News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.
Fearless predictions: Week 9
No. 11 Michigan State at No. 14 Nebraska (-4), 12 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Outside of a one-sided loss at Notre Dame in September, Michigan State has survived every test. And the Spartans could survive this one if their two-pronged rushing attack of Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell can poke holes in the Blackshirts defense. Speaking of the Cornhuskers’ defense, they are ranked 54th in the nation. The low point of the season for Nebraska came in a 48-17 loss at Wisconsin. They recovered a week later to beat Ohio State, 34-27, and the week after that in a 41-14 win at Minnesota. Still, Nebraska hasn’t proved it can beat good teams. Michigan State 33, Nebraska 31
Rose’s pick: Michigan State, fresh off the memorable last-second win against Wisconsin, heads to Lincoln for a key showdown in the Legends Division. The Spartans are the only undefeated team in conference play in the Legends Division. Michigan State is No. 2 nationally in total defense. The focus will be on Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. If the Spartans can shut down Martinez’s running ability and force him into a passer, Michigan State will be in good shape. Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins has played well lately. Plus, the Spartans have three capable running backs to go against a Nebraska defense that has been shaky this season. Michigan State 24, Nebraska 23
Missouri at No. 16 Texas A&M (-10.5), 12 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Texas A&M has hit a hot streak despite a leaky defense. The Aggies have been able to overcome their questionable defense with a big time offense. Ryan Tannehill has thrown nine touchdowns in his last three games. Six came against Baylor, so people need to be tempered a little bit. That notwithstanding, Missouri’s defense has been a bit shoddy, too, and will struggle in Aggie land. Texas A&M 40, Missouri 26
Rose’s pick: Both teams have good offenses and can put up points. The key will be which defense shows up. The Tigers have lost three of their last four games and are just 1-3 in the Big 12. In its four losses, Missouri has given up 144 points. Texas A&M has won three straight after two tough losses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas. In those three wins, Texas A&M has scored 133. Missouri has weapons on offense, including quarterback James Franklin and Henry Josey. The Aggies, however, are playing better at this point. This could be a preview of a future SEC rivalry. Texas A&M 38, Missouri 28
Illinois at No. 19 Penn State (-5), 3:30 p.m.
Henry’s pick: To say this is a huge game for Penn State would be the understatement of this young century. Joe Pa’s crew has won six straight and has been absolutely rock solid on defense. But now we’ll see if they can do it against a quality team. Penn State hasn’t beaten a ranked team. And its seven wins were against Indiana State, Temple, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue and Northwestern. With Silas Redd leading the rushing attack, the Nittany Lions should be able to control a struggling Illinois team. Penn State 21, Illinois 16
Rose’s pick: Penn State has won six straight and is the surprise first-place team in the Leaders Division. The formula for success has been a nasty defense, with defensive tackle Devon Still and linebacker Gerald Hodges leading the way, and the running of Silas Redd. Redd has rushed for no less than 129 yards in his last four games, including a career-high 164 yards last Saturday at Northwestern. Illinois was rolling along, but has lost two straight to Ohio State and Purdue. In those losses, Illinois has started slow and scored a combined 21 points. The forecast for Saturday in Happy Valley is for snow as Joe Paterno tries to past Eddie Robinson for most career wins in Division I history. Penn State 20, Illinois 14
Baylor at No. 3 Oklahoma State (-14), 3:30 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Baylor’s shot at a special season disappeared after a 55-28 loss at Texas A&M last Saturday. That doesn’t mean the Bears won’t make things tough on the Cowboys early. Look for Robert Griffin III to go to the air early and often. Oklahoma State’s defense certainly hasn’t been a national-championship caliber group, which is why this game will be close for three quarters. In the end, however, Oklahoma State’s combo of QB Brandon Weeden and wide receivers Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper will be too much for Baylor. Oklahoma State 48, Baylor 29
Rose’s pick: After Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech last week, the Cowboys are looking like the Big 12 favorite and a serious contender to end up in New Orleans playing for the BCS national title. Robert Griffin III has been great for Baylor this season. The Bears’ defense, however, has not. Baylor is ranked 97th nationally in total defense. Baylor can score, but it’s going to need to stop Oklahoma State to win. The Cowboys are No. 3 in total offense nationally and are averaging 46 points per game. Oklahoma State 44, Baylor 30
No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 8 Kansas State (+13.5), 3:30 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Although it hasn’t beaten a top-notch opponent (sorry, Baylor doesn’t count anymore), Kansas State has managed to pull out wins in a variety of ways. The question Kansas State needs to answer is can they move the ball through the air against Oklahoma? The Sooners will stack the line against Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein and running back John Hubert, which will put pressure on the Wildcats to try and throw the ball a little more than usual. The Sooners will lock up the Wildcats running game and win going away in the fourth. Oklahoma 33, Kansas State 16
Rose’s pick: Oklahoma is coming off a bad loss at home to Texas Tech. The Sooners actually fell behind 31-7 and eventually lost 41-38. Kansas State is cruising along at 7-0 and 4-0 in the Big 12. The Wildcats have had some nice wins this season, including victories over Miami (Fla.), Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech. Kansas State has won by controlling games on the ground, playing good defense and turnover margin. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein leads the team in rushing and has thrown eight touchdowns. A win would definitely convince any doubters that Kansas State is for real and a Big 12 title contender. However, it is unlikely Oklahoma is going to lose two straight. Oklahoma 24, Kansas State 21
No. 22 Georgia vs. Florida (+3), 3:30 p.m. in Jacksonville, Fla.
Henry’s pick: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has been solid and spreads the ball well. Add that to a stable of quality running backs in Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Richard Samuel and Georgia’s offense will be difficult to handle. Florida has dropped three straight. To be fair, those three games were against Alabama, LSU and Auburn. Even so, Georgia’s versatility on offense might be too much for the Gators to deal with. Offensively, it’s been a nightmare for the Gators, who have averaged just nine points in their last three games. Georgia 21, Florida 13
Rose’s pick: This is a must-win situation for Florida, which has lost three straight and is just 2-3 in the SEC. Florida has recently dominated this series, winning 18 of 21. But Georgia comes in riding a five-game winning streak and is a serious contender in the SEC East. The Bulldogs are sixth nationally in total defense (272.86 yards per game). The Gators have struggled mightily on offense over the past three games. Florida, however, should get some help this week as quarterback Jeff Brantley returns from injury. Florida’s defense has also been good (ranked 11th nationally). An interesting matchup should be Florida’s pass defense (ranked sixth nationally) against Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who has thrown 16 touchdown passes. Florida 20, Georgia 17
No. 25 West Virginia at Rutgers (+7), 3:30 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Last week’s loss to Louisville makes this Saturday’s game the biggest of the year for Rutgers. To get a win Scarlet Knights freshman quarterback Gary Nova (3 interceptions) can’t just give the ball away, especially with West Virginia still smarting after getting blasted, 49-23, by Syracuse. West Virginia has struggled against good offenses. Rutgers’ offense has been up and down for much of the season, with last week’s 16-14 loss to Cardinals their worst performance of the season. Normally, the Mountaineers would be a heavy favorite, but Rutgers has the added advantage of Eric LeGrand leading the team out of the tunnel. Rutgers won’t win, but it won’t be a blowout. West Virginia 26, Rutgers 17
Rose’s pick: West Virginia and Rutgers both lost last week so this game lost a little bit of luster. But the Big East title race is still wide open and the winner of this game will remain a contender. The Mountaineers didn’t look good last week at Syracuse, allowing 443 yards of total offense in a 49-23 loss. Syracuse also pressured and harassed West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Rutgers could present similar problems for the West Virginia offense. Rutgers is allowing just 16 points per game and is 19th nationally in pass defense (185 yards per game). Plus, the Scarlet Knights are No. 1 nationally in turnovers gained (25), tied for No. 1 nationally in interceptions (15) and sixth nationally in sacks (24). West Virginia is going to need to limit mistakes and force some turnovers. It’s going to be a close one, but Smith and the Mountaineers’ passing game will prevail. West Virginia 27, Rutgers 23
No. 5 Clemson at Georgia Tech (+3.5), 8 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Will Clemson’s run end at some point? It won’t if the Yellow Jackets allow Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd to pick it apart. Boyd has thrown nine touchdowns in his last two games. We can’t forget about his 386-yard, four-touchdown performance against Auburn. Clemson is the real deal. Georgia Tech on the other hand, has seen its promising season slip away thanks to a shaky offense. The Yellow Jackets managed just 211 total yards in a 21-7 loss to Miami last week. Clemson 34, Georgia Tech 20
Rose’s pick: Everybody has been waiting for Clemson to stumble at some point. It almost happened at Maryland a few weeks ago. Is this the week? Well, the Clemson defense needs to show up against Georgia Tech. The Tigers have allowed 83 points and 886 yards of total offense over the past two weeks. Clemson is giving up nearly 170 rushing yards per game. Georgia Tech is piling up 321 rushing yards per game. The key will be whether Georgia Tech can shut down Clemson’s big-play passing attack with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Georgia Tech’s pass defense is ranked eighth nationally (170.5 yards per game). Georgia Tech started out 6-0 and 3-0 in the ACC. But the Yellow Jackets won those three games by an average margin of seven points. Georgia Tech has scored just 28 points in its last two ACC games, both losses. Clemson had the close call against Maryland a few weeks back and allowed too many points in a win over North Carolina last week. Georgia Tech will need to get its offense on track this week. The Yellow Jackets will do that and the defense appears primed to slow down Clemson. Georgia Tech 34, Clemson 30
No. 6 Stanford at USC (+7.5), 8 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Andrew Luck’s golden arm has put Stanford into position to make a run for the national title. Even USC coach Lane Kiffin called Luck “perfect”. With a bowl-game ban, Kiffin’s boys will be playing for pride this week. You’d be surprised how far pride can carry a team. It helps to have talent to go with that pride. After uplifting wins at Cal and Notre Dame and the stellar play of quarterback Matt Barkley, USC probably thinks it can beat anyone. The Trojans won’t be wrong. USC 37, Stanford 35
Rose’s pick: USC dominated in the trenches in last Saturday’s win over Notre Dame in South Bend. The Trojans had a very balanced attack last week against the Irish and will need a similar effort this week. The key, however, is the passing game with Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. Stanford has been effective getting to the quarterback this season with 25 sacks, but its pass defense is ranked 81st nationally (239 yards per game). Stanford was dominant in last week’s win over Washington. Andrew Luck and the offense are playing at a high level. USC’s defense played well last week, but the pass defense is a concern with a national ranking of 104 (265 yards per game). It will be interesting to see if USC tries to be physical the way it was against Notre Dame. Stanford, however, has a solid offensive line and USC’s depth is a problem. The Trojans will hang around for a while, but Luck and offense pull away late. Stanford 37, USC 24
No. 15 Wisconsin at Ohio State (+7), 8 p.m.
Henry’s pick: This game, although a bit watered down now, still has Big Ten championship implications. And after a crazy loss at Michigan State, the Badgers will not allow another win to slip through their grasp. But the Badgers need to prove to themselves that last week’s 37-31 loss was just an aberration for their defense. Until last week’s game, the Badgers hadn’t given up more than 17 points in a game. Ohio State’s 17-7 win at Illinois two weeks ago notwithstanding, the offense has been non-existent at times. They can move the ball, but haven’t been able to punch it in at times. They won’t do it on Saturday either. Wisconsin 23, Ohio State 15
Rose’s pick: Are the Buckeyes getting a wounded Badgers team or a fired up Badgers team? Wisconsin’s loss at Michigan State last Saturday night eliminated any chance of a BCS national title this season. Ohio State’s defense has been good this season, currently ranked 16th nationally (304.86 yards per game). The problem is Ohio State’s offense, which has struggled and faces Wisconsin’s top-10 defense (ranked ninth nationally). Running back Dan Herron and tackle Mike Adams have helped Ohio State’s rushing attack since their returns. But Ohio State is 115th nationally in passing yards per game. Ohio State’s defense is going to keep the Buckeyes in this game. Wisconsin is going to be feeling the effects of last week’s loss at Michigan State. But in the end, the Badgers have too many options on offense to be completely stopped. Wisconsin 23, Ohio State 17
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