Saturday, October 3, 2015

Upsets, Anyone?

Well, there was no shortage of upsets last week. I just didn't pick 'em.

Duke knocked off #20 Georgia Tech. Michigan blanked #22 Brigham Young. Kentucky topped #25 Missouri. In what was probably a modest upset, #18 Utah hammered #13 Oregon by a not–so–modest margin of 42 points. On top of that, #3 TCU barely got by Texas Tech. Texas threw a scare into #24 Oklahoma State.

And my two upset specials fell flat on their faces. Go figure, right?

There are some intriguing contests on this week's schedule. Five games are head–to–head battles between ranked teams, and a few more are interesting even though they feature only one ranked team. With conference play firmly under way, it looks like the first weekend in October will be an exciting one.

Idle: #10 Utah, #17 Southern Cal

  • #1 Ohio State at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC/ESPN2: This one of those games that seems to be a waste of time to evaluate. The Buckeyes haven't lost to Indiana since 1988.

    In fact they tied the Hoosiers more recently than that — in 1990. However, both of those games did occur in Bloomington, which is where today's game is being played. Does that mean anything? Not really. The Hoosiers only beat the Buckeyes at home one other time — in 1904.

    I have to take Ohio State.
  • Purdue at #2 Michigan State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Michigan State has beaten Purdue six straight times. Sometimes the games have been close; more often, though, they have been decided by a couple of touchdowns.

    Historically, the odds would be better for Purdue if the Boilermakers were hosting the game. When the Spartans are the hosts, they are historical favorites.

    I'd probably be inclined to pick the Spartans even if they were on the road in this one. Purdue is 1–3 with losses to Marshall and Bowling Green.

    I pick Michigan State.
  • #3 Ole Miss at #25 Florida, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: A lot of folks don't realize it, but Ole Miss actually leads this series 12–10–1.

    But the Rebels enjoyed most of their success by 1958; the series leaned heavily to the Gators after that — until fairly recently. Ole Miss has won three of the last four.

    Working in the Gators' favor, however, is the fact that the home team tends to win this game, and that is Florida this year.

    Of course, this Rebel team isn't intimidated by hostile crowds. After all, they pulled off the remarkable accomplishment of winning at Alabama.

    I pick Ole Miss.
  • Texas at #4 TCU, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: In the days of the old Southwest Conference, I never would have picked TCU to beat Texas, at least not in my lifetime. It was always a safe bet to pick Texas to triumph over TCU.

    But those days are gone, and the roles are reversed today. Texas comes into today's game 1–3; TCU is undefeated. I see no other outcome today. I pick TCU.
  • Texas Tech vs. #5 Baylor, 2:30 p.m. (Central) at Arlington, Texas, on ABC/ESPN2: Texas Tech came close to beating TCU last week, but that was at home. The Raiders will really be tested in Arlington; if they have been playing over their heads, we'll probably find out today.

    I pick Baylor.
  • #6 Notre Dame at #12 Clemson, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: These teams played twice in the '70s, once on each campus, and the visiting team won each time.

    Many things have changed in 35 years so that probably isn't the best way to pick the winner of a game in 2015 — but I see no reason not to pick Notre Dame so I will go with the Irish.
  • Arizona State at #7 UCLA, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This really ought to be a better game than the rankings would suggest. This will be far from a gimme for the Bruins.

    The Sun Devils may be 2–2, but those losses were to then–unranked teams that are in the Top 25 now — Texas A&M and Southern Cal. The 4–0 Bruins have beaten consecutive ranked teams that are no longer ranked — Brigham Young and Arizona.

    Neither team has been involved in a truly competitive game yet. But that may change because the recent history of this series is one of close contests. Forget about UCLA's 35–point win last year. The three games preceding that one were decided by a combined eight points.

    The history of the series also favors the Bruins to win at home, so I will pick UCLA in what could well be a close game.
  • #13 Alabama at #8 Georgia, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: Between 1902 and 1944, these teams played 37 times at neutral sites — even though most were in Alabama. The Crimson Tide has dominated at home, in Georgia and at the neutral sites.

    But I have a feeling that may change. I think this may be the Bulldogs' year. In my upset special, I pick Georgia.
  • Eastern Michigan at #9 LSU, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: There really isn't much to say about this. If Eastern Michigan wins at LSU, it will rank as the biggest upset so far this season.

    But I think it is more likely that the LSU starters are removed from the game by halftime. I pick LSU.
  • #11 Florida State at Wake Forest, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: In a series that dates back to 1956, Florida State has beaten Wake Forest 70% of the time on Wake Forest's turf.

    Yet two of Wake Forest's most recent wins over Florida State have come at home, in 2007 and 2011. That would every four years, which means that today's winner should be Wake Forest. Right? Well, Wake Forest is 2–2 and coming off a loss to Indiana, probably one of the worst programs in major college football.

    I have to take Florida State.
  • #21 Mississippi State at #14 Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: These teams have met eight times, but half of their games were played before the start of World War II.

    There is certainly plenty of motivation on both sides.

    The Bulldogs won last year en route to grabbing the top ranking for awhile, but they have struggled a bit this year. They lost a heartbreaker at LSU, then rallied for an important road win against Auburn. If they can beat the Aggies, it seems more than likely that they will be 8–1 when they face Alabama in November.

    I keep expecting the undefeated Aggies to come crashing back to earth, now that SEC play has begun. If they can get past the Bulldogs today, they will have two weeks to prepare for Alabama.

    I take Texas A&M at home.
  • #23 West Virginia at #15 Oklahoma, 11 a.m. (Central) on Fox Sports 1: It has been more than 30 years since Oklahoma's last loss to West Virginia in Norman. Of course, they haven't played each other regularly in that time, just since West Virginia joined the Big 12, and that has included only one date in Norman, but the Sooners have won all three games that have been played as conference games.

    The rankings suggest a good game, and I am tempted to make West Virginia an upset special, but I will take Oklahoma at home.
  • Minnesota at #16 Northwestern, 11 a.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: Minnesota has dominated this series, which dates back to the 19th century, and has won the last two games, but Northwestern has been the team on the rise this season.

    Here's an interesting historical trend in this series. For more than 20 years, the teams have taken turns being the winner in games played at Northwestern — if Northwestern won the last time they played on Northwestern's field, Minnesota would win the next time. It's been that way since 1993.

    But that was then. Minnesota enters this game 3–1, with that sole loss being by merely six points to then–second–ranked TCU in the season opener. Of course, the Gophers have won three straight against teams that aren't likely to still be playing after Thanksgiving, but the loss to TCU was impressive.

    Even so, I will pick Northwestern to prevail.
  • Arizona at #18 Stanford, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: Originally, this series leaned fairly heavily to Arizona State, but Stanford has won eight of the last 10 encounters and the teams enter tonight's game tied, 14–14.

    Stanford has bounced back from the opening weekend setback at Northwestern and seems to be living up to expectations now. I pick Stanford to continue to ride its momentum in this series.
  • Iowa at #19 Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: Not so long ago, this matchup would have been one of those head–to–head Top 25 confrontations. But Iowa has fallen on rather hard times — and out of the rankings. That certainly would change if currently undefeated Iowa could beat Wisconsin. Can the Hawkeyes do it?

    Well, Iowa beat Wisconsin the last time the teams played in Wisconsin — but the Badgers lead the all–time series on their home turf, 25–18–1. It ought to be good, but I will take Wisconsin.
  • Kansas State at #20 Oklahoma State, 3 p.m. (Central) on Fox Sports 1: In recent years when K–State has hosted this game, the outcomes have tended to be lopsided. It's the games that have been played in Stillwater — as this one will be — that have been the most exciting.

    OSU has beaten Kansas State four straight times in Stillwater, but the outcomes of each game could have been altered by a single score. I'm sure that is the kind of game Fox Sports 1 is hoping for. I don't know if it will meet those expectations, but I pick Oklahoma State to win at home.
  • #22 Michigan at Maryland, 7 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: This is the fifth time these schools have met on the gridiron — and each game has been played in Maryland. They faced each other as conference rivals for the first time last year. That was also the first time Maryland has beaten Michigan. I would have figured this year's game would be in Ann Arbor. Maybe next year.

    The Wolverines probably don't care so much about that, now that they are back in the Top 25 for the first time in I don't know how long.

    When I was growing up, Michigan was a fixture in the rankings. In recent years, not so much. I figure Michigan will stay in the rankings, at least for another week with a victory in this game.
  • Washington State at #24 Cal, 2 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: These Pac–12 rivals have played 76 times since 1919, and Cal dominates the series 45–26–5.

    In fact, the Bears have won nine of the last 10 meetings — but that single loss came two years ago, the last time they played on Cal's turf. Washington State doubled up Cal, 44–22. I'm pretty sure the Bears would like to avenge that one, and I think they will. I pick California.

Last week: 14–6

Upset specials last week: 0–2

Season: 74–11

Upset specials overall: 2–3

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