Week Seven Predictions
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As the weeks go by, the closer and closer I get, climbing my way slowly up the Pick'em Contest standings. Will my glacier-like progress let me finagle my way to the top by season's end? Probably not. Regardless, here are my picks for week seven:
* All times Eastern, all rankings AP
#18 Louisville at Pittsburgh - 11:00 - ESPNU - Pittsburgh has a first-year head coach, Paul Chyrst, and so they are obviously unpredictable. Louisville, meanwhile, is under third-year coach Charlie Strong, and they are off to a nice 5-0 start. The goal for the Cardinals in this one is to contain Pitt QB Tino Sensuri, who has gotten better with each game for the Panthers. He enters with 1,463 yards and eight TD's on the season. Louisville's running back combo of Senorise Perry and Will Stein split time, and both have contributed five TD's to the cause so far in 2012...I have to go with Louisville in this one. I think Strong is a very good coach, and that he will have his team focused for this road contest. Louisville, 29-21.
Iowa at Michigan State - 12:00 - ESPN - At the beginning of the season, I thought Michigan State had a chance to really do some big things this year. Then I realized they couldn't score on my old high school team. In their two losses (Notre Dame and Ohio State) they averaged 9.5 points. That isn't going to win you very many big games - even with the defense they have. Iowa, in the same boat, is looking to get their season on track ,and a win here would get them near the edge of the top 25 with Penn State coming to town next week. Hawkeye quarterback James Vanderberg has an even 1,000 yards passing for the year with just two TD's. A year ago he had 25 TD's, this year he is on pace for five. I am not sure what the deal is there, and I am hoping our resident forum fan from Iowa will tell us more. The Vanderberg thing has me baffled, so I am picking MSU at home. Michigan State, 20-16.
#15 Texas at #13 Oklahoma - 12:00 - ABC - I cannot imagine that any two current head coaches have played each other face-to-face as many times as Bob Stoops and Mack Brown have. As we go into the 14th meeting between these two coaches at these two schools since 1999, Stoops and Oklahoma lead 8-5....As for the 2012 version of the Red River Rivalry, I will turn to straight up facts to predict my winner. The Texas offense ranks 6th nationally against an OU defense that is 20th nationally in points allowed. From what I read around the www, Texas must be able to run the ball to win. Although QB David Ash has turned into a solid passer, the key to UT's success is the running of Joe Bergeron (9 TD's) and Malcolm Brown (3 TD's). Kansas State ran the ball on OU, and they left with a win. Texas, 40-33.
Auburn at Ole Miss - 12:21 - SEC Network - The Tigers are in the middle of one of their worst seasons in decades, and a loss to Ole Miss would be salt in the wound. The Rebels are once again having a mediocre campaign, letting a win slip away a week ago at home vs. Texas A&M. They would love nothing more than to get a conference win here. Auburn has one of the nation's very worst offenses, checking in at just 15.4 ppg. Ole Miss isn't exactly West Virginia or Oregon, but I would think they could find a way to score more than that at home. I never thought I would see the day where Auburn was 1-4 with their only win in OT over a non-BCS conference team. But it is here. Ole Miss, 27-14.
North Carolina at Miami - 2:30 - ESPNU - The Tar Heels are my pick in 2012 to make the most improvement by season's end. So far, so good. After losing two of their first three, Larry Fedora's first team has now won three straight to get to 4-2. A trip to Miami will be tough, but I think they can do it. The 'Canes continue to disappointment me when I want them to get better. A 41-3 drubbing at Notre Dame last week confirmed my thoughts that this team has a lot of weak spots. Miami tends to step it up a notch at home (as do most teams), but I still see more life out of UNC than I do the Hurricanes. UNC is averaging 44 points per game, and with Miami having the 103rd ranked defense out there, I will take UNC on the road. North Carolina, 36-27.
#1 Alabama at Missouri - 3:30 - CBS - If there were any other coach in the nation coaching Bama this weekend, I would say this has major upset potential. Mizzou has had a dismal season thus far (3-3, just lost to Vandy at home), and a huge upset over #1 could re-energize a team for a favorable second half schedulewise. But it aint happenin. Never in my life have I seen a coach win all of the games he should win. Saban does not let his guard down, and his teams go for the throat as soon as possible. The Tigers are average, and will get beat up and down the field. Alabama, 40-10.
#5 West Virginia at Texas Tech - 3:30 - ABC regional - WVU is on a roll, and until they hit a defense that knows how to handle their offensive attack, I will continue to pick them. They should go into Lubbock and again throw a gob of points up onto the scoreboard. That said, this could be a lot closer than people think. TTU has a solid defense, ranking 20th nationally in points allowed (16.8 ppg). They also know how to score, putting up nearly 40 per game, 21st best nationwide. I am damned close to picking the home Red Raiders in this one, especially after the Mountaineers have done so much traveling (at Texas just a week ago). But I will stay with the 'Neers and Heisman candidate Geno Smith. West Virginia, 46-37.
Utah at UCLA - 3:00 - FOX - Jim Mora has put a new attitude into the Bruins' way of being in his first season as head coach in LA, and I see them being a program to be dealt with in the years ahead. In this one the 4-2 home team welcomes in a Utah team that is 2-3 and sliding, having lost their last two (Arizona State and USC). I think UCLA is the better team and is at home. UCLA, 35-20.
#17 Stanford at #7 Notre Dame - 3:30 - NBC - The Fighting Irish play one of their annual rivals in South Bend in what is sure to be a great game. Stanford is led by junior QB Josh Nunes, who has thrown for 1,145 yards and eight scores. Running back Stepfan Taylor has added 555 yards and five scores. Nunes and Taylor will need to be on their A-game in this one as ND is ranked second nationally in scoring defense, giving up just under eight points a game. Notre Dame Stadium will be electric, and I think the Irish will use that energy to grab win number six on the year. Notre Dame, 29-21.
#4 Florida at Vanderbilt - 6:00 - ESPNU - ***Upset special of the week*** The Gators - like South Carolina - better be careful not to have a case of the let-downs this weekend. Both had big home wins to move them into the top five six days ago, but both face tricky road games, after the sun goes down, this week. No matter the competition, Vanderbilt plays you tough at home, and when ESPN's cameras are in town, the Commodores play even better, wrecking many-a-season over the years. Vandy's defense has given up just 20.6 ppg this season, and I think that keeps 'em in it. Florida isn't an explosive, dynamic offense, and I think they will struggle a bit to find a rhythm. This is a risk, I know that, but I have to pick an upset or two every now and then, and this one has major potential. Vanderbilt, 28-24.
TCU at Baylor - 7:00 - no TV - When researching this game, I came across something I still just cannot belive: Baylor went to West Virginia two weeks ago and scored 63 points on the road...and lost! That fact alone makes me pick Baylor in this game. I know it sounds lame to base a pick on one crazy fact that has nothing to do with the game at hand. But if nothing else, after being on the losing end of one of the more bizzare spectacles in sports history, I am somewhat of a Baylor fan now in 2012. Baylor, 36-31.
#11 USC at Washington - 7:00 - FOX - The Huskies already have one big win at home in 2012 - Stanford in week four (the Huskies are playing 2012 home games at CenturyLink Field). In this one, they go for another as high-profile USC and second-year Head Coach Lane Kiffin come calling. They take to that same field again in this one and would be happy, no doubt, with the same result. It wll be tough, though. USC is in the top 37 in the nation in both offense and defense. Washington doesn't crack the top 67 in either...I know home-field is key, and CenturyLink makes a great home-field while Husky Stadium is being renovated, but I think USC is a tougher upset than Stanford, and so I see the Trojans move to 5-1. USC, 35-28.
#3 South Carolina at #9 LSU - 8:00 - ESPN - Week after week, the Gamecocks put me, as a Clemson fan, in an awkward position to pick their games. This week epitomizes that. I know that South Carolina is playing better football than just about anybody in the nation right now. And I know that LSU is playing some lousy ball - especially on offense. But the Gamecocks are coming off of a sky-high, once-in-a-generation type of win, while LSU is in desperate need of a win. On top of that, 90,000 Tiger fans - after a day of tailgating - will be the exact opposite of what USC had on its side six days ago....USC has a nasty defense. Given. But so does LSU. On paper, the Gamecocks are slightly better than the Tigers in both points for (33rd to 43rd) and points against (4th to 8th). But we all know that college football is an emotional game, and that when teams are pretty even, the energy from the home crowd can be the difference. I don't think this will be a defensive struggle, nor an offensive shootout. I think it will be somewhere in the middle, where both teams give up a special teams score, and both defenses give just a little bit...LSU, 26-22.
Tennessee at #19 Mississippi State - 9:00 - ESPN2 - No offense to Auburn, but MSU has played NOBODY thus far in 2012, thus helping to explain their 5-0 start. Tennessee meanwhile, has played a decent group of teams, losing convincingly to Florida (home), and close to Georgia (away), and winning against NC State and two pasties. I think Tennessee is a bit more ready for this battle and will go into Starkville and steal a win away from the Bulldogs. A featured storyline will be a battle of the Vol offense (39 ppg) against the Bulldog defense (13.4 ppg). I will go with the visitors. Tennessee, 30-20.
Cal at Washington State - 10:30 - Pac-12 Network - With a combined record of 4-8 (and 1-4 in Pac-12 play) one must wonder how ths game made the slate. The answer is that I missed on Louisiana Tech-Texas A&M being a big game. There, the truth is yours...Mike Leach is still looking to get things on track for his Cougars, and Cal could be the team to give him that chance. The Bears are average as always, and I think WSU can score enough to get by 'em at home, despite the fact that they have only put up 21.3 ppg up to this point. Washington State, 33-23.
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