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…

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…

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…

Heisman Trophy watch: Early Heisman Trophy candidates

Heisman TrophyAs college football fans, what are we to do? The 2011-2012 season has been over for about a week and a half now and we won’t see any more games for almost seven and a half months. I say we take a look at the early candidates in the 2012 Heisman Trophy race. Next years race should be as exciting as any we have seen in the last 10 years. There are several big names coming back and there are several who “broke through” in 2012, and are at the cusp of stardom. The race should be skin tight right from the get go. It was tough to do, but I managed to scrap together a top ten list for next year. Lets take a look at the 2012 top ten shall we.

1. Matt Barkley-(QB/USC)- Matt Barkley was the hottest quarterback in the nation as we reached the end of the season and shocked a lot of people when he announced that he was returning for his senior season. In 2011, Barkley completed 69% of his passes and threw for 3,528 yards with 39 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. It doesn’t hurt that he will have the best receiving core in the nation led by the dynamic duo of Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. They also have a ton of starters returning on offense and will make a run at a national championship.

2. Montee Ball-(RB/Wisconsin)-Mr. Ball will also return for his senior year after tying Barry Sanders single season record of 39 touchdowns. Last year, Ball was fourth in the country averaging 135.3 rushing yards a game. Ball will lose a couple of starters on the offensive line, as well as as Russel Wilson. The Badgers still should have a pretty good team and Wisconsin’s system will allow Ball to have huge numbers again next year.

3.  Geno Smith-(QB/West Virginia)-Geno Smith put up some serious numbers last year and put an explanation point on the end of it with a 407 yard 6 touchdown performance against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. He threw for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 65.6 completion percentage. Smith can make every throw on the field, can run the ball and has a plethora of receivers coming back. If West Virginia stays in title contention, look for Smith to have a good chance to take home the Heisman. Read more here…

USC: 2012 college football recruiting

Nelson AgholorLane Kiffin had to make sure that his recruiting class of 2012 didn’t miss and if reports are correct he has done his job. Facing NCAA sanctions that limited the number of players USC could sign, Kiffen had to target the right 15 players. “We can’t control how many we sign, but we can control who we sign,” Kiffin told the Associated Press. USC clearly targeted the right players, landing Rivals.com’s 7th-ranked class with just twelve players, three under their reduced limit.

They started with a splash as WR Nelson Agholor, the nation’s No. 3 prospect at receiver out of Tampa, faxed in his signed letter of intent. He’s joined by fellow Floridian Leonard Williams, a defensive lineman who chose the Trojans over Florida and Florida State. In his signing day press conference, Kiffin referred to Williams as one of the incoming freshman most likely to make an immediate impact. Agholor could be another, as he joins the ridiculously talented receiving corps that already includes young stars Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

Another wide receiver, Darreus Rogers, confirmed his intent to attend USC. Rogers was a longtime USC commit, but he recently took official visits to Arizona State and wasn’t a lock for the Trojans until he made his announcement.

There weren’t any huge De’Anthony Thomas-like surprises, though the Trojans did lose defensive end Pio Vatuvei, a USC verbal commit, to Washington.

Kiffin was more disappointed about missing on three offensive tackles. Kyle Dodson signed with Ohio State, and Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy both elected to attend Stanford. Murphy was seen as the most likely of the three to join the Trojans, especially if Peat committed to the Cardinal, but he stuck with Stanford, as did defensive end Aziz Shittu.

USC did, however, manage to snag four-star cornerback Devian Shelton at the last minute. Shelton had most recently visiting Washington and Nebraska, but when the Trojans extended an offer just before Signing Day, he jumped on it.

Other than a few letters that arrived later than expected, keeping the coaching staff on edge, there wasn’t much drama for USC on Signing Day.

QB prospect Cyler Miles added some drama when he backed out of his scheduled announcement. Miles was a solid Washington commit until assistant coach Doug Nussmeier left. Miles reopened his recruitment, even reaching out to the Trojans to let them know he was available again, but he ultimately decided to stick with his original plan, signing with Washington. It didn’t seem likely he’d get much playing time any time soon at USC; Matt Barkley has one more season, and last year’s recruits, redshirt freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, are expected to compete for the starting job in 2013.

The rest of the day’s haul was solid but unsurprising. As projected, offensive linemen Max Tuerk, Jordan Simmons, and Zach Banner, tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, fullback Jahleel Pinner, and linebacker Jabari Ruffin all sent their letters to USC. It’s a talented group – Simmons is the nation’s #1 offensive line prospect, Ruffin is the top outside linebacker, Pinner is the top fullback and Banner, who chose USC on Monday, is the #2 offensive tackle.

The recruiting class fills holes on the O-line, but it leaves Tailback U a little thin at a marquee position, following the offseason transfer of Amir Carlisle, and the unceremonious departure of Dillon Baxter. Tailback D.J. Foster committed to Arizona State over USC, leaving the Trojans without a tailback in the 2012 recruiting class.

Kiffin plans to hold on to the three spots that have not been signed, hoping to add more players mid-year as he has during the past two offseasons. Though USC came in under the 15 signee limit, their current roster sits slightly above the 75-man limit (under the NCAA sanctions, the Trojans are limited to 15 new signees per year, from 25, and 75 scholarships total, from 85), but the Trojans have until the fall semester to bring it to 75.

 

Muhammad chooses UCLA, is it the shoes?

Shabazz Muhammad Bishop GormanThere is a problem with college basketball recruiting and Shabazz Muhammad could be the perfect example. Recently choosing UCLA over Kentucky and his hometown UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, many have blasted the high school student for signing with UCLA because of their sponsorship with Adidas.

Some may remember the famous Nike commercial and the question “is it the shoes?” While it might not be the shoes per say, it’s the money that could go along with it when/and if he transitions to the NBA.

Things like this happen all the time in college basketball.  According to many, Anthony Davis the most recent MVP of the National Championship and now potential number one pick, signed with the Kentucky Wildcats because of their affiliation with Nike. Don’t kid yourself, he will have a Nike shoe contract before his name is announced at the 2012 NBA Draft.

There are kids every year that commit to a school based on sponsorship and that trend will continue to happen unless someone puts a stop to it.

What ever happened to playing for a team that you are most passionate about?

For Muhammad, he bites the hand that feeds him as he leaves Las Vegas to attend UCLA instead of UNLV.

The 6’5 senior may not realize the potential not only the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have, but also the potential and backing the city Las Vegas could have offered him.

Shabazz Muhammad is a senior at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, NV and was the number one overall player ranked by Rivals.com, Prepstars.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com.

To be a student at Bishop Gorman, a Roman Catholic College Preparatory High School in the Diocese of Las Vegas, is considered a privilege. Tuition is expensive. Last reported at $12,500 a year. This does not include uniforms, books and other items a student pays for. Walking down the halls you are surrounded with peers that are intelligent and have the potential of being the next president. Then again, there are also the students that have no right to be there and can thank their parents for pushing them to succeed. As a former student at Bishop Gorman, I know first-hand that sometimes you can become blinded of what else is out there while living in the “Gorman world.”

UNLV has a potential top-10 nationally ranked team in 2012 and just landed Findlay Prep star and top recruit Anthony Bennett in addition to a compelling starting team including USC transfer Bryce Jones, Pitt transfer Khem Birch and returning starters Anthony Marshall and Mike Moser. The atmosphere in Las Vegas is starting to resemble the exciting and amazing atmosphere that once graced the streets of Vegas in the late 80’s and 90’s.

When UNLV won the National Championship in 1990 it was a scene of Rebel Red. The entire valley had “Rebel Fever” and that special atmosphere is starting to make a comeback. We rallied around No. 1 pick of the NBA draft Larry Johnson and love Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon still to this day. We treat any of them with respect and God-like celebrities.

While Muhammad’s decision could have been based on playing time as UNLV’s upcoming roster far outdoes the PAC-12 UCLA roster, speculation says it’s all about the shoes or the money he will potentially earn when he goes pro. We will never know if his choice was actually influenced by Adidas but by not selecting UNLV he may have lost a number of fans.

GB Bongiovanni can be contacted on Twitter @GBBongiovanni

Matt Barkley, USC prepare for championship run

Matt BarkleyDespite the two-year Bowl ban, the NCAA sanctions, and no reason to play for in 2011, Lane Kiffin and Matt Barkley guided the USC Trojans to a surprising 10-2 record with road wins over Notre Dame and a thrilling 38-35 victory over the Oregon Ducks with their only losses coming to Arizona State early in the season and a triple overtime loss to Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal. Sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods led the PAC 12 in receptions and freshman wide out Marquise Lee emerged as a top flight No. 2 receiver opposite of Woods and led the PAC 12 in receiving yards.

The big reason for USC’s bounce back year was their much improved defense. Freshmen Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard led a lightning fast line backing corp that were quick to the ball, great tacklers and ball hawks that helped the defense to a No. 5 ranking in defensive scoring in the PAC 12. Defensive coordinator Monty Kiffin simplified his Tampa 2 scheme and the fact that practice included tackling this year contributed to a much improved defense that came on strong over the last five games of the season. USC is returning nearly everyone on defense and the strength again will be the linebackers and safety T.J. McDonald and corner Nickell Robey who will end up playing on Sundays in the next two years.

The bowl ban is over in 2012, but the loss of scholarships begins this year limiting the Trojans to only 15 scholarships each year over the next three seasons. This means Lane Kiffin and his staff must be very selective and have a small margin of error on the recruits they can make offers to. USC has commitments from four recruits ranked in the top 100 by Rivals.com which includes five-star offensive lineman Jordan Simmons and is still very much in the race for five-star offensive lineman Zach Banner. Of the twelve commitments USC has this class, nine are four star athletes. Cyler Miles, the No. 2 dual threat prospect who is also a four star recruit and a Washington commit, is considering changing to USC. National signing day is just a few days away and expect Lane Kiffin and the Trojans to finish with a strong recruiting class yet again. It is Kiffin’s calling card.

Matt Barkley passed up millions and the NFL to return to complete “unfinished business” he said in his press conference that he and the Trojans have. Barkley is the prototypical quarterback prospect that makes NFL scouts drool and he will most certainly be the top draft pick in 2013, but he has his sights squarely set on guiding this team to the PAC 12 championship and the BCS title. USC will certainly be a preseason top five with some publications picking them as the top team and favorites to end the SEC’s championship reign. The schedule is very favorable for the Trojans in 2012 with Notre Dame and Oregon traveling to the Coliseum. USC has the top receiving tandem in the country in Robert Woods and Marquise Lee and USC’s offense should pick up where they left off and the defense should be even better.

All the USC haters around the country better watch out! Barkley and the Trojans will be playing with a chip on their shoulders and something to prove. USC should play for the BCS title in Miami next year. The only question is who will be their opponent?

Mario Raez is a College Sports writer for The Sports Blitz

Did Reggie Bush cause Matt Barkley not to win the Heisman?

The University of Southern California was ineligible for postseason play during 2011 due to being on probation from the Reggie Bush fall-out.

USC would have met LaMichael James and the Oregon Ducks in the PAC-12 Championship game, but instead their season came to an abrupt end.

Barkley put an exclamation point on his Heisman trophy campaign by completing 35 of 42 passes for 423 yards and six touchdowns against crosstown rival UCLA in their last game of the season. It capped a season in which he passed for a school and conference record 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Barkley continued to impress but eventually the Heisman Trophy would go to Robert Griffin III of Baylor.

Imagine if Barkley had one or two more games to show off against a top-ten team.

Every memory of Reggie Bush and the NCAA infractions that occur have been removed from USC, including the replica of his 2005 Heisman Trophy.

Bush was the central figure in a four-year investigation by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which determined both the star running back and his family had taken money and illegal gifts from two sports agents during his junior and senior seasons. The NCAA wound up putting USC on four years’ probation, banning the Trojans from bowl games the next two years, docking them 30 scholarships over the next three years and allowing current players and recruits to transfer without penalty.

Is Reggie Bush’s previous actions causing Matt Barkley not to win the Heisman trophy? It can be argued so.

With one more key game – if Barkley were to put up solid numbers and a win, he would be in a better position to bring home the Heisman. Instead his season came to an end.