Fearless Predictions

FRIDAY'S FEATURED GAME

 
Auburn Tigers NCAA Football Team No. 2 Auburn
at No. 11 Alabama

Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -4
Alabama Crimson Tide NCAA Football Team

 

Coming Friday: Fearless Predictions for Saturday's games

Oh sure, South Carolina isn’t going to roll over in the SEC Championship, and Oregon, Boise State, or TCU would all give the Tigers a good run, but in so many ways, this is it. This is it for Auburn because there’s still a great chance it can go to the BCS Championship after a loss to the Tide (flip a coin on whether or not 12-1 Auburn gets in over 12-0 Boise State), but as great as winning a national title might be, the fun would get sucked out of the room every time a Tide fan pipe in with a, “yeah, but we got you.” Last year, Alabama beat the Tigers in a fantastic Iron Bowl, but there was plenty of chirping coming from Auburn fans about how nasty the 26-21 battle was. Ramp that up ten times if Bama comes up with the win this year. No, if Auburn is going to do this, and if it’s going to be the next in line of SEC teams who win the national title, it’s going to want to do it clean, and without a blip. There’s already enough of a cloud hovering over this team with an apparent Sword of Damocles waiting to drop with the ongoing investigation into Cam Newton. But for this week, for right now, unless anything new comes to light, all that matters is that Newton will try to lock up the Heisman, Auburn will take another step closer to Glendale, and for the next 52 weeks, Tiger fans can get back their mojo in their own state after losing two straight. But Alabama can make its season with a win. It’s the latest SEC Game of the Year, and it’ll answer all the questions. Is Auburn really and truly a national title team? Is Alabama ready to rebound? This is the biggest piece of the national title puzzle left, and it should be a classic.

Why Auburn might win: How many times can an 11-0 team that’s on the cusp of the national championship go into a game able to use the “no one believes in us” cliché? It’s almost as if it’s a foregone conclusion that the Tide will win. It’s at home, the Auburn defense isn’t any good, the clock is going to strike midnight at some point, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, Auburn has had two weeks off to prepare since its scintillating performance against Georgia, the Cam Newton controversy has died down a wee bit (or at least has been resting), and now the team can come into the game with even more of an attitude. If anything, the pressure is sort of off; everyone seems to be picking Bama. On the field, the jury is out on whether or not the Tide defense, even at this point in the year, has jelled enough to handle the Auburn juggernaut. No one has stopped the Tiger offense, including a rock-solid LSU defense, and it’s not like the Tide defensive front has had to face a who’s who of top running teams. Facing the Auburn offense is a whole different animal, with so many weapons and so many wrinkles thrown into the mix from offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. And then there’s Newton. Alabama can do everything right, and Newton still might be too much.

Why Alabama might win: Auburn is third in the nation in rushing, averaging 308 yards per game, and it’ll get its yards and will have its share of big plays, but Alabama could keep Newton and company off the field for long stretches. Time of possession tends to be an overrated stat (Oregon is 108th in the nation holding the ball for just 27:44 per game), but it could matter here. Auburn is terrific on converted third down chances and keeping the chains moving, and Alabama has to load up and come up with stops to get Newton off the field. With an aggressive defensive backfield with the speed and athleticism to keep short gains from going long, the defense is in place to come up with more stops than the Tigers are used to seeing.

What to watch for: Mark Ingram might not be ready to simply hand the Heisman torch over to Newton without firing off one last shot. Ingram isn’t in the hunt this year, and he might not make any All-America lists with a solid, but unspectacular 780-yard, ten touchdown season. However, the one team that held him under wraps over the final half of last season was Auburn, who allowed the eventual Heisman winner to run for just 30 yards on 16 carries. Ingram has had to hear about that for a year, and this might be the game he makes amends. The Auburn run defense might be solid, but Ingram is overdue for a huge game, while Newton is way overdue to look human. It might not happen. Right now, the Heisman race is over with Newton’s name all but engraved on the trophy, but off-the-field stuff aside, his reputation will be made or broken here. Yeah, winning a national title would cement him into legendary status, and winning the Heisman would certainly put him at an all-timer level, but beating Alabama at Alabama in a game of this magnitude would be something different.

Prediction:

  Alabama 31, Auburn 17
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

TULSA AT NO. 1 OKLAHOMA

 
Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Tulsa at No. 1 Oklahoma
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on FX
Line: Oklahoma -21.5
Oklahoma Sooners

Purely from a fireworks perspective, Saturday night’s game in Norman just might be the most entertaining one of the opening weekend. Oklahoma and Tulsa will both keep scorekeepers and statisticians busy, returning a mess of skill position talent from teams that piled up the points in 2010. The Sooners will begin the new campaign as one of a small group of programs expected to compete for a national championship. Loaded on offense and capable on D, OU must overcome a preseason injury to star LB Travis Lewis and prove it can handle enormous expectations. Bob Stoops’ players are ranked No. 1 in both major polls, with a big 'ole target adorning their chests. The Golden Hurricane are coming off a terrific season, the final one with Todd Graham in charge. Graham is now in Pittsburgh, and former assistant Bill Blankenship has taken his place. Tulsa rode a seven-game winning streak to the finish line last season, including critical road upsets of Notre Dame and Hawaii. It'll begin the year as one of the favorites in a hotly contested Conference USA West Division. But Oklahoma will be high-powered once again, riding the arm of QB Landry Jones and a dynamite receiving corps featuring All-American Ryan Broyles and rising star Kenny Stills.

Prediction:

  Oklahoma 44, Tulsa 24
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 4 BOISE STATE AT NO. 19 NEVADA

 
Boise State Broncos No. 4 Boise State at No. 19 Nevada
Friday, 10:15 p.m. ET
Line: Boise State -14
Nevada Wolf Pack

For all of you desperate to see Boise State exit stage left from your national title discussion, this is the game you’ve been waiting for. Boise State doesn’t have to lose this game to lose in the court of public opinion, and the rankings, needing to win in blowout fashion against the one real team it has played in months to show the world that yeah, it probably does deserve a shot at the title. At the very least, an impressive performance will move the Broncos up to No. 3 in the BCS rankings after being stuck at No. 4 behind TCU, though by a paper-thin margin, over the last few weeks. At best, Auburn loses to Alabama and/or Oregon drops a game to Arizona or Oregon State, and then it’s Game On for the national title talk if Boise can win. For Nevada, which has managed to get to 10-1 without too much national fanfare, a win would be validation. Nevada is the real deal, and now it gets a national showcase at home to prove it. The same goes for Boise State. A blowout for the Broncos might finally erase many of the excuses.

Prediction:

  Boise State 48, Nevada 23
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

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