Fearless Predictions

SATURDAY'S FEATURED GAME

 
Michigan Wolverines NCAAA Football Team No. 11 Michigan (6-0)
at No. 23 Michigan State (4-1)

Saturday, Noon ET
Line: Michigan State -2.5
Michigan State Spartans NCAA Football Team

Now we get to really see if Michigan is for real, and just as importantly, Michigan State gets a shot to show that it really and truly is a Big Ten title contender. With Nebraska mediocre, Iowa floundering, Northwestern no big deal, and Minnesota a total mess, this might be it. This might be the game to decide the Legends title. And it might be the one real barrier left between Michigan and 12-0.

This is hardly a dominant Wolverines team. Denard Robinson is a dominant player, and the offense has been explosive when needed and grinding when it has to be, but it’s still a hodge-podge attack with things head coach Brady Hoke would like to be doing mixed in with players trained to do things the Rich Rodriguez way. It’s all working, and while the O might not always be even or consistent, it’s producing at a high level with a good balance. But the attack also rolled under Rodriguez, and there was excitement the past two years under the old regime starting out 5-0 in 2010 and 4-0 in 2009. And then came the Michigan State game.

In 2010, Michigan started out 5-0, lost to Michigan State, and lost three in a row and six of its last eight. In 2009, the 4-0 start went bye-bye with seven losses in the last eight games – with the lone win coming against Delaware State – after losing to the Spartans. In 2008, Michigan stunk all year and lost three of its last four after losing to MSU. In 2007, after starting out 7-2, and on a seven-game winning streak, the Wolverines beat MSU and then lost its last two games.

Head coach Mark Dantonio has taken the flighty factor out of the Spartan program and is turning it into a consistent power, turning a corner last year as a co-Big Ten champion and in a position to do big things this year after coming up with a dominant win — at least defensively — at Ohio State. The Notre Dame loss was an unfocused disaster, but MSU has been as dominant as anyone in college football over the other four games, winning by a combined score of 127-20, and not allowing more than seven points in any of the victories.

Why Michigan might win: Does the Michigan State offense actually work? It’s not like the attack has blown up against a bad schedule, and the running game went nowhere in the two games against real teams, gaining just 29 yards against Notre Dame and 71 against Ohio State. The offensive line has been fine, and it’s good enough to generate a bit of a push, but this has the potential to be a shootout and the Spartans have to prove they can get into the end zone.

Why Michigan State might win: Can Michigan actually stop a passing game? It’s possible for the Spartans to blow off the ground game entirely if the Michigan defensive front isn’t getting into the backfield, and so far, it’s not doing enough to pressure decent quarterbacks. A hobbling Dan Persa threw for 331 yards last week. Tommy Rees almost pulled off a win for the Irish throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns, and Western Michigan’s Alex Carder threw without a problem – before he was getting kissed by the Wolverine blitz. Kirk Cousins knows how to throw on the Wolverines, completing 18-of-25 passes for 284 yards and a score in last year’s win, and throwing for 152 yards and overcoming two picks in the 2009 win.

What to watch for: It’s time for the 1-2 Spartans rushing punch of Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker to do more. They haven’t been bad, but they haven’t exactly taken control of the MSU offense and haven’t been able to pound away on a consistent basis. Baker was the star of the Michigan game last year, running for 147 yards and a score, but he broken out yet with just 252 yards and a touchdown in the first five games. The physical Bell has rushed for 267 yards and three scores, but he didn’t get in the end zone against Notre Dame or Ohio State and wasn’t much of a factor in either way.

Prediction:

  Michigan State 27, Michigan 23
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

NO. 6 OKL. STATE AT NO. 22 TEXAS

 
Oklahoma State Cowboys No. 6 Oklahoma State (5-0) at No. 22 Texas (4-1)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma State -7.5
Texas Longhorns

There were several down moments for Texas in the disaster of a 2010 season, but the loss to Oklahoma State was particularly galling. Before last year’s 33-16 loss, Texas had won 12 straight going back to 1997 with epic comebacks, easy blowouts, late stops, and just about every other way a team can beat another team 17 out of 18 times since 1944. But things have changed in a big way, and now Oklahoma State is in the hunt for the national title while Texas is playing the role of dangerous upstart. OSU joins Oklahoma, Alabama, and LSU as one of only four teams in America that controls its own destiny. If the Cowboys win out and go 12-0, they’re in. First, they have several big landmines to sidestep before the Oklahoma showdown at the end of the regular season, and it starts in Austin, the first of four road games in the next six. The offense leads the nation in scoring after going through the motions on the way to 70 points against Kansas, and it’s second in the nation behind Houston in total offense and passing offense. Texas has the makings of a terrific, national title-level offense ... in 2013. The stars at the skill spots are extremely talented and extremely young, and they’re going through the expected growing pains. The 55-17 beatdown from Oklahoma last week was on the defense, and the offense showed how far it has to go to be special.

Prediction:

  Oklahoma State 38, Texas 23
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

NO. 1 LSU AT TENNESSEE

 
LSU Tigers No. 1 LSU (6-0) at Tennessee (3-2)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: LSU -17
Tennessee Volunteers

Top-ranked LSU is rolling. The Tigers are catching a few breaks, missing Florida quarterback John Brantley last week and not facing Tennessee star quarterback Tyler Bray this week, but it doesn't really matter; LSU doesn't need the help. The defense is swarming and playing at an elite level that only Alabama can match, while the offense is beating up everyone with a brutish offensive line that’s paving the way for a strong ground game. Throw in the terrific special teams and efficient passing game, and this is a complete team that's toying with opponents. Tennessee isn't bad, and head coach Derek Dooley is still rebuilding the program after being hamstrung by the problems of past coaching staffs, and now he needs to patch things together to keep his team from getting obliterated. LSU is playing at a high level, but the banged up Vols haven't been able to get through the two big games against SEC East foes, losing in good battles against Florida and Georgia. Things are going to get worse before they get better, with a trip to Alabama up next and with a date at Arkansas down the road, but the Vols have nothing to lose. The SEC title is out of the equation, and the record might get ugly going into November, but they can let it all hang out and take several chances while hoping LSU comes in overconfident and looking ahead.

Prediction:

  LSU 34, Tennessee 16
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

NO. 18 ARIZONA STATE AT NO. 9 OREGON

 
Arizona State Sun Devils No. 18 Arizona State (5-1) at No. 9 Oregon (4-1)
Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET
Line: Oregon - 16
Oregon Ducks

The game of the week in the Pac-12 could wind up being a prequel. The sequel, both programs hope, will come in the league championship game in early December. Arizona State and Oregon are two of the favorites to represent the South and North divisions, respectively. The Sun Devils are slaying many of their old bad habits with each passing game, pulling away from the rest of the divisional competition with decisive consecutive wins over USC, Oregon State and Utah. This is no longer the hapless program that can't win the big win game, or come through on the road. Surging up to No. 18 in the AP poll, ASU has an opportunity to exponentially increase its number of believers with a win this weekend at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks have regrouped swimmingly since losing the opener to LSU, winning their past four games without breaking too much of a sweat. Oregon is back; back in the national discussion, back to piling up points and back in the Pac-12 driver's seat along with Stanford. Staying there, though, might have to happen without RB LaMichael James. The star of the show on offense suffered a gruesome hyperextended elbow in last week's Cal win that's expected to sideline him for an unspecified period of time.

Prediction:

  Oregon 48, Arizona State 28
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

NO. 20 BAYLOR AT NO. 21 TEXAS A&M

 
Baylor Bears No. 20 Baylor (4-1) at No. 21 Texas A&M (3-2)
on FX

Saturday, Noon ET
Line: Texas A&M -9
Texas A&M Aggies

These teams aren’t out of the Big 12 title chase quite yet, but it'll take something major to take the championship with each already losing a game, and with each still having to deal with Oklahoma. This week, the repercussions in the conference race don't really matter, and for lovers of great defensive play, this will be torturous. For everyone else, welcome to college football eye-candy. Texas A&M has been bombed the past few weeks and is dead last in the nation in pass defense, but it has an offense loaded with as much NFL talent as any team in the country, and can bomb away with anyone. With three road games in the next four, including dates at Oklahoma and Kansas State, coming up with a home win over the Bears is not only expected, it's a must. Everyone has owned Baylor in the Big 12 era, but this is a far better and more explosive Baylor team. Thanks to the play of Robert Griffin, the Bears have been phenomenal with the most efficient passing game in America, and an attack that's third in the nation in yards and fourth in scoring. This is a flawed team, but Griffin is having a special sort of a season to make up for the problems.

Prediction:

  Texas A&M 45, Baylor 31
Complete Fearless Prediction | GameTrax

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