Fearless Predictions

SATURDAY'S FEATURED GAME

 
Michigan State Spartans NCAA Football Team No.17 Michigan State
at No. 18 Michigan

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Michigan -5
Michigan Wolverines NCAA Football Team

If you’re the Michigan head coach, beating Ohio State is part of the deal. If you don’t do that on a regular basis, you become an ex-Michigan head coach in a hurry, with the “couldn’t beat Ohio State” tag attached to your name. But beating Michigan State, at least to Michigan fans, is just as big a deal. Beating Ohio State is a national thing, everyone pays attention to the showdown, but having to listen to your little brother chirp gets very annoying, very fast, and that leads to a grouchy fan base and a shorter leash for the head man. That’s why, even with the great 5-0 start and all the excitement about the offense finally working like it’s supposed to, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez must come up with a win this week. RichRod is 0-2 against the Spartans, which, combined with the 0-2 record against Ohio State, has put him on a hot seat far more than any NCAA slaps on the wrist have. Lloyd Carr might have struggled with the Buckeyes during the end of his tenure, but in general he owned Sparty, winning the last six in the series before he retired and seven of his last eight times. But unlike any of those other games, the stakes are higher now than they’ve been in years with the first matchup of unbeaten Wolverine and Spartan teams since 1999, when Michigan State finished 10-2 and went on to beat Florida in a phenomenal Citrus Bowl, and Michigan finished 10-2 and beat Alabama in an even more classic Orange Bowl. These two teams might not be as good as those were, but the winner will be deep in the hunt for the Rose Bowl, and possibly more.

Why Michigan State might win: Michigan’s defense is playing as poorly as the offense is playing great. The depleted secondary has led to the nation’s worst pass defense, and while teams have had to bomb away to keep up in shootouts, giving up 307.8 passing yards per game isn’t a plus. By far, MSU is the best team Michigan has faced so far, with a balanced attack that should be able to pound away with the ground game just enough to keep Denard Robinson and the high-powered Wolverine attack on the sidelines for long stretches, and while the line hasn’t been a rock in pass protection, the Michigan defensive front isn’t good enough to take advantage with a slew of pressures and key sacks. MSU can throw at will, run when it wants to, and do whatever it must to keep up the pace.

Why Michigan might win: To have any shot of stopping Robinson and the Michigan ground game, you have to get into the backfield and stop plays before they get started. Read and react, and you’re seeing the back of a No. 16 jersey and flowing dreadlocks flying down the field. Wisconsin was held to 165 yards rushing, but it actually ran well with James White averaging 9.8 yards per dash and John Clay rumbling for 4.7 yards per run despite tweaking an ankle. MSU was able to overcome its problems last week to get by the Badgers, but third-down conversions and penalties were a major problem over the first month of the season. If the Spartans revert to form and can’t keep the chains moving, and if they kill themselves with a slew of penalties, Michigan will pounce.

What to watch for: If you wanted to see what Robinson and the Michigan offense could do against a real defense, here it is. This is the real Heisman moment and this is the real test to see just how powerful the machine is. Michigan State doesn’t have a brick wall of a defense, but it’s the best the Wolverines have faced so far, and most important, the linebackers are there to potentially keep Robinson in check. Greg Jones isn’t putting up the huge stats he came up with over his first few years, but he destroyed the Badger offense early on last week and is still, arguably, the best all-around linebacker in America. Throw in running mate, Eric Gordon, who has all-star talent and the terrific tackling ability of defensive back Chris L. Rucker, and there’s a chance Robinson gets bottled up for a few long stretches and will have to rely on the passing game and the running backs more than usual.

Prediction:

  Michigan State 45, Michigan 37
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 1 ALABAMA AT NO. 19 S. CAROLINA

 
Alabama Crimson Tide No. 1 Alabama at No. 19 South Carolina
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -6.5
South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina, if you really want to show that you’re ready to be a real player in the SEC, and on a national scale, this is your chance. This is your big opportunity to take the SEC East by the horns, and even with a loss to Auburn two weeks ago, get into the national title chase. This is an interesting Gamecock squad that was able to power its way over Georgia and get the passing game going efficiently. Don’t dismiss the opening-day blowout over Southern Miss, which appears to be the class of Conference USA by far. This is the game the program has been waiting 100 years for. This is the time when South Carolina can go from being South Carolina to the national story. This is the one game that long-suffering Gamecock fans have been dreaming about ever since Steve Spurrier arrived on the scene. This is for the big-time. For Alabama, it’s another week, another Game of the Century for the opponent. The Tide keeps taking everyone’s best shot and keeps on rolling with an emphatic blowout over Florida a week after a strong defensive stand late to get past a deadly Arkansas offense. However, now the body blows might start to add up. Bama is better than everyone on its schedule (and is better than anyone in America), but it’s one thing to beat a Virginia Tech here or an Oregon State there (Boise State, cough, Boise State), and it’s another to deal with Penn State, and then go to Arkansas, and then Florida, and then face a road date at South Carolina.

Prediction:

  Alabama 23, South Carolina 16
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 12 LSU AT NO. 14 FLORIDA

 
LSU Tigers No. 12 LSU at No. 14 Florida
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Line: Florida -7
Florida Gators

It might not seem like it after Florida got erased by Alabama last week and LSU needed a wacky miracle to get by Tennessee, but these two teams are still deep in the thick of the national title chase. Florida is positioned to play in the BCS Championship if it can win out, and despite the inconsistencies and all the frustrations on offense, it still is better than every team left on a very doable remaining slate. Sure, going to Florida State isn’t going to be a cakewalk, and hosting South Carolina will be a fight, but this battle against LSU might be the only thing standing in the way of the Gators’ third straight trip to the SEC title game. The Tigers still have plenty of work to do after a rough start, but 5-0 is 5-0. While this actually is a damn strong football team, passing game problems and all, it has yet to make its imprint on a national scale because of things like the debacle at the end of last week and the meltdown in the second half in the near-miss against a depleted North Carolina. The defense is rocking at LSU standards again, the running game is back, and everything is in place except for the passing attack. It’s going to take a tight, smart effort to pull off the win on in Gainesville, and with road trips to Auburn and Arkansas, along with the Alabama showdown still to face, there isn’t much margin for error if Tigers really do believe they can play for the whole ball of wax. Florida has won three of the last four in this series, and if it can make it four out of five, the Alabama loss won’t seem like such a big deal.

Prediction:

  Florida 17, LSU 13
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

NO. 23 FLORIDA STATE AT NO. 13 MIAMI

 
Florida State Seminoles No. 23 Florida State at No. 13 Miami
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Line: Miami -6.5
Miami Hurricanes

When Florida State and Miami get together, it always matters in the Sunshine State. This year, for a change, it’s going to appear on the radar of the rest of the country as well. While neither program is ready to announce that it's back, both are ranked at the same time and building a head of steam. Someone is going to get out of this one as the favorite to win the ACC and propel up the Top 25. The 'Canes have gotten past their Week 2 loss to Ohio State, beating up Pittsburgh and Clemson in impressive road victories. Having maintained a No. 13 ranking despite racking up frequent flier miles for a month, Miami realizes it won't be tested away from home until the Nov. 13 trip to Georgia Tech. Between now and then, it has a chance to tunnel deep into the top 10. The 'Noles have overcome their own Week 2 implosion, recovering from a blowout loss to Oklahoma by routing BYU, Wake Forest, and Virginia in succession by no fewer than 20 points. The defense, a concern entering the season, has really started gelling under coordinator Mark Stoops, yielding 10 first-half points during the winning streak. The Seminoles have dialed up the heat, producing 20 sacks in the last three games to take over the top spot nationally. DE Brandon Jenkins has fueled the charge, but he’s also getting inside help from DT Demonte McAllister and occasional assists from the linebackers. The push has Florida State No. 4 in the country against the run, which is going to neutralize Miami RB Damien Berry. If the Hurricanes have problems establishing the run and the pocket is compromised, how many times will erratic QB Jacory Harris put the ball up for grabs?

Prediction:

  Miami 28, Florida State 20
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

USC AT NO. 16 STANFORD

 
Cal Bears Cal at USC
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: USC -2.5
USC Trojans

Good luck convincing USC that placekickers are irrelevant cogs of a football team. The Trojans (4-2) have succumbed to them in each of the last two games, losing on the final play to Washington and Stanford. Instead of being perfect and rapidly climbing up the Top 25, Lane Kiffin’s team is reeling and frustrated, needing to reverse the trend in the worst possible way. Have fun trying to get a good handle on Cal, one of the most unpredictable programs in the country. The Bears (3-2) started fast, slumped at the end of September, and then delivered a near flawless blowout of UCLA last weekend, 35-7. Still on that short list of Pac-10 contenders, they recognize that more than one conference loss could put a quick end to any Rose Bowl hopes. Stanford left USC WR Robert Woods uncovered for much of last Saturday's game. After watching the film, Cal isn't likely to make the same mistake. He delivered one of the great games ever for a Trojan freshman, catching 12 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. His emergence means fellow wideout Ronald Johnson finally has the security blanket needed to prevent opposing coordinators from persistently double-covering him. Instead, it will be a pick-your-poison type scenario, with USC QB Matt Barkley administering the injection.

Prediction:

  USC 27, Cal 23
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

 

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