Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Any Given Saturday

Last Saturday was a day filled with truly astonishing reminders of how quickly fortunes can change in college football — and how, as the old cliche goes, on any given Saturday ...

The most glaring reminders were eighth–ranked LSU's 34–29 loss to unranked Mississippi State (the Bulldogs' first win in Baton Rouge in more than 20 years) and #18 Missouri's 31–27 loss to Indiana, which was the Hoosiers' first win in Columbia in nearly 30 years.

Lots of folks were shocked that Indiana beat Missouri — but, if you look back at my predictions from last week, I picked Indiana to win in an upset. I did not, however, pick Mississippi State over LSU.

In fact, going into the fourth quarter, Mississippi State had a three–touchdown lead on the Tigers. If that margin had held up, it would have been the widest margin of victory for Mississippi State over LSU since 1980 (55–31).

But other outcomes affected this week's Top 25 as well — top–ranked Florida State barely survived #22 Clemson in overtime without defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and #2 Oregon struggled to put away Washington State, 38–31.

Idle: #2 Oregon, #3 Alabama, #4 Oklahoma, #14 Mississippi State, #20 Brigham Young, #23 East Carolina

  • Texas Tech at #24 Oklahoma State, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: OSU has dominated Tech lately, winning eight of their last 11 confrontations.

    The Cowboys have also beaten the Red Raiders five straight times in Stillwater. I think Oklahoma State will make it six straight at home.
  • #11 UCLA at #15 Arizona State, 9 p.m. (Central) on FS1: ASU back D.J. Foster is second in the country in all–purpose yardage and fifth nationally in rushing. QB Taylor Kelley is 14th in passing efficiency. Arizona State is 13th in the land in total offense. The Sun Devils are sure to test the #73 defense in the land.

    Arizona State has won three of the last five meetings with UCLA. I expect Arizona State to make it four of the last six.
  • #1 Florida State at North Carolina State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: Historically, the Seminoles beat the Wolfpack a little more than two–thirds of the time — and, usually, they haven't been defending national champs. But, when they have been the defending national champs, they've really clobbered North Carolina State.

    I don't know if the Seminoles will clobber 'em this time, but I do think Florida State will win.
  • Louisiana Tech at #5 Auburn, 3 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Auburn is 8–0 historically against Louisiana Tech, and I have no reason to think anything will change this time. I pick Auburn.
  • Arkansas vs. #6 Texas A&M at Dallas, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: This was a great series even before I was a student at Arkansas. It goes back more than a century, and some great games have been played between those schools. I was fortunate enough to attend one when I was a student and another a few years after I graduated; both were nail–biters. Great traditions at both schools.

    Even though last year was a down year for the Hogs, they kept it close, losing by 45–33. They are better than they were last year, but that might not be enough in the powerful SEC West. I'd love to see them win, but I believe Texas A&M, behind quarterback Kenny Hill, will prevail.
  • #7 Baylor at Iowa State, 7 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This series is all tied up, 6–6, and each school has a 4–2 lead at home. The Cyclones have won the last two games they've played against the Bears at home, but they've been crushed in their last three trips to Waco.

    Statistically, that means Iowa State should win, right? Realistically, though, Iowa State doesn't have a prayer against the Bears. I believe Baylor will win.
  • #8 Notre Dame at Syracuse, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Notre Dame has lost three of the last four meetings with Syracuse. In fact, you have to go back to 1914 and the days before America entered World War II to find Notre Dame's last win at Syracuse — although the Irish did win a contest with the Orangemen in the Bronx in 1963 that was considered a home game for Syracuse.

    Can Notre Dame end that 100–year drought? Yup.
  • Wyoming at #9 Michigan State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: It's been more than 35 years since these schools met. They played a couple of times in the 1970s but never again since — until this weekend.

    I have found no reason to think Wyoming can do any better than its first trip to East Lansing. I pick Michigan State.
  • Memphis at #10 Ole Miss, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on FSN: Ole Miss beats Memphis 75% of the time. It is those occasional wins that keep fueling Memphis' fire; the last such win was 10 years ago.

    The Rebels have a good team, worthy of being in the Top 10, and, with Bo Wallace (#5 nationally in passing efficiency) at the controls, I expect Ole Miss to win without too much trouble.
  • Tennessee at #12 Georgia, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: This series is about as even as it comes. All time, the series is 20–20–2, which breaks down to 10–10–1 at each campus.

    In recent years, it has been ruled by Georgia. The Bulldogs have won the last four, and they have beaten the Volunteers three straight times in Athens. Only once before has Georgia beaten Tennessee five straight times — that streak ended in 1924. Tennessee might make it interesting, but, when the smoke clears, I think Georgia will win.
  • Missouri at #13 South Carolina, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: I've been thinking all along that Missouri wasn't as good as advertised and that someone would bump off the Tigers. Frankly, I had no idea it would be Indiana — well, actually, I did predict it, made it my upset special as you can see if you read last week's post.

    I really thought the Tigers would lose this week when they travel to South Carolina. I still think that. I take South Carolina.
  • #16 Stanford at Washington, 3:15 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This has been a remarkably competitive series over the years. Based purely on the series history (which Washington leads, 41–38–4), I would expect it to be an entertaining game.

    In the offense–happy Pac–12, Stanford's Kevin Hogan is eighth nationally in passing efficiency, and Ty Montgomery is 13th in all–purpose yardage; Washington's John Ross is 14th in all–purpose yardage. Interestingly, though, neither team is in the Top 60 in total offense.

    To add another wrinkle, Stanford has the top–ranked defense in the nation, which may only be a reflection of the quality of the opposition so far in 2014. Stanford has beaten UC–Davis and Army but lost to conference rival Southern Cal in a low–scoring affair (13–10).

    Stanford has dominated the series in recent years, winning seven of the last nine meetings. But Washington won the last time they played in Seattle. I don't think the Huskies will duplicate the accomplishment. I pick Stanford.
  • New Mexico State at #17 LSU, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: I'm sure LSU will be in a surly mood after losing to Mississippi State last week, and I'm quite sure New Mexico State won't be able to stop the Tigers. I pick LSU.
  • Oregon State at #18 Southern Cal, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Southern Cal has won nearly 85% of its meetings with Oregon State, but the Beavers have been pretty successful at home, winning three of the last four contests there.

    Unfortunately for Oregon State, this year's game is in Los Angeles, where Southern Cal has won the last 22 meetings. You have to go back to 1960 to find the Beavers' last win in L.A. I don't think they will break that skid. I take Southern Cal.
  • South Florida at #19 Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN2 or ESPNU: This is the first–ever meeting between these schools.

    Wisconsin is a tough place for visitors, especially nonconference teams. In fact, the last nonconference visitor to beat Wisconsin was UNLV in 2003. I don't think South Florida (12–28 since 2011) can pull it off. I favor Wisconsin.
  • Illinois at #21 Nebraska, 8 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: This looks like a possible trap game for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are coming off an emotionally charged win over Miami (Fla.) and there might be something of a hangover.

    Illinois hasn't won at Nebraska since 1924, but the 3–1 Illini need only one more win to match their total for last year. Can they get it at Nebraska? Possibly, but probably not. I'll take Nebraska.
  • Cincinnati at #22 Ohio State, 5 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: This will be the fifth time these schools have met, and Ohio State has won all of the previous four. Of course, three of them were played at Ohio State, as this one will be.

    Cincinnati has been successful in the 21st century, qualifying for bowls in most seasons (all but three) since 2000, but I don't think the Bearcats will win this one. I'll take Ohio State.
  • Texas–El Paso at #25 Kansas State, 11 a.m. (Central) on FSN: They've played twice before, and the home team won both meetings.

    UTEP hasn't had a winning season since 2005. Kansas State played well last week in a losing effort against Auburn, picked by many to make the field of four in this year's inaugural NCAA Division I playoff.

    K–State seldom loses back–to–back home games. It is even rarer when one of those losses is to a nonconference foe. I pick Kansas State.

Last week: 13–1

Season: 67–9

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