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My Live Game This Weekend

Saturday, 6 PM: Mississippi State @ LSU

This is a tough game to scope out. LSU has dropped slightly from a 10-point favorite to 9.5. I'll decide Friday when I make my picks what I'll do and reveal my thinking then.

Random Thoughts
  • I can picture the headline next Monday morning: SAINTS WHIP VIKINGS.
    "Switching defenses was the key to beating them," says Rob Ryan.
  • Jameis Winston has ZERO chance of repeating as Heisman winner. He dodged a bullet last season when the rape accusation was put to rest within the last two weeks before the Heisman vote. But voters will not cut him any more slack. The crab legs incident, the reopening of the rape case, and now this. Jameis is making Johnny Manziel look like a choir boy.
  • FSU's half-game suspension of Winston is obviously a compromise between those who wanted a full game and those who wanted nothing. I would hope (as an FSU grad) that he has been told, One more strike and you're out.
  • In my Yahoo Pick 'Em site group, Florida State has fallen from a 20 point favorite to start the week to a final of 16.5.
Did You Notice? NFL Week 2
  • The Ravens won the Thursday night game despite all the Ray Rice dis­tractions. 26-6 seems dominating, but Baltimore outgained Pittsburgh by only 21y. But three turnovers cost the Steelers, including a lost fumble in the red zone.
  • The Jets led 21-3 at Green Bay before succumbing 31-24. The play every­one is talking about is the NYJ's spectacular game-tying TD was negated because the Jets sideline called a timeout a split second before the snap. Was it head coach Rex Ryan? Was it O-coodinator Marty Mornhinweg? No, it was DL Sheldon Richardson who stood behind the linesman and, seeing Mornhinweg running down the sideline yelling for a timeout, told the offi­cial, who blew the play dead just as the ball was snapped - or perhaps a split second afterward. Richardson: It's fourth down in Lambeau Field, and there was 80,000 screaming fans. They didn't hear Marty. So I made sure theyhead him; it's my fault.
  • The Buffalo area was already excited heading into Sunday's home game against Miami. The Bills had won in Chicago for the first time ever the previous Sunday, the new owners of the team plan to keep it in Buffalo, and Jim Kelly's cancer is in remission. Then their heroes go out and spank the Dolphins 29-10. The combination of RB C. J. Spiller and rookie WR Sammy Watkins is being called the "Clemson Connection" even though their careers at the school didn't overlap. Watkins caught eight passes for 117y and 1 TD. QB E. J. Manuel has played very well two games into only his second season in the NFL - 30-of-52/375/2 TD/1 INT.
  • Cam Newton (22-of-34/281y/1 TD) returned to the helm of the Panthers and led the easy 24-7 home victory over the Lions, who continued their up-and-down play of the last few years. After bopping the Giants 35-14 in Week One, Detroit committed three turnovers to none for Carolina. Cam showed he's not gunshy even after suffering cracked ribs in a preseason game - an injury that put him on the sidelines in Week 1 (except for a quick trip out to the Panthers huddle to give the O a pep talk, for which his team was penalized 15y). Wearing a thick flak jacket, he scrambled from the pocket during Q2 and dove headfirst instead of sliding - a play eerily similar to the one August 22. Carolina did just fine without DE Greg Hardy, who was deactivated for the game amid the Rice flak assailing the NFL after Hardy's conviction in July on two counts of domestic assault and threaten­ing to kill his ex-girlfriend.
  • Like the Saints, the Falcons traveled to an AFL North city and got whipped. The Bengals' 24-10 victory was not as close as the score indicates. The Falcons scored late to make the margin more respectable. Consider the first two games of Matt Ryan:
    Week 1 vs New Orleans: 31-43/448/3 TD/0 INT/1 Sack -3
    Week 2 vs Cincinnati: 24-44/231/1 TD/3 INT/2 Sacks - 19
  • The Vikings gave no indication they missed Adrian Peterson when they marched right down the field on their opening drive, going 80y in seven plays for a 7-0 lead as QB Matt Cassel went 4-for-4. But that was it for the afternoon as the Patriots scored 30 straight. Minnesota gained only 137 more yards, and Cassel was 15-for-32 the rest of the way.
  • When it was announced Sunday morning that Carson Palmer would not start at QB for Arizona against the Giants, bettors frantically bet on New York, driving the spread from Cardinals -2 to Giants -2. Drew Stanton didn't play that great (14-for-29/167/0 TD/0 INT) but it was good enough for a 25-14 triumph thanks to four Giant turnovers to none for Arizona.
  • What a difference a week - and a better turnover ratio - make. The Cow­boys and Titans both reversed gears from their opening games. After losing to the 49ers at home 28-17, Dallas knocked off the Titans, many pundits' choice for surprise team of the year, 26-10 in Nashville. After losing the turnover battle 4-0 in Week 1, Jason Garrett's team lost a fumble but got two INTs to upend Tennessee, who committed zero turnovers in their opener against Kansas City, which threw three INTs.
  • When both Robert Griffin and DeSean Jackson left the game in Q1 with injuries, many figured the Jaguars would pull the upset. But, giving fodder to those who think both players are overrated, Washington won with ease 41-10 behind QB Kirk Cousins (22-of-33/250,2 TD), giving credence to the opinion expressed by Joe Theisman in the preseason that Cousins is a better passer than RGIII.
  • The Chargers not only beat the supposedly invincible Seahawks, but they did so by going right at CB Richard Sherman, who, like many dark-shirted Seattle players on an unseasonably hot day in San Diego, left the fray multiple times with cramps. The home team had more first downs (26-14), plays (75-40 for an incredible 42:15-17:45 time of possession lead), more yards (377-288), and, of course, more points (30-21).
Ranking the Conferences
I'm not prepared to publish my football rankings after only three weeks because not enough games have been played to give an accurate assessment of individual teams. But enough of a pool of games has been played to show the conference rankings.
Golden Conference Rankings after Week 3
Pos.
Conference
Average Impressive Non-Conference Wins
1
SEC
12.731
UCF, Clemson, East Car., Tex.Tech, WVU, Wisc.
2
Big 12
12.482
Iowa, Maryland, Minn., Tenn.
3
Pac-12
12.386
Ill., Mich.St., Northwestern, Texas, UVa
4
ACC
12.374
Kansas, Ohio St., Ok. St., USC, USF
5
Big Ten
12.141
UCF, USF
6
C-USA
12.084
Houston, SMU, Tulsa
7
Mountain West
12.058
Colorado, UConn, Wake Forest
8
AAC
11.845
Va.Tech, Wash.St.
9
MAC
11.685
Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue
10
Sun Belt
11.680
Kent St., Wake Forest
  • To briefly recap the Golden Rankings system, a team starts with 12 points per game and gains points for victories of any team it defeats and loses points for losses of any team it loses to. There's also a margin of victory/loss factor that adds to or subtracts from the 12 as well. So conferences with a 12+ average have more wins than losses while the three with sub-12 average have more losses than wins.
  • As you would suspect, the Big Ten ranks fifth among the Power Conferences. The wonder is that it's not lower than one of the "Other Five."
  • The Big Ten is currently 1-8 vs the other four Power Conferences and 1-10 if you include Notre Dame. The only victory is Rutgers over Washington State in Week 1.
  • It's also interesting that the MAC ranks second-to-last despite three victories over Big Ten teams. That shows that beating a Big Ten team doesn't enhance your standing that much.
Saints Comments - 2
  • I wonder if Sean Payton is rethinking his preseason game philosophy. Drew Brees has not been his usual efficient self in the first two games, firing off target multiple times in each game and, against Atlanta, throwing a crucial INT in the EZ. (The INT against Cleveland came when Brees was hit as he threw.) Drew played less than a half of one preseason game because of the injury to his side. The first team offense didn't get that many snaps together.
  • Sean and Mickey Loomis may also regret the trade of Darren Sproles to the Eagles. Sproles was sensational against the Colts Monday night and a major reason Philly won. Brandon Cooks shows great promise, but he's still a rookie learning the ropes and Payton is figuring out the best way to use him.
  • Another point that's been made is that Rob Ryan's defenses at his three other stops declined after the first year. Is that true? Here's the actual stats.
Year Team Head Coach Record PPG allowed YPG
Allowed
2004 Oakland Norv Turner 5-11 27.6 371.0
2005 Oakland Norv Turner 4-12 23.9 330.7
2006 Oakland Art Shell 2-14 20.1 284.8
2007 Oakland Lane Kiffin 4-12 24.9 341.6
2008 Oakland Lane Kiffin
Tom Cable
5-11 24.2 360.9
2009 Cleveland Eric Mangini 5-11 23.4 389.3
2010 Cleveland Eric Mangini 5-11 20.8 350.1
2011 Dallas Jason Garrett 8-8 21.7 343.1
2012 Dallas Jason Garrett 8-8 25.0 355.4
2013 New Orleans Sean Payton 11-5 19.0 305.7
  • The chart shows that Ryan's defenses improved his first three years in Oakland. They also got stingier in points and yards his second year at Cleveland. But the D got somewhat worse from Year 1 to Year 2 at Dallas.
  • But so much depends on personnel, which changes yearly with free agency and injuries, as well as the offense, which must do its part to control the ball and give the D a chance to rest.
  • But the categorical statement that Ryan's defenses have gotten worse after year one at each of his three previous stops is FALSE.
Did You Notice? NCAA Week 3
  • Pac-12 Still #1?
    Much buzz after Week 2 about the Pac-12 being the best conference after Oregon whacked Michigan State 46-27. (If you're waiting for another reason for the buzz other than just that game, I can't give one. SEC detractors were grasping at anything to exalt a different league.) But now that USC traveled across the continent and lost to Boston College 37-31, the silence from the West Coast is deafening. After all, the Trojans the week before had upset Stanford, one of the league's powers. The conference did get two other wins over Power Five conference foes last Saturday: Washington 44 Illinois 19 and UCLA 20 Texas 17. But neither the Illini nor the Longhorns are considered serious contenders in their leagues.
  • More on UCLA
    The UCLA-Texas game started with a blunder by the Texas captains. UCLA won the coin toss and elected to defer its choice until the second half. Then Texas chose to kickoff. The referee turned off his microphone and spoke to the Longhorn players about their decision, which meant they would kick off both halves. Bruin coach Jim Mora said afterward, I had trouble believing it at first. ... It helped us win the game tonight. We were able to steal a possession without taking the ball away. UCLA didn't do anything with the opening possession, but they did drive 75y with the second half kickoff to tie the game 10-10. In the meantime, starting QB Brett Hundley hurt his left elbow midway through Q1. With Bruin Nation in despair over losing their Heisman candidate, redshirt sophomore Jerry Neuheisel, son of the former UCLA QB and coach Rick, entered the game after having thrown only 13 passes last season and none this year. But he performed admirably in Jerry's World, completing 23 of 30 for 178y for 2 TD and 0 INT to lead the 20-17 comeback win. The go-ahead score came on his 33y pass to Jordan Payton with 3:00 left. Neuheisel's teammates carried him off the field on their shoulders after the game. The Bruins are now an "ugly" 3-0.
  • Rutgers AD Apologizes
    Rutgers
    played its first Big Ten game Saturday night, hosting Penn State, the Scarlet Knights' longtime rival from their days as Eastern Independents. The result was the largest crowd in school history, 53,774. The Nittany Lions won the contest 13-10. So far, so good. But Monday afternoon, Rutgers AD Julie Hermann issued a public apology for the "classless display" of some fans after photos popped up on social media of some Scarlet Knight fans making light of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Two pictures even briefly appeared on the Rutgers web site as part of a 200-picture montage. One showed fans wearing red "Beat Ped State!" t-shirts while another showed an inappropriate banner in Penn State's colors.
  • Pray for Marshall Morgan
    Who is Marshall Morgan, you ask? He's the kicker for the Georgia Bulldogs. His Q1 FG that put UGa ahead of South Carolina 10-7 was his 19th straight to set an SEC record. He nailed another in Q2 to regain the lead 14-13. But later in the first half, Morgan missed on a 44-yarder to end his streak. Then in the final period, after Georgia narrowed a 31-20 deficit to 38-35, the Bulldogs got a great chance to at least tie the score when Damiam Swann intercepted Dylan Thompson and returned to the 4. With the incomparable Todd Gurley at TB, Georgia incomprehensively chose to pass on first down. But senior QB Hutson Mason, finally starting after backing up Aaron Murray for three years, threw the ball away under pressure and was called for intentional grounding - a 10y loss. When two more plays gained just 3y, Mark Richt sent in Morgan for a 28y attempt - duck soup for such a terrific kicker, right? Booted from the right hash, Morgan's attempt sailed inches outside the right upright. The Gamecocks then ran out the remaining 4:24 to get back in the SEC East race. But Georgia fans can take hope in the fact that the last two times their heroes lost to USC, the Bulldogs still won their division.
  • Longest Games of the Day
    Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, two teams that used to battle in the Sun Belt Conference and now cavort in C-USA, went three OT in Murfreesboro before the Blue Raiders won 50-47. After regulation ended 34-34, each team scored 7 in the first OT and matched FGs in the second. But after the Hilltoppers settled for another FG in OT #3, MTU scored on the first play of their possession on a 25y pass to send their fans home happy.
    Further South, Kentucky and Florida played the only other FBS OT game of the weekend, which also went three extra periods. The Wildcats came oh so close to ending the longest current losing streak of one team to another, 27. A UK FG with 1:47 on the clock tied the game at 20 and forced the OT. The Cats then scored on the first play on a pass. Shortly afterward, Florida faced 4th and 7 at the 9. Stop this play and the losing streak is over. But QB Jeff Driskel lofted a fade to Demarcus Robinson in the EZ to survive. After the teams traded FGs in OT #2, Kentucky missed a 41y FG on its third possession. The Gators then ran Matt Jones four times to the EZ to escape with a 36-30 win. The victory did nothing to quiet Gator coach Will Muschamp's detractors, who will grant that UK is better in Year 2 of Mark Stoops' regime but not as good as UF's inept offense (even with a new coordinator) made them look.
By the Numbers - Week Three
50
Games in which Oregon has scored 40+ points since 2009, most in the FBS by 3.
2-25 USM's record in its last 27 games since Coach Larry Fedora moved to North Carolina after leading the Golden Eagles to the C-USA championship in 2011.
11/0 TD/INT ratio for Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill after three games
669 Yards gained by Baylor in the Bears' 63-21 win over Buffalo
452/20 Boston College's yards rushing compared to USC's in the Eagles' 37-31 win Saturday night
0.9 Louisiana-Monroe's average per carry against LSU (16y on 18 attempts)
7 Consecutive times Purdue has lost to Notre Dame
0 Penalties committed by ULL in their 56-15 loss at Ole Miss
511 Yards rushing by Arizona State RB D. J. Foster in the first three games
47 Consecutive games in which Missouri has forced a turnover
1934 Last time Ohio State scored 66 or more points against an in-state opponent before Saturday's 66-0 win over Kent State
46 Years since an SEC team played in Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile before Mississippi State met South Alabama Saturday
Saints-Browns Comments

Another gut-wrenching loss. I will long remember these plays.

  • Q1: Cleveland 4th and 4 at NO 26
    Billy Cundiff's 44y FG hits the right upright - no good. But Patrick Robinson in neutral zone. 5y penalty gives Browns 1st down. Four plays later, Cundiff's 32y FG gives Browns 10-0 lead.
  • Q2: New Orleans 1st and 10 at its 44
    Brees is hit as he throws; ball sails high but Graham jumps and ball goes through his hands right to Tashaun Gipson who runs 62y for a TD to make it 16-3.
  • Q4: Leading 24-23, New Orleans 3rd and 5 at Cleveland 31 with 3:36 left; another first down probably ices the game because the Browns will be forced to use their timeouts and Graham can kick a FG to force the opposition to score a TD.
  • LB Karlos Dansby blitzes up the middle untouched to sack Brees for a 7y loss. Deciding against a 55y FG, Payton orders a punt, which is downed on the 4.
  • Cleveland facing 4th-and-6 at its 38 with 0:38 left.
    Hoyer hits Barnidge over the middle for 10y and a first down.
  • Next play: Hoyer hits a pass to Austin at NO 39; he catches it sliding down just inbounds and falls out of bounds to stop the clock. Cleveland is now in range for a long FG.
  • 1st and 10 at NO 39 with 0:15 left.
    Under pressure, Hoyer finds Hawkins running free in the secondary when two Saints take the out man and no one covers Hawkins who catches the ball for 28y to the 11. That sets up the chip shot FG for the win.

In the last analysis, the Saints lost the game because they were overwhelmed by Cleveland's energy in the first period and didn't start competing until Q2 after falling behind 10-0.

Another way to summarize the game is that the Saints never got a turnover and gave up two.

My Live Game This Weekend

Louisiana-Monroe @ LSU

Not a drop of rain and cooler than usual because of the overcast with a nice breeze out of the north.

  • Tigers employed a vanilla game plan with lots of two TE, one WR sets, pre­sumably to save better stuff for Mississippi State this coming week.
  • The defense is the real deal with two straight shutouts for the first time since 1985. I realize the competition hasn't been the greatest, but in today's foot­ball with spread offenses, it isn't easy to shutout anyone, even a Sun Belt or FCS team.
  • QB Anthony Jennings was hesitant at times and didn't pick up a secondary receiver. He's a dangerous runner out of the pocket but must not give up on passing plays too quickly. He must play better for LSU to beat Mississippi State.
Interesting Quotes

Sports Illustrated's NFL Preview issue
From the Saints preview [11-5 record predicted]
Part of coach Sean Payton's M.O. is to employ 15 different formations over his offense's first 15 plays - give or take - so that his assistants can chart how the defense responds to each one. Payton then bases much of his play-calling on that info. This practice is not uncommon in the NFL, but New Orleans ... is the best at it.
The Saints simply have too many offensive looks for a defense to prepare for, and New Orleans is able to run those out of myriad personnel groupings thanks to its depth at running back, receiver and tight end. The Saints are bound to find favor­able mismatches.

Brees is as adept as anyone at clicking through progressions, and Payton is among the elite at constructing route combinations, particularly with screens, seam pat­terns, posts and deep crosses.
Because of Brees' small stature, the Saints must have solid protection up the mid­dle. Guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans earn more than three times what tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief earn. Payton's system makes great use of chip blocks ... so having elite tackles is not vital.
The Saints hope that rookie wideout Brandin Cooks can quickly become a threat. ... New Orleans also needs Cooks to create his own opportunities against tight coverage on the outside - something that no one else, including decorated possess­ion target Marques Colston, is capable of doing.
RB Pierre Thomas is an adept receiver, especially on screens, where he has an excellent sense of spacing and timing. Thomas is also a steady ballcarrier, though his touches will be limited in a backfield trio that includes Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson ... Robinson, a second-year pro with excellent burst and control, is viewed by many (including Payton's longtime mentor and friend Bill Parcells) as a budding star.
The swarming nature of the Saints' defense makes it appear as if they have a fierce pass rush. Look closely, though, and you'll see a front seven without any true edge specialists ... Coordinator Rob Ryan compensates with keen blitz designs as well as blitz looks that wind up bringing only the standard four rushers.
Kenny Vaccaro is a deft slot defender, thanks to man-coverage skills honed at Texas ... He's also a heady linebacker, capable of slithering around bodies much as Charles Woodson did in his days as a Packer ... Interchangeable safeties are most dangerous playing alongside quality man-to-man corners. The Saints have one of those in Keenan Lewis, who is ascending toward the top echoelon at his position.

Each team preview includes a "Secret Superstar" item (including Vaccaro for the Saints). Here are two about former LSU players.
Arizona Cardinals Secret Superstar: CB Tyrann Mathieu
Yards per coverage snap allowed in slot: 0.9 (NFL average: 1.24)
Before tearing his ACL in Week 14, Mathieu played 65.4 percent of his snaps in the slot, allowing the 10th-fewest yards per coverage snap (0.9). With eight stops (tied for eight among CBs) and 12 QB pressures (second), the Honey Badger did it all as a rook.
St. Louis Rams Secret Superstar: OT Joe Barksdale
Barksdale was a backup on his second team in three seasons when a Week 2 injury to Rodger Saffold forced him into duty. Barksdale allowed just 27 QB pressures the rest of 2013 - on par with LT Jake Long over that span.

Another quote
Counter to the prevailing notion that early specialization is the key to a pro career, studies show that future elites actually practice less on average in their eventual sports than near-elites and that most U.S.-born big leaguers play multiple sports through high school.

From USA Today Sports Weekly
On the question of whether going winless or undefeated in the preseason carries over into the regular season:
Of the 57 winless preseason teams since 1983:
>Ten ended the regular season with a winning record.
>Eight made the playoffs.
>Two reached the Super Bowl (neither won).
Of the 57 undefeated preseason teams:
>Thirty-two had a winning record.
>Thirty made the playoffs.
Six reached the Super Bowl (four hoisted the Lombardi Trophy).
...The Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins were spotless in the preseason last year. The Seahawks went on to capture Super Bowl XLVIII, while the Redskins went from NFC East champions in 2012 to three wins in 2013. ...
Only one team in history has won a Super Bowl after going winless throughout the preseason - the 1982 Redskins.

Charles Weems, a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors in 2005 who was part of the search team that interviewed Les Miles, in Tiger Rag: He has been every­thing we could've wanted. Other than a few glitches here and there that have been magnified mainly because of the coach he followed, he has been great. We couldn't ask for more. He really fit in instantly, and I feel has continued to get better and better. He is more comfortable now and I believe will continue to win big.

By the Numbers - Odds 'n Ends
16 Consecutive home games won by the Saints with Sean Payton on the sidelines
+20 Seahawks' 2013 turnover margin, a stat that tends to swing back the following year
139.3 Drew Brees' passer rating when targeting Kenny Stills last season, the best of any QB-WR combination in the league.
4 Number of takeaways by the Saints in their final nine games of 2013, including none in the two playoff tilts
Week 3 Picks 9-10

No "gimme" spreadless games this week.

  • Wyoming +43 over #3 OREGON
    Ducks coast after big win over Michigan State.
  • Southern Mississippi +48 over #3 ALABAMA
    Remember when USM regularly upset major conference teams?
  • #4 OKLAHOMA over Tennessee +20.5
    Young Vols not ready for a big road test yet.
  • #6 Georgia over #24 SOUTH CAROLINA +6.5 X
    Hard to pick the winner even without the spread.
  • #7 TEXAS A&M over Rice +31.5 X
    No 73 for Aggies this week but enough to cover.
  • #8 Baylor over BUFFALO +35
    Like A&M, Bears usually good to top any spread.
  • #9 USC over BOSTON COLLEGE #17 X
    Trojans get second straight road win.
  • #10 LSU over Louisiana Monroe +31 PUSH
    Young Tigers have fun again.
  • Purdue +27.5 over #11 Notre Dame
    Irish let down after big win over Michigan.
  • Texas +7.5 over #12 UCLA
    Longhorns make up for last week's debacle.
  • Louisiana Lafayette +27.5 over #14 OLE MISS X
    Cajuns show they're not as bad as they played last week.
  • Army +28 over #15 STANFORD X
    Cadets ground game and Cardinal hangover from loss last week keep score down.
  • #16 Arizona State over COLORADO +15 X
    Another romp for Sun Devils.
  • #17 VIRGINIA TECH over East Carolina +10 X
    Hokies avoid letdown after big win in Columbus.
  • UCF +10 over #20 MISSOURI X
    O'Leary's boys play well on road.
  • #21 Louisville over VIRGINIA +6.5 X
    Petrino prepares his men to survive trap game.
  • #22 OHIO STATE over Kent State +32
    Buckeyes losing last week was worst thing that could happen for KSU.

Intriguing Non-Top 25 Games

  • MICHIGAN over Miami (OH) +32.5 X
    Wolverines take out anger on hapless RedHawks.
  • Iowa State +11 over IOWA
    Cyclones always play well in rivalry game.
  • Nebraska over FRESNO STATE +10.5
    Cornhuskers due for big game after last week's scare.
Saints-Falcons Comments

That was one helluva ball game. Unfortunately, our team lost.

  • I watched the Saints game simultaneously with Patriots-Dolphins on side-by-side TVs. The games were similar in many respects. Both involved a team (Saints/Patriots) that has dominated the division opponent (Falcons/ Dolphins). In both cases, the abused team fell behind (both trailing 20-10 at halftime). Then both home teams came out with new resolve and took it to their tormentors. The Dolphins actually won going away, 33-20, after holding the Pats scoreless in the second half.
  • Someone said after the game, "The Falcons just wanted it more than we did." I don't agree with that. That's the same syndrome that causes LSU fans to berate the coach after every loss. It's never the other team's play that gives them victory; it's our lack of effort or poor coaching. The Saints played hard. They came from behind in the last few minutes to take a 34-31 lead. But the defense couldn't get a stop when it counted.
  • The Saints lost because the Falcons got the deciding turnover in OT, knocking the ball from Colston's hand to set up the winning FG. Demetrius Byrd had done the same thing to Julio Jones in Q1 to save a TD.
  • So hats off to the Falcons. Last year's opening game, a 23-17 victory for the home team in the Superdome, set the tone for the 2013 season, with the Saints bouncing back from a subpar 7-9 season without Peyton to make the playoffs and the defending NFL South champion Falcons winning just four games. Let's hope today's result doesn't have the same effect on the winner and loser this year.
  • The major question from the opener is whether the Saints D will continue as porous or whether this was an aberration due to Matt Ryan having an outstanding day and utilizing all his weapons, including a healthy Julio Jones, who missed most of last season.
  • The turnaround in the game came in the last minute of the first half. After the Saints scored with 0:20 left to take a 20-7 lead as all four possessions had led to scores, Ryan hit a 19y pass to Devin Hester and a 39y completion to Roddy White to set up a 40y FG by Matt Bryant. Not only did those three points eventually enable the Falcons to force OT with another Bryant FG at the end of regulation, but it seemed to give the Dirty Birds heart. They outscored the Saints 14-0 in Q3 to take the lead.
NFL Predictions

Don't be surprised if ...

  • ... the winner of the Green Bay-Seattle game represents the NFC in the Super Bowl.
    The Packers and Seahawks are expected to be the class of the conference. So the winner of the game (which was Seattle) has the tiebreaker on the other should they finish with identical records. And that could make the difference in determining home field for a rematch.

  • ... the Saints make the playoffs.
    I don't think I buy the notion that some have advanced that this is Sean Peyton's most talented Saints team. A few writers put them in the Super Bowl. But I do think that, with continued improvement in the defense, the Saints should win the NFC South after finishing 2nd to the Panthers last year.

  • ... the following teams improve on their 2013 records.
    Lions (7 wins in 2013)
    Vikings (5)
    Texans (2)
    Bears (8)
    Titans (7)

  • ... the following teams do not do win as many games as in 2013.
    Eagles (10 wins in 2013)
    Cowboys (8)
    Panthers (12)
    Seahawks (13)
    Chiefs (11)
College Football Predictions

With games starting tonight, it's time for my annual predictions - college this week, NFL next week.

Don't be surprised if ...

  • LSU loses to either Mississippi State or Ole Miss at home.
    One of my predictions last year was that LSU would lose a game in which it was favored and win a game in which it was an underdog. That came to pass when the Tigers lost at Ole Miss but beat Texas A&M at home. This year, LSU has an even younger team with no experience to speak of at QB. That means inconsistent play. Ole Miss has its most talented team in some time and is predicted by many to finish ahead of LSU in the West. And the law of averages may catch up with the Tigers in regard to Mississippi State, whom they've beaten 14 times in a row.

  • LSU beats Alabama.
    No, this isn't a contradiction to the previous prediction. By November 8, both young QBs will have nine games of experience. The Tigers have the week off before the clash (although Bama does too). The Tide's QB situation is uncer­tain also. Tiger Stadium will be jumping. Miles & Company remember how close they came to an upset two years ago when A. J. McCarron led a last minute winning drive. Saban doesn't have a McCarron under C this year.

  • LSU's string of four consecutive double-digit win seasons ends.
    Les Miles and his staff will do well to coax nine wins out of this team. Four losses ends any hope of ten wins. Back-to-back games at Auburn and Flori­da will probably produce two of those defeats. A loss to Wisconsin in the opener will make it hard to get ten wins with the conference schedule still ahead. Defeat the Badgers and the Tigers might get to ten wins with a bowl victory.

  • The winner of the Georgia-South Carolina game in Week 2 wins the SEC.
    Predicting the UGa-SC winner captures the East crown is not going out on a limb. But taking the victor to win the Championship Game is a bold choice.

  • Auburn doesn't finish in the Top Ten.
    The Tigers were the biggest surprise of 2013. But their last two wins came on freak plays. One Georgia defender was ready to intercept or at least knock down the desperation pass when a teammate knocked it from him into the arms of the Auburn receiver. Nick Saban and his staff made numerous coaching mistakes in the Iron Bowl, including lobbying for a second to be put back on the clock and sending in the FG unit instead of throwing a Hail Mary. Of course, Auburn might still have won in OT. Also, the week before AU played in Baton Rouge September 21, Nick Marshall came off the bench and led a last ditch drive that culminated in a winning TD pass with 0:10 left. All in all, last season had enough breaks go Auburn's way to last a lifetime. Fur­thermore, opponents have had the entire off-season to study video of Gus Malzahn's offense.

  • UCLA wins the Pac-12 and makes the College Football Playoff.
    This is my surprise Final Four participant. Jim Mora's Bruins have gone from nine wins his first year to ten last year. He has 16 returning starters including, best of all, QB Brett Hundley, who decided to come back for another year despite being eligible for the NFL draft.

  • At most one team nationally goes undefeated.
    Only one squad, Florida State, finished the regular season unblemished last year. With eight SEC teams, including Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia, deploying new QBs, it is highly likely no team in the nation's tough­est league will emerge without a loss. With the exception of FSU, no squad in any other conference seems capable of running the table. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Seminoles dropped a game along the way - hence the "at most one" in my prediction.

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. For most of the year, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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For Your Reading Pleasure

NEW Edition of the Golden Football Magazine [9/12]
Tiger Den: Profile: Young Bussey - VI
Saints Saga: 1987 Saints - Games 4 and 5
Seminoles Sidelines: "A Stand for the Ages"
NFL Championship Game: 1952
Interesting Story: Blanda's Incredible String - I
Football Profile: Jesse Harper
Short Story Teacher Extraordinaire
How Well Do You Know the Rules?
Football Quiz

 

RECENT Edition of the Golden Baseball Magazine [8/23]
Cardinals Clubhouse
---Surprising 1964 - III
---Cardinals Quiz
Even the Greats Have Bad Days Don Drysdale
Stat Comparison Mantle, Mays, Snider
The Ultimate Game 1957 World Series - Game 7
Short Story - Whistle While You Work
How Would You Rule? -
Broken bat hits ball
Baseball Quiz
- Total Hits Leaders

 

LAST Golden Basketball Magazine until winter [7/3]
Basketball Short Story Destroy the Russians!
Tiger Den Basketball Profile: Bob Pettit - IV
Basketball Snapshot
1957 NBA Finals - Game 7
From the Golden Archives Basketball Week in Time Jan. 1945
Basketball Quiz Coaches of NCAA Champions

 

About This Site

SITE CONTENTS

Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees - 2014

April Fools 2014

Final Golden College Football Rankings for 2013

Final Golden NFL Rankings Regular Season 2013

Past Articles
Les Miles and Dale Brown - Two Peas in a Pod?

If Alabama Fans Were Like LSU Fans
I Started Following SEC Football So Long Ago That ...
Future of College Football?

LSU Teams That Supplied the Most Pro Players
LSU Players Who Played the Longest in Pro Football

Biased Football Opinions Archive

Golden Moments in Sports History Archive

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