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College Football Season

Top Teams Aware Of This Week's "Traps"

by Mike Mitchell
Updated 9/28/05

No matter which poll or rankings you look at, the top three teams are the Trojans, 'Horns and Hokies. Where they'll be after this week is the next big question.

Based on spreads determined by the Congrove Computer Rankings, USC (3-0) travels to Arizona State (3-1) as an 8-point favorite, Texas (3-0) heads to Missouri (2-1) for its Big 12 opener as a 20-point pick and Virginia Tech (4-0) visits West Virginia (4-0) as a 21-point choice.

Any, or all three, could be walking into a trap. How hard can it be to get your team pumped for a home game against a consensus top three team?.

Arizona State's last win over Southern California came in 1999 and the last home win was in 1997. The Trojans have won five straight in the series and the last four have been won by an average of 27.5 points. The ESPN GameDay crew will be there.

Texas escaped with just an 8-point home win over Missouri last year. Missouri's 1997 home win was their first and only win over Texas since 1916.

West Virginia and Virginia Tech have developed a recent history of dethroning the other. Two years ago, the Hokies strode into Morgantown with a 6-0 record and were obliterated 28-7. The entire Virginia Tech team imploded with mistakes from the very first whistle. The Hokies turned the tables on the Mountaineers last year. West Virginia went to Blacksburg with a 4-0 record and fell 19-13.

Those are not the only top teams with difficult road dates on the agenda.

Florida (4-0) goes to Tuscaloosa to face the first 4-0 team Alabama has had since 1996. The Gators haven't been 4-0 themselves since 2001. The Tide is a 1-point computer pick.

Notre Dame (3-1) heads to West Lafayette where Purdue (2-1, 0-1) will be trying to get the train back on the tracks after Saturday's disappointing double-overtime loss at Minnesota. The loser has "2" in the wrong column. The computer gives the Boilermakers a 10-point edge. .

Speaking of Minnesota (4-0), it doesn't get any easier this week. The Golden Gophers get to follow-up that OT victory with a journey to undefeated Penn State (4-0) where they are favored by 2 points. Unbelievably the Nittany Lions are not ranked in the top 25 of any of the voter polls. They are 15th in the CCR Top 119, which certainly seems reasonable. .

Some of the top teams will get to stay home and deal with difficult visitors.

Michigan State (4-0) will entertain its arch-rival Michigan which will be trying to avoid its 3rd loss of the season. The Wolverines only wins in 2005 have come at home against MAC members Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan. They lost at home to Notre Dame and on the road at Wisconsin. Surprisingly, the computer still gives Michigan a 1-point edge.

Wisconsin (4-0) welcomes Indiana (3-0) to Madison. The Hoosiers have yet to lose under new head coach Terry Hoeppner. The Badgers are projected 20-point winners.

Miami (Fla.) hosts South Florida for the first time ever. Until this past Saturday's 45-14 pasting that USF put on Louisville, the Bulls were thought of as a little bug on the windshield waiting to get splattered (45-0 sounded about right). Miami is still forecasted as a 16-point winner but the game has added some intrigue. For instance, South Florida replaced Miami in the Big East conference. And, if you recall, it was Louisville that thoroughly dominated the 'Canes for a half last year on Miami's home turf.

Tuesday brings us Toledo at Fresno State, the second MAC vs. WAC game in as many weeks. Boise State blew out Bowling Green 48-20 last week.

Wednesday delivers Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio), a game between two schools whose campuses are less than an hour apart, in the Battle for the Victory Bell. They first played each other in 1888 and have met every year without interruption since 1945. Miami leads the series 58-44-7 but the Bearcats won at home 45-26 last year.

Thursday provides Air Force at Colorado State in another battle of two schools in geographical proximity. The Falcons, with two conference losses already, would be discarded from the MWC race with another loss.

Friday brings us Pittsburgh at Rutgers where Dave Wannstedt, still looking for his first win over a 1-A team, is a 2-point computer underdog.

More Conference Games
Clemson at Wake Forest - The Tigers are 1-2 in conference after overtime defeats at the hands of Miami and Boston College. Demon Deacons are 0-1 in the ACC, just 1-3 over-all.

Virginia at Maryland

Big 10:
Illinois at Iowa - After losses at Iowa State and Ohio State, Iowa seeks refuge at Kinnick Stadium where Hawkeyes have won 20 in-a-row. Rumor has it that Iowa is petitioning to remove any school from its schedule that has "State" at the end of its name.

Big 12:
Baylor at Texas A&M - Bears are undefeated entering an October game for the first time since 1996 when they started 3-0 but finished 4-7.

Colorado at Oklahoma State - The Cowboys are undefeated (3-0) but struggling on offense. The Buffaloes, defending north division champs with a 4-4 conference mark in 2004, look to rebound from the loss at Miami.

Iowa State at Nebraska - One of these two teams may win the Big 12 north. The Cyclones haven't won in Lincoln since since 1977.

Kansas at Texas Tech - Jayhawks lost to Red Raiders 31-30 at home last year. Kansas won last meeting in Lubbock 34-31 in 2001.

Kansas State at Oklahoma - The Sooners have lost three of their last four games going back to last year's national championship debacle.

Rice at UAB - Owls are tied with Army for longest losing streak (8).
Southern Miss at East Carolina
Houston at Tulsa
SMU at Marshall
UTEP at Memphis

Buffalo at Western Michigan - Broncos have lost 10 straight conference games. Bulls are 6-42 all-time in MAC games.

Central Michigan at Akron
Kent State at Eastern Michigan.

Mountain West:
Brigham Young at San Diego State - New head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he'd restore BYU's once-vaunted offense. He wasn't lying. QB John Beck threw for 517 yards and 5 TD's in 51-50 OT loss to TCU this past Saturday.

UNLV at Wyoming
New Mexico at TCU.

Arizona at California - Wildcats are 12-36 in conference games from 1999-present after going 12-1 over-all and 7-1 in the PAC-10 in 1998. Best conference mark since then is 3-5. Arizona is 2-2 vs. Cal in that period but lost last two meetings by combined score of 80-14.

Oregon at Stanford
Washington State at Oregon State
Washington at UCLA

South Carolina at Auburn First meeting since 1997. Last South Carolina win? 1933. Auburn leads "series" 4-1-1.

LSU at Mississippi State
Mississippi at Tennessee

Sun Belt:
Arkansas State at Louisiana-Monroe - Both teams 1-0 in conference.

Boise State at Hawaii - Broncos put 26-game win streak against conference opponents on the line.

Utah State at Idaho - Two defectors from Sun Belt meet for the first time as WAC rivals.

New Mexico State at Louisiana Tech
Nevada at San Jose State.

More In-state Battles (Non-conference)
SE Louisiana (1-AA) at Tulane - The "homeless" Green Wave will host the game in Baton Rouge at LSU's Tiger Stadium.

Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt - A win would make the Commodores 5-0 for the first time since 1941.

Florida A&M (1-AA) at FIU.

More Interesting Non-Conference Match-Ups
Syracuse at Florida State
Utah at North Carolina.

Connecticut at Army - Army is on an 8-game losing streak and has won just 3 of its last 39 games.

Ball State at Boston College
Temple at Bowling Green
Central Florida at Louisiana-Lafayette
Navy at Duke
FAU at Louisville.

Unbeaten Teams:
At this time last year, 23 teams were undefeated. 5 of those teams lost the following week. This year, 27 teams begin the week with perfect records.

ACC (3) - Virginia Tech (4-0), Virginia (3-0), Florida State (3-0).
Big 10 (5) - Michigan State (4-0), Minnesota (4-0), Penn State (4-0), Wisconsin (4-0), Indiana (3-0).
Big 12 (8) - Iowa State (3-0), Kansas (3-0), Kansas State (3-0), Nebraska (3-0), Baylor (3-0), Oklahoma State (3-0), Texas (3-0), Texas Tech (3-0).
Big East (1) - West Virginia (4-0).
CUSA (1) - UTEP (3-0).
MAC (1) - Toledo (3-0)
PAC-10 (4) - California (4-0), Southern California (3-0), UCLA (3-0),Washington State (3-0).
SEC - (4) Florida (4-0), Georgia (4-0), Vanderbilt (4-0), Alabama (4-0).

No undefeated teams remain in the Mountain West, Sun Belt or WAC conferences and all three independent schools have at least 1 loss.

Winless Teams:
13 teams were winless at this stage last year, led by the Sun Belt and MAC with 6 apiece. This year, there are 12 teams beginning the week with goose eggs in the win column and the Sun Belt and MAC join the WAC with 3 teams each.

By the way, 8 of those 13 teams picked up their first victory the following week.

CUSA (1) - Rice (0-2).
Independents (2) - Navy (0-2), Army (0-3).
MAC (3) - Buffalo (0-3), Temple (0-4), Ball State (0-3).
Sun Belt (3) - FIU (0-3), Middle Tennessee (0-3), FAU (0-4).
WAC (3) - Louisiana Tech (0-2), New Mexico St. (0-4), Idaho (0-4).

Catholic Bias?: Notre Dame ranks 37th in the unbiased Congrove Computer Rankings (CCR Top 119) but no worse than 14th in the voter polls. Boston College ranks 32nd in the computer (ahead of Notre Dame) but no worse than 23rd in the voter polls (behind Notre Dame in all of them). Both teams are 3-1. Is there a pro-Catholic bias among voters, and even stronger Notre Dame bias? Just curious.

Spuds McDummy:
If you haven't already heard this, take a seat. Apparently one of the voters in the new Harris Poll ranked Idaho, an 0-4 team, 21st on his ballot. I say "apparently" because Idaho received 5 points and I can not image that more than one person would take their responsibility as a voter so lightly. Then again, when I see Illinois received 13 points and Arizona got 10, I have to wonder. Can you image how awful it would be if the same voter was responsible for all of that nonsense. That would mean he had Illinois 13th, Arizona 16th and Idaho 21st. Pardon me while I scream. Aaaarrrrggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

Pick On Someone Your Own Size:
Only 2 teams play 1-AA schools this week. Last week, there were 5 such match-ups and there have been 46 played to date. The 1-A schools are 44-2 thus far (95.65%).

From the beginning of the 2003 season through Saturday, 1-AA teams are 18-156 in such games, an 89.65 losing percentage.

Streaks: USC owns the nation's longest winning streak at 25. The Trojans also have streaks of 22 straight home wins and 16 consecutive PAC-10 victories. They have won 36 of their last 37 games. USC heads to Arizona State this week.

Boise State owns nation-leading streaks of 26 straight home wins and 26 straight conference victories. The Broncos visit Hawaii this week.

Iowa has won 20 straight home games. The Hawkeyes host Illinois on Monday.

North Texas has won 26 straight over Sun Belt conference opponents. UNT has also won four consecutive Sun Belt titles as they have topped the conference in every year of its existence. However, they have lost 9 straight to non-conference foes. North Texas is idle this week and hosts Troy on October 4.

Army and Rice each own the nation's longest losing streak at 8. The Owls are at UAB this week. Army hosts Connecticut.

Idaho has lost 6 straight and is the only team that two new head coaches have beaten so far - Ty Willingham at Washington and Mike Sanford at UNLV. The Spuds (I mean, Vandals) host another team this week that has a new head coach as Utah State comes to town. Utah State beat UNLV last week.

New Coaches: The 2005 season began with 23 coaching changes.
BYU, Marshall, Pittsburgh and San Jose State have not beaten a 1-A team yet. Western Michigan notched their first win over a 1-A team in their last 14 tries by beating Temple 19-16 last week.

New Mexico State is still looking for its first win over anybody under Hal Mumme.

This past week, Dave Wannstedt got his first victory as Pittsburgh's head coach with a 41-0 rout of 1-AA Youngstown State and Utah State's Brent Guy got in the win column with a 31-24 victory over UNLV.

In a strange twist, Stanford beat 1-A Navy in their first game but lost to 1-AA UC-Davis in their second outing under Walt Harris.

Here is a list of teams that began the year with a new head coach, how they have fared so far, and who they face this week:.

BYU, 1-2 under Bronco Mendenhall, at San Diego State.
East Carolina, 1-2 under Skip Holtz, vs. Southern Miss.
Florida, 4-0 under Urban Meyer, at Alabama.
Illinois, 2-2 under Ron Zook, at Iowa.
Indiana, 3-0 under Terry Hoeppner, at Wisconsin.
LSU, 1-1 under Les Miles, at Mississippi State.
Marshall, 1-2 under Mark Snyder, vs. SMU.
Miami, O., 1-2 under Shane Montgomery, vs. Cincinnati (Wednesday).
Mississippi, 1-2 under Ed Orgeron, at Tennessee.
Nevada-Las Vegas, 1-3 under Mike Sanford, at Wyoming.
New Mexico St., 0-4 under Hal Mumme, at Louisiana Tech.
Notre Dame, 3-1 under Charlie Weis, at Purdue.
Ohio, 2-2 under Frank Solich, idle.
Okla. St, 3-0 under Mike Gundy,vs. Colorado.
Pittsburgh, 1-3 under Dave Wannstedt, at Rutgers (Friday).
San Jose St., 1-2 under Dick Tomey, vs. Nevada.
South Carolina, 2-2 under Steve Spurrier, at Auburn.
Stanford, 1-1 under Walt Harris, vs. Oregon.
Syracuse, 1-2 under Greg Robinson, at Florida State.
Utah, 3-1 under Kyle Whittingham, at North Carolina.
Utah State, 1-1 under Brent Guy, at Idaho.
Washington, 1-3 under Ty Willingham, at UCLA.
Western Michigan, 2-2 under Bill Cubit, vs. Buffalo.


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