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Week 5 College Football Preview

A&M makes dramatic swing to heavy computer choice vs. Arkansas

by Dave Congrove
CollegeFootballPoll.com
September 24, 2012

First it was Arkansas and Oklahoma State, then Virginia Tech and USC, followed by Oklahoma and Clemson. All were candidates for the national title until they lost in either the second, third or fourth week of the season. So who will be next in this war of attrition?

This week features just 2 games that pit unbeaten teams against each other as Texas Tech is a 1.51-point favorite at Iowa State, and Baylor is a 6.51-point underdog at West Virginia.

However, there are 4 other games where the Congrove Computer Rankings predict an unbeaten team will lose as Oklahoma State is a 4.79-point home pick over Texas, Iowa is a 7.26-point choice over visiting Minnesota, Arizona is favored at home by 4.54 over Oregon State, and Cincinnati is a 6.11-point underdog to Virginia Tech in a neutral field game in the nation's capital.

Five undefeated teams don't have to worry about weathering the storm this week. Florida, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Rutgers all draw a bye week.

Overall, the number of undefeated teams is still rather large with 27 in that category compared to 22 at this point a year ago. Another 9 FBS schools have yet to win a game.

The week ahead is, by far, the lightest of the season with just 54 games on the docket and only 3 of those being played against FCS schools. 19 programs get a bye week.

BIG FLIP:
Texas A&M was a 4.98-point underdog to Arkansas in the preseason, but the Aggies are now forecasted to win that game by 8.99.

OTHER TOP GAMES:
Aside from the battles already outlined, there are a handful of games that are particularly intriguing.

The week begins on Thursday night with Stanford as a heavy favorite at Washington where Rick Neuheisel coached from 1999-2002. Saturday's slate includes UCLA at Colorado, both of which employed Neuheisel as head coach. The Buffs had him from 1995-1998 and the Bruins from 2008-2011. Neuheisel can now be heard telling everyone else how to coach on the PAC-12 Networks.

Florida State visits USF in search of revenge for its 17-7 home loss to the Bulls in 2009. This will be just the second meeting ever between the two schools. It's a reach to expect Skip Holtz will get it, but he needs a signature win to stop the hounds from barking at his door. The Bulls are just 1-2 vs. FBS teams this season and coming off back-to-back losses to Rutgers and Ball State. USF has just 1 win over an AQ BCS school (Syracuse) since knocking off Notre Dame at the start of the 2011 season.

Missouri goes to UCF as a mere 0.61-point computer favorite after losing its first-ever SEC games to Georgia and South Carolina by 21-point margins. The Tigers have lost 7 of their last 9 road games.

Derek Dooley takes Tennessee to his daddy's old stomping grounds at Georgia as a 16.28-point underdog. Vince Dooley was the head coach in Athens from 1964-1988 and served as Athletics Director from 1979-2004.

Louisiana Tech should be happy to see orange and blue uniforms across the field this Saturday when they visit Virginia. After all, the Bulldogs pasted the orange and blue Illini 52-24 at Illinois this past Saturday. The undefeated boys from Ruston are 7.20-point favorites over the Cavaliers, who just last year, lost a home game to non-AQ BCS school Southern Miss and only eked out a 1-point win over Idaho.

Miami is coming off one of the strangest games of the week. The 'Canes opened a 19-0 lead at Georgia Tech only to fall behind 36-19 before rallying to win 42-36. Miami hosts an N. C. State Wolfpack team that hasn't looked sharp in any of their games vs. FBS foes, but are still 1.49-point favorites.

Ohio State also hasn't looked sharp as it hits the road to East Lansing as a strangely large 12.31-point underdog to Michigan State. The Spartans were 17.21-point preseason favorites.

Wisconsin goes to Nebraska as a 16.79-point underdog. That forecasted margin is up from 9.94 in the preseason.

IRONY PERSONIFIED:
While shocked at how head coach Terry Bowden looked on the sideline - his reported stress-eating has taken a toll on his physique - I was equally surprised by the score of the game between his Akron Zips and Tennessee Vols.

The game was tied early, but that happens a lot with heavy underdogs. The wanna-be challenger scores first, or ties the game at 7-7, before getting tossed around like rag dolls in a 63-7 blowout. I flipped back to the Clemson-Florida State game and only occasionally peeked at the possible upset that was brewing. 7-7 became 10-10, then 23-20 in favor of Akron before the half ended in a 23-23 tie. Akron was hanging around so long that it must have scared the dickens out of Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. (I was actually waiting to see him on his cell phone on the sideline, getting fired).

It continued to be a contest throughout the 3rd quarter and into the 4th, and Tennessee held a slim 33-26 advantage with under 10 minutes to play in the game. Finally, the Vols scored the last 14 points of the game, kick-started by an interception return for a touchdown, and everyone associated with the Tennessee football program breathed a long sigh of relief.

In the process, though, the game made for interesting TV. On my occasional look-ins I saw Terry's brother, Jeff (who has also added some girth) on the sideline serving as Terry's coordinator of special teams. Then came the interview in the stands with Papa Bobby Bowden and Momma Ann Bowden, enjoying an evening of watching their sons coach a college football game and none of them had anything to do with Florida State. Meanwhile, their once-beloved Seminoles were playing a game with huge ACC and national implications against a team once coached by another Bowden (Tommy) on a field named after Bobby Bowden.

Irony personified, indeed.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS teams went 11-0 last week versus their FCS counterparts to improve to 85-9 (.904) on the season. Since 2003, FBS schools are 723-64 (.919) in such games.

FBS teams have already lost 3 more games this season to FCS schools than in all of 2011 when they were 91-6 (.938).

This year, 101 FBS teams play a total of 108 games against FCS foes. UTSA is in its first year of transitioning from the FCS and plays 4 such schools. Cincinnati, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M each play two such games.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/15: Cal Poly 24, Wyoming 22
9/8: Sacramento State 30, Colorado 28
9/8: North Dakota State 22, Colorado State 7
9/8: Illinois State 31, Eastern Michigan 17
9/8: Northern Arizona 17, UNLV 14
9/1: Youngstown State 31, Pittsburgh 17
9/1: Tennessee-Martin 20, Memphis 17
8/30: McNeese State 27, Middle Tennessee 21
8/30: Eastern Washington 20, Idaho 3

STREAKS:
TCU - Won 11 straight games overall and 25 straight conference games (24 MWC + 1 in Big 12). Visits SMU on Saturday.

Baylor - Won 9 straight games overall. Won 47-42 at Louisiana-Monroe on Friday. Visits West Virginia on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - Won 8 straight conference games (MAC) and 17 straight home games. Hosts Central Michigan on Saturday.

LSU - Won 20 straight home games and 40 straight nonconference games (SEC). Hosts Towson (FCS) on Saturday.

Oregon - Won 11 straight road games. Visits Washington State on Saturday.

Arkansas State - Won 8 straight conference games (Sun Belt). Hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday.

Tulane - Lost 13 straight games overall. Hosts Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 22 straight road games and 14 straight FBS games. Hosts Miami (O.) on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 13 straight FBS games. Idle this week. Visits Kansas State on 10/6.

Mississippi - Lost 14 straight conference games (SEC). Visits Alabama on Saturday.

NEW COACHES:
28 teams have a new college football coach in the FBS ranks this season. Last season saw 24 new head coaches, 10 of whom matched or exceeded the W-L record of their predecessors' final season.

Here are this week's games for each new head coach:

Team Coach Game
Akron Terry Bowden (1-3) Saturday vs. Miami (O.)
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (3-1) Saturday vs. Oregon State
Arizona State Todd Graham (3-1) Saturday at California
Arkansas John L. Smith (1-3) Saturday at Texas A&M
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (2-2) Saturday vs. Western Kentucky
Colorado State Jim McElwain (1-3) Saturday at Air Force
FAU Carl Pellini (1-3) Saturday vs. North Texas
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (2-2) Saturday vs. San Diego State
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-2) Friday at BYU
Houston Tony Levine (0-3) Saturday vs. Rice at Houston's Reliant Stadium
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-2) Saturday vs. Penn State
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-3) Idle this week. Visits Kansas State on 10/6
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (0-4) Saturday vs. Ohio
Memphis Justin Fuente (0-4) Idle this week. Vs. Rice on 10/6.
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (3-1) Saturday at Alabama
New Mexico Bob Davie (2-2) Saturday vs. Boise State
North Carolina Larry Fedora (2-2) Saturday vs. Idaho
Ohio State Urban Meyer (4-0) Saturday at Michigan State
Penn State Bill O'Brien (2-2) Saturday at Illinois
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (2-2) Idle this week. Visits Syracuse on 10/5
Rutgers Kyle Flood (4-0) Idle this week. Vs. Connecticut on 10/6
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-3) Saturday vs. Louisville
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (2-1) Saturday vs. Arkansas
Toledo Matt Campbell (3-1) Saturday at Western Michigan
Tulane Curtis Johnson (0-3) Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe
UAB Garrick McGee (0-3) Saturday vs. Tulsa
UCLA Jim Mora (3-1) Saturday at Colorado
Washington State Mike Leach (2-2) Saturday vs. Oregon