October 29, 2010

Week 9 Pick: Notre Dame - Tulsa

Dan: Notre Dame

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Sullivan family. RIP Declan, fellow Green Wave.

Notre Dame 27 Tulsa 23

Jeremy: Notre Dame

I’m having a tough time ignoring that voice in the back of my head telling me that, with everything swirling around the program right now, the Irish will be too distracted to give their best effort, and will simply fold up their tents and lose out.  Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.  Tulsa scores points in bunches, Utah is a Top 10 team, Army runs the option/veer that gave the Irish so much trouble last week, and USC looks like they’ve found their stride.

Of course, the alternative is that the Irish dig deep and play inspired football the rest of the way, shrugging off the (likely season-ending) injuries to Riddick and Ian Williams, and the tragedy on the practice field this week to win the games they should, and perhaps even steal one from Utah/SC. 

My guess is that the most likely scenario is somewhere in the middle, and ND continues its inconsistent ways.  But I do think they’ll be able to do enough to at least get past a Tulsa team that hasn’t beaten a BCS regular for quite some time.  Their pass defense is brutal, and Dayne Crist should be able to take advantage of a recovering Michael Floyd and an emerging TJ Jones to move the ball through the air. 

On defense, the loss of the big ma in the middle could allow Tulsa to gash ND a bit on the ground, but look for Manti Te’o to have his biggest game in an Irish uniform this week.  I’m thinking something along the lines of 25 tackles or so.  Sounds like Carlo Calabrese might not play, and so we’ll learn quickly whether Dan Fox and others will be able to provide quality depth at the ILB position.  If Tulsa has to air it out, I don’t think they’ll have much success, and hopefully the pass rush can make things uncomfortable. 

I don’t expect a blowout, but I do expect a comfortable win, with some garbage time opportunities for either Montana or Rees, who impressed in his limited duty last week, leading the Irish on their most successful drive of the day.

ND 38  Tulsa 24

Jimmy: Notre Dame

A tragic and tumultuous week for the school and team.  Focus has shifted from the game at hand, certainly affecting concentration and game preparation.  The players will be motivated to win for bigger reasons than team pride after last week’s embarrassment.  Statistically speaking, Tulsa beckons teams to use their defense like a welcome mat.  Crist should leave tread marks all over their secondary, but whether that actually happens remains to be seen.  Needless to say, expectations are tempered until the offense executes with consistency and picks up a few 3rd or 4th and shorts.  I don't want to imagine another terrible loss.  

Notre Dame 36  Tulsa  31

Matt: Tulsa

It’s come to this.  A week after getting depantsed by the Naval Academy, the Irish prepare for the mighty Tulsa Golden Hurricanes to descend on South Bend with a high powered offense looking to pull off the “upset.”  And here I thought the big series with the team from Oklahoma started in 2012.  Looks like I was off by two years. 

Cynicism, sarcasm and snarkiness aside, I really don’t think that Notre Dame will win this football game.  Why should I?  The defense was a sieve against Navy, and don’t look now but here comes one of the most prolific offenses in the country, averaging 500 yards a game.  Sure they got blown out against their only real legit team in Oklahoma State, giving up 65 points, but anyone who thinks that Notre Dame is even close to the same level as OSU offensively is delirious.  This is a bad Notre Dame offense with no explosiveness in the running game, a QB who is regressing (I was going to say appears to be regressing, but no, there is no appearing to regress.  Crist IS regressing.  It’s a fact.), and a receiving corps that is decimated by injuries.  (Yo Longo, figure out how to stretch out a hamstring.  Ridiculous.)

No one’s ever heard of anyone on Tulsa, but then again Navy’s backup fullback Alexander Teich wasn’t exactly a household name a week ago either.  G.J. Kinne (Reggie Cleveland All-Star – he’s white) has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 15 TD’s already, and their running game features guys averaging 5.4 and 10.8 YPC.  (Armando Allen: 4.8)  Kinne actually was a Rivals 3 star and transferred from Texas, so don’t be surprised when you look up in the 4th quarter and he’s thrown for 300 yards and 4 TD’s.  It shouldn’t come as a shocker.

And for those who don’t think Tulsa belongs on the same field as Notre Dame, I did a little research.   According to Rivals, Tulsa had the 8th ranked recruiting class in 2007……..in Conference USA (avg star – 1.87).  In 2008, they were the 4th best in conference (2.19), in 2009 2nd (2.64), and in 2010 6th (2.68).  So don’t be surprised when these elite recruits are dominating the Irish on Saturday.  I’m sure it’s merely an oversight that none of them have appeared yet on Mel Kiper’s Big Board.

I tried to get through this preview without all the negativity, but honestly, after last week and the way this season has gone in general, I am fast losing hope that Notre Dame will ever become a truly relevant program again.  To me, this home game against Tulsa, a middle of the pack Conference USA team, is a legitimate toss-up.  Nothing that the Irish do on the field on Saturday will change my mind; after all Tulsa lost by 40 to Oklahoma State.  Should I just hope that one day Notre Dame can be an Oklahoma State or Clemson type program?  Would joining Conference USA or the Big East give the program more relevance in that there is a conference championship to play for?  Big picture items to be debated another day, but on Saturday I think the Brian Kelly (and Bob Diaco) era takes another embarrassing step in the wrong direction.

Tulsa 41 ND 34

Mike: Tulsa

Sigh.  Last week’s embarrassing performance at Navy was a sobering reminder to ND fans of how far this program has falling under the negligent eye of an administration that simply does not care about football greatness.  I haven’t watched any Tulsa games, of course, so I really don’t care to give an analysis.  I also don’t intend to watch this game, but I’m sure it will be a real hoot.

Tulsa 41 Notre Dame 31

October 28, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Week 9 Picks: Cocktail Party Edition

A wild weekend of games last Saturday.  The bulk of the WeIs crew watched the morning and mid-afternoon slate from the cozy environs of the 810 Zone in Kansas City.  A super spot with tvs plastered all over the place.  We were there so long that our terrific server Roosevelt (we tried to think of nicknames his buddies call him - Rosie, Delano, FDR, Teddy...was Roosevelt Potts always addressed formally?) opened the doors to the "champagne room" of sports bars - our own private glass viewing area with 2 tvs looking out over the whole operation.  Good times.  And if anyone in the KC area is wondering what happened to their high score on the pop-a-shot b-ball, the record books were rewritten on two machines.  If there's one thing I'm damn good at and not afraid to say it, it's pop-a-shot.  On to the picks...   

Florida State (-3.5) at NC State

Dan: NC State (+3.5)

Both teams have had 2 weeks to prepare for this game. Both teams are coming off disappointing performances (FSU tight game against BC, NC State overtime loss to ECU). But it’s Thursday night, NC State was doing well against the spread prior to ECU, and Russell Wilson should cause troubles for the Seminole defense. I’ll take the points, and the upset.

NC State 38 FSU 35

Jeremy: NC State (+3.5)

Interesting matchup here.  The Russell Wilson show in Raleigh leads the ACC in passing and total offense, while the ‘Noles lead the conference in scoring defense.  Florida St.’s offense has been humming pretty well also and the ‘Noles are in the catbird seat in the ACC Atlantic Division.  I could definitely see this one being a bit of a shootout, with FSU grabbing a close win on the road.  I’ll take the points, and wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wolfpack grab the upset, either.

Florida St. 38  NC St. 35

Jimmy: NC State (+3.5)
I like what Russell Wilson is doing with the Wolfpack.  I like the home team getting points.  I like the ACC to continue to be unpredictably mediocre.

NC State 30  FSU 27

Matt: NC State (+3.5)

This is more of a gut feel than anything else.  NC State had a little momentum, but then two weeks ago went on the road and lost to East Carolina.  That same day, FSU struggled to put away a bad BC team at home.  It’s a battle of two contrasting styles on offense, as NC State prefers to air it out with Russell Wilson, while the FSU attack is ground-based behind Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomas.  All signs are pointing towards an FSU-Virginia Tech ACC Championship game, but I think that NC State throws a monkey wrench into those plans with a big home win.

NC State 24 FSU 20

Mike: NC State (+3.5)

These two programs appear to be very similar in terms of talent level and style of play.  Based upon the early season performances of both teams, this game should feature plenty of passing and lots of points.  Since NC State has the better quarterback, home field advantage and the points, the pick is the Pack. 

NC State 37 Florida State 34

Michigan State (+6) at Iowa

Dan: MSU (+6)  Lock of the Week

Last week’s last minute cover against Northwestern was one of my most devastating gambling moments. I had the NW cover in hand the whole game and it fell apart. All they had to do was tackle him at the 5 and MSU would have taken a knee. Incredible. Everyone seems to think the Hawkeyes are going to end MSU’s dream run. I’m not quite convinced. Iowa had some shaky moments last week against the Badgers, and MSU is a better team. However, I think Kinnick will be rocking and Iowa squeaks out the close victory. 6 points definitely seems like too much though.

Iowa 20 MSU 17

Jeremy: Michigan St. (+6)

Not a whole lot of respect for Sparty from the oddsmakers this week.  But I do think its somewhat justified.  Their luck has to run out sometime, and I think it happens this week.  The Iowa defensive line wreaks havoc in the Spartan backfield and a few big Ricky Stanzi TDs give Iowa the upset. 

Iowa 27 MSU 24

Jimmy: Iowa (-6)

Something's gotta give both ways here.  Sparty seems to have 9 lives.  Or at least as many trick fake punt plays.  Iowa brain farted away a chance at victory last week.  The Hawkeyes are a better team than Northwestern and the Wildcats looked to be coasting until the 4th quarter.  Kirk Ferentz won't allow his team to fold again.  Michigan State's rosy path gets thorny this week.

Iowa 27  MSU 20

Matt: Michigan State (+6)

Has an undefeated team ever been this big of an underdog to a lower ranked team this late in the season?  Sparty was lucky to survive (and cover) against Northwestern, but I don’t think the dream season continues on.  And as someone who believes that the Spartans have no business being in the national championship discussion, I will be rooting for the Hawkeyes to win at home.  Iowa’s vaunted defensive line did not do the job last week against Wisconsin, but they’ll be up to the task this week to end the Spartans undefeated run.

Iowa 27 Michigan State 26

Mike: Michigan State (+6)

Both of these teams helped alleviate my wallet of some excess paper last week, as the Spartans stormed back for a late cover and the Hawkeyes choked away a late lead at home to Wisconsin.  Iowa has the better defense, but Michigan State’s balanced offensive attack will be a tough test for the Hawkeyes.  More importantly, Sparty, much like Iowa last year, seems like a team of destiny.  I will call for Michigan State to exact revenge on Iowa for last year’s heart stopper in East Lansing.

Michigan State 27 Iowa 24

Florida (+3) vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)

Dan: Florida (+3)

When has the cocktail party been this irrelevant? The SEC east is a trainwreck. Both these teams are not very good, yet either could still win the East. Georgia has reeled off 3 straight, while Florida had dropped 3 straight. Will Urban Meyer lose 4 straight? They have only averaged about 14 points a game during those 3 losses. They should find scoring against Georgia somewhat easier, but the Bulldog’s offense has been coming on strong. They should have plenty of motivation here given that UGA has gone 3 – 17 since 1990 in the series. I think UGA puts win number 4 on the board, but that it’s close until the end.

UGA 24 Florida 23

Jeremy: Georgia (-3)

When was the last time the Gators were ‘dogs in the Cocktail Party?  Have to imagine its been a while.  I’m starting to believe that Mark Richt may have this thing turned around for the Bulldogs, and a big win over arch-nemesis Urban Meyer would have the faithful in Athens hopping right back on the bandwagon.  I love me some Cam Newton, and I’m sorry Dr. Phil, but I’m predicting an Alabama-Georgia SEC title game.

Georgia 31  Florida 23

Jimmy: Florida (+3)

Doesn’t seem right that neither Florida (4-3) or Georgia (4-4) is ranked for this annual jamboree in J-ville.  The records may be similarly unappealing, but momentum is going in opposite directions in Athens and Gainesville.  The Bulldogs are finally getting consistent production on offense and will capitalize on the relatively toothless Gator defense.  At this point, I don’t think even Urban Meyer knows what to expect from his offense.  That’s what you get for trying to fit a square peg into a round hole at QB. 

I was all set to go with Georgia here, but am reconsidering now.  Florida has had 2 weeks to prepare for this gut check game.  They’re getting points.  Incredibly, they still control their destiny in the abhorrent SEC East.  Florida will be toasting at the end of this one. 

Florida 26  Georgia 23

Matt: Georgia (-3)

The SEC East is a total mess.  I’m as big of an SEC supporter as anyone, but even I have to admit that it is a down year for that half of the conference, and the headline for that disappointment are the Gators.  John Brantley has not fit into the offense, there is a dearth of playmakers, and the defense is young.  Georgia has actually righted the ship now that AJ Green is back on the field, and a win here would keep them in contention with South Carolina to win the East.  I know that Mark Richt can’t beat Urban Meyer, but I like what I’ve seen out of Aaron Murray and Washaun Ealey in recent weeks.  If Richt can’t beat the Gators this year, he never will again.  The Mark Richt job-saving tour rolls on.

Georgia 37 Florida 28

Mike: Georgia (-3)

For the first time in perhaps a decade, there is very little buzz about the Cocktail Party this year.  Florida has enjoyed an extra week to prepare for this game, but these two teams are moving in different directions.  While the Gators defense will keep them in the game, their anemic offense will cause them to fall short.

Georgia 23 Florida 17

Missouri (+7) at Nebraska

Dan: Nebraska (-7)

Wow, gamblers across the country are giving no credence to Mizzou’s thrashing of Oklahoma last week. That said, it is a perfect recipe for letdown game. Huge Saturday night home victory against the #1 team in the country followed by a road trip to an incredibly tough venue against a very good Nebraska team. I think Mizzou will have difficulty slowing down Nebraska’s option attack, and Blaine Gabbert will not have as much success against Nebraska’s defense as he did against OU.

Nebraska 34 Missouri 24

Jeremy: Nebraska (-7)  Lock of the Week

Still not quite sure what to make of the Huskers.  That Texas game is still a worrisome blip on their resume.  But I think we figure out this week that they are for real.  Mizzou definitely impressed in their big win over Stoops & the Sooners last weekend, but they’re facing a different animal this week when they travel to Lincoln.  Go ‘Shirts.

Nebraska 38  Missouri 20

Jimmy: Nebraska (-7)

Huge win for the Missouri Tigers last week, proving all the doubters wrong.  They delivered an emphatic statement to the Gameday crew that the program perception may require a second look – comes with the territory of traditionally underperforming squads.  Guess what??  I’m still not sold, especially on the road in Lincoln. 

The Huskers flipped the script with their offense as they kept pace with Okie State.  T-Magic (a ridiculous nickname – c’mon Husker fans, come up with  something better than that) explored the field with his arm with great success.  The fact that the Blackshirts gave up 41 points is more a testament to the Cowboys offense than real concerns for Nebraska.  Both sides will get their mojo workin’ this weekend as another undefeated dream season is dashed.

Nebraska 34  Missouri 24

Matt: Nebraska (-7)  Lock of the Week

Missouri made me eat my words last week with their thorough beatdown of Oklahoma, but I don’t expect the euphoria in Columbia to last any longer.  Taylor Martinez unveiled a new aspect of his game last week by throwing for 300+ yards and 5 TD’s against Oklahoma State, and I expect him to have another well-rounded game against the Tigers.  Nebraska rolls.

Nebraska 48 Missouri 32

Mike: Missouri (+7)

Missouri, like Michigan State, enters this game as a clear underdog, despite being undefeated.  If this game had been played two weeks ago, I might have taken Nebraska to cover, but the Blackshirt defense was exposed badly last week in Stillwater.  Accordingly, I expect another strong performance from Blaine Gabbert and the Mizzou offense, which will cause this game to be a nailbiter.  Nonetheless, it is simply asking too much for the Tigers to win outright in Lincoln.

Nebraska 30 Missouri 27

Oregon (-7) at USC

Dan: Oregon (-7)

USC has been able to score points this year, but the defense has struggled against good offenses. Oregon should have no trouble putting points on the board, and lots of them. They should give up their fair share, but not enough to cause concerns for the cover.

Oregon 43 USC 31

Jeremy: Oregon (-7)

I’ve been tooting their horn all year long, so I better not stop now.  Can’t wait for this game.  How good is SC?  They looked lousy, even in their wins, early on.  But they’re two last-second FGs from being undefeated and they curb-stomped a pretty decent Cal team.  This should be a great one in South Central.

Oregon 45  USC 35

Jimmy: Oregon (-7)  Lock of the Week

Until someone contains the Ducks for 4 quarters, I’m still buying what Chip Kelly’s selling.  The Trojan defense hasn’t given the illusion of stopping much this season, as discussed here before.  The only wrinkle is the venue, where “the USC faithful” (Lane Kiffin will test the full meaning of this term) could make the Coliseum a stadium of horrors.  Much like the Stanford game, Matt Barkley will keep things close for a half.  But an empty possession or two is all Oregon needs to pull away and force USC to adjust their gameplan.  Should be a fun one.   

Oregon 52  USC 38

Matt: USC (+7)

USC isn’t going bowling this year, so common sense that this game will serve as a de facto bowl game and PAC 10 Championship game all rolled into one.  The Coliseum has been quiet at times this year, but I expect it to be rocking (or at least as close to rocking as the wine and cheese LA crowd can be) for this one.  This college football season is just shaping up to be wacky, and there is no doubt that USC has the talent at all positions to beat Oregon.  It’s not like Oregon is all of a sudden some national power.  It’s the same program that was shut down by Boise last year, and then laid an egg against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.  I’m not really buying into Oregon all of a sudden morphing into some undefeated juggernaut.  Fight On…

USC 44 Oregon 40

Mike: Oregon (-7)

Without being bowl eligible, this is unquestionably the biggest game of USC’s season.  As such, I expect the Trojans to be fired up for this one, especially after last season’s debacle in Eugene on Halloween night.  In addition, the Trojans are coming off a bye week and playing at home, which makes them dangerous.  Having said that, USC is bringing a knife to a gun fight with its porous defense having to face the overwhelming Oregon offensive attack.  Matt Barkley and the USC offense will make this game entertaining, but the Ducks are too much to handle.

Oregon 54 USC 44

Bonus Picks

Dan: Purdue (+17) at Illinois

I realize Illinois just killed the Hoosiers (another game I got burned on last week), but 17 points just seems like an awful lot here. Before getting killed by the Buckeyes, Purdue was 2-0 in the Big 10 and looking decent. Illinois should be able to handle the Boilers, but 2 TDs feels about right.

Illinois 34 Purdue 20

Jeremy: Clemson (-6.5) @ Boston College

I know the Eagles showed some good fight in the last few weeks, including FSU one heck of a scare, but that’s still a lousy team, especially on offense.  Clemson might not be that great either, but I think they can cover a TD spread, even on the road.

Clemson 28  BC 20

Jimmy: Northwestern (-3) @ Indiana

Northwestern’s upset bid last week fell apart in the 4th quarter.  NU Nation was hurt.  They could sense a boisterous crowd rushing onto the field to celebrate.  There was no shame in the loss.  For whatever reason, this line is close when Indiana has proven without a shadow of a doubt that they are terrible.  If the Wildcats had beat MSU, this line would’ve been in double digits.  Now, I readily admit to my mistake picking IU to cover last week.  This week’s pick proves my learning curve.  For the last time this year, IU enters a game with a winning record.  That’s what scheduling Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron and Arkansas State will do for you.  In Big Ten play, they’ve been outscored 123-58 in 3 games.  That gap will continue to widen.  I’m jumping all over this silly line with glee.

Northwestern 41  Indiana 27

Matt: Wake Forest @ Maryland (-5.5)

Wake Forest stinks.  Maryland may stink, but somehow they are in the thick of the ACC race (for now).  At home, I think they will beat the Deacs by more than a TD.

Maryland 35 Wake Forest 24

Mike: Oklahoma (-24) over Colorado

The Sooners have tended to play down to the level of their competition this year, but Colorado is simply terrible.  Cody Hawkins gets the start for the Buffaloes and he will be overmatched.  Ditto the CU defense.

Oklahoma 51 Colorado 21

Last Week:
Dan:  3-4 (-)
Jeremy: 3-4 (-)
Jimmy: 2-5 (-)
Matt: 1-6 (-)
Mike: 2-5 (-)

Dan:  30-25-1 (3-4-1)
Jeremy: 37-18-1 (5-3)
Jimmy: 31-24-1 (4-4)
Matt: 27-27-2 (3-4)
Mike: 35-20-1 (6-1-1)

October 26, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Navy Edition

The Good
I hear that the lads really gave it their all in singing the Navy alma mater post-game. Classy until the bitter end.

The Bad
The performance was so putrid that to label any particular aspect of the game as bad would be heaping too much praise on the Irish players and coaches.

The Ugly
The United States Naval Academy had to take their foot off the gas in the second half so as not to embarrass the University of Notre Dame. If that doesn't tell you all you need to know about Notre Dame's place in the college football world...

At least after this game ND should be ready for the 'veer' option look from Army.  Because it really is too much to expect that the defense be prepared to stop the fullback in the triple option.  Tricky move Coach Niumatalolo.

October 22, 2010

Week 8 Pick: Notre Dame - Navy

Dan: Notre Dame

We have lost 2 of 3 to Navy, but took the one “on the road” 2 years ago. Navy is 4-2, with close losses to Maryland and Air Force, and averaging almost 260 rushing yards a game. This game will always continue to make me nervous until we lay about 3 or 4 30 point beatings on them in a row. Additionally, Kelly has not really had to get ND ready to defend the Naval rushing attack yet. It is a process that takes practice and getting used.

Given that, I’d be very nervous about betting this game. However, I do think ND will win. If Crist can remember he doesn’t suck (I hope, but remain unconvinced), then we should have no problem scoring points. I’d actually like to see us commit to the run a bit more in this game, but don’t really expect that either.

On defense, I would put Manti’s tackles over/under at about 20. If he hits the over, we are probably in good shape. If Harrison Smith or Zeke Motta take too many of those tackles, it means we’re giving up too many yards, and we are in big trouble. I’ll put my faith in Manti, but predict a close game.

Notre Dame 31 Navy 27

Jeremy: Notre Dame

I’m not ready to crucify Brian Kelly for beating a mediocre opponent by 24.  Sure, some of the playcalling was a bit frustrating, but the Irish held WMU to only a FG in the 2nd half, and Cierre Wood showed some nice flashes of that potential we’ve heard so much about.  

It will be interesting to see how Kelly chooses to attack the Middies.  I wouldn’t expect to see a whole lot of running until the Irish get a comfortable lead.  As much as ND fans would love to see the Irish pound Navy into the ground, Kelly’s made his bones throwing the ball and I highly doubt he’s going to switch things up anytime soon.  

With the injury to Theo Riddick, TJ Jones moves over to the slot position, with John Goodman likely moving into a starting role.  Floyd is questionable, but reports today indicate he’s going to give it a go.  

Even if Floyd is forced to miss parts of the game, the Irish shouldn’t have to worry much, as the Middies haven’t shown the ability to stop any of their opponents, either through the air or on the ground.  It took the worst team in Irish history to lose in OT in 2007, and the flukiest game I’ve ever seen last year.  Lightning won’t be striking for a 3rd time.

ND 34  Navy 21

Jimmy: Notre Dame

My computer crashed earlier this evening as I was getting ready to post this.  Couldn't retrieve the copy that I'd meticulously crafted for this matchup, so you get the Cliff Notes version.  

Going out on a sturdy limb and predicting that Brian Kelly will never lose to the Naval Academy as long as he is the head coach of Notre Dame.  

And that's all I have to say about that. (Does that qualify as the Forrest Gump version instead?) 

ND 36  Navy 24

Matt: Notre Dame

I have to start out by saying that I was very disappointed in the gameplan against Western Michigan last week. When you’re playing a MAC team with 200 pound lineman, the plan should be to pound the ball to set up the pass. Apparently, Kelly’s gameplan was pass to set up the pass. Unacceptable, no matter if you run a pro style, spread or any other kind of offense. I’ll give credit for adjustments made at halftime, but still. The point remains.

I’m kind of disappointed in myself, but this has to be the most uninterested in a Notre Dame football game that I’ve been probably since I was a little kid. Just couldn’t care less if I watch it or not. Playing Navy, in a sterile probably half full pro stadium with an 11:00 start time in the Midwest where I’ll be…ugh. Even last week, I watched more of the Auburn-Arkansas second half than I did of ND. And that is a serious problem for ND going forward. I know that the schedules get better in terms of marquee games, but despite the head coaching change and the new offense, ND football to me has just gotten so stale. Maybe it’s the NBC production, maybe it’s the fact that ND hasn’t played REALLY relevant games in forever, maybe it’s the noticeable difference in athleticism and excitement when simultaneously
watching Auburn and Notre Dame. But as an alum and diehard fan, it’s kind of worrying the apathy that appears to be settling in over the ND fanbase. And if I’m way off in those thoughts, so be it…but I don’t think that I am.

As for this game, let’s see Cierre Wood for a whole game of football. We’ll be going up against 200 pound lineman again, so run it early and often. Especially with Riddick out and Floyd a game time decision, the emphasis should be on the run to set up the pass. This edition of Navy football is not nearly as good as the ones that have knocked off ND recently. They barely survived against middling Wake Forest and SMU teams, which I guess by definition makes Navy a middling team. I would love nothing more than for ND to put this game away by halftime, but have a feeling Navy will hang around into the 3rd quarter much like WMU did. I predicted a Bennett Jackson TD two weeks ago (it didn’t happen), but this week I am feeling a defensive TD (Ethan Johnson fumble return). So there you go…

ND 38 Navy 24

Mike: Notre Dame

Against any of the Navy teams from the past five years, I would probably pick the Middies in the outright upset. Those particular teams were remarkably adept at running the option effectively, thereby controlling the clock and shortening the game. Given the maddening inconsistency of the Notre Dame offense, I do not believe that the Irish would thrive in a game that requires heightened offensive efficiency to compensate for the reduced number of

Fortunately for ND, this is not your older brother’s Navy team. Whether this particular team is short on personnel or whether the effects of Paul Johnson’s departure are beginning to manifest themselves in Annapolis, the Middies have not been quite as proficient on offense in 2010 as in past years (currently 68th in total offense and 96th in scoring offense). In addition, though Irish fans should be concerned about their defense’s ability to hold the edge against the Navy option attack, Notre Dame’s rushing defense has been rather stout over the past few weeks against several decent tailbacks. As is always the case against Navy, the cornerbacks and safeties will need to tackle well for the Irish, so injuries in the secondary are a concern for ND.

Ultimately, I believe that Notre Dame will slow Navy’s rushing game enough to allow for the Irish offense to make some big plays through the air. With Theo Riddick and maybe Mike Floyd out, I would like to see more of a commitment to the run this week against an undersized Middie defense, but that’s probably a pipe dream since Brian Kelly didn’t bother running at Western Michigan’s 205 lb defensive end last week (ugh). The Irish will put their weary fans through another Maalox masher in the Meadowlands before eventually surviving.

Notre Dame 28 Navy 24

October 21, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Week 8 Picks: War Cam Eagle Edition

A tantalizing game of #1 hot potato we've got here.  The dominoes are falling the right way for the conspiracy theorists and counter-establishment college fans out there.  Boise State, TCU and Utah keep destroying teams, passing the eye test as legitimate contenders to the throne.  But by all means, voters should keep crowning weekly impostors in the interim.  

With 6-7 games under everyone's belt and the first BCS standing released, it's time to debut the time-honored WeIs Power Poll, which, if you'll recall, ranks the BEST teams in the country irregardless of ranking or record.  It's more of a gut check, whose playing the best ball now and who beats who on a neutral field.

WeIs Power Poll: Week 8
5. TCU
4. Oklahoma
3. Auburn
2. Alabama
1. Boise State

At least we're guaranteed that two of these schools will square off this season.  What an Iron Bowl we have in the works!  Not completely sold on the defense for Auburn or Oklahoma, but this weekend may well change my mind.  TCU, whose defense is quite good (2 shutouts; 5 games of 10 or fewer points allowed), has looked every bit of legit as Boise State, except for Boise holding last year's 17-10 Fiesta Bowl contest over the Horned Frogs.  Can't remember ever anticipating a Mountain West showdown as we'll get in 2 weeks when the Utes host TCU. 

Now that that's out of the way, on to the picks...

Wisconsin (+5.5) @ Iowa

Dan: Wisconsin (+5.5)

I think this is being viewed as a trap game for Wisconsin coming off the big win last week. I also think this is the toughest game to pick because, at home, I do think Iowa is better than Wisconsin. But this just seems like one of those games where each team is going to have some success running the ball, the clock will get grinded out, and it will be incredibly close late in the fourth quarter. And in those types of games, you take the points.

Iowa 23 Wisconsin 20

Jeremy: Wisconsin (+5.5)

I know, I know.  The Badgers are due for a HUGE hangover after the big win over the Buckeyes last weekend.  But I really think Wisconsin has the game to stay with the Hawkeyes and keep this close into the 4th quarter so their punishing running game can wear the strong Iowa D-line down to a nub.  I watched a bit of the Michigan-Iowa game last weekend and saw the Wolverines handle the vaunted front line of the Iowa defense pretty easily.  I know that’s a veteran unit Michigan is trotting out there, but I think Wisconsin’s big uglies can match their effort.  I’ll take Wisconsin to win outright here.

As an aside – OUTSTANDING t-shirts seen in Madison last weekend: “Teach Me How to Bucky.”  My lovely wife had to keep me from bartering for one of them off the back of a drunk Badger. 

Wisconsin 24  Iowa 20

Jimmy: Iowa (-5.5)

So happy for the city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin as a whole.  What a victory last week!  Now Bret Bielema has to bring his team down from Cloud Nine and travel to hostile Kinnick Stadium where the Hawkeyes are poised to return the favor to the Badgers.  If Wisconsin escapes with a win, they're in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl.  This line is wide enough that a cover pick is tempting, but I think Iowa wins by a touchdown in an exciting contest of two very good teams. 

Iowa 30  Wisconsin 23

Matt: Iowa (-5.5)

Huge win for the Wisconsin football program last week.  I didn’t see that coming to be honest.  It seems like Bret Bielema finally has that win that he can hang his hat on, and can truly be embraced as the head coach of Wisconsin.  The two headed running back monster of Clay and Davis will prove to be a tough task for Iowa, just as it was for the Buckeyes.

However, in evaluating this game, one has to look no further than Lexington, KY to figure out the potential outcome.  Team pulls off the upset of #1.  Goes on the road.  Riding an emotional high.  Loses.  The difference of course is that Iowa is a better team than Kentucky, but the blueprint is the same.   Iowa has the seventh ranked rush defense in the country, and I think they will win a low scoring game at home.

Iowa 21 Wisconsin 13

Mike: Iowa (-5.5)

While I gained more respect for Wisconsin last week, the Badgers are not good enough to defeat a top-15 team on the road, particularly after an emotional win.  Iowa’s defensive line will slow down the Badger running game, which will put extra pressure on Scott Tolzien to win the game, rather than simply playing his usual role of caretaker for the UW offense.  In addition, Iowa’s balanced offensive attack should be successful against a solid, but unspectacular, Wisconsin defense.  The happy times in Madison will only last a week.

Iowa 27 Wisconsin 17

Oklahoma (-3.5) @ Missouri

Dan: Oklahoma (-3.5)

Part of me wants to this season is going to follow the path of a few years ago where the #1 team in the country lost something like 3 or 4 weeks in a row. But Stoops has dominated Missouri in his career, and, despite the lofty #11 ranking (seriously?), the Tigers are just not that great. They haven’t beaten anyone. OU gets it done and snaps the #1 losing streak.

OU 28 Missouri 21

Jeremy: Oklahoma (-3.5)  Lock of the Week

This spread is hardly believable.  Oklahoma might not be deserving of their lofty ranking, but they’re going to blow the (paper) Tigers out of the water, even on the road.  It will take a herculean effort from the talented Blaine Gabbert to keep this game from getting out of hand.

OU 38  Missouri 21

Jimmy: Oklahoma (-3.5)  Lock of the Week 

Two undefeated teams squaring off in the Big 12 in Week 8 Very intriguing, especially now that the Sooners hold the slippery BCS top dog status.  Missouri is a nice team that has embraced the recent conference trend of exciting offenses that fold like lawn chairs against defenses with teeth...and not much else.  The buzz is Gary Pinkel has groomed a defense to distinguish this Mizzou team from years past.  Color me skeptical as the Tigers haven't proved much against anyone of consequence.  I'm in the wait and see camp before I start picking Tigers upsets, even if the game is in Columbia.  The 3-headed juggernaut of Jones, Murray and Broyles will dispatch the the Tigers and rid the state of their illusions of defensive grandeur.

Oklahoma 35  Missouri 24

Matt: Oklahoma (-3.5)  Lock of the Week

First off, let me say this.  The fact that ESPN’s College Gameday is going to this game as opposed to the showdown on the Plains is ridiculous.  ESPN always tries to deny that they don’t give preferential treatment to their own network’s games, but this once and for all dispels that myth.  Sure, it’s a showdown of two undefeated, but Missouri is an unproven and untested sham of an undefeated team.   What is their best win?  Probably the three point win over San Diego State.  I know Blaine Gabbert is a good QB, but I’m just not buying what Missouri is selling.  This smells like a 9-3 or 8-4 team.

After this game, OU gets four teams in the bottom half of the Big 12 before they end the year in Bedlam at Oklahoma State.  Feels like an undefeated season coming for the Sooners, although I don’t in any way shape or form think that this is one of the two best teams in the country.  A lot of nervous folks in SEC country and Boise or Salt Lake City may be tuning into that Big 12 Championship game wearing Nebraska red.

Oklahoma 44 Missouri 24

Mike: Oklahoma (-3.5)

Missouri should be commended for winning convincingly on the road against Texas A&M, particularly with Oklahoma looming on the immediate horizon.  Furthermore, given Oklahoma’s struggles in the secondary, Blaine Gabbert should be salivating at the opportunity to post some big numbers in this game.  Nonetheless, Oklahoma will likely have its way with the Missouri defense, which has not proven yet that it can hold up against an elite offense.  Although the game is in Columbia, Missouri has consistently fallen short when presented with an opportunity to take the proverbial “next step” as a program.  As such, I’ll side with the proven Sooners in this one.

Oklahoma 41 Missouri 31

Nebraska (-5) @ Oklahoma State

Dan: Nebraska (-5)

I would like to take the points here, but I can’t talk myself into it. Nebraska has some turmoil after the QB switcharoo last week, but I think they’ll bounce back this week. The black shirts will make a couple big plays against Brandon Weeden that turn the tide of the game.

Nebraska 31 OSU 24

Jeremy: Nebraska (-5)

I went back and forth on this one a few times.  In the end, I’ve seen Okie St. blow too many opportunities to make big statements at home over the years to trust them in this one.  Nebraska was exposed a bit last week, but I’m not sure the Cowboy defense can slow down that lethal Husker running attack.  Same song, 10th verse for the Cowboys.

Nebraska 31  OSU 21

Jimmy: Nebraska (-5)

Along the same lines of the last pick, Oklahoma State might boast a better offense, but also a worse defense than Missouri.  I'm anxious to see if supremely talented CB Prince Amukamara can handle the surprise player of the year, Justin Blackmon, one-on-one.  If he can (and I'm banking that he does), it should be enough to throw Brandon Weeden and the Cowpokes offense out of sync.  On the other side of the ball, Taylor Martinez should emerge from Bo Pelini's doghouse and run amok through the OSU ranks.  

Nebraska 34  Oklahoma State 27

Matt: Oklahoma State (+5)

I don’t know what to make of Nebraska this year.  I had my doubts about them after a lackluster performance against a 1-AA school, and they came out and housed Kansas State on the road.  And then, after pointing at the Texas game all offseason after their close call in the Big 12 Championship game last year, they came out and laid an egg at home.  And really, the final score wasn’t indicative of how thoroughly they were outplayed. 

This game is just a hunch more than anything else, and I fully expect to be wrong.  But I think that Nebraska had their season seriously deflated by that Texas loss, and now having to go on the road against a quality offense like OK State, they’re ripe for another upset.  It’s tough to win with the 111th ranked pass offense in the country.  Oklahoma State pulls off the upset and remains undefeated.  The nation takes notice of Dez Bryant Jr. aka Justin Blackmon.

Oklahoma State 31 Nebraska 28

Mike: Nebraska (-5)

Like Missouri, and like prior year editions of Oklahoma State, the 2010 Cowboys have piled up impressive numbers against some rather middling competition in the early portion of the season.  As with Missouri, however, the ‘Pokes have a history of wilting when being asked to step up in class.  Although the Nebraska offense was exposed as being fairly one-dimensional against Texas last week, Taylor Martinez should be able to straighten himself out against an undermanned Oklahoma State defense.  Moreover, there is no doubt that the Nebraska secondary is among the nation’s finest, which will create plenty of problems for Oklahoma State.  Look for a bounce back performance for NU.

Nebraska 34 Oklahoma State 23

Michigan State (-6.5) @ Northwestern

Dan: Northwestern (+6.5)

There is something about this MSU team that I really like. They are resilient. They have managed to avoid their typical swoon so far. But for too many years, this team has just faded too badly down the stretch. A late October in conference game coming off a string of big wins just sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Maybe they pull this off, but I’ll take the points.

MSU 23 Northwestern 20

Jeremy: Northwestern (+6.5)

I think the Wildcats have just the type of offense that could give Sparty some fits.  And its about time that MSU comes back to Earth with the rest of the mere mortals.  I’m not ready to pick the Fighting Fitzgeralds in the outright upset, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see MSU spit the bit here.

MSU 34  Northwestern 31

Jimmy: Northwestern (+6.5) 

For whatever reason, Northwestern loves the role of underdog (undercat just doesn't sound right, does it?).  The Wildcats have an unfortunate record in recent years when ranked and favored (something along the lines of 1-10), which explains the head-scratching loss to Purdue two weeks ago.  Back in the cozy confines of Ryan Field, Pat Fitzgerald sends the nation's #4 passing efficiency QB against a Spartans team that has been playing with house money for a few weeks now.  This has all the recipes for an upset.  An unbeaten has to go down this week (right?), so my Monopoly money is on Michigan State.

Northwestern 36  MSU 31     

Matt: Northwestern (+6.5)

Hey, it’s Week 8 and Michigan State is finally leaving the state of Michigan.  That is a farce in and of itself, but an even bigger farce is the debate over whether Michigan State will be left out of the national championship discussion if they win out.  Because it is NOT going to happen!  I’m sorry, but a team that went 6-7 last year just isn’t making the leap to undefeated, no matter how weak the schedule (and it’s tissue paper soft and weak).  In fact, let’s call for the upset right here.  I don’t think they’ll even make it to Iowa next week with that perfect record.  The Fighting Persa’s win a shocker.

Northwestern 36 Michigan State 35

Mike: Northwestern (+6.5)  Lock of the Week

The Spartans have been a nice little story so far, but they haven’t faced a particularly imposing slate of opponents.  Considering Sparty’s history, a possible trap game angle with Iowa up next and an inspired (relatively speaking) homecoming crowd in Evanston, an outright upset is distinctly possible.

Northwestern 25 Michigan State 24

LSU (+6) @ Auburn

Dan: Auburn (-6)

I hate taking too many favorites here, but Auburn at home is going to be too much this year. LSU has lived a charmed life and it will finally catch up to them this week. Auburn’s defense is too strong and Cam Newton will make one play too many.

Auburn 23 LSU 13

Jeremy: LSU (+6)

REALLY looking forward to this one.  Haven’t seen enough of Cam Newton and the vaunted War Eagle attack this year.  LSU is living on borrowed time, but their defense will keep this game close into the 4th quarter before Newton solidifies himself as the Heisman frontrunner going into the homestretch. 

By the way, if Auburn and Oregon were to meet in the Championship Game, would each team agree to leave their punters at home?  That matchup could have an O/U of about 110.

Auburn 24  LSU 21

Jimmy: Auburn (-6)

This space was supposed to be reserved for Madonia to offer his thoughts on Auburn's exciting season thus far.  But a doctor's schedule doesn't always jive with hard deadlines in the blogosphere.  He may still deliver a heartfelt missive about his unwilting belief in all things Gus Malzahn and how his first and second borns will be named after Cameron Newton.  So I'm on my own for this pick.  3 things: 1) I picked against Auburn last week (stupidly) and swore not to do so again as long as they keep throwing basketball scores on the board.  2) Cam Newton can physically withstand the vaunted LSU defense.  He's a beast.  With Pat Peterson in the defensive backfield, chances are Newton won't be beating Bayou Tigers through the air.  LSU will be expecting a healthy dose of Cam, but I think he's up to the challenge.  3) Auburn's defense isn't great, but LSU's offense is worse.  Points will come at a premium for both sides.  This will be a riveting matchup.  Can't wait to get underway with Verne and Gary.  War Eagle!

Auburn 26  LSU 13    
Matt: LSU (+6)

The game of the year so far!  And not only because of the ranking attached to each team, or the fact that it involves two undefeated teams from the second best conference in the country (my ranking:  AFC, SEC, NFC), but also because of the sheer dominance of both teams on one particular side of the ball:  Auburn’s offense going up against LSU’s defense.

Before I get into any prediction let me just say this about Les Miles and the LSU program.  Les may not be a hip hop fan, but surely he must be familiar with DJ Khaled’s All I Do Is Win

“All I do is win win win no matter what… and every time I step up in the building…everybody’s hands go up….and they stay there.”

Seriously, all Les Miles does is win.  And yet you get the feeling that if he slips up and loses a game or two this year the locals will gladly help him pack his bags.  When Les is in the building, you definitely will throw up your hands in frustration, whether it’s his clock management, his play calling, his QB roulette or his unintentionally hilarious press conferences.  But at the end of the day, every single Saturday this year, if you’re an LSU fan your hand are in the air because the Tigers won.  I’ve never seen a more criticized undefeated head coach in the country with a record at LSU of 58-15.  That’s an 80% winning percentage.  Having said all that, if I was an LSU fan he would probably drive me crazy too, but it all comes down to winning ballgames, and whether you’re outdone by an equally incompetent coach on the last play or whatever the circumstance may be, just win baby!

As for the game, I don’t anticipate Cam Newton being able to carve up the LSU defense quite as easily as he did against Arkansas.  On the flip side, Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee will not be chucking the ball around like Tyler Wilson did (as an aside, what does it say about Ryan Mallett’s pro prospects when an unknown backup can come in and engineer the offense better than he was?  Interesting debate for another day).  If there is one thing that the LSU offense has been able to rely on, it’s the running of Stevan Ridley, but unfortunately for them this is also the strength of the Auburn defense, which ranks 15th in the country against the run. 

I think Auburn wins this one, and it comes down to my confidence in Cam Newton to be able to make more plays through the air than either Jefferson or Lee.  Les may know how to win, but even he has to know that the unofficial theme song of Auburn this year and their entrance song onto the field is All I Do is Win.  War Eagle.

Auburn 24 LSU 20

Mike: LSU (+6)

LSU’s struggles on offense have been well documented, but Auburn’s defense might be the perfect elixir for the Tigers’ sputtering passing game.  At a minimum, LSU should be able to run the ball reasonably well, which will enable the Tigers to keep this game close.  Ultimately, I think Cam Newton will make just enough important plays to earn the win for Auburn, but LSU will earn the cover.

Auburn 20 LSU 17

Bonus Picks

Dan: San Diego State (-23.5) @ New Mexico

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Or, in this case, if it’s so broke it can’t be fixed, bet against it.

San Diego State 48 New Mexico 13

Jeremy: Georgia (-4) at Kentucky

The Bulldogs might be one of the hottest teams in the country, and Kentucky is due for a letdown after the big win over the Gamecocks last week.  AJ Green goes nuts and the new UGA just may be partying at the SEC title game as the East representative. 

Georgia 34  Kentucky 20

Jimmy: Indiana (+13.5) @ Illinois

The Hoosiers were a solid cover earlier on the road vs. Michigan.  For some reason, this spread is even wider.  Ron Zook has done a terrific job of lowering expectations to the basement level for the Illini.  They should win this game, but I wouldn't be at all shocked if they lost.  Ben Chappell has been slinging the ball with great success and I think he enjoys another solid afternoon.  

Illinois 34  Indiana 31

Matt: Duke @ Virginia Tech (-26.5)

Virginia Tech, in perhaps the most easily predictable development of the season, has quietly gone on a five game winning streak since losing to James Madison.  Frank Beamer’s team is in good position to make it to yet another exhilarating ACC Championship game.  The interesting thing about that winning streak, which includes a win at NC State, is that they have covered in every game.  Last week, they jumped all over Wake Forest, with 49 points in the first half.  Wake beat Duke earlier in the year.  This one should get ugly early.

Virginia Tech 51 Duke 17

Mike: Pittsburgh (-12.5) over Rutgers

Rutgers’ lightly recruited true freshman quarterback, Chas Dodd, has played quite well in the last two weeks.  Still, despite Dodd’s performance, the Scarlet Knights, who have already lost at home to Tulane, were lucky to squeak out an overtime victory against Navy.  In his first road start against an opponent with a more formidable pass rush, Dodd will be significantly overmatched.

Pittsburgh 31 Rutgers 10

Last Week:
Dan: 6-1 (+)
Jeremy: 5-2 (+)
Jimmy: 5-2 (+)
Matt: 5-2 (+)
Mike: 3-4 (+)

Dan:  27-21-1 (3-3-1)
Jeremy: 34-14-1 (5-2)
Jimmy: 29-19-1 (4-3)
Matt: 26-21-2 (3-3)
Mike: 33-15-1 (6-0-1)