Fearless Predictions


Penn State Nittany Lions NCAA Football Team No. 18 Penn State at No. 1 Alabama
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -11
Alabama Crimson Tide NCAA Football Team

Alabama is looking to make its first big statement as the reigning nation champion, while Penn State is looking to go from being an interesting dark horse in the Big Ten race to a real, live contender for the BCS Championship. But this game goes beyond the two superpowers, who used to play on a regular basis but haven’t squared off since 1990. With the Big Ten about to get bigger and better with Nebraska joining next year, there’s a chance the conference makes a charge at the SEC’s run as college football’s top league if it can pull off some big wins. The perception is that the Big Ten has been the SEC’s punching bag, and while some have held their own, like Wisconsin and Michigan, Penn State has done much of the heavy lifting going 5-2 against the big league since joining the Big Ten, with the 2010 win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl the last victory. Alabama has lost its last two games against Big Ten teams, with the last victory coming over Michigan in the 1997 Outback Bowl, but the program is in a far different, far better place now than it has been in the last few decades.

Why Penn State might win: The defensive line is good enough to hold up against the Crimson Tide running game. The Bama line is terrific and will once again be among the best in the nation, but the Penn State defensive front could be the best it faces all season long. The front four didn’t exactly turn it loose against Youngstown State, but the pressure should be there from Jack Crawford and Ollie Ogbu on the outside to press Alabama QB Greg McElroy into hurrying his throws a bit more than usual. The Nittany Lion secondary doesn’t have a signature star, but it’s a very good, very sound group that won’t give up many big plays, if any, and has the speed and athleticism to match up with Julio Jones and the rest of the great Tide targets.

Why Alabama might win: The Nittany Lion offensive firepower just isn’t there for a game like this. The offensive front is fine, but it’s not a killer and it isn’t going to beat up the Tide front. Freshman QB Robert Bolden is about to go from first grade to graduate school in the span of a week, and he’s going to have to make quick decisions and plenty of smart plays without making any big mistakes while under constant pressure. That’ll be tough to do against a defense with so much speed and athleticism, and if the deep ball isn’t there early, it’ll be tee off time against Evan Royster and the ground game.

What to watch for: Is now the time that Julio Jones will go from being a big-time prospect to a special player? With Ingram out, the Bama offense has to rely more on its veteran quarterback and NFL receiving corps to open things up a little bit, and while Trent Richardson and the ground game can certainly produce, the more Jones can do, the better. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks can all explode for the big play, but it’s Jones who has the No. 1 pro target ability to make a great offense totally unstoppable. He’ll be a featured part of the offense early on to test a Nittany Lion secondary that got tagged for an 80-yard touchdown pass by Youngstown State in the first quarter last week.


  Alabama 27, Penn State 10
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LSU Tigers No. 21 LSU vs. No. 18 North Carolina
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Line: LSU -10
North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina knew it would be in for a test in its season opener against a fellow ranked team. The fallout from an ongoing NCAA investigation has made the Tar Heels' first game even tougher. Twelve UNC players have been ruled out of this game against No. 21 LSU at the Georgia Dome. The school said Friday that defensive ends Robert Quinn and Michael McAdoo, cornerbacks Kendric Burney and Charles Brown, receiver Greg Little and suspended defensive tackle Marvin Austin were declared ineligible for the opener for "violating school and/or NCAA rules.'' It's not immediately known how many games they will miss. This was supposed to be one of those special, tone-setting matchups that would be analyzed and used in a variety of conference vs. conference arguments throughout the rest of the year. But with the unusual circumstances facing North Carolina, there could be a giant asterisk next to this game should LSU prevail. Considering the Tigers have won two national titles in the last seven years, going 17-9 in the last two seasons, and with Alabama taking over the role as the West’s alpha dog, the pressure is on LSU to start strong.


  LSU 17, North Carolina 13
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax



Washington Huskies Washington at BYU
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Line: BYU -2
BYU Cougars

Considering the offseason hype, this trip to Provo shapes up as the most important opener for Washington in many years. After finishing the regular season strong and surprisingly retaining QB Jake Locker for one final year, the Huskies are eyeing no worse than a return to the postseason for the first time since 2002. Heck, with a fast start at his alma mater and some defensive progress, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian could have the school in the Pac-10 title hunt in just his second year on the job. These are heady times for BYU, which has been to five straight bowl games and produced double-digit wins the last four years. However, all of those postseason games were the same, the Las Vegas Bowl, as Utah, TCU, and Boise State earned BCS bowl bids. Despite all of the recent success, there’s a feeling of unfinished business surrounding the Cougars, which isn’t likely to be quenched by a squad that could be rebuilding in 2010. Although Washington isn’t exactly a young football team across the board, it is inexperienced at winning big games…especially on the road.


  Washington 31, BYU 27
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