Fearless Predictions

SATURDAY'S FEATURED GAME

 
Wisconsin Badgers NCAAA Football Team No. 6 Wisconsin (6-0)
at No. 16 Michigan
State (5-1)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Line: Wisconsin -8.5
Michigan State Spartans NCAA Football Team

Can we just call this the Big Ten Championship and let everyone rest up for the bowl games?

Wisconsin has been the best-looking team in the Big Ten by a ten-mile wide margin, but it also helps that it played Nebraska and, and, uhhhh, Nebraska. As much as head coach Bret Bielema doesn’t seem to care about the criticism of the non-conference schedule – it’s not Bucky’s fault that Oregon State turned out to be miserable – it’s been a big problem with the BCS computer formulas. The Badgers have the universal respect of the voters, partly because of ten straight regular season wins by double-digits, but being ranked No. 4 in both human polls didn’t matter in the first BCS rankings with the computers averaging out to a No. 11 spot.

No matter what the wires and buttons say, if Wisconsin beats Michigan State at Michigan State, and does it with ease, it really will be time to start up the national title talk.

If Wisconsin is the best-looking team in the Big Ten, MSU is No. 2 after getting by Ohio State at Ohio State and beating up Michigan last week. The team was awful in the 31-13 loss to Notre Dame, but the D, which will have to play without William Gholston (suspended by Big Ten) has been a brick wall in the other five games ranking No. 2 in the nation in total defense behind Alabama, fourth in scoring defense, and No. 1 in pass defense and pass efficiency defense.

Why Wisconsin might win: It’s not like the Michigan State offense is rolling at a high level. It blew up Central Michigan and Florida Atlantic, but it needed the defense to take care of business against Michigan and it got just one measly early touchdown against Ohio State. The passing game worked in comeback mode against Notre Dame, but the ground game was stopped cold. The running game was terrific against Michigan, but the passing game cranked out just 120 yards. Against Ohio State, Kirk Cousins threw for 250 yards, but he also gave away two picks for the sputtering attack. Wisconsin’s defense hasn’t been tested yet, but it’s active enough and aggressive enough against the run to keep the Spartan ground game from taking control.

Why Michigan State might win: Wisconsin’s defense, Michigan State would like you introduce you to something you haven’t seen all season long; an offense that can throw the forward pass. The Badger secondary lost top corner Devin Smith for the year with a foot injury and has had a variety of bumps and bruises across the board for an already thin unit. Fortunately, it hasn't mattered much considering the pass rush has been decent against a slew of awful offensive lines and the two good quarterbacks the defensive backs have faced – Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and NIU's Chandler Harnish – are mainly runners. The Spartan offensive line has been terrific in pass protection so far and Kirk Cousins should get all the time he needs to hit on the midrange throws to keep the air attack moving. The Spartan passing game might not be special, but it'll look like the New England Patriots to the Badgers.

What to watch for: This might be Russell Wilson’s national Heisman moment, but Wisconsin needs to get Montee Ball going right away to show the ultra-confident MSU defensive line that it’s in for a whole new world compared to last year. Ball ran just two times for six yards in last season’s loss, but over the first six games of this season he’s averaging over six yards per carry with 16 rushing touchdowns and a receiving score. Going back to last year, in his last 12 games he has 32 total scores.

Prediction:

  Wisconsin 30, Michigan State 23
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

NO. 20 AUBURN AT NO. 1 LSU

 
Auburn Tigers No. 20 Auburn (5-2) at No. 1 LSU (7-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: LSU -21.5
LSU Tigers

Prior to Wednesday's reported suspensions of three players, including star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, LSU was crushing everything in its path. The Tigers beat up quarterback-less Florida and Tennessee teams over the last two weeks and laughed off challenges from dangerous Oregon and West Virginia offensive attacks. It's all about maintaining focus in the face of this week's news before getting to finally turn all focus to the showdown at Alabama in a few weeks. First, the No. 1 team in the BCS standings has to go through the formality of dispensing of an Auburn team that’s still in the SEC title hunt. While many might think this is a foregone conclusion, Auburn is still in the mix despite getting its doors blown off by Arkansas a few weeks ago. Taking advantage of the same dead Florida team LSU picked over two weeks ago, the Tigers came up with a 17-6 win last week to make it three games in the last four allowing 14 points or fewer. If nothing else, Auburn can claim to possibly being the best team in the SEC East with a win at Georgia in a few weeks, but it still might just be the fourth best team in the West. LSU has won three of the last four games in the series, but Auburn holds a 10-8 advantage since the two became SEC West brothers. To make it 11, the defending national champions need to come up with a performance even more stunning than last year's ground game onslaught.

Prediction:

  LSU 37, Auburn 13
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

USC AT NOTRE DAME

 
USC Trojans USC (5-1) at Notre Dame (4-2)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -8.5
Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Every matchup between USC and Notre Dame has its own pulse and set of storylines. The 83rd edition of this classic intersectional rivalry is no different. Last Nov. 27 marked the first meeting of the new head coaches, Lane Kiffin and Brian Kelly, with the Irish snapping the Trojans' series-best eight-game winning streak in dramatic fashion. This fall, both programs are looking to remain hot, recapturing some national respect while sneaking a little closer to the Top 25. That this will be the first night game in South Bend since 1990 will just add to the intrigue and electricity level. Notre Dame has regrouped nicely from its 0-2 start by winning four straight games; the Sept. 17 victory over ranked Michigan State that started the streak looks even better today than it did at the time. Testament to its versatility, Notre Dame has found different ways to survive. Against Pittsburgh last month, it used defense in a 15-12 nail-biter. Over the last games, it scored 97 points to blow past Purdue and Air Force. If ND can clear this week's hurdle, a BCS bowl berth becomes an attainable goal. Without much hoopla outside the West Coast, USC has begun to play a better brand of football, beating Arizona and Cal in consecutive weeks. Still, no one is quite sure of the potential of these Trojans. This trip to the Midwest will be a particularly big deal for Kiffin, who’s still looking for his first signature win as USC's head coach.

Prediction:

  Notre Dame 31, USC 24
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

NO. 25 WASHINGTON AT NO. 8 STANFORD

 
Washington Huskies No. 25 Washington (5-1) at No. 8 Stanford (6-0)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Line: Stanford -21
Stanford Cardinal

Washington is back in the Top 25 with its highest ranking in eight years. Good for you, Huskies. Good for you, Stanford, as well. Oddly enough, U-Dub's good fortune has been the Cardinal's as well. Stanford has been pining for a ranked opponent between now and the much-anticipated Nov. 12 visit from Oregon in order to beef up a weak first-half schedule. The program has plowed through the weakest part of the slate by an average score of 45-11, mostly drawing blank stares from discerning voters and computer models. A sizzling visitor from Seattle is a well-timed gift for the nation's No. 8 team in the maiden BCS rankings. Go ahead and pencil in Washington as one of the nation's biggest surprises of the first two months. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has been doing nice things in Seattle, but conventional preseason wisdom suggested that the program might be in store for a dip in the first year after the graduation of transformational QB Jake Locker. Uh-uh. The Huskies have actually been better than at any time during Locker's tenure, comfortably winning three straight Pac-12 games over Cal, Utah and Colorado. With a heifer-sized upset on the Farm this Saturday night, they'd instantly become contenders for the North Division title.

Prediction:

  Stanford 42, Washington 24
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

NO. 4 OKLAHOMA STATE AT MISSOURI

 
Oklahoma State Cowboys No. 4 Oklahoma State (6-0) at Missouri (3-3)
on FX

Saturday, Noon ET
Line: Oklahoma State -6.5
Missouri Tigers

And now Oklahoma State is in the spotlight and the pressure is really on. At least according to the BCS computers, Oklahoma State is the No. 4 team in the nation, and while that might change as the season goes on and the formulas change things up, now the path to the national championship is there. If the Cowboys win out, and that would include wins over Kansas State, at Texas Tech, Baylor, and Oklahoma, they'll almost certainly end up going to the BCS Championship Game. Before booking tickets for New Orleans, OSU has to be a bit more consistent against the better teams, playing one great team, (Texas A&M), one above-average team (Texas), and one mediocre team with a great record (Louisiana-Lafayette), and the attack didn't come up with a full sixty minutes against the Aggies and Longhorns. Beating Missouri on the road would be yet another great step. Even though the Tigers' record might not seem all that great at 3-3, they're more than dangerous enough to pull off the upset and shake up the Big 12 race. This is a loaded Tigers team that hasn't played up to its potential, but it's starting to find its stride. The defense will be pushed, the offense needs to show it can work against a decent D, and the team is desperate for a big victory, with road trips to Texas A&M and Baylor up next.

Prediction:

  Missouri 38, Oklahoma State 37
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

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