Rivalry Weekend Predictions
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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Lots of great college football awaits as Rivalry Weekend is here!
Here are my picks for the games of week 14...
Iowa (7-4) at Nebraska (8-3) - 12:00 - ABC - Despite a rocky season that saw fans calling for his job, Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini could win Saturday and have his team in the discussions for some very good bowl games. That said, they are very hard to gauge. In their last five games, they have two losses (Minnesota close and Michigan State not so close), and have three wins by margins of three, four and three points. I just never know what to expect with the Cornhuskers. As for Iowa, same thing. The Hawkeyes have had an up-and-down 2013 and are a tale of two teams: strong defense, crappy offense. In this one, I have to go with Nebraska because I just don't think Iowa can score. If the Hawkeyes do get the O rolling, they will win, as Nebraska's point total should also be rather low. Nebraska, 20-10.
Arkansas (3-8) at #17 LSU (8-3) - 2:30 - CBS - Since LSU has a monopoly in the state of Louisiana when it comes to college football, the Tigers must look out of state to find a rival. I don't know if Arkansas and LSU will ever hate each other's guts the way other rivals do, but regardless, their game now falls on rivalry weekend. You have to think the Tigers win big here. The game is in Baton Rouge, Arkansas sucks, etc.... LSU picks up their ninth win and has the bowl committees ready to pounce with offers...LSU, 40-13.
Washington State (6-5) at Washington (7-4) - 3:30 - FOX - I thought Mike Leach would have the Cougars rocking the Pac-12 sooner rather than later, but it has been a slow start for him at WSU. That said, his team is coming off of two nice wins (Arizona, 24-17, and Utah, 49-37) and has momentum going into the Apple Cup game against rival Washington. The Huskies started the year as the talk of the league after waxing Boise State, but when they played the four best teams in the conference - Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State and UCLA - they saw their four losses. In this one, I go with the home team Huskies. Washington can light up score boards (69 last week vs Oregon State), and Washington State has a very porous defense (93rd nationally). Washington, 45-24.
Oregon State (6-5) at #13 Oregon (9-2) - 7:00 - FOX Sports 1 - After a 42-14 point whooping of a good UCLA team in week eight, all was looking right for the men in green in their quest for a first national title. But losses in two of the next three games have folks in Eugene in disbelief. The second loss - Arizona - is especially troubling as the Wildcats won by 26 and are a so-so team at best. Oregon State, meanwhile, isn't exactly living up to expectations in 2013, either. The Beavers allowed 69 points on the wrong side of the scoreboard last time out against Washington for their fourth straight loss, and also have an ugly L to Eastern Washington on the resume...All that stuff goes out the window when toe meets leather Friday Night from Autzen Stadium. In rivalry games, anything can happen, but I believe Oregon is the better all around team, and I will go with the them. Oregon, 40-20.
#2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7) - 12:00 - ESPN - It has been a long time since I have picked Florida to get creamed at home (doubt I ever have picked that now that I think about it), but here it is. The Gators are a train wreck and Florida State has their best team in 14 years. I expect to see a close game early as Florida plays on emotion for their seniors. But once the game settles in good, the Seminoles pull away big. The Seminoles just have too many weapons on offense and a defense that is just as good - even better - than that of the Gators. Florida State, 38-7.
#24 Duke (9-2) at North Carolina (6-5) - 12:00 - ESPN2 - There is a hot ticket in Chapel Hill for a game against Duke, and it is not for a basketball game (or a women's basketball game, or a lacrosse match). Kenan Stadium - the football facility - will be the center of attention as the Tar Heels look to end all of this love for Duke's surprisingly strong football team. UNC started 1-4 but has had made a huge turnaround to become bowl-eligible, and now their quest is to beat their arch-rival, preventing the Devils from winning the ACC Coastal. This should be a great game to watch, and per my standard protocol, I go home team when in doubt. North Carolina, 36-31.
#3 Ohio State (11-0) at Michigan (7-4) - 12:00 - ABC - I hate to say it, but I don't think this one is going to be all that close. I think Ohio State is a much stronger, better-coached team, and that they will win this going away. I know the Big House will be rocking and all that, but Ohio State has a point to prove with voters and I think they will be completely focused on the task at hand. The Wolverines have an average defense (52nd nationally in points allowed) while OSU boasts the nation's third strongest offense (49 ppg scored). There are intangibles and all of that for sure, but I think the Buckeyes are the more complete team and get the road rivalry win. Ohio State, 37-23.
Georgia (7-4) at Georgia Tech (7-4) - 3:30 - ABC - It is a loss to the college football world that senior QB Aaron Murray of Georgia will not be able to play in this game (ACL). Murray had become one of my favorite players this year as he showed toughness and leadership time and again, as well as a good arm and mobile feet. None-the-less, his beat up and banged up Bulldogs will travel to Atlanta to face a GT program they have absolutely owned (four straight wins, 27 of the last 35). With the injuries for UGA, and home-field for GT, this one is a toss up. I'm going home team for the rare series win. Georgia Tech, 27-23.
#9 Baylor (9-1) at TCU (4-7) - 3:30 - ESPN2 - The Horned Frogs have not had nearly the season this year that they have enjoyed in recent history. This Saturday, that trend will most-likely continue as a strong Baylor team rolls into town. The Bears are not the national title contender that many thought for many weeks, but they are a very good team and should get the win here. TCU has a pretty good defense, as is the norm under Gary Patterson. But even there, I see Baylor getting into the 30's or 40's. As for TCU's offense? Really not good. Baylor should shut this unit down on the way to victory. Baylor, 38-20.
#1 Alabama (11-0) at #4 Auburn (10-1) - 3:30 - CBS - Here is the biggest game of the season so far as an SEC West banner and a trip to Atlanta are awarded to the winner. But most importantly, at dinner tables, in office spaces, and on social media posts throughout the Heart of Dixie, bragging rights are claimed for 365 days. Oh yea, and the winner could also play for the national title - something these two schools are familiar with as of late. The last four national titles belong to these teams - three for the Tide, and Auburn's in 2010. Chances are, the 2013 crown will be a by-product of this game, as well....The Iron Bowl. Auburn. Alabama. Tradition. Brutal. This year's game has more storylines than would fit into this capsule, and all of them can be thrown out the window when the game starts. Bama will try to shut down Auburn's running game and make QB Nick Marshall throw it. They will try to establish a strong running game of their own - something that is usually not a problem, but could be in this game (Auburn gives up a respectable 22 ppg)....I think this game will be a back-and-forth slugfest where the team with the ball last will be the winner. It is miraculous at this point what Gus Malzahn has done in one year at Auburn, but I think he is a still a year or two away from the top. He needs a couple of recruiting classes fitted to his style of play. His team will give Alabama one helluva game, but I cannot pick against Nick Saban. Alabama, 33-28.
#25 Notre Dame (8-3) at #8 Stanford (9-2) - 7:00 - FOX - One side of me sees the Irish step up here and save the 2013 season with a massive road win over rival Stanford. But the other side of me saw the way Stanford handled Oregon at home in a huge game a month back and sees them doing that again. In this one, I will depend on the Stanford running game to get the job done, limiting the time ND has with the ball, and putting up some scores. Vegas has this game as an eleven to twelve point spread, but I see it as closer. I think the Irish put up a good fight. Stanford, 30-26.
#6 Clemson (10-1) at #10 South Carolina (9-2) - 7:00 - ESPN2 - A season ago, #11 Clemson and #12 South Carolina got together in Clemson for what was the biggest game ever - ranking-wise -between the two schools. A year later, they meet in Columbia for what is an even bigger game. For the first time ever, the rivalry game is between teams each ranked in the top ten of the national polls. South Carolina has won four straight games in the series while Clemson still holds the all-time edge by 24 games. In this one, senior quarterback Connor Shaw looks to leave Columbia with an 18-game home winning streak as the starter and having never been on a team that lost to Clemson. Shaw is a truly great college quarterback, underrated in my mind. This contest will also mark the final home appearance for star DL Jadaveon Clowney of USC who has not hidden the fact he will turn pro following this season. Needless to say, the Gamecocks are among the nation's toughest teams to defeat at home. Clemson will give it a shot with a group of wide receivers that are as good as any out there. Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Mike WIlliams give Clemson QB Tajh Boyd three solid options to throw to. The Tiger running game, however, is suspect. South Carolina has the edge at running back as Mike Davis (if at 100%) and Shon Carson are a solid duo. Shaw can also take off running....This should be a game for the ages in this series, and one that at this point should point towards USC and the coaching of Steve Spurrier. As a Clemson fan, I see many reasons why we could get this done and correct the universe. But as a college football fan, I have to logically say that the Gamecocks have the edge going in. South Carolina, 36-31.
#21 Texas A&M (8-3) at #5 Missouri (10-1) - 7:45 - ESPN - If I am going to win the Pick'em Contest, I have to pick an upset or two in the each of the next couple of weeks...and get 'em right. In this one, I think A&M comes in and gets one of those much-needed upsets, spoiling Mizzou's shot at national glory, and sending the Gamecocks of South Carolina to Atlanta for the SECCG as the East division champions. I know UM has a lot of strong players on defense, and a potent combination of James Franklin and Maty Mauk at quarterback. But I am counting on the Aggies' Johnny Manziel to play the game of his season and to put his name back into the Heisman Trophy talks. Johnny Football, show me the money! Texas A&M, 40-33.
#22 UCLA (8-3) at #23 USC (9-3) - 8:00 - ABC - The Los Angeles Coliseum will be rocking and rolling like never before as resurgent USC welcomes in arch-rival UCLA for a game on prime-time before a national TV audience. To be honest, I have no clue who to go with. UCLA has looked strong throughout the season with QB Brett Hundley looking good leading the Bruin offense. USC, meanwhile, was going nowhere fast when an early season dismissal of Lane Kiffin led to Ed Orgeron's interim HC promotion. Orgeron has led USC to wins in six of seven games with that interim title, and can put a huge note on his resume if he can defeat UCLA. This will be a great game to watch - can't wait! USC 35-28.
Arizona (7-4) at #12 Arizona State (9-2) - 9:30 - Pac-12 Network - The Sun Devils will need to be on upset alert in this one as their arch-rival is not a bad team at all. That said, I am going to go with the home guys i nthis one as ASU has really impressed me this season. They are led by junior QB Taylor Kelly who has thrown for over 3,100 yards and 25 TDs. But Kelly has to watch the INTs in this one. He has thrown nine on the season so far, and if he throws another couple Saturday night, he could put his team in serious trouble. Arizona State, 36-24.
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