Welcome to the Age of Parity in college football.
This is the era that will be written about years from now. The time when college football transformed from a top-heavy, dynasty-laden sport to one in which upsets rule and anybody really can beat anybody.
Remember the days when you could pencil in most of the Top 25 for wins against any non-ranked opponent?
Remember the days when the athletes at big-time conferences were just too big and too physical for smaller schools to compete with?
Remember the days when you had never even heard of Appalachian State?
Well, those days are long gone, my friend. The new era of topsy-turvy, BCS-busting football has arrived.
For better or worse, we can no longer guarantee wins for top-flight teams against bottom-feeders—even within conferences.
Take the SEC, for example. While the top teams (Florida, LSU) still dominate, have you noticed the strides made by once-defunct programs like Ole Miss and Vanderbilt?
Even FBS (formerly Division I) teams are in danger when playing FCS (formerly Division II) teams, these days. In the first two weeks of the 2009 season, four FBS teams have fallen to FCS opponents.
And the powerful BCS is looking less and less dominant, too.
Last weekend alone, six BCS conference teams (Colorado, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Virginia, Washington State, Kansas State) were upended by teams from non-BCS leagues (Toledo, Central Michigan, Houston, TCU, Hawaii, Louisiana-Lafayette, respectively).
And this, of course, was just a building block on top of what happened the previous weekend, when Boise State beat Pac-10 favorite Oregon and BYU stunned No. 3 Oklahoma.
So, now that we’re all getting accustomed to such shock and awe on a weekly basis, there’s only one logical question: Which teams will be victims of parity this week?
Could it be No. 8 Cal traveling to take on 2-0 Minnesota? Could it be No. 24 North Carolina, facing feisty East Carolina in Chapel Hill? Could Toledo back up a dominant win over Colorado with a stunner against No. 11 Ohio State?
And could Lane Kiffin’s young Tennessee Volunteers ride the upset wave and shock college football with a win in Gainesville over No. 1 Florida?
Okay...maybe there’s not that much parity. But you get the point.
To Week Three we go...
Looking Back (My Week Two Picks)
Overall: 8/13 (18/29 on the season)
Top Five: 3/5 (5/10 on the season)
Upset Special (UNLV over Oregon State): 0/1 (1/2 on the season)
Top Five Games To Watch This Weekend
5. No. 3 USC at Washington (Sat. 3:30 EST, ABC)
Really? This game is a top five game to watch this weekend?
Here’s why: USC is coming off an emotional, physical win over Ohio State last weekend, and a letdown seems likely. Secondly, the Trojans have been susceptible to losing to mediocre Pac-10 teams in recent years. And finally, don’t you think Steve Sarkisian, who came to Washington following eight years on the USC sidelines, would love to be the one who upends his former team’s title hopes?
No, I’m not saying the Huskies will win. I’m just saying it might be a lot closer than Vegas odds makers say it will. Keep an eye on this one.
Prediction: USC 38, Washington 27
4. Texas Tech at No. 2 Texas (Sat. 8:00 EST, ABC)
You want points? This is your game to watch this weekend.
Texas Tech averaged 44.6 points per game last season, fourth best in the nation. The Longhorns weren’t too bad either, averaging 43.9 points, just one spot below the Red Raiders in the national rankings.
Oh, and this one has a little bit of a storyline, too. Texas Tech (and Michael Crabtree’s legendary touchdown catch) was all that stood in the way of the Longhorns playing for a Big 12 and, potentially, national title last season. Colt and Co. want revenge.
Prediction: Texas 41, Texas Tech 24
3. Tennessee at No. 1 Florida (Sat. 3:30 EST, CBS)
Lane Kiffin, I feel bad for you.
You provoked a sleeping giant with comments in the offseason, promising Vols fans a win over the mighty Gators. Then you accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating on recruiting, though Meyer was later cleared of all wrongdoing. And now your young team, fresh off a home loss to UCLA, travels to Gainesville to take on arguably one of the best college football teams in history.
Let’s be clear: This one isn’t a game to watch because it will be close. Frankly, I’ll take Temple’s chances to beat Penn State at Happy Valley over the Vols’ chances in Gainesville.
But this one will be fun to watch to see just how badly Meyer and his Gators run up the scoreboard on Kiffin: 50 points? 60? 70?
Prediction: Florida 58, Tennessee 16
2. No. 14 Georgia Tech at No. 20 Miami (Thurs. 7:30 EST, ESPN)
This week’s Thursday night matchup promises to be a dandy.
Georgia Tech, which needed a late field goal to get past Clemson at home last week, lays its ACC title hopes on the line against a surprising Miami team, which got a week off following an impressive win over Florida State in Week One.
Miami has lost four consecutive games to Georgia Tech, and last year’s 41-23 loss in Atlanta was really never close. But this may be a new Miami team. If QB Jacory Harris plays as well as he did against the Seminoles, the Hurricanes absolutely can win this game.
Prediction: Miami 27, Georgia Tech 24
1. No. 19 Nebraska at No. 13 Virginia Tech (Sat. 3:30 EST, ABC)
This game intrigues me for a lot of reasons.
First, Virginia Tech is in need of an impressive win over a ranked opponent after an opening week loss to Alabama. Secondly, this game should show us just how good a 2-0 Nebraska team (whose wins are over Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State) really is.
Lastly, do you remember this game a season ago? The Huskers mounted a huge comeback late in the game to make it very interesting in Lincoln. This is a confident Nebraska team looking for its signature win. If the Hokies aren't careful, Saturday night may prove to be just that.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Nebraska 21
Northwestern at Syracuse (Sat. 7:00 EST):
Hey, give the Orange some credit. Syracuse has opened its first season under new coach Doug Marrone with competitive losses against Minnesota (23-20 in OT) and Penn State (28-7 in Happy Valley).
I know, only at Syracuse would anything called “competitive losses” be seen as a great thing.
But the moral of the story is that the Orange are playing surprisingly well so far this year, and the squad is hungry (more like starving) for a win. Meanwhile, Northwestern comes off a less-than-stellar home win over Eastern Michigan.
Hey, the Orange has to get a win sometime, right?
Prediction: Syracuse 20, Northwestern 19
For Your Viewing Pleasure
No. 10 Boise State at Fresno State (Fri. 9:00 EST, ESPN): Boise State 30, Fresno State 23
No. 8 California at Minnesota (Sat. Noon EST, ESPN): Cal 28, Minnesota 21
East Carolina at No. 24 North Carolina (Sat. Noon EST, ESPN2): North Carolina 26, ECU 14
Michigan State at Notre Dame (Sat. 3:30 EST, NBC): Michigan State 24, Notre Dame 20
Tulsa at No. 12 Oklahoma (Sat. 3:30 EST, FSN): Oklahoma 35, Tulsa 24
No. 18 Utah at Oregon (Sat. 3:30 EST, ESPN): Oregon 33, Utah 30
Arizona at Iowa (Sat. 3:35 EST, ABC): Iowa 21, Arizona 10
No. 17 Cincinnati at Oregon State (Sat. 6:45 EST, FSN): Oregon State 31, Cincinnati 21
West Virginia at Auburn (Sat. 7:45 EST, ESPN2): Auburn 34, West Virginia 26
No. 23 Georgia at Arkansas (Sat. 7:45 EST, ESPN): Georgia 27, Arkansas 22
Tim Tebow (QB—Florida)
Maybe this is a little too obvious, but the Gators are going to put up some serious points Saturday against Tennessee (3:30 EST, CBS). And if you haven’t noticed, Tebow is kind of one of the Gators’ star players. The Heisman contender is due for a big breakout game, and he will have no more motivation to grind a team into the ground than this weekend in Gainesville.
Look out, Lane Kiffin.