Friday, October 30, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 8

Sunday, November 1

Detroit (1-6) "at" Kansas City (2-5) in London, England, Kansas City favored by 5

Prediction: Detroit 31, Kansas City 24

San Francisco (2-5) at St. Louis (3-3), St. Louis favored by 8

Prediction: St. Louis 24, San Francisco 12

Minnesota (4-2) at Chicago (2-4), Chicago favored by 1

Prediction: Minnesota 29, Chicago 21

Tampa Bay (2-4) at Atlanta (6-1), Atlanta favored by 7 1/2

Prediction: Atlanta 35, Tampa Bay 20

Arizona (5-2) at Cleveland (2-5), Arizona favored by 6 1/2

Prediction: Arizona 38, Cleveland 17

New York Giants (4-3) at New Orleans (3-4), New Orleans favored by 3 1/2

Prediction: New York Giants 27, New Orleans 24

San Diego (2-5) at Baltimore (1-6), Baltimore favored by 3

Prediction: Baltimore 33, San Diego 27

Cincinnati (6-0) at Pittsburgh (4-3), Line is even

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Cincinnati 25

Tennessee (1-5) at Houston (2-5), Line is even

Prediction: Houston 24, Tennessee 17

New York Jets (4-2) at Oakland (3-3), New York Jets favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Oakland 26, New York Jets 20

Seattle (3-4) at Dallas (2-4), Seattle favored by 6

Prediction: Seattle 26, Dallas 17

Green Bay (6-0) at Denver (6-0), Green Bay favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Denver 20

Monday, November 2

Indianapolis (3-4) at Carolina (6-0), Carolina favored by 7

Prediction: Carolina 31, Indianapolis 20

Last Week Straight Up: 11-3
Overall Straight Up: 70-35

Last Week Against the Spread: 7-7
Overall Against the Spread: 50-52-3

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cram Session - Week 9

Thursday, October 29

Miami (3-3) at New England (6-0), New England favored by 8

Prediction: New England 28, Miami 21

Games That Matter To Me

Nebraska (3-5, 1-3) at Purdue (1-6, 0-3)

Prediction: Nebraska 29, Purdue 17

Top 10

Thursday, October 29

West Virginia (3-3, 0-3) at #5 TCU (7-0, 4-0)

Prediction: TCU 55, West Virginia 37

#3 Clemson (7-0, 4-0) at North Carolina State (5-2, 1-2)

Prediction: Clemson 31, North Carolina State 23

#8 Stanford (6-1, 5-0) at Washington State (5-2, 3-1)

Prediction: Stanford 38, Washington State 24

#9 Notre Dame (6-1) at #21 Temple (7-0)

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Temple 27

Maryland (2-5, 0-3) at #10 Iowa (7-0, 3-0)

Prediction: Iowa 34, Maryland 17

Last Week: 7-3
Overall: 65-17

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 7

Sunday, October 25

Buffalo (3-3) "at" Jacksonville (1-5) in London, England, Buffalo favored by 5

Prediction: Buffalo 27, Jacksonville 20

Tampa Bay (2-3) at Washington (2-4), Washington favored by 3

Prediction: Washington 24, Tampa Bay 17

Minnesota (3-2) at Detroit (1-5), Minnesota favored by 2 1/2

Prediction: Minnesota 31, Detroit 24

Houston (2-4) at Miami (2-3), Miami favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Miami 30, Houston 27

Atlanta (5-1) at Tennessee (1-4), Atlanta favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Atlanta 38, Tennessee 21

New Orleans (2-4) at Indianapolis (3-3), Indianapolis favored by 4 1/2

Prediction: Indianapolis 35, New Orleans 27

Pittsburgh (4-2) at Kansas City (1-5), no line

Prediction: Kansas City 18, Pittsburgh 15

Cleveland (2-4) at St. Louis (2-3), St. Louis favored by 5 1/2

Prediction: St. Louis 22, Cleveland 20

New York Jets (4-1) at New England (5-0), New England favored by 9

Prediction: New England 28, New York Jets 20

Oakland (2-3) at San Diego (2-4), San Diego favored by 4

Prediction: San Diego 33, Oakland 30

Dallas (2-3) at New York Giants (3-3), New York Giants favored by 3 1/2

Prediction: New York Giants 30, Dallas 21

Philadelphia (3-3) at Carolina (5-0), Carolina favored by 3

Prediction: Carolina 24, Philadelphia 16

Monday, October 26

Baltimore (1-5) at Arizona (4-2), Arizona favored by 7 1/2

Prediction: Arizona 34, Baltimore 21

Last Week Straight Up: 9-5
Overall Straight Up: 59-32

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-7-1
Overall Against the Spread: 43-45-3

Cram Session - Week 8

Seattle (2-4) at San Francisco (2-4), Seattle favored by 6

Prediction: Seattle 20, San Francisco 16

Games That Matter To Me

Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) at Nebraska (3-4, 1-2)

Prediction: Nebraska 31, Northwestern 21

Top 10

#1 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) at Rutgers (3-3, 1-2)

Prediction: Ohio State 45, Rutgers 17

Iowa State (2-4, 1-2) at #2 Baylor (6-0, 3-0)

Prediction: Baylor 64, Iowa State 28

#3 Utah (6-0, 3-0) at USC (3-3, 1-2)

Prediction: Utah 28, USC 27

Western Kentucky (6-1) at #5 LSU (6-0)

Prediction: LSU 34, Western Kentucky 20

#6 Clemson (6-0, 3-0) at Miami (4-2, 1-1)

Prediction: Clemson 35, Miami 20

Indiana (4-3, 0-3) at #7 Michigan State (7-0, 3-0)

Prediction: Michigan State 27, Indiana 17

Tennessee (3-3, 1-2) at #8 Alabama (6-1, 3-1)

Prediction: Alabama 28, Tennessee 18

#9 Florida State (6-0, 3-0) at Georgia Tech (2-5, 0-4)

Prediction: Florida State 42, Georgia Tech 24

Washington (3-3, 1-2) at #10 Stanford (5-1, 4-0)

Prediction: Stanford 30, Washington 20

Last Week: 7-2
Overall: 58-14

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 6

Sunday, October 18

Washington (2-3) at New York Jets (3-1), New York Jets favored by 6

The Redskins played their hearts out in Atlanta but it wasn't enough as Kirk Cousins threw a pick six in overtime. Receiver Ryan Grant slipped on the play and he took the bullet for the play but the throw was so off from where Grant was going to be, that to me it just looked like Careless Kirk rearing his ugly head. Now to be fair, Cousins did drive the Redskins down the field at the end of regulation to force overtime. No one is denying that Cousins has moments where he looks like a bonafide NFL starter. His problem has been he can't string enough of those moments together without having a major screw up in between them. The Jets are well rested for this game after having their bye week and their best position players, RB Chris Ivory and WR Brandon Marshall should be in line for strong games. The Redskins run defense had no answers for Devonta Freeman last week and Marshall's size will give the Skins corners trouble. Washington might get DeSean Jackson back this week but he would probably be covered by Darrelle Revis and thus be mostly a decoy. I think Cousins is going to struggle against the Jets secondary and try to force the issue, which means more interceptions. The Redskins will do enough to keep it close but once again come up short in the clutch.

Prediction: New York Jets 20, Washington 17

Kansas City (1-4) at Minnesota (2-2), Minnesota favored by 3 1/2

The Chiefs aren't going to win the AFC West I predicted and now without Jamaal Charles for the rest of the season, the question is when will they win another game. Charcandrick West will have to be the second coming in order for the Chiefs to not desperately miss Charles production. The Vikings have struggled in recent years coming off of a bye and while they are just .500 so far this season, their last game was a strong performance at Denver. Adrian Peterson has looked refreshed and as awesome as ever but Teddy Bridgewater hasn't taken the leap this year many expected of him. He seemed to develop a rapport with Mike Wallace last game, and hopefully they can carry that chemistry to this weekend against the Chiefs porous pass defense. How awful the Chiefs defense has been so far this year is one of the more surprising stories in the league. Big Red Andy Reid will have to try to drown his sorrows in a lot of barbecue after this game.

Prediction: Minnesota 28, Kansas City 17

Miami (1-3) at Tennessee (1-3), Tennessee favored by 2 1/2

I asked for the Dolphins to leave Joe Philbin in London and that is essentially what they did, firing Philbin another listless defeat. Interim coach Dan Campbell reminds me of Mike Singletary which isn't really a good thing. However, he seems to love old school football which should mean increased carries for Lamar Miller, which makes my fantasy football side very happy. QB Ryan Tannehill needs to get his play together and also his demeanor, as it is never a good look to berate practice squad guys for taking advantage of your sorry play. The Titans blew a game against Buffalo last week that they should have won. They were playing at home, and the Bills were down a lot of weapons on offense. You have to wonder how patient ownership will remain with Ken Whisenhunt, who is now 4-28 in his last 32 games as a coach. That is astoundingly bad. I think he will be 4-29 after Sunday as the new voice of Campbell will breathe some life into Miami.

Prediction: Miami 24, Tennessee 21

Arizona (4-1) at Pittsburgh (3-2), Arizona favored by 3

After taking a week off the Cardinals defense was back to its swarming, turnover causing selves in a blowout at Detroit. The offense was given good field position all game and Carson Palmer and David Johnson took advantage of it. The Steelers won their game on the last play of the game when they boldly went for a touchdown, instead of settling for a game tying field goal. Ben Roethlibserger is still likely about a week from returning, so Mike Vick is expected to make his third straight start. Vick was awful for three quarters at San Diego before turning things around just in time in the fourth quarter. If he is terrible on Sunday, then the Cardinals defense will eat him alive. He was helped out last week by Le'Veon Bell carrying the rushing load but for Pittsburgh to win this game Vick has to find a way to get Antonio Brown involved in the offense. No one is wishing for Roethlisberger to be back more than Brown, who has had just 8 catches and no touchdowns in his past two games. The Cardinals offense is just filled with weapons, even more so now that Andre Ellington is back and Chris Johnson seems to be undergoing the same career revival that Larry Fitzgerald is having. You can bet Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will be revved up for this game, as he was fired as the Steelers offensive coordinator a few years ago. With no Ben, I don't think the Steelers will be able to knock off the Cardinals.

Prediction: Arizona 34, Pittsburgh 24

Cincinnati (5-0) at Buffalo (3-2), Cincinnati favored by 3 1/2

Quite a stirring comeback from the Bengals, who overcame a 24-7 deficit to knock off the Seahawks in overtime. The Bills got an ugly win at Tennessee but it was a good win considering they were without Sammy Watkins, Karlos Williams, and LeSean McCoy. They may get Watkins and Williams back this week, but McCoy is likely out and now QB Tyrod Taylor is likely to miss the game. If Taylor can't go that would mean the return for at least one week, of E.J. Manuel to the starting position. To beat the Bengals you need to be at your best and be healthy and the Bills are likely to be neither on Sunday. They will need their defense to try to keep them in the game, but I don't think they will be able to do enough offensively to really give the Bengals a scare.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Buffalo 17

Chicago (2-3) at Detroit (0-5), Detroit favored by 3

The Bears pulled out a gutsy win at Kansas City last week, while things might have hit rock bottom in Detroit as Matt Stafford was benched after throwing his third interception. Stafford will be back under center on Sunday as the Lions try to join the 31 other teams in the NFL that have victories. At this point Detroit is simply playing for pride. The Bears probably thought they were only playing for pride after starting the year 0-3 and trading away defensive starters. But since then they got healthy against the AFC West and a third straight win is certainly within reach. They are hopeful that Alshon Jeffrey will return for this game and see his first action since Week 1. It would help the Lions if RB Ameer Abdullah could curb his fumbling problem. At Nebraska, it was often overlooked because he would be running for so many yards, but he isn't doing that in Detroit so far. Calvin Johnson isn't the same player as injuries have caught up with him and so a year after an 11-5 season, things are back to looking bleak for Detroit. But for one Sunday at least, I think they will find some light, as they will knock off the Chicago Bears behind a fired up Stafford and earn their first win of the year.

Prediction: Detroit 24, Chicago 20

Denver (5-0) at Cleveland (2-3), Denver favored by 4

Peyton Manning has 6 TDs and 7 INTs this year and yet the Broncos are 5-0. Two or three years ago, hell, even last season, there is no way this could have ever been the case. But on the backs of a strong defense, Denver keeps winning games in spite of their offense. They can't find a running game and Manning seems like a shell of his former self. The Browns QB Josh McCown is having a throwback to his 2013 season with the Bears. He has been putting up video game like numbers recently and it could be reasonably argued that at this point in the season he is currently a better quarterback than Manning. If Manning is going to have a vintage Manning performance, then the Browns are the perfect team to do it against. The Browns defense is giving up 413 yards per game, and 263.6 yards passing per game. Maybe this is also finally the game where Ronnie Hillman or C.J. Anderson will do something. I was thinking about picking the Browns to pull the upset, but they're the Browns, and while they had a one week reprieve last week of Brownsing a game, order will restore itself on Sunday.

Prediction: Denver 22, Cleveland 20

Houston (1-4) at Jacksonville (1-4), Houston favored by 1

Another solid performance from Jaguars quarterback Bloof Bortles. If the Jaguars would actually win, then I think I would finally come around on Mr. Bortles. The Houston Texans are so sorry that they couldn't beat a Matt Hasselebeck led team at home, and also allowed Andre Johnson to come out of hiding and catch two touchdowns on them. To top it all off, Bill O'Brien once again made a switch at quarterback, going back to Brian Hoyer. Jacksonville has been coming oh so close in recent weeks, and even with Bortles dealing with a shoulder injury, I am confident in his ability to put up another strong game and given Jacksonville their second wind of the season.

Prediction: Jacksonville 35, Houston 31

Carolina (4-0) at Seattle (2-3), Seattle favored by 7

I have been accused of hating on the Panthers, but even I think this line from Vegas is ridiculous. Seattle is a botched call from the refs against the Lions away from being 1-4. It has to be troubling to the Seahawks that their vaunted defense couldn't hold on to a 17 point second half lead. A year or two ago and that type of lead would have meant game over. The Panthers have had two weeks to prepare for this game and Josh Norman is quickly making a name for himself as a premiere cornerback in the NFL. If he keeps this up he might become the new Richard Sherman and teams will avoid going to his side altogether. Panthers LB Luke Kuechly is out of the concussion protocol and should be back for this game. Now, while I do find the line too high, I still have respect for the power of Qwest Field and how hard it is for opponents. This should be a game highlighted by defensive performances more than offensive. It will be interesting to see how Cam Newton and Russell Wilson use their legs to evade pressure in this game and make plays. Whichever quarterback is more successful at that will lead their team to victory. In this case, I think the homefield will be the difference, although I think the Panthers are the better team.

Prediction: Seattle 20, Carolina 17

San Diego (2-3) at Green Bay (5-0), Green Bay favored by 10

After a brutal loss last Monday night the Chargers now have to travel to Lambeau and try to be competitive with the Packers. Aaron Rodgers showed he was human by actually throwing 2 interceptions at home last week against the Rams. The Packers still won comfortably, as their defense forced turnovers themselves. The Packers defense of recent years has seemed to have that bend but don't break philosophy. They will give up yards and points in bunches but create enough turnovers that it doesn't hurt the team. Philip Rivers has thrown three pick sixes this year and I think it is likely he throws another one in this game. Antonio Gates had 2 touchdowns last week in his return, which helps the passing game, but the Chargers still can't get Melvin Gordon or the run game going. Speaking of struggling rushing games, the Packers are waiting on Eddie Lacy to have his first impactful game of the season. The Chargers don't have a good rush defense, so maybe this is the week.

Prediction: Green Bay 38, San Diego 21

Baltimore (1-4) at San Francisco (1-4), Baltimore favored by 2 1/2

A couple interesting storylines in this game between bad teams. John Harbaugh coaching against his brother's former team. John said that he doesn't harbor any resentment towards the 49ers on how things ended between them and his brother, but surely he was just being diplomatic. Former Ravens wideout Torrey Smith plays his former team, and based on his lack of production so far this season, its hard to tell that he actually is a part of the 49ers now. The 49ers played their best game since the opener against the Giants last Sunday, but it wasn't enough as they lost in heartbreaking fashion. Colin Kaepernick and the offense at least looked competent again. The Ravens used to be unbeatable at home but then blew a lead to the Browns and it is becoming increasingly clear that the Ravens are not the team they used to be. Joe Flacco hopes to have Steve Smith Sr. back for this game, but even his group of unknown receivers will probably rack up big yards against the 49ers generous pass defense. The 49ers have played just two home games so far this year but in their first home game they actually looked like a good team and in their second one they surprisingly were somewhat competitive with Green Bay. With how the Ravens are floundering, I think this is a good spot for the fart whisperer Jim Tomsula to lead his team to their second win of the season.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, Baltimore 21

New England (4-0) at Indianapolis (3-2), New England favored by 8

Based on how the Patriots have dominated the Colts since the Andrew Luck era begin, including in last season's AFC Championship game, you think this would be a possible revenge game for the Colts. But you also would have been living under a rock the past 10 months, which might have been a good thing so you wouldn't have heard about this stupid DeflateGate story. The Patriots will be the ones looking for revenge after the Colts snitched on them and nearly got Tom Brady suspended for a quarter of the season. Their snitching did lead to a fine for the Patriots and a loss of draft picks. Tom Brady even admitted that he has an extra bit of motivation for this game because of the controversy. The Colts managed to win their past two games without Andrew Luck and as expected got healthy playing the AFC South for three straight weeks. However, it is back to real competition and even with Luck expected to return for this game, I expect nothing less than another Patriots blowout win. The Colts have never been able to stop the Patriots run game, so I would expect a gameplan centered around LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Frank Gore has started looking better the past few weeks and he will need to have a strong game for the Colts to have a chance. But even if he does rush pretty well, Luck has looked uneven all season, and the Patriots are not the team for him to get right against.

Prediction: New England 42, Indianapolis 24

Monday, October 19

New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia (2-3), Philadelphia favored by 4

The Eagles offense put 3 quarters of strong football together and routed the Saints last Sunday. DeMarco Murray finally got over 20 carries and scored his first rushing touchdown for Philly and now the Eagles could be tied for first place in the NFC East if they can beat the Giants. Murray could be in line for another big game if Philly commits to him as the Giants run defense is mediocre at best. New York has won three straight after an 0-2 start, mostly because QB Eli Manning is having one of the finest seasons of his career so far. It was pretty amazing watching him lead the winning drive against the Niners without Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. serving as only a decoy. The Eagles are favored in this game but I don't have a good feeling about this one. They haven't been able to sustain any forward momentum this season and Sam Bradford, while playing better recently is still throwing too many interceptions. With how well Eli is playing right now, I think the Giants make it clear after Monday night that they are the team to beat in the NFC Least.

Prediction: New York Giants 26, Philadelphia 21

Last Week Straight Up: 9-5
Overall Straight Up: 50-27

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-7-1
Overall Against the Spread: 37-38-2

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cram Session - Week 7

Thursday, October 15

Atlanta (5-0) at New Orleans (1-4), Atlanta favored by 3

In Sunday's win over the Redskins, Matt Ryan was off, but thanks to Devonta Freeman having another big day and their defense, Atlanta remained unbeaten. They now have to turn around and go on the road in a short week against a Saints team that badly needs a new direction. If the Saints end up winning four or five games this year I would be very surprised if Sean Payton and Drew Brees are back next season. The Saints are clearly in need of a total rebuild. They did finally end their home losing streak a few weeks ago against Dallas, but the game was closer than it should have been with all the pieces the Cowboys are missing. Julio Jones has been battling a hamstring injury and hasn't quite looked himself the last two weeks. That being said, Jones at 75% is still one of the best receivers in the league. I expect Ryan to have a far better game this week and I also think Freeman is due for another 100-yard rushing effort against a leaky Saints defense. Brees will keep the Saints in the game, but as has been shown the last two years, he isn't the old Brees that can will them to victories.

Prediction: Atlanta 27, New Orleans 23

Games That Matter To Me

USC (3-2) at #14 Notre Dame (5-1)

It's been quite a week for the Trojans. First their former head coach Steve Sarkisian was asked to take a leave of absence after reportedly showing up drunk to practice. Then a day later, he was fired by Athletic Director and former Notre Dame commentator Pat Haden. Clay Helton is the interim coach and Cody Kessler and the rest of the Trojans will have to try to drown out all the noise and put forth a strong effort under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish handed Navy a 17 point defeat last week, but the score doesn't indicate how close the game was. Navy was right there with the Irish in the first half, but Notre Dame responded strongly to put the game away in the second half. The Irish are looking to avenge an embarrassing loss at USC last year, when Kessler threw 6 TDs against them. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster didn't have any of those last year but if Kessler throws a touchdown in this game it will likely be to Smith-Schuster, who leads the Trojans with 6 TDs. He was held without a touchdown catch for the first time in a game last week in the Trojans loss to Washington. The whole offense played terribly and Notre Dame has to hope that is the USC team that shows up Saturday. Both of these teams struggle defensively and pour on the points and yards offensively, so this game could quickly turn into a track meet. Notre Dame has trouble stopping the run so that could mean a big day is in store for Trojans RB Tre Madden, who burned Washington for 7 yards a carry last week. Irish QB DeShone Kizer will have every opportunity to connect with Will Fuller who got on track against Navy after disappearing against Clemson the week before. C.J. Prosise also got back on track last week after a tough game against Clemson and he should be able to shred the Trojans weak rushing defense. After this game, the Irish have four very winnable games before closing the season at Stanford. An impressive win against USC will go a long way towards keeping Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff discussion.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, USC 24

Nebraska (2-4, 0-2) at Minnesota (4-2, 1-1)

It appeared that Nebraska was finally going to win a close game last week after Wisconsin missed a game winning field goal with less than two minutes left in the game. But the Badgers still had all three of their timeouts and after holding Nebraska to a three and out, they got the ball back and drove down the field, hitting the winning field goal and sending Nebraska to their fourth heartbreaking loss of the season. The only goal left for the Huskers this year is to try to at least win four of their last six games and become bowl eligible. They have three ranked teams left on their schedule so odds are the Huskers will have their first losing season since 2007. When people said Bo Pelini must go they were expecting a much more inspiring hire than old, mediocre Mike Riley. To avoid their third straight loss the Huskers will have to win their first road game of the season, and also end a 2-game losing streak to Minnesota. The Gophers played TCU tough in their opener and have since played pretty mediocre competition, aside from being shut out by Northwestern on the road. The Golden Gophers have very little offense to speak of and rely on their defense to win games. After a strong start to the season Tommy Armstrong Jr. has been terribly inaccurate and ineffective the last two weeks for Nebraska. Since the Huskers don't have a running game that they can count on, Armstrong will have to play much better if Nebraska is to upset Minnesota. I never thought I would be talking about Nebraska needing to upset Minnesota, sigh. When I pick Nebraska to win they lose, so maybe I go with the reverse jinx this week and hope the Huskers finally get back on the winning side of things.

Prediction: Minnesota 27, Nebraska 20

Top 10

Penn State (5-1, 2-0) at #1 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0)

The Buckeyes path to the College Football playoff continues Saturday night when they host Penn State under the lights. The Nittany Lions lost to Temple in the opener, which looked bad at the time, but the Owls are currently undefeated. Since that loss, Penn State has reeled off five straight wins, although none against what would you call stiff competition. The Nittany Lions do have Christian Hackenberg at quarterback, a player that NFL scouts have been drooling over. Hackenberg has decent numbers this year but his last two games have not been very good, as he has barely completed over 50% of his passes. In fact, he has only cleared 200 yards passing in two of his six games this year. The Nittany Lions success has really been because of their defense. They allow just 275.7 yards per game and if they were to pull off the huge upset it would be because of their defense. The Buckeyes had one of their better offensive showings of the season against Maryland last week, but QB Cardale Jones can be turnover prone. The biggest question is can Penn State slow down Ezekiel Elliott? Even if Jones were to struggles, Elliott has shown he can carry the offense on his back. It's clear that Ohio State will struggle at some point this game, as they pretty much have in every game this season. It is also clear that eventually they will make the plays needed to secure victory and remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Penn State 20

West Virginia (3-2, 0-2) at #2 Baylor (5-0, 2-0)

There will be tons of fireworks in this one so basically like any other Big 12 game. Neither team plays defense but they both play offense very well. The problem for West Virginia is that Baylor plays offense at a level that no one can come close to matching. The Bears average 725 yards a game, an absolutely insane statistic. They distribute their offense just about evenly, with the passing attack averaging 367 yards a game and the rushing attack averaging 358 yards per game. Their lowest point total this season is 56. The Mountaineers are coming off a tough loss at home to Oklahoma State and a once promising season could really start going off the rails if they drop their third straight game here. I think they will hold Baylor to their lowest point total of the season, the problem is that, I still think the Bears will put up 54 points. The Mountaineers defense is going to have no answers for Bears QB Seth Russell and RB Shock Linwood.

Prediction: Baylor 54, West Virginia 30

#3 TCU (6-0, 3-0) at Iowa State (2-3, 1-1)

The Horned Frogs once again survived by the skin of their teeth on the road against an unranked opponent. They overcame a 35-17 halftime deficit to defeat Kansas State and remain unbeaten. Their time will be up at some point, most likely in two weeks when they travel to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. Iowa State has sprung upsets at home in the past, but I don't think they have it in them to knock off TCU. Trevone Boykin is going to make plays all over the field, and the Horned Frogs will give up points all over the field but still stake along undefeated.

Prediction: TCU 49, Iowa State 31

Arizona State (4-2, 2-1) at #4 Utah (5-0, 2-0)

The Utes survived a tough home test against previously unbeaten Cal last weekend, and now face another test from the Sun Devils. Arizona State has played really well the last two weeks, after being blown out by USC at home. They handled previously unbeaten UCLA at home, and then blasted Colorado. The Sun Devils have a high powered offense led by QB Mike Bercovici, who is coming off a 5 touchdown performance in the win against Colorado. The Utes won their last game on the back of their defense, which forced six Cal turnovers and picked off NFL prospect Jared Goff five times. They also had a strong game from RB Devontae Booker, which helped overcome a poor performance by QB Travis Wilson. I think the Utes defense will cause Bercovici to make enough mistakes that they will once again survive undefeated by the skin of their teeth.

Prediction: Utah 35, Arizona State 28

#8 Florida (6-0, 4-0) at #6 LSU (5-0, 3-0)

Gator Nation received quite the shock on Monday when it was announced that starting QB Will Grier had been suspended for a year for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. That thrusts Treon Harris back into the starting role he held for the final six games last season. Harris presents a different type of threat than Grier and shouldn't be too far of a downgrade from what Grier was providing them. That being said, he has seen limited action this year, which means the Gator offense might lean more heavily on RB Kelvin Taylor. Taylor has struggled his past two games, failing to reach 100 yards rushing and averaging less than 4 yards a carry. The LSU run defense is pretty stout so it figures to be another tough day for Taylor on Saturday. The Gators defense is top notch as well but even they are probably not capable of containing Tigers RB Leonard Fournette. Fournette's streak of 200+ yard rushing games came to an end last week but he still piled up 158 yards rushing and averaged almost 8 yards a carry. The Tigers average a pathetic 122 yards passing per game, so Fournette is about it offensively. If the Gators can contain him, they will win the game. Easier said than done though, and with the distractions that the Grier suspension brought about this week, I like LSU to squeak out a victory in this battle of unbeatens.

Prediction: LSU 24, Florida 17

#7 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) at #12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0)

As a 49ers fan, watching Jim Harbaugh instantly turn around Michigan like he instantly turned around the 49ers has been tough. Oh, what could have still been for San Francisco. But the 49ers loss has certainly been the Wolverines gain. Michigan's defense is on an absurd streak of shutting out their opponent three straight games. In five games this season, the Wolverines have allowed 38 points, with 24 of those coming in the opener against Utah. Michigan State has been known for their defense the past few seasons, but their defense isn't what it once was, and they mostly rely on Connor Cook to lead them to victory. Cook has 12 TDs and just 2 INTs this season and has made some big plays in tight games. Most of the Spartans wins have been tight, including against subpar opponents, Purdue and Rutgers. The Spartans are going to have to up their play significantly at the Big House on Sunday to have any chance of "upsetting" the Wolverines. The Spartans best playmaker offensively arguably is WR Aaron Burbridge. Burbridge was the shining star against Rutgers and if Cook is able to get the passing game going in this one, it will be because Burbridge is making plays. Wolverines QB Jake Rudock is serviceable at best and his job basically is to not throw any pick 6's like he did in the opener so the defense can do their thing. I don't think Michigan will have a fourth straight shutout in them but I do believe they will dominate and be the key to Michigan beating the Spartans for just the second time in their last eight meetings.

Prediction: Michigan 21, Michigan State 14

#10 Alabama (5-1, 2-1) at #9 Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0)

Another tough road test for the Crimson Tide, but this time Vegas has them favored, so Nick Saban can't have a pity party if they win this game. The Aggies had last week so coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have had plenty of time to prep for this game. Bama might be wishing they had two weeks to prepare for Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen. Allen has been excellent thus far and is a true duel threat in that he is a good passer and when the opportunity presents itself an advantageous rusher. The big edge Alabama has is their defense is far superior to the Aggies. Alabama allows less than 200 yards passing per game and less than 100 yards rushing. The Aggies will have to work extra hard to the ball in the hands of freshman WR Christian Kirk. I expect the difference maker in this game to be Bama RB Derrick Henry. I think the Bama offensive line will open plenty of holes for him and he will have a rushing day like he did against Georgia a few weeks ago. If Henry can do that then Jake Coker can simply manage the game, which seems to work best for Alabama, because when he presses he throws picks. This game looks like another chance for Alabama to remind everyone that they are the class of the SEC, and I expect another resounding statement similar to what we saw against Georgia.

Prediction: Alabama 37, Texas A&M 24

Last Week: 8-3
Overall: 51-12

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 5

Sunday, October 11

Washington (2-2) at Atlanta (4-0), Atlanta favored by 7 1/2

This is like a reunion game as former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and former Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson now are with the Falcons. So far both of them are thriving. The Falcons offense has been on fire and is a large reason Atlanta is 4-0. Hankerson has surpassed Roddy White as Matt Ryan's number two target, something White is understandably not too pleased about. So far White's objections to his reduced role in the offense haven't been a distraction but it is definitely something to watch as the season goes on. The Redskins are coming off a strong team win against Philadelphia. They got a lead early and predictably lost that lead. But what was different this time was they were able to mount a game winning drive and get the win. Kirk Cousins and Pierre Garcon were excellent on that final drive. Cousins played well last week but we know he can play well at times. He has not yet been able to play well consistently and over consecutive games. The Falcons don't have a very good defense, so Cousins will have every opportunity to play well again this weekend. He would be helped by the return of DeSean Jackson, who has been saying it is his possible he could play, but I don't think that is something Washington can count on. I expect Ryan to make some big plays against the Skins hurting secondary, especially Julio Jones. I also think Hank will be hankerin' (see what I did there) to get some revenge against his former team and will make an impact as well. Then you can't forget about Falcons RB Devonta Freeman who has three rushing touchdowns in each of his last two games. The Falcons just have so many weapons offensively, I don't think Washington will be able to keep up.

Prediction: Atlanta 34, Washington 27

New Orleans (1-3) at Philadelphia (1-3), Philadelphia favored by 5

Maybe this will finally be the week the Eagles offense puts it all together for an entire game. They will have a great shot against a Saints defense that made even Brandon Weeden look competent last Sunday night. Fortunately, for the Saints, Drew Brees had a throwback type of performance and helped carry New Orleans to their first win of the season. This will be a desperation game, as the loser will sit at 1-4 and have a huge hole to try to climb out of to get in the playoff picture. Each offense has weapons galore but where the Eagles have the advantage is defensively. Their secondary isn't very good but their defensive front has been excellent at stopping the run this season. This game will come down to which offense shoots itself in the foot less, specifically by turning the ball over. The Eagles better start off well or it will feel like a road game for them because the boss will be raining down. Sam Bradford threw three touchdown passes last week and I think he can do something similar against a leaky Saints secondary.

Prediction: Philadelphia 28, New Orleans 24

Chicago (1-3) at Kansas City (1-3), Kansas City favored by 9 1/2

Somewhat surprisingly the Bears got Jay Cutler back last week and he played well enough to help lead Chicago to their first win of the year. The Chiefs are desperate for a win as they are currently on a three game losing streak. They were manhandled by the Bengals last week and the offense could only manage seven field goals. Chicago's defense actually stepped up and played well against a hot Oakland offense, which was surprising because they had spent the week leading up to the game having a fire sale of their big name defensive players. The Chiefs are typically a pretty good home team and play three of their next four games at Arrowhead. This will be a crucial four game stretch for them to salvage their season. Their defense has struggled but I think they can cause bad Jay Cutler to show up and force Cutler into some interceptions and mistakes that will be the difference in the game.

Prediction: Kansas City 31, Chicago 17

Seattle (2-2) at Cincinnati (4-0), Cincinnati favored by 3

The argument could be made that right now the Bengals are the best team in football. They get to test themselves against the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks. After an 0-2 start Seattle has climbed back to 2-2 but last week's win against Detroit was aided by a horrible officiating gaffe. Despite it being painfully obvious that K.J. Wright had illegally batted the ball out of the end zone to cause a touchback, it went uncalled. I mean he literally swung at it like it was baseball and he had a bat, how do you miss that when you are staring right at it? The Seahawks have had a hell of a time protecting Russell Wilson and I expect the Bengals fearsome front line to have a field day pressuring Wilson. Marshawn Lynch missed last week's game and is questionable, but he can't return soon enough for the Seahawks offense. This game will also serve as a good test for Andy Dalton. Dalton is off to a highly impressive start to the season, and if he can put up solid numbers against the Seahawks, it might be time to admit that Dalton has made a leap as a quarterback.

Prediction: Cincinnati 21, Seattle 17

Jacksonville (1-3) at Tampa Bay (1-3), Tampa Bay favored by 3

Bloof Bortles has played well enough that I now have given him back his last name. The results aren't there yet for the Jaguars but you can't blame Bortles. Based on how poorly Jameis Winston has played at times this year maybe I should change his name too. He has given pundits like me plenty of material for a nickname with his personal life hijinx. Looking ahead, this will be the Buccaneers best chance at a win for a long time and if they are smart they will focus on feeding the ball to Doug Martin and Charles Sims and ride them to victory.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 15, Jacksonville 13

Cleveland (1-3) at Baltimore (1-3), Baltimore favored by 6 1/2

Baltimore saved their season last Thursday against Pittsburgh thanks to Josh Scobee forgetting how to hit field goals. Despite what Snoop Dog had to say Scobee was actually very good in Jacksonville, but he wasn't able to transfer that success to Pittsburgh. But getting back to Ravens/Browns, now Baltimore will try to win another divisional game and this time they will have to do it without Steve Smith Sr. who has a very hurt back. The biggest positive for the Ravens coming out of the Steelers game was Justin Forsett finally showing up for the offense. The Ravens have the most nondescript group of receivers in the league so it is imperative for their offense that the line gives Forsett the lanes he needs to run the ball effectively. The Browns fought valiantly in San Diego and then lost like only the Browns, and maybe the Lions can. San Diego missed a game winning field goal but the Browns were offside and the Chargers hit the do over field goal to win the game. Mike Pettine wants you to know that Joe Haden is not a pussy and he will play if he feels up to it on Sunday. A broken down Haden should be able to cover guys like Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and newly acquired Chris Givens. Still, they're the Browns so they will find some way to screw up and lose this game.

Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 21

St. Louis (2-2) at Green Bay (4-0), Green Bay favored by 9

Just when I thought I had the Rams figured out as pretenders they go and beat Arizona on the road. Now with that being said in this column last week I did question just how good Arizona was and it looks like I might have been right. The Rams, specifically their defense, faces the hardest test in football right now this week when they travel to Lambeau Field. Get Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense on the road and they look mortal. But face them at Lambeau, and Rodgers is as close to perfection and unstoppable as you can get. If the Rams defense can somewhat contain the Packers, they might have a chance.The Rams offense showed a pulse last week as Todd Gurley emerged on the scene in the second half, helping St. Louis hold on to the win. Nick Foles has also been pretty good thus far, and the Rams seem to be finding new ways to keep Tavon Austin involved. Austin has always shown flashes but never been consistent. I think the Rams will give a decent accounting of themselves but no one is beating Rodgers at Lambeau right now.

Prediction: Green Bay 35, St. Louis 20

Buffalo (2-2) at Tennessee (1-2), Buffalo favored by 2 1/2

I think myself and the majority of people underestimated how much the Bills offense would miss Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy. They could do next to nothing on offense against a Giants defense that is decent, but nothing special. McCoy is definitely out for this game and Watkins is doubtful. Then you have McCoy's backup Karlos Williams, who suffered a concussion last week and he is questionable for the game Sunday. That would leave Boobie Dixon as the starter and Tyrod Taylor in a whole heap of trouble. The Titans are coming off their bye week and we will see if the week off taught them anything about finishing games. They had the Colts dead to rights a few weeks ago and let them off the hook. If they have been paying attention they will try to entice the Bills, specifically their defense, into silly penalties. Rex Ryan is okay with penalties though as long as his team cares or some such nonsense. With so many injuries on offense, I think the Bills will be tough pressed to go on the road and win this one, even against an inexperienced quarterback like Marcus Mariota.

Prediction: Tennessee 24, Buffalo 22

Arizona (3-1) at Detroit (0-4), Arizona favored by 2 1/2

The media might have to pump the brakes on anointing the Cardinals as the Super Bowl champs after their loss to the Rams last week. I have a feeling some of the Cardinals players were starting to buy into their own hype. After being served some humble pie last week, I expect a more focused Cardinals team when they face the beaten down Lions in Detroit. Detroit dropped to 0-4. their season already over in early October. Now their focus is on just getting a win at some point. They were hosed by the referees last Monday despite a respectable performance at Seattle. If they had a better, more inspiring coach than sleepy Jim Caldwell I might believe the Lions could turn things around. Their offense is non-existent and it looks like the Lions might be lucky to win 4 or 5 games this year.

Prediction: Arizona 27, Detroit 17

New England (3-0) at Dallas (2-2), New England favored by 8 1/2

This game would be more fun if it were Tom Brady going up against Tony Romo. The Cowboys are just a few weeks from getting Dez Bryant back, but how effective will he be with Brandon Weeden throwing him the ball? Weeden hasn't been terrible in his two starts, but it is hard to believe that they wouldn't have won at least one of their past two games if Romo were still under center. The Patriots offense has been blowing by teams the first three weeks and already has some bored media types asking if they could go 16-0 this year. That won't be happening, but facing a mediocre at best Cowboys defense should lead to plenty of production from Brady, Rob Gronkowski and even up and coming running back Dion Lewis. The Cowboys will have Greg Hardy making his season debut after a 4 game suspension and also Rolando McClain returning from a suspension of his own. They will make a difference as the season goes on but they will be rusty Sunday and I don't expect them to be much of a factor.

Prediction: New England 38, Dallas 24

Denver (4-0) at Oakland (2-2), Denver favored by 4 1/2

This game should tell us a lot about how the Raiders are progressing as they try to turn themselves from constant laughingstock to contenders. Their quest hit a road bump last week when they lost to the winless Bears. QB Derek Carr showed the inconsistency that comes with a second year quarterback, as after two strong games, he and the rest of the offense couldn't get much going against a poor Bears defense. The Broncos offense was back to struggling last week, although Ronnie Hillman is making it clearer by the week that he should be starting over C.J. Anderson at running back. Peyton Manning has had his way against the Raiders over the last few years, but I think the Raiders defense will cause Manning to struggle again, and it will be up to Hillman to keep his running going, allowing Denver to escape with a win.

Prediction: Denver 23, Oakland 20

San Francisco (1-3) at New York Giants (2-2), New York Giants favored by 7

So the 49ers get a chance to show a national television audience just how terrible they are. NBC probably wishes this game was scheduled for later in the season so they could flex out of it. Colin Kaepernick should be thankful that Blaine Gabbert is his backup or else he might have been replaced by now. Somehow, Gabbert is probably far worse than Kap. The 49ers offense has put up 10 total points in their past two games. They can't throw or run the ball. Last week against the Packers, the one bright spot was the defense put in their first respectable performance since the opener against the Vikings. The Giants are on a two game winning streak and Eli Manning is off to a start that resembles how he plays in the playoffs when the Giants fluke their way to Super Bowls. The 49ers secondary will have their hands full with Odell Beckham Jr. and also need to keep their attention on the fast rising Reuben Randle. It would be nice if Carlos Hyde could get going running the ball again but it is next to impossible when a defense knows you have a quarterback who can't get the ball downfield. It is quite amazing the fall from grace Kap has had the past few seasons. I expect another long, frustrating three hours of Niner watching on Sunday night.

Prediction: New York Giants 23, San Francisco 10

Monday, October 12

Pittsburgh (2-2) at San Diego (2-2), San Diego favored by 3

The Steelers offense, specifically Le'Veon Bell showed flashes against Baltimore, but it is obvious that with Mike Vick under center the offense is far less potent. Antonio Brown disappeared for long stretches of the game, something that Steelers fans haven't seen in years. The defense continues to have trouble stopping the run, which may mean we finally see Melvin Gordon resemble the running back he was in college. Through four games, he has yet to score a touchdown or clear 100 yards rushing. Part of that is because Danny Woodhead is sharing touches with him, but Gordon seems to be running tentatively and not like the power back he was at Wisconsin. Philip Rivers can still sling it with the best of them but I think the run is the key to the Chargers winning this game and not the pass. I expect Vick to look a little more comfortable this week, but field goals probably will remain an adventure for Pittsburgh, even with a new kicker. This should be a close game and the Steelers inability to get points any time they have a chance will likely come back to haunt them.

Prediction: San Diego 29, Pittsburgh 23

Last Week Straight Up: 10-5
Overall Straight Up: 41-22

Last Week Against the Spread: 4-11
Overall Against the Spread: 31-31-1

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cram Session - Week 6

Thursday, October 8

Indianapolis (2-2) at Houston (1-3), Pick Em'

The Colts survived a week without Andrew Luck and moved back to .500 after an 0-2 start to the season. It looks like Luck will be back under center tonight in another divisional matchup, this time against the Texans and their hapless defense. I don't think giving up an average of 27 points per game was what Houston had in mind when they selected Jadaveon Clowney to join J.J. Watt. Thankfully for the Texans the AFC South is a dumpster fire and with a win tonight, Houston would remain in the thick of things for the division crown. That would mean they have to beat Indianapolis which has a 15 game divisional winning streak. This game will also be Andre Johnson's homecoming to Houston, but after being held without a catch and not even being targeted in his past two games, I am not sure anyone will notice. After this game the Colts play seven straight non divisional games, and that is when we will truly find out of if the Colts are contenders or fluke fraud pretenders.

Prediction: Houston 26, Indianapolis 22

Games That Matter To Me

Navy (4-0) at #15 Notre Dame (4-1)

Notre Dame was behind the eight ball almost immediately at Clemson and despite their best efforts to fight back and win the game, they fell short. The Irish were undone by their four turnovers and also the inability of the offense to get a running game going. It brought back nightmarish memories to the Irish's late season collapse last season after a 5-0 start to the year. Notre Dame better have gotten over that tough loss quickly though, because Navy is coming to town and if recent history is any indication it means the Irish are in for a fight. People still dismiss Navy as just a service academy team, but they haven't been paying attention for the better part of a decade. Vegas is definitely not paying attention as I can't understand why they think the Irish are two touchdown favorites. Every year the Irish know exactly what to expect from Navy and every year they usually struggle to stop the Midshipmen offense. A lot of that credit goes to Navy QB Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds has been on fire this year, rushing for 9 touchdowns this season, including 5 in a win against East Carolina a couple weeks ago. Even a quiet game like last week against Air Force where he was held without a rushing touchdown still amounted to his highest rushing yardage of the season. Where the Irish should win the game is their ability to overwhelm Navy's offense. Notre Dame will be bigger at every position and that should mean plenty of opportunities for C.J. Prosise and Will Fuller. Everyone wants to talk about are the Irish still playoff contenders, but to me, they have seven games left this season and cliche as it is, they need to take it one week at a time. If they handle their business, everything else will take care of itself. That starts with not overlooking Navy and being ready for a fight on Saturday.

Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Navy 24

Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) at Nebraska (2-3, 0-1)

This game has sure lost the luster it looked like it might have prior to the season starting. The Huskers have been terrible this season and Wisconsin hasn't been much better. Each team has had a different set of issues. The Badgers have struggled mightily offensively, while the Huskers have been terrible defensively. The Huskers haven't just been losing games, they have been finding new ways to make their losses even more gut wrenching each week. This last game against Illinois saw Nebraska blow a 13-0 4th quarter lead, including a final drive where once again the secondary allowed a receiver to get behind them on a deep ball, when it was obvious that the play would be a deep pass. The conditions were not ideal but Tommy Armstrong had one of the worst games of his career, including a brain dead decision late in the game to throw the ball when the Huskers were trying to bleed the clock. The Huskers clearly miss Ameer Abdullah, as his replacement Terrell Newby has not yet found his groove. Nebraska will have its work cut out for them against a Badgers defense that is allowing just 9.6 points and 278 yards per game. Nebraska should try to commit to the run in this game, and stick with it, even if it isn't working right away. Then that can open up opportunities for Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly. This is the first true road game of the season for Wisconsin and like Nebraska they miss their big time back Melvin Gordon. Besides one game against Hawaii, Taiwan Deal hasn't gotten much traction. Without a run game, it is exposing QB Joel Stave. Stave was especially bad last week at home against Iowa, throwing two interceptions. However, the Huskers secondary may be the cure he needs for his ails. I went back and forth on my prediction for this one. Both teams are equally mediocre so I lean towards the Huskers homefield advantage. It isn't nearly what it was once was, but it should count for something on Saturday, Lord help Mike Riley if it doesn't.

Prediction: Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 23

Top 10

Maryland (2-3, 0-1) at #1 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0)

My gut was telling me to pick a close game between Indiana and Ohio State and I didn't listen! Ohio State had to get a goal line stop at the end of the game to avoid going to overtime with the Hoosiers. Cardale Jones was uneven once again but Ezekiel Elliott was a wrecking ball and you could say literally carried the Buckeyes to victory. The Maryland Terrapins are a dumpster fire and if Ohio State can't beat this sorry squad at home by at least three touchdowns it is time for another team to be placed number one in the country.

Prediction: Ohio State 45, Maryland 14

#2 TCU (5-0, 2-0) at Kansas State (3-1, 0-1)

The Horned Frogs have been tested on the road and so far have scraped by, but that all could end in Manhattan, KS on Saturday night. The Wildcats gave Oklahoma State all they could handle in Stillwater, despite dealing with more injuries at the quarterback position. Joe Hubener will make the start in this game. Hubener was hurt early in the game against Oklahoma State, replaced by Kody Cook and then inserted back in the game when Cook was injured. Hubener was the backup to start the season but the Wildcats have remained very competitive despite all the injuries and uncertainty at the most key position on the field. A lot of that is due to their recently turned 76-year old coach Bill Snyder. The Wildcats offensive weapons don't wow you but TCU has been dealing with a ton of injuries to their defense and have been a revolving door for offenses playing against them. TCU's offensive weapons like Trevone Boykin, RB Aaron Green and WR Josh Doctson will make their share of plays but I can't believe that they can just go through this entire season unscathed winning shootouts. TCU got a lucky bounce against Texas Tech on the road in order to win and I feel Kansas State is a much better team. Sometimes you have to be bold and pick the upset.

Prediction: Kansas State 48, TCU 44

#3 Baylor (4-0, 1-0) at Kansas (0-4, 0-1)

Baylor's lowest output offensively thus far this season is 56 points. I feel confident in saying they won't score less than than against winless Kansas. The Jayhawks are facing the real possibility of going 0-12 after dropping all three of their non-conference games. Baylor's offensive stats are insane, WR Corey Coleman already has 11 touchdowns this season and quarterback Seth Russell has thrown 19 touchdowns.

Prediction: Baylor 66, Kansas 21

#4 Michigan State (5-0, 1-0) at Rutgers (2-2, 0-1)

Somehow the Spartans could only beat terrible, awful Purdue by three at home. Their one signature win this year, at home against Oregon, looks meaningless now after the way the Ducks were killed by Utah. They have a week to get things right as they go to Michigan next week and right now I would have no hesitancy picking the Wolverines to win that game. A night game at Rutgers looms as a trap game, but Rutgers is pretty terrible and I am giving Sparty the benefit of the doubt that they won't lay another egg on Saturday.

Prediction: Michigan State 31, Rutgers 14

#23 California (5-0, 2-0) at #5 Utah (4-0, 1-0)

The Golden Bears are 5-0 but after years of being a downtrodden program some questions still remain about just how legitimate of a team they really are. Where there aren't questions are about their QB Jared Goff. The junior has started the year on fire with 15 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and a 70% completion percentage. Goff's favorite target is WR Kenny Lawler, who leads the Golden Bears with 8 receiving touchdowns. The Utes had a bye after thrashing Oregon on the road, a win that catapulted them all the way to number five in the polls. The Utes now go from being the hunters to the hunted and it will be interesting to see how they respond, starting with this game. Utah has one of the better defenses in the country, so it will be intriguing to see how they do in containing Goff and Lawler. Utah is more of a power running team than a passing team and average more yards per game through the ground than through the air. QB Travis Wilson personifies this as teams usually have to be more concerned with his legs than his arm. Wilson burned the Ducks to the tune of 100 yards rushing and a touchdown, averaging almost 17 yards per carry. I think the bye week will serve Utah well and gave them a chance to refocus after a huge win. It will prevent this game from being a letdown spot and the Utes should relatively cruise to their fifth win of the season.

Prediction: Utah 38, California 24

Georgia Tech (2-3, 0-2) at #6 Clemson (4-0, 1-0)

Next time I start to annoint a team based on a couple of blowouts against poor competition, I need to remind myself of the fluke frauds that Georgia Tech have turned out to be. The Yellow Jackets have lost three games in a row since they started playing teams with a pulse. The Tigers nearly pulled a Clemson last week and blew a big lead against the Irish. They were saved by some questionable play calling by Notre Dame and remained in the thick of the playoff race. As coach Dabo Swinney continues to try to remake Clemson's image, this is another spot where the Tigers can do that. A lot of energy went into the Notre Dame game, so this could be a letdown spot. The fact is though that the Yellow Jackets are so bad, Clemson could let down and still win by double digits.

Prediction: Clemson 41, Georgia Tech 24

#7 LSU (4-0, 2-0) "at" South Carolina (2-3, 0-3)

This game has been moved from Columbia, SC to Baton Rouge, LA due to the flooding that hit Columbia last week. Things are getting ugly for Steve Spurrier. The only remaining SEC game that the Gamecocks are likely to be favored in is when they play Vanderbilt. Everyone thinks Spurrier is hilarious when he pops off on other coaches struggles, so I hope some of those coaches take the time to talk back now that Spurrier coaches a horrible team. RB Leonard Fournette continued his streak of 200 yard plus rushing games and has to be the Heisman favorite at this point. The Tigers have to thank their lucky stars for him beacuse without him, they might average about 7 points a game with the woeful Brandon Harris at quarterback. It is amazing what Fournette does week after week because the Tigers have no passing game to speak of. Because of that they don't really blow out teams so I expect the Gamecocks to hang around at home, but LSU to ultimately win rather comfortably.

Prediction: LSU 32, South Carolina 20

Arkansas (2-3, 1-1) at #8 Alabama (4-1, 1-1)

Bret Bielema and Arkansas got a much needed win against Tennessee last week, while Alabama told Vegas to never make them underdogs again, decimating Georgia on the road 38-10. Nick Saban took great delight in telling the media how wrong they were to try to count his team out. I saw one ridiculous headline last week asking if Nick Saban might be in trouble if Alabama lost that game to Georgia. I guess we will never find out (sarcasm). Arkansas has more talent than their 2-3 record would suggest and statistically they are pretty even with the Crimson Tide. The Razorbacks quarterback/running back combo of Brandon Allen and Alex Collins isn't far off from Bama's combo of Jake Coker and Derrick Henry. The difference in this game will be defense, as the Tide have a far better defense than the Razorbacks. No disrespect to the newly ranked Toledo Rockets but if you can't beat Toledo at home, you don't have a prayer of beating Alabama on the road.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Arkansas 20

#10 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0) "at" Texas (1-4, 0-2) in Dallas, Texas

Boy is it getting ugly in Austin. In the midst of being thrashed by TCU, Texas CB Kris Boyd retweeted a tweet at halftime talking about transferring. He has since apologized of course and I give him credit at least for not claiming he was hacked. Oklahoma was pretty under the radar for most of the season but has cracked the top 10 after crushing West Virginia at home. Now there is talk of the Sooners being a playoff contender but if you know a Bob Stoops coached team, they will likely find one or two games to lose that they should win. However, this rivalry game will not be one of them. The Longhorns crappy defense will have no answer for the Sooners high powered offense led by QB Baker Mayfield.

Prediction: Oklahoma 46, Texas 16

Last Week: 7-3
Overall: 43-9

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Hail Mary - Week 4

Sunday, October 4

New York Jets (2-1) "at" Miami (1-2) in London, England, New York Jets favored by 1 1/2

Can the Dolphins leave Joe Philbin behind in London? Dolphins owner Stephen Ross seems to be the only person who has any confidence that Philbin can lead the Dolphins to the playoffs. Unfortunately for Dolphins fans he is the one who makes the decision. The Dolphins had an embarrassing home opener against Buffalo last week. Both the offense and defense were abysmal. They desperately need a win this week so they can remain at their usual mediocre level and not start to fall out of the picture. They won't be winning the AFC East, so it is all about trying to get a Wild Card spot. They desperately need to find a way to get Lamar Miller going so that Ryan Tannehill isn't forced to throw the ball all game. The Jets feel good vibes evaporated pretty quickly last Sunday when fell behind Philadelphia at home 24-0. They eventually made a game of it, but it was still a terribly disappointing defeat. They saw bad Ryan Fitzpatrick in that game and Brandon Marshall made some really boneheaded plays. Marshall will be eager to put up some big numbers against one of his former teams this week. The Jets are hopeful that Eric Decker and Chris Ivory can return to the lineup as it was painfully obvious how much they missed the two of them in the loss. The London games are always weird, so I will pick a semi weird result, a Dolphins victory.

Prediction: Miami 21, New York Jets 17

Philadelphia (1-2) at Washington (1-2), Philadelphia favored by 3

All the good vibes surrounding the Redskins got to last four days before the team reminded their fans why they are such a beaten down group of people. Kirk Cousins was dreadful against the Giants, or back to his normal self. Of course, we all heard from the Cousins excuse makers how the interceptions weren't his fault. That ignores the fact that he had several balls that were underthrown that would have been touchdowns if a halfway decent quarterback had been throwing them. I am no believer in Robert Griffin III anymore, but no one is convincing me that Cousins is any better. The handoff from Alfred Morris to Matt Jones seemed to kick into high gear last week, although Jones continues to struggle holding on to the ball. The Eagles earned themselves a much needed victory last week, largely thanks to defense and special teams. The offense still seems to be in somewhat disarray and the Eagles are waiting to find out if they will be without DeMarco Murray for a second straight week. The Redskins are usually the type of team you get well against, so I am predicting that the Eagles offense has their best, most consistent showing of the season.

Prediction: Philadelphia 32, Washington 24

Jacksonville (1-2) at Indianapolis (1-2), Indianapolis favored by 9

The Colts tour of the AFC South, i.e. their season saver, continues this weekend at home against Jacksonville. The Colts had to scramble to come back to beat the Titans, so while they got the victory, things are still very uneasy in Indy. Andre Johnson apparently left his soul behind in Houston, as he didn't even register a target in the victory. Frank Gore finally made his presence felt with a couple of touchdowns and against a porous Jacksonville defense he should be able to continue his success. Any hopes that the Jags might be turning the corner after their win over the Dolphins died in Week 3. We found out the Dolphins are really bad, and Jacksonville lost to New England by about a gazillion points. Bloof Borkles played reasonably well though and if he keeps it up I might finally give him back his real name. He may play pretty well this weekend against a sorry Indy defense, but I expect Andrew Luck to have his best game of the year and Indianapolis to cruise.

Prediction: Indianapolis 38, Jacksonville 21

New York Giants (1-2) at Buffalo (2-1), Buffalo favored by 5

Tyrod Taylor was excellent against Miami, and the Bills were ferocious on defense and back to resembling the potential playoff contenders we saw in Week 1. The Giants saved their season by defeating the Redskins but they still don't have any answers at running back, just a trio of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen. Vereen's role is at least clear, he is the pass catcher out of the backfield, but neither Williams or Jennings have been able to establish themselves. The early secret in Buffalo is that backup Karlos Williams is outplaying LeSean McCoy, who still seems far away from his 2013 form. The Bills shouldn't play favorites based on pay and if Williams keeps running like he has, he could eventually supplant McCoy. The Bills have no choice but to go with Williams as the lead back this week since McCoy will be out with an injury. With Eli going up against Rex Ryan's influenced Bills defense, I expect him to throw his first interception of the season and make a lot of Eli faces.

Prediction: Buffalo 27, New York Giants 17

Carolina (3-0) at Tampa Bay (1-2), Carolina favored by 3

The Panthers might be the most under the radar and underwhelming 3-0 team in league history. We should find out a lot more about just how legit the Panthers are in October and early November when they play at Seattle and then host the Eagles, Colts and Packers. The Bucs offense continues to struggle and playing at Carolina won't be helpful to Jameis Winston. I wish the Bucs would get Doug Martin going, only because I have him in one of my fantasy leagues. That's about all there is to say about this boring NFC South matchup.

Prediction: Carolina 23, Tampa Bay 12

Oakland (2-1) at Chicago (0-3), Oakland favored by 3

Are the Raiders for real? They have won two straight, although those wins came against teams that are a combined 1-5, while the actual good team they faced in Cincinnati destroyed them. But, they also lost Derek Carr early in that game and I am totally starting to believe that Carr is legit. He quietly had a pretty strong rookie season last year and has carried that over to this season. Amari Cooper is looking like a bonafide number one receiver for Carr and RB Latavius Murray burst onto the scene last week with 139 yards rushing. Forget winning, the Bears just hope to score some points on Sunday. Jimmy Clausen reminded anyone in case they forgot that he is a completely terrible NFL quarterback. The Bears had 10 possessions against Seattle last week and punted on all 10 of those possessions. The team started a fire sale on defense, trading Jared Allen to the Panthers and Jon Bostic to the Patriots. The Bears probably thought they reached rock bottom with their shutout last week, but being underdogs at home to the Raiders? That is truly rock bottom.

Prediction: Oakland 28, Chicago 20

Houston (1-2) at Atlanta (3-0), Atlanta favored by 6 1/2

The Texans got a much needed win against Tampa Bay and Ryan Mallett played well enough that it made me continue to wonder why Bill O'Brien ever named Brian Hoyer the starter. They also are hoping to be able to welcome Arian Foster back to the fold this weekend, which would give their running game a badly needed boost. The Falcons might have discovered the next big thing at running back with Devonta Freeman. Freeman shredded the Cowboys and if he can become a consistent weapon to go with Julio Jones in the passing game the Falcons will be even more dangerous offensively. They still have a ways to go defensively but with how well they are playing offensively and looking at their schedule, 9-0 could be a real possibility for Atlanta.

Prediction: Atlanta 29, Houston 23

Kansas City (1-2) at Cincinnati (3-0), Cincinnati favored by 3 1/2

My AFC West pick desperately needs a win but a week after having to play undefeated Green Bay on the road, now they have to face undefeated Cincinnati on the road. The loss to Green Bay was ugly but one bright spot was that Jeremy Maclin scored a touchdown. That finally put to an end the Chiefs embarrassing string of games without a touchdown by a recover that dated back to 2013. However, their defense, especially their secondary was victimized by Aaron Rodgers. I am not comparing Andy Dalton to Rodgers but with how well Dalton has been playing this season, it could be another tough day at the office for the Chiefs secondary. A.J. Green went off for the Bengals last week against Baltimore and almost was single-handily responsible for the victory. Next week the Bengals host the Seahawks, which could serve as a telling game as far as how serious a contender Cincy is. It is just hard to get excited for their regular season success because it has meant so little the last few seasons. I think Big Red, Andy Reid will coach the Chiefs up this week and they will perform much better than they did Monday, but Cincinnati will remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Kansas City 24

Cleveland (1-2) at San Diego (1-2), San Diego favored by 8

Injuries have hurt the Chargers early in the season and it started to show itself in their blowout loss at Minnesota last week. Now they return to the friendly confines of home and the even friendlier confines of playing the Cleveland Browns. The Chargers passing game has been strong this season but they really need to get Melvin Gordon and the rushing attack going. The Browns don't do anything well, they stink both offensively and defensively. I think this could be the game where Gordon makes his first real imprint on the NFL and the Chargers should roll to victory.

Prediction: San Diego 35, Cleveland 17

St. Louis (1-2) at Arizona (3-0), Arizona favored by 6 1/2

The Cardinals bandwagon is filling up after they destroyed yet another team last week. There is no denying that Arizona has been impressive, but so far the teams they have beaten have a combined record of 1-8. It should be another easy game on Sunday against the sorry Rams. The Rams still can no nothing offensively and continue to waste a strong defense. Todd Gurley made his season debut last week but after not playing football for a year, he has to deal with rust, as well as getting acclimated to the NFL, so the Rams can't count on any production from him for at least a few more weeks.

Prediction: Arizona 30, St. Louis 16

Green Bay (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2), Green Bay favored by 8 1/2

Colin Kaepernick's streak of owning Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will likely end in a big way on Sunday. It appears the 49ers are as bad as everyone thought they were. They can't cover anyone, can't stop the run, can't pass the ball, can't run the ball, the list goes on and on. Kaepernick was completely atrocious against the Cardinals, but hey, he says he get's to be himself now, so I guess that's cool. The Packers are looking like the best team in football. Their defense is still mediocre and a weird mix between getting pressure and causing turnovers but still allowing a lot of points. But it doesn't really matter because Aaron Rodgers is so damn good. I mean, he's turning James Jones into a Pro Bowler after the guy was cut by two teams this off-season. Eddie Lacy still hasn't really gotten on track, so if he can get some traction, look out NFL. I want to believe that the Niners will at least not embarrass themselves at home, but the fact is Green Bay is an excellent football team and the Niners are a very bad football team. I expect another ugly, long afternoon of watching them get dominated.

Prediction: Green Bay 42, San Francisco 21

Minnesota (2-1) at Denver (3-0), Denver favored by 7

The Broncos may be hitting their stride and it is all because of what appears to be a compromise between Peyton Manning and coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak prefers his quarterback operate behind the center, while Manning prefers working out of the shotgun. The Broncos offensive line is a bit of a mess at the moment and in the first two games, while Manning was trying to do things Kubiak's way, he was struggling. So Kubiak put Manning in the Pistol against Detroit and Manning had his best game of the season. If the Denver offense can continue to improve the Broncos could be the best team in football because of how strong they are defensively. I think we will know a lot more about Minnesota after this game. Adrian Peterson has been carrying the offense the last two weeks and the play of Teddy Bridgewater is slightly concerning. He hasn't been making the leap I expected to see from him in year two. The Vikings last road game was a disaster, so it will be interesting to see if they can put some of their improved effort from the last two weeks into this game.

Prediction: Denver 23, Minnesota 17

Dallas (2-1) at New Orleans (0-3), Pick Em'

Brandon Weeden versus Luke McCown, on Sunday night! That is a possibility, and I am sure not what the NBC execs had in mind for this Sunday night game. Drew Brees is battling to try to play this week and if he does it would give the game some much needed star power. The Cowboys came flying out of the gates last week in their first game without Tony Romo, as Joseph Randle was running all over Atlanta. But as well as Dallas played in the first half of that game was as bad as they played in the second half, and they eventually lost. Their defense just doesn't appear to be good enough to make up for the pieces Dallas is missing on offense. The Saints have a lot of issues of their own and seem to suck no matter who is quarterbacking. McCown actually played pretty well against Carolina but the Saints defense couldn't get a stop late in the game when they needed it. No matter who is quarterbacking for New Orleans, I expect them to put up points and at some point in time the Saints have to win a game at home again.

Prediction: New Orleans 30, Dallas 24

Monday, October 5

Detroit (0-3) at Seattle (1-2), Seattle favored by 9

The NFL schedule makers should have known better than to give the Lions multiple prime time slots. I guess they felt good about Detroit sustaining their success off of last year's 11-5 season, but after Monday night the Lions will be one loss away from matching their loss total of last season. The decline of their offense that we have been watching the past few years has gotten worse. Matthew Stafford seems to have plateaued and Calvin Johnson hasn't looked like Megatron in a while, as injuries have seemed to have slowed him. Seattle essentially had a bye last week playing the hapless Bears. This week's game won't be as easy but the Lions have showed nothing this year to convince me they have a prayer of going out to Seattle and earning a victory. Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham appeared to be finally getting on the same page last week, which is especially important since Marshawn Lynch is hurting right now and may not play Monday night.

Prediction: Seattle 27, Detroit 13

Last Week Straight Up: 13-3
Overall Straight Up: 31-17

Last Week Against the Spread: 10-6
Overall Against the Spread: 27-20-1

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cram Session - Week 5

Baltimore (0-3) at Pittsburgh (2-1), Baltimore favored by 2 1/2

Desperate times for the Ravens tonight, as they look for their first victory of the season. They already trail the Bengals by three games in the AFC North and have a loss to them. This game would likely be a loss too, had Ben Roethlisberger not gotten injured last Sunday in the Steelers win at St. Louis. Mike Vick makes his season debut as the starter tonight. However, those expecting to see Vick running past defenders and making crazy plays haven't been paying attention the last few seasons. Vick is a shell of his former self. He is adequate, but that is about it. He will be helped out by the various offensive stars that surround him on the Steelers, including Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Bryant. The Ravens will have to pay extra attention to Bryant, especially after they were gashed by A.J. Green last week. The Ravens have been competitive in every game but oddly they aren't making the necessary plays late in games. You expect to see that from a team not used to winning, rather than a perennial contender such as the Ravens. The Ravens are too good to keep losing and have too good of a coach in John Harbaugh to be a sad sack team. With the Steelers missing their most important player, they are ripe for the picking.

Prediction: Baltimore 18, Pittsburgh 16

Games That Matter to Me

Nebraska (2-2, 0-0) at Illinois (3-1, 0-0)

The Huskers seemed to be cruising to victory against Southern Mississippi last week, and then the defense collapsed and almost gagged the game away. The defense has been atrocious all season and it is obvious that Bo Pelini left the cupboard pretty bare on that side of the ball. The passing defense has been really susceptible and can't stop anyone and is dead last in the NCAA. The offense has performed well, especially QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. but once again the rushing attack was uneven and inconsistent in last week's win. The Huskers now have to try to get their first road victory of the season as they open their Big Ten schedule against Illinois. The Illini have a winning record but its deceptive. Their three wins have come against crap teams, they were blasted by North Carolina, and barely beat Middle Tennessee State at home last week. QB Wes Lunt has struggled in recent weeks and is probably being asked to throw the ball too much as evidenced by his less than 60% completion percentage in three of four games this season. However, with how bad the Huskers pass defense has been, he is probably due for his best game of the season on Saturday. The Nebraska run defense has been better, currently 11th in the nation, but that is partially because teams don't feel the need to run on them. Illinois gives up 4 yards a carry, so I think Terrell Newby should have a stronger game if the Huskers commit to the run. Armstrong should have another good performance, he just needs to avoid interceptions, which have sort of plagued him throughout the year. He has very good receivers in Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, and Alonzo Moore, and they are all capable of making big plays. I expect another uneven performance by Nebraska but they are a more talented team than Illinois and it would be a really dreadful sign if they can't beat them.

Prediction: Nebraska 35, Illinois 24

Top 10

#1 Ohio State (4-0, 0-0) at Indiana (4-0, 0-0)

Urban Meyer finally has settled on Cardale Jones as his starting quarterback. I ended up being wrong twice, as I kept thinking J.T. Barrett would win out because of his larger body of work, but Urbs is all about Cardale. The Buckeyes have struggled with inferior opponents and if their minds aren't right the Hoosiers could be harder to put away than most would expect. The Hoosiers have some talented players at the skill positions including QB Nate Sudfeld as well as RB Jordan Howard and I think they will be able to make some plays offensively against the stout Buckeyes defense. I think the Hoosiers can keep it close for the first half, but then Ezekiel Elliott is going to ram it down the throats of their defense and the Buckeyes will cruise to victory.

Prediction: Ohio State 41, Indiana 24

Purdue (1-3, 0-0) at #2 Michigan State (4-0, 0-0)

You could forgive the Spartans if they are looking past their next two games and starting to think about traveling to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines in two weeks. Until then, QB Connor Cook should be able to pad his stats and Heisman resume and the Spartans will be looking to avoid losing any key players to major injuries. The Boilermakers are terrible and I would be surprised if this game isn't over after the first quarter.

Prediction: Michigan State 45, Purdue 13

#3 Mississippi (4-0, 2-0) at #25 Florida (4-0, 2-0)

For the first time in years it feels like there is hope in Gainesville. The Gators are coming off a stirring victory at home against Tennessee, when they overcame a late 4th quarter deficit to pull off the shocking win. Ole Miss seemed to have a bit of a hangover after their win at Alabama and struggled to put Vanderbilt away last week. Now the Rebels face another tough SEC road test but one thing I can say for sure is they won't be overwhelmed by the atmosphere. QB Chad Kelly struggled last week and while he could get away with that versus the Commodores he will need to be much sharper against Florida. He will have his challenges versus Florida as during the Gators struggles the past few years, it hasn't been defense that has been an issue. One of the reasons Florida is 4-0 this year is that the offense is playing much better, led by QB Will Grier. Grier doesn't have eye popping stats but he plays the position smartly and doesn't put the Gators defense in bad spots with stupid turnovers. However, QB Treon Harris is returning from suspension and coach Jim McElwain intimated that he could start a quarterback rotation. In my opinion that is the worst thing he could do, as it will stifle the growth and momentum Grier has been building. RB Kelvin Taylor is famous for two reason, one he is Fred Taylor's son and second he was dressed down on national television by coach McElwain. He has overcome the public humiliation from McElwain though to earn back his starting job and he was instrumental in the win against the Volunteers. I think McElwain has the Gators on the right trajectory but I don't think they are at a point quite yet where they can knock off a Top 5 time. They will give the Rebels a hell of a game, but I expect the Rebels offense to make enough plays and scrape by with the win.

Prediction: Mississippi 27, Florida 23

Texas (1-3, 0-1) at #4 TCU (4-0, 1-0)

Texas has found some excruciating ways to gag away games the last two weeks to California and Oklahoma State. The good news for them this week is that I don't expect them to be anywhere close to winning late in the game at TCU. The Horned Frogs had a miracle ending of their own, except unlike Texas, they had the ball bounce their way. Trailing at Texas Tech late, TCU was able to catch a deflection in the end zone with just 21 seconds remaining to seal the victory. I don't think the Horned Frogs are a real playoff contender because their defense is atrocious but they will win a lot more games this year because of what QB Trevone Boykin brings to the table. It will be interesting to see how long Longhorn fans remain patient with Charlie Strong. After they lose this game on Saturday they will be 1-4 and looking at the rest of their schedule, I would be shocked if they get to 6 wins and a bowl game.

Prediction: TCU 52, Texas 31

Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1) at #5 Baylor (3-0, 0-0)

For the first time all year we will finally get to see Baylor against some decent competition. In three games versus patsies the Bears have averaged an NCAA best 64 points per game and QB Seth Russell has already thrown 15 touchdowns. The Red Raiders will be a step up in competition but only offensively. The Red Raiders and really the Big 12 in general do not believe in defense and I expect this game to follow a similar script to Texas Tech/TCU. The big difference though is that the Red Raiders are on the road for this win, so despite a valiant effort, I think they will have been disposed of long before any late game heartbreak can happen.

Prediction: Baylor 55, Texas Tech 41

#6 Notre Dame (4-0) at #12 Clemson (3-0)

It will be a hell of an atmosphere in Death Valley Saturday night when these teams meet and one tries to push themselves clearly into the Playoff discussion. The Irish have battled injuries all season but their record remains unblemished. It could be argued they haven't beaten any good teams as of yet, as that Georgia Tech win has lost some shine after the Yellow Jackets lost to Duke last week. Clemson hasn't beaten anyone good yet either though, and nearly lost to an underwhelming Louisville team on the road a couple weeks ago. The Tigers had off last week so they have had plenty of time to study up on Irish QB DeShone Kizer. In his two starts Kizer has done a good job of playing within himself and trusting his teammates to help him make plays. He hasn't tried to do anything too unnecessary and facing the type of atmosphere he will Saturday night, he needs to keep that mindset. If I am Brian Kelly my game plan is all about feeding C.J. Prosise. Prosise has averaged over 9 yards a carry in his last three games and appears to be unstoppable. If the Irish can establish Prosise early that will help the Irish manage the problems the Tigers crowd will bring on the offense. That will also open up play action and then you can hit Will Fuller deep. Fuller was held under 100 yards receiving for the first time last week but still averaged 14 yards a catch. The Irish defense will need to have their heads on a swivel trying to defense Tigers QB Deshaun Watson. Watson doesn't use his legs to make plays as much as people might think, but the threat is one that defenses need to be aware of. Watson is an accurate passer but he does press at times, so the Irish defense will have a chance to create some turnovers. Tigers RB Wayne Gallman has gotten better each game this season and the Irish rush defense was not very good against UMASS last weekend. This is a really tough game to predict, as I feel like we won't really know too much about each team until after they play each other. I do think they are pretty evenly matched squads, so I have to lean to the homefield advantage Clemson will enjoy. It is crucial for Notre Dame that they don't fall behind early or things will get very ugly. I think this game will mirror the Irish's game at Florida State last year, right down to the heartbreaking ending.

Prediction: Clemson 31, Notre Dame 28

Arizona State (2-2, 0-1) at #7 UCLA (4-0, 1-0)

The Sun Devils are on the verge of having their season go off the rails after being blasted at home by USC last week. They face an even better team this week in UCLA. I picked the Bruins to fall on the road at Arizona last week and boy was I wrong. After some shaky efforts, freshman QB Josh Rosen was back to playing up to the hype that preceded him. With Oregon being completely terrible this year, it appears that the Bruins are fighting the Utes to be the class of the Pac-12 this season. UCLA's run defense was not very good last week and that is something the Sun Devils will look to expose in this game. I don't expect UCLA to look as good as they did last week or the Sun Devils to look as bad as they did, leading to a game a little closer than most would expect.

Prediction: UCLA 38, Arizona State 28

#13 Alabama (3-1, 0-1) at #8 Georgia (4-0, 2-0)

A big deal is being made out of the fact that Georgia are favorites over mighty Bama. I am not really sure why, it seems reasonable to me. The game is in Athens and Alabama doesn't appear to be nearly as mighty as we have seen them be in recent years. We don't know a ton about Georgia either. They haven't played anyone that I would call good. What we do know is that the Bama defense will have their hands full with Bulldogs RB Nick Chubb. QB Greyson Lambert has also been very good, throwing zero interceptions through four games and having an absurd completion percentage in his last two games. He has completed 33 of 35 passes, throwing just one incompletion in each game. You have to figure that hot streak won't continue, but the Bama defense can be carved up by evidence of what Ole Miss did to them. I don't expect Lambert to be the focal point though, Georgia will try to pound the rock with Chubb, much like Alabama will try to pound things with RB Derrick Henry, who already has 8 rushing touchdowns this season. QB Jake Coker has struggled at times this season and I think that is mostly because Alabama is lacking a big play option at the receiver position. This is a huge game for Georgia coach Mark Richt and the Georgia program as a whole. They have always been on the precipice of being a true championship contender but never able to take that next step. If they can't beat Alabama in what is sort of a down year for the Tide, then maybe a championship run will never happen as long as Richt is coach. I believe in trends and the recent trends tell me that Bama will be up to the challenge on the road, and the Dogs can't be trusted in a big spot.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Georgia 24

Eastern Michigan (1-3) at #9 LSU (3-0)

The only reason to pay attention to this game is to find out if Leonard Fournette can run for over 200 yards for a third straight week. If he does not, the only reason would likely be that Les Miles pulled him from the game early to avoid injury since it had gotten out of hand.

Prediction: LSU 49, Eastern Michigan 14

Last Week: 8-2
Overall: 36-6