Should USC be on upset alert in Tucson?
College football’s Week 9 is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC (Florida vs. Georgia, Mississippi State at Alabama) and a meeting of two storied programs in Norman, Okla., as Notre Dame takes on Oklahoma. There is a key clash in the Big East, as Cincinnati makes the short trip to Louisville on Friday night. And USC heads to Tucson for a tricky game with the Wildcats.
No. 39 Cincinnati at No. 17 Louisville
This key Big East clash lost some of its intrigue when Cincinnati suffered a 29–23 defeat at Toledo on Saturday. That loss didn’t hurt the Bearcats’ standing in the Big East, but this is no longer a battle of undefeated and nationally ranked teams.
No. 57 Nevada at No. 94 Air Force
Nevada has tumbled down the Athlon Sports rankings in recent week. The Wolf Pack had some close wins against bad teams — Wyoming (35–28 OT) and UNLV (42–37) — then lost at home last week, in overtime, to San Diego State.
No. 16 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama
How good is Alabama? Well, Nick Saban’s club is favored by more than three touchdowns against an undefeated Mississippi State team that is ranked 11th in the BCS standings. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 in the nation, have won their seven games by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points. Can Mississippi State be the first team to make Bama sweat? The guess here is yes — to a degree.
No. 101 Colorado at No. 2 Oregon
Colorado has given up 101 points in its last two games, losses to Arizona State and USC. The Buffs rank 119th in the nation in scoring defense (42.6 ppg). This will not be remotely competitive.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 10 Georgia (Jacksonville)
There’s plenty at stake when Florida and Georgia get together for their annual tussle in Jacksonville. The Gators, already 7–0 in the league, can wrap up the SEC East with a win. Georgia can’t clinch anything this weekend, but the Bulldogs — who still have games with Ole Miss and Auburn — would control their own destiny with a victory.
No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State
Bill Snyder is the obvious choice for Big 12 Coach of the Year at this point, but Tommy Tuberville has to be No. 2 on the list. The Red Raiders, who went 2–7 in the league last season, are 6–1 overall and 3–1 in the Big 12. And there are some quality wins on the résumé — at Iowa State, vs. West Virginia, at TCU.
Kansas State 35–27
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma
Notre Dame expects Everett Golson to be back at quarterback after missing the BYU game with a concussion. He is far from polished throwing the ball, but he is a dynamic playmaker who can create scoring opportunities with his legs. The Irish will have to limit their turnovers and score touchdowns — not field goals — in the red zone.
No. 7 Ohio State at No. 23 Penn State
Penn State has won five straight games after opening the season with losses to Ohio and Virginia. The Nittany Lions are getting it done with a surprisingly potent offense that is led by the surprisingly good Matt McGloin. A year ago, McGloin failed to throw for more than 220 yards in any game and had eight touchdowns and five interceptions in 231 attempts. This season, McGloin has topped the 220-yard mark in five of seven games and has 14 TDs and two INTs in 259 attempts.
Penn State 33–28
No. 36 Tennessee at No. 9 South Carolina
In his Monday press conference, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley said Tyler Bray will be on a short leash in Columbia. “If he’s loose with the football, he’s coming out of the game and we’re going to play Justin (Worley),” Dooley said. “I told him that.” In four SEC games, Bray is completing just over 50 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. That simply isn’t good enough for a guy with as much talent as Bray.
South Carolina 31–20
No. 11 USC at No. 29 Arizona
USC has quietly won four in a row since its damaging Week 3 loss at Stanford. The Trojans, 6–1 overall and ranked No. 10 in the latest BCS standings, can play their way back into the national title mix with wins this week at Arizona and next week at home vs. Oregon.
No. 12 Oregon State at No. 40 Washington
Oregon State survived for two weeks without Sean Mannion in the lineup, beating BYU 42–24 and Utah 21–7. Now, Mannion is back, and the Beavers are ready to light up the scoreboard against a Washington team that has given up 41 points or more in three of its five games vs. AQ conference opponents.
Oregon State 37-21
No. 47 Duke at No. 13 Florida State
Duke can relax after picking up that elusive sixth win and becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils are very much in the mix for the Coastal Division title, but their remaining schedule — starting with Saturday’s trip to FSU — is very difficult.
Florida State 38–20
No. 71 Kent State at No. 18 Rutgers
Former Rutgers assistant Darrell Hazell brings his Kent State Golden Flashes to town for homecoming. This will not, however, be easy for the Scarlet Knights. Kent State is 7–1 overall and has won three games on the road.
No. 19 Michigan at No. 27 Nebraska
Michigan snapped its four-game losing streak to Michigan State despite failing to score a touchdown. The Wolverines’ defense, which struggled in the first two weeks of the season, has given up an average of 230.6 yards in the last five games. Greg Mattison and his group will have their hands full against Nebraska. Holding the Huskers to 28 points should be the goal.
No. 102 Washington State at No. 20 Stanford
After playing two straight overtime games — beating Arizona and losing to Notre Dame — Stanford enjoyed a relatively stress-free 21–3 win over rival Cal in the Big Game. The Cardinal dominated this game at the line of scrimmage, outgaining Cal on the ground 252 to 3. Expect another easy win this week.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 73 Auburn
Auburn’s offense is bad. How bad? Well, the Tigers rank 119th in the nation in total yards (276.7) and have averaged only 229.0 yards against SEC opponents. Last week, in a 17–13 loss at Vanderbilt, Auburn managed 212 total yards. The week before, against Ole Miss, they had 213 yards.
Texas A&M 30–17
No. 24 Louisiana Tech at No. 122 New Mexico State
This is a colossal mismatch in the WAC. Louisiana Tech has scored 53 touchdowns in seven games vs. FCS competition. New Mexico State has scored 14 in six games.
Louisiana Tech 55–7
No. 45 Michigan State at No. 22 Wisconsin
After scoring less than 30 points in four of their first five games, the Badgers have scored 31, 38 and 38 points in their last three. Their three highest yardage totals of the season have also come in the last three games — 427 vs. Illinois, 645 vs. Purdue and 443 vs. Minnesota. Michigan State’s defense will be a bit tougher to penetrate, but the Badgers will score enough to win.
No. 26 UCLA at No. 33 Arizona State
I’m surprised the spread is so high between these seemingly evenly matched teams. UCLA is 5–2 and has only played one bad game, a 43–17 loss at California. The Bruins’ other loss was by seven points at home to undefeated Oregon State, and they have a nice win over Nebraska on their résumé.
No. 28 Texas at No. 97 Kansas
Charlie Weis has turned his offense over to Michael Cummings, a redshirt freshman who will get the start over Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist. He will be facing a Texas defense that has given up 48 points or more in its last three games.
No. 32 TCU at No. 30 Oklahoma State
TCU is known more for its defense, but the Horned Frogs are averaging 491.8 yards vs. Big 12 opponents this season. That’s more than West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas Tech (and four other teams). The Frogs’ defense, however, is giving up 387.8 yards in league play. Stopping Oklahoma State, which welcomes quarterback Wes Lunt back to the lineup, will be a challenge.
Oklahoma State 34–27
No. 31 Boise State at No. 112 Wyoming
The schedule hasn’t been too taxing, but Boise State has given up 17 points or less in all but one game this season. The Broncos lead the MWC in total defense and scoring defense.
Boise State 30–10
No. 34 Ohio at No. 109 Miami (Ohio)
Ohio, which is No. 4 in the BCS standings, has been outgained by an average of 64 yards in its three MAC games. This team does not deserve to be ranked.
No. 35 Toledo at No. 116 Buffalo
Toledo continues to roll. The Rockets improved to 7–1 last week with a win over previously unbeaten Cincinnati. Dating back to last season, Toledo has won 15 of its last 17 games. It will be 16 of 18 very soon.
Toledo 37, Buffalo 8
No. 37 NC State at No. 50 North Carolina
Larry Fedora will be a popular man in Chapel Hill if he can do something that Butch Davis failed to do in his time at North Carolina — beat NC State. The Wolfpack have won five straight in this series, four with Davis in charge and one with interim boss Everett Withers running the show. The streak is about to end.
North Carolina 28–27
No. 64 Iowa at No. 38 Northwestern
It’s been a strange season in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have one of the worst losses by any AQ conference team in the nation this season — at home to Central Michigan. Yet, they’ve also won at Michigan State. Last week, Iowa was dominated at home by Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 24–0 lead at the half and cruised to a 38–14 victory.
No. 42 Baylor at No. 41 Iowa State
How bad has Baylor been defensively in Big 12 games? Well, the Bears are giving up 613.7 points per game and a staggering 7.36 yards per play vs. conference foes.
Iowa State 47–41
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 43 ULM
South Alabama is fresh off its first win over an FBS team, a 37–34 double-overtime thriller at Florida Atlantic. The Jaguars’ winning streak will end at one.
No. 123 UMass at No. 48 Vanderbilt
UMass gained a total of 118 yards last week in a 24–0 loss at Bowling Green. The Minutemen had 33 yards passing on 34 attempts. It is very hard to be that bad.
No. 56 Ole Miss at No. 49 Arkansas
There is no doubt that Ole Miss is one of the most improved teams in the SEC. However, it must be noted that the Rebs have yet to beat a good team. Their four wins have come against Central Arkansas, UTEP (2–6), Tulane (1–6) and Auburn (1–6). So can this team take the next step and defeat a quality opponent?
No. 52 Utah State at No. 114 Texas-San Antonio
The Aggies bounced back from a 6–3 loss to BYU by beating San Jose State and New Mexico State by a combined score of 90–34. The beatings of WAC brethren will continue.
Utah State 44–13
No. 53 Northern Illinois at No. 81 Western Michigan
Northern Illinois and Toledo, both 4–0 in the league, are heading for a huge showdown in mid-November in DeKalb. The Huskies have won seven straight and are playing very well on both sides of the ball.
Northern Illinois 34–20
No. 54 Western Kentucky at No. 106 FIU
Western Kentucky blew a 28–7 second quarter lead last week and eventually lost in overtime to ULM 43–42. It was the Toppers’ first Sun Belt conference defeat since losing to Arkansas State last October.
Western Kentucky 24–21
No. 55 BYU at No. 58 Georgia Tech
Statistically, BYU has one of the top rushing defenses in the nation. But the Cougars were gashed last week by Notre Dame, which had two backs top 100 yards and ended up with 270 yards on 43 carries in a 17–14 Irish win. Georgia Tech’s option attack will provide another stiff test for BYU.
Georgia Tech 28–20
No. 59 Purdue at No. 65 Minnesota
These two teams are a combined 0–6 in the Big Ten. Minnesota is on its third starting quarterback of the season. Philip Nelson, a true freshman who enrolled at Minnesota last January, made his first start last week at Wisconsin. He completed 13-of-24 for 149 yards with two TDs and two interceptions in a 38–13 loss.
No. 60 California at No. 66 Utah
Losing 21–3 at home to your arch rival isn’t recommended for a coach (Jeff Tedford) whose job security is an issue. The Golden Bears are 3–5 overall and 2–3 in the league. They really need to pick up a win in Salt Lake City.
No. 77 Kentucky at No. 61 Missouri
Beating Kentucky this week is of paramount importance because it’s the last time Mizzou will be favored against an SEC foe. With trips to Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M looming, Gary Pinkel’s club could be staring at an 0–8 record in its maiden voyage through the league if it somehow fails to beat Kentucky.
No. 62 UCF at No. 80 Marshall
Marshall has quietly put together one of the nation’s top offenses — at least statistically. The Thundering Herd rank second in passing offense (390.0 ypg), fourth in total offense (568.4 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (43.1 ppg). That’s the good part. The bad? Marshall is giving upover 40 points per game.
No. 63 Maryland at No. 98 Boston College
Maryland lost its second quarterback to a torn ACL this season when Perry Hills went down last week against NC State. The Terps will now turn to true freshman Caleb Rowe or third-year sophomore Devin Burns.
Boston College 21–20
No. 67 Syracuse at No. 75 South Florida
South Florida’s disappointing 2012 season took another painful turn last week when the Bulls lost a fourth quarter lead to nationally ranked Louisville. USF is now 2–5 overall and 0–3 in the Big East. Syracuse played its most complete game of the season last week in a 40–10 win over UConn. The Orange, however, are 0–2 on the road in 2012 and have lost five straight on the road dating back to last season.
South Florida 24–20
No. 74 Temple at No. 68 Pittsburgh
Temple surprised the league by winning its first two games in its first season back in the Big East. Then, the Owls jumped on Rutgers last week and led 10–0 at the half. The fun stopped there, however. The Scarlet Knights stormed back and coasted to a 35–10 victory. Pittsburgh is 0–3 in the Big East, but the Panthers have already played two of the league’s best three teams, Cincinnati and Rutgers.
No. 69 Fresno State at No. 95 New Mexico
New Mexico, which has switched to an option offense under new coach Bob Davie, is the only team in the nation that has not completed a pass that has gone for 40 yards or more. The Lobos do, however, have seven rushing plays of 40 yards or more, which ranks second nationally.
Fresno State 31–23
No. 103 UNLV at No. 70 San Diego State
San Diego State had its biggest win of the year last week, rallying to beat Nevada 39–38 in overtime. With Ryan Katz out with an injury (and lost for the season), Adam Dingwell stepped in and threw for 177 yards with three touchdowns and no picks.
San Diego State 30–14
No. 72 Ball State at No. 115 Army
Rich Ellerson’s fourth season at Army isn’t going well. The Black Knights are 1–6 (though the one win came vs. Boston College) and all but one of their losses has been by 10 points or more. Ball State should roll.
Ball State 44–20
No. 87 Navy at No. 78 East Carolina
Navy has won three straight, the last two with true freshman Keenan Reynolds starting at quarterback. East Carolina is 4–1 in C-USA but will have a tough time winning its division. The Pirates trail UCF by one game in the loss column and lost to the Knights 40–20 earlier this month.
East Carolina 34–31
No. 104 Texas State at No. 79 San Jose State
Assuming San Jose State takes care of business this weekend, Mike MacIntyre can claim back-to-back wins over Larry Coker (won a national title at Miami) and Dennis Franchione (former coach at TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M).
San Jose State 44–17
No. 83 Troy at No. 124 FAU
FAU has lost six straight games since edging Wagner 7–3 in the opener. The latest loss was troubling — 37–34 at FBS newcomer South Alabama. The Carl Pelini era is off to a rough start.
No. 96 North Texas at No. 85 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee played well in Starkville for a half last week before being overwhelmed by Mississippi State in the final two quarters. The Blue Raiders miss Bennie Cunningham (torn ACL), but this is still a good offense.
Middle Tennessee 34–27
No. 88 Indiana at No. 89 Illinois
Indiana has lost its last three games (vs. Michigan State, Ohio State and Navy) by a total of eight points. Illinois has lost its last four games (Louisiana Tech, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan) by a total of 118 points.
No. 117 Memphis at No. 90 SMU
One week after losing to previously winless Tulane 27–26, SMU beat Houston 72–42 (thanks to nine Cougar turnovers). Go figure.
No. 99 UTEP at No. 92 Houston
Just when it appeared that Houston was getting its act together, the Cougars turn the ball over nine times and give up 72 points to SMU. When this team takes care of the ball — which isn’t often — it is capable of scoring points.
No. 113 Eastern Michigan at No. 93 Bowling Green
Bowling Green gave up a total of 118 yards in a 24–0 win at UMass last week. The Falcons have not allowed more than 12 points in a game since losing at Virginia Tech 37–0 in Week 4.
Bowling Green 27–12
No. 100 UAB at No. 110 Tulane
Tulane is showing improvement under first-year coach Curtis Johnson. The Green Wave broke through with their first win two weeks ago against SMU and then lost at UTEP 24–20 last week. Beating UAB, however, will be tough. The Blazers are 1–6 but have played relatively well against a tough schedule.
No. 108 Southern Miss at No. 105 Rice
Is it possible that Southern Miss, a program that has enjoyed 18 straight winning seasons, could go winless in 2012? The Golden Eagles have five games remaining: at Rice, UAB, at SMU, UTEP, at Memphis. My guess is that USM finds a way to win at least one game.
No. 111 Akron at No. 107 Central Michigan
Terry Bowden is still looking for his first win vs. an FBS opponent in his first season as the boss at Akron. Central Michigan has lost four straight since its stunning win at Iowa.
Central Michigan 21–20
No. 118 Hawaii at No. 120 Colorado State
These two programs have enjoyed some pockets of big-time success over the past two decades. Now, however, they are among the two worst teams in the nation.
Colorado State 24–16
Last week: 44–11