College football’s fifth weekend of action is highlighted Texas' trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State, Ohio State's battle with Michigan State and West Virginia's first Big 12 game vs. Baylor. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 110 Hawaii at No. 55 BYU
Norm Chow, the noted offensive guru, is off to a rocky start in his first season as a head coach. The Warriors lost last week at home to Nevada 69–24 to drop to 1–2. The offense is ranked 102nd in the nation, and the defense has given up a total of 118 points in two games vs. FBS foes.
No. 75 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama
In its only game vs. a quality opponent (Texas in Oxford), Ole Miss gave up 350 yards on the ground. That’s an alarming number for a team that is preparing to visit Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide.
Towson at No. 2 LSU
Towson made the most dramatic improvement in the Division I ranks last season, improving from 1–10 in 2010 to 9–3 in ’11.
No. 3 Oregon at No. 100 Washington State
Maybe we expected too much too soon out of Mike Leach at Washington State, but the Cougars have been a disappointment in 2012. The record is a respectable 2–2, but they only beat Eastern Washington by four and UNLV by eight and lost last week at home to Colorado.
No. 42 Tennessee at No. 4 Georgia
This is the eighth time in the Derek Dooley era that Tennessee has been an underdog of 13 points or more. That happened only three times in the 13 seasons prior to Dooley’s arrival.
No. 5 Florida State at No. 57 South Florida
Florida State announced itself as a legitimate national title contender with a 49–37 win over Clemson Saturday night. Now it’s time for the Seminoles to show they can handle prosperity against a South Florida team that lost last week at Ball State.
Florida State 31-13
No. 7 South Carolina at No. 81 Kentucky
We all remember the Saturday night in Lexington two years ago when Kentucky stormed back from a 28–10 deficit in the third quarter to steal a 31–28 victory from South Carolina, ranked No. 10 at the time. That, however, is the only time the Gamecocks have lost to Kentucky since the turn of the century. Carolina has won 11 of the past 12 vs. the Wildcats, highlighted by last season’s 54–3 beatdown in Columbia.
South Carolina 27-6
No. 8 Texas at No. 26 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has sandwiched lopsided wins vs. inferior opponents (Savannah State and UL Lafayette) around a 59–38 loss at Arizona. The Pokes are allowing 438.5 yards per game vs. FBS foes. Look for the outstanding Texas defensive line to make life difficult for the Oklahoma State quarterback — either true freshman Wes Lunt (if healthy) or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh.
No. 11 Ohio State at No. 21 Michigan State
Ohio State has struggled on defense the past two weeks, giving up 512 and 403 yards to California and UAB, respectively. The major issue has been stopping the pass; the Bucks currently rank 104th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 277.3 yards per game. Good thing for Ohio State that Michigan State has so much trouble with the forward pass.
Ohio State 17-13
No. 38 Baylor at No. 12 West Virginia
West Virginia is putting up gaudy numbers in the passing game: Quarterback Geno Smith ranks second nationally in total offense, and WVU has two players (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey) ranked among the top 10 nationally in receiving yards per game. This is an underrated matchup on a rather ordinary slate of games.
West Virginia 44-34
No. 17 Clemson at No. 74 Boston College
Clemson scored 37 points and gained 426 yards of offense on the road yet still lost by 12 points to Florida State. That’s what happens when your defense allows the opposition to average 8.9 yards per snap. That won’t happen this week.
No. 17 TCU at No. 93 SMU
Here’s an incredible stat (first pointed out by Athlon colleague David Fox): SMU ranks last in the nation in total defense even though the Mustangs did not allow a point in one of its three games. That’s right, SMU is allowing 556.7 yards and 35.7 points per game despite shutting out Stephen F. Austin 52–0 two weeks ago.
No. 19 Louisville at No. 96 Southern Miss
These two former C-USA rivals are a combined 4–3. Louisville is 4–0. Southern Miss is 0–3. The Golden Eagles have been brutal on both sides of the ball under first-year coach Ellis Johnson. They rank 115th in the nation in total offense and 104th in total defense.
No. 20 Oregon State at No. 25 Arizona
Expectations were low at Oregon State this season. So naturally, Mike Riley has the Beavers off to a 2–0 start that includes wins against Wisconsin and UCLA. ). Arizona suffered its first defeat of the Rich Rodriguez era on Saturday night, a humbling 49–0 shutout at Oregon. The Wildcats hung around into the second half — they only trailed 13–0 midway through the third — but gave up five touchdowns in the final 22 minutes of the game.
Oregon State 23-17
No. 23 UCLA at No. 99 Colorado
Colorado is back in double-digits in the Athlon Sports 124 after its surprising win at Washington State last Saturday. The Buffaloes had played as poorly as any team in the nation in the first three weeks of the season but somehow found a way to win in Pullman. The winning ways won’t continue.
No. 47 Wisconsin at No. 24 Nebraska
We still don’t know much about Nebraska. The Huskers have defeated three overmatched teams in Lincoln and lost to UCLA in their only game vs. a school from an AQ conference. Even against this soft schedule, Nebraska is having trouble stopping the run. The Huskers have given up 185 yards on the ground to Southern Miss, 355 to UCLA and 148 to Arkansas State. Wisconsin hasn’t been productive on the ground to date, but this is a team that is still capable of running the ball well (we think).
No. 28 Boise State at No. 109 New Mexico
Boise State has been held without an offensive touchdown in two of its three games yet is still 2–1 after beating BYU 7–6 last Thursday night. New Mexcio is showing signs of life under first-year coach Bob Davie; the Lobos ended an annoying three-year losing streak to rival New Mexico State with a 27–14 win in Las Cruces last week. I’m sure Walter White was pleased.
Boise State 27-10
No. 60 Arkansas at No. 30 Texas A&M
There are so many words we can use to describe Arkansas’ season to date — debacle, train wreck, dumpster fire, nightmare, etc. One word that can’t be used? Success. Virtually nothing has gone right for the Razorbacks. They are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, and all three losses have come in the state of Arkansas. Now, John L. Smith takes his show on the road.
Texas A&M 41-20
No. 98 Indiana at No. 31 Northwestern
Northwestern is one of only 15 teams in the nation with a 4–0 record. Three of those wins have come against teams from an AQ conference — Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. Indiana, meanwhile, has one win vs. an FBS team dating back to the beginning of the 2011 season. That win came in Week 2 against a UMass team that is in its first year in the FBS.
No. 32 Nevada at No. 106 Texas State
Nevada junior Stefphon Jefferson leads the nation in rushing attempts (122), rushing yards (697) and rushing touchdowns (11). He should run wild this week in San Marcos.
No. 33 Missouri at No. 62 UCF
Missouri finds itself as a three-point underdog on the road to a UCF team that only beat FIU by 13 points last week. The Tigers will be eager to prove that the wrong team is favored.
No. 34 Arizona State at No. 49 California
Unless Zach Maynard, the starting quarterback at Cal, goes down with an injury in the next few days, Arizona State will be facing a team’s No. 1 quarterback for the first time since opening day (vs. Northern Arizona). The Sun Devils played Illinois without Nathan Scheelhaase, Missouri without James Franklin and Utah without Jordan Wynn (who retired from football the week before).
No. 44 Cincinnati vs. No. 35 Virginia Tech (Landover, Md.)
It’s tempting to compare these teams’ common opponent (Cincinnati beat Pitt by 24 points and Pitt beat Virginia Tech by 18 points), but applying the transitive property in college football can be dangerous.
Virginia Tech 27-24
No. 43 NC State at No. 36 Miami (Fla.)
The first thing that comes to mind about Miami football in 2012 is the Canes’ no-show in a 52–13 loss at Kansas State in Week 2. But that’s far from the complete story. Al Golden’s team is 3–1 overall and 2–0 in the ACC with both wins coming on the road. The Canes showed tremendous resolve at Georgia Tech last weekend, rallying from a 36–19 deficit in the second half to defeat the Yellow Jackets in overtime.
No. 118 Middle Tennessee at No. 37 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech is averaging 42.0 points per game but only has a 2–2 record to show for it — thanks to overtime losses to Virginia Tech and Miami. The Yellow Jackets led Miami last week 36–19 in the second half but surrendered the final 23 points of the game.
Georgia Tech 48-10
No. 52 Texas Tech at No. 39 Iowa State
Keep in mind that the schedule has been ridiculously soft — Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico — but Texas Tech currently ranks first in the nation in total defense (160.3 ypg). That won’t last, especially with Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas looming on the Red Raiders’ schedule.
Iowa State 27-23
No. 87 Marshall at No. 40 Purdue
Don’t be surprised if Purdue emerges as one of the better teams in the Big Ten (insert Big Ten joke here). The Boilermakers are 2–1, and their only lose was by three points at Notre Dame.
No. 41 Ohio at No. 124 UMass
Ohio is 4–0 and it’s hard to find a potential loss on the Bobcats’ schedule. UMass is 0-4, and it’s difficult to find a potential win on the Minutemen’s schedule.
No. 46 Louisiana Tech at No. 65 Virginia
Louisiana Tech is 3–0 and has scored over 50 points in all three games. Last week, the Bulldogs disposed of Illinois with surprising ease, beating the Illini 52-24 in Champaign. On a negative note, Tech’s leading rusher, Tevin King, is out for the year after tearing an ACL vs. Illinois.
Louisiana Tech 38-23
No. 101 UNLV at No. 48 Utah State
UNLV suffered a horrible loss in Week 2 (17–14 at home to Northern Arizona), but the Rebels have actually played relatively well in 2012. They have lost two games to AQ conference teams by a combined 11 points (by three to Minnesota in OT and by eight to Washington State), and last week they knocked off Air Force 38–35. Winning in Logan, however, is a tough chore.
Utah State 38-20
No. 50 Minnesota at No. 67 Iowa
It hasn’t exactly been the most difficult slate — and the wins haven’t exactly been dominating — but Minnesota is 4–0 for the first time since 2008. Iowa has played three games vs. AQ conference teams, and all three games have been decided by three points or less. The Hawkeyes beat Northern Illinois by one and lost to Iowa State by three and Central Michigan by one.
No. 51 ULM at No. 117 Tulane
After opening the 2012 season with three AQ conference teams — and playing quite well in all three — ULM heads to New Orleans to take on a struggling Tulane club. The Green Wave are 0–3 and are coming off a 39–0 loss at home to Ole Miss.
No. 53 Western Kentucky at No. 78 Arkansas State
This is a pivotal clash in the Sun Belt. There was no letdown for Western Kentucky last week after its big win at Kentucky. The Hilltoppers pounded Southern Miss 42–17 in Bowling Green to improve to 3–1. Arkansas State is 2–2 but has yet to play a team with comparable abilities. The Red Wolves were big favorites over Memphis and Alcorn State and decided underdogs vs. Oregon and Nebraska.
Western Kentucky 33-30
No. 56 Ball State at No. 104 Kent State
These are two improving programs with outstanding head coaches. Ball State, led by Pete Lembo, is 3–1 with the only loss coming at Clemson. The Cardinals have two wins over AQ conference teams, Indiana and South Florida. Kent State, under the direction of former Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell is 2–1.
Ball State 33-20
No. 72 Duke at No. 58 Wake Forest
Duke, off to a 3–1 start, appears to be improved, but the Blue Devils have yet to record anything close to a quality win. Wake Forest is also 3–1, and it’s a strange 3–1. The Demon Deacons struggled with Liberty and Army and got blown out (52–0) at Florida State yet beat North Carolina. I smell upset.
No. 119 Idaho at No. 59 North Carolina
Idaho made a big move in our weekly rankings, climbing from No. 124 (last) all the way to No. 119. The reason? The Vandals lost in overtime to Wyoming.
North Carolina 41-6
No. 66 Penn State at No. 63 Illinois
Penn State is not a very good team, but the Nittany Lions would be 3–1 if they had a kicker who could make a chip-shot field goal. Illinois has been brutal on defense; the Illini have given up 45 points and 52 points in their two losses (at Arizona State and vs. Louisiana Tech).
No. 73 Toledo at No. 64 Western Michigan
This is a key early season showdown between two teams expectd to be in the hunt for the MAC West title. Western Michigan has played three games vs. AQ conference teams, losing to Illinois (24–7) and Minnesota (28–3) and beating UConn (30–24). Toledo lost in Week 1 in overtime at Arizona. These are two good teams.
Western Michigan 38, Toledo 34
No. 115 Buffalo at No. 68 UConn
As expected, UConn has been very good on defense and very average on offense. The Huskies are 2–2 after losing last week at Western Michigan — their second straight loss to the Broncos.
No. 69 Tulsa at No. 97 UAB
Tulsa had a nice win last week, rallying to beat a Fresno State team that had defeated Colorado 69–14 the week before. UAB is 0–3 against a tough schedule. This team isn’t awful.
No. 94 FIU at No. 76 UL Lafayette
The folks in Lafayette can’t be thrilled that their rivals from the Northeastern part of the state, the ULM Warhawks, have been getting so much national attention.
UL Lafayette 38-30
No. 88 San Diego State at No. 77 Fresno State
With the talent in the state of California, neither of these teams should be ranked so low in our national rankings. Fresno State lost some early season momentum by letting a 13-point first half lead slip away last week at Tulsa.
Fresno State 31-20
No. 95 Central Michigan at No. 79 Northern Illinois
Central Michigan is fresh off its best win of the Dan Enos era, a 32–31 victory at Iowa. Now, we’ll find out if the Chips have staying power. Northern Illinois lost by one point in Week 1 to that same Iowa team but has reeled off three straight since.
Northern Illinois 34-14
No. 85 UTEP at No. 80 East Carolina
East Carolina is struggling on offense without Dominique Davis taking snaps at quarterback. The Pirates rank 118th in the nation in scoring vs. FBS opponents, averaging 13.3 points in three games. The schedule has been tough (South Carolina, Southern Miss and North Carolina, all on the road), but ECU needs to increase its offensive production to be a factor in C-USA East.
East Carolina 21-20
No. 82 San Jose State at No. 89 Navy
San Jose State has won three straight after losing by three points to Stanford in Week 1. The Spartans have scored 38 points or more in all three wins. Navy picked up its first win of the season last week, taking out its early season frustrations on VMI in a 41–3 win. The Middies struggled to score points in their first two games, losses to Notre Dame (50–10) and Penn State (34–7). It will be a bad sign if Navy has trouble moving the ball this weekend.
San Jose State 24-17
No. 86 Troy at No. 121 South Alabama
Troy is 2–2 with two losses (vs. UL Lafayette and Mississippi State) by a combined nine points. The Trojans rolled up 572 yards in the loss to MSU. They should win this game with ease.
No. 107 Houston vs. No. 90 Rice
Houston has arguably been the most disappointing team in the nation. Yes, record-setting quarterback Case Keenum is gone, but the Cougars welcomed back 12 starters (including seven on defense) from a team that won 13 games last season. But the 2012 season, under the direction of first-year coach Tony Levine, has been a disaster. Houston has lost all three games, most notably a 30–13 decision at home in Week 1 to FBS upstart Texas State.
Rhode Island at No. 92 Bowling Green
Bowling Green looked sharp in a Week 1 loss at Florida but has not played well since. The Falcons struggled at home to beat a bad Idaho team and then lost at Toledo and Virginia Tech by a combined 64–15. Rhode Island is 0–3.
Bowling Green 38-6
No. 113 Colorado State at No. 102 Air Force
It’s an intrastate battle between two struggling programs. Colorado State has dropped three straight since beating Colorado in Week 1. Air Force played well at Michigan in Week 2 but lost to UNLV last weekend. Not good.
Air Force 34-20
Stony Brook at No. 103 Army
Army has scored 77 points in the past two weeks but has nothing to show for it. The Black Knights are 0–3 thanks in large part to a defense that is giving up 491.7 yards and 44.0 points per game.
No. 105 North Texas at No. 122 FAU
North Texas isn’t bad. The Mean Green are 1–3 but have played relatively well against a tough schedule. Florida Atlantic can catch its breath (to a degree) after playing Georgia and Alabama the past two weeks.
North Texas 30-13
No. 108 Miami (Ohio) at No. 114 Akron
Akron is showing signs of improvement. The Zips, under the direction of Terry Bowden, lost at FIU in overtime in Week 2 and hung with Tennessee until the fourth quarter last weekend in Knoxville.
No. 120 Texas-San Antonio at No. 116 New Mexico State
New Mexico State dropped to 1–3 with a disappointing loss at home to rival New Mexico last week. The Aggies were gashed on the ground, giving up 302 yards on 54 carries. UTSA is 4–0 with wins against South Alabama, Texas A&M-Commerce, Georgia State and Northwestern Oklahoma. Not exactly a murderer’s row.
New Mexico State 27-24
Last week: 45-12