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Which upsets will shape the 2014 season?
Utah won just five games last season but somehow managed to topple mighty Stanford on a fourth quarter, goal-line stand in the waning minutes. It nearly cost the Cardinal a Pac-12 title and did cost Stanford a chance at a national title.
Tennessee has lost seven games four straight seasons but figured out a way to stop Connor Shaw and beat an 11-win South Carolina team last fall. That loss kept the Gamecocks from playing for an SEC title.
A five-loss Arizona team beat Oregon with a Pac-12 title on the line, knocking the Ducks out of the conference championship game.
Notre Dame, a middle-of-the-pack team that lost to Pitt and Michigan, was the only team capable of knocking off Michigan State a year ago. It cost Sparty a chance at a BCS title.
Monumental, championship-altering upsets are a part of college football as much as marching bands and tailgates. It’s part of what makes the game great. The 2014 season won’t be any different.
Here’s a tip: Look for well-coached teams at home against higher-ranked opponents.
Washington over UCLA (Nov. 8)
Many are on board the Bruins train because of all the key home games. Well, UCLA has to travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the physical Huskies in Seattle late in the year. Chris Petersen has all the talent and physicality to pull off the home upset with UCLA looking ahead to USC.
Texas Tech or TCU over Oklahoma
Part of why the Sooners have me doubting my College Football Playoff predictions is that this team wasn’t nearly as good as its 11-win, Big 12-title winning resume indicated from last year. The Sooners topped TCU and Texas Tech in Norman by a total of 11 points last year. Both games are on the road this fall and both the Frogs and Red Raiders could be better.
Missouri over Georgia (Oct. 11)
The Dawgs have averaged 4.6 losses per season over the last five years and a mid-season trip to Missouri could end their SEC East title hopes. The Tigers won in Athens last year with Maty Mauk playing quarterback and now they get Georgia at home. The Tigers will upset someone and odds are it’s UGA.
Maryland over Michigan State (Nov. 15)
The Spartans have more than one tough road trip this fall but only one will happen six days after beating (that’s right) Ohio State. A late-season road trip after toppling the mighty Buckeyes is prime “letdown alert” territory. If the Terps can stay healthy, they have the weapons on offense and the coaching to match up with Michigan State in a one-game showdown.
Florida over South Carolina (Nov. 15)
It may not be a big upset by the time the game rolls around (because the Gators will be markedly improved by that time) but Florida beating South Carolina could knock the Gamecocks out of the SEC title game. This was a 44-11 beatdown for Florida two years ago and was almost a Gators' win in Columbia last year (19-14).
Utah over Oregon (Nov. 8)
The more obvious upset picks for the Ducks are trips to Washington State and Oregon State — since both the Beavers and Cougars figure to be better than the Utes. But Utah plays extremely well at home, upsetting Stanford last year and nearly beating UCLA and Arizona State as well. Oregon will be coming off a home game with Stanford the week before and will be physically exhausted when it heads to Salt Lake City.
LSU over Alabama (Nov. 8)
I don’t see Alabama going undefeated and I don’t see Alabama losing to any school from the state of Mississippi. So where does Bama lose? Baton Rouge is the best bet. LSU could be out of the SEC West race by the time this game comes along and a win over Alabama would cast an entirely different light on the season.
Northwestern over Wisconsin (Oct. 4)
The Wildcats have foiled a Badger season many times before and 2014 could be more of the same for Big Red faithful. A trip to Evanston to start Big Ten play is a dangerous way to begin for Wisconsin. Northwestern figures to be much improved and fired up to get B1G play underway.
Ole Miss or Mississippi State over Auburn
The Tigers' road schedule is arguably the worst in the nation and trips to Oxford and Starkville aren’t even the toughest trips facing Auburn (at Alabama). The trip to face Mississippi State is especially poorly placed between home games with LSU and South Carolina. The Ole Miss bout will come immediately after the home tilt with the Gamecocks. One of these trips to the Magnolia State will be costly.
Pitt over Virginia Tech (Oct. 16)
There are many believe the Panthers to be a sleeper pick to win the Coastal Division. While, I cannot go that far (yet), I will agree that Paul Chryst’s club is a dangerous one that will pull an upset (or two) this fall. Pitt could beat Iowa, both Virginia and Georgia Tech and Duke before it’s all said and done this fall.