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Conference Clashes, Intersectional Battles Spice Up Week

Mississippi State visits LSU in the only matchup among the computer's Top 25

by Dave Congrove
September 15, 2014

For the second straight week there is only one matchup among top 25 teams in the Congrove Computer Rankings. While there is also a god mix of key conference clashes and some interesting intersectional battles to spice it up, there are also 7 teams in the top 25 that are taking the week off.

No. 12 Mississippi State invades Baton Rouge as a narrow 5.02-point underdog to LSU in a 7:00 p.m. start. I personally thought that computer projection was low until I saw the 7-point opening line, though it didn't take long to balloon to 10. Those schools are among 9 SEC teams that are sprinkled among the top 25 of this week's rankings. Three SEC teams are among the top 5, including No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Texas A&M.

The week opens on Thursday with top-ranked Auburn at Kansas State (No. 31). It could spell danger for the Tigers, but the computer has them as a solid 12.57-point favorite.

The lone game on Friday has American Conference lightweights UConn and USF playing in Tampa with the Bulls picked to win by 4.67 points.

The action cranks up early on Saturday with an always fun ACC battle between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg at Noon (ET). The Hokies are looking to rebound from last Saturday's home loss to East Carolina which, of course, came on the heels of a monumental upset win for the program at Ohio State. The loss to ECU didn't affect their ACC title hopes, so this game is key for Frank Beamer's bunch. It's also a key battle for Georgia Tech which, so far, hasn't been sharp with unimpressive wins over lower tier opponents Tulane, Georgia Southern and FCS member Wofford.

Iowa and Pittsburgh also kick off Noon in the Steel City. Will this be another black eye for the Big Ten? The computer has the Panthers taking it by 6.37.

Bowling Green heads to Wisconsin for a noon (ET) start with the Badgers only favored by 1.74. That's a flip from the computer's preseason projections which had BGSU scoring the win by 1.32.

Maryland and Syracuse meet in the Carrier Dome at 12:30 (ET) with the computer taking the 'Cuse by 5.14. After barely surviving Villanova in the opener, the Orange romped 40-3 at Central Michigan on Saturday. The Terps ae coming off a heartbreaking 40-37 loss to rival West Virginia.

At 3:30 (ET), Florida gets its first test of the season and it's a doozy as the Gators visit Tuscaloosa to take on 11th-ranked Alabama. It should be no surprise that the computer says the Tide will roll by two touchdowns. The Gators needed triple-OT to put down Kentucky in "The Swamp" on Saturday while 'Bama toyed with hapless Southern Miss in a 52-12 win. Florida hasn't lost to Kentucky since 1986 (28 in-a-row) and 'Bama has taken 14 of the last 15 from Southern Miss. The Tide have won 3 straight over the Gators by an average of 24 points, but the teams haven't met since 2011.

Other 3:30 (ET) kickoffs feature Virginia at BYU, North Carolina at East Carolina, and Utah at Michigan.

Oklahoma and West Virginia start at 7:30 in Morgantown with the homestanding Mountaineers serving as 15.24-point underdogs. Both previous matches appeared lopsided on paper, too, but the Sooners won a defensive battle in Norman 16-7 last year after prevailing in a 50-49 offensive shootout at WVU 50-49 in 2012.

Miami and Nebraska go toe-to-toe in Lincoln at 8:00 (ET). These schools have battled in bowl games 5 times since their last regular season meeting in 1976. In four of those games, the national title was on the line and Miami took 3-of-4. The teams are tied at 5 games apiece all-time and the 'Huskers are only getting a 0.09-point edge from the computer to win this meeting.

Florida State opened as a huge 22-point Vegas favorite at home over Clemson in an 8:00 p.m. (ET) kick-off. The computer only gives FSU a 9.46-point edge which is down from the 12.07-point preseason projection. For awhile, this was the celebrated "Bowden Bowl" matchup when Bobby was the head coach in Tallahassee and son Tommy was in charge at Clemson. In fact, until Tommy started beating his daddy in 2003 (he was 4-5 against him), Clemson had lost 11 in-a-row to the 'Noles. It's recently become a marquee matchup again as both teams have been at the top of the ACC, but the 'Noles have won the last two 51-14 (last year) and 49-37 (2012).

(NOTE: It was announced on Wednesday that Florida State QB Jameis Winston was suspended for the first half of Saturday's game for jumping on an outdoor table in the middle of campus on Tuesday and screaming, "F*** her right in the p***y". According to tmz.com, by the way, it should be noted that "people around him cracked up". Lovely. As TMZ notes, the phrase has become an internet sensation in the past few months with hecklers often screaming it behind news reporters who are in the middle of live shots. But it takes on a different context when it involves Winston who has repeatedly demonstrated severe character flaws. At that time, I opined that the half-game suspension wasn't severe enough and urged Jimbo Fisher to "grow a pair" and put an end to this disgraceful nonsense. Late Friday night, the school lengthened the suspension to a full game. I wish Jameis no ill will - it is just my position that he needs to suffer the consequences of his actions. Permitting him to run onto the field to thousands of cheering fans to start the second half would render the half-game suspension meaningless.)

Here's the schedule for the computer's top 25 teams:
1 - Auburn: by 12.57 at Kansas State (Thursday)
2 - Texas A&M: by by 26.31 at SMU
3 - Florida State: by 9.46 at home over Clemson
4 - Oklahoma: by 15.24 at West Virginia
5 - Mississippi: Idle
6 - Oregon: by 14.41 at Washington State
7 - Baylor: Idle
8 - Notre Dame: Idle
9 - UCLA: Idle
10 - LSU: by 5.02 at home over Mississippi State
11 - Alabama: by 13.93 at home over Florida
12 - Mississippi State: a 5.02 underdog at LSU
13 - Ohio State: by Idle
14 - South Carolina: by 21.01 at Vanderbilt
15 - BYU: by 17.30 at home over Virginia
16 - Missouri: by 10.90 at home over Indiana
17 - Duke: by 15.27 at home over Tulane
18 - North Carolina: by 0.35 at East Carolina
19 - USC: Idle
20 - Stanford: Idle
21 - Nebraska by 0.09 at home over Miami (Fla.)
22 - Arizona: by 24.55 at home over California
23 - Syracuse: by 5.15 at home over Maryland
24 - Cincinnati: by 31.38 at home over Miami (Ohio)
25 - Georgia: by 33.49 at home over Troy

LARGEST/CLOSEST EXPECTED MARGIN OF VICTORY THIS WEEK:
Excluding FBS vs. FCS games, here are the 5 largest expected margins this week according to the computer:
Michigan State over Eastern Michigan by 39.90
Washington over Georgia State by 37.72
Georgia over Troy by 33.49
Cincinnati over Miami (O.) by 31.38
Penn State over Massachusetts by 28.51

Here are the 5 closest expected margins:
Southern Mississippi over Appalachian State by 1.90
Wisconsin over Bowling Green by 1.74
Wake Forest over Army by 0.98
North Carolina over East Carolina by 0.35
Nebraska over Miami (Fla.) by 0.09

COACHING CAROUSEL:
June Jones announced on September 8 that he was resigning as the head coach of SMU. We'll keep track of other changes as the season progresses.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS schools were 5-2 (.714) in FBS-FCS matches last week and are now 77-5 (.939) for the year and 908-86 (.913) since 2003.

Here are the results of all the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
8/30: Bethune-Cookman 14, FIU 12
8/30: North Dakota State 31, Iowa State 14
9/6: Eastern Kentucky 17, Miami (Ohio) 10
9/13: Indiana State 27, Ball State 20
9/13: Abilene Christian 38, Troy 35

By this time last year, there were already 13 wins by FCS teams over FBS schools.

North Dakota State's win over Iowa State on opening weekend was the 5th straight over a FBS team for the three-time defending FCS champions. Since 2010, NDSU has won road games at Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, and now Iowa State. Conversely, Iowa State has lost 2 straight to FCS schools after opening last season with a loss to Northern Iowa.

Bethune-Cookman's win over FIU on opening weekend was its second straight over the Golden Panthers.

This week, 11 such matchups take place.

This year, 103 FBS schools have scheduled a total of 108 games against FCS foes. Appalachian State, Army, Ball State, Buffalo and FIU each play 2 such games.

STREAKS:
Florida State - 18-game winning streak (FBS longest), 13-game conference winning streak (FBS longest). Hosts Clemson on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - 27-game home winning streak (FBS longest) in true home games (at own venue); 17-game road winning streak (FBS longest) in true road games (at opponent venue). At Arkansas on Saturday.

LSU - Won 48 straight regular season nonconference games (FBS longest). Hosts Mississippi State on Saturday.

Miami (Ohio) - Lost 19 straight (FBS longest). At Cincinnati on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 25 straight road games (FBS longest). Hosts Central Michigan on Saturday.

Kentucky - Lost 17 straight conference games (FBS longest). Idle this week.


2014 PRE-GAME ARCHIVES
09/15: Conference Clashes, Intersectional Battles Spice Up Week
09/08: Georgia-South Carolina Highlights Slim Week 3 Schedule
09/02: Five Big Games Highlight Week 2 Schedule
08/26: 2014 Season Preview - FSU over UCLA For National Title


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