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Week Nine Preview

by Mike Mitchell and Dave Congrove
October 20, 2008

There are 50 games on this week's college football schedule, 23 of which the computer says will be decided by fewer than five points. What's more, the computer forecasts 14 upsets.

It all begins Tuesday night with a ho-hum MAC game, and concludes Sunday with a chance for America to see the wide open offense of Tulsa.

In between, the Big 12 could go from three undefeated teams to one; Penn State and Ohio State will battle for a leg-up on the rest of the Big Ten, and the ACC will try to find itself.

On Tuesday, Ohio visits Temple with both teams sporting 2-5 records. The Owls have lost three games by four points or less. Both teams are precisely on target with the computer's preseason forecasts.

On Thursday, New Mexico goes to Air Force as a 3.49-point computer favorite. The so-called "experts" favor the Falcons by 6. The Lobos have been impossible to figure out this season. On the positive side, they defeated Arizona earlier in the year, and are coming off of a 70-7 win over a San Diego State team that Air Force beat 35-10 the week before. On the negative side, they were crushed at home by TCU in the opener and failed to beat Texas A&M as a 10-point computer favorite.

Also on Thursday, Auburn visits West Virginia in a game which has lost virtually all of its' luster. On opening weekend, the Congrove Computer Rankings had Auburn 12th and West Virginia 13th. They opened at 11th and 8th, respectively in the Coaches' poll. Now, the CCR has the 4-3 Tigers ranked 43rd and the 4-2 Mountaineers ranked 29th.

On Friday, Boise State visits San Jose State. The Spartans are 3-0 in the WAC. The Broncos are 2-0. Boise State is favored by 7, and projected by the computer to win by 14.96. BSU's last two trips to San Jose have been extremely close with the Broncos eking out a 23-20 win in 2006, and needing double overtime to escape with a 56-49 victory in 2004.

Saturday, we can lick our college football-loving chops over the arrival of several great matchups.

For starters, Oklahoma State visits Texas. This will mark the the third straight week that the Longhorns have had to face a top-10 team. They have already defeated Oklahoma when the Sooners were ranked 1st in the CCR Top 120, and they dismissed 9th-ranked Missouri last week. Now, the Cowboys head to Austin as the No. 6 team in the BCS Standings. The Longhorns are favored by the 13 and the computer picks them by 15.48.

Texas Tech is the third undefeated team in the Big 12, but the Red Raiders will have their hands full on a journey to Kansas. Texas Tech has duel Heisman candidates in quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. The Jayhawks have quarterback Todd Reesing, and the backing of both the oddsmakers (-2) and the computer (-3.41).

Penn State and Ohio State vie for first place in the Big Ten. Both enter the tilt at Columbus with 4-0 conference records. Ohio State is coming off its' most impressive win of the year, a 45-7 rout of Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have been impressive all year. Penn State was installed as a 2-point favorite, but the computer sides with the Buckeyes by 2.47.

Ty Willingham will try not to let his last employer help him get fired from his current employer. Willingham's Washington Huskies host Notre Dame this week. Washington is tied with North Texas for the nation's current longest losing streak at 8 games. The Irish are an 11-point choice of the oddsmakers, but only a 4.78-point pick by the computer.

Alabama puts its undefeated season on the line with a visit to Tennessee. The Crimson Tide is just 1-5 in its' last six trips to Knoxville with the lone victory coming in 2002. The Vols finally woke up last week and crushed Mississippi State 34-3. Alabama went to sleep in the second half and barely escaped with a 24-20 win over Ole Miss. Surprisingly, the computer takes the Volunteers by 1.46 points over the favored Tide (-7).

Michigan State goes to Ann Arbor with the opportunity to drop rival Michigan to 2-6 and in severe jeopardy of missing the bowl season for the first time since 1974. The Spartans are favored by 5-1/2, and projected by the computer as a 3.36-point winner.

Georgia (No. 7) and LSU (No. 13) are both in the top 13 of the BCS Standings. The homestanding Tigers are a 2-1/2-point favorite, but the computer likes the Bulldogs by 1.46.

The question in the ACC is, "Who is going to step up to lead the conference?".  It looked like it would be Virginia Tech. Even with a youthful team, the Hokies had won five straight and were undefeated in the ACC, until they lost at Boston College last week. And even though the Eagles beat Virginia Tech, it's hard to feel good about a team that won while committing five turnovers.

This weekend may help clear things up a bit.

Virginia Tech and Florida State each have just one ACC loss. The Seminoles are favored by 4-1/2, but the computer likes them by just 3.26. The Hokies haven't won in Tallahassee since 1974, but that only accounts for five losses because they haven't played there since 1990. In fact, until last year's game in Blacksburg (won 40-21 by Virginia Tech), the teams had played four consecutive games at neutral sites, including two bowl games, an ACC Championship, and a regular season match in Orlando.

Virginia and Georgia Tech have also lost just one ACC game, and the winner of this battle would emerge from the weekend as the clear Coastal division leader if Virginia Tech loses at FSU. The Yellow Jackets are a whopping 11-1/2-point favorite, but the computer only likes them by 3.71.

Other games to watch this week include Wake Forest at Miami (Fla.), Illinois at Wisconsin, Cincinnati at Connecticut, Kentucky at Florida, and USC at Arizona.

Wake is 4-2, and Miami just 4-3. Each team needs a win desperately. The 'Canes are favored by 3, but the computer projects the Demon Deacons by 2.64.

Wisconsin is on a four-game slide after getting out of the gates at 3-0. Illinois is just 4-3, 2-2 in the Big 10. The line favors the Illini by 1-1/2, but the computer sees the Badgers as a 3.95-point pick.

Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0) is one of only three Big East teams without a conference loss (West Virginia and Pitt are the others), but that could change this weekend on a visit to UConn (5-2, 1-1). The Bearcats are 4-0 all-time vs. the Huskies, but are a 1-point underdog this time around. The computer, however, favors the Bearcats to win by 1.67.

Kentucky hasn't won in Gainesville since 1986, losing 21 consecutive games to Florida. That must be why the Gators are favored by 24, and even the computer likes them by a hefty 16.57.

USC is a big 15-point favorite at Arizona and the computer gives them a 16.39-point margin. Still, it's an important PAC-10 game and worthy of our attention as these are two of the five conference teams with just one league loss. The Trojans have outscored their last three opponents (Oregon, Arizona State and Washington State) 141-10.

The week concludes on Sunday with a rematch of last year's CUSA title game (won by UCF) when UCF goes to Tulsa. These teams also played in the 2005 conference championship (won by Tulsa), and were the preseason picks to play for the title again this year. The Golden Hurricane are living up to their end of the bargain - they are undefeated and currently ranked 19th in the BCS Standings. The Golden Knights, however, are just 2-4 overall and 1-1 in CUSA. The potent Tulsa offense leads the nation with averages of over 56 points, and more than 624 yards, per game. Tulsa ranks 5th in passing, and 7th in rushing. UCF's defense ranks 86th against the pass, and 50th against the run.

UNBEATEN TEAMS:
9 teams are still undefeated: Alabama, Ball State, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Texas, Texas Tech, Tulsa, and Utah.

Only Hawaii made it through the 2007 regular season unscathed, and the Warriors were blown out 41-10 by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. It was the first season since 2002 that no team recorded a perfect record.

Boise State was the only team to finish the entire 2006 season undefeated, while Texas did it in 2005. Auburn, USC and Utah all had unblemished records in 2004.

WINLESS TEAMS:
2 teams remain winless - North Texas and Washington.

Last season, FIU beat North Texas in its final regular season game to avoid being the only winless team. FIU was one of two schools to go winless in 2006 (Duke was the other).

WINLESS AGIANST FBS:
8 teams have yet to beat a FBS school this season: Idaho, Kent State, North Texas, SMU, Syracuse, Washington, Washington State and Western Kentucky.

FBS vs. FCS:
The divisions were re-named late in 2006. 1-A was given the new moniker of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) while 1-AA was labeled the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

There are no games this week matching FBS schools with FCS teams.

FBS teams are 82-2 (.976) against FCS teams this season, and 372-37 (.910) since 2003.

Here are the losses by the FBS so far this season:
Cal Poly 29, San Diego State 27 (Week 1)
New Hampshire 28, Army 10 (Week 2)

This year, 82 different FBS teams will participate in a total of 87 games that will pit the FCS against the FBS. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Western Kentucky each play two such games.

ACC teams have more games versus FCS schools than any other conference. Here is the number of FCS games for each conference:

Conference Teams In Conf. Games vs. FCS Avg. Per Team
ACC 12 14 1.167
Big East 8 7 0.875
Big 12 12 10 0.833
Big 10 11 9 0.818
MWC 9 7 0.778
WAC 9 7 0.778
SEC 12 9 0.750
Independents 3 2 0.667
MAC 13 8 0.615
CUSA 12 7 0.583
Sun Belt 9 5 0.555
PAC-10 10 2 0.200
Totals 120 87 0.725

STREAKS:
Penn State has won 9 straight games. The Nittany Lions visit Ohio State.

Texas Tech has won 9 straight games. The Red Raiders visit Kansas

Utah has won 9 straight games. The Utes are idle.

Alabama, Oklahoma State, Texas and Tulsa have each won 8 straight games.

Boise State has won 47 consecutive regular season home games, and the Broncos have a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (30-0). Overall, they have won 36 straight conference home games since losing to Idaho in the final game of the 1998 season in the Big West. Boise State visits San Jose State on Friday night.

Oklahoma has won 21 straight home games. The Sooners visit Kansas State.

North Texas has lost 8 straight games. The Mean Green host Troy.

Washington has lost 8 straight games. The Huskies host Notre Dame.

Idaho has lost 22 straight to FBS schools. The Vandals host New Mexico State.

SMU has dropped 17 straight games to FBS teams. The Mustangs visit Navy.

Kent State has dropped 13 straight to FBS teams. The Golden Flashes visit Miami (Ohio).

NEW COACHES: The 2007 season featured 24 new head coaches. Nine led their team to a bowl game. This year, there were 18 coaching changes in the offseason, and one more took place when Tommy Bowden stepped down from Clemson on October 13.

Two teams have yet to defeat an FBS school - SMU, and Washington State.

Colorado State, Hawaii, Houston, Northern Illinois, SMU, Southern Miss, Texas A&M, and Washington State have yet to defeat a team from one of the "big 6" conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, PAC-10 or SEC).

Coaching Changes For 2008 Season
TEAM RECORD COACH THIS WEEK
Arkansas 3-4 Bobby Petrino 10/25, vs. Mississippi
Baylor 3-4 Art Briles 10/25, at Nebraska
Colorado State 3-4 Steve Fairchild 10/25, at San Diego State
Duke 3-3 David Cutcliffe 10/25, at Vanderbilt
Georgia Tech 6-1 Paul Johnson 10/25, vs. Virginia
Hawaii 3-4 Greg McMackin 10/25, vs. Nevada
Houston 4-3 Kevin Sumlin 10/28, at Marshall
Michigan 2-5 Rich Rodriguez 10/25, vs. Michigan State
Mississippi 3-4 Houston Nutt 10/25, at Arkansas
Navy 4-3 Ken Nuimatalolo 10/25, vs. SMU
Nebraska 4-3 Bo Pelini 10/25, vs. Baylor
Northern Illinois 4-3 Jerry Kill 10/25, vs. Bowling Green
SMU 1-7 June Jones 10/25, at Navy
Southern Miss 2-5 Larry Fedora 10/25, at Memphis
Texas A&M 2-5 Mike Sherman 10/25, at Iowa State
UCLA 3-4 Rick Neuheisel 10/25, at California
Washington State 1-7 Paul Wulff 11/1, at Stanford
West Virginia 4-2 Bill Stewart 10/23, vs. Auburn
Midseason Change:
Clemson 0-1 Dabo Swinney 11/1, at Boston College