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College Football Season

'Bama-Arkansas Leads Top 25 Matchups

Big Hurt for Houston and Michigan State

by Dave Congrove
September 20, 2010

Hours after defeating Notre Dame with a fake field goal in overtime, Michigan State lost its head coach for an indefinite period. Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack and underwent emergency surgery to insert a stint early Sunday morning. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will take over in his absence. The Spartans host FCS member Northern Colorado on Saturday.

Houston was dealt a severe blow when it lost its top two quarterbacks for the season in the 31-13 loss at UCLA. Starting QB and Heisman candidate Case Keenum suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter while trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception in the end zone. Backup QB Cotton Turner proceeded to break his clavicle in the 3rd quarter. Freshman Terrance Broadway, who finished the game and led Houston on two scoring drives, has been named the starter for Saturday's home game against Tulane.

While those teams attempt to overcome major bouts of adversity, others will be looking to solidify their spot among the upper echelon of the rankings as four games pit Top 25 teams from the Congrove Computer Rankings against each other.

No. 2 Alabama visits No. 10 Arkansas in a game that features Heisman Trophy-winning RB Mark Ingram of the Tide and Heisman candidate QB Ryan Mallett of the Razorbacks. 'Bama has taken three straight in the series, including a 35-7 drubbing last year and a 49-14 romp in 2008 at Fayetteville. The computer favors the Tide by 7.95 points after being a preseason favorite by 5.03 points.

The Big East looks for a statement win against the SEC when No. 19 West Virginia visits No. 13 LSU as a 6.61-point underdog in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

No. 16 South Carolina can keep an eye on its first-ever SEC East title if it can pull of the mild upset at Auburn. The Gamecocks are only 2.34-point underdogs in their first meeting with the Tigers since a 24-17 loss at Columbia in 2006. In fact, Auburn is 4-0 over South Carolina since suffering its only loss in the series in 1933. The Tigers are 6-1-1 alltime against the Gamecocks. Auburn defeated the Palmetto State's other FBS team, Clemson, in overtime at home last week.

The most unlikely matchup of Top 25 teams is No. 22 Temple visiting No. 23 Penn State with the lower-ranked Nittany Lions favored by nearly 10 points. If you look at that game simply by power rating, Penn State is 12th and Temple 40th, but the rankings are a combination of power rating, won-loss records and other factors. The Nittany Lions are favored 9.67 points to take a 28th consecutive win over the Owls who are 3-35-1 alltime Penn State. Temple has not defeated Penn State in its last 34 tries, making this the current most-lopsided series in major college football. The last four games were major routs with the Nittany Lions winning by a cumulative score of 154-9.

Another game that will draw a huge amount of national interest this week, including ESPN's College GameDay crew of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, is No. 30 Oregon State at No. 1 Boise State. The Beavers trekked to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on opening weekend and bowed to then-No. 3 TCU 30-21. On that same weekend, Boise State defeated Virginia Tech 33-30 at FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins. The Broncos and Beavers last clashed in 2006 with Boise State rolling to a 42-14 win on the Smurf Turf. Nonetheless, the computer's prediction of a 23.63-point Bronco win seems pretty shocking.

In all, there 58 games on this week's schedule, including 9 matchups of FBS teams vs. FCS schools, and 13 teams have the weekend off.

The computer was 41-12 last week in FBS vs. FBS games and is 112-25 on the season (.818). However, it slumped to 21-32 when trying to outperform the so-called Vegas experts on spreads, and is now 66-71 on the year. Several games were missed by less than a point, which is just one of the many reasons I don't gamble on sports.

No. 29 Miami (Fla.) at No. 33 Pitt - The Panthers are favored by a slim 1.18 margin in the first meeting between these schools since Miami left the Big East after the 2003 season. The 'Canes have taken 6 straight over the Panthers, and 14 of the last 15 dating back to 1984.

No. 65 UCLA at No. 3 Texas - Was last week's win a break-out game for UCLA that will carry momentum into this week's contest? The computer doesn't seem to think so as it taps Texas as a 25.13-point favorite.

No. 4 TCU at No. 49 SMU - The Dallas Metroplex rivalry has been lopsided in TCU's favor with the Horned Frogs taking 9 of the last 10 meetings. SMU handed TCU its only loss in 2005, 21-10, in the second game of the season. The Ponies have lost three straight since then and are 15.94-point home underdogs on Saturday.

No. 6 Oregon at No. 66 Arizona State - The Ducks have outscored New Mexico, Tennessee and Portland State by a cumulative 189-13. The Sun Devils lost 20-19 at Wisconsin last week due to a blocked extra point with 4:09 left in the game, but that's the only game they have played against an FBS opponent. Oregon gets the nod by 23.46.

No. 48 Kentucky at No. 7 Florida - The Wildcats have lost 23 straight to Florida, the fourth-longest current streak of futility that one team has against another. Interestingly, Kentucky also owns the 2nd-longest such streak with its 25-game losing skid to Tennessee. The computer likes the Gators this week by 24.33 points, which would be a far more competitive outcome than the 41-7 and 63-5 results of the last two years.

No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 54 Cincinnati - The Sooners won the only previous meeting 52-26 in Norman in 2008. The Bearcats are off to a 1-2 start with the only win coming against FCS member Indiana State. Cincy was an 8.39-point computer pick at N.C. State last week when it lost 30-19, and a 3.20-point favorite when it lost the opener at Fresno State 28-14. Cincinnati is a 5.95-point underdog this week. Oklahoma won only 2 games away from Norman last year and was 1-3 at opponents' venues.

No. 11 Stanford at 72nd-ranked Notre Dame - It's desperation time in South Bend as a loss would drop the Irish to 1-3. The last two contests have been lost in the final 27 seconds to Michigan, and in overtime to Michigan State. The Cardinal won 45-38 last year to end a 7-game losing streak in the series, and the computer favors Stanford by 10.53 points to end its current 7-game losing streak in South Bend.

No. 35 California at No. 14 Arizona - After winning its first two games by a combined 104-10, Cal was clubbed 52-31 at Nevada last week. Now the Golden Bears find themselves as 3.23-point underdogs at Arizona which is 3-0 after the 34-27 home win over Iowa. The home team in this series has won the last five meetings.

No. 15 Nevada at No. 53 BYU - Despite Nevada's strong win over Cal last week, and BYU's disappointing back-to-back losses at Air Force and Florida State, the Wolf Pack is a slim 1.46-point underdog in Provo.

No. 21 Fresno State at No. 75 Ole Miss - Mississippi is in jeopardy of losing its 3rd home game this season after falling to Vanderbilt 28-14 last week. The Bulldogs are favored by 4.46 points in Oxford, where Ole Miss had won 9 of its previous 10 games until this season.

Wyoming's nonconference schedule included Texas and Boise State. Now the Cowboys host Air Force in their Mountain West opener.

Perhaps even more egregious scheduling comes from San Jose State. The Spartans have played at Alabama and Wisconsin and now head to Utah. Their WAC opener is at Nevada on October 9, followed by consecutive home dates with Fresno State and Boise State. Overall, the first six FBS teams on SJSU's schedule were a cumulative 64-16 in 2009.

34 teams remain undefeated after three weeks of the season.

Only 12 of the 120 teams are winless.

FBS vs. FCS:
There are 9 games this week between FBS and FCS schools. FBS teams were 5-0 (1.000) vs. FCS schools last week. FBS teams are 63-6 (.913) in such games this season, and 527-48 (.917) since 2003.

Here are the results of every FBS loss to the FCS this season:
9/4: Jacksonville State 49, Mississippi 48 (2 OT's)
9/4: North Dakota State 6, Kansas 3
9/11: Gardner-Webb 38, Akron 37
9/11: Liberty 27, Ball State 23
9/11: South Dakota 41, Minnesota 38
9/11: James Madison 21, Virginia Tech 16

This year, 85 FBS teams play a total of 90 games against FCS foes. Five schools play two such games - Arizona State, Ball State, San Jose State, Syracuse and Virginia.

Alabama has 17 straight wins overall and 27 straight regular season wins. (Next: at Arkansas this Saturday).

Boise State has streaks of 16 overall wins, 27 regular season wins, 26 home wins, 56 regular season home wins, and 42 straight conference home victories. BSU has never lost at home to a fellow WAC member (36-0). The Broncos' last home loss to a conference foe occurred in 1998 when they were a member of the Big West and fell to Idaho in the final regular season game. The Broncos are 5-1 in their last six matches against BCS conference schools. (Next: vs. Oregon State this Saturday).

Oklahoma has 33 straight home victories. (Next: at Cincinnati this Saturday).

Utah has 19 straight home wins. (Next: vs. San Jose State this Saturday).

Western Kentucky has lost 23 straight overall and 28 straight to FBS teams. (Next: at USF this Saturday).

Eastern Michigan has lost 15 straight overall (Next: at Ohio State this Saturday).

Colorado State has lost 12 straight overall. (Next: vs. Idaho this Saturday).

Washington State lost 11 straight to FBS schools. (Next: vs. USC this Saturday).


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