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Week 3 College Football Preview

68-Game Schedule Offers a Few Telling Matchups

by Dave Congrove
CollegeFootballPoll.com
September 10, 2012 (Updated 9/11/12)

If you're not keeping track, don't worry - that's what I'm here for. After two weeks of the 2012 college football season, 46 of the 124 FBS teams remain undefeated and only 23 are winless. But what have we learned?

The most accurate answer to that question is "not much".

For grins and giggles, let's just break down the top five of my Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com.

No. 1 Oklahoma has only played UTEP and FCS member Florida A&M.

No. 2 West Virginia only has a single game under its belt (win vs. Marshall) and a match this week with FCS opponent James Madison at FedEx Field in the nation's capital.

No. 3 Alabama owns the marquee win of the year, thus far, with its 41-14 blowout of Michigan. We can't really say that the Wolverines are as good as everyone thought they would be as they only defeated Air Force by 6 at home on Saturday - a whopping 22 points less than the computer, and most people, expected.

No. 4 Kansas State moved up from 7th after trashing Miami 52-13. Nice win, but this isn't your daddy's Miami, or even your older sibling's Miami for that matter.

No. 5 USC has wins over a pair of schools that aren't expected to finish above .500 in Hawaii and Syracuse.

If you continue to objectively go down the list of teams, it doesn't take a lot of thinking to uncover a flaw in each one. For instance, LSU's 41-3 win over Washington on Saturday is impressive until you consider that the Huskies have finished no better than 7-6 in the last 10 years. And Arizona's 59-38 victory over Oklahoma State looms large until you remember that QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon are among the missing parts from last year's squad.

So, what can we look for in this week's games to shed a little more, or less, light on the matter?

That was the subject of a phone conversation I had this afternoon with Erik Gee, an AP voter and a host of "The Sports Bar" on Albuquerque's KNML radio as we planned for my appearance on that CBS Sports-affiliated station this evening. Gee brought up the question of the week: What if Arkansas rebounds from its loss to Louisiana-Monroe by defeating Alabama on Saturday?

In return, I posed the question of what if USC falls at Stanford?

Therein lies the fun of college football - the "what ifs", the knowledge of knowing that no one knows what they think they know until it's basically all said and done on the field. Heck - even then, we still disagree.

TOP GAMES
For the second consecutive week, the college football schedule begins with a Big East conference game as USF hosts Rutgers. Both schools come into this contest with 2-0 marks and designs on claiming the Big East title. The Scarlet Knights are the only Big East member USF has defeated at home in the last two seasons, but the computer gives Rutgers a 0.61-point advantage this week.

Washington State is a projected 3.55-point winner over UNLV in Friday's lone game.

Then, Saturday arrives with the anticipated matchups of Alabama-Arkansas and USC-Stanford topping the list.

Arkansas was the computer's preseason favorite in this game by 6.75, but it now has Alabama winning by 2. The Tide have won the last five meetings.

Stanford was the preseason pick over USC by 0.97 and is still a projected 0.56-point winner. The Cardinal have won four of the last five clashes with the Trojans after dropping five straight from 2002-2006.

Undefeated Notre Dame heads to East Lansing as an 8.48-point underdog to Michigan State in what has been one of the more balanced rivalries of late. The teams have swapped victories every year since 2001 with the exception of consecutive Spartan wins in '07 and '08.

Arizona State is coming off a 45-14 rout of Illinois at home as it heads to Missouri. The Tigers, a surprisingly large 14.94-point computer choice in this game, are in need of a rebound after a 41-20 home loss to Georgia in their SEC opener.

Louisiana-Monroe attempts to win back-to-back games over SEC teams when it visits Auburn as an 18.32-point underdog. The Warhawks were 24.98-point underdogs before shocking Arkansas 34-31 in overtime at Little Rock this past Saturday.

Florida heads to Tennessee as a 4.85-point choice in a key SEC game as each looks to get a leg-up in the eastern division race. The Gators have won the last seven meetings.

Florida State finally plays an FBS team when ACC Atlantic division foe Wake Forest pays a visit. The Demon Deacons have been a pitchfork in the Seminoles' side with four wins in the last six games in the series, but the computer gives the 'Noles a huge 27.29-point edge. Keep in mind that FSU was projected to win by almost 12 points when it lost 35-30 at Wake last year.

Other games to watch include the collision of MAC powers when Bowling Green visits Toledo; another Beehive State rivalry game when Utah hosts BYU on the heels of the Utes' loss at Utah State last week; and an intersectional contest that sends California to Ohio State.

Also on the agenda: Maryland head coach Randy Edsall faces his former team when UConn visits College Park; Virginia goes to Georgia Tech; North Carolina heads to Louisville; Virginia Tech travels to Pittsburgh; Ole Miss hosts Texas; TCU makes it Big 12 debut at Kansas; Penn State welcomes Navy.

FOUR IS TOO MANY:
Utah QB Jordan Wynn is hanging up his football cleats after injuring his left, non-throwing shoulder for the third time since 2010. Wynn has already undergone two surgeries on his left shoulder and one for his right shoulder. He will stick around this year to mentor senior QB Jon Hays and freshman Travis Wilson. Utah hosts BYU on Saturday.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS teams went 23-4 last week versus their FCS counterparts to improve to 54-8 (.871) on the season. Since 2003, FBS schools are 692-63 (.917) in such games, but their overall winning percentage has declined each of the last two weeks.

FBS teams have already lost 2 more games to FCS schools than in all of 2011 when they were 91-6 (.938).

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.

UNLV lost to a FCS school for a second straight year when it fell 17-14 to Northern Arizona last week after leading 14-0 at halftime. Sacramento State has upset an FBS team in each of the past two seasons, defeating Colorado 30-28 last week and Oregon State 29-28 last year. North Dakota State has scored such a victory in each of the last 3 seasons, beating Colorado State 22-7 last week, Minnesota 37-24 in 2011, and Kansas 6-3 in 2010.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
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

STREAKS:
TCU - 9 straight wins overall. 24 straight conference wins. Visits Kansas on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - 8 straight conference wins and 16 straight home wins. Hosts Army on Saturday.

LSU - 19-game home winning streak. 39-game non-conference winning streak. Hosts Idaho on Saturday.

Arkansas State - 8-game conference win streak. Visits Nebraska on Saturday.

Virginia Tech - 13 straight wins in true road games (at opponents' venue). Visits Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 11 straight FBS games. Hosts TCU on Saturday.

Tulane - 12 straight losses overall. Idle this week. Hosts Ole Miss on Saturday, September 22.

Akron - 10 straight losses overall, 21 straight road losses. Hosts FCS member Morgan State on Saturday.

New Mexico - 23 straight road losses. Visits Texas Tech on Saturday.

Mississippi - 14 straight conference losses. Hosts Texas on Saturday.

NEW COACHES:
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 (0-2) Saturday vs. Morgan State (FCS)
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (2-0) Saturday vs. South Carolina State (FCS)
Arizona State Todd Graham (2-0) Saturday at Missouri
Arkansas John L. Smith (1-1) Saturday vs. Alabama
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (1-1) Saturday at Nebraska
Colorado State Jim McElwain (1-1) Saturday at San Jose State
FAU Carl Pellini (1-1) Saturday at Georgia
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (1-1) Saturday vs. Colorado
Hawaii Norm Chow (0-1) Saturday vs. Lamar (FCS)
Houston Tony Levine (0-2) Saturday at UCLA
Illinois Tim Beckman (1-1) Saturday vs. Charleston Southern (FCS)
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-1) Saturday vs. TCU
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (0-2) Saturday at Michigan
Memphis Justin Fuente (0-2) Saturday vs. Middle Tennessee
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (2-0) Saturday vs. Texas
New Mexico Bob Davie (1-1) Saturday at Texas Tech
North Carolina Larry Fedora (1-1) Saturday at Louisville
Ohio State Urban Meyer (2-0) Saturday vs. California
Penn State Bill O'Brien (0-2) Saturday vs. Navy
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (0-2) Saturday vs. Virginia Tech
Rutgers Kyle Flood (2-0) Thursday at USF
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-1) Saturday vs. East Carolina
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (0-1) Saturday at SMU
Toledo Matt Campbell (1-1) Saturday vs. Bowling Green
Tulane Curtis Johnson (0-2) Idle this week. Hosts Ole Miss on Saturday, 9/22.
UAB Garrick McGee (0-1) Saturday at South Carolina
UCLA Jim Mora (2-0) Saturday vs. Houston
Washington State Mike Leach (1-1) Friday at UNLV


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