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College Football Season

Few Marquee Games, But Abundance of Close Matchups

The computer says half of this week's games will be decided by less than a TD

by Dave Congrove
October 12, 2011 (Updated 10/14/11)

The weekly forecast from the Congrove Computer Rankings has exactly half of this week's 50 games being decided by less than a touchdown, including all three Thursday and Friday night games - San Diego State at Air Force, USC at California and Hawaii at San Jose State.

The heavyweight action is all on Saturday, but the heavyweight result comes in Sunday when the first BCS Standings of 2011 are released.

PAC-12 division favorites Oregon and Arizona State square off at Autzen Stadium in Eugene with the Ducks favored by 12.67. Oregon may be without Heisman hopeful RB LaMichael James after the nation's leading rusher injured his right arm in last Saturday's 43-15 win over Cal. Oregon, the No. 9 team in this week's CCR Top 120 is 4-1 with its only loss coming against LSU in Cowboys Stadium on opening weekend. Arizona State, ranked 23rd, is 5-1 with the lone setback suffered at undefeated Illinois in week 3.

Speaking of Illinois, the computer's 13th-ranked team is a mere 1.47-point computer favorite to stop a 3-game skid against Big Ten rival Ohio State which has fallen all the way to No. 55 after obtaining a high rank of 19th on September 11. The Buckeyes have won 6 of the last 7 confrontations with the Illini, and 11 of the last 14. But Ohio State is just 3-3 with losses to Miami (Fla.), Michigan State and Nebraska in 3 of its last 4 games. Last week, the Buckeyes lost 34-27 at Nebraska after owning a 27-6 lead midway through the 3rd quarter.

The top seven teams in the computer rankings are all double-digit favorites, even though six of them hit the road to face conference opposition. The top three teams are favored by 28 points or more as Oklahoma is a 35.44-point choice at Kansas, No. 2 Alabama is a 28.30-point pick at Ole Miss, and No. 3 Boise State is projected to win by 34.89 at Colorado State.

No. 4 LSU is given a 19.09-point advantage on its first visit to Tennessee since 2006.

Even 5th-ranked Oklahoma State gets a relatively large cushion at No. 25 Texas. The Cowboys are a 10.49-point favorite, even though it would only be their 4th win ever against the Longhorns. Before last year's 33-16 triumph, Oklahoma State hadn't defeated Texas in Austin since 1944.

No. 6 Wisconsin is the highest-ranked team to draw a home game this week. The Badgers host Indiana as they return to action after catching a breather last week. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they're visiting the team that hung 83 points on them last year in Bloomington. Surprisingly, Wisconsin is only getting a 33.22-point forecasted win.

No. 7 Stanford has an intriguing road date with surprising Washington State (3-2, 1-1). A 28-25 loss at UCLA last week may have cooled some of the enthusiasm from the Cougar faithful, though Wazzu has already achieved its highest season victory total since 2007. The Cardinal are forecasted to win by 17.73 after taking a 10-point win at home last year.

That brings us to the 104th meeting of Michigan and Michigan State. The annual rivalry moves to East Lansing where the homestanding, 16th-ranked Spartans are a 1.79-point computer choice to score their 4th straight win over the 8th-ranked Wolverines. It's the first time Michigan State has won three straight in the series since 1965-1967 and they haven't won four straight since 1959-1962. The Wolverines had won six in-a-row before State turned the tide.

Michigan enters the game undefeated (6-0), just as did it did in 2010 and 2009. The Wolverines were 5-0 last year before a 34-17 home loss began a 2-6 slide. Michigan was 4-0 in 2009 before a 26-20 overtime road loss instigated a 1-7 spiral.

No. 10 Clemson takes it undefeated team to Maryland to face a Terrapin team whose only FBS victim was Miami (Fla.). Since that opening weekend win over the Hurricanes, Maryland has only managed a win over FCS member Towson and was blown out 38-7 at home by Temple. However, the Terrapins did manage to put up a fight at unbeaten Georgia Tech last week before falling 21-16. Tiger QB Tajh Boyd injured his hip in the 3rd quarter of last week's 36-14 win over Boston College, but is expected to start after returning to practice on Tuesday. Clemson is a 7.53-point computer favorite.

11th-ranked Arkansas, 12th-ranked Houston and 14th-ranked Nebraska are all idle.

15th-ranked South Carolina, which kicked QB Stephen Garcia off the team after failing a drug test, will start Connor Shaw for the second straight week when the Gamecocks visit Mississippi State as a slim 0.34-point favorite. Garcia was a 5th-year senior who was 20-14 as a starter. He ranks 3rd on South Carolina's career records list for TD passes, as well as passing yards and completions. More importantly, he leaves with a degree in sociology.

No. 17 Kansas State is an 8.82-point underdog at No. 19 Texas Tech. The undefeated Wildcats are coming off a 24-17 home win over Missouri while the Red Raiders dropped a tough 45-40 decision at home to Texas A&M last week.

Meanwhile, 18th-ranked A&M is a whopping 15.10-point computer favorite over RG3 and 26th-ranked Baylor. RG3, of course, is Baylor QB Robert Griffin III who had more TD passes than incompletions through his first three games, but it was his untimely interception that helped Kansas State beat the Bears 36-35 two weeks ago. Baylor rebounded from that setback with a 49-26 win over Iowa State last week and Griffin's numbers are still ridiculous as he's completed 80.4% of his passes with 19 TD's, just 28 incompletions, and that one costly pick.

FAU plays its first home game when it hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday, six weeks after the season began. The Owls played at Florida, Michigan State, Auburn, Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas to begin head coach Howard Schnellenberger's last season at the Boca Raton school.

The top three rushing teams in the nation statistically are Navy, Air Force and Army in that order.

At one point during last week's game at Tennessee, Georgia was faced with a 3rd-and-57.

TCU is off to the Big 12, not the Big East. The reality is that the Big 12 is where they always belonged after the Southwest Conference folded. Since then, the Horned Frogs have been football's gypsies, moving to the WAC in 1996, Conference USA in 2001, and the Mountain West in 2005. TCU had accepted a Big East invitation on November 30, 2010.

The Big East is looking to add Air Force and Boise State from the Mountain West, along with Houston, SMU and UCF from Conference USA. Navy is also being courted by the Big East. In response, the Mountain West and CUSA are talking merger as an incentive for all of those members to stay put.

Mike Stoops became the second head coach to be fired when Arizona, 1-5 this season and winless vs. FBS schools, dumped him on Monday. Personally, I never liked his sideline demeanor as he usually looked like he was going to implode at any second. I am surprised he lasted 7-1/2 seasons when he only won 41-of-91 games and was just 27-38 in conference contests. Defensive coordinator Tim Kish was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Four teams are now operating under interim head coaches - Arizona (Tim Kish), New Mexico (George Barlow), North Carolina (Everett Withers) and Ohio State (Luke Fickell).

Two days after Western Kentucky (1-4, 1-1) scored a 36-33 double-overtime win over Middle Tennessee, Hilltopper RB Antonio Andrews used Twitter to question whether WKU fans could be as loyal as they need to be to grow the program and criticized those who "said we suck and will never win a game." Though it appears he said some things that head coach Willie Taggart himself should express, Taggart instead responded by suspending him for a game. Political correctness gets in the way of Western Kentucky's chance to win a second straight game when it visits winless FAU (0-5, 0-2) on Saturday.

FBS vs. FCS:
For the second straight week, there are no games on the schedule that pit FBS teams against FCS schools. Eight such games are yet to be played with the FBS currently owning a record of 83-6 (.933) against the FCS this season, and a lopsided mark of 630-55 (.920) since 2003.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/24: North Dakota St. 37, Minnesota 24
9/24: Sam Houston State 48, New Mexico 45 (OT)
9/24: Southern Utah41, UNLV 16
9/17: Indiana State 44, Western Kentucky 16
9/3: Richmond 23, Duke 21
9/3: Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28

93 FBS teams play a total of 97 games against FCS foes this year. Four schools play two such games - Air Force, Eastern Michigan, N.C. State and Wyoming.

Boise State - Has streaks of 7 overall wins, 34 home wins, 64 regular season home wins, and 46 straight conference home victories. BSU joined the Mountain West this season. The Broncos left the WAC having never lost at home to a fellow WAC member (40-0). Boise State's 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 7-1 in their last eight matches with BCS conference schools. (Next: at Colorado State on Saturday).

Stanford - 13 straight wins overall. (Next: at Washington State on Saturday).

Oklahoma - 10 straight wins overall and 39 straight home victories. (Next: at Kansas on Saturday).

TCU - 19-game conference winning streak. (Next: vs. New Mexico on Saturday, October 22).

Virginia Tech - 9-game road winning streak. (Next: at Wake Forest on Saturday).

Memphis - 14 straight losses vs. FBS schools. (Next: vs. East Carolina on Saturday).

New Mexico - 8 straight losses overall and 17 straight road losses. (Next: at Nevada on Saturday).

FAU - 8 straight losses overall. (Next: vs. Western Kentucky on Saturday).

Colorado - 19 straight road losses. (Next: at Washington on Saturday).

On Monday, Arizona fired Mike Stoops and named defensive coordinator Tim Kish as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

On September 25th, New Mexico fired Mike Locksley and named defensive coordinator George Barlow as interim head coach through the end of the season.

24 FBS teams entered the college football season with a new head coach. Last season saw 23 new head coaches, only 8 of whom matched or exceeded the W-L record of their predecessors' final season.

Two of the schools with a new head coach are undefeated, thus far - Michigan and Stanford. Only 14 of them have defeated a school from the "Big 6" conferences - Ball State, Florida, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, North Carolina, North Texas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Stanford, Temple, Vanderbilt and West Virginia.

Three games this week send new head coaches against each other - Miami (Ohio) at Kent State, North Texas at Louisiana-Lafayette and Miami (Fla.) at North Carolina.

Here are this week's games for each new head coach:

Team Coach Game
Arkansas State Hugh Freeze (4-2) Idle
Ball State Pete Lembo (3-3) at Ohio
Colorado Jon Embree (1-5) at Washington
Connecticut Paul Pasqualoni (2-4) vs. USF
Florida Will Muschamp (4-2) at Auburn
Indiana Kevin Wilson (1-5) at Wisconsin
Kent State Darrell Hazell (1-5) vs. Miami (O.)
Louisiana-Lafayette Mark Hudspeth (5-1) vs. North Texas
Maryland Randy Edsall (2-3) vs. Clemson
Miami (Fla.) Al Golden (2-3) at North Carolina
Miami (O.) Don Treadwell (1-4) at Kent State
Michigan Brady Hoke (6-0) at Michigan State
Minnesota Jerry Kill (1-5) Idle
North Carolina Everett Withers (Interim) (5-1) vs. Miami (Fla.)
North Texas Dan McCarney (2-4) at Louisiana-Lafayette
Northern Illinois Dave Doeren (3-3) vs. Western Michigan
Ohio State Luke Fickell (Interim) (3-3) at Illinois
Pittsburgh Todd Graham (3-3) vs. Utah
San Diego St. Rocky Long (3-2) at Air Force (Thursday)
Stanford David Shaw (5-0) at Washington State
Temple Steve Addazio (4-2) vs. Buffalo
Tulsa Bill Blankenship (2-3) vs. UAB
Vanderbilt James Franklin (3-2) vs. Georgia
West Virginia Dana Holgorsen (5-1) Idle


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