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Week 3 Preview

by Mike Mitchell
September 10, 2007

Michigan and Notre Dame are playing on Saturday in a game that doesn't have national championship implications, or even affect the top 25 rankings. Instead, this battle between the two schools with the most victories in major college football will be widely-watched for one curiosity factor.

Which team will still be winless at the end of the day?

In all, there are 65 games on this week's schedule involving 115 teams. The slate includes a few rivalries, 10 conference games, and 15 matchups with FCS schools.

Among the rivalries are two of the five oldest in the bowl subdivision - Virginia-North Carolina and Cincinnati-Miami (Ohio). Each is being played for the 112th time.

The games below are not listed in any particular order. The predictions are based on the Congrove Computer Rankings found on this site.

Top Games
TCU (-17.30) at Air Force (Thursday) - The computer still favors TCU by a lot, but it's down five points from the preseason projection of 22.32. Air Force's opening win over South Carolina State told us nothing about the Falcons. Last week's win at Utah opened some eyes. Air Force is unbeaten under Calhoun (2-0) and this week's game is a certified test of its football team. The Horned Frogs (1-1) look to regroup after last week's second-half meltdown at Texas in which they relinquished a 10-0 halftime lead and got blown out 34-13.

West Virginia (-12.61) at Maryland (Thursday) - These teams have met every year for the last 27 years, and twice in 2003 when they staged a rematch at the Gator Bowl. Maryland won both games that year but hasn't won since. The computer favored West Virginia by just 8.57 in the preseason.

Arkansas (-0.72) at Alabama - The 'Bama fans get to see if hiring Nick Saban will reap big rewards in the first season. A home win over Arkansas, and the talented running back duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, would be a huge ego boost for the Crimson Tide. Alabama only lost by a point last year in Fayetteville when it missed the extra point on the first possession of a second overtime.

Georgia Tech (-5.84) vs. Boston College - Boston College is the only team in the country with three conference opponents on its schedule in the first three games. So far, the scheduling is paying off handsomely for the Eagles and new head coach Jeff Jagodzinski as they're perched atop the ACC Atlantic standings with a 2-0 record. They've already defeated last year's conference champion (Wake Forest), and the new school (N.C. State) of their old coach (Tom O'Brien). But Georgia Tech out-ranks them in the Coaches Poll (15 to 19), AP Poll ( 15-21), and the CCR Top 119 (10-18). This is Georgia Tech's conference opener. B.C. won the last meeting in 1998, but Georgia Tech leads the series 4-1.

Southern Miss (-1.43) at East Carolina - The CUSA opener for both teams. Southern Miss was the consensus preseason pick to repeat as east division champs. East Carolina went 7-6 last year including a loss in its first postseason bowl (PapaJohn's.com) since 2001. The Golden Eagles opened with a victory over lower-division Tennessee-Martin, and lost 39-19 last week at Tennessee in a game which they trailed by just a point at halftime. ECU earned its first win this past Saturday when a 31-yard field goal on the game's final play sunk North Carolina 34-31. It was their first victory over the Tar Heels since 1975. The Pirates started the year with a 17-7 loss at Virginia Tech.

Florida (-8.04) vs. Tennessee - Is it just me, or was this game more fun when you had Steve Spurrier involved in the pre-game mix? Tennessee plays its third good opponent in three weeks, while Florida faces its first test. The Vols opened with a 45-31 loss at Cal. Last week, they led Southern Miss by just 17-16 at halftime, before pulling away for a 39-19 win. Florida has played two outmanned opponents, Western Kentucky and Troy.

Michigan (-2.09) vs. Notre Dame - One of these teams will be 0-3 after this weekend. It's been 70 years since Michigan last started 0-3 in 1937. The only time Notre Dame started a year 0-3 was 2001 and that helped get Bob Davie fired. Michigan has lost four straight games for the first time since 1967 (which is also the last time they lost five straight). Michigan ranks first in all-time wins with 860, while Notre Dame is second with 821. Hard to believe that Notre Dame is still looking for its first offensive touchdown of the season, let alone its first victory. Michigan received more bad news - QB Chad Henne will not start Saturday due to the injury he received against Oregon. The Wolverines will start true freshman QB Ryan Mallett who enrolled early, participated in spring drills, and started the second half of last week's game.

USC (-6.75) at Nebraska - The Trojans were favored by 11.01 in the preseason, but Nebraska has performed a little better than expected, and USC's only game thus far was against lowly Idaho two weeks ago. In the process, the Trojans lost the No. 1 ranking in the CCR Top 119 to LSU. These powerhouses have only met three other times (2006, 1970 and 1969) and USC is 2-0-1. The Trojans won 28-10 last year In Los Angeles. By the way, Nebraska ranks 7th in all-time winning percentage and USC is 8th. The 'Huskers are 3rd in all-time wins and the Trojans are 10th.

Somewhat Surprising Computer Picks
FAU (-0.95) vs. Minnesota - Will Minnesota let this one end after four quarters? The Golden Gophers went to overtime in a week 1 loss to Bowling Green, and triple overtime in last week's win over Miami (Ohio). Will FAU actually beat a Big Ten school? You have to be kidding me! Some championship division (formerly 1-AA) school will beat Michigan before FAU ever beats a Big Ten school. Oh, yeah - Appalachian State beat Michigan.

Florida State (-11.58) at Colorado - The Seminoles pasted the Buffaloes 47-7 at Tallahassee in 2003 in the only meeting ever between these two teams. There have been seasons when this would have been a very intriguing football game. This isn't one of those seasons. Still, I'm surprised that the computer line tilts this heavily in favor of an FSU club that has lost to Clemson and struggled to beat UAB. If the 'Noles were playing well - and they definitely are not - I wouldn't hesitate to pick FSU by 20.

Pitt (-3.18) at Michigan State - The oddsmakers have Michigan State by 9. The computer calls this one an outright upset with Pitt favored by 3. It has an argument to make in its favor - leave Syracuse out of the discussion and the Big East hasn't lost a game this year. But the top 8 Big Ten teams are also undefeated. This is an interesting matchup of coaches. Up-and-comer Mark Dantonio is in his first season at MSU. Former Pitt player, Dave Wannstedt, is in year three at Pittsburgh and has more surprise losses (UConn, Ohio) than wins (none). Wannstedt's record at Pitt is just 13-12, including 2-0 this year, with no bowl appearances. His predecessor, Walt Harris, was 16-9 in his last two seasons with five straight bowl appearances. Though he officially quit, Harris was essentially run out of town by unappreciative boosters.

New Mexico State (-2.65) vs. Texas-El Paso - The Aggies only lost 44-38 at El Paso last year. But UTEP has never lost to New Mexico State since Mike Price was hired to coach the Miners in 2004. New Mexico State is 2-21 against FBS teams under Hal Mumme. The victories came at the end of last season over two schools that finished a combined 4-21 - Utah State (1-11) and Louisiana Tech (3-10).

Virginia (-9.15) at North Carolina - Virginia edged Duke last week at home. UNC lost on a last-second field goal at East Carolina. UVa lost the opener at Wyoming 23-3 and Al Groh is on the hot seat. Butch Davis is in his first season with the Tar Heels and looking for his first win over a FBS team. He won his opener over James Madison, a FCS member.

Ohio State (-9.28) at Washington - The Huskies won three of their first four games last year, then dropped six straight. Ty Willingham has his team off to a 2-0 start this season, including a 24-10 win over Boise State last weekend that ended the Broncos' winning streak at 14 games. A win over the Buckeyes would be a huge lift for the program, and for Willingham who must silently be smiling about Notre Dame's 0-2 start.

Texas Tech (-14.77) at Rice - Poor Rice. They get one season with Todd Graham as their coach and go to a bowl game for the first time since 1961. What a difference a coach can make - Graham goes to Tulsa and the Owls fly south. So far, new coach David Bailiff has led them to an opening day loss to FCS member Nicholls State, and an annihilation at the hands of that college football juggernaut, Baylor.

San Jose State (-4.16) at Stanford - Last year, San Jose State rallied from 20 points down to claim a 35-34 win. Losing at home to SJSU would not be good for new coach Jim Harbaugh, but the computer spread looks better now for Stanford than it did in the preseason when the computer gave the Spartans a 7.68-point edge. The Cardinal had an extra week to prepare for their second game of the season after opening with a 45-17 home loss to UCLA. San Jose State has lost its first two games to Arizona State and Kansas State by a combined score of 79-17.

UCLA (-9.64) at Utah - The Utes have only scored two touchdowns this season. They lost 24-7 to an Oregon State team that was bombed 34-3 at Cincinnati last week, and 20-12 to an Air Force team that the computer favored them to beat by 20. UCLA has to be considered as a legitimate contender for the PAC-10 title while Utah is looking more like an also-ran in the Mountain West.

UAB (-5.21) vs. Alcorn State - Alcorn State is a FCS team that was 6-5 last year, and is off to an 0-2 start this year with home losses to fellow SWAC members Grambling State (31-10) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (21-3). Two weeks ago, I might have believed that the Blazers would struggle against a lower-division team. But after watching their performance in a 10-point loss at Florida State, this should be a rout of significant proportion.

Worth Watching
Arkansas State (-1.17) vs. Southern Methodist -
Arkansas State's home game with Memphis this past Saturday was canceled due to heavy thunderstorms and dangerous lightning, and has been rescheduled for September 27th. Because of that, the Indians haven't played since the season-opening 8-point loss at Texas that turned heads and raised eyebrows. SMU was destroyed by Texas Tech in week one, and had a difficult time putting away North Texas last week. Mustang coach Phil Bennett has to win these kind of games if he's going to keep his job another year. Bennett's teams have underperformed preseason forecasts in four of his five years at SMU.

Boise State (-16.01) vs. Wyoming - The Broncos have won 37 straight regular season home games. Wyoming comes to town with a 2-0 record that includes a 20-point thumping of Virginia on opening day.

Oregon (-17.65) vs. Fresno State - Oregon handed Michigan its worst loss since 1968 last Saturday, while Fresno State took Texas A&M to triple-overtime before losing 47-45. The Bulldogs may have turned the corner back to respectability and apparently have an offense that should concern the Ducks. The question is whether or not any team has a defense to stop Oregon's explosive offense. The Bulldogs are 7-13 against the PAC-10 under Pat Hill.

Louisville (-7.19) at Kentucky - The final score of this one could resemble a basketball game. The Wildcats have won their two games by an average score of 53-15. The Cardinals have defeated their opponents by an average of 66-26. Kentucky has looked more consistent than Louisville. If MTSU had played mistake-free ball against the Cards, Louisville could easily be 1-1 right now. As it was, they looked extremely vulnerable in that 58-42 win over the Blue Raiders.

Miami (-31.92) vs. Florida International - These teams staged an infamous brawl that led to the suspensions of more than 30 players last year. Both head coaches are now gone - Don Strock resigned from FIU and Larry Coker was fired from Miami. Even a former Miami player-turned-football analysts was fired. Lamar Thomas was working for Comcast Sports which was feeding the game to the ESPN GamePlan package. When the fight erupted, he offered verbal endorsement and encouragement of the fight, rooting on the spectacle. At one point, he even taunted that he should go down the elevator and join in on the action.

NEW STADIUM
Texas (-20.40) at UCF - Central Florida has a brand new on-campus stadium and will christen it Saturday when it hosts Texas. The 45,000-seat, state-of-the-art facility is called Bright House Stadium. The game will be broadcast at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Previously, UCF had played all of its home games in the cavernous Citrus Bowl in downtown Orlando.

UNBEATEN TEAMS
The second week of college football action saw the number of unbeaten teams shrink from 68 to 44, which is exactly the same number of teams that were unbeaten after two weeks last season.

As the list narrows later in the year, we'll help you keep tabs with those teams that are still on track for an undefeated season. Last year, Boise State (13-0) was the only team that accomplished the task and they are already out of the picture this season.

WINLESS TEAMS
17 schools picked up their first win last week. 32 others are still longing for that sweet taste of victory, including Notre Dame and Michigan. Another notable winless team is Wake Forest, last year's ACC Champs. For some schools, victory has come at the expense of a lower-division school. That list includes Boise State, Arizona, and Southern Miss.

1-A vs. 1-AA
Note that 1-A is now classified by the NCAA as the "Football Bowl Subdivision", or "FBS", for short.
1-AA has been re-classified as the "Football Championship Subdivision", or "FCS", for short.

15 FBS teams play FCS schools this week bringing the total number to 49 for the year. Among them:

South Carolina gets South Carolina State. The Bulldogs' campus is in Orangeburg, just 40 miles down the road from Columbia. South Carolina State opened the season with a 34-3 loss at Air Force, but rebounded last weekend with a 24-13 MEAC win over Bethune-Cookman.

Clemson hosts Furman, a team they've defeated 28 straight times. The Paladins last win over the Tigers came in 1936. The schools were in the Southern Conference together from 1921-1951 and Clemson only won 5 of the first 17 meetings. Furman was ranked 9th in the FCS poll before losing 32-17 this past Saturday to Hofstra. The Paladins won the 1-AA national championship in 1988. The school is located in Greenville, South Carolina - just 30 miles from the Clemson campus. It's a private Baptist school with 2,600 students.

STREAKS
Three of the top four over-all winning streaks came to an end this past weekend.

Boise State's streak ended at 14 games in a 24-10 loss at Washington. The Broncos had also won 15 regular season games in-a-row.

Boise State's streak of 37 consecutive regular season home games is still alive, though, and the Broncos can still claim a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (24-0).

BYU's winning streak of 11 straight games came to an end with a 27-17 loss at UCLA.

TCU's string of victories ended at 9 games with a 34-13 loss at Texas. The Horned Frogs led 10-0 at halftime.

Wisconsin now owns the longest winning streak at 11 games after a 20-13 win at UNLV.

The second-longest winning streaks belong to SEC rivals, LSU and Florida, at 9.

USC has won a nation's-best 34 consecutive home games. The Trojans, who were idle last week, visit Nebraska this week.

Duke maintains the nation's longest losing streak - now at 22 games over-all, and 24 straight to 1-A teams.

FIU has dropped 14 straight games. The Golden Panthers visit crosstown rival Miami this week.

North Carolina State and Colorado State have each lost 9 straight games.

Illinois has lost 8 straight games to FBS teams.

NEW COACHES
The 2006 season featured 11 new head coaches. Five led their team to a bowl game.

This year, there are 24 coaching changes for the highest number since 2001 when there were 25. We'll track their progress throughout the season.

Air Force, 2-0 under Troy Calhoun, hosts TCU.
Alabama, 2-0 under Nick Saban, hosts Arkansas.
Arizona State, 2-0 under Dennis Erickson, hosts San Diego State.
Boston College, 2-0 under Jeff Jagodzinski, visits Georgia Tech.
Cincinnati, 2-0 under Brian Kelly, visits Miami (Ohio).
Indiana, 2-0 under Bill Lynch, hosts Akron.
Army, 1-1 under Stan Brock, visits Wake Forest.
Central Michigan, 1-1 under Butch Jones, visits Purdue.
Michigan State, 2-0 under Mark Dantonio, hosts Pitt.
Louisville, 2-0 under Steve Kragthorpe, visits Kentucky.
Tulsa, 1-0 under Todd Graham, hosts BYU.
Idaho, 1-1 under Robb Akey, visits Washington State.
Louisiana Tech, 1-1 under Derek Dooley, visits California.
Miami (Fla.), 1-1 under Randy Shannon, hosts FIU.
Minnesota, 1-1 under Tim Brewster, faces FAU at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
North Carolina, 1-1 under Butch Davis, hosts Virginia.
Stanford, 0-1 under Jim Harbaugh, hosts San Jose State.
Tulane, 0-1 under Bob Toledo, hosts Houston.
FIU, 0-2 under Mario Cristobal, visits Miami (Fla.)
Iowa State, 0-2 under Gene Chizik, hosts Iowa.
N.C. State, 0-2 under Tom O'Brien, hosts FCS member Wofford.
North Texas, 0-2 under Todd Dodge, is idle.
Rice, 0-2 under David Bailiff, hosts Texas Tech.
UAB, 0-2 under Neil Callaway, hosts FCS member Alcorn State.



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