Weekly Preview: Will There Be Fewer Upsets? Don't Count On It

September 14, 2021 by Staff

There were 45 games last week that involved head-to-head matchups of FBS teams and 12 of those were outright upsets against the spread. Still, the computer was 33-12 SU, and 21-24 ATS. While the 21-24 mark may not seem solid, consider that it was 21-12 in the games where an outright upset wasn't the factor.

Our five Feature Picks in the 'Easy Pickin's' and 'Hold Your Horses' categories were another issue. Two of the three teams we picked to easily beat the spread - NC State and Texas - became victims of the upset bug. And the other one - Army - failed to cover a touchdown vs. Western Kentucky.  Meanwhile, the two teams we said would not covered (Georgia, Virginia) actually wound up covering with plenty of room to spare.

Mama said there would be days like that.

Secure in the knowledge that we've had many, many, many far better weeks, we're ready to climb back in the saddle and give it a another ride. We only hope you're not too battered and bruised and ready to ride along with us.

Leading off the top games this week is Alabama playing one of just 4 games it will play outside the state of Alabama when the Tide travels to "The Swamp" to face Florida. This was not widely expected to be one of the stronger Florida teams this year, nor was it necessarily predicted to be the best Alabama team over the last few years. But the Gators were still a consensus 2nd-place team in the eastern half of the division, and the Tide are already turning heads with Bryce Young at quarterback. Young has complete 70.8% of his passes for 571 yards with 7 TD's and no picks. Combined, Alabama QB's have thrown 97 TD's and 10 picks since the start of the 2019 season. They just don't seem to make mistakes. Florida ranks 79th in passing defense. The sportsbooks have 'Bama by 15.5 while the computer goes under the spread at 11.51.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M gets lowly New Mexico at home and a 38.97-point computer edge. This one appears to be quite the bargain with the sportsbooks favoring the Aggies by 27-1/2.

Oklahoma and Nebraska will meet for the first time since 2010. The Sooners lead the storied rivalry 45-38-3. Unfortunately, the 'Huskers aren't raising many eyebrows and most figure they will get run over in Norman. The sportsbooks have Oklahoma by 22, but the computer has a much-gentler margin of 13.53.

Southern Cal, now without an official head coach after Clay Helton was fired on Monday, is still an 8.5-point favorite at Washington State. The computer likes the Trojans, its preseason No. 1 team, by 14.82.

Iowa has been zooming up the computer rankings, from a starting point of 13th to a current rank of 5th. The Hawkeyes draw Kent State to Kinnick this week as a 22-point favorite and a 21.93-point computer margin. The schools have only met twice previously with Iowa routing the Golden Flashes on both occasions - a 39-7 win in 2004 and a 51-0 shellacking in 2001.

Oregon gets a reprieve after going to Columbus and knocking off Ohio State 35-28. The Ducks return home to feast on FCS member Stony Brook as a 43.41-point computer pick.

As for the Buckeyes.... well let's just say that I would hate to be Tulsa this week. Ohio State is licking its chops as a 25-5-point favorite, but the computer separates these two by just 11.49 points. The Golden Hurricane followed up a 19-17 loss to FCS member UC Davis with a 28-23 defeat at Oklahoma State this past weekend.

Oklahoma State goes to Boise State as a 4.5-point underdog, but the computer goes the opposite direction and takes the Cowboys by 4.56.

Penn State is a 7-point favorite at home over Auburn, and a 5.86-point computer choice. These teams have only met twice and both of those occurred in bowl games with the Tigers winning 13-9 in the 2003 Outback after the Nittany Lions prevailed 43-14 in the 2003 Capital One Bowl.

Cincinnati goes to Indiana as a 3-point favorite, but a shocking 13.23-point underdog by the computer. Given what we saw in week one when Indian was routed 34-6 at Iowa, it's difficult to imagine the Hoosiers pulling off the upset, especially by that wide of a margin . But this could be one of those games that becomes as difficult to explain as Oregon's win at Ohio State.

We're also interested in seeing how Shane Beamer's South Carolina Gamecocks fare in their border war with Georgia. The 'Dawgs are 5-1 in the last 6 meetings after the Gamecocks pulled out a 20-17 double-OT overtime upset in 2019. Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels sat out last week's rout of UAB with a core injury, but Stetson Bennet IV went nuts with a 10-of-12 passing performance that somehow produced 288 yards and 5 touchdowns to 4 different players. Daniels' availability for this week's game was uncertain as of Tuesday morning. South Carolina is off to a 2-0 start after edging East Carolina on a walk-off field goal after entering that contest as a 2.5-point underdog. The oddsmakers have Georgia by 31 while the computer likes the 'Dawgs by a more competitive 21.01.

Nevada is a surprise 2-1/2-point favorite at Kansas State. Both teams are 2-0 so this one leapt off the page when we saw the Group of Five school picked to win on a journey to a Power 5 program that isn't bad. Especially when that Power 5 program already owns a 24-7 win over the Stanford team that stunned USC 42-28 this past Saturday. However, the spread is the result of the Wildcats losing their QB, Skylar Thompson, to a knee injury that he suffered while blocking on a run play in the first quarter of last week's win over Southern Illinois. Thompson is out indefinitely. Against the Salukis, backup sophomore QB Will Howard was just 8-of-17 for 76 yards and a pick.

Mississippi State is a 3-point favorite at Memphis, but a 3.88-point computer underdog. The computer, and everybody else, had the Bulldogs losing to NC State last week but Mississippi State took that game 24-10 as it won the turnover battle 3-0.

Michigan State goes to Miami as a 6.5-point underdog and an even larger 16.72-point computer dog. This one feels like a setup as the Spartans enter the contest at 2-0 against the underperforming 'Canes who are 1-1 after getting thumped by 'Bama and only managing to eke-out a 25-23 home win over Appalachian State as a 7.5-point favorite.

Tulane has already proven it can play with the big boys, and under very difficult circumstances. The team had to relocate to Birmingham for practice after Hurricane Ida and had its home game with Oklahoma turn into a road contest. The Green Wave answered by nearly pulling off an improbable comeback win at Oklahoma in week 1. Still stuck in Birmingham, Tulane put 69 points on the board in last week's rout of FCS member Morgan State. The team is back in New Orleans in preparation of this week's contest at Ole Miss in which the Rebels are favored by 14. The computer takes Ole Miss by 11.58.

The south's oldest rivalry takes place this week when North Carolina hosts Virginia in the 126th meeting of the two schools. They've played every year since 1919. The series began in 1892 and the only years they didn't clash were 1899, 1906, 1909, 1917 and 1918. UNC leads the series 64-57-4, but the Cavaliers have taken the last four. This week, the Tar Heels are an 8.5-point favorite and an 11.15-point computer choice.

Purdue and Notre Dame will meet for the first time since 2014 when the Irish host the Boilermakers as a 7-point favorite and a 4.85-point computer play. The rivalry between these Indiana schools was uninterrupted from 1946-2014 and Notre Dame leads the series 58-26-2. When it ended, Notre Dame had taken the last seven and Purdue had only won 1 of the last 10.

Utah, which is coming off a 26-17 upset loss at BYU, has the tough task of attempting to rebound against a strong San Diego State team that clobbered Arizona 38-14 in Tucson this past Saturday. The Utes are a 7-point favorite and a 14.66-point computer pick. 

The Black Diamond Trophy is up for grabs as Virginia Tech and West Virginia rekindle their rivalry in Morgantown. The Hokies (2-0) have won the last three, and a win this week would give them a 3-0 start for the first time since 2017 when these schools last met and Virginia Tech emerged with a 31-24 win in Landover, Maryland. That was their first meeting since 2005. West Virginia leads the all-time series 28-23-1 and is a 2.5-point favorite this week. The computer has the Mountaineers by 3.67.

Clemson hosts Georgia Tech in the ACC opener for both schools with the Tigers favored by 29 points to take a 7th straight game from the Yellow Jackets. The computer puts the spread at 18.87.

The college football weeks opens with a single game on Thursday when Louisiana-Lafayette hoists Ohio.  A pair of Friday night contests feature UCF at Louisville and Maryland at Illinois.


2 teams will play 2 FCS teams this fall (UConn and UMass), and 115 teams will play 1 FCS school for a total of 117 such matchups.

There were 37 FBS-FCS games last weekend and FBS schools went 35-2 to improve to 67-8 this season. Since we began tracking this in 2003, the FBS teams are now 1,536-136 (.919).  Of the two losses, Florida State's 20-17 setback to Jacksonville State was the least expected as the 'Noles nearly won their opener over Notre Dame while the Gamecocks were blanked 31-0 by UAB in their opener. None of that mattered as JSU scored the winning touchdown on a 59-yard walk-off TD pass.

Duquesne delivered the other blow, edging Ohio 28-26.

21 such games take place this week, with a pair of FCS teams favored to win. Murray State has a 4.54-point edge at Bowling Green, and South Carolina State is an 11.89-point favorite at New Mexico State. A good probability exists for some other FCS teams to beat their FBS foe. Specifically, we'd keep an eye on Florida A&M at USF, and Jackson State at UL-Monroe.

Last year, 30 FBS teams played a total of just 34 games against FCS schools and the FCS won just 1 game (1-33). That honor also went to Jacksonville State with its 19-10 victory over FIU.

Here are the FCS wins in 2021:
September 2: UC Davis 19, Tusa 17
September 2: Eastern Washington 35, UNLV 33 (2 OT)
September 3: South Dakota State 42, Colorado State 23
September 4: Holy Cross 38, UConn 28
September 4: Montana 13, Washington 7
September 4: ETSU 23, Vanderbilt 3
September 11: Duquesne 28, Ohio 26
September 11: Jacksonville State 20, Florida State 17.

This was the only FCS win vs. the FBS in 2020:
October 23: Jacksonville State 19, FIU 10

In 2019, FBS teams were 111-3 (.974) in such games. These were the only FCS wins that season:
August 29: Central Arkansas 35, Western Kentucky 28
September 7: Southern Illinois 45, Massachusetts 20
September 14: The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT)


ALABAMA - Won 16 straight games overall (FBS longest).
Last: Won 48-14 at home over Mercer (FCS) on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Visits Florida on Saturday, Sept. 18.

OHIO STATE - The Buckeyes had won 22 straight regular season games (FBS longest) before falling 35-28 at home to Oregon on Saturday. Ohio State still has winning streaks of 22 straight conference games (FBS longest), and 10 straight road games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 35-28 at home to Oregon on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Hosts Tulsa on Saturday, September 18.

NOTRE DAME - Won 17 straight regular season games (FBS longest).
Last: Won 32-29 at home over Toledo on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Next: Hosts Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 18.

CLEMSON - Won 29 straight home games (FBS longest).
Last: Won 49-3 at home over South Carolina State (FCS) on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Next: Hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday, September 18.

NEW MEXICO - Lost 13 straight road games (tied with Akron for FBS longest).
Last: Won 34-23 at home over  New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Next: Visits Texas A&M on Saturday, September 18.

AKRON - Lost 13 straight road games (tied with New Mexico for FBS second-longest).
Last: Lost 45-24 at home to Temple on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Next: Hosts Bryant (FCS) on Saturday, September 18.

KANSAS - Lost 14 straight to FBS schools (tied with Arizona for FBS longest).
Last: Lost 49-22 at Coastal Carolina on Saturday, September 11.
Next: Hosts Baylor on Saturday, September 18.

ARIZONA - Lost 14 straight over-all (FBS longest), and 14 straight to FBS schools (tied with Kansas for FBS longest)..
Last: 38-14 at home to San Diego State on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Next: Hosts Northern Arizona (FCS) on Saturday, September 18.

UTEP - Lost 15 straight conference games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 54-13 at Boise State on Friday, Sept. 10.
Next: Hosts New Mexico on Saturday, September 25.