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College Football Season

8 Of Top 14 BCS Teams Go Toe-To-Toe

11 teams are still unbeaten, including three from the SEC

by Dave Congrove
October 23, 2012

A 58-game schedule this week includes four head-to-head battles between teams in the Top 14 of the latest BCS Standings. The slate features Mississippi State at Alabama, Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, Notre Dame at Oklahoma, and Texas Tech at Kansas State.

For the second consecutive week, the slate opens on Tuesday night and once again features Louisiana-Lafayette in a Sun Belt battle. Last week, the Ragin' Cajuns journeyed to North Texas and blew a 20-6 lead to lose 30-23. This week, ULL returns home to face Arkansas State as a 6.71-point favorite in the Congrove Computer Rankings.

The unbeaten list only dropped one team last week (Cincinnati), leaving eleven schools with perfect records intact. Two of those reside in the Big East (Louisville, Rutgers) and three are from the SEC (Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State). The PAC-12 has Oregon and Oregon State on the list while the Big 12 (Kansas State), Big 10 (Ohio State), MAC (Ohio) and independents (Notre Dame) each have one.

Two unbeatens collide when Mississippi State visits Alabama where the computer foresees an 18.13-point Tide victory. Several of the other undefeated teams also face tough competition as Louisville hosts Cincinnati (5-1) on Friday as a 2.48-point computer pick and Kansas State entertains Texas Tech on Saturday as a 12.5-point predicted winner. In other Saturday games, Notre Dame goes to Oklahoma as an 11.59-point underdog, Florida is a 6.11-point choice over rival Georgia in Jacksonville, Oregon State is a 1.26-point underdog at Washington, Rutgers is a forecasted 12.11-point home victor over a 6-1 Kent State team, and Ohio State gets the computer's nod by 2.45 points at Penn State.

Eastern Michigan took itself off the winless list with a 48-38 home win over Army. That leaves just UMass and Southern Miss waiting to break through. The Minutemen are 33.85-point underdogs at Vanderbilt this week, but the Golden Eagles are actually a 4.36-point computer favorite at Rice and the computer is 5-1 on game-day Southern Miss picks.

Thus far, this season has been one of many surprises.

Bill O'Brien deserves a lot of credit for getting Penn State to 5-2. He currently has his team on a 5-game winning streak as the Nittany Lions get set to host Ohio State on Saturday as a mere 2.45-point underdog. With the loss of numerous players following the Jerry Sandusky pedophile scandal, the computer's preseason projections had Penn State winning just two gams all year and expected the team to be 1-6 at this juncture.

At the other end of the spectrum, Southern Miss is a major shock at 0-7. Though the computer said 5 of its projected wins would be by less than 4 points, it nonetheless forecasted USM to go 10-2 and win the Conference USA title. The Golden Eagles saw head coach Larry Fedora depart for North Carolina and brought in Ellis Johnson, the former South Carolina defensive coordinator. Not only is Southern Miss losing every game, it is surrendering 440 yards and 39 points per game. Those numbers are poor enough to rank 93rd in yards allowed and 115th in points allowed out of 124 teams. The only thing worse than the defense is the offense which ranks 112th in yards per game and 109th in scoring.

The demise of Southern Miss is even more remarkable when you see that only three of Conference USA's twelve teams have a winning record overall. Tulsa outclasses the field at 7-1, followed by UCF at 5-2 and East Carolina at 5-3. Half of the teams are no better than 2-6 and the entire membership has just 12 nonconference wins with five of those coming against FCS schools (Memphis lost to its FCS opponent, Tennessee-Martin).

Houston has also been a big disappointment. The Cougars were supposed to go 11-1 and land the spot opposite Southern Miss in the conference's championship game. At least Houston is 2-1 in the conference, but just 3-4 overall. When head coach Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M, Tony Levine was promoted from assistant head coach. The team is producing 537 yards per game, but its scoring output of 32.6 points per game is a full one-third less than a year ago.

You can blame some of it - maybe a lot more than expected - on the departures of star quarterbacks Austin Davis (10,892 yards, 83 TD's in 4 seasons) for Southern Miss and Case Keenum (19,171 yards, 155 TD's in 4 seasons + 3 games) for Houston. But it's tough to get off the mat with any quarterback when your turnover ratios this year of minus-11 for the Golden Eagles and minus-10 for the Cougars, ranking USM 120th and Houston 116th in that statistical category.

A brighter week lies ahead if the computer proves correct with its forecast of a 4.36-point Southern Miss win at Rice and a 12.44-point home nod for Houston over UTEP.

David Cutcliffe is in his 5th season at Duke where a whole new attitude seems to finally be taking hold. The Blue Devils are 6-2, alone in 1st in the Coastal division, and bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Last Saturday, they rallied in the final minute to upset North Carolina 33-30 to capture the Victory Bell trophy game for the first time since 2003 and only the second time since 1989. But Duke must now journey to Tallahassee to take on Florida State as a 22.52-point computer underdog.

The Big Ten Championship game will be, at best, a meeting between a pair of 2-loss programs. Michigan leads the Legends division at 5-2 overall, 3-0 in the conference. Wisconsin has a hobbled leg up on the Leaders division at 6-2, 3-1. Ohio State and Penn State actually top that division but are ineligible for any postseason games due to NCAA sanctions.

Michigan is a slim 0.72-point road favorite at Nebraska on Saturday while Wisconsin is only a 0.76-point home choice over Michigan State.

Toledo is 7-1 after kicking Cincinnati out of the unbeaten club last Saturday with a 29-23 home win. The victory marked its 7th in-a-row since losing the season opener 24-17 in overtime at Arizona. The Rockets are 8.95-point favorites this week at Buffalo. Toledo is in a dead heat with Northern Illinois in the MAC West with identical 4-0 conference marks and 7-1 overall records. The MAC East is led by Kent State at 6-1, 4-0 and Ohio at 7-0, 3-0.

Four teams are particularly interesting to watch in the non-AQ BCS conferences - Louisiana Tech and Utah State in the WAC, and Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Monroe in the Sun Belt. The Bulldogs and Aggies face-off on November 17 in Ruston. The Hilltoppers and Warhawks met this past Saturday in Bowling Green with ULM pulling out a 43-42 win on a 2-point conversion in overtime. That was WKU's first loss to a non-SEC team since October 1 of last year.

And how about this little tidbit - Minnesota has played three Big Ten games and lost all three while scoring 13 points in each of them.

FBS vs. FCS:
No games this week pit FBS schools against the FCS. FBS teams are 89-10 (.899) on the year vs. FCS teams and are 727-65 (.918) in such games since 2003.

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

Alabama - Won 11 straight overall. Hosts Mississippi State on Saturday.

Oregon - Won 10 straight overall and 13 straight road games. Hosts Colorado on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - Won 12 straight conference games (MAC), 19 straight home games and 7 straight overall. Visits Western Michigan on Saturday.

LSU - Won 22 straight home games and 41 straight nonconference games. Idle this week.

Wisconsin - Won 21 straight home games. Hosts Michigan State on Saturday.

Southern Miss - Lost 7 straight overall. Visits Rice on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 23 straight road games, 18 straight FBS games and 12 straight conference games (MAC). Visits Central Michigan on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 16 straight FBS games, 16 straight conference games and 16 straight road games. Hosts Texas on Saturday.

UNLV - Lost 19 straight road games. Visits San Diego State on Saturday.

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 (1-7) Saturday at Central Michigan
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (4-3) Saturday vs. USC
Arizona State Todd Graham (5-2) Saturday vs. UCLA
Arkansas John L. Smith (3-4) Saturday vs. Mississippi (Little Rock)
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (4-3) Tuesday at Louisiana-Lafayette
Colorado State Jim McElwain (1-6) Saturday vs. Hawaii
FAU Carl Pellini (1-6) Saturday vs. Troy
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (5-3) Saturday at New Mexico
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-5) Saturday at Colorado State
Houston Tony Levine (3-4) Saturday vs. UTEP
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-5) Saturday vs. Indiana
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-6) Saturday vs. Texas
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (0-7) Saturday at Vanderbilt
Memphis Justin Fuente (1-6) Saturday at SMU
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (4-3) Saturday vs. Arkansas (Little Rock)
New Mexico Bob Davie (4-4) Saturday vs. Fresno State
North Carolina Larry Fedora (5-3) Saturday vs. N.C. State
Ohio State Urban Meyer (8-0) Saturday at Penn State
Penn State Bill O'Brien (5-2) Saturday vs. Ohio State
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (3-4) Saturday vs. Temple
Rutgers Kyle Flood (7-0) Saturday vs. Kent State
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-7) Saturday at Rice
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (5-2) Saturday at Auburn
Toledo Matt Campbell (7-1) Saturday at Buffalo
Tulane Curtis Johnson (1-6) Saturday vs. UAB
UAB Garrick McGee (1-6) Saturday at Tulane
UCLA Jim Mora (5-2) Saturday at Arizona State
Washington State Mike Leach (2-5) Saturday at Stanford


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