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South Carolina Looks To Turn SEC On Its Head

Five of the computer's top 6 teams hit the road

by Dave Congrove
CollegeFootballPoll.com
October 9, 2012

Five of the computer's top 6 teams hit the road this week as No. 1 Alabama visits Missouri, No. 2 South Carolina goes to LSU, No. 3 Kansas State is at Iowa State, No. 5 West Virginia heads to Texas Tech and No. 6 Florida plays at Vanderbilt. No. 4 Oregon is idle.

The computer expected a lot out of South Carolina this season, predicting a 10-2 record in the preseason. The games which the Gamecocks were expected to lose - LSU and Florida - are now upon them and Steve Spurrier's crew not only has the opportunity to turn the SEC on its head, but to also guide the program firmly into the national title conversation.

Keep in mind that South Carolina only has one conference title to its credit in 70 years of affiliation with the Southern Conference, ACC and SEC. That came in 1969 during a season in which no other ACC team posted a winning record and the Gamecocks beat no one with a winning record.

Spurrier has made his mark at a program that draws unparalleled support from a rabid fan base. Bowl trips have become a regular reward and the 2010 season saw South Carolina claim the SEC's eastern division title. A conference championship is the next hurdle, and only then can talk of a national championship begin in earnest.

Last Saturday, South Carolina defeated Georgia for the third straight season and it did so with a resounding 35-7 thrashing. This Saturday, the Congrove Computer Rankings give the Gamecocks a 2.53-point edge under the lights at LSU. The preseason projections had LSU winning by 1.81 points and that forecast is a little more logical given that LSU has won 21 straight home games and hasn't lost consecutive games under Les Miles since 2008.

Next week, South Carolina travels to Spurrier's old stomping ground, Florida, which dispatched LSU from the unbeaten ranks with last week's 14-6 win in the Swamp. If the Gamecocks and Gators were playing this week, the computer would take South Carolina by 1.16 points.

These next two weeks are huge in the annals of South Carolina's football history, and future.

Alabama was idle last week and swings back into action as an 11.32-point computer pick at a Missouri team that is still looking for its first conference win as a member of the SEC. The Tigers are 0-3 in the league after being upset 19-15 at home last Saturday by Vanderbilt. Earlier games saw Missouri by 21 points to both Georgia and South Carolina.

Kansas State is visiting a dangerous Iowa State squad that last week kicked TCU off the undefeated list, albeit without the Horned Frogs' starting QB who had just been suspended two days earlier and has since left the program. The Wildcats get a 10.40-point nod.

West Virginia's seemingly unstoppable offense, and nonexistent defense, head to Lubbock to face Texas Tech. The Mountaineers are only a 6.86-point computer favorite over a Red Raiders team that lost at home last week to Oklahoma by 21.

Florida is an 8.60-point computer favorite at Vanderbilt to score its 22nd straight win in the series. The Commodores last beat the Gators in 1988 and have only taken 9 of the 45 meetings.

Oklahoma and Texas face-off as a pair of one-loss schools in their annual Red River rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The computer likes the Sooners by 2.88 points in the 106th meeting of a series that Texas leads 59–42–5.

For the second straight week there are 55 games on the schedule with one contest against an FCS school and 15 programs idle. In addition to Oregon, the week also includes open dates for Clemson, Georgia, Nebraska and Penn State.

MAKE-UP TIME:
Hurricane Isaac prevented Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M from playing their season opener in Shreveport on Labor Day weekend. That game will be made good on Saturday and the Aggies probably benefitted the most from the postponement as they now know that Louisiana Tech is a program which warrants their full attention.

The boys from Ruston are 5-0 and have risen to 18th in the Congrove Computer Rankings with road wins versus Illinois and Virginia on their resume. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is ranked 14th by the computer after rebounding from its only loss of the season to Florida in what became its season opener. The Aggies are now an 8.07-point favorite which is up nearly four points from the 4.37-point margin the computer gave them in the preseason.

The game features the No. 11 (Louisiana Tech) and No. 12 total offenses in the country, and the No. 3 (Louisiana Tech) and No. 8 scoring offenses. The difference comes on total defense where Texas A&M is ranked 47th and LSU is 123rd out of 124 teams.

DEFENSIVE MANEUVERS:
Notre Dame hasn't surrendered a touchdown in 12 quarters and enters its home game with Stanford this week with a 5-0 record behind a defense that has now allowed just 39 total points to Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Miami. The offense broke out last week against the Hurricanes with a 41-3 rout after mustering a total of 53 points in the three previous games. The Cardinal are 4-1, but have been Jekyll and Hyde on offense as they tallied 21 points or less against San Jose State, USC and Washington and rang up 50 or more on Duke and Arizona. The computer likes the Fighting Irish by 5.90.

VIRGINIA TECH AND DUKE AT A CROSSROADS:
Virginia Tech hosts Duke this week with one team sitting at 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the ACC while the other is 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the ACC. Who would have thought that Duke would enter this game with a better record and essentially tied for the divisional lead? Still, the Hokies have somehow climbed to a 14.48-point favorite after being installed as a 12.82-point pick in the preseason.

UNBEATEN or WINLESS:
The number of undefeated teams was reduced from 23 to 16 last week as Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas Christian and Northwestern all lost. Meanwhile, just 4 FBS schools are searching for their initial victory of 2012 after Memphis, Idaho, UAB and Army broke through last week. The list of winless teams surprisingly includes Southern Miss which was projected to go 10-2 and then beat Houston in the CUSA title game. Strange as it may seem, that championship game scenario isn't dead yet as USM has only 1 conference loss and Houston, despite a 2-3 overall record, is 1-0 in CUSA play.

OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST:
The college football week begins on Thursday night with a trio of games that features a Sun Belt battle between Western Kentucky and Troy. The Trojans are 8.97-point home underdogs to a Hilltoppers team that has won 11 of its last 13 with the only losses coming at LSU last year and Alabama earlier this season.

Friday night has Navy looking to gain momentum off last Saturday's upset win at Air Force, but Central Michigan is a 7.58-point computer pick at home in Mount Pleasant.

On Saturday, both ACC division leaders are projected to lose. Atlantic leader Maryland is a 5.77-point underdog at Virginia. Coastal leader Miami is a 6.23-point underdog to North Carolina.

Also, Louisville opens Big East play as a 5.90-point pick at Pitt, Boise State is a 13.06-point home favorite over top Mountain West challenger Fresno State, undefeated Oregon State is a 16.19-point underdog at BYU and Southern Miss searches for its first win of the season at UCF as a 7.46-point underdog.

FBS vs. FCS:
The FBS went 1-0 last week vs. the FCS to improve to 88-10 (.898) on the year. Since 2003, FBS schools are 726-65 (.918) in such games.

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:
9/29: Stony Brook 23, Army 3
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:
South Carolina - Won 10 straight overall. Visits LSU on Saturday.

Alabama - Won 9 straight overall. Visits Missouri on Saturday.

Oregon - Won 9 straight overall and 12 straight road games. Idle on Saturday.

West Virginia - Won 9 straight overall. Visits Texas Tech on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - Won 10 straight conference games (MAC) and 18 straight home games. Hosts Buffalo on Saturday.

LSU - 21 straight home wins and 41 straight nonconference wins. Hosts South Carolina on Saturday.

Tulane - Lost 15 straight games overall. Hosts SMU on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 22 straight road games, 16 straight FBS games and 10 straight conference games (MAC). Visits Ohio on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 14 straight FBS games. Hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Mississippi - Lost 16 straight conference games (SEC). Hosts Auburn 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 (1-5) Saturday at Ohio
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (3-3) 10/20 vs. Washington
Arizona State Todd Graham (4-1) Thursday at Colorado
Arkansas John L. Smith (2-4) Saturday vs. Kentucky
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (3-3) Saturday vs. South Alabama
Colorado State Jim McElwain (1-5) Saturday at San Diego State
FAU Carl Pellini (1-4) Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (4-2) Saturday at Boise State
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-4) Saturday vs. New Mexico
Houston Tony Levine (2-3) Saturday vs. UAB
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-4) Saturday at Michigan
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-4) Saturday vs. Oklahoma State
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (0-6) 10/20 vs. Bowling Green
Memphis Justin Fuente (1-4) Saturday at East Carolina
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (3-3) Saturday vs. Auburn
New Mexico Bob Davie (3-3) Saturday at Hawaii
North Carolina Larry Fedora (4-2) Saturday at Miami, Fla.
Ohio State Urban Meyer (6-0) Saturday at Indiana
Penn State Bill O'Brien (4-2) 10/20 at Iowa
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (2-3) Saturday vs. Louisville
Rutgers Kyle Flood (5-0) Saturday vs. Syracuse
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-5) Saturday at UCF
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (4-1) Saturday vs. Louisiana Tech (at Shreveport)
Toledo Matt Campbell (5-1) Saturday at Eastern Michigan
Tulane Curtis Johnson (0-5) Saturday vs. SMU
UAB Garrick McGee (1-4) Saturday at Houston
UCLA Jim Mora (4-2) Saturday vs. Utah
Washington State Mike Leach (2-4) Saturday vs. California


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