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Week 5 Provides A Trio Of Undefeated Clashes

by Mike Mitchell
September 25, 2007

There are 59 games on this week's agenda, involving 112 teams from the bowl subdivision (1-A). Six teams play schools from the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as 1-AA). Seven teams are idle, including the unbeaten co-leaders of the Big 12 North division - Kansas and Missouri.

Southern Miss and Boise State are the featured Thursday night game on ESPN. Arkansas State and Memphis will make up their game on Thursday night that was postponed by storms and lightning on September 8th.

One of the week's top games will take place on Friday night in Tampa when USF hosts West Virginia. It's a key Big East contest between two undefeated teams with the winner gaining the inside track to the conference title.

Saturday's schedule serves up two more heavyweight bouts between undefeated opponents. The Big Ten delivers Michigan State at Wisconsin, while the PAC-10 stages California at Oregon.

Those are just three of the 34 conference clashes on the agenda.

Top Games
West Virginia at USF (Friday) - The fact that Cincinnati, Connecticut and Rutgers are also undefeated in the Big East gives this game even more significance. Last year, USF flushed West Virginia's BCS bowl hopes down the tubes with a 24-19 upset in Morgantown. The Bulls didn't field a football team at any level until 1997. USF became a 1-A (FBS) program in 2001, joined CUSA in 2003 and switched to the Big East last year. Jim Leavitt has been the head coach from the beginning and is 53-30 in the big leagues, 73-43 over-all at South Florida. West Virginia won the only other meeting between these schools, 28-13 in 2005 at Tampa. The computer projects the Mountaineers as an 8.39-point favorite this time around, but they were a 16.95-point pick last year.

Michigan State at Wisconsin - The Spartans look to go 5-0 for the first time since 1999. Bret Bielema can improve his record as head coach at Wisconsin to 17-1. These teams have split the last twelve meetings. The computer likes Wisconsin by just over 16 points. Four schools in the Big Ten are undefeated - Ohio State, Purdue and these two. The Buckeyes are two touchdown favorites over Minnesota, and the Boilermakers are favored by more than two TD's over Notre Dame.

California at Oregon - Oregon is averaging 48.5 points per game, and Cal is posting 41.5 ppg.  On defense, the Ducks have allowed 21.5 and the Golden Bears have surrendered 24.5.  The home team has won the last four meetings. The computer favored Cal in the preseason by 2-1/2 points, but now likes the Ducks by the same margin. These are two of the four remaining undefeated teams in the PAC-10. The others are Arizona State and USC, both of whom are heavy favorites this week over their respective opponents, Stanford and Washington

Alabama vs. Florida State (at Jacksonville) - These southern powerhouses have never met in the Bobby Bowden era. They have only squared-off three times in history and never outside the state of Alabama. 'Bama eked out an 8-7 win at home over a horrible FSU team in 1974 that finished the year at 1-11 while the Tide went 11-1... The two teams tied in 1967 in Birmingham... Alabama won 21-0 in 1965 in Tuscaloosa. The computer's pick is Florida State by 1.95.

Somewhat Surprising Computer Picks
Louisville at N.C. State - The computer likes Louisville by 21.5 points, but the Cardinals could easily lose their third straight game. The Wolfpack have yet to defeat a Bowl Subdivision team this year but Louisville seems ripe for the picking. Syracuse was winless when it invaded Louisville last Saturday and broke the Cards' 20-game home winning streak. Louisville has allowed 42, 40 and 38 points in its last three games. Last year, Louisville allowed 16.3 points per game for the season. So far this year, the Cards are allowing double that number at 32.5.

Worth Watching
Southern Miss at Boise State (Thursday) - Boise State, ranked 27th in the latest CCR Top 119, goes for its 39th consecutive regular season home victory against 40th-ranked Southern Miss. Both schools are 2-1 and each teams' loss came on September 8th when the Broncos fell at Washington (24-10) and the Golden Eagles lost at Tennessee (39-19). It will be the first meeting between two of the most successful programs outside of the "big six" conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, PAC-10, and SEC). Southern Miss has won or shared four CUSA titles since the formation of the league in 1996. Boise State joined the WAC in 2001 and has won or shared the title every year since 2002. The Broncos are a 10.09-point computer choice.

Clemson at Georgia Tech - Already 0-2 in the ACC, another loss by Georgia Tech will certainly eliminate it from a repeat shot at the ACC title (the Yellow Jackets lost the conference championship game to Wake Forest last year). For Clemson, a victory would give it a 5-0 start for the first time since 2000. More importantly, a win would make the Tigers 3-0 in the ACC Atlantic. Clemson hosts Coastal Division foe Virginia Tech next week while Georgia Tech goes to Maryland. The computer favors Georgia Tech by 7.01.

USC at Washington - Could the trap be laid? The computer doesn't think so as it picks the Trojans by 22.98 points, but USC barely escaped the Huskies at home last year. Though USC never trailed in a 26-20 win, Washington refused to roll over and play dead. The Trojans led 14-3 early in the second quarter, but the Huskies cut the gap to 4 points, or less, on three different occasions. USC made a 21-yard field goal with 1:34 to play that proved to be crucial as Washington drove to within 15 yards of scoring before time expired.

Air Force at Navy - The first shot gets fired in the 2007 chase for the Commander-In-Chief's trophy, awarded annually to the winner of the round-robin competition between Air Force, Army and Navy.  The Midshipmen have retained possession of the trophy for the last four years, but are only a 3.26-point computer pick in this one - not much more than the traditional 3-point home field advantage.

UNBEATEN TEAMS
Eight teams felt the sting of defeat for the first time last week, leaving us with 23 unbeaten squads heading into week five. Cincinnati, UConn, Kentucky, and South Florida are probably the most surprising members of that list.

There were only 19 undefeated teams at this point last year.

Three games this week will pit undefeated teams against each other - West Virginia (4-0) at USF (3-0), Michigan State (4-0) at Wisconsin (4-0), and California (4-0) at Oregon (4-0).

WINLESS TEAMS
11 schools are still looking for their first victory after 6 teams broke into the win column last week.

10 others have yet to beat a team from the bowl subdivision:  Arizona, Army, Fresno State, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Nevada, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and UAB. That list is unchanged from last week.

1-A vs. 1-AA
Note that 1-A is now classified by the NCAA as the "Football Bowl Subdivision", or "FBS", for short.

1-AA has been re-classified as the "Football Championship Subdivision", or "FCS", for short.

6 FBS teams play FCS schools this week bringing the total number to 67 for the year. In such games, the FBS schools are 53-8 on the year, and 273-33 (.892) since 2003.

Keep an eye on Western Kentucky at Bowling Green. The Hilltoppers won at Middle Tennessee last week. Technically, Western Kentucky isn't an FCS member school, but neither are they a full-fledged FBS school. The Hilltoppers are currently in transition to become the ninth Sun Belt Conference football playing institution and the 120th Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) member. The Hilltoppers will play six Sun Belt teams in 2008 and will be eligible for the conference title and a bowl berth in 2009. So far, they are 1-1 against the six bowl subdivision teams they face this year - Florida (49-3 loss), MTSU (20-17 win), Bowling Green, Ball State, Troy and North Texas.

STREAKS
USC has the nation's longest home winning streak at 35 games. The Trojans visit Washington.

Boise State has won 38 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos also have a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (24-0). Boise State hosts Southern Miss on Thursday night.

Wisconsin owns the nation's current longest winning streak at 13 games. The Badgers entertain Michigan State.

Florida has won 11 consecutive games. The Gators host Auburn.

LSU has also won 11 straight. The Tigers visit Tulane.

FIU owns the nation's longest current losing streak at 16 games. The Golden Panthers visit Middle Tennessee.

Colorado State has lost 10 straight. The Rams visit TCU.

Utah State has also lost 10 straight. The Aggies visit Utah.

N.C. State has lost 10 straight to FBS teams. The Wolfpack host Louisville.

NEW COACHES
The 2006 season featured 11 new head coaches. Five led their team to a bowl game.

This year, there are 24 coaching changes for the highest number since 2001 when there were 25. We'll track their progress throughout the season.

This week, there are three games where new coaches face each other - Arizona State at Stanford, UAB at Tulsa, and Louisville at N.C. State.

Here is how each of the new coaches are faring, in order, by won-loss record.

Air Force, 3-1 under Troy Calhoun, visits Navy.
Alabama, 3-1 under Nick Saban, vs. Florida State at Jacksonville.
Arizona State, 4-0 under Dennis Erickson, visits Stanford.
Boston College, 4-0 under Jeff Jagodzinski, hosts FCS member UMass.
Cincinnati, 4-0 under Brian Kelly, visits San Diego State.
Michigan State, 4-0 under Mark Dantonio, visits Wisconsin.
Indiana, 3-1 under Bill Lynch, visits Iowa.
Miami (Fla.), 3-1 under Randy Shannon, hosts Duke.
Tulsa, 2-1 under Todd Graham, hosts UAB.
Louisville, 2-2 under Steve Kragthorpe, visits N.C. State.
Louisiana Tech, 1-2 under Derek Dooley, visits Fresno State.
Stanford, 1-2 under Jim Harbaugh, hosts Arizona State.
Tulane, 1-2 under Bob Toledo, hosts LSU.
UAB, 1-2 under Neil Callaway, visits Tulsa.
Army, 1-3 under Stan Brock, hosts Temple.
Central Michigan, 1-3 under Butch Jones, hosts Northern Illinois.
Idaho, 1-3 under Robb Akey, hosts Hawaii.
Iowa State, 1-3 under Gene Chizik, visits Nebraska.
Minnesota, 1-3 under Tim Brewster, visits Ohio State.
North Carolina, 1-3 under Butch Davis, visits Virginia Tech.
N.C. State, 1-3 under Tom O'Brien, hosts Louisville.
North Texas, 0-3 under Todd Dodge, visits Arkansas.
FIU, 0-4 under Mario Cristobal, visits Middle Tennessee.
Rice, 0-4 under David Bailiff, is idle.