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Fearless predictions: Week 8

Spotlight game

Saturday

No. 6 LSU at No. 4 Auburn (-6), 3:30 p.m.: It’s the Auburn offense, ranked No. 1 in the SEC, against the LSU defense, ranked No. 1 in the SEC. Auburn has given up 118 points in four SEC games. But with Cam Newton on offense, the Tigers can afford to. A win here and Auburn should head into the Iron Bowl at Alabama on Nov. 26 with an unbeaten record. Auburn could also jump Boise State in the BCS standings with a win, and possibly go higher with Oklahoma playing a tough road game against Missouri. LSU has only given up more than 20 points twice this season. But LSU hasn’t seen a player like Newton. The computers love the Tigers with an average ranking of No. 2. Much like Auburn, LSU can make a big move in the BCS standings with a win. LSU’s offense is 92nd in the nation. So watch for Jarrett Lee being used more in this game at quarterback. Lee completed 9 of 11 passes with two touchdowns against Florida a few weeks back. But don’t expect the high-scoring show we saw in the Arkansas-Auburn game. LSU has the No. 3 defense in the nation. It’s defense that keeps LSU in this game and close until the end. But, ultimately, Newton makes a play and strengthens his Heisman profile. Auburn 27, LSU 23

Other noteworthy Saturday games

No. 7 Michigan State at Northwestern (+5), noon: This game seems to have “upset” written all over it. Why, you ask? I still have visions dancing in my head of Northwestern upsetting 9-0 Iowa last season. And don’t the Spartans always lose a game like this? Granted, Northwestern has just one loss and Michigan State is playing just its second road game of the season. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa has completed 78 percent of his passes with just two interceptions. He’s fourth in the nation in passing efficiency (173.27 quarterback rating). He’s also rushed for 386 yards, with two 100-yard rushing games. Michigan State, however, is tied for third in the nation with 12 interceptions. The Spartans have also done pretty well defending the run, allowing just 111 yards a game. Plus, linebacker Greg Jones has been sensational. At this point, I simply like the balance I’m seeing from the Michigan State offense. The Spartans are rushing for over 200 yards per game and quarterback Kirk Cousins has been solid. Michigan State did a pretty good job containing Michigan’s Denard Robinson. So I expect the Spartans to keep Persa in check. The game is on the road and the Spartans are going to slip up at some point. Just not here. It will be close, but Sparty prevails. Michigan State 24, Northwestern 20

Notre Dame vs. Navy (+6.5) (at New Meadowlands Stadium), noon: Navy has won two straight over Notre Dame. Do you think Brian Kelly and the Irish are aware of this? Navy is ninth in the country in rushing, averaging 259 yards a game. Navy’s option, with quarterback Ricky Dobbs, can be a nightmare to defend. So Notre Dame, which has been decent defending the run, will have problems. Navy’s defense has been really good this season and is ninth in the nation in pass defense. Dayne Crist will be without tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Theo Riddick. Michael Floyd, the Irish’s best wide receiver, may not play due to injury. Even if he does play, he won’t be at full strength. Something tells me Navy beats Notre Dame again. Navy 24, Notre Dame 20

No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 15 Iowa (-5.5), 3:30 p.m.: Wisconsin won’t have a lot of time to enjoy its win over Ohio State. The Badgers must go to Iowa City to play a Hawkeyes team that stumbled with a bad first half at Arizona and has been very good since. John Clay and James White, behind a solid offensive line, chewed up a strong Ohio State front seven. Iowa’s front seven is even better. Michigan’s Denard Robinson didn’t have too much success against Iowa last week before leaving the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Wisconsin did a nice job of preventing deep passes from Terrelle Pryor. The Badgers will have to do the same thing this week as Ricky Stanzi, playing like a steady senior, has been clicking with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. Iowa 27, Wisconsin 19

No. 16 Nebraska at No. 14 Oklahoma State (+5.5), 3:30 p.m.: Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska offense stalled mightily against Texas last week. Martinez, who played his worst game of the season and was benched, will need to get back in gear because the Oklahoma State offense can put up a lot of points. Brandon Weeden, Kendall Hunter and Justin Blackmon are a formidable trio. Nebraska has one of the better secondaries in the nation, so it should be a good matchup against Weeden. The real question is whether Martinez, a redshirt freshman, can shake off the benching and get his head back in the game. The unbeaten Cowboys still have trips to Kansas State and Texas left, as well as a home game against No. 1 Oklahoma. Oklahoma State’s defense is 92nd in the nation, giving up 27 points per game. Nebraska has a top 10 defense. The Cornhuskers will rebound this week. Nebraska 34, Oklahoma State 27

Georgia Tech at Clemson (-5.5), 3:30 p.m.: Despite the records (Georgia Tech is 5-2/3-1 and Clemson is 3-3/1-2), I still think Clemson is the better team. The passing of Kyle Parker and the running of Andre Ellington will be the difference. Neither defense has been great this season. And the Tigers will need to shut down Georgia Tech’s ground game, which is piling up 328 yards a game (second in the nation). The Yellow Jackets cannot throw the ball with any effectiveness. Clemson gave No. 5 Auburn all it could handle, losing in overtime. That loss started a three-game streak with losses to Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina following. Clemson has talent and the Tigers are at home. That’s good enough for me. Clemson 27, Georgia Tech 23

North Carolina at Miami (Fla.) (-6.5), 7:30 p.m.: Pretty big game in the ACC Coastal with each of these teams needing a win to stay within striking range of Virginia Tech. Despite the NCAA investigation and key players being suspended, the Tar Heels have done a remarkable job keeping their season moving in the right direction. After close losses to LSU and Georgia Tech, North Carolina has won four straight. Miami made too many mistakes against Ohio State and simply got destroyed by Florida State. The Hurricanes are not nearly as good as I thought they would be. Jacory Harris is always the wild card for this team. North Carolina has forced 16 turnovers this season, including 11 interceptions. Harris has a knack for throwing interceptions. He threw 17 last season and already has nine this season. North Carolina 23, Miami (Fla.) 21

No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 11 Missouri (+3), 8 p.m.: The Sooners will look to avoid being the third top-ranked team to suffer an upset on the road in as many weeks. Oklahoma has played some close games this season, but got a breather last week with a 52-0 win over Iowa State. Landry Jones, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles will go up against a Missouri defense that is giving up just 11 points per game, good for second in the nation. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert played through a hip injury and had his best game of the season last week at Texas A&M with 361 yards (31-for-47) and three touchdowns. He’ll need a similar performance against a Sooners team that is 81st nationally in pass defense. Ultimately, the Sooners have more talent, especially on offense. Missouri will be able to stay with Oklahoma, especially with that defense. But Oklahoma pulls away late. Oklahoma 30, Missouri 24

Air Force at No. 5 TCU (-18.5), 8 p.m.: Here are some interesting stats: TCU is first in the nation in points allowed (9.29); second in the nation in total defense (218.29 yards a game); ninth in the nation in rush defense (90.29); Air Force doesn’t throw the ball, but TCU is second in the nation in pass defense (128). TCU has also allowed just three points in their last three games. Air Force leads in the nation in rushing (347 yards per game). But I’m going with TCU’s defense. TCU 30, Air Force 7

Washington at No. 18 Arizona (-6.5), 10:15 p.m.: Arizona won’t have starting quarterback Nick Foles, who is out with a knee injury. But the Wildcats’ defense, ranked No. 10 nationally, will show up. Washington has been wildly inconsistent. The Huskies upset USC on the road and beat a good Oregon State team in double overtime. But there’s also been the losses to a not so good BYU team and Nebraska, which completely dominated in a 56-21 beating. I’ll take defense and home field advantage over inconsistency. Arizona 27, Washington 24

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