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Key Battles In Big 10, Big 12 and SEC

Ohio State at Wisconsin; Texas at Nebraska; Arkansas at Auburn

by Dave Congrove
October 11, 2010

The college football week kicks off Wednesday and comes in relatively light on the heavyweights matchup scale. Only three games feature teams ranked in the top 25 of this week's Congrove Computer Rankings as No. 3 Ohio State visits No. 23 Wisconsin, 19th-ranked Texas goes to 6th-ranked Nebraska, and No. 15 Arkansas heads to No. 10 Auburn.

Ohio State's reward for taking over the top spot in all of the voter polls (No. 3 in the computer rankings) is to head to Madison and try to survive the Badgers. The Buckeyes won there in 2008, but lost in their previous trip in 2002. The computer projects Ohio State as an 8.84-point winner.

Texas enters its game at Nebraska after a bye week and four weeks removed from its last victory. Consecutive losses to UCLA and Oklahoma have the Longhorns searching for a better offensive plan as they enter this game at Lincoln ranked 10th in the Big 12 in rushing and 7th in passing. The 'Huskers are only a 1.11-point computer favorite to avenge last year's 13-12 loss to Texas in the conference championship game when one second was put back on the clock and the Longhorns kicked a walk-off field goal to advance to the BCS title game.

Auburn is 6-0 overall, 3-0 in the SEC West, but the three conference wins have been by a total of 14 points. Arkansas's last three games have all been decided by a touchdown or less. Don't expect this week to be any different. The computer chooses Arkansas by 0.90.

Wednesday's CUSA battle with UCF at Marshall begins the week's festivities. Thursday delivers a Big 12 state rivalry clash with Kansas State at Kansas, in addition to a Big East affair with USF at West Virginia.

The latter is usually a hotly contested battle, but the Bulls are struggling in Skip Holtz' first year at the helm in Tampa. USF fell to 3-2 with a 13-9 loss to Syracuse on Saturday for its first loss ever to the Orange (5-1). The Bulls' wins this season have come over FCS member Stony Brook, and Sun Belt members Western Kentucky and FAU.

Friday's focus goes back on the Big East when Cincinnati invades Louisville. Both of those schools are coming off of dominating wins this past Saturday as the Bearcats dumped rival Miami (Ohio) 45-3 and the Cardinals shellacked Memphis 56-0.

Of the 11 teams that are idle this week, No. 4 Oregon and No. 16 Stanford are the only ones that currently reside in the top 25 of the CCR Top 120.

Here are some more games worth keeping an eye on this weekend:

MUST-SEE
Saturday
Mississippi at Alabama - Can the Tide bounce back after their 35-21 loss at South Carolina? Alabama has won 6 in-a-row over the Rebels and hasn't loss to them in Tuscaloosa since 1988. The computer sees the Tide rolling by 25.39.

South Carolina at Kentucky - The Gamecocks are 10th in the AP Poll, 11th in the Harris, 12th in the Coaches' poll, but only 20th in the Congrove Computer Rankings. After their historic win over Alabama last Saturday, they head to Lexington to face a dangerous Kentucky team that nearly upset Auburn last week. The computer likes South Carolina by 9.61 to win an 11th straight meeting with the Wildcats.

Nevada at Hawaii - Hawaii swamped Fresno State 49-27 in Fresno last weekend for its biggest win in the non-June Jones era. The Warriors are 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the WAC while Nevada comes in at 6-0 overall and 1-0 in the WAC. The computer likes Nevada by 9.82, but an upset could be in the making. Nevada leads the conference in rushing offense while Hawaii leads in passing. Nevada ranks 5th in passing defense while Hawaii ranks 5th in rushing defense.

Iowa at Michigan - As I noted in last week's pregame column, it was Michigan's loss to Michigan State last year that started the Wolverines on a 7-game losing streak to FBS schools. Iowa was the second loss in that streak (30-28 at Iowa) and now the Hawkeyes march into "The Big House" with, perhaps, their best team ever and a computer forecast of an 11.55-point win.

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech - The Cowboys are tied with Oklahoma for the top spot in the Big 12 South and they get Nebraska and Oklahoma at home. A win in Lubbock is vital for Okie State to force the Bedlam showdown with the Sooners into becoming a de facto division championship game at the end of the year. However, the computer likes Texas Tech by 3.35 points.

WORTH WATCHING:
Saturday
Baylor at Colorado - In their quest for their first bowl appearance since 1994, the Bears enter this game with a 4-2 record overall (1-1 Big 12 South). Last week, Baylor fell 45-38 to Texas Tech in Dallas while the Buffaloes (3-2, 0-1 Big 12 North) were being whitewashed 26-0 at Missouri. The computer gives a 1.46-point edge to Baylor.

California at USC - USC enters on its first 2-game losing streak since 2001 and, according to the computer, is about to lose a third straight game as it favors the Golden Bears by a slim 1.98-point margin.

illinois at Michigan State - While Michigan State was doubling-down on Michigan in a 34-17 win at Ann Arbor last Saturday, Illinois was crushing Penn State 33-13 in un-Happy Valley. The computer gives the Spartans an 8.89-point nod.

Missouri at Texas A&M - The Tigers are one of four remaining undefeated teams in the Big 12. A win in College Station is of monumental importance if they are to challenge Nebraska for the Big 12 North title. The Aggies (3-2, 0-1) are currently in the basement of the Big 12 South, courtesy of a 3-point loss at Oklahoma State two weeks ago. A&M's wins have come against Stephen F. Austin (FCS), Louisiana Tech and FIU.

Louisiana-Monroe at Western Kentucky - This may be the Hilltoppers' best opportunity to end its' current losing streaks of 25 games overall, and 30 to FBS schools, as the Warhawks are favored by only 1/4-point.

STILL UNBEATEN:
13 schools remain undefeated. Four of those schools reside in the Big 12 (Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State). There are two undefeated teams in the Big Ten (Michigan State, Ohio State), the Mountain West (TCU, Utah), the SEC (Auburn, LSU) and the WAC (BOise State, Nevada). The PAC-10 has one with Oregon. There are no undefeated teams in the ACC, Big East, Conference USA, MAC or Sun Belt, and all three independent schools have at least two losses.

STILL WINLESS:
4 teams enter the weekend winless Akron, Eastern Michigan, New Mexico and Western Kentucky. New Mexico is guaranteed to not win as the Lobos are idle. Akron and Eastern Michigan are each double-digit underdogs at Ohio and Ball State, respectively. Western Kentucky is only a 0.25-point computer underdog at home to Louisiana-Monroe.

FBS vs. FCS:
There is 1 game this week between FBS and FCS schools - McNeese State at LSU. FBS schools are 74-7 (.914) this season in such games. Since 2003, FBS teams are 538-49 (.917) vs. FCS teams.

Here are the results of every FBS loss to the FCS this season:
9/4: Jacksonville State 49, Mississippi 48 (2 OT's)
9/4: North Dakota State 6, Kansas 3
9/11: Gardner-Webb 38, Akron 37
9/11: Liberty 27, Ball State 23
9/11: South Dakota 41, Minnesota 38
9/11: James Madison 21, Virginia Tech 16
10/2: Cal-Davis 14, San Jose State 13

This year, 85 FBS teams play a total of 90 games against FCS foes. Five schools play two such games - Arizona State, Ball State, San Jose State, Syracuse and Virginia.

STREAKS:
Boise State has streaks of 19 overall wins, 30 regular season wins, 28 home wins, 58 regular season home wins, and 42 straight conference home victories. BSU has never lost at home to a fellow WAC member (36-0). The Broncos' last home loss to a conference foe occurred in 1998 when they were a member of the Big West and fell to Idaho in the final regular season game. The Broncos are 6-1 in their last seven matches against BCS conference schools. (Next: at San Jose State this Saturday).

Ohio State has won 12 straight. (Next: at Wisconsin this Saturday).

Oklahoma has 33 straight home victories. (Next: vs. Iowa State this Saturday).

Utah has 20 straight home wins. (Next: at Wyoming this Saturday).

Western Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall and 30 straight to FBS teams. (Next: vs. Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday).

Eastern Michigan has lost 18 straight overall. (Next: at Ball State this Saturday).

Washington State has lost 14 straight to FBS schools. (Next: vs. Arizona this Saturday).