Thursday, October 22, 2015

Not Expecting Many Upsets This Weekend

I have often said that one of the things I like most about college football is that upsets can and do happen fairly regularly.

We've certainly had no shortage of upsets this season — although I'm not really sure if I would categorize Iowa's 40–10 triumph over Northwestern last Saturday as an upset. It was much more lopsided than I thought it would be, though.

I doubt there will be many upsets this weekend. Most of the ranked teams seem to be playing the weaker teams in their conferences this week.

But you never know. College football might well provide us with an upset this week. If that happens, it would almost certainly be one of the biggest upsets in recent years.

Idle: #3 TCU, #10 Notre Dame, #13 Iowa, #14 Florida, #18 Michigan, #25 Georgia

  • #19 Cal at UCLA, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: I imagine this is a game UCLA expected to win when the season began. But the Bruins have had some setbacks and have fallen from the rankings.

    Meanwhile, California — after slogging through three straight losing seasons — got off to a 5–0 start this year before losing to Utah last week.

    So here we are — underachieving UCLA against overachieving California. UCLA has dominated Cal when the game has been played in Los Angeles, winning six of the last seven meetings there.

    I don't know if Cal is regarded as the favorite by virtue of its ranking, but I'm going to pick UCLA — and I'm not going to treat it as an upset special.
  • #24 Temple at East Carolina, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Temple is 6–0, but it hasn't really been tested yet. There are a few tests on the schedule, starting with #10 Notre Dame next week.

    And there are a few things working against Temple this week, too.

    East Carolina is 4–3 and did give the 14th–ranked Florida Gators a run for their money last month.

    And East Carolina has a homefield advantage in this series, having won four of the five games that have been played there — including the last three. You have to go back to the early '80s to find Temple's last win at East Carolina.

    But I choose Temple to end its drought.
  • #17 Memphis at Tulsa, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Memphis must be enjoying this. After bumping off Ole Miss last weekend, 6–0 Memphis might be facing a trap game at Tulsa. True, the Golden Hurricane is 3–3, but Tulsa gets to play this game at home, and, in its games with Memphis, Tulsa has been more competitive there than in Memphis.

    I think it is entirely possible that the Tigers will lose at least once before the season is over — but not this week. I expect Memphis to win.
  • #1 Ohio State at Rutgers, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: These teams met for the first time last year when national championship–bound Ohio State hammered Rutgers 56–17.

    That game was played in Columbus. This one will be played on Rutgers' home turf, where Rutgers has been as likely to lose as win of late.

    I'm thinking Ohio State will win.
  • Iowa State at #2 Baylor, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: The Bears barely lead the all–time series, 7–6, thanks to a 4–2 mark against the Cyclones in Waco.

    In fact, Baylor has won the last three games it has played against Iowa State in Waco — which is, of course, where Saturday's game will be played.

    I just don't think 2–4 Iowa State will be able to stay with the unbeaten Bears. I pick Baylor.
  • Indiana at #4 Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Coming off what must have been an emotional victory over rival Michigan, the Spartans need an easy win. Historically the Hoosiers are made to order, having lost 10 of the last 11 against Michigan State.

    But someone needs to remind Michigan State that Indiana lost to top–ranked Ohio State by only a touchdown. The currently 4–3 Hoosiers could well be on their way to their first winning season — and first bowl bid — since 2007.

    Well, that's what motivates the Hoosiers. On their side of the ledger, the Spartans haven't lost at home to Indiana since 2001, and the closest the Hoosiers have come to matching the Spartans on the scoreboard was a 14–point margin of defeat. Usually, the Spartans win by much more.

    I don't know if the margin will be greater than 14 or not, but I do think Michigan State will win.
  • Western Kentucky at #5 LSU, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: These teams have played once — in 2011, when LSU crushed WKU 42–9.

    That is pretty much what I expect this time. LSU will win.
  • #6 Clemson at Miami (Fla.), 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: It's a good thing for Clemson that Miami wasn't a member of the ACC in the 1980s. That was when Miami was the dominant program in the nation.

    The Clemson–Miami series goes back to 1945, but it had been dormant for nearly half a century when the Hurricanes joined the ACC with each team beating the other twice on the road.

    Based on that, Clemson ought to be the favorite. The Tigers (6–0) haven't lost at Miami since 1956.

    The 4–2 Hurricanes are likely to qualify for a bowl bid — and could well be in the Top 25 before the season is over — but I have to pick Clemson.
  • #7 Utah at Southern Cal, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: In their first three seasons in the Pac–12, the Utes lost to USC each year. But last year was different. Last year Utah won on Southern Cal's turf.

    Now the 6–0 Utes return to the scene of the crime. Southern Cal started the season in the Top 25, but the Trojans have lost three of their last four and seem to be skidding out of control. The Utes, meanwhile, have their eyes on a possible national championship. I'll take Utah.
  • Tennessee at #8 Alabama, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: Traditionally this game has been known as "The Third Saturday in October" — although lately, as it is this year, the game is actually played on the fourth Saturday in October.

    Alabama dominates most of the teams in the SEC, and Tennessee is no exception. This series goes back more than a century. 'Bama wins about 58% of the time, and the Crimson Tide has won nine of the last 10 meetings. What's more, Alabama wins at home in this series nearly 65% of the time.

    When the season began, I'm sure many Volunteer fans believed this could be the year that Tennessee finally turned the corner on Alabama, but the Vols have stumbled to a 3–3 mark midway through the season. They can still probably win enough games to qualify for a bowl bid — but I don't think they will get one of those wins in Tuscaloosa. I pick Alabama.
  • #9 Florida State at Georgia Tech, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: These teams first met on the gridiron 60 years ago.

    Their first seven games were played as nonconference rivals. They're both in the ACC now but in different divisions so they don't face each other every year. But Florida State has gone 14–2 against Georgia Tech since the teams became conference rivals in the early '90s.

    I just don't see 2–5 Georgia Tech being up to the challenge of 6‐0 Florida State. I pick Florida State.
  • Washington at #11 Stanford, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Stanford has been in control of this series in recent years eight of the last 10 times the teams have played, but that is a recent phenomenon. Washington won 16 of the previous 17.

    Nevertheless, the 3–3 Huskies may not be pushovers. Their losses have been to Boise State, Cal and Oregon — and beat then–ranked Southern Cal.

    But Stanford's won five in a row since losing the opener to Northwestern, and I pick Stanford to win this one.
  • Kansas at #12 Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox Sports 1: Kansas doesn't have much of a reputation in football, especially recently. The Jayhawks have had six straight losing seasons and, at 0–6, are all but sure to make that seven straight, maybe this weekend.

    There was a time in their relationship when Kansas held the upper hand over Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys have won 10 of their last 11 meetings with the Jayhawks. I feel comfortable in predicting that Oklahoma State will win this one, too.
  • Texas Tech at #15 Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This one will be a challenge for Tech. The 5–2 Red Raiders' losses have been to teams ranked in the Top 5 — TCU and Baylor — and now they must travel to Oklahoma, where the Sooners are 8–2 against them all time.

    The good news, though, is that Tech got one of those victories the last time they traveled to Norman — and they got the other one in 2010. The sheer dominance of the Sooners over the Red Raiders in Norman appears to be largely a thing of the past.

    Or is it? I guess it depends on which OU team shows up — the one that lost to unranked Texas a couple of weeks ago or the one that rallied to win in overtime at Tennessee.

    I'm betting on the latter. I pick Oklahoma.
  • #16 Texas A&M at #23 Ole Miss, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: The Aggies were 6–0 all time against Ole Miss — until last year, when the Rebels pulled off a 35–20 win.

    The Aggies still have never lost to Ole Miss in College Station. A&M is 2–0 at home — with a couple of three–point wins.

    Both teams are coming off losses. The Aggies lost to Alabama. Ole Miss — who beat Alabama a few weeks ago — lost to Memphis. The Rebels seem to be staggering at this point. The Aggies absorbed some blows against the Tide, but they seem to be generally OK.

    In a down–to–the–wire finish, I take Texas A&M.
  • #20 Toledo at UMass, 2 p.m. (Central) on ESPN3: Toledo leads this all–time series 3–1, but that one loss came in the only game played at UMass back in September 1976.

    The Minutemen are 1–5 and have given up 62 points twice already. The Rockets are 6–0 and scored 63 points last week. I'll take Toledo.
  • #21 Duke at Virginia Tech, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: This would be a mismatch in basketball — and it should be a mismatch (the other way) in football.

    Virginia Tech leads the all–time series and has won 13 of the last 14 meetings with Duke. But, based on the rankings, 5–1 Duke is probably the favorite in this game. The Hokies are 3–4, with three losses in their last four games. The times they certainly have changed.

    But I just don't think they have changed that much. So I am going to take Virginia Tech as my upset special.
  • #22 Houston at Central Florida, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN News: These teams have played each other six times, and Houston has won only once — and the Cougars have never won at Central Florida in three previous attempts, but they have kept it close each time.

    I don't know if they have ever brought a national ranking into a clash with Central Florida before. If not, then I guess there really is a first time for everything because Houston will bring the #22 ranking into this game as well as a 6–0 record. The Knights, on the other hand, are 0–7 and probably can't wait for the season to be over. I pick Houston.

Last week: 12–5

Upset specials last week: 0–1

Season: 99–20

Upset specials overall: 2–7

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