hoosiers. LeFevour has not beaten a BCS opponent in his three seasons as a starter. The reigning MAC Player of the Year is 0-8 against BCS opponents, including losses to Georgia and Purdue this season.
Rice 45, UTEP 32: You like offense? Then check out this game. Both teams have great offenses and defenses that have been abused at times this season. UTEP is playing its first game after a 77-35 beating by Tulsa, becoming one of two teams in the FBS to have 77 points scored on them. The other? North Texas. The opponent? Rice.
Tulsa 35, Arkansas 16: All right Tulsa, this is your one and only shot to show that you can beat up on a BCS team the way you have non-BCS opponents. Several teams have had their way with Arkansas and it shouldn't be a problem for the Golden Hurricane should they not psych themselves out. Besides, Arkansas hasn't scored more than 28 points in any game this season. Tulsa should win this going away.
UCF 28, East Carolina 21: Central Florida players said earlier this week that even at 1-2 in Conference USA play, they believe they can still win the conference. Well, that journey starts against one of the top teams in the East in East Carolina. I know it sounds strange, but I think UCF gained some confidence from that loss against Tulsa last week and East Carolina is still trying to put the pieces back together.
Air Force 24, Army 17: Army has been much improved over the last month, but there haven't been many teams that have been able to stop Air Force. As long as the Falcons don't beat themselves like they did against Navy -- though the Midshipmen did a nice job all around -- this is a winnable game. Colin Mooney is the Black Knights' top offensive weapon. Shut him down, win the game.
Notre Dame 38, Pitt 24: It's no secret that I'm not a big believer in Pitt. I marked this game as a win for the Irish to begin the season and I stick by that call. Notre Dame is a much better team than Rutgers and we all saw what the Scarlet Knights did to the Panthers last week. Stopping running back LeSean McCoy will be a big test for the Irish defense, which had some struggles against the UNC running game a few weeks ago.
Utah 30, New Mexico 10: This would be an excellent trap game except that New Mexico has a one-dimensional offense and Utah is pretty darn good against the run. After a week off, I'm expecting the Utes to come out focused and not looking ahead to next week's game against TCU. I will warn that although Utah is good against the run, it did allow Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, the best running back the Utes have faced before this game, to rush for 101 yards.
TCU 28, UNLV 14: I've got two words for TCU: Colorado State. That was the team the Horned Frogs struggled against prior to the BYU game. Now, UNLV has a chance to play spoiler if TCU looks ahead to Utah. UNLV has played a lot of close games this season and lost a heartbreaker to BYU last week. It will be interesting to see how that weighs on the Rebels. In the end, I think the Horned Frogs defense will be too much for UNLV.
Louisiana-Lafayette 35, FIU 22: FIU has won three of its last four games, but this will be another loss unless the Golden Panthers find some way to shore up their 77th-ranked rush defense against the nation's top rushing team. Compound that with the return of ULL quarterback Michael Desormeaux, running back Tyrell Fenroy's opportunity to become only the seventh four-time 1,000-yard rusher in NCAA history, and homecoming, and this might be a tough go for Mario Cristobal's squad.
Troy 32, Louisiana-Monroe 17: The last time these two teams met in Monroe, La., (2005) the Warhawks embarrassed Troy 27-3, a memory that still bothers Troy head coach Larry Blakeney. But since then, Troy has dominated the Warhawks and a win for the Trojans on Saturday would complete their Sun Belt road schedule. Louisiana-Monroe is 2-6 this season, but their league losses have been by an average of six points.
Fresno State 28, Louisiana Tech 17: Even though I haven't been impressed with Fresno State much of this season, I have been even less impressed by Louisiana Tech. Fresno State has been hurt by injuries and inconsistency, but last week's last-second win over Utah State might have awoken something in this team. Besides, Fresno State is 6-2 in November the past two seasons.
Boise State 42, New Mexico State 10: Boise State has won all eight meetings against New Mexico State and this one should be no different. There was a time when I thought New Mexico State's offense might be able to give some teams a run, but in its last two games it's managed just 14 points. The Aggies have been decimated by injuries and this one could get ugly in a hurry.