Top 25 – Week 9
Every week I will post my forecasts of all the games involving Top 25 teams. As usual, it includes my computer’s projected box score for each game.
Last week the Top 25 forecasts went 18-3 86% and on the year they are 136-24 85%!! On the bottom of the forecasts, I have also listed some Upset Specials for this week which moved to 5-2 the last 5 weeks after Maryland missed a 32 yard FG on the last play of the game in a 20-18 loss to NC State. For projected box scores, click here.
#1 ALABAMA VS #13 MISSISSIPPI ST
Last year the situation favored MSU as Bama was off of a bubble bursting loss to LSU in the game of the century. Bama still finished with a commanding 386-131 yard and 20-9 FD edges in a 24-7 win as MSU’s only score came on a 21 yard drive after a 69 yard KR. The Tide is 4-0 in this series but has the huge showdown at LSU on deck. Last week the Bulldogs, in a flat spot, got off to a slow start as they led just 17-3 midway through the 3Q but exploded for 28 points in the final 20:00 for a 45-3 win over Middle Tenn. QB Russell is one of the most improved QB’s in the country and has a 15-1 ratio. Bama has been AP’s #1 for a school record 8 straight weeks after their 44-13 win at Tennessee. The Tide had dominating 23-11 FD and 539-282 yard edges and QB McCarron is now #1 in the NCAA in pass eff with a 16-0 ratio. The Tide D is also #1 in scoring and total D for a second straight year. This is uncharted territory for the Bulldogs while Alabama is used to the spotlight, playing at home, with all of the talent edges.
PHIL’S FORECAST: ALABAMA 30 MISSISSIPPI ST 13
#2 OREGON VS COLORADO
Oregon is 26-4 when hosting conference foes and enters this contest with a couple of extra days to prep off a Thursday night win over Arizona St (43-21). Meanwhile, CU is on a second straight road game off a USC beatdown (50-6). This one is easy to call. The Ducks have the huge game vs USC on deck so expect them to jump out to an early 40+ point lead in the 1H (outscoring opponents 234-56) then cruise in the 2H (just 123-85 point edge) like they’ve done all year.
PHIL’S FORECAST: OREGON 56 COLORADO 14
#3 FLORIDA VS #12 GEORGIA (JACKSONVILLE)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Last year Muschamp became the first person in series history to have played at one school and coached for the other. UF had won 5 of the L/6 meetings until last year as UGA had a commanding 23-11 FD and 354-226 yard edges in a 4 point win which could’ve been larger as the Dogs missed 2 FG’s and gave up a 99 yard KR td (24-20). However, that win only moved UGA to 4-18 in this series. Last week the Gators became the first team in this century to score 40+ points with less than 200 total yards while QB Driskel also became the first QB in this century to throw for 4 td’s with less than 100 yards in their 44-11 win over South Carolina. UF took advantage of 4 SC TO’s but the game could have been even worse if not for some ? calls in the 1H including one that took a Gator td pass off the board. Things were not so easy for the Bulldogs who were sluggish off the bye last week in a 29-24 win at Kentucky. QB Murray threw 4 td’s to become UGA’s career leader, but he did have to come from behind 3 different times. UF has the huge edge on ST’s again (#5-67) and with the series and D edges the Gators book an early trip to Atlanta with a big win here.
PHIL’S FORECAST: FLORIDA 31 GEORGIA 17
#4 KANSAS ST VS #15 TEXAS TECH
Texas Tech had won 5 in a row by an avg of 30 ppg (+251 ypg) until last year when the Cats got a 24 yard IR td in the 1H and a 100 yard KR td as well as 2 blk’d FG’s and jumped out to a 14-13 lead. TT led at the half 28-20 with a 387-94 yard edge but K-St controlled the 2H, winning 41-34. The Raiders nearly blew a 10 point 4Q lead but regrouped to beat TCU 56-53 in 3OT. TT was outgained 516-389 but benefitted from 3 TCU TO’s and also limited the Frogs to a Big 12 record 6 FG’s. With back-to-back big games vs ranked teams Doege (#5 FBS pass eff with 316 ypg, 71%, 28-7) is now popping up on Heisman lists. The much improved D is #20 vs the run (111, 3.3) after finishing last year dead last (259, 5.3). K-St actually moved back a spot in the coaches poll to #4 after last week’s 55-14 thrashing at West Virginia. The Cats led 52-7 going into the 4Q with WV’s only score being a KR td and they finished with a 479-243 yard edge. QB Klein (#2 FBS pass eff, 200 ypg, 71%, 10-2, 551 rush, 14 td) moved to the front of the Heisman pack. Kansas St comes in with expectations at the highest in more than a decade and no one in Manhattan had this game circled after the big road test last week. This is a dangerous spot for the Wildcats and keep in mind HC Tuberville has 5 wins over Top 5 teams in his career and I will call for him to get win #6 here.
PHIL’S FORECAST: TEXAS TECH 24 KANSAS ST 23
#5 NOTRE DAME AT #8 OKLAHOMA
OU is only 1-8 vs ND with its only series win in South Bend in 1956. The last meeting was in ‘99 and ND’s last trip here was in ‘66. Since the loss to KSU, OU has featured the run game avg 5.9 ypc, the highest in Stoops’ tenure and most since 1987. Last week’s 52-7 romp over K-St featured both a KR td and a PR td, something that had never been done in school history. QB Jones has put together his best stretch since WR Broyles’ departure and is now avg 290 ypg (62%) with a 7-1 ratio in the last 3 games. With Sanders eligible the last 2 weeks, he now has a bevy of WR’s to throw to and will be going vs a ND secondary that has not faced a legit pass attack this year. ND is off yet another close win 17-14 over BYU last week as they overcame a halftime deficit for the second week in a row. It was the fourth ND game this year decided by 7 points or less. QB Rees got the start and struggled (Golson out) but Kelly has announced that Golson will start here. After making his name as a spread off guru, Kelly has changed his tune here relying on his #5 D and the run game which is avg 194 ypg (highest at ND s/’00). Stoops said in his postgame presser that this is the most anticipated game in Norman since 2000 when #1 Nebraska came to town and #3 OU upset them 31-14. While the Irish D gets much of the pub, the OU first string D had allowed just 1 offensive td in the last 4 games and the Sooners have the offense, ST’s and homefield (79-4 since Stoops took over) edges!
PHIL’S FORECAST: OKLAHOMA 31 NOTRE DAME 13
#7 OREGON ST AT WASHINGTON
Oregon St is one of the biggest surprises so far this year marching out to a 6-0 mark (best start at OSU in 105 years) after a 21-7 home win vs Utah last week. For the second week in a row, the Beavers turned to #2 QB Vaz. In his first start, Vaz threw for 332 yds (63%) with a 3-0 ratio vs BYU but took a step back last week finishing with 167 (60%) and no td’s as the Beavers were outgained by the Utes 307-226 but were +4 TO’s. Starting QB Mannion (340 ypg, 7-4 ratio) should return here after serving as the backup last week (knee surgery two weeks ago). Washington is coming down a tough stretch as this game marks the 4th time in the last 5 weeks they’ve taken on a one of the top teams in the Pac-12. After beating Stanford, the Huskies lost to Oregon and USC by a 76-35 margin before getting thrashed last week in Arizona, 52-17 (outgained 533-380). QB Price is avg just 191 ypg (60%) with a mediocre 8-8 ratio. Sankey is UW’s run game as his 574 yds (4.7) are more than 4 times that of the #2 rusher (Wilson, 140) and Sankey has 7 of the team’s 8 total rush td’s! Last year at home OSU beat UW for the 7th time in 8 games and the Beavers continue their series domination here while marching on to the best ever start in school history.
PHIL’S FORECAST: OREGON ST 27 WASHINGTON 17
#9 OHIO ST AT PENN ST
OSU had dropped 4 of 5 in Happy Valley but have won their last 2 trips here (37-17 and 24-7) and are playing with legit revenge. Last year it was PSU’s third win in 11 games in Columbus and each win came vs a true frosh QB (Schlichter ‘78, Pryor ‘08 and Miller ‘11). PSU never trailed winning 20-14 (+6’). With QB Miller (173 ypg, 59%, 11-5, #15 FBS rush 959, 6.8) knocked out of the game in the 3Q (neck/shoulder injury) the lucky Bucks drove 70/7pl for a td with :03 left, got a 2 point conversion to tie it, then scored on their first OT poss to beat PU 29-22 despite a -3 TO margin. PU had a FG and an xp blk’d, missed a 52 yard FG and was int’d in the EZ. Backup QB Guiton has led OSU to 5 td’s in 8 possessions in the last 4 games when Miller has been dinged up. After the bye PSU won in Iowa City for the first time since 1999 dominating the Hawks 38-14. The Lions led 31-0 after the 3Q’s first possession and finished with 28-14 FD & 504-209 yard edges. The Big Ten’s #1 passer McGloin looks like a different QB after the opening 2 losses when he averaged 229 ypg (55%) with a 4-1 ratio. In the last 5 games he’s avg 266 ypg (66%) with a 10-1 ratio and has led the Lions to a W in each. Much respect to PSU and their 5 straight wins, but QB Miller is healthy and he’s the X-factor that the Lions D hasn’t faced in their win streak.
PHIL’S FORECAST: OHIO ST 31 PENN ST 20
#10 USC AT ARIZONA
Last year at home USC’s Barkley passed for a school record 468 yards and Woods had 14 rec for 255 yards. USC was on its way to a rout leading 34-12 in the 3Q but would allow UA a 4 yard td pass with 1:00 left for the 48-41 final. USC is 9-1 with 5 straight W’s in Tuscon by 16 ppg. UA has been very impressive TY under Rich Rod and last week crushed UW 52-17 with a 533-380 yard edge. Coming off a Pac-12 record performance vs Stanford, Scott hit only 14-22 but did throw 4 td’s while Carey (172 yards last week) is one of the more underrated RB’s in the country (#14 rush ypg, 11 td). Last week I noted that Barkley could get back in the Heisman race with a big game and that’s exactly what he did hitting 19-20-298 with a 6-0 ratio while setting a school career mark for td passes in a 50-6 win over hapless CU. USC does have huge edges on D (#10-73) and ST’s (#31-109) but amazingly UA has the slight edge on offense (#7-16) which means the pesky Cats could hang around in a close one.
PHIL’S FORECAST: USC 38 ARIZONA 35
#11 FLORIDA ST VS DUKE
FSU has never lost to Duke (17-0) with the avg score 50-16 as the closest game was decided by 19 points. Duke came in on a 3 game win streak last year and FSU had just dropped out of the Top 25 after its 3rd straight loss. An angry FSU dominated winning 41-16 on the road and it was 27-3 at the half with a 286-108 yard edge. The mistake prone Noles rallied from a 10-0 1Q deficit to beat Miami for the 3rd straight year despite 12 penalties and 5 fumbles (2 lost). FSU lost #1 rusher Thompson to a torn ACL (OFY) but QB Manuel (254, 72%, 14-4) calmly guided the win. FSU leads the ACC in most defensive categories and is #2 in the FBS in total D (227 ypg). Duke drove 87/14pl to score a td with :13 left (on 4th down) to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. The Devils led 20-6 at the half and withstood UNC’s 4Q rally finishing with a 510-414 yard edge. QB Renfree (256 ypg, 69%, 11-7) leads the Duke offense. However, FSU has all of the edges especially on D (#3-76) and with the Devils likely still celebrating their historic win the Noles bring them back to reality.
PHIL’S FORECAST: FLORIDA ST 45 DUKE 17
#14 CLEMSON AT WAKE FOREST (THURSDAY)
Last year CU had one of its best comebacks in program history (down 28-14) to clinch the Atlantic Title and did so even with WR Watkins out the 2H with injury as they nailed a 43 yard FG with no time left for the 31-28 win. CU had a 522-317 yard edge. The Tigers come in with only 5 days rest off their 38-17 win over Virginia Tech and traveling while Wake is also off 5 days rest after last week’s 16-10 win over Virginia. The Tigers are averaging a solid 510 ypg on the road this year, while the Deacons are allowing 420 ypg at home. While the home tm is 8-2 in the series and the situational edge favors Wake Forest, Clemson has a huge edge on offense (#11-107) and ST’s (#28-111) and should win comfortably again away from home.
PHIL’S FORECAST: CLEMSON 37 WAKE FOREST 23
#16 LOUISVILLE VS CINCINNATI (FRIDAY)
Louisville had won 9 of 10 in this series but Cincinnati is now on a 4-0 run although 5 of the last 6 have been decided by single digits. Last year in Paul Brown Stadium UC trailed 16-7 at the half but got a td for the lead with 12:19 left then settled for a 21 yard FG with 1:21 left in the 25-16 win. UL is off yet another close win last week, 28-25 over USF but UC is traveling for the second time in 2 weeks and was handed its first loss of the season last week at Toledo 29-23. This is just Cincy’s 2nd Big East game this year (beat Pitt in the opener) while Louisville sits at 2-0 in conference play. The Cardinals have jumped out to 7-0 overall behind O’Brien Semifinalist QB Bridgewater who avg 242 ypg (73%) with an 11-3 ratio. On the flip side, UC’s Legaux also avg a solid 239 ypg (but just 53%) with a 12-5 ratio. While the Bearcats come in with a sour taste in their mouth, this is an excited Cardinals squad off to their best start since 2006 with an energized home crowd smelling oranges.
PHIL’S FORECAST: LOUISVILLE 28 CINCINNATI 24
#17 SOUTH CAROLINA VS TENNESSEE
UT had won 12 in a row in this series from ‘93-’04 but in the last 7 years SC holds a 4-3 edge. The home team had won 4 in a row until last year when SC won 14-3. UT started true Worley (10-26-104) and he threw 2 crucial int’s. SC is finishing up a killer October schedule (off UGA, at LSU, at UF) and you have to wonder how much the Gamecocks have left in the tank. Last week they were destroyed 44-11 at UF as four key TO’s led to 28 UF points and QB Shaw (9-20-72-0-0) was benched in the 2H for Thompson (8-20-83-0-1) while RB Lattimore was limited (will start here). The SC D did hold UF to under 200 yards but a short field plagued them. UT is off a 44-13 loss to #1 Bama as Dooley fell to 0-14 vs Top 25 tms and is clearly on the hot seat. Both teams are reeling and while SC has the D edge (#7-62), the Vols have the ST’s (#44-97) and offensive (#18-36) edges and could put a scare in the Gamecocks who likely just want to get to their bye week.
PHIL’S FORECAST: SOUTH CAROLINA 31 TENNESSEE 23
#18 RUTGERS VS KENT ST
Rutgers is 2-0 vs Kent St including a 29-21 win in the last meeting (‘04). Rutgers is off Temple and has a bye on deck while the Flashes are off WM with their rival Akron on deck and this is their fourth away game in six weeks. Both teams have had surprising seasons as RU is off to its best start since 2006 at 7-0 while KSU is off to its best start since 1973 at 6-1. Last week RU fell behind 10-0 at halftime but scored 35 unanswered in a 35-10 win at TU. RB Jamison continues to be the star (114 rush/81 rec last week) while QB Nova has a solid 15-3 ratio. Kent is off a misleading game as the final reads 41-24 but the Flashes were down 24-17 into the 4Q before benefitting from 3 WM TO’s (6 on the day). Their star is all-purpose man Archer who avg 212 ypg (#1 NCAA). The offenses and ST’s are close but RU has the home and D edges and I like their situational edge as well.
PHIL’S FORECAST: RUTGERS 27 KENT ST 13
#19 STANFORD VS WASHINGTON ST
This game features two contrasting offenses with Stanford’s based on the power run with multiple TE’s while Washington St is in the first year of the Air Raid TT offense under HC Leach. This is a flat spot here though for the Cardinal as they are off of 2 overtime games and a very early Big Game matchup with Cal while the Cougs are fresh off a bye. In the Big Game, Stanford held Cal to just 3 rush yards and rolled 21-3, but it could have been by more as in the 2H SU was SOD at the Cal40, punted from the Cal40, was int’d at the Cal7 and ended the game at the Cal14. RB Taylor put up a career high 189 yards and QB Nunes hit 16-31-214-1-1. Prior to their bye, the Cougars went o-fer in Pac-12 games by an avg of 34-20 including their loss to Colorado on Homecoming. WSU is 4-2 on The Farm but the Cardinal have won 4 straight vs WSU by an avg score of 45-14. However, with the tough month the Cardinal have already had, expect them to take their foot off the gas if they find themselves with a solid lead here.
PHIL’S FORECAST: STANFORD 34 WASHINGTON ST 14
#20 MICHIGAN AT NEBRASKA
Last year Nebraska was making its first trip to the Big House since 1962. At the half UM led only 17-10 but had a 230-125 yard edge. NU fmbl’d the opening KO of the 3Q then had a P blk’d and UM used a fake FG for a td to blow it open 31-10 and rolled 45-17 (418-260 yard edge). Both teams used late rallies to win last week as the Huskers rallied from 12 points down in the 4Q to beat Northwestern 29-28. Nebraska had 3 TO’s including 2 fmbl’d P’s but Martinez had his best performance as a Big Ten QB hitting 27-39-342-3-0 in the win. RB Burkhead (knee) left early again. The Wolves got a huge monkey off their backs as they ended their 4 game losing streak to MSU by driving 41/8pl for a 38 yard FG with :05 left for a 12-10 win over their instate rivals. D-Rob had 259 of UM’s 326 total yards and only has 1 TO in the Wolves’ 3 game win streak. The D has been the difference as they are allowing 231 ypg and 9.8 ppg in the L/5. NU beat Mich St at home last year 24-3 the week after MSU had won a big home game (very similar spot) and the Cornhuskers become the new Legends leader.
PHIL’S FORECAST: NEBRASKA 34 MICHIGAN 20
#21 BOISE ST AT WYOMING
Last year the Broncos got a closer-than-expected 36-14 home win moving their record to 6-0 vs the Cowboys (avg win 33-12). BSU has quietly won 6 straight after their opening week loss to Michigan St. Last week after racing out to a 25-0 halftime lead, the Broncos missed a FG, fmbl’d, were SOD and allowed UNLV to go on an 8:38 drive in the 2H and only won 32-7. QB Southwick has been efficient but unspectacular avg 211 ypg (65%) with a 9-5 ratio while they remain conservative in the post-Moore era. Wyoming continues to struggle at 1-6 and last week despite QB Smith returning from injury/suspension, the Pokes fell behind Fresno 35-0 at the half and lost 42-14. Their HC Christensen was susp’d by the MW for his post-game confrontation with AF HC Calhoun 2W ago. With huge edges on D (#28-100) and ST’s (#21-86) the Broncos should pull out a double-digit win here.
PHIL’S FORECAST: BOISE ST 27 WYOMING 13
#22 TEXAS A&M AT AUBURN
Last met in the 1985 Cotton Bowl. It’s hard to imagine that just a year and a half removed from a National Title, AU HC Chizik finds himself on the hot seat as the Tigers are off to their worst start since 1952 at 1-6. Last week vs perennial doormat Vandy, AU lost 17-13 getting outgained 382-212. Chizik, who was 14-0 with Cam Newton under C, is now 22-35 without him. Naturally the problem starts with the QB spot and Moseley was just 14-20-98-0-0 last week. A&M has not had many issues at QB TY as Manziel has dazzled with his scrambling ability but last week after an early 12-0 lead vs LSU, he and the offense imploded with 5 TO’s in the 24-19 loss. It was the 7th time in the last 2 years that the Aggies blew a double-digit lead (most in the NCAA). While I expect a good effort, A&M has a huge edge on offense (#6-96) and pushes Chizik closer to the door.
PHIL’S FORECAST: TEXAS A&M 31 AUBURN 24
#23 OHIO AT MIAMI, OH
OU has won 6 in a row in the series which has been played every year since 1945. Last year OU had already clinched the MAC East but still beat the RedHawks 21-14. The last time here, OU led 27-7 into the 4Q as they forced 6 TO’s (turned into 21 points) and won 34-13. At 7-0 SI darlings the Bobcats are in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1968, the last year they won the MAC Title. OU career pass td record holder Tettleton (224 ypg, 60%, 12-1) and the FBS’s #3 rusher Blankenship (951, 4.8) lead the offense. While the Ohio D has given up 489 ypg the last 3 it does lead the MAC in TO’s forced (18). This is the only home game for Miami in a six week span. The RedHawks had a -6 TO margin in back-to-back losses to Cincy and BG with record setting QB Dysert (273, 63%, 14-8) throwing pick-sixes in both. They are getting gashed on the ground allowing 244 (5.6, #116 FBS). Both are 2-0 vs conf weaklings Akron and UMass with OU -11.5 ypg and MU +6.5 ypg. The Cats have 3 straight wins by a td or less vs much weaker competition than what they’ll face here but with that said I can’t pick against a team that has found a way to win so many times this year.
PHIL’S FORECAST: OHIO 33 MIAMI, OH 31
#24 LOUISIANA TECH AT NEW MEXICO ST
Last year LA Tech accepted a bid to the Poinsettia Bowl after winning the WAC with a 44-0 victory over NMSt. LT played the 1H distracted but found out mid-2Q when it was announced Nevada had lost to Utah St that they had won the WAC and leading just 9-0, they went 96 yards for a td with :28 left in the half then got a 45 yard IR td with :07 left to blow it open 23-0. LT has won 3 in a row with the avg score 43-9! Last week in what looked like a flat spot (off a BCS bubble bursting loss to A&M) the Bulldogs offense (my #1!) continued to put up video game numbers with a 70-28 win over Idaho as their 839 yards were a school record and FBS high this year. NMSt was beaten by the WAC’s other power Utah St last week 41-7. The game was much closer than the final as they had a 21-20 FD edge but -2 TO’s did them in. The home team is 9-2 all-time in the series but LT clearly has the better personnel (QB Cameron has an incredible 20-0 ratio this year), just jumped back into the AP Poll and knows that any slipup in conference play could cost them a postseason spot.
PHIL’S FORECAST: LOUISIANA TECH 58 NEW MEXICO ST 27