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Fearless predictions: Week 9

Spotlight game

No. 2 Oregon at USC, 8 p.m.: This is the Trojans’ bowl game. And with the game in Los Angeles, Oregon needs to be very careful. USC’s defense has been poor, but the offense is seventh in the country. Oregon has the top-ranked offense in the country and can put up a lot of points quickly. So how do the Trojans prevent Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and the rest of the Ducks from turning this game into a rout? Outscore the high-scoring Ducks. USC can do that. Barkley has 20 touchdown passes with just four interceptions. Robert Woods has 32 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns and Ronald Johnson has 39 catches for 464 yards and seven touchdowns. Oregon’s pass defense is 51st in the nation. The problem is, USC couldn’t outscore Washington and Stanford in high-scoring games. Oregon is plus 12 in turnover differential. USC needs to protect the ball or this could get out of hand.
The pick: Oregon 30, USC 27

Other key games on Saturday

No. 17 Oklahoma State at Kansas State, noon: Kansas State gave up 48 points against Nebraska and 47 against Baylor last week. Oklahoma State’s potent offense could put up similar numbers. Kansas State doesn’t pass the ball very well so the Cowboys need to focus on stopping running back Daniel Thomas, who has 895 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Even without star wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who will not play after being arrested for DUI on Tuesday, the Cowboys should have enough to win this game.
The pick: Oklahoma State 41, Kansas State 30

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 18 Iowa, 3:30 p.m.: The Spartans had to rally from 17-0 against Northwestern last week. That can’t happen this week. Despite giving up 59 points in the last two games, Iowa’s defense is still formidable with perhaps the best defensive line in the country. This is Michigan State’s last remaining serious obstacle for an unbeaten season and Big Ten title. The Spartans know what’s at stake. But can Iowa really drop its second straight game at Kinnick Stadium? I’m going to say no. Kinnick is a tough venue for opposing teams. Iowa pulls it out with Ricky Stanzi hitting Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for the winning score late in the fourth quarter.
The pick: Iowa 30, Michigan State 27

No. 6 Missouri at No. 14 Nebraska, 3:30 p.m.: This is essentially the Big 12 North title game. The winner likely claims the division and a spot in the Big 12 title game. But the Tigers have a lot more riding on this game. Missouri, if it stays unbeaten, becomes a factor in the race to the BCS title game. In a 51-41 win over Oklahoma State last week, Nebraska allowed 200 yards rushing to Kendall Hunter and Blackmon had a big day catching the ball. Missouri also has a good rushing attack and quarterback Blaine Gabbert is can make things happen with the pass. But I like Nebraska for two reasons: the game is in Lincoln, and Taylor Martinez rebounded nicely last week after getting benched during the Texas game.
The pick: Nebraska 27, Missouri 24

Florida vs. Georgia at Jacksonville, Fla., 3:30 p.m.: Any other season and this would be a huge game. But both programs are struggling. Georgia has won three straight after a 1-4 start. Florida has been in an offensive funk all season. The Gators have lost three straight, including the past two games in the Swamp. Urban Meyer has had two weeks to prepare for this game. I’m going to go with Florida. The Gators have the edge in talent and the young players should be ready for this game after close losses to LSU and Mississippi State. Plus, the Gators have the better defense. I’ll say Florida snaps its losing streak.
The pick: Florida 23, Georgia 13

California at Oregon State, 3:30 p.m.: Cal has been either really good or really bad this season. The Bears won two straight, then lost two straight. Cal looked good in a blowout win over UCLA, then bad in a blowout loss to USC. Last week was the good in a 50-17 win over Arizona State. Oregon State’s three losses have come against TCU, Boise State and a one-point, double-overtime loss to Washington. In a recent report in the Oregonian, Beavers star running back Jacquizz Rodgers talked about his killer instinct spreading to the other players on the team. With that being said, I’ll take the Beavers this week.
The pick: Oregon State 34, California 31

No. 1 Auburn at Mississippi, 6 p.m.: Is this the fourth straight week the No. 1 team falls on the road? Auburn, No. 1 team in the latest BCS standings, has a lot riding on each game the rest of the way. Mississippi is 3-4 and just 1-3 in the SEC. And remember, this is the same Mississippi team that lost to Jacksonville State earlier this season. Mississippi is giving up 32 points per game. Auburn’s defense hasn’t been great this season and will have to stop Jeremiah Masoli. But there is nothing that indicates Auburn will lose this game, especially with the way Cam Newton is playing. Sure, the No. 1 team playing on the road in a hostile environment can be trouble. This game may be close for a while, but Auburn will win.
The pick: Auburn 38, Mississippi 27

No. 25 Baylor at Texas, 7 p.m.: Texas has lost three of four, including two straight at home. The Longhorns were beaten in Austin last week against Iowa State, which got its first win in program history over Texas. The Iowa State loss followed a 20-13 win at Nebraska. For as Jekyll and Hyde as Texas has been this season, I think this is the week the good Texas comes to play. Baylor is 6-2 (3-1 in the Big 12) and averaging over 500 yards of offense each game. Quarterback Robert Griffin has thrown for 2,373 and 18 touchdowns this season. He also has a 100-yard rushing game. I just have to believe Mack Brown has the Longhorns ready for this game. The Texas defense got Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez benched. Could Texas really lose three straight at home?
The pick: Texas 27, Baylor 21

Kentucky at No. 21 Mississippi State, 7 p.m.: Mississippi State has won five straight. The Bulldogs played Auburn very tough this season, losing 17-14. So we know the Bulldogs are legit. Mississippi State wants to win by running the ball (the Bulldogs average 219 rushing yards a game) and playing solid defense (the Bulldogs give up just 17 points a game). Kentucky has lost three of four, but did beat South Carolina. Kentucky’s offense can be very good. But I like Mississippi State’s formula of running the ball and defense.
The pick: Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 17

No. 8 Utah at Air Force, 7:30 p.m.: This game matches the nation’s No. 1 rushing attack against one of the nation’s top run defenses. Air Force averages 326.5 yards on the ground, while Utah gives up just 87.4 rushing yards a game. Utah is also third nationally by allowing 12.9 points per game. Air Force is unbeaten at home, with losses coming at Oklahoma, San Diego State and TCU. This series has had some close games. And with Air Force’s triple option attack, Utah could have some problems.
The pick: Utah 31, Air Force 17

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