NCAA Football Predictions: Week 6 Opening Line Report and Picks
Butch Jones will not be the head coach of Tennessee next season. I'm as sure of that as I am the sun will rise tomorrow. The Vols were embarrassed 41-0 at home against Georgia on Saturday, effectively ending their SEC East hopes and sealing Jones' fate. The Volunteers were shut out for the first time since 1994 and suffered their most lopsided home loss since 1905. None of the previous six games in that series had been decided by more than eight points, and UT had won the past two.
That loss dropped Jones' record at Tennessee to 33-23 overall and 14-20 in the SEC. Against Tennessee's primary rivals -- Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida and Alabama -- Jones is 5-13. To buy Jones out will cost UT $9.2 million. The good news: Tennessee won't lose this week because it's on a bye. BetOnline has a prop available on whom the school's head coach will be in 2018. The favorite is former Oregon, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly at +325. He would at least bring offensive excitement, something sorely lacking right now in Knoxville. Georgia outgained Tennessee 378-142 and limited the Vols to seven first downs. Jones called it the "worst offensive performance" he has ever been a part of. Kelly doesn't really have any ties to the south, if that matters.
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First-year Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and Louisville's Bobby Petrino are each +450. There's talk that Petrino is ready to leave that school because of the expected dismissal of Athletic Director Tom Jurich in the wake of yet another basketball scandal. Jurich is currently on administrative leave but not expected back. Petrino's contract has some interesting language that decreases his buyout by 50 percent if Jurich isn't the AD: If Petrino were to leave before June 30, 2018, and Jurich is out, the coach's buyout would go from $8 million to $4 million.
Other candidates listed on the prop are Memphis' Mike Norvell (+750), Minnesota's P.J. Fleck (+800), former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops (+900), ex-Tennessee quarterback and current Southern Cal offensive coordinator Tee Martin (+900), former LSU coach Les Miles (+1000), the awesomely named Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter (+1800; he played at UT), Mississippi State's Dan Mullen (+1800), Jon Gruden (+2000; he's not going to college but I think will coach in the NFL again), Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (+2500), some guy named Peyton Manning (+10000; never happening) and, in what is clearly just a joke, Lane Kiffin (+10000). Norvell makes a ton of sense to me.
Here are a few Week 6 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted.
No. 17 Louisville at NC State (+3): The Thursday night ESPN game. The Wolfpack are ranked for the first time since 2010 following a 33-25 win over Syracuse on Saturday to improve to 4-1 for a fourth straight season and 2-0 in the ACC for the first time in 11 years. Don't laugh, but NC State could be in great position to win the ACC Atlantic Division if it takes this game. The Wolfpack already own a victory over Florida State and get Clemson at home on Nov. 4. NC State avoids Miami and Virginia Tech from the Coastal, and its only conference road game left that looks challenging is Oct. 14 at Pitt (others are Boston College and Wake Forest). I'm not here predicting winning the division will happen, but this was a chic dark-horse team entering the season with a terrific defense. The Cardinals warmed up for this one in basically a scrimmage against Murray State, winning 55-10. Lamar Jackson played just over a half and threw for 249 yards and three scores while rushing for 100 yards and a TD. The reigning Heisman winner is now just 13 yards short of becoming the seventh player in ACC history to reach 10,000 total career yards.The Wolfpack were blown out in Louisville last October, 54-13. Jackson threw for 355 yards and three scores and rushed for 76 and another TD. That was a bit of a letdown game for NC State, though, as it blew a win the previous week at Clemson. The Pick: NC State.
No. 13 Miami at Florida State (+3.5): Staying in the ACC, this game was originally to be played on Sept. 16 but was moved due to Hurricane Irma. Both schools had had Oct. 7 as an open date, so it was an easy decision. The Hurricanes impressively won at previously unbeaten Duke last Friday night, 31-6. Star receiver Ahmmon Richards made his season debut off a hamstring injury and had three catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Top running back Mark Walton left midway through the fourth quarter with what appeared to be an ankle injury, but Coach Mark Richt, a former FSU offensive coordinator, says he expects Walton to play here. FSU got its first win of the season Saturday, 26-19 over Wake Forest to avoid the school's first 0-3 start since 1976. James Blackman connected with Auden Tate on a 40-yard touchdown throw with 53 seconds left. Could this be the year Miami ends a seven-game losing streak in the series? It easily could have won the past three, but often was done in by Miami native Dalvin Cook, now with the Minnesota Vikings. Last year, it was 20-19 as a Hurricanes' tying PAT try was blocked with 1:38 left. UM led 13-0 at one point. Cook had 150 yards on 27 carries and a 59-yard TD reception. The Pick: FSU.
No. 23 West Virginia at No.8 TCU (-12): Both teams come off a bye week, and ESPN GameDay will be in Fort Worth. You don't hear many people talking about the Horned Frogs, who were +10000 to win the national title back on the eve of the season but are now +3000. They come off one of the most impressive wins by any team in 2017, a 44-31 victory at then-No. 6 Oklahoma State on Sept. 23. Remember Kenny Hill? The Texas A&M transfer, who was a Heisman favorite for about a minute in 2014, is completing 72.7 percent of his passes for 965 yards and nine scores. TCU is converting a whopping 63 percent of its third downs, easily No. 1 in the country. WVU has bounced back from an opening loss to Virginia Tech with three straight blowouts of cupcakes. Florida transfer Will Grier has thrown for 1,374 yards and 13 TDs, and he has two stellar receivers in Gary Jennings (29 catches, 438 yards, one TD) and David Sills V (26 catches, 396 yards, seven TDs). West Virginia routed TCU 34-10 last year. The Pick: TCU.
No. 1 Alabama at Texas A&M (+25): There's one easy way for Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin to ensure he has a job in 2018 - win this game. We all remember that Johnny Manziel became a household name and basically won the Heisman in A&M's 2012 upset in Tuscaloosa. However, the Tide have won four straight in the series, and they haven't been close the previous three. If Alabama wins by a rout again, I don't see Sumlin surviving barring then running the table - and that's not happening with Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn and LSU still to play. The Aggies nearly got caught in a trap game this past Saturday at home vs. South Carolina, escaping 24-17. Keith Ford ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 17-yard score in the fourth quarter. True freshman Kellen Mond threw for 159 yards and ran for 95. He looks night-and-day different from the season opener against UCLA when he replaced an injured Nick Starkel and was an ugly 3-for-17 passing for 27 yards as A&M blew a huge lead and lost. Alabama destroyed Ole Miss 66-3 on Saturday. It was the most points the Tide had scored in a game since 1979 and the first time it has scored 50-plus in consecutive SEC games since 1945.The Pick: Texas A&M (not to win).
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