Fearless Predictions


Auburn Tigers NCAA Football Team No. 1 Auburn
vs. No. 19 South Carolina

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Line: Auburn -5
South Carolina Gamecocks NCAA Football Team

The biggest question surrounding the 2010 SEC championship game isn’t Cameron Newton, and it isn’t if South Carolina’s freshman sensation, Marcus Lattimore, can get it going against the Tigers' strong run D. It’s whether or not Auburn has to win to go to the BCS championship. Because of the way the SEC has dominated the national title scene over the past several years, winning the past four championships and five of the past six, there’s some school of thought that the SEC has to be represented in the title game no matter what. Does a 12-1 Auburn deserve to be in over a 12-0 TCU? South Carolina has just enough firepower and just enough talent to make this the debate of all college football debates on Sunday morning. The Gamecocks (9-3) had Auburn in trouble on the road in a Sept. 25 matchup that no one could’ve imagined would be the SEC championship preview. Up 27-21 in the fourth, the Gamecocks started making a slew of mistakes with QB Stephen Garcia, who was having a magnificent game, fumbling the ball. Auburn was able to take advantage as Newton threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, while Steve Spurrier made one of the most controversial moves of the season, inserting untested Connor Shaw for Garcia. Shaw threw two picks, including in the end zone on the final drive, and the Tigers survived and moved on while the Gamecocks went on to dominate the East. For the Gamecocks, win or not, this has been the most successful year in the long and utterly mediocre history of South Carolina football. The textbook definition of an also-ran, the program is Vanderbilt with more talent, but finally, helped by a great run defense, Lattimore and a disastrous season from the rest of the SEC East, the chance is there to break through to win the SEC title. Considering Florida’s phenomenal recent recruiting classes are about to kick in, and Georgia and Tennessee won’t be down forever, it’s not a stretch to say the Gamecocks might never get a better shot.

Why Auburn might win: Garcia hasn’t thrown an interception in three games and has had a nice year with 18 touchdown passes to nine picks, but back to the turnover issue: South Carolina is 1-4 over the past three years when he throws multiple picks. The win was this season against Furman, while two of the losses came to Kentucky and Arkansas this season. If Auburn can get off to a quick start (a slight problem at times this year), and if it can take Lattimore out of the equation, Garcia will press and the mistakes will come. Auburn will give up yards, and it’ll get hit for at least one home run, but if the defense that was so great at popping the ball loose last week against Alabama can win the turnover battle, South Carolina will be dead in the water.

Why South Carolina might win: Auburn is playing with supreme confidence after the epic comeback against Alabama, but the Iron Bowl should’ve been over at halftime. Had the Tide not screwed up and had it maintained its focus, it should’ve been up by at least 30 going into the locker room. But turnovers changed the game around. South Carolina had the Tigers in trouble in Jordan-Hare, and then the mistakes started to come; they finished with four turnovers. Against Arkansas, South Carolina gave it away three times, and against Kentucky, the offense took its foot off the gas and ended up losing after turning it over four times. In the three losses, the Gamecocks lost the ball a total of 11 times, while they turned it over just eight times in the nine wins.

What to watch for: Was the Alabama game a cautionary tale that Auburn is ripe to get tagged, or did it show that the team is so good it can overcome any adversity? It might be a little of both, but the team has been able to sidestep the landmines so far. South Carolina really is that good, with two fourth-quarter collapses and an unfocused loss to Arkansas that didn’t matter being the only blips. It’s not going to get rolled over, but it’ll get taken out of its game plan early on. Garcia will need to have the game of his life, and he won’t, as the Tigers will get ahead early and stay there the entire game, Newton will be Newton, and it’ll be off to Glendale. South Carolina will have the ball with a chance to tie it up late, but the final drive will fizzle with an interception.


  Auburn 31, South Carolina 24
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Nebraska Cornhuskers No. 13 Nebraska at No. 9 Oklahoma
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma -4.5
Oklahoma Sooners

Up until the creation of the Big 12 in 1996, Oklahoma vs. Nebraska was the rivalry of rivalries. Even though the Sooners hit some hard times in the 1990s, and even though the juggernaut Huskers applied a 73-21 pasting in the first year of the league, the theory was that the enormity of the matchup would survive and that the two powerhouses soon would be playing on an even bigger stage for the conference title on a regular basis. Instead, the teams played just nine times over the past 15 years and the greatness of the game was killed. Even in the monster battle in 2001, with national title implications back on the table for both teams, it wasn’t quite the same, while the 2006 Big 12 Championship meeting felt more like a high school reunion. Everyone kind of looked the same, and it was nostalgic, but the magic was gone. But OU or Nebraska has been a part of 12 of 15 title games. Considering how much of a factor Texas is, with this game, Nebraska will have played in as many Big 12 Championships as the Longhorns (five), while OU will have played in three more. The historical problem for Nebraska is that the South has owned the game, going 10-4 overall and 6-0 since Kansas State’s shocking 35-7 drubbing of the Sooners in 2003.


  Oklahoma 26, Nebraska 20
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Oregon Ducks No. 2 Oregon at Oregon State
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Line: Oregon -16
Oregon State Beavers

The past two Civil Wars have decided the Pac-10 champion. This one will impact the national championship race. Even after defeating Arizona last Friday, Oregon fell to No. 2 in the BCS rankings, but that matters little at this stage of the campaign. The Pac-10 champs realize that a win in Corvallis assures the team a spot in Glendale on Jan. 10. The Ducks have won the past two in this heated rivalry, but are just 1-5 in their past six games at Reser Stadium. Oregon State has been one big false start this season, following each notable win with a deflating loss. The same dangerous program that upset Arizona, Cal, and USC also lost to Washington, UCLA, and Washington State. Try to figured that out. After getting shut out for the first time in eight years by Stanford a week ago, the Beavers will look to rebound, become bowl-eligible, and spoil Oregon’s magical season. While Oregon State has been schizophrenic all season, its defense has been consistently bad, allowing too many long plays, especially through the air. The Ducks’ top-rated offense, averaging 541 yards and 50 points a game, will challenge the Beavers on the ground and through the air. Their speed, tempo and execution have been well-documented this season, cranking out big-gainers from QB Darron Thomas, RB LaMichael James and WR Jeff Maehl.


  Oregon 38, Oregon State 30
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Florida State Seminoles No. 21 Florida State vs. No. 15 Virginia Tech
Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET
Line: Virgina Tech -4
Virginia Tech Hokies

For Virginia Tech, it’s been a tale of two seasons. At 0-2, it was a laughingstock, a program unable to overcome the highly-charged, highly-visible loss to Boise State on Labor Day night. At 10-2, it’s become a symbol of perseverance and veteran leadership, both on the field and on the sideline. Fully recovered from their slow start, the Hokies boast the nation’s third-longest winning streak, becoming the first team in a decade to sweep through ACC play. The catalysts in Blacksburg have been a ball-hawking defense and one of the deepest backfields in the country. When star RB Ryan Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the middle of September, QB Tyrod Taylor assumed a bigger role and reserves David Wilson and Darren Evans filled in admirably. Bud Foster’s defense, a question mark at the outset, has gotten better each week. Tech isn’t just winning games, by the way. It’s dominating the competition, winning by fewer than 10 points just once during the winning streak. Life after Bobby Bowden in Tallahassee has been predictably unpredictable. The Seminoles (9-3) have been a streaky team in Jimbo Fisher’s debut as coach. After the Sooners slaughter in September, Florida State reeled off five consecutive wins -- highlighted by a 45-17 rout of Miami to rise to No. 16 in the rankings -- but then dropped back-to-back games to N.C. State and North Carolina. Fortunately, the program still had another rebound left in it, winning the final three games and getting a Wolfpack loss last Saturday to take the division.


  Virgina Tech 27, Florida State 21
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Connecticut Huskies Connecticut at South Florida
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Line: South Florida -1.5
South Florida Bulls

When the Bowl Championship Series began more than a decade ago, Connecticut was still a I-AA program just hoping to move up to the adult table. Today it stands one victory away from its first Big East championship and a berth in a BCS game, likely the Fiesta Bowl. Yup, these are heady times in Storrs, a town far more accustomed to celebrating basketball titles. While the Huskies aren’t even ranked, they’re winning at the right time, taking down West Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse and Cincinnati in consecutive games. Sort of lost in all of the Husky hoopla is the fact that South Florida also is riding high, coming off one of its biggest wins in school history. The Bulls went into Miami and knocked off the Hurricanes in overtime, 23-20, providing a tremendous boost for the rising program. In an interesting coaching twist, Randy Edsall will be facing Skip Holtz, whom he replaced at Connecticut a dozen years ago. Connecticut is beginning to get that team-of-destiny feel about it. Typical of Edsall-led squads, it’s getting better and more confident as the season progresses. The Huskies also are catching a break that South Florida is facing uncertainty at the most important position on the field: True freshman walk-on Bobby Eveld must sub for injured starting QB B.J. Daniels for the Bulls.


  UConn 23, South Florida 16
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax




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