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College Football Season

Alabama-LSU, Oregon-USC Top This Week's Slate

Hurricane Sandy could alter 56-game schedule that starts Thursday with Virginia Tech at Miami

by Dave Congrove
October 30, 2012

The devastation and chaos wreaked by Hurricane Sandy has so far not altered the college football schedule this week. Sandy's possible effect on travel plans, practice interruptions and playing conditions had put several games on the watch list, including Connecticut at USF, Syracuse at Cincinnati, Temple at Louisville, Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, Air Force at Army, and Miami (Ohio) at Buffalo.

A secondary watch list had included Memphis at Marshall and TCU at West Virginia, due to heavy snowfall spawned by the wide-reaching storm.

Last week saw 8 of the top 14 teams in the BCS Standings go toe-to-toe. The result was a shakeup in the rankings that wasn't as massive as it could have been as the higher-ranked team won three of the four battles. No. 1 Alabama easily handled Mississippi State; then-No. 3 Kansas State demolished then-No. 14 Texas Tech; and then-No. 5 Notre Dame beat then-No. 9 Oklahoma with the odds heavily against the Irish. Georgia was the only lower-ranked team to come out ahead as the then-No. 10 ranked Bulldogs beat turnover-prone Florida, ranked 2nd at the time, in Jacksonville.

Only the 'Bama-Mississippi State affair paired two undefeated teams, so the bigger story became the fact that three other schools, besides MSU and Florida, saw their unbeaten run come to an end. Then-No. 7 Oregon State lost at Washington (as predicted by the computer), then No. 15 Rutgers fell to Kent State, and then-No. 24 Ohio lost at Miami (Ohio).

Just six undefeated teams remain as week 10 gets underway on Thursday - Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Ohio State and Louisville. Of course, only five of those schools are in the running for a BCS title shot as Ohio State serving an NCAA-imposed postseason ban.

No one really expected the Crimson Tide to lose to Mississippi State last week and, in fact, they were favored by more than 3 touchdowns in Vegas and over 18 points by my Congrove Computer Rankings. But this week is a different story.

Alabama goes to Baton Rouge for the rubber match that we would have liked to have seen last year after the Tide lost at home to LSU in the regular season, but won the rematch in the BCS Championship game. The computer has Alabama prevailing by 6.22 points after projecting them as nearly 4-point underdogs in the preseason. That is a significant in-season momentum swing, but leaving Baton Rouge with a win requires Alabama to end LSU's 22-game home winning streak which is currently the longest such streak in the nation.

It is worth noting that Wisconsin saw its 21-game home winning streak end last Saturday in an overtime loss to Michigan State, and just like the Badgers, the Tigers have been doing their best Molly Hatchet impersonation all season and flirting with disaster. LSU's four SEC games have produced a 12-10 win at lowly Auburn (trailed 10-9 at halftime), an 8-point loss at Florida, and a pair of 4th quarter comebacks that produced a 2-point home win over South Carolina and a 5-point road victory at Texas A&M.

The argument can be made that LSU is battle-tested and Alabama has yet to face a true challenger. After all, the computer's preseason projections had Mississippi State at 6-1 going into last week's game and then finishing the season at 7-5. 'Bama's other SEC victims have been Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee - four schools that are a combined 5-10 against SEC teams not named Alabama.

Meanwhile, the week's "other" big game sends Oregon to USC. This game lost some sizzle when the Trojans were upset 39-36 at Arizona last week, but it still presents a must-win situation for both schools. The Ducks must emerge victorious to keep their BCS title hopes alive and both teams need a win to keep from endangering their chances of capturing the PAC-12 championship. Just like the Alabama-LSU game, the computer has flipped sides with its prediction since the preseason when it saw USC winning by 6.91. It now gives Oregon a slim 1.05-point advantage.

In other games involving undefeated schools, Kansas State hosts Oklahoma State as a 7.67-point computer choice, Notre Dame gets a big 20.14-point home advantage over Pittsburgh, Louisville is a comfortable 15.49-point pick over Temple and Ohio State is a projected 19.38-point winner over hapless Illinois.

Despite the comfortable prediction, Notre Dame should be wary. Not only could a letdown factor exist for the Irish after facing a string of tough opponents and rivals, but Pitt is headed to South Bend fresh off its second-most impressive win of the season after throttling Temple 47-17. The Panthers also dumped Virginia Tech 35-17 earlier this year in another game in which they showed their potential. Outside of those two games, Pitt has looked fairly awful as their only other wins have come against Gardner-Webb (FCS) and Buffalo.

Kansas State should also be alert as Oklahoma State presents another tough offense for the Wildcats to defend. The Cowboys top the statistical charts for total offense while presented a balanced attack that ranks 6th in passing and 13th in rushing. Surprisingly, Kansas State ranks just 89th in passing and 17th in rushing. And Kansas State only outranks Oklahoma State in total "d" 31 to 42.

As for other highly-ranked teams, the computer gives Georgia a 19.26-point margin at home over Mississippi and it gives Florida a 16.14-point edge over Missouri in Gainesville. It also likes Oregon State to rebound from its loss at Washington, though it only gives the Beavers a 3.34-point nod over visiting Arizona State.

The computer also projects Oklahoma to regroup and win by 12.67 points at Iowa State, and it favors Clemson by 14.65 points at Duke.

Mississippi State is forecasted to lose a second straight game when the Bulldogs host Texas A&M as a 6.84-point computer underdog.

Other top games have Texas Tech hosting Texas as a 0.72-point favorite, Arizona going to UCLA as a 1.86-point underdog, and Nebraska visiting Michigan State with a 0.48-point edge.

The computer has Purdue getting a 2.60-point upset win over visiting Penn State.

Thursday night's main event is Virginia Tech at Miami with the winner getting the upper hand in the Coastal division race of the ACC. The computer favors the Hokies by 8.73 points which is 7.15 points less than its preseason forecast. A loss would end any chance for the Hokies to extend the nation's longest 10-win season streak to 9 years, and would also jeopardize the nation's 3rd-longest bowl appearance streak that stands at 19 seasons.

The Thursday undercard has Ohio beating Eastern Michigan by 11.68 and Western Kentucky smashing Middle Tennessee by 21.24.

Friday's lone game is a PAC-12 matchup that sends Washington to Cal where the Golden Bears are favored by 2.52.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS teams are 89-10 (.899) on the year vs. FCS teams and are 727-65 (.918) in such games since 2003.

No such matchups take place this week.

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 12 straight overall. Visits LSU on Saturday.

Oregon - Won 11 straight overall and 13 straight road games. Visits USC on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - Won 13 straight conference games (MAC), 19 straight home games and 8 straight overall. Hosts UMass on Saturday.

LSU - Won 22 straight home games and 41 straight nonconference games. Hosts Alabama on Saturday.

Wisconsin - Saw 21-game home winning streak come to an end. Idle this week.

Southern Miss - Lost 8 straight overall. Hosts UAB on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 24 straight road games, 19 straight FBS games and 13 straight conference games (MAC). Visits Kent State on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 17 straight FBS games, 17 straight conference games and 16 straight road games. Visits Baylor on Saturday.

UNLV - Lost 20 straight road games. Hosts New Mexico 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 (1-8) Saturday at Kent State
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (5-3) Saturday at UCLA
Arizona State Todd Graham (5-3) Saturday at Oregon State
Arkansas John L. Smith (3-5) Saturday vs. Tulsa
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (5-3) Saturday at North Texas
Colorado State Jim McElwain (2-6) Saturday at Wyoming
FAU Carl Pellini (2-6) Saturday at Navy
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (6-3) Saturday vs. Hawaii
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-6) Saturday at Fresno State
Houston Tony Levine (4-4) Saturday at East Carolina
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-6) Saturday at Ohio State
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-7) Saturday at Baylor
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (0-8) Saturday at Northern Illinois
Memphis Justin Fuente (1-7) Saturday at Marshall
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (5-3) Saturday at Georgia
New Mexico Bob Davie (4-5) Saturday at UNLV
North Carolina Larry Fedora (6-3) 11/10 vs. Georgia Tech
Ohio State Urban Meyer (9-0) Saturday vs. Illinois
Penn State Bill O'Brien (5-3) Saturday at Purdue
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (4-4) Saturday at Notre Dame
Rutgers Kyle Flood (7-1) 11/10 vs. Army
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-8) Saturday vs. UAB
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (6-2) Saturday at Mississippi State
Toledo Matt Campbell (8-1) 11/6 vs. Ball State
Tulane Curtis Johnson (2-6) Saturday vs. Rice
UAB Garrick McGee (1-7) Saturday at Southern Miss
UCLA Jim Mora (6-2) Saturday vs. Arizona
Washington State Mike Leach (2-6) Saturday at Utah


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