College Football’s 10th Weekend: Picks, predictions

(1) Alabama at (5) LSU

This game is being played in Baton Rouge which is what makes this matchup even more interesting. Talent-wise I think it’s safe to say that the Crimson Tide have the advantage. I like both teams’ tailbacks equally, but other than the running game, I favor the Tide in every other facet of the game other than maybe on the punting side of things.

In order for LSU to take down the nation’s top team, they have to change things up. Ultimately Les Miles is an enhanced version of Jim Tressel. Miles gets more top-end recruits, which makes his program more consistent (now) than what Ohio State’s was. Miles comes up with the occasional crazy trick play, but in the end, he’s conservative. Unless he can unleash Zach Mettenberger and he can throw it with success, Alabama shouldn’t have too much trouble here. Alabama wins 31-17.

(2) Kansas State vs (24) Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State isn’t a bad team. They’re ranked in the top 25, which is probably appropriate, but they’re on the road, facing a team that just doesn’t beat themselves. Collin Klein and company shouldn’t have problems against the Cowboys’ defense. Kansas State wins 45-21.

(3) Notre Dame vs Pittsburgh

This would be a classic letdown game for the Fighting Irish. Again, their defense keeps them in every game. It’s the offense that holds me back from pushing all in with this team. Pittsburgh isn’t a bad team, and although the Panthers are on the road, Notre Dame won’t win this game by as much as the No. 3 team in the country should. Notre Dame wins 31-17.

(4) Oregon at (17) USC

At the beginning of the year, this game was regarded as one of the top games in all of college football. Even a week ago, before USC lost to Arizona, this was still a highly anticipated game. Now we’re here in November and this matchup is still a good one, but many people feel that if Oregon is as good as perceived to be, they’re expected to win this game by more than a touchdown.

It’ll be tough for the Ducks, but I will assume they win by double digits. The game is at USC, so Oregon will have that going against them, but USC is coming off an emotional loss, so the Trojans won’t be going down without a fight. Like every other week, the Ducks will try and speed up the game as much as possible. The issue with doing this against the Trojans is that USC actually has the athletes to compete for 60 minutes. This game ultimately comes down to whether USC can slow down Oregon enough to let its offense put up 30+ points, which is what Kiffin’s squad will have to do if they want to win this one. Oregon wins 41-31. Read more…

Can anyone keep Alabama from repeating?

In January, the Alabama Crimson Tide rolled past conference rival LSU 21-0 to claim the 2012 BCS national championship. Alabama used a ferocious defense to stifle the Tigers in New Orleans, led by linebacker Courtney Upshaw and safety Mark Barron.

With many of the starters returning from last season’s team, including quarterback A.J. McCarron, Alabama was a preseason favorite to compete for the national title. Almost two months into the season, the Tide has entrenched itself at the top of the polls, emerging as the front-runner to claim its second consecutive BCS title. However, there are several teams that could challenge the Tide in its quest to repeat. Here is a look at the teams that have the best shot at knocking Alabama from its perch.

LSU: The Tigers know how to beat Alabama, winning in Tuscaloosa last season in overtime. Though LSU was drummed out of the BCS title game, it should give the team plenty of motivation when the Crimson Tide pay a visit to Tiger Stadium on Nov. 3. Alabama has played a surprisingly soft schedule for a national power, though easy victories over Michigan and Arkansas would have more weight if those teams were having better seasons. LSU will have revenge on its mind for this rivalry game in Baton Rouge. If the Tigers win, they could gain a foothold in the chase for the national title. They have the home field advantage and a tough defense. The question will be if the LSU Tigers can muster up enough offense to top the Tide.

Florida: If the Tigers can not take down Alabama, it may be up to the second-ranked Gators to do so. Florida appears to be the favorite to win the Eastern Division of the SEC and could face the Crimson Tide in the SEC title game. Will Muschamp has his team playing inspired football in his second season as coach, using a stifling defense to knock off both LSU and South Carolina. The Gators may be undefeated heading into the SEC title game, so a BCS title shot could be at stake in Atlanta. Read more…

2012 College Football Week 5: Top 25, picks, predictions

Aaron Murray

Aaron MurrayLast week was a pretty good week for me, ending up at 16-2. As for this week’s games, some intriguing matchups will be taking place in conference play. Georgia gets Tennessee, West Virginia plays Baylor, and Michigan State takes on Ohio State.

(1) Alabama vs Ole Miss

As Texas proved last week, Ole Miss just isn’t as talented as top-tier programs. Alabama wins 45-7.

(2) Oregon at Washington State

Oregon impressed a lot of people when they beat Arizona 49-0 last Saturday night. What the scoreboard didn’t tell you is that the Wildcats got to the red zone five times and just couldn’t convert to save their lives. In this game, Oregon continues to dominate. Oregon wins 63-14.

(3) LSU vs Towson

LSU is better. LSU wins 55-3.

(4) Florida State at South Florida

Remember just last Sunday when the 49ers lost in Minnesota in what was deemed as the upset of the week? I’m not picking the Bulls here, but this game has the exact same type of feel. Florida State is coming off a big win and travels (not too far) to a team that just doesn’t get respect. Well, South Florida can earn plenty of people’s attention if they pull off the unthinkable here. Florida State wins 38-17.

(5) Georgia vs Tennessee

Tennessee probably is a top-25 team, but losing to Florida earlier in the year shot down their chance at being ranked at least for now. Georgia is a complete football team, and doesn’t have to play LSU or Alabama during the regular season. I think the Bulldogs could very easily end up running the table and having everything come down to the SEC Championship game. They’ve got a stout defense and a great quarterback that nobody talks about in Aaron Murray. It will be interesting to see if Tennessee’s better-than-advertised offense can put up some points on the Bulldogs defense. Georgia wins 45-24.

(6) South Carolina at Kentucky

Much like Ole Miss, Kentucky just doesn’t have the talent to keep up through four quarters. South Carolina wins 41-17.

(7) Kansas State – BYE

(8) Stanford at Washington

*This game was played on Friday. Washington won 17-13. No shocker here for me. Stanford was on the road, and sure, they’re a top-25 team, but they shouldn’t have been in the top-10. Washington’s quarterback Keith Price is a name college football fans will all know soon enough.

(9) West Virginia vs (25) Baylor

Surely Geno Smith and Tavon Austin are starting to get people’s attention after last week’s win over Maryland, and rightfully so. Maryland isn’t among the country’s elite, but Smith had another fantastic game through the air, and Austin had 179 yds receiving to go along with three touchdowns. Austin is in the top-five in the nation when it comes to game breaking ability. I’ll take his pure speed against anybody’s in the country.

For this game, the Heisman candidate (Smith) should tear the Bears’ defense open much like he has all season to his opponents. Look for Austin and Stedman Bailey to have a show downfield as well. The Mountaineers may not have the greatest defense in the country, but it’s hard to argue that their offense isn’t among the top-five. I picked them to win the Big 12 for a reason, and I’ll pick them here with ease. West Virginia wins 63-35.

(10) Notre Dame – BYE

(11) Florida – BYE

(12) Texas at Oklahoma State

The Longhorns are a very solid football team, and Oklahoma State, well, just isn’t any more after losing Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the NFL. Their defense is still a mess, and it’ll show in this game. Texas wins 55-21.

(13) USC – BYE

(14) Ohio State at (20) Michigan State

When Michigan State lost to Notre Dame a couple weeks ago, people didn’t only doubt how good the Spartans were, but the Big Ten as a whole. For me, the Big Ten is as bad as it has been in the past decade. Ohio State can’t compete for a Big Ten championship or go to a bowl game this year, so every game is huge to them; especially a top-25 matchup.

The Buckeyes are talented, but it’ll take a full season to get Urban Meyer’s kind of recruits, and adapt to his system before they really start clicking out in Columbus. For Michigan State, they can only ride Le’Veon Bell so far. Michigan State may be the best team in the Big Ten, but it isn’t by a large margin. I’d be willing to say that Nebraska is the favorite at this point, but that’s a different discussion. This game comes down to two things. Can Le’Veon Bell carry Michigan State’s offense enough? And will Braxton Miller be able to keep up on the scoreboard enough on the road in a hostile territory being only a sophomore, and with a new head coach/system? I think Bell carries Sparty to victory here, though it hurts my Buckeyes fandom. Michigan State wins 24-20.

(15) TCU at SMU

TCU’s the more talented team, and being on the road shouldn’t faze them. TCU wins 38-21.

(16) Oklahoma – BYE

(17) Clemson at Boston College

Coming off the big loss to Florida State, quarterback Tajh Boyd and company now know what it takes to compete with the nation’s elite. It’ll only be a matter of time before Clemson figured everything out and their offense becomes enough to carry them to become a true national championship contender. In this game, the Tigers will be looking for revenge, and they’ve got their eyes set out for some Eagles. Clemson wins 52-21.

(18) Oregon State at Arizona

Oregon State is 2-0 this year and has beaten Wisconsin and UCLA. Both of those teams aren’t title contenders, but they’re surely not slouches. Oregon State probably is a top-25 team this year because of their ability to throw, run, and play good defense, but I think they get upset today. Arizona is coming off a 49-0 drubbing against Oregon, but a case could be made that they could’ve only lost that game by two or three scores. Arizona’s at home, and if they figure things out in the red zone, I expect this upset pick to come through. Arizona wins 31-21. Read more…

College Football Week 4: Picks, predictions

Florida StateWeek 4 is here, and there will be good matchups all day long on Saturday. I went 16-5 last week, pushing my overall record to 38-5 on the season. This weekend will be highlighted by Oregon against Arizona, Florida State against Clemson, and Oklahoma against Kansas State, among many other good games to go around.

(1) Alabama vs Florida Atlantic: My Owls couldn’t get it done last week against Georgia, but they did put up 20 points on the Bulldogs. Needless to say, I doubt FAU keeps it within 30 against the Crimson Tide. Also, Arkansas may’ve been without Tyler Wilson, but to be shutout against Alabama last week was disappointing. Alabama’s defense and rushing attack is for real again this year, and much like the 49ers in the NFL, their success at the end of the year will depend on how their quarterback A.J. McCarron plays. Alabama wins 59-7.

(2) LSU at Auburn: LSU may be on the road, and I may not be their biggest fan, but I’m never going to rave about Auburn anytime soon. LSU wins this one on the ground with ease. LSU wins 38-14.

(3) Oregon vs (22) Arizona: This game won’t be close. Surely both teams are ranked, but Oregon’s at home and their offense will score without mercy. Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas both run for over 100 yards in this one. Oregon wins 59-17.

(4) Florida State vs (10) Clemson: Now this game between two ranked teams will be much closer. Florida State to me is the better overall team and is at home. Clemson however, has a top five offense in all of college football in my eyes. It wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Clemson hang 40 points on the board and take down the Seminoles’ and their national title hopes. Read more…

NCAA College Football Top 25: Week 1 picks and scores

(1) USC vs Hawaii

USC is my pick to win the national championship this year, and for good reason. They’re a complete football team. From quarterback, to running back, to the men outside catching the ball, the Trojans are loaded on offense. Matt Barkley is the orchestrator to the Trojans passing attack, and future first round picks Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are the main pass catchers. Penn State didn’t have many elite players to begin with, but once players found out that they could transfer without having to sit out a year, star running back Silas Redd decided to leave for USC. Redd will be the biggest key for USC’s success this season because everyone knows Matt Barkley and USC’s defense will be extremely strong, but can Redd’s running abilities be able to keep teams from rushing Barkley at absolute will? For this game, USC will have no problems, but I don’t expect them to completely unleash all of their talent for four quarters. USC wins 52-17.

(2) Alabama vs (8) Michigan

I won’t go into too much of a rant about how the top of the SEC is a tad overrated this year, but, well, they are. Alabama lost six defensive players to the NFL, along with the top running back prospect in Trent Richardson. Quarterback AJ McCarron did well in the BCS National Championship game against LSU, but is he really ready to play a quarterbacking role not mainstreamed around “don’t make a mistake”? Don’t get me wrong, Alabama’s rushing attack will still be very strong, and the offensive line will have no troubles creating gaps through any defense they face, but is Alabama as dominant as they were last year? Absolutely not. And remember, they still lost one game last season, despite winning the national title.

That being said, looking at the betting line, Alabama is favored by 14 points. This was complete ludacris to me, but of course the underdog had to shoot themselves in the foot. Michigan’s leading rusher from a year ago in Fitzgerald Toussaint has been suspended for this game due to off the field issues. This only puts more pressure on quarterback Denard Robinson, as if there wasn’t enough. Alabama’s young, yet talented defense can now focus on not allowing “shoelace” to escape the pocket and make plays. At the end of the day, with Toussaint being out, and Alabama being able to run the ball at will, I expect Vegas’ prediction to hold true.Alabama wins 27-13.

(3) LSU vs North Texas

As I said before, I won’t get much into how Alabama and LSU are much less dominant than they were a year ago. Even though I believe LSU won’t reach the national championship game this year, they’re still much more talented than the Mean Green. I will say one thing though, if you’re a betting man (or woman) bet North Texas. LSU is not going to win by 45 or more points. LSU wins 45-10.

(4) Oklahoma at UTEP

I will give Oklahoma some credit. They are opening up the season on the road. Most of these “top teams” can’t say that. But, they are playing UTEP. Not much to say about this one or many of the games this weekend, other than that one team is extremely more talented than the other. In this case, it’s the Sooners. Oklahoma wins 56-7.

(5) Oregon vs Arkansas State

The Ducks are my favorite NCAA Football 13 team to play with, not that that makes any difference whatsoever here. Part of that reason though, is their backfield. If one were to argue that Oregon has the top two backs in the country, I could disagree, but I wouldn’t be irate about it. Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are the first Pac-12’s true thunder and lightning. (Sorry Lendale White and Reggie Bush, but you were in the Pac-10) Barner and “Dat” are what makes Chip Kelly’s team what it is. An up-tempo, 60 minutes of hell, (if you want to call it that) football team. In this game, we won’t see much of the two. At least if you watch the whole game. If you want to see the new thunder and lightning, stay tuned during the first half. Oregon wins 63-7.

(6) Georgia vs Buffalo

My anti-SEC bias ends here with Georgia this season. That only happens because I like the Razorbacks to win the conference this year, but nonetheless, I don’t think the Bulldogs are the sixth best team in the country either. Bias aside, Georgia is a very good football team. With quarterback Aaron Murray leading the way, the Bulldogs won’t have any problem starting off their 2012 campaign. Georgia wins 52-10. Read more…

Should Oregon schedule Penn State?

Joe Paterno

Photo: Centre Daily Times, Abby Drey / AP

Here’s a question from the great northwest: Should the University of Oregon Ducks try to schedule a home-and-home football series against Penn St.?

Oregon is a promotional machine. They have set the bar – hell, they obliterated it – for what it takes to transform an entire athletic department from obscurity to relevance to elite status. Who’s laughing about the Joey Harrington banner in Times Square now?

And yep, Oregon has undergone their sports metamorphosis with the undeniably massive infusions of money from various folks, much of it from people with the initials P.K

But, unlike other people/companies with massive amounts of resources (“Hello Paul Allen!”) Oregon also made mostly smart decisions when spending the money. Top-level coaches. Facilities better than any others in the conference, if not the entire NCAA.

Oregon should schedule Penn St., beginning in about three years. The carnage and multiple revolving-door turnover in both the sports and administration areas in Happy Valley should be mostly over by then.

Oregon has a notoriously hard time getting any football program with a reputation to come to Eugene, and as recently as a few months ago it would have been unthinkable for the Nittany Lioins to even consider traveling here. It ain’t the least bit funny, but the times they have a’ changed.

The question now is would Oregon even consider it?

For those of us who remember when Joe Paterno was God and no one knew who Rich Brooks or Mike Bellotti were, this is beyond superlative.

If Oregon decides the marketing advantage is worth it (and when have they not?), they should extend an offer. Penn St. is going to need all the positive exposure it can get, so why not accept?

Both Universities could devote some portion of the proceeds from both games to a relevant cause, which wouldn’t alleviate anything that has already transpired, but it would generate some positive publicity for one program who desperately needs anything it’s going to be able to get. The other program already knows how to fully utilize all media, and won’t miss on this pitch either.

Oregon’s marketing is so good it managed to make uniforms a regular feature on every sports venue imaginable. Uniforms! Who’d of thunk it?

When Penn St. comes to Autzen Stadium, Oregon should wear their all-white uniforms with just the slightest of green highlights, a la a certain formerly great football power. Maybe the Lions could unveil their brand new, complete-departure-from-tradition, Nike-designed uniforms on the same day.

It won’t change anything that happened, but it might raise some money and awareness for worthy causes, and it might be a smart decision for both football programs.

John Hirsch is a writer for The Sports Blitz Network and can be contacted at JHirsch@TheSportsBlitz.com

 

2012 NCAA Football pre-season Top 10

Matt Barkley USC

It seems like it’s been a while since we had some college football doesn’t it? 175 days to be exact. That means there is only 57 days until the season opens on august 30th with a whole 15 games to get our juices flowing. It should be interesting to see what happens with all the new conference alignments; and to see how teams such as Stanford will bounce back after losing Luck, and how Oklahoma fares without Weeden and Blackmon. Will Texas get back into the mix after one of Mack Browns worst seasons ever? Will Florida State and Oklahoma finally live up to the hype? Is Oregon finally good enough to win a national title? Can Denard Robinson hold up in the Heisman race for a full year. How re-loaded are LSU and Alabama? How explosive will West Virginia’s offense be against Big 12 defenses (If that’s what you want to call them). How good is USC? What will Boise State look like? Since these questions won’t be answered anytime soon, I have constructed a pre-season top 10 poll to keep you busy in the meantime.  Read More…

Oregon Ducks: Best college sports program in the country?

 

It can be stated simply: The University of Oregon is currently home to the strongest college sports program in the United States.

Not Alabama. Not Texas. Not LSU, Michigan, USC, Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma nor Nebraska.

Measured by performance, the best college athletic program today, right now, is the good ol’ green-and-yellow-and-black-and-white-and-liquid-metal Oregon Ducks.

To paraphrase one of our idols, Charles Dickens: These are the best of times, ever, for University of Oregon sports. It is the age of wisdom. It is the epoch of belief. It is the season of Light.

For your consideration:

Football team under Chip Kelly has been the Pac 10-12 conference football champions three years running, including two Rose Bowls and one National Championship game. Predicted by one national sage to play and beat LSU in this years BCS Championship.

Baseball team currently ranked No. 1 in RPI and almost certain to host a regional (and if they win that, a super-regional, and if they win that, a trip to Omaha) in only their 4th year of infancy/resurrection under George Horton.

Oregon Women’s Softball team under Mike White is heading to its third straight Super Regional in the NCAA playoffs.

Men’s Golf under Casey Martin is, in two weeks, going to its fourth NCAA Championships in six years. The women’s golf team under Ria Scott went to Regionals, missed the Championships by one stroke and finished No. 21 in the country.

The Women’s Acrobatics and Tumbling team under Felicia Mulkey recently won their 2nd consecutive National Championship.

Women’s Cross Country track team finished 5th in 2011 NCAA Championships.

Women’s Volleyball under Jim Moore made it to the first round of the NCAA playoffs.

Woman’s Lacrosse under Jen Larsen-Beck won the program’s first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament and then lost in overtime in a play-in game for the NCAA tournament.

Oregon Men’ s Basketball under Dana Altman has won the CBI and gone to the NIT in his first two years as coach, after most of existing team left.

Men’s Tennis under Nils Schyllander had their best season since 1994-95, and were ranked as high as No. 38.

And let us take a moment to acknowledge the dominant, enduring legacy of the Oregon Track teams, including Cross Country. If they ever carve a Mt. Rushmore for Track coaches Vin Lanana will surely be one of the faces etched in stone. He is Zeus on the mountain top.

Hayward Field is and apparently always will be the holiest of shrines for the sport. I suppose the good people of Texas A&M and maybe Arkansas,Tennessee, Florida State, UCLA and LSU and a precious few others may sit at the table with us but let’s all admit that Hayward Field is sacred ground.

I couldn’t find the exact quote on the internet, but there was an article during the 2009 US Olympic Team trials that said something to the effect of “Like many others, when Track and Field wants to get back to its fundamental spiritual roots it goes to church.”

For fans and athletes of the sport, Hayward Field is a pilgrimage.

So we conclude: Top-to-bottom, when it comes to the roster of coaches, the facilities (the money and resources poured into U of O athletic facilities in the last half-dozen years is a whole ‘nother column), and most important, the tangible, measurable results, everybody else better Duck.

Jon Hirsch is a College Sports writer for The Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at JHirsch@TheSportsBlitz.com.