What You Need to Know

"Every week during football season I go into short trances that allow me to see the final score on each football scoreboard across the nation. I try to enlighten the masses about who will win each week. They try to outguess me."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Zultan's Final Fearless Football Forecast: Week 13

Finally the SEC was dethroned from atop the BCS rankings in Week 11. Kansas State and Oregon ascended to No.1 and No. 2 respectively.

But then Week 12 found both toppled after reigning one short week. Those SEC football gurus are determined to own the gridiron. They stop at nothing.

Can they do the same to the Big Irish One? Zultan believes, Notre Dame has a direct conduit to the powers that be—the BCS power computers in 2012.

For his part Zultan went 8-2 last week missing on Northwestern’s win and on Oregon’s loss. Only one of you did better than the All-Seeing Seer in Week 12—Kent Gleichman  of West Des Moines, IA—who tipped the board at 9-1.  Congrats, Ken!

This is the final week of the regular season for most conferences. This will also be Zultan’s last column for 2012 as we all prepare to say adieu to college football for another season—waiting for teams to begin bowling in December.

So make your final picks of the season and hope you finally are able to outguess the Mighty Zultan in Week 13.  Zultan will only be highlighting Saturday games so he does not have to forecast Nebraska versus Iowa on Friday—whew. Mom is on the warpath again.

Zultan has enjoyed this conference season picking games. Sayonara, fellow soothsayers.

Game 1: (5) Oregon at (15) Oregon State

Talk about disappointment! Oregon had everything riding on last Saturday’s game and failed to get past Stanford playing at home in Eugene. Meanwhile Oregon State was running roughshod over the Cal Bears.  This weekend’s contest will determine whether Oregon still has a shot to play in the BCS Championship Game on January 7.

Then too, much hinges on this game for the PAC-12 overall. Will the Ducks be able to bounce back after such a big downer in Week 12? Will the Beavers feel compassion for their instate rivals.

Zultan thinks not. Oregon State will not prove to be the defensive juggernaut that Stanford was. The Ducks will just fly over the Beaver front line.

PIck Oregon to win on the road.

Game 2: (1) Notre Dame at USC

Notre Dame finally took the top spot in the BCS. All along, pundits have held back, saying that the Irish were not good enough—that Notre Dame’s defense was great but their offense was lacking.
Now, the team from South Bend stands alone as the No. 1 team in the nation.

Saturday the Irish travel to the Coliseum to play USC for their final game of the regular season. Once Notre Dame clears this hurdle—there is no conference championship game—nothing standing in their way.

USC will be playing without their quarterback Matt Barkley who was hurt in the Trojans game with UCLA last Saturday. The team that was supposed to occupy the No. 1 spot in college football will meet the team which actually is the No. 1 team in the nation—irony. 
Without Barkley, however, USC is second best in Zultan’s estimation.

Pick Notre Dame to win on the road.

Game 3: (4) Florida at (10) Florida State

One of the big instate rivalry games on Saturday will feature No. 4 Florida (10-1, 7-1) out of the SEC against No. 10 Florida State (10-1, 7-1) out of the ever-dwindling ACC.  The game will be played in Tallahassee—home of the Seminoles.

On paper, these two teams are identical except that the Florida Gators are ranked higher than their esteemed counterpart in the state.  The reason? Because the SEC is the premiere conference in the country while the ACC is not.

It appears that the Gators quarterback will be back to play in this game. Because the Gators have a tougher schedule and have met more quality opponents, Zultan feels they will be better prepared for whatever the Seminoles throw at them.  ACC vs. SEC?

Pick the Florida Gators to win on the road.

Game 4: (21) Oklahoma State at (13) Oklahoma

Oklahoma (8-2, 6-1) hung on to win by one point over the West Virginia Mountaineers last Saturday in a Big 12 contest.

This Saturday the Sooners get to stay home in Norman to face instate rivals the Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-3, 5-2).  Both teams are ranked in the BCS.

Oklahoma State upended Texas Tech last Saturday to the tune of 59-21, winning five of their last six games. 

Neither team can afford another loss because now that Kansas State has lost, with two games remaining—there is an outside chance for a big bowl placement—even the Big 12 title, although it will no doubt go to Kansas State.

Playing at home after being severely tested on the road, Bobby Stoops should have the Sooners hopping.

Pick Oklahoma to win at home.

Game 5: (8) Stanford at (17) UCLA

Stanford (9-2, 7-1) has got to be riding high after knocking off Oregon last Saturday, ruining the Duck’s chances of playing in the National Championship Game in January. This while UCLA (9-2) knocked the stuffing out of USC, sending Trojan QB Matt Barkley to the sidelines. 
The Cardinal have won their last five football games after losing in overtime to Notre Dame on October 13.

UCLA has already sewn up the PAC-12 South while Stanford must win this game and hope that Oregon State can defeat Oregon to win the PAC-12 North title. This would allow the Cardinal the opportunity to play in the PAC-12 Championship game against UCLA, again.

While the Bruins have made great strides in 2012, you just gotta love that crushing Cardinal defense—which should stop the Bruins cold.

Pick Stanford to win on the road.

Game 6: (19) Michigan at Ohio State

Finally the Michigan vs. Ohio State contest is upon us. That signals the end in the Big Ten for the 2012 regular season.

This year, even though Ohio State (10-0, 7-0) remains undefeated, the Buckeyes cannot participate in post season play because of past sins by their forefathers.  It is too bad for college football and for the Big Ten.

Nonetheless, the Buckeyes are in the moment and play to win, obviously. To date, Ohio State has played some less than stellar games during the season. But the Buckeyes always find a way to come away with a victory.

Michigan (8-3, 6-1) has made great strides this year and are now ranked in top 20 in the BCS. The Wolverines need to win this game to stay tied with Nebraska for the Legends Division title. They must also hope that Iowa can knock off Nebraska on Friday.  Delusions abound early in the week for Michigan hopefuls because no doubt the Cornhuskers will down Iowa just as the Buckeyes will take care of Michigan at the Horseshoe in Columbus.

Pick Ohio State to win at home.

Game 7: Michigan State at Minnesota

At first glance, this seems like an easy game to predict. But, it is not. Most will pick Michigan State (5-6, 2-5) to win this contest based on past history.  The Spartans, however, have lost their glow during the past two seasons. They are not the team they once were.

Minnesota (6-5, 2-5) has a better overall record and they will be playing at home.  The Gophers really have nothing to lose because they are already bowl eligible; but, a win against Michigan State would make them look so much more attractive.

Michigan State never loses by much. Their biggest loss so far this season came against Notre Dame when the Spartans lost by 17 points.  Otherwise, it has been one point, or two, three or four points. The Spartans are in the game until the final gun. But the Spartans cannot seem to collect those close ones, giving up in the end.

The Gophers, who won their first four games, have only won twice in their last seven contests—defeating Purdue and Illinois. Minnesota got out of the gates fast but has fared only mediocre since the end of September.

Zultan sees the Spartans finally winning a close one.

Pick Michigan State to win on the road.

Game 8: Indiana at Purdue

Sitting near the bottom of the Leaders Division are Purdue (5-6, 2-5) and Indiana (4-7, 2-5) of the Big Ten.  They will both play their final game of the season on Saturday—probably—unless Purdue can win and become bowl eligible by winning their sixth game of 2012.

The two rivals will be playing for the Old Oaken Bucket and perhaps to insure that Coach Danny Hope continues as the Boilermakers coach in 2013.  Additionally, the two teams will be playing in West Lafayette on Saturday.

Zultan believes in Hope.

Pick Purdue to win at home.

Game 9 Wisconsin at Penn State

Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3) will take the Leaders Division title and run because the winner, Ohio State is ineligible as is the runner up, Penn State (7-4, 5-2). So even finishing third, Wisconsin will play in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.

Penn State, however, has not been playing for titles all season. The Nittany Lions are playing for a chance to restore some dignity to this once premiere program. The Lions have gone a long way to accomplish that in 2012.

Penn State is far better than expected and Wisconsin is far worse than touted in preseason polls.  At this point, they are about equal on the gridiron. When in doubt, Zultan picks the home team.

Pick Penn State to win at home.

Game 10: (12) South Carolina at (11) Clemson

SEC member South Carolina (9-2, 6-2) has a perfect home record. This would be a deciding factor if  the contest were being held in Columbia. But, the game is being played in Clemson where the Clemson Tigers (10-1, 7-1) out of the ACC are ready to pounce.

During the past three years, South Carolina has won this annual rivalry game regardless of where it was held.  Clemson fields an outstanding offense but a less than effective defense.

This game is BIG. If Clemson can pull it off, they would be in line to score an at-large bid from the BCS. They would break South Carolina’s stranglehold on the series. But, in order to do this, the Tigers must have no turnovers and must not give up any big scoring plays. A win would salvage the ACC’s season.

South Carolina stands alone in third place in the SEC East standings behind Georgia and Florida. They do not wish to fall any lower.

Zultan senses some ACC pride.

Pick Clemson to win at home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Zultan's Fearless Football Forecast for Week 12: Alabama Down.

A seismic shift in the gridiron status quo occurred in Week 11. Alabama fell from football heaven, their dreams of repeat glory squelched by “Johnny Football” and the Texas A&M Aggies last Saturday.

In the meantime outside SEC Land, the cream of the crop in the Big East, Louisville crashed and burned at Syracuse. 

Another undefeated went belly up.

Additionally, in Iowa City, the hometown Hawkeyes had their wings clipped by the Purdue Boilermakers 27-24. Can the Hawks get any lower?  No, they are officially in the basement of the Big Ten sitting beside Illinois, waiting for this season to blow over.

Ultimately Zultan went 7-3, losing those three contests last Saturday. Some of you equaled—but none surpassed Zultan in Week 11.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, the upcoming contests this Saturday become exponentially crucial as teams pray for bowl bids. The final BCS standings await the next two round of upsets.

Here is your next to last chance to outshine the premiere Pigskin Prognosticator.

Make your picks for Week 12 to try to outguess Zultan and see your name up in lights, figuratively speaking.

Game 1: Northwestern Wildcats at Michigan State Spartans

In Big Ten Land, Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) lost to Michigan in overtime last Saturday, 38-31. It was a tough road loss for the Wildcats who kept pace with the Wolverines step for step throughout the game. The loss left Northwestern down and out in Big Ten's Legends Division race.

Michigan State (5-5, 2-4) had a week off after losing a nail biter to Nebraska 28-24 at home. The Spartans always play close but loses just as often as they win sitting with a 5-5 record.

This Spartan team had its chances to excel but could not take the last step week after week. Michigan State still needs a win just to reach bowl eligibility.  It promises to be another tough one in East Lansing. Nonetheless...

Pick Michigan State to win at home.

Game 2: Iowa Hawkeyes at (21) Michigan Wolverines
The Iowa Hawkeyes (4-6, 2-4, Big Ten) get to finish this less-than-stellar year playing Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday followed by hosting the Nebraska Cornhuskers the day after Thanksgiving.

A real treat for Hawkeye fans everywhere—pardon Zultan’s sarcasm. 

Overall, Iowa is young. They will learn their lessons from this season and come back in 2013 ready to take their place along with the rest of the conference—back in the thick of the Big Ten race with a better understanding of what it takes to win.

In the meantime, Michigan (7-3, 5-1) has a real chance to win out and contend for the top spot in the Legends Division. The Wolverines must hope that someone else defeats Nebraska because the Michigan lost their head-to-head contest with the Cornhuskers who continue to control their own destiny.

Pick Michigan to win at home.

Game 3: Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State (6-4, 4-2) made it a real contest against Nebraska last Saturday—for the first three quarters. But then, the Cornhuskers pulled away in the final fifteen as Taylor Martinez and crew wore out the Penn State defense. The Huskers won 32-23.

After back to back wins over Illinois and Iowa. Indiana (4-6, 2-4) fell hard in Week 11 to Wisconsin,  62-14.  That was a true reality check for the Hoosiers who hoped to make their way to bowl eligibility after two wins in a row.  Now Indiana must defeat both Penn State and Purdue for the miracle to happen.  There will, however, be no Cinderella moment in Happy Valley.

Pick Penn State to win at home.

Game 4: Minnesota Golden Gophers at (14) Nebraska Cornhuskers

Minnesota (6-4, 2-4, Big Ten) became bowl eligible last Saturday by defeating Illinois on the road.  The Gophers have not gone bowling since 2009. Jerry Kill and staff are making real progress in Minneapolis.

It is a good thing Minnesota had that feel good moment last Saturday because they probably will not be able to celebrate after their trip to Lincoln where the Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-2, 5-1) traditionally treat guests badly.

Pick Nebraska to win at home.

Game 5: Ohio State Buckeyes at Wisconsin Badgers

This is one of the more intriguing of the Big Ten match-ups this Saturday.

Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2) returns to the conversation after pummeling the Indiana Hoosiers last Saturday. But, let’s face it. That does not really tell us much.

While the Badgers tend to play better at home, Indiana did not put up much resistance on defense. The Badger running backs trampled the Hoosiers. We expected as much—even the score pile on.

Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) ironically remains perfect in the 2012 season. Even though they cannot play in the postseason, the Buckeyes are being filled with Glory-ade by Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. So far so good...

Pick Ohio State to win on the road.

Game 6: Purdue Boilermakers at Illinois Fighting Illini
Purdue (4-6, 1-5) won their first Big Ten game of the season last Saturday by upending the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

The win may have saved Purdue Coach Danny Hope’s job at the helm of the Boilers. Certainly, if Purdue wins this Saturday on the road at Illinois, Hope will survive for another season in West Lafayette.

Their task of becoming bowl eligible is helped by the Boilers’ remaining games against winless Illinois this Saturday plus their last game of the regular season at home against Indiana. They could actually win both.

Illinois (2-8, 0-6) has watched their inaugural season under new coach Tim Beckman spiral down the drain. The Illini offense continues to sputter and their defense reacts too late. 

There will be time to retool and simplify for 2013.  In the meantime...

Pick Purdue to win on the road.

Game 7: (13) Stanford Cardinal at (2) Oregon Ducks

Out in PAC-12 Land the Ducks have to be quacking up—joyous that Alabama lost, paving the way for Oregon (10-0, 7-0) to play in the BCS National Championship Game. 

But, it is a dangerous spot for low flying birds. The Ducks must still face a ranked Stanford team this Saturday as well as ranked instate rival Oregon State in the final regular season game.  Additionally, the Ducks have some key defensive players hurt.

The true incentive remains—a win for the Ducks might move them to the No. 1 spot in the BCS standings.

Stanford (8-2, 6-1) needs to win this game to try to keep pace in PAC-12 North Division and pray that Oregon State can knock off the Ducks. Stanford is coming off a win over the Beavers 27-23 last Saturday.  Next week the Cardinal will be the Beavers biggest fans if Stanford can will this week in Eugene.  But it will not happen.

Pick Oregon to win at home.

Game 8: (18) USC Trojans at (17) UCLA Bruins

This is another Big Game in the PAC-12 South with the Division Title on the line.  USC (8-2, 5-2), whose pre-season expectations exceeded their capabilities, have lost to Stanford on the road, to Arizona on the road and to Oregon at home so far this season. Last Saturday they defeated Arizona State 38-17 at the Coliseum.

UCLA (8-2, 5-2) has lost to Oregon State 27-20 at home and at Cal 43-17.  The Bruins have won their last four games. Two of their wins have come over ranked teams including No. 16 Nebraska and No. 22 Arizona.

The game will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The oddsmakers favor the Trojans by 3. It is a tough call. But Zultan is no chicken.

Pick UCLA to win at home.

Game 9: (23) Texas Tech Red Raiders at (24) Oklahoma State Cowboys

Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2, Big 12) has a lot of football remaining with three games looming on their schedule. The one on Saturday will be played in Stillwater against Texas Tech—a team the Cowboys plundered last year 66-6.  It will not be the same kind of game this year.

This year the Cowboys have three losses—to Kansas State, Texas and Arizona.  Their swagger has been buried by the dust of defeat.

Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3) won their first four games, finally falling to earth when they faced Oklahoma in Lubbock—losing 41-20. Then they lost to Texas and to Kansas State.  The Red Raiders managed to get by lowly Kansas in OT last Saturday, escaping with a 41-34 victory.

Playing on the road, Texas Tech will not escape this time.

Pick Oklahoma State to win at home.

Game 10: (12) Oklahoma Sooners at West Virginia Mountaineers

The Oklahoma Sooners (7-2, 5-1) get to travel to Morgantown to face the dejected West Virginia Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4).  West Virginia’s season sank after shooting out to a  5-0 season start.

West Virginia, however, has now lost their last five games and are seriously wondering about their decision to leave the cozy confines of the Big East Conference. 

New head coach Dana Holgorsen has left something out of the Mountaineers game plan it seems.  Once the season ends, it will be back to the drawing board for the Mountaineers’ coaching staff.

In fact, West Virginia must eke out another win to become bowl eligible.  The Big 12 has become a true test under fire for the Mountaineers.

Meanwhile Oklahoma fans regard the season as a failure because the Sooners are not in  contention for the National Championship.  Oklahoma has lost two games this season to Kansas State and to Notre Dame.  They have one loss in the Big 12 but will, undoubtedly, come in second to Kansas State.

They will, however, win this game on Saturday.

Pick Oklahoma to win on the road.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Zultan's Fearless Football Forecast, Week 11

Another bleak week for the Mighty Zultan whose Big Ten teams waited until the very end to lose, making the agony that much greater.  Zultan went 6-4. Hordes did better.

Mom’s beloved Hawkeyes waited until the fourth quarter to give up the ghost. She has taken up volleyball.

Michigan State looked great, right up until the end when Nebraska rose up and stole the game in the blink of an eye. Those Cornhuskers give the All-Seeing Seer an unending headache, blurring his vision at critical junctures.

Outside the Big Ten, wouldn’t you just know Texas would show up with a complete game on both sides of the ball?? Plus, Zultan heard that the Mississippi State Bulldogs forgot to show up for the game, filling in with locals from the stands.

Now heading down the final stretch, the picks get harder deep into conference competition. Zultan seems to be teetering—not quite as cocky as he was during his “hot streak.”  Now is the time to make your picks and grab a little glory of your own.

Those who outguessed Zultan last week will be listed at the end of this article with tons of kudos for those souls bright enough to surpass the Mighty Zultan.

Game 1: Wisconsin at Indiana

Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten), who should win the Leaders Division in the Big Ten by default, travels to Bloomington to play Indiana (4-5, 2-3). The Badgers must win in order to hold onto their lead—allowing them to play in the Big Ten Championship game. You cannot, however, overlook the fact that the Badgers are breaking in a new quarterback this week.

Indiana’s offense has managed to win games this season. In this strangest of years in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers might actually hold the reins in the Leaders Division if they can get past Wisconsin.
The Hoosiers need two more wins to become bowl eligible—assuming anybody wants to play host to the Big Ten this year.  Not quite...

Pick Wisconsin to win on the road.

Game 2: (24) Northwestern at Michigan

Northwestern (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) has a shot at winning the Legends Division if they can win this game on the road at Michigan (6-3, 4-1) who has similar ambitions.

The question of the week may be—will Denard Robinson be in the pocket his week? But the real question is: does it matter if he is there or not? 

Last week Devin Gardner did just fine taking over the quarterback spot for Michigan.

Northwestern has had a bye week to get ready for this game, pondering the inevitable quandary of whether the Wildcats can put up more offense than the Wolverines in Week 11 because they certainly cannot stop Michigan with their defense. 

Not an enviable spot to be in.

Pick Michigan to win at home.

Game 3: Purdue at Iowa

Buck up you downtrodden Iowa fans.

If you think this season is bad—harken back to those years between Forest Evashevski and Hayden Fry!  Iowa (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) has a real opportunity here. If they can win the game against Purdue (3-6, 0-5) and draw even in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes only need one more win to reach bowl eligibility.

That will free the Hawks to play spoiler when the Great Huskers come to town.  Nothing would make an Iowa fan happier.

Purdue has not managed a win in a long time, although they have played tough and come close on several occasions. Yet they remain winless in the Big Ten.

The Boilers will remain winless after Week 11 concludes.

Pick Iowa to win at home.

Game 4: Penn State at (16) Nebraska

Sneaky good. That is Nebraska (7-2, 4-1, Big Ten).

The Huskers lull you into believing they are mediocre, middle of the pack. Then they sneak up on you—kick your backside at the end of the game, pushing your nose in the mud as they trample over you on their way to the end zone.

They have become Big Ten bullies.

Penn State (6-3, 4-1) fields an awesome defense and an ever-improving offense.

The Lions have surprised everyone, escaping the shadow of the Sandusky horror-fest.

But they are playing in Lincoln where better teams have come to suffer bitter disappointment.

Pick Nebraska to win at home.

Game 5: Minnesota at Illinois

Minnesota (5-4, 1-4, Big Ten) will make their way to Champaign to face the Fighting Illini of Illinois (2-7, 0-5). The Gophers only need one more game to become bowl eligible in 2012.

It would be the first time since 2009 that Minnesota has gained post-season eligibility.

Illinois has huge problems at this stage.

They have lost 11 straight Big Ten games going back to last season. Hopefully they can salvage some building blocks from this year to begin building for success next year.

Pick Minnesota to win on the road.

Game 6: (15) Texas A&M at (1) Alabama

Newly transplanted Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC) took apart then-ranked No. 15 Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville last Saturday.

It wasn’t even close. Led by the Aggies star Johnny Manziel, A&M closed the door fast on this game—more than doubling the offense the Bulldogs could muster.

Meantime, Alabama (9-0, 6-0) was also on the road in their biggest game of the season to date—facing LSU in Baton Rouge. The Tide's season was on the line.

Alabama was behind as the clock ticked down but quarterback AJ McCarron used a screen pass when he saw a blitz coming his way. The result was a touchdown—a 28-yard run with less than a minute left on the clock.

What it showed was that Alabama is vulnerable. LSU did everything better but win.

If the Alabama faithful believe Texas A & M will come to Tuscaloosa hat in hand—that is not the case.

The Crimson Tide will have their hands full again this Saturday. But...

Pick Alabama at home

Game 7: (2) Kansas State at TCU

Previously ranked TCU (6-3, 3-3 Big !2) just scored a double overtime win over West Virginia in Morgantown last Saturday—39-38. After a shaky beginning in Big 12 play, TCU is beginning to grow into their offense sporting a legion of very young players.

On Saturday the Horned Frogs welcome No. 2 Kansas State (9-0, 6-0) into Fort Worth for another big conference game.

Kansas State just took care of Oklahoma State 44-30 last Saturday at home but will be traveling this week. It is hard to imagine that the Wildcats will have too many problems with the Horned Frogs.

But Bill Snyder never takes any team for granted which explains why his teams are always ready to compete.

Pick Kansas State to win on the road.

Game 8: (21) Mississippi State at (7) LSU

Here are two sorely disappointed and dejected teams.

LSU (7-2, 3-2, SEC) had the No. 1 team in the nation on the ropes but let them escape in the final moments, ending the Tigers' chances permanently to play in the national championship game once again.

LSU, however, will bounce back this week, hoping for a chance to play in a big BCS Bowl.

This while Mississippi State saw their game plan shredded by Texas A&M, marking the Bulldogs second consecutive loss of the season.

It appears that Mississippi State far exceeded expectations coming into this season. It seems further that the Bulldogs have peaked and may soon find themselves losing three in a row.

Mississippi State, however, still has a good chance to finish strong—by winning their last two games in the SEC. The Bulldogs could end with a 9-3 record. Nonetheless...

Pick LSU to win at home.

Game 9: (9) Louisville at Syracuse

Well finally, Zultan takes a look at the Big East whose teams usually fly ahead of the All-Seeing Seer’s crystal ball radar.  The Big East often plays early in the week for the sake of television while Zultan retains his focus on Saturday games.

The Louisville Cardinals are 9-0, 4-0 in Big East play. They have yet to play a ranked team. In fact, they will not play a ranked team until they meet No. 23 Rutgers on November 29—assuming Rutgers is still ranked by then. The Cardinals wins have been modest but they play consistent ball.

Syracuse (4-5, 3-2) has already lost to a couple of ranked teams and will lose to one more on Saturday.

Pick Louisville to win on the road.

Game 10: (11) Oregon State at (14) Stanford

Oregon State (7-1, 5-1, PAC 12) will travel to Stanford to play the Cardinal (7-2, 5-1) on Saturday.

It will be one of the more “watched” games of the weekend with two ranked PAC 12 teams hoping to emerge victorious.

Stanford has two losses on the season—against Notre Dame and against Washington. Their single win over a ranked team came in Week 3 over the USC Trojans. 

Oregon State defeated both Wisconsin and UCLA when those teams were ranked prematurely.  The Beavers also lost to Washington.

It looks like these two teams are evenly matched. But since they will be playing at home in front of fervent fans...

Pick Stanford to win at home.

The Final Word:

Many of you were sharper than Zultan this past weekend. Kudos!!  More than any other week this season—19 in all outguessed the All-Seeing Seer.  If this trend does not stop, Zultan will have to reduce the flamboyancy of his prose in order to make room to list his betters.

No one wishes that.

Here they are—the future stars of prognostication!

Bill Colyer - Greenville, SC
Michael Hall - Andrews, TX
John Zortman - Phoenix, AZ

Bill Fredrickson - Vista, CA
Kent Gleichman - West Des Moines, IA
Robert Reihm - Encinitas, CA
Dewey Oxberger - Wakefield, MA
Carl Stine - Kingman, AZ

Craig Bancroft - Coralville, IA
Lenny Cossman, Jr. - Parkersburg, WV
Eric Lawhead - Bolingbrook, IL
John O'Deen - Cedar Rapids, IA
Erick Schmidt - York, PA
Elihu Smails - Wakefield, MA
Rick "Turk" Steffens - Wilton Junction, IA
Eric Stipp - Dublin, OH
Dean Studt - Rockledge, FL
Skipper Woodham - Atlanta, GA
Kenneth Zuerner - Redmond, WA

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Zultan's Fearless Football Forecast: Week Ten

It was a horrible day for a daring football prognosticator who swore Notre Dame was over-rated, who was sure the Gators were worthy of being ranked No. 2 and who predicted the Lions could best the Buckeyes at home in Happy Valley.

Like Icarus who flew too close to the sun—Mighty Zultan came too close to perfection. The Football Gods torched his flammable cloak, sending the All-Seeing One headlong into the sink hole of also-rans—where the rest of you dwell.

Except, of course the dozen or so who out-guessed Zultan last Saturday.

These distinguished prognosticators will be listed at the end of this article with appropriate kudos for those who rose above Zultan in Week 9.

Week ten promises even more untold surprises.

What unlucky unbeaten will fall? Will Nebraska manage to sustain their lead and win on the road? Can LSU change the course of football history in 2012?

Zultan was mortally wounded in Week 9—managing to go 5-5.  He is staggering under the weight of expectation.  Make your own picks in Week 10—go head-to-head with Zultan to defend your choices.

Game 1: Iowa Hawkeyes at Indiana Hoosiers
Iowa reaching (photo by blackheartgoldpants.com)

Indiana (3-5) scored a big win last weekend over Illinois—the Hoosiers’ first win in Big Ten play.

Fielding one of the most aggressive offenses in the Big Ten— after coming close so many times—Indiana will try to extend their feel-good win by defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes at home.

Iowa (4-4) comes into Bloomington after a lackluster performance against the Northwestern Wildcats. The Hawkeyes need to win this game in insure any hope of being invited to any bowl game.

Hopefully the Hawkeye walking wounded will return to the lineup this Saturday.

Even though the Hoosiers will sport a new-found confidence after their first Big Ten win—hopefully, the Hawks can soar again. Once more for Mom.

Pick Iowa.

Game 2: (20) Nebraska Cornhuskers at Michigan State Spartans

This game is one of several puzzlers for Zultan as he tries to unravel and make sense of Big Ten football this year.

Forget global warming, here is a real unfathomable mystery. Who might be good this year in the Big Ten? It varies from week to week—except for Ohio State who remains a non-factor in post-season play.

Last week, after knocking Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson out of the game, (20) Nebraska (6-2) defeated Michigan in Lincoln.

At the same time, Michigan State (5-4) ripped the rug out from under Wisconsin in OT, winning the game during the last ticks of the game clock.

Nebraska comes into East Lansing to play Michigan State whose defense should contain the Huskers if the unit is not stuck on the field the whole game. The real question remains—can the Spartans mount an offense? It looked promising last weekend at the end of their game against Wisconsin.

At home against the Huskers with a trip to a bowl game on the line...

Pick Michigan State

Game 3: Michigan Wolverines at Minnesota Gophers

Another tough pick especially since we are unsure of the status of Denard Robinson, Michigan’s premiere quarterback who was knocked out the Wolverine’s game with Nebraska last Saturday.

Without Robinson, Michigan (5-3) is just mediocre at best.

Minnesota (5-3) played great ball last Saturday, outgunning Purdue at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis 44-28.

Turnovers gave the Gophers quite a boost during the game. Their half-time lead proved too much for the Boilermakers to overcome in the second half.

With Denard Robinson, however, Michigan fields a better team on both sides of the ball—despite their loss against the Nebraska Cornhuskers last Saturday.

Pick Michigan

Game 4: Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio State Buckeyes

Surely there is no question here.

As long as Ohio State (9-0) doesn’t make the mistake of trying to phone in this performance, the Buckeyes should take care of Illinois (2-6) without too much worry for the vocal Buckeye fans in the stands.

Ohio State remains perfect this season while the Fighting Illini have a long way to go to achieve success.

But, never discount this team whose season could be salvaged with a win over the unbeaten Buckeyes.

Still—the crystal ball predicts that will not happen.

Pick Ohio State.

Game 5: Penn St Nittany Lions at Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue (3-5) has been close to victory so many times this season. The Boiler’s record does not truly indicate their gridiron capabilities—except for the fact that they cannot close out a win. 

This is, however, a disastrous shortcoming, needing immediate change.

Last weekend, moreover, the Boilers suffered from multiple turnovers handing the game over to the Minnesota Gophers in the first half. Purdue must not repeat this trend against a highly disciplined Penn State team.

Penn State (5-3) could not bring down Ohio State in Happy Valley last Saturday. The Lions did not play a bad game—they were just not as good as Ohio State. If the Lions can keep that loss in perspective, Penn State should leave Ross-Ade Stadium with a victory over Purdue

Pick Penn State

Game 6: (16) Texas A&M Aggies at (15) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State (7-1) lost their first football game of the season as they faced the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, Alabama. The Aggies lost 38-7, not scoring in the game until the last five minutes. The outcome was never in doubt.

Texas A&M (6-2) stomped on Auburn last Saturday, revealing first hand the condition of the Tigers in 2012. The Aggies have lost twice this season—to No. 24 Florida State in Week 2 and to LSU in Week 9.

This week Texas A&M must travel to Starkville to face the Bulldogs—fighting it out with LSU for the No. 2 spot in the SEC West—with no team wishing to finish lower.

Mississippi State has not played any ranked team except Alabama and the Bulldogs were powerless against the Crimson Tide.

Texas A&M has lost to two ranked opponents but did secure a win over Louisiana Tech when they were ranked.

But since the Bulldogs are at home...

Pick Mississippi State.

Game 7: (4) Oregon Ducks at (17) USC Trojans

Somehow the BCS’ cyclical reasoning has seen the Oregon Ducks (8-0) shunted to the No. 4 spot while the SEC gains ground playing against itself.

Zultan sees a big hole in the ranking system.

Nonetheless, the Ducks will have an opportunity to prove their worth this coming weekend. All they have to do is defeat an angry USC team in the Coliseum.

Easy enough? You have to remember that being upset by USC last year cost the Ducks a shot at playing for the national championship. Ducks do not forgive or forget.

Last weekend USC (6-2) was upset by Arizona 39-36 as turnovers cost the Trojans. But this weekend USC will be at home with all their senses attuned to defeating Oregon. Oregon ran over Colorado last Saturday, 70-14 in a game not as close as the score indicates. It was a mammoth blowout.

This Saturday it will be much closer for the Ducks.

Pick Oregon

Game 8: (1) Alabama Crimson Tide at (5) LSU Tigers

Last year these two teams were vying for the national championship as Alabama and LSU met in the BCS title game.  It was not a happy ending for the Tigers.

This Saturday they meet in Baton Rouge playing for the lead in the SEC West—giving the winner a leg up for BCS consideration.

Last Saturday Alabama (8-0) took care of previously unbeaten Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa 38-7. So far this season the Crimson Tide has not been challenged on the gridiron.

LSU, however, will challenge them.

LSU (7-1) suffered one defeat this season—to the Florida Gators 14-6. It was a defensive struggle in the trenches, so to speak. LSU has eased past a couple of teams, rarely dominating action on the field.

LSU is not the same team they were a year ago. Alabama is—and then some.

Pick Alabama

Game 9: (23) Texas Long Horns at (18) Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech (6-2) welcomes Texas (6-2) into Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday with both teams trying to keep their hopes alive for a Big 12 title.

That dream, however, seems to be receding into the sunset as Kansas State saunters toward the finish line—so far unscathed.

Last Saturday Texas held on to defeat Kansas as the game clock ticked down.

 This while Texas Tech was busy turning the ball over to Kansas State, suffering a big defeat at the hands of the Wildcats.

The Red Raiders have a big offense but suffer on defense, allowing too many points by the opposition.

On paper, this game belongs to Texas Tech. Zultan loves paper...

Pick Texas Tech

Game 10: (13) Clemson Tigers at Duke Blue Devils

In the meantime, the ACC lives on through the efforts of Clemson and Florida State.

In Week 8, however, the Duke Blue Devils became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. That triumph came against North Carolina, however, and not against Florida State.

Against the Seminoles, Duke got slammed 48-7.

Duke may win a couple more times—but not next weekend when they face Clemson.

The Clemson Tigers (7-1) won against Wake Forest last Saturday 42-13. Their only loss this season was at the hands of (9) Florida State.

Duke, who remains tied for the top spot in the Coastal Division, will not be able to stop Clemson even in their own back yard.

Pick Clemson

The Aftermath

Last week Zultan went 5-5, losing more picks than he has all season long—in fact in two seasons. A dozen who challenged the All-Seeing Seer outguessed him. But no one was perfect or even missed by one.

One fellow traveler missed two—followed by two who missed three picks and eight who went 6-4.  

Following are the brilliant prognosticators who outshone Zultan in Week 9. Kudos! sojourners.

Kathi Sparks - No city given

Lenny Cossman, Jr - Parkersburg, IA
Chris Seberg - New Brighton, MA

Patrick Elliott - Ottumwa, IA
David May - Casselberry, FL
Robert Reihm - Encinitas, CA
Dennis Ristau - Eleva, WI
John Snyder - Huntington Beach, CA
Carl Spackler - Wakefield, MA
Carl Stine - Kingman, AZ
Dean Studt - Rockledge, FL
Skipper Woodham - Atlanta, GA

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Zultan's Fearless Forecast: Iowa, the Big Ten Closes the Gap

The Iowa Hawkeyes are proving to be Zultan’s Achilles heel this season.

For the past two Saturdays, the Z’s only misses have come because the All-Seeing One misread the signs concerning the Hawkeye’s success on the gridiron. 

Zultan picked them to lose against Michigan State on the road and win over Penn State at home. Needless to say, that did not work out to the Pigskin Prognosticator's advantage.  

Those picks doomed Zultan keeping him from achieving perfection two weeks in a row.

With the Iowa miss, Zultan went 9-1 in Week 8. Unsettled forces troubled the gridiron, however, causing very close matches with several instances of heart-stopping heroics winning the day. The BCS loomed large in the background.

Still a win is a win. 

For the year, Zultan comes in at 34-6 or 85 percent. But Week 9 will be the proverbial turning point in the Big Ten as well as in a number of the top conferences. The “Big Z” senses trouble afoot.

Therefore, this could well be your week to outguess him. Time to make your own picks and be saluted by Zultan in next week’s column—since so few of you have managed to outshine Zultan so far. None this past week, in fact.

Game 1: Iowa Hawkeyes at Northwestern Wildcats

Going forward, fate has determined that the Hawkeyes (4-3) will do the opposite of what Zultan forecasts until the cloud over Iowa City dissolves. Therefore, “Z” must pick the Hawks to lose . Such a move would make Mom happy—since she swears Zultan has evolved into the evil eye casting spells over the Hawkeye Nation.

Northwestern (6-2) must be in the doldrums—or fighting mad—after giving up the lead at the end of the game to Nebraska last Saturday. The Cats had beaten down the Husker offense and kept them in arrears for all but the last two minutes of the game. But Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez came back hard in the fourth to secure the win for the Huskers on the road.

Northwestern’s generous spirit will not extend to the Hawkeyes who will limp into Evanston wounded and 
deflated after being embarrassed in Iowa City by the Penn State team.

Pick Northwestern 

Game 2: Indiana Hoosiers at Illinois Fighting Illini

Indiana (2-5) suffered another last quarter loss, going down to defeat in Annapolis 30-31 to the Navy Midshipmen. The Hoosiers were another Big Ten victim of the frantic end-of-the-game two-minute drill by the opposing team.  Indiana led this contest throughout—until the Midshipmen scored to go ahead with two minutes left on the clock.

But one thing about the Hoosiers—they have a great offense. It would be even better if their defense followed suit. But, alas, that is not the case.

This week Illinois (2-5) hosts the Hoosiers in Champaign. These two teams are at the bottom of the Big Ten Leader’s Division. Illinois, however, has not shown anything yet on either side of the ball.  

Even though the oddsmakers favor the Illini, Zultan will...

Pick Indiana

Game 3: Purdue Boilermakers at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Purdue’s defeat in overtime at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes had to make the Boiler’s collective fan base weep.

Purdue (3-4) had the game in hand—in Columbus, no less. But during the last tick of the game clock, Ohio State took the ball into the end zone and added a two-point conversion to force overtime. 

In overtime, Ohio State sealed the deal, winning the game but losing their quarterback in the process.

Minnesota (4-3) was busy trying to hold down the Wisconsin offense in Week 8. So far the Gophers have not had any success in the Big Ten.

They will welcome Purdue into Minneapolis where, hopefully, Coach Kill has instilled some backbone into the Gopher defense.

Purdue, if they play up to their level, should win this game—assuming they have the right attitude.

Zultan guesses that they will.

Pick Purdue 

Game 4: Michigan State Spartans at (25) Wisconsin Badgers

Michigan State (4-4) lost another heartbreaker on Saturday to their instate rivals, the Michigan Wolverines. This one came down to five seconds on the clock as Michigan put up a field goal to edge past the Spartans 12-10 in Ann Arbor.  It was the first Michigan victory over Michigan State since 2007.  

Wisconsin (6-2), on the other hand, had their way with Minnesota. They ran over the Gophers all the way to 38-13 exploding on offense in the fourth quarter.  

Michigan State seems to be falling back as Wisconsin gains steam. Expect this trend to continue.

Pick Wisconsin

Game 5: Ohio State Buckeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions

Ironically, the two sanctioned teams in the Big Ten are the two best.

While Penn State (5-2) was busy humiliating the Iowa Hawkeyes, Ohio State (8-0) was fighting for their lives at home to get past Purdue.

How does that information help Zultan shape the forecast for Week 9?

Ohio State was just plain lucky to get out of that game in Columbus with a win and with their quarterback in one piece. If they are smart, the Buckeye coaching staff will not overtax Braxton Miller upon his return to the lineup this week.

It is a difficult spot, however, trying to remain perfect on the road in Happy Valley.  

Penn State’s defense is awesome—a thing of beauty. Now that their offense is keeping pace, this should be the ultimate test for both programs. For his part, Zultan sees the future of this contest clearly.

Pick Penn State

Game 6: (22) Michigan Wolverines at Nebraska Cornhuskers 

This is another big contest in the Big Ten. The Michigan Wolverines (5-2) who lead in the Legends Division, will travel to Lincoln to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-2) who are dying to trip the Wolverines up on their way to the Big Ten Championship game.

Nebraska just eased past Northwestern last weekend in a game they should have lost—but it was on the road. Yet the Huskers held on and came up with goods when they were needed, led by the often harangued quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Michigan also escaped defeat by a whisker, but the Wolverines were at home.  This week the Wolverines will face another stiff defense in a hostile environment. You have never seen hostile until you have visited in Lincoln. 
Zultan believes the rarified air in Lincoln will be too much for the Wolverines in Week 9.

Pick Nebraska. 

Game 7: (2) Florida Gators at (10) Georgia Bulldogs

Last Saturday the Florida Gators (7-0) ground South Carolina to dust and blew them away 44-11, proving that their No. 2 BCS ranking was no fluke. It was redemption for the Gators who knew they were special from day one.

Meanwhile Georgia (6-1) was having an off day on the road at Kentucky (1-7). They could not put the Wildcats away until the fourth quarter. After going up 29-17 midway through the last quarter, Kentucky came back to score again with just under four minutes left on the clock closing the gap to 29-24.
But the Bulldogs held on.

This week, however, Georgia hosts the Gators in Jacksonville, Florida. This game will determine the probable winner of the SEC East. The Gators have so far exceeded expectations while the Bulldogs have not.  

Expect that to continue.

Pick Florida

Game 8: (5) Notre Dame Fighting Irish at (8) Oklahoma Sooners

The fighting Irish (7-0) have their first real test of the season on the road. Notre Dame must travel to Norman to face the Oklahoma Sooners (5-1). Both teams are ranked in the top ten regardless of your favorite poll. 

The Irish seem to be making their way back into national prominence. But take a look at who Notre Dame has vanquished. True the Irish past Michigan and Stanford, both now ranked but this only the second game on the road for the Irish. 

Oklahoma who suffered a loss at home against the best team in the Big 12, Kansas State, has been rebuilding their Big 12 fences, trying to prove they are worthy of consideration by the BCS. 
Despite outside forces, no way will Notre Dame out-offense the Sooners on the road.

Pick Oklahoma

Game 9: (14) Texas Tech Red Raiders at (3) Kansas State Wildcats

It took Texas Tech (6-1) three overtimes to put down TCU on the road. The Red Raiders must be exhausted after putting up that many points (56-53) over the No. 23 ranked Horned Frogs.

They should have saved something because they will need it traveling to Manhattan to face Bill Snyder and his superlative Wildcats. Kansas State (7-0) annihilated West Virginia whose high octane offense found no legs against the Wildcat’s drop-dead defense. 

You got to love Bill Snyder, by the way, who once served on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa. Hayden and Zultan are old pals, you know. But mainly you must appreciate what Snyder has done to bring glory back to Manhattan.

Pick Kansas State

Game 10: (11) Mississippi St. Bulldogs at (1) Alabama Crimson Tide

Mississippi State (7-0) had an easy Saturday, sauntering past Middle Tennessee in Starkville. They won 45-3. 
Life will not be so easy this Saturday as the Bulldogs pack their bags for Tuscaloosa to face the No.1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0). 

Alabama also had an easy day on the gridiron rolling past Tennessee 44-13.

So far, however, Mississippi State has faced no ranked team while Alabama has faced only a prematurely ranked Michigan team at home. Neither team has really been tested. 

This is the first real challenge for either SEC team. It will give some hint about the veracity of the ranking systems once the curtain comes down on Saturday.  

Zultan believes Alabama is the real deal and Mississippi State is the pretender.

Pick Alabama.