After a series of marquee games and huge upsets to shake the balance of power in the college football world, this week appears to be the calm before the storm picks back up again. There are very few interesting games this week, and the only real games of consequence may be the various ACC and Big East conference games that will be determining the pecking order for BCS bowl bids.
So if you are thinking about taking a week off from college football, this week might be your best bet. Heck, I'm headed to a high school football playoff game on Saturday evening, and I'm not the least bit worried about missing whatever games are going to be on this Saturday night. As much as I enjoy the college football season, the disappointing performance by ND has worn me down. I'm couldn't be more ready for college hoops to begin. Give me Mike Brey and McAlarney and Luke Harangody to make the pain of this football season go away.
As for the Irish, week 12 brings us to Baltimore, Maryland to take on the Naval Academy. Not gonna lie that this game is a little scary. We have the ability run them out of the building, but why do I fear that I'll be biting my nails in the 3rd and 4th quarter in this game as the Irish struggle to put away a determined team of Middies?? And with relatively few big games this week, I have an even bigger fear that the whole nation will stumble across this game on their televisions. ND-Navy should never be an "Instant Classic," but that's my fear. Notre Dame-Navy is a classy rivalry with both teams showing great respect for each other's traditions and the new tradition of singing each other's alma mater, but I don't want the Irish to take Navy lightly in this game. I hope the Irish are ready to play and put this game away early.
Thursday November 13, 2008
Virginia Tech +5 at Miami (ESPN 7:30pm)
Dan: Virginia Tech +5
I vote to just avoid all ACC games in this blog from henceforth. The Coastal Division has 3 teams at 3-2 (including both of these), one at 4-3, and one at 3-3. I have no idea who is going to win this division. Both teams are coming off a bye week, so no advantage there. Meanwhile, Thursday night games have tended to favor home teams and underdogs. So, at the end of the day, I’ll side with Beamer. It is November. It is time to step up and win the division. Beamer knows how to do that, Shannon is still learning.
Virginia Tech 23 Miami 21
Matt: Virginia Tech +5
There is no doubt that Miami is headed in the right direction. In fact, their situation is a little bit like Notre Dame when you think about it. Playing a TON of freshman and sophomores. Coach trying to clean up somebody else’s mess. But unlike the situation in South Bend, Randy Shannon has the Canes at 6-3 with the only losses being to Florida, a 4 pointer to UNC and two points to FSU. They come in riding a four game winning streak with first place on the line against VT. I’m calling for a close win by the home team. Just not a typical BeamerBall team this year in Blacksburg.
Miami 24 VT 21
Mike: Virginia Tech +5
Virginia Tech, after several tough road losses, finally appears to be rounding into a prototypical Frank Beamer and Bud Foster-coached team. Although the Hokies have been strong in the special teams, defense and turnover departments, their anemic offense has been an Achilles heel all season long. With the emergence of Darren Evans, however, Virginia Tech should have enough balance to keep opposing defenses off balance and score enough points to support their own terrific defense. Finally, I’ll take Beamer over Shannon any day of the week, even Thursday.
Virginia Tech 24 Miami 21
Doug: Virginia Tech +5
I have lost all faith in my handicapping abilities at this point, so I probably should stick with the one formula that has actually worked so far this year. The home team on a Thursday night. Screw it though. Frank Beamer is not losing this game.
Virginia Tech 24 Miami 23
Friday November 14, 2008:
Cincinnati (-3.5) at Louisville (ESPN2 8pm)
Dan: Cincinnati -3.5
Some people were starting to buy into Louisville after they improved to 5-2. But they have reverted to their former terrible selves over the past 2 weeks. That is what makes this line a bit of a head-scratcher. My best guess is that the boys in Vegas are giving a big home field bump for a Friday night game. Which is fair, but 3.5 are just not enough points for the Cardinals. Tony Pike, though still recovering from surgery, played very well against USF and well enough to win against WVU. Take the Bearcats.
Cincinnati 27 Louisville 10
Matt: Cincy -3.5
I know it’s a road game, but cmon, Louisville lost to Syracuse. UC is playing the remainder of their schedule for a BCS appearance. I think they lay the wood to a lifeless Louisville team. Basketball season can not start soon enough for the Cardinals.
Cincy 41 L’ville 20
Mike: Cincinnati -3.5
Like an addict, I continue to place my faith in a terrible Cardinal team, even going so far as to label them a “mortal lock” on the road last week. Enough is enough: I need to quit my Louisville habit cold turkey, even as an underdog in the intimidating confines of Papa Johns Stadium. Doug’s salute to Brian Kelly was quite convincing as well, although Kellyisnd@blogspot.com doesn’t have a great ring to it though.
Cincinnati 23 Louisville 17
Doug: Cincinnati -3.5
I hate this pick, but I can't write 2000 words about Brian Kelly and how great he is and then follow that up by picking Louisville. I'm nervous about this game for UC though. They are coming off two huge wins over more talented teams (South Florida and West Virginia), and now they have to get off the mat again and get fired up for a rivalry game on the road. The UC seniors have never beaten Louisville, so the players have been talking the talk in practice about being jacked up for this game. We shall see.
Louisville is struggling this year, but they still have more talent than Cincinnati. The Cards have been regularly outgaining their opponents this year, so their luck could turn around this week at Papa Johns Stadium. Sounds like there is a QB controversy this week, and freshman QB Matt Simms (Phil's other son) might be getting some snaps.
I'll take the Bearcats, but I don't feel all that confident about this pick. Louisville could easily blow this game open if UC isn't emotionally up for the game. I just bought tickets to the Pitt-Cincy game on November 22, so I'm hoping UC can scrape by in this game and set up a showdown at Nippert Stadium between the Bearcats and the Panthers for the Big East title and a BCS bid. WOW. Should be a great atmosphere next Saturday night. UC in a BCS game. I never would have believed it.
Cincinnati 27 Lousville 23
Saturday November 15, 2008:
Ohio State (-9.5) at Illinois (ESPN 12pm)
Dan: Ohio State -9.5
I’m done picking against Ohio State against the dregs of the conference, which is what Illinois is. The Buckeyes suddenly find themselves tied for lead in the Big 10 again. Now they are left to do two things: take care of business and pray MSU can upset Penn State next weekend too. Illinois is a team in shambles (takes a fan of one to know one), and I can’t see them keeping within 10 points of a team that they actually upset last year. Look for Beanie Wells do have a big day while OSU’s linebacker core to make for a long day for Juice.
Ohio State 27 Illinois 13
Matt: Ohio State -9.5
Can I just say what a miserable weekend for college football it is. When we are not even picking one of the ABC primetime games, and the other is BC-FSU, it’s a good weekend to get some yardwork or Christmas shopping done (or study for a financial accounting exam…fun).
OK, as for this game, I don’t see any way that Illinois keeps it close. There will be no repeat of Juice going into the Shoe and pulling out a miracle. The team that accomplished that no longer plays football in Champaign. Bucks…big.
OSU 38 Illinois 13
Mike: Ohio State -9.5
Ron Zook, like Weis, is living proof that there is more to coaching than just recruiting. In other words, as long as Zook is at the helm in Champaign, the Illini will lose games to the Western Michigans of the world. Also, what is it with llinois and horrible team chemistry? Between the basketball team, where a player left a fellow teammate for dead in the passenger seat after getting into a drunken car accident, and the football team, where one teammate broke another teammate’s jaw over a cell phone, there must be something bad in the water in Champaign. Anyway, look for the opportunistic Buckeyes to stifle the Illinois running game and force Juice Williams into making his usual spate of errors. Tressel Ball will be the perfect formula against this Illini team that is devoid of discipline.
Ohio State 24 Illinois 13
Doug: Illinois +8.5
I watched a good chunk of the Ohio State-Northwestern game last week, and I thought the Buckeyes played really well. It was the first time in awhile that I've seen Tressel really go for the jugular and open things up. Amazing what can happen when you actually let your players make plays.
Pryor looked like a star on Saturday. If he finishes strong this year, he's going to be a sleeper to get himself into the Heisman race next year. He's probably a more realistic candidate for 2010, but Pryor might be on the verge of a Troy Smith 2004 type finish where he exploded down the stretch and started making plays with his legs and arm.
I think the Buckeyes will win here, but I've seen too many wacky Ohio State-Illinois games in history to give Ohio State 8.5 points. The OSU-Illinois game is almost always close. The memorable double OT game in 2002, the close game at Illinois in 2006, the shocker last year at the Horseshoe, and some of the incredible games in the early to mid 90s with the great Illinois defenses led by Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy. I can think of very few blowouts in the history of this rivalry.
Illinois is struggling this year, but they will be ready for this game. Juice Williams had a lot of success against the Buckeyes last year. Just a hunch, but I think this game will go down to the wire. The Buckeyes will find a way, but I'm expecting a close game.
Ohio State 24 Illinois 20
South Carolina (+21.5) at Florida (CBS Sports 3:30pm)
Dan: Florida -21
Another “I’m done”. Eventually Florida has to have a close game in the SEC, right? I mean, it’s Spurrier, and this South Carolina team is decent. But I can’t pick them to do it. This UF team is playing on another level at this point. Florida has one its last 5 games (all SEC games) by 37 points on average. 37 points! In conference games! The SEC may be overrated this year (though still the best conference), but Florida is absurd.
Florida 42 South Carolina 17
Matt: Florida -21
Pick against Florida at your own risk. Everyone said there was no way they could cover ridiculous spreads against UK and Vandy, and they totally obliterated them. No one in the country is beating Florida if they keep playing like this.
BTW, if/when Notre Dame commences it’s next coaching search, I could not agree more with Doug about the usual suspects. As Rick Pitino would say, Nick Saban is not walking through that door folks. Neither is Mack Brown or Bob Stoops. The only call I MIGHT make would be to Urban Montgomery Meyer. Maybe Lou could call. There is about a .0001% chance that Urban would even listen…but if he wins his second championship this year…Couldn’t you basically appeal to Urban that he would be a legend WHEN (not if) he turned the program around and won a championship. He’s a Midwestern guy who has coached at ND before. Again, I feel foolish for even writing this, because it’s just a pipe dream, but I would at least give a call. I would not even bother calling Austin, Norman or Tuscaloosa and being a laughingstock to the country as they turn us down.
Florida 51 USC 20
Mike: South Carolina +21
Although Florida looks unstoppable right now, I just have a hunch that Spurrier will give his alma mater another major scare, as he did in 2006. South Carolina also has one of the top defenses in college football this year, which will allow the Gamecocks to slow Tim Tebow and cover this large spread, despite having a pop gun offense.
Florida 31 South Carolina 17
Doug: South Carolina +21.5
I know I got burned on this same theory last week, but I can't give up 21.5 points in an SEC game in November. Too many variables that could make this game close. South Carolina has quietly won 6 out of their last 7 games. Spurrier is going to have his guys fired up for this game.
Tim Tebow is quietly putting himself right back into the Heisman race lately. He had 5 touchdowns last week in the air and on the ground. If Texas Tech falters down the stretch, I think Tebow has a great shot to win it again. Somewhere Archie Griffin is praying that either Texas Tech wins out or Florida gets knocked off again at some point this year.
Can you imagine the intensity of that upcoming Florida-Alabama game if both teams hold on and win out in the regular season?? As Verne Lundquist would say, "MY GOODNESS." That is shaping up to be the best conference championship game of all time. I'm trying to figure out a line for that one. Something like Florida -3.5??
Florida 21 USC 14
Texas (-13) at Kansas (FSN 12:30pm)
Dan: Texas -13
Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri are definitely the top 5 teams in the Big 12. Kansas may be the 6th best team, but there is a gap. And that gap is probably more than two touchdowns, even at home. Kansas’s defense has shown that it will clearly have no chance of stopping Colt McCoy. So if Texas wants, it should be able to easily score 50. At the same time, a decent defense can hold Kansas to 30 points and Texas’s defense is generally better than “decent”.
Texas 52 Kansas 24
Matt: Texas -13
The bloom is off the rose in Lawrence. Although one of the funnier things I have seen this year is the Baby Mangino Halloween costume. Google it if you haven’t seen it by now.
Texas 49 KU 24
Mike: Kansas + 13
Kansas has plenty of warts, but they can certainly move the ball through the air. Given Texas’ propensity to give up big plays in the passing game, Kansas should be able to score its fair share of points. This is a dangerous spot for the Longhorns with the game being played on Senior Day in Lawrence, so Mack Brown better have his team focused. Look for a typical Big 12 shootout at Memorial Stadium.
Texas 42 Kansas 38
Doug: Texas -13
Just wanted to congratulate Colt McCoy for carrying me to a BCS bowl win in fantasy football this year. That Texas Tech performance knocked me out of the title game, but I can't fault my man Colt for carrying me all year. I'm already excited for next year's fantasy football draft. Michael Floyd as a sophomore should be fun to think about for fantasy purposes.
Texas 37 Kansas 17
Minnesota (+13.5) at Wisconsin (ABC 3:30pm)
Dan: Minnesota +13.5
People can’t seem to get off the Minnesota bandwagon fast enough after two straight losses. Meanwhile, are people really ready to buy back into this Wisconsin team just because they Indiana last week and Illinois a few weeks ago? Not me on either account. I think Wisconsin can win this game, but I haven’t seen anything that shows me they can beat the Gophers by two touchdowns. Granted, Eric Decker, the Gopher wide receiver with half their touchdowns this year will be out for the game. But I still think that the Gophers can keep this within 10 points.
Wisconsin 20 Minnesota 13
Matt: Minnesota +13.5
Whoa. This line came out of nowhere. I was going to pick ‘Sota to straight up win this week. In fact, I still am. Never warmed up to Wiscy this year and they have proven me right. Pounding a hapless IU team doesn’t change my opinion.
Minnesota 17 Wisconsin 16
Mike: Minnesota +13.5
It is impossible to describe how bad Minnesota looked last week in the Little Brown Jug game against Michigan (sidebar: trophy games are reason #157 why college football trumps the NFL). Nevertheless, I am taking a leap of faith in Tim Brewster this week in a bitter rivalry game for Paul Bunyan's Axe. The Badgers still have too many problems, particularly at quarterback, to justify laying so many points against a Big Ten team that is not from the state of Indiana. Please note that I used the qualifier “Big Ten” in the previous sentence because Ball State could give Wisconsin a game, not because I think Notre Dame could cover this spread.
Wisconsin 28 Minnesota 17
Doug: Wisconsin -13.5
Question for you Big 10 hoops fans. Now that ESPN has announced that Bobby Knight will be announcing college basketball games this year with Brent Musberger, what happens to Steve Lavin?? Tell me that the Musberger-Lavin combo isn't being broken up! Say it ain't so! I've enjoyed those two guys on the air the last couple years. It was always funny to try to figure out if Lavin and Musberger were actually friends off the air. I'd probably say that they were, and I wouldn't have been surprised to hear some stories about Lavin and Musberger having a few too many beers in places like Madison and East Lansing and Bloomington.
ESPN better have Bobby Knight do the IU-Purdue game in Bloomington. That has to happen, especially after his College Gameday performance this year when he declared that could never pick Purdue.
Wisconsin 27 Minnesota 6
Arizona (+4) at Oregon (FSN 6:30pm)
Dan: Oregon -4
Other than the surprise win against over California, Arizona has beat: Idaho, Toledo, UCLA, Washington, and Washington State. Not exactly a resume of champions. Of course, Oregon’s is not much better. But I still have confidence in Oregon to get it done in Autzen. Oregon is averaging 275 yards per game on the ground. That’s incredible. Does Notre Dame have 275 yards this year? I think that Oregon succeeds playing their ground control game and pulling away towards the end to cover the 4 points.
Oregon 28 Arizona 21
Matt: Oregon -4
The PAC 10 besides USC stinks this year, and I really don’t know much about either or these teams. Supposedly Arizona is not your normal Arizona team, but this game is a prove it game for me. I bet Oregon takes care of them. Mike Stoops is going to take over for Tommy Bowden as the coach that is always on the hot seat.
Oregon 32 Arizona 25
Mike: Oregon -4
In an otherwise unappetizing menu of games, the most closely contested matchups appear to be taking place in the great state of Oregon. Mike Stoops will be bringing his best team in his five years at Arizona, but Autzen Stadium is a difficult venue for any opponent. Fortunately for Oregon, Jeremiah Masoli was able to engineer a thrilling last second comeback for the win last week against Stanford, thus allowing the Ducks to overcome four lost fumbles. Assuming that the weather improves, Oregon should protect the ball much better this week and deliver a solid effort at home for the win.
Oregon 38 Arizona 31
Doug: Oregon -4
How about that Matt Holliday trade for the A's?? Wow, I did not see that coming. I figured he was going to St. Louis. Interesting move by the A's. They can either try to contend with him, or move him for another haul at next year's deadline. They gave up quite a bit though. Maybe Beane wasn't that enamored with Carlos Gonzalez. Smith and Street are coming off arm injuries. That would make me nervous as a Rockies fan, especially with Beane's history of dumping off injured arms on teams.
Also love that trade by the Washington Nationals to get Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen from the Marlins for basically nothing. Definitely an upgrade for the Nats. Willingham can be a solid outfielder for them, and Olsen is still only 24 years old with major upside. Good move for the Nats, and Keith Law appears to be excited. Keith Law lives for the MLB offseason. Keith Law has fallen out of favor with me to some degree, but I still like to see where he stands on offseason moves.
Oregon 31 Arizona 21
California (+3) at Oregon State (ABC Sports 3:30pm)
Dan: California +3
The Beavers have come out of nowhere to have the fast track to win the PAC 10. But I don’t think they can sustain it. Arizona State came very close to winning at OSU 2 weeks ago, and I think California can get it done this week. After being held to 27 rushing yards last week, expect the Cal tandem of Best and Vereen to bounce back with a great performance on the ground. Nate Longshore is not going to be asked to win this game, just hand it off.
California 28 Oregon State 24
Matt: Cal +3
All this Oregon State is in the drivers seat to win the PAC 10 talk stops this weekend. I like Cal team even though the only time I’ve seen them this year is their egg laying against Maryland.
Cal 31 Oregon State 28
Mike: Oregon State -3
This should be a tightly contested affair between two evenly matched teams. When in doubt, however, always take the team with a Canfield at the helm.
Oregon State 29 California 20
Doug: Oregon State -3
Gotta go with my man Jaquizz Rodgers. Oregon State is still on track to win the Pac 10 if they win out. Not that improbable all of the sudden with Cal, Arizona, and Oregon down the stretch.
Oregon State 31 Cal 27
North Carolina (-3) at Maryland (ABC Sports 3:30pm)
Dan: North Carolina (-3)
I am a believer in UNC after the impressive performance last week against Georgia Tech. Carolina has continued to make its living off turnovers and Maryland’s QB has only a 3 to 2 TD in INT ratio. If UNC can get 2 turnovers, that should be plenty to handle an inconsistent Maryland team. The only thing Maryland has going for it is that it has been very strong at home. I think UNC gives Maryland its first loss at home.
North Carolina 17 Maryland 13
Matt: UNC -3
I hate to beat a dead horse, but who the hell knows with the ACC. Have you looked at the standings recently? Nine of the twelve teams either have two or three conference losses. I guess you could call that exciting, I would probably just label it mediocre football. I’m sure the Orange Bowl is going to love that Utah – Maryland game. Ughh.
UNC 20 Maryland 14
Mike: North Carolina -3
As expected, the Terrapins responded to their recent revival by laying an egg against an offensively challenged Virginia Tech team. Now that nothing is expected of Maryland again, however, it would not be surprising if Ralph Friedgen’s team turned in a strong performance this week. Still, there seems to be something special brewing in Chapel Hill, even if the Tar Heels are succeeding with the dubious method of winning the turnover battle. Memo to Jack Swarbrick: call Butch Davis’s agent today.
North Carolina 24 Maryland 19
Doug: Maryland +3
All I can say is that betting on the ACC is the equivalent of burning your money. I'll go with the home dog. I can't live in a world where a UNC team with one good WR and a couple good d-linemen goes 10-2 this year. If they beat Maryland, that's where they are headed.
Maryland 24 UNC 21
Mississippi State (+20.5) at Alabama (ESPN 7:45pm)
Dan: Alabama -20.5
Will Mississippi State score on Saturday? They might not. But unlike Florida, Alabama isn’t built to just blow teams out of the water. But can they score 3 touchdowns against the mess that is Mississippi State? I think so.
Alabama 27 Mississippi State 3
Matt: Alabama -20.5
I was all set to pick Mississippi State here to get the cover. In fact, if it was ANY other SEC opponent against Alabama this week, I would have taken the points. But I can’t do it with Sly Croom roaming the sideline. With a night game at Bryant-Denny, Alabama will roll to an early lead and never look back.
Here’s my rankings for this week:
2. Texas Tech
7. Boise State
68. Notre Dame- Yes, there are 67 teams that I feel could beat Notre Dame if they met tomorrow. But Swarbrick loves the “progress.”
114. Miami (OH) – Not a good showing for the Redhawks on national TV last night. Not only are they 2-8, but there couldn’t have been more than 2,000 people in the stadium to see the #14 ranked team in the country. By the way, yes, it’s great that Ball State is undefeated. But #14? Really? What would the line be if they played #19 LSU. LSU -12 maybe.
Alabama 38 Mississippi State 3
Mike: Alabama -20.5
As noted in this blog before and obviously observed by others, Alabama has not thrived in a home favorite role over the years and in 2008. Nonetheless, Mississippi State is bereft of offensive talent and there is no reason to believe that the Bulldogs can score in the double digits on the road against Bama. The Bulldogs will hang tough for a while, but the Tide will crush their spirit and earn the late cover.
Alabama 27 Mississippi State 3
Doug: Miss St +19
Miss St is turrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrible, but Bama is probably going to just keep it close to the vest before the Iron Bowl. Bama has had some trouble covering this year. MSU will be lucky to score 3 points in this game, but they'll find a way to cover if they somehow score a touchdown in this game.
Bama 20 Ole Miss 3
Georgia (-8) at Auburn (Raycom 12:30pm)
Dan: Georgia -8.5
I am not high on Georgia at all. But this Auburn team is a mess. Tommy may not make it to next year. Their 2 SEC wins are over Tennessee and MSU by a total of 2 points. Not only that, I’m not convinced the crowd will not turn on their coach if things get off to a bad start a la the Tennessee fans this year. I expect AJ Green or Mohamed “Massacre” Massaquoi (can I say that?) to make a big play early and for the Tigers to just roll over.
Georgia 24 Auburn 10
Matt: Georgia -8.5
Is this really it for Tommy Tuperville? I have a hard time believing that they will fire him with the dominance against Alabama on his resume. But it seems like nobody down there has trusted him for a long time. And his total and absolute destruction of this season is really inexcusable. Anyway, I think he’s in for another long night.
Georgia 31 Auburn 13
Mike: Georgia -8.5
Although Georgia has proven that it cannot cover against undermanned opponents this year, I cannot bring myself to pick Auburn this week. There are signs that the Tigers have quit on Tommy Tuberville and, perhaps foolishly, I expect Georgia to build upon its nerve wracking comeback in Lexington. The Bulldog defense has not performed well this year, but Auburn’s inept offense should be the perfect remedy for embattled Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, if only for a week.
Georgia 24 Auburn 10
Doug: Auburn +8
WAR EAGLE! Auburn has had a terrible season this year, but there's still a chance to salvage this year with two big rivals coming up.
Georgia is not that good. Give me the Auburn Tigers in the upset stunner.
Auburn 24 Georgia 21
USC (-23.5) at Stanford (Versus 7pm)
Dan: USC -23.5
I am actually starting to think this USC offense just can’t get it done this year (The state of Washington not withstanding). This is unfortunate for Trojan fans, because USC’s defense may be one of the best defenses ever. I am a big fan of this Stanford team against the spread this year, but they just do not match up with against USC. They are going to really struggle to score, and I’m not sure their defense can slow USC enough. Throw the fact that USC is going to be playing with revenge on their mind, and I think it is enough to get the cover.
USC 28 Stanford 3
Matt: USC -23.5
USC’s defense is giving up 6 points a game. I shudder to think what that ND – USC matchup is going to look like in a few weeks. If you think 17-0 to BC was bad, well, that could end up something like 49-3. I know that USC’s offense has never really come around this year, but I’m not sure why they are getting so neglected in the polls. If anyone should be getting the benefit of the doubt, it’s USC, not Oklahoma or Texas. I wouldn’t bat an eye if Oklahoma or Texas got destroyed by Florida in the championship game. On the other hand, USC – Florida in the National Championship game might be the most anticipated game in the history of college football. I’m already foaming at the mouth at the thought of Tebow and Harvin going against that USC D. With Urban and Pete walking the sidelines. Wow. Make this happen America. Yes we Can!
USC 27 Stanford 3
Mike: USC -23.5
With revenge on their minds and a need for style points to help their BCS cause, the Trojans will blaze a destructive path through Palo Alto. Bonus prediction: Tavita Pritchard will not finish this game for the Cardinal.
USC 44 Stanford 7
Doug: USC -23.5
USC is unpredictable, but they still have the talent to score at will in this game. Stanford has been one of the most improved teams of 2008 and could be on the verge of a breakthrough in 2009 if Harbaugh stays around, but I can't see them hanging around with USC.
I moved USC down a bit in my rankings because the Pac 10 is a joke. USC is still as good as anyone in the country when they are on, but they've been inconsistent. If they Trojans want to make a statement, it's time for them to hit the extra gear and start pounding people.
USC 42 Stanford 17
Boston College (+6.5) at Florida State (ABC Sports 8pm)
Dan: FSU -6.5
F___ Boston College.
Florida State 31 Boston College 20
Matt: FSU -6.5
Don’t even get me started about that BC offense. Any competent team should be able to destroy them. They lost to freaking Clemson at home.
FSU 27 BC 17
Mike: Florida State -6.5
I find it hard to believe that BC will be particularly interested in playing this game. After all, the Eagles already won their Super Bowl last week and they have reached the magical 6 win milepost, which ensures their inclusion in a lower tier bowl game (and for what it’s worth, they would be a fantastic choice for the inaugural Congressional Bowl in Washington, D.C.). FSU, on the other hand, continues to improve every week and BC will be a mere speed bump on the Seminoles’ road back to their rightful place atop the ACC.
Florida State 31 Boston College 17
Doug: Florida State -7
BC is not a good football team, and the inevitable post-ND letdown will be in full effect. I'm expecting them to get killed in this game.
It probably sounds like sour grapes to say it now after we lost to them, but I think Jeff Jagodzinski is not going to be the long term answer at BC. He has turned their offense into a finesse style offense, and I don't know if that is the best fit for BC football. BC has always benefited from having a hard-nosed ground game and a tough, physical offensive line. The Jags BC teams have generally relied on the aerial attack, draw plays out of the shotgun, and short stuff underneath. I wasn't impressed with their offense at all on Saturday. Their defense is solid, but I don't know how much Jags has to do with that.
The other thing I'm interested to see with BC football is where their recruiting goes in the next few years. BC has done a great job in Ohio going after undervalued kids out of good high school programs like Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cleveland St. Ignatius and others. Maybe not the most physically gifted kids, but fundamentally sound players who grew up to be solid contributors by their senior year. Tom O'Brien Iwho is a St. Xavier alum) opened up those pipelines for BC, so I'll be curious to see if Jags can continue that success.
Should be interesting. My prediction is that Jags steadily takes that program downhill over the next five years. I could see some 6-6/5-7 type years out of them in the next few years.
Florida State 31 BC 13
BYU (-5.5) at Air Force (CBS College Sports 3:30pm)
Dan: Air Force +5.5
It seems like every week we have the Mountain West match up of the year! This isn’t it, but I guess it is still a good game. And it is still in the Mountain West and I just can’t bring myself to care. I mean, hell, Notre Dame would probably go 2-6 in the MWC. Air Force has looked good the last 3 games and is getting points at home so…
BYU 28 Air Force 24
Matt: Air Force +5.5
You don’t just walk into Falcon Stadium and get a W. This is actually a big game in the Mountain West, or so I am told. And if you’re one of the tens of hundreds of Americans who gets something called the CBS College Sports Network you’ll be able to enjoy it.
Air Force 31 BYU 30
Mike: Air Force +5.5
With the Holy War on the horizon, BYU could find itself in a real battle (pun intended) against a plucky Air Force squad this week in Colorado Springs. If Air Force can hang around and avoid having to throw the ball, they should be able to move the ball consistently against BYU’s defense and thereby pull off the mild upset. By the way, take a look at BYU’s resume if you get a chance: simply put, it sucks.
Air Force 33 BYU 28
Doug: Air Force +5.5
I have no freaking clue in this game, so give me the points.
By the way, if the Pac 10 ever wanted to add 2 more teams to create a championship game, who would you add?? I think I'd add BYU and Utah. Two good schools in a growing state, and they have fairly good tradition in football and basketball. I think they'd both be a great fit in the Pac 10. Plus, it would keep the tradition of having "pair schools" from the western states outside of California.
The other one to consider would be Boise State. They are getting to the point where it would be almost impossible to ignore them as a potential entrant to a BCS conference.
BYU 27 Air Force 24
Notre Dame (-3) at Navy (CBS Sports 12pm)
Every bone in my body wants to pick Notre Dame. And to be honest, I think if Notre Dame loses this week, the administration will have to give serious thought towards firing Weis this year. So the fact that I think there is no chance Weis is gone after this year does not correspond to my other feeling that Notre Dame may lose this game. Here are things I know: #1 Notre Dame lost to Navy last year (yes, I know Paul Johnson was there, but at this point I don’t care). #2 Notre Dame is not all that much better than last year. #3 Navy has beaten Air Force and Wake Forest this year. #4 Notre Dame has not beaten anyone with a winning record.
Navy 17 Notre Dame 13
Matt: Notre Dame
Now we get to the pick that I’ve been dreading to make all week. If you would have asked me to pick this game at the beginning of the week, I would have taken Navy. But if Notre Dame has ANY shred of pride and dignity, they will not lose this game. They shouldn’t even need a coach on the sideline to win this one.
I spoke my mind earlier this week, and for the most part I stand by what I said and agree with Doug. There’s just a certain feel about the program right now that isn’t positive that leads me to believe that Charlie isn’t the guy. The fact that new athletic director Swarbrick came out after a 17-0 pasting by BC and said he sees ‘progress’ is laughable. But…let’s be honest, unless ND loses out, we are probably not getting a new head coach. And I can live with that. I will still get behind the team and Coach Weis, still go to any bowl games (unless it’s in El Paso. New Year’s in El Paso could be kind of rough) and still hope for a turnaround in ’09. But make no mistake about it. If next year isn’t pretty, something has to change.
As far as this game, I would like to see the offense get back on track, and Navy is the perfect opponent for that to happen. No disrespect to the Mids, but nobody on that roster should be able to stop Clausen to Tate and Floyd. And for that matter, maybe the O line can actually make a block or two this week. All in all, it adds up to an Irish win. If 3:00 rolls around Saturday afternoon and the Irish are on a 3 game losing streak, there isn’t an alcohol strong enough to numb the anger and pain I will be in.
Notre Dame 31 Navy 21
Mike: Notre Dame
This game presents a real dilemma. In light of the fact that Weis will not be fired barring a complete meltdown this year, should I root for Navy this week as I rooted for Pitt and Tennessee in 2004? More importantly, considering that any replacement for Weis will likely be unfit for the position of head coach, does it really matter? In any event, even if Weis loses, it is doubtful that Baltimore will be his Waterloo.
As for the game, there are serious doubts as to whether Notre Dame will show up ready to play. Weis will be calling the plays this week, but at this point, his interjection of “expertise” is like putting lipstick on a pig. On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame’s defense remains highly susceptible to the run, which means that Navy’s offense should have success with its triple option attack. In the end, however, Notre Dame’s massive talent edge should provide the difference in this game. Of course, a Navy victory would not be surprising, as evidenced by the narrow point spread.
Notre Dame 34 Navy 31
Doug: Notre Dame
My feelings on the state of Notre Dame football are well-documented at this point, so I'd rather focus on the game. No matter what your feelings are for Coach Weis or the program, I still love seeing those gold helmets and rooting for the Irish. I hope like crazy that Saturday starts a recovery for ND football.
With that said, I'm straight up embarrassed that our program is even associated with CBS Sports this weekend. We don't even belong on that fine network the way our team has been playing. Needless to say, the likelihood of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson ever announcing another Notre Dame game are looking bleak.
Some keys to the game as we head to Annapolis:
1) Intangibles - As far as I'm concerned, intangibles are going to be the key factor to this game. If ND shows up ready to play and impose our will on Navy, we can run them out of the building. No different than what Pitt did to Navy a couple weeks ago. It's freaking Navy. They have 200 pound d-lineman. If we come out angry and focused, this game will be no problem.
My fear is that ND isn't going to be emotionally ready to match Navy's intensity in this game. If we come out flat or taking them lightly, it will be four quarters of pure misery for ND fans. If we come out soft and try to scheme around them, we'll make mistakes and let them hang around. The goal for ND this week in practice should be to get angry and start playing physical.
Meanwhile, Navy has had two weeks to gear up for this game. They will be fired up to play ND and try to extend the winning streak to two games. Navy players come to Navy for two games: Notre Dame and Army. This game is their Super Bowl, and we better be ready to match their intensity.
Another thing I've learned about Navy is that their football players don't have to do their typical regimens when they aren't playing a home game. They have had a tendency to play tired when they are at home because of the extra work they have to do of the football field. This ND-Navy game is technically at a neutral site, so we will be getting Navy's best shot in this game. They will be fresh and ready to go.
Another thing to keep an eye on will be how these teams come out of the locker room in the second half. If we build a lead and relax at halftime, Navy will probably creep back into this game. The longer we let Navy hang around, the more likely it is that we could lose this game.
2) The ND defense - While the ND offense was an abomination last week and is the more concerning unit on the whole, my worry this week is with the ND defense. Specifically, are we going to come out fired up and ready to shut down that option attack?? I'm not worried about the ND offense. We'll be able to move the ball on Navy's defense almost at will, and I think we'll score at least 30 in this game. My concern is if we give up 35 by not playing disciplined and sound defensive football. While we were better defensively last week, we are still susceptible to a good ground attack. Navy's offense is better than Boston College's offense, so I expect to see them have some level of success against us. The key for us is to adjust and start shutting them down.
Last year's defensive game plan was atrocious. We had two weeks to prepare for Navy, and then they shoved it down our throat. We followed that up by getting blown out by Air Force and the same option attack the following week. Think about that again. We lost BACK TO BACK HOME GAMES to Navy and Air Force last year. That is UNREAL. There wasn't one player on either of those teams that even got a letter from ND let alone a scholarship offer.
One interesting note is that Navy's usual starting QB (the Hawaiian guy from last year - not going to bother trying to look up his name) is not playing in this game. They are going with a backup senior Qb this week, Jarrod Bryant. The other backup is a young guy named Ricky Dobbs. Sounds like Dobbs sparked the team in other games, but Bryant is getting the start this week. Definitely something to keep an eye on.
3) Turnovers - Let's be honest, the only way ND's offense isn't scoring on every drive in this game is if we turn the ball over. Fumbles, ints, etc. Can't afford to let that happen in this game. Clausen should have plenty of time to make throws, and there is no one on Navy who can cover our WRs. We need to be balanced and run the ball to set up passing plays down the field. If they are giving us the run, take it. It's Navy. Their defense is tiny. We should be able to dominate them up front. No turnovers would be a great sign in this game. If we start putting the ball on the ground, look out.
The other thing to keep an eye on is if we can force some turnovers out of Navy. The option offense is always susceptible to turnovers, so expect to see the ball on the ground a couple times in this game. If we can capitalize and get the ball in great field position, that would be a big help.
4) Charlie Weis -Back to the Wall - Charlie is getting some serious heat this week in the local and national media (which is much deserved), and he has to be feeling the pressure at this point. How will he respond?? More importantly, how will the team respond to him?? Are they still playing for him?? Are they still buying in or are they rolling their eyes when he does this phony good cop/bad cop stuff?? If the team has packed it in on Charlie, it will be evident on the field. If we practice with a purpose and come out fired up for Charlie, we'll roll in this game.
What do you all think about this "Charlie isn't healthy" stuff?? Is that really affecting him that much?? Did I miss the memo that Charlie Weis was leading an active lifestyle and running around before he had that leg injury?? Have people seen Charlie Weis?? He couldn't run 10 yards before that leg injury either. I don't think I've seen him run in four years of watching him. He always walks out of the tunnel at about the same pace he is walking now. I know he's limping right now, but I don't see how Charlie's health is some sort of excuse for poor performance. The guy was in poor health before that leg injury.
I hope these ND players still have enough pride to win this game for Charlie.
5) Special Teams - While the ND special teams have been better this year in some aspects (punt and kick coverage), I am still disappointed with the overall play of our special teams. Our return units stink. We never get anything going out of our kickoff return units. We start ever drive from around the 20, so we have to go 80 yards to score a touchdown. It adds pressure to an already fragile offense. And if we get a penalty or something like that to stall a drive, we're looking at a punt from deep in our own territory. It's been a problem all year for this team. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to get one return past the 50 all year. Have we had one yet?? I don't recall one. If we could actually get a couple big kick or punt returns, we might be able to score on a short field.
The Golden Tate punt return was a good sign, but I'd like to see even more of that. Special Teams can be a weapon, but we never seem to utilize our special teams to make big plays.
One of the great things about having a talented team and great recruiting classes is that you will have a lot of talent for your special teams units. And yet our special teams are average at best. We could make things a lot easier on ourselves if we got more big plays out of our special teams. That needs to change.
6) It's the playcalling, stupid? - A lot is being made out of Charlie Weis' decision to "take over" the playcalling this week from Mike Heywood. Does anyone actually buy that nonsense?? Does anyone really think that Heywood isn't just reading from a Charlie Weis-prepared script?? It's not like we're running this wild and crazy Heywood-designed offense. We are running the Charlie Weis offense. I've seen this offense for four years. It is no different than any other offense we've run since Weis has been here. The only difference is that teams have figured us out. Coaches like Butch Davis and Pete Carroll and Tressel have created a blueprint for beating us in the last few years, and that blueprint has been trickled down to everyone we play. The Weis offense has been exposed. We can't commit to a running game, so teams are daring us to run and sticking as many DBs as possible out there to blanket our WRs. The only life we've shown as an offense has been Mike Floyd and Golden Tate making spectacular individual plays.
While this decision may end up working out, I can't help but feel like Mike Heywood ( a good man who is also an ND alum) is getting thrown under the bus for the problems creates by Weis' failure to pay attention to detail and focus on the fundamentals of building a strong, disciplined team. Heywood's career is pretty much radioactive at this point now that he's essentially been demoted. That's unfortunate. I don't like how this situation has been handled at all, and it reflects extremely poorly on Weis. Weis made a big deal out of delegating the playcalling, but the reality is that he never did delegate. If he wants to really delegate the offensive responsibilities, he needs to go out and hire a Norm Chow type offense coordinator.
Our offense will certainly look better in the next couple weeks beause of the god awful defenses we are about to play, but I think this decision by Weis amounts to a Sarah Palin style "lipstick on a pig." We won't really know how Weis' decision turns out until we go to LA to take on USC.
While I think there is a very real possiblity that we will lose this game, I cannot pick ND to lose to Navy. Beating Navy should not even be debatable. They have Division I-AA talent. Even with our god awful team from last year, we still had numerous chances to win that game. If we play smart offensive football, grab a lead, and adjust to the option, we should take a decisive lead and pull away with a double digit win.
I will not be suprised one bit if we play like crap and let Navy hang around in this game (or maybe even win), but I'm trying to ignore that thought for now. Go Irish. Beat the ship out of Navy.
Notre Dame 38 Navy 24