Friday, September 25, 2015

If Ole Miss Can Win at Alabama, I Guess Anything Can Happen

You know, I had a pretty good week last week. I picked 95% of the games involving Top 25 teams correctly — including my upset special pick of Stanford over Southern Cal. Yep, it was a pretty good week.

But the one prediction that I got wrong would have made the most remarkable upset special of them all — Ole Miss' victory at Alabama. I really don't think anyone could have possibly picked that one — except, maybe, a few bold folks from Mississippi. As I pointed out last week, Ole Miss had only prevailed at Alabama once in the history of the series — and Ole Miss' home win in 2014 was the Crimson Tide's only blemish last season until its loss on New Year's Day to eventual national champion Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide had plenty of motivation.

Again, I'm quite sure no one saw that outcome in Tuscaloosa coming.

Idle: #10 Florida State, #11 Clemson, #15 Oklahoma

  • #21 Stanford at Oregon State, 9 p.m. (Central) on Fox Sports 1: Stanford leads this series that goes back to 1919 and has won the last five in a row.

    I think Stanford is over that stumble against Northwestern in the first game of the season, and I expect Stanford to win this game.
  • Western Michigan at #1 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: A week ago, Western Michigan probably had no hope of staying on the same field with top–ranked Ohio State. But that was before Northern Illinois came to town and wound up losing by only a touchdown.

    It can't happen, you say? Well, keep in mind that this Western Michigan team lost by only 13 points to Michigan State three weeks ago. But they say lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place so I pick Ohio State to be focused and to prevail.
  • Central Michigan at #2 Michigan State, 11 a.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: This will be the 10th time these teams have met, and Michigan State wins about two–thirds of the time.

    But Central Michigan victories don't all date back to sometime in the 20th century. Central Michigan beat Michigan State in 2009. That was in East Lansing, where nearly every game in the series (except the most recent one, in 2012) has been played. A Central Michigan win is possible — but not probable.

    I'll take Michigan State.
  • #3 TCU at Texas Tech, 3:45 p.m. (Central) on Fox: When I was growing up, these teams were in the Southwest Conference. They seldom did much in the way of winning conference games, but their series, which predates their conference rivalries, has always been competitive.

    I'm inclined to pick TCU — until I am reminded that the Horned Frogs haven't won in Lubbock in more than 20 years — and it has been more than 40 years since TCU beat Texas Tech in back–to–back seasons (TCU won in Fort Worth last year, 82–27).

    And Texas Tech is better this season. I watched the Red Raiders beat my alma mater last weekend, and they looked better than they did last year. Will it be enough? I think it will be much closer than last year, but I think TCU will prevail.
  • Vanderbilt at #4 Ole Miss, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Isn't it amazing what a win at Alabama can do for a team? The Rebels are suddenly the fourth–ranked team in the nation.

    This really could be a good spot for Vanderbilt to pull off a shocker.

    It could happen. Vanderbilt has won the last three times the Commodores have visited Ole Miss. But the momentum is with the Rebels, who have won the last two times the teams have played.

    I pick Ole Miss.
  • Rice at #5 Baylor, 2 p.m. (Central) on Fox Sports Network: It is really hard for me to imagine Rice winning this game.

    Baylor has won its last six encounters with the Owls, and I have seen nothing to suggest that Rice can win in Waco. After all, the Owls haven't won there since the teams were in the old Southwest Conference.

    I have to take Baylor.
  • Massachusetts at #6 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: This will be the first– ever meeting between these schools. I don't know if the Irish are as good as their record suggests, but I'll take Notre Dame at home.
  • Southern at #7 Georgia, 11 a.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Sometimes there just isn't anything to say.

    I fully expect Georgia to win.
  • #8 LSU at Syracuse, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: These teams have met twice, both times in bowl games, and each team emerged with a victory.

    Their last meeting was more than 26 years ago so there is little to be learned from that.

    It was more instructive to observe LSU taking apart Auburn last weekend, and I expect LSU to take apart Syracuse this weekend.
  • #9 UCLA at #16 Arizona, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: UCLA has won the last three meetings, but Arizona won the five before that.

    It's been a close series at Arizona. The home team has a 10–9 all–time advantage so, obviously, this is the Bruins' opportunity to even the series. And that is what I expect to happen. I pick UCLA.
  • Louisiana–Monroe at #12 Alabama, 3 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Louisiana–Monroe has pulled off some upsets in recent years, but let's be clear about something. Alabama hasn't lost consecutive regular–season games since 2007.

    That also happens to be the last time Alabama lost consecutive regular–season home games, too.

    The planets aren't lined up just right for Louisiana–Monroe. Give me Alabama.
  • #18 Utah at #13 Oregon, 7:30 p.m. (Central) on FOX: Oregon has dominated this series, winning more than 70% all time and six of the last seven. The Ducks have been even more dominant at home. Their last loss at home to Utah was in 1994.

    Can Utah end the skid? The rankings suggest a close contest, but I expect Oregon to win.
  • #14 Texas A&M vs. Arkansas at Dallas, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: For two weeks now, I have endured Arkansas losses that should not have been losses. Now, the Razorbacks face the Aggies, a game they should have won last year and, until a couple of weeks ago, expected them to win this year.

    Now I'm not so sure.

    It would be just like the Razorbacks I grew up following to get off to a sloppy start when great things were expected, then to play well when all expectations had evaporated.

    So, for no particular reason — other than the one that I just gave — I will make Arkansas my upset special.
  • Ball State at #17 Northwestern, 7 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: I don't know much about Ball State — except that my impression has been that it is mostly a basketball school.

    I don't know much more about Northwestern, but the Wildcats have been playing well so I will take Northwestern.
  • #19 Southern Cal at Arizona State, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Arizona State has been a thorn in Southern Cal's side in recent years, winning three of their last four meetings.

    Arizona State was merely a nuisance in the 11 games prior to that — all won by Southern Cal. ASU won last year's game by four points, and that one was played in Los Angeles. I'm going to go with the home team in this game and make Arizona State my second upset special.
  • #20 Georgia Tech at Duke, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Georgia Tech has won 90% of its games with Duke in the last 20 years, but Duke won last year's match by six points.

    In fact, prior to 1995, the series was close with Georgia Tech leading 32–29–1. It has only been in the last couple of decades that Tech has seized total control of the series.

    I expect the dominance to continue. Give me Georgia Tech.
  • Hawaii at #22 Wisconsin, 7 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: This will actually be the seventh time these schools have faced each other. Hawaii won the first meeting, back in 1986, and Wisconsin won the rest. All but one of the games have been played in Hawaii, and Hawaii lost the only time the game was played in Wisconsin.

    I expect Wisconsin to even the score.
  • #23 Brigham Young at Michigan, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: This a rematch of the 1984 Holiday Bowl — in which undefeated BYU prevailed by a touchdown, securing its only national championship.

    I'm hoping for a good game. In the end, though, I think Michigan's program is struggling, and BYU probably will win by 10 points or more.
  • #24 Oklahoma State at Texas, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Over the years, Texas has been one of those teams that has dominated virtually everyone the Longhorns have faced. Oklahoma State has been no exception.

    But the UT program has been down lately, which tends to make historical inferences rather hard to make.

    In this case, though, there is an historical trend that seems relevant. OSU has won its last three games in Austin. Before that, UT won 14 of the 15 games it played against OSU in Austin. So while the all–time record clearly shows UT far ahead of OSU in Austin, the recent record demonstrates how times have changed.

    I have to take Oklahoma State.
  • #25 Missouri at Kentucky, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Missouri has beaten Kentucky every year since joining the SEC in 2012.

    I see no reason for that to change. I pick Missouri.

Last week: 19–1

Upset specials last week: 1–0

Season: 60–5

Upset specials overall: 2–1

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