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College Football Season

Rivalries, Key Conference Matches Take Center Stage

Stanford-Cal, Michigan State-Michigan, FSU-Miami Renew Animosities

by Dave Congrove
October 16, 2012

For each of the next two weeks, the college football schedule kicks off on Tuesday with Louisiana-Lafayette featured in Sun Belt Conference battles. The Ragin' Cajuns visit North Texas this week and host Arkansas State next week.

A pair of Thursday battles this week features a PAC-12 showdown when North division co-leader Oregon (6-0, 3-0) visits South division leader Arizona State (5-1, 3-0) as a 12.09-point favorite in my Congrove Computer Rankings. Houston heads to SMU as a tight 0.65-point choice in the other Thursday game and Syracuse entertains UConn as a 1.49-point favorite in a Friday night Big East clash.

On Saturday, the action heats up with traditional rivalries such as "The Big Game" with Stanford visiting Cal, Michigan State at Michigan for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, and Florida State visiting Miami with both teams clinging to ACC title hopes.

There is also North Carolina at Duke for the Victory Bell, and the 95th meeting of Alabama at Tennessee.

The computer says those rivalry winners should be Stanford by 7.82, the Wolverines by 10.75, the Seminoles by 18.61, the Tar Heels by 4.90 and the Tide by 14.83.

Key conference battles take place in the SEC with LSU traveling to Texas A&M as a 3.14-point underdog and Florida hosting South Carolina as a scant 0.18-point favorite.

Another instrumental ACC battle takes place in Clemson when Virginia Tech visits the Tigers. Clemson won both meetings last year on its way to the conference championship and Orange Bowl berth and the Tigers get a 5.11-point nod from the computer in this week's matchup.

Rutgers is a 5.23-point favorite at Temple in a game that could go a long way toward determining the Big East title. The Scarlet Knights and Owls are among four Big East teams without a conference loss while Louisville and Cincinnati join Rutgers with overall undefeated marks.

In the Big Ten, Iowa hosts Penn State with both schools at 4-2 overall but 2-0 in conference play. The game means more to Iowa in regards to postseason opportunities since the Nittany Lions are on probation and the computer gives the Hawkeyes a slim 2.74-point advantage.

In the Big 12, Kansas State makes another dangerous road trip after winning at Oklahoma three weeks ago and Iowa State last Saturday. This trip finds the Wildcats putting their unblemished record on the line at West Virginia as the Mountaineers look to rebound from an embarrassing 49-14 loss at Texas Tech. The computer likes K-State by 1.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech heads to TCU for the first meeting between these former Southwest Conference rivals since 2006. The Horned Frogs are coming off a big win at Baylor in which they took advantage of 6 turnovers by the Bears. The computer likes TCU in this battle of 5-1 teams by 5.61.

Among Independents, Notre Dame gets a bit of a reprieve in hosting a BYU team that has struggled to find an offense in a 4-3 start. Last week, the usually reliable defense also broke down in a 42-24 home loss to Oregon State. This week, the Irish are a 10.83-point computer pick.

The best battles in the Mountain West find Nevada entertaining San Diego State and Air Force hosting New Mexico. The Wolf Pack are unbeaten in conference play, along with Boise State. The Falcons, Aztecs and Lobos each have just one conference loss. Nevada is only a 2.49-point choice over SDSU while Air Force is a seemingly comfortable 8-point pick over New Mexico. However, the resurgent Lobos are 4-3 overall in Bob Davie's first season as head coach and the inconsistent Falcons should be on upset alert.

In another top PAC-12 contest this week, the computer calls for a Utah upset win by 0.78 points at North division co-leader Oregon State.

In the Sun Belt, Western Kentucky hosts Louisiana-Monroe with the Hilltoppers favored by 8.32. WKU has only lost 2 of its last 14 games and those came at Alabama this year and LSU last season. Both teams own an overtime victory over an SEC team this season with Western Kentucky winning at Kentucky and UL-M beating Arkansas in Little Rock.

In the WAC, Louisiana Tech is a 36.22-point favorite over visiting Idaho after Saturday's 59-57 loss to Texas A&M came down to a missed 2-point conversion in Shreveport. It will be the conference opener for the Bulldogs in a league that has just 7 teams (only 5 that can compete for the conference title) and will no longer sponsor football after the 2012 season. Utah State appears to be Louisiana Tech's strongest challenger for the title and the Aggies are a 23.15-point favorite over New Mexico State.

The Notre Dame defense has played 16 complete quarters without surrendering a touchdown since the 4th quarter of the Purdue game on September 8 and opponents have scored just 52 points in 6 games. Meanwhile, Alabama opponents have managed to score a total of 45 points through 6 games.

The unbeaten list was whittled down to 12 last week with losses by South Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana Tech and UTSA. It is somewhat surprising that 3 of the remaining undefeated teams reside in the Big East with Cincinnati at 5-0 while Louisville and Rutgers are 6-0. It isn't so surprising that 3 of the remaining undefeated teams are from the SEC with Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State all standing at 6-0. Two PAC-12 teams are still in the clear with Oregon at 6-0 and, shockingly, Oregon State at 5-0. Kansas State is the last team standing in the Big 12 and Ohio State is the only unblemished squad in the Big Ten. Independent Notre Dame and Mid-American Conference member Ohio round out the list.

Tulane took itself off the winless list with a 27-26 home upset over SMU. That leaves just three schools searching for a breakthrough win - Eastern Michigan, UMass and Southern Miss.

According to the movement in actual power ratings over the first half of the season, here are the five most under-rated teams in the preseason and the amount of power points added by their on-field performance.

Mississippi +14.076
Akron +13.645
Arizona State +13.022
Kansas +12.583
Middle Tennessee +11.271

Here are the five most over-rated teams in the preseason and the amount of power points lost by their on-field performance.

FIU -10.755
Auburn -10.607
Southern Mississippi -10.235
Arkansas -8.820
Utah -8.238

FBS vs. FCS:
The FBS went 1-0 vs. the FCS last week to improve to 89-10 (.899) on the year as Cincinnati beat Fordham 49-17. Since 2003, FBS schools are 727-65 (.918) in such games.

This week's schedule is void of any FBS vs. FCS matchups.

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.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/29: Stony Brook 23, Army 3
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

Alabama - Won 10 straight overall. Visits Tennessee on Saturday.

Oregon - Won 9 straight overall and 12 straight road games. Visits Arizona State on Thursday.

Northern Illinois - Won 11 straight conference games (MAC), 19 straight home games and 6 straight overall. Visits Akron on Saturday.

LSU - 22 straight home wins and 41 straight nonconference wins. Visits Texas A&M on Saturday.

Michigan - Won 11 straight home games. Hosts Michigan State on Saturday.

Eastern Michigan - Lost 8 straight overall. Hosts Army on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 23 straight road games, 17 straight FBS games and 11 straight conference games (MAC). Hosts Northern Illinois on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 15 straight FBS games, 15 straight conference games and 15 straight road games. Visits Oklahoma on Saturday.

UNLV - Lost 18 straight road games. Visits Boise State 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 (1-6) Saturday vs. Northern Illinois
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (3-3) Saturday vs. Washington
Arizona State Todd Graham (5-1) Thursday vs. Oregon
Arkansas John L. Smith (3-4) 10/27 vs. Mississippi (Little Rock)
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (4-3) 10/23 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Colorado State Jim McElwain (1-6) 10/27 vs. Hawaii
FAU Carl Pellini (1-5) Saturday at South Alabama
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (4-3) Saturday vs. Wyoming
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-5) 10/27 at Colorado State
Houston Tony Levine (3-3) Thursday at SMU
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-5) 10/27 vs. Indiana
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-5) Saturday at Oklahoma
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (0-6) Saturday vs. Bowling Green
Memphis Justin Fuente (1-5) Saturday vs. UCF
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (4-3) 10/27 vs. Arkansas (Little Rock)
New Mexico Bob Davie (4-3) Saturday at Air Force
North Carolina Larry Fedora (5-2) Saturday at Duke
Ohio State Urban Meyer (7-0) Saturday vs. Purdue
Penn State Bill O'Brien (4-2) Saturday at Iowa
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (2-4) Saturday at Buffalo
Rutgers Kyle Flood (6-0) Saturday at Temple
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-6) Saturday vs. Marshall
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (5-1) Saturday vs. LSU
Toledo Matt Campbell (6-1) Saturday vs. Cincinnati
Tulane Curtis Johnson (1-5) Saturday at UTEP
UAB Garrick McGee (1-5) Saturday vs. East Carolina
UCLA Jim Mora (5-2) 10/27 at Arizona State
Washington State Mike Leach (2-5) 10/27 at Stanford


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