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College Football Season

Week 4 of College Football Starts Wednesday

Schedule Includes Kansas State-Oklahoma, Clemson-FSU, Michigan-Notre Dame

by Dave Congrove
September 17, 2012

15 teams lost for the first time last week and 10 enjoyed their first victory, reducing the unbeaten ranks to 31 and leaving just 13 of the 124 FBS teams winless.

Last week's biggest upset wasn't Stanford's defeat of USC, but rather Pitt's 35-17 thrashing of Virginia Tech. The computer forecasted Stanford's win while the Hokies' loss was one of just six games the computer missed as it went 62-6 overall and 42-5 in head-to-head FBS games. Nonetheless, the results did spark quite a shake-up in my Congrove Computer Rankings.

Prior to last week's games, the top 10 looked like this:
1 - Oklahoma
2 - West Virginia
3 - Alabama
4 - Kansas State
5 - USC
6 - Michigan State
7 - LSU
8 - South Carolina
9 - Florida State
10 - Texas

The new top 10 now looks like this:
1 - Alabama
2 - Oklahoma
3 - Florida State
4 - West Virginia
5 - LSU
6 - South Carolina
7 - Texas
8 - Kansas State
9 - Stanford
10 - Florida

Eight of the top 10 teams are from either the Big 12 or SEC. If you include No. 11 Georgia and No. 12 Baylor, those two conferences hold 10 of the top 12 slots. I have never witnessed such an incredible domination by two conferences in the 20 years that I have been computing college football rankings.

Thus far, the Big 12 is 22-2 in non-conference games, but all eyes this week will be on the conference battle between Kansas State and Oklahoma in Norman. The computer projects Oklahoma as a 6.29-point winner in the only contest that features two teams ranked among the computer's top 10.

The ACC stages a key clash when Clemson visits Florida State on the wrong end of an 8.67-point predicted margin. It could be argued that Clemson actually has the upper-hand in one regard - they've already been road tested by playing the Auburn opener in Atlanta. The 'Noles haven't left home for their games against two FCS schools and a terribly outmanned Wake Forest squad. The computer favored FSU in its first three games by 44, 46 and 27, respectively. They won by 66, 55, and 52 with the second game mercifully rain-shortened by more than a quarter. Conversely, Clemson was a 1-point underdog to Auburn and then favored by 20 over Ball State and 43 vs. Furman. The Tigers prevailed in those games by 7, 25 and 34.

Notre Dame hosts Michigan in a huge contest for both programs. The Irish are on the verge of cracking everyone's top 10 while the Wolverines are still trying to atone for an opening week blowout loss to Alabama and a pair of an unimpressive wins over Air Force and UMass. The computer's preseason forecast had Michigan winning this game by 4.10 but has since flipped to the Irish by 2.72.

The week begins on Wednesday when Kent State travels to Buffalo for a MAC contest, but it gets a lot juicier on Thursday night when BYU visits Boise State. The computer favors both home teams in those contests by, ironically, the exact same margin of 2.11 points.

Friday gives us Baylor at UL-Monroe in a pseudo Big 12-SEC game. UL-M is 1-1 vs. the SEC after a pair of road trips that each went into overtime. Now they get a home game against a marquee opponent, albeit as a 13.91-point computer underdog. But, as Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast". The computer had UL-M as a 25-point underdog in its overtime win over Arkansas. Last week, the Warhawks were 18-point dogs when they took Auburn to overtime before losing by 3.

A trio of important PAC-12 games take place on Saturday with Oregon favored by 15 at home over Arizona, UCLA picked by 11.61 at home over Oregon State, and Utah listed as an outright computer upset pick by 8.40 at Arizona State.

The PAC-12 also delivers a visit by Cal to USC. The Trojans are forecasted to rebound from last week's loss at Stanford by routing the Bears by 18.85.

Arkansas faces a must-win situation when it host Rutgers, just to avoid falling to 1-3. The Hogs, who hope to have Tyler Wilson back at QB are favored by 6.06 over the Scarlet Knights which are 3-0 under first-year head coach Kyle Flood.

Auburn is also in bad need of a win when it draws LSU. The computer only gives the Bayou Bengals a 4.80-point advantage which seems on the light side given Auburn's 1-2 start overall and 0-1 in the SEC.

Kansas visits the last team it defeated, Northern Illinois. The Jayhawks will be looking to end their 12-game FBS losing skid by squelching NIU's 16-game home winning streak.

FBS vs. FCS:
Last week, FBS teams went 20-1 versus their FCS counterparts to improve to 74-9 (.892) on the season. Since 2003, FBS schools are 712-64 (.918) in such games.

FBS teams have already lost 3 more games this season 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.

Last week, Wyoming was the only FBS team to fall victim to an FCS school as the Cowboys dropped a 24-22 decision to Cal Poly which improved to 4-12 versus FBS teams over the last decade.

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

TCU - 10 straight wins overall. 25 straight conference wins (1 in Big 12). Hosts Virginia on Saturday.

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

LSU - 20-game home winning streak. 40-game non-conference winning streak. Visits Auburn on Saturday.

Arkansas State - 8-game conference win streak. Hosts FCS member Alcorn State on Saturday.

Tulane - 12 straight losses overall. Hosts Ole Miss on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 21 straight road games and 13 straight FBS games. Visits Tennessee on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 12 straight FBS games. Visits Northern Illinois on Saturday.

New Mexico - 24 straight road losses. Visits New Mexico State on Saturday.

Mississippi - 14 straight conference losses. Visits Tulane 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 (1-2) Saturday at Tennessee
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (3-0) Saturday at Oregon
Arizona State Todd Graham (2-1) Saturday vs. Utah
Arkansas John L. Smith (1-2) Saturday vs. Rutgers
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (1-2) Saturday vs. Alcorn State (FCS)
Colorado State Jim McElwain (1-2) Saturday vs. Utah State
FAU Carl Pellini (1-2) Saturday at Alabama
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (2-1) Saturday at Tulsa
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-1) Saturday vs. Nevada
Houston Tony Levine (0-3) Idle this week. Meets Rice on 9/29 at Reliant Stadium
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-1) Saturday vs. Louisiana Tech
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-2) Saturday at Northern Illinois
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (0-3) Saturday at Miami, O.
Memphis Justin Fuente (0-3) Saturday at Duke
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (2-1) Saturday at Tulane
New Mexico Bob Davie (1-2) Saturday at New Mexico State
North Carolina Larry Fedora (1-2) Saturday vs. East Carolina
Ohio State Urban Meyer (3-0) Saturday vs. UAB
Penn State Bill O'Brien (1-2) Saturday vs. Temple
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (1-2) Saturday vs. Gardner-Webb (FCS)
Rutgers Kyle Flood (3-0) Saturday at Arkansas
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-2) Saturday at Western Kentucky
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (1-1) Saturday vs. South Carolina State (FCS)
Toledo Matt Campbell (2-1) Saturday vs. Coastal Carolina (FCS)
Tulane Curtis Johnson (0-2) Saturday vs. Ole Miss
UAB Garrick McGee (0-2) Saturday at Ohio State
UCLA Jim Mora (3-0) Saturday vs. Oregon State
Washington State Mike Leach (2-1) Saturday vs. Colorado


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