Last week, I constructed a slideshow that took a stab at assembling a list of teams whose potential accomplishments for the upcoming college football season included avoiding a single loss.
This week, I play the role of Devil’s advocate, whereby I attempt to pinpoint the exact date and game when some of the nation’s top teams will ingest the bitter taste of defeat.
Without further ado...
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The Victim: Boise State
The Culprit: Virginia Tech
The Reason: A season-opening win over Oregon was the catalyst for a perfect run for the Broncos in 2009. The 19-8 victory not only kick-started BSU’s efforts, it further legitimized the program as a major player on the national scene.
But a new season brings all new challenges, not the least of which is proving you can beat a BCS opponent in its own backyard on national TV. Forget that they will encounter what should be a rowdy bipartisan crowd at Fed Ex Field on Labor Day (Sept. 6) in Washington D.C. What really matters is that Boise is 6-17 all-time against BCS opponents, while the Hokies have won six of their last 10 against ranked foes.
Runner-up: TCU loses to Oregon State (at Cowboys Stadium)
The Victim: Penn State
The Culprit: Alabama
The Reason: The game is in Tuscaloosa, where 90,000-plus maroon-clad fans will provide the X-factor. Otherwise, this game is a matchup between the irresistible force of Alabama’s 12th-ranked running game from 2009, led by reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram, and an immovable object — in this case the Nittany Lions’ stout run defense, which surrendered only 2.8 yards per carry a season ago.
Runner-up: Ohio State loses at home to Miami (Fl.)
The Victim: Nebraska
The Culprit: Washington
The Reason: Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who has excelled against stiff competition in the past.
Against six of the Huskies’ tougher opponents last season (LSU, USC, Notre Dame, Arizona, Oregon State, and California), Locker completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns versus only three picks.
Even without Ndamkong Suh, Nebraska’s defense has a chance to be better than each of those aforementioned units, but a special performance from Locker against the Top 10-ranked Huskers goes a long way in justifying his decision to forgo the 2010 NFL Draft.
Runner-up: North Carolina loses at home to Georgia Tech
The Victim: LSU
The Culprit: West Virginia
The Reason: Teams from the Big East have refrained from drinking the SEC’s Kool-Aid.
According to SECSportsFan.com, in games played between the 1990 and 2009 seasons, the Big East holds a 20-16 advantage over the SEC. Add in a 1-3 mark from 2009, and the Big East still has a winning record (21-19) over its brethren from the Southeastern Conference.
Per the site’s research, the Big East is only BCS conference that can claim a winning record versus what is perceived to be the nastiest in college football.
Runner-up: Alabama loses at Arkansas
The Victim: Texas or Oklahoma
The Culprit: Texas or Oklahoma
The Reason: As it tends to be from season to season, the Red River Rivalry will be a tossup in 2010. It will also, as it tends to from season to season, be played between two ranked teams in 2010.
Which means that regardless of the outcome, one team is going to suffer from some slippage in the polls. Just don't ask me which one.
Runner(s)-up: Florida loses at Alabama; Oregon loses at home to Stanford
The Victim: Notre Dame
The Culprit: Pittsburgh
The Reason: Notre Dame is not back to being Notre Dame, although you won’t be able to tell by looking at the polls.
With the exception of USC, Pittsburgh may very well be the most talented team the Irish face all season, particularly in South Bend. Sophomore running back Dion Lewis will give the Notre Dame front seven fits, but he won’t be the Panthers' lone assassin.
Defensive end Greg Romeus, last season’s Big East Defensive Player of the Year, will be a big enough terror to give first-year ND quarterback Dayne Crist a bad case of happy feet in the pocket.
Runner-up: Navy loses at Wake Forest
The Victim: Iowa
The Culprit: Michigan
The Reason: Because history says so.
Of the 55 meetings between the two teams, Michigan has won 40. Furthermore, Michigan — 30-28 losers in Iowa City in ’09 — has lost consecutive games to Iowa only once since the inception of the series in 1900.
And the cherry on top: Of Iowa’s 11 all-time wins against Michigan, only five have come in Ann Arbor, four of which predate the Gulf War.
Runner-up: Wisconsin loses at home to Ohio State
The Victim: Oklahoma
The Culprit: Missouri
The Reason: Homecoming, baby!
The inherent claim to fame for any MU loyalist is that the school was the originator of the tradition whereby alumni “come home” each fall. And in 2010, they should flock to Columbia in droves, as more than 71,000 or so will congregate at Faurot Field in the hopes that head coach Gary Pinkel secures his first win against the Sooners in seven tries.
Runner-up: Miami (Fl.) loses at home to North Carolina
The Victim: Utah
The Culprit: Air Force
The Reason: Air Force can run the ball — and do it well.
Even though it returns only five offensive starters, Air Force will be one of the top rushing offenses in the nation in 2010. Last season, only two teams averaged more on the ground per game than the Falcons’ 283.5. Toss in the fact that Air Force gained an average of more than 300 yards in six home games a season ago, and it could be a long day in Colorado Springs for the Utes.
Runner(s)-up: Florida State loses at North Carolina State (Thurs., Oct. 28); Missouri loses at Nebraska; USC loses at home to Oregon
The Victim: Alabama
The Culprit: LSU
The Reason: Payback is a cruel, cruel inevitability.
The last time these two met, LSU pissed away a five-point fourth-quarter lead at Bryant-Denny, effectively ending any hope it had of sharing a piece of the SEC West title in 2009. As far as Alabama is concerned, the gritty come-from-behind win served as a major springboard en route to the program’s first national championship in 17 seasons.
With this year’s duel being staged at Death Valley, will the tables turn? And, if they do, will a win over the Tide pave the way for the Tigers to get back to the SEC title game?
Runner-up: Stanford loses at home to Arizona
The Victim: Houston
The Culprit: Tulsa
The Reason: Because Tulsa will have the ball last. Or is it because the Golden Hurricane seem slightly more interested in playing defense than the Cougars?
Regardless, if this game doesn’t reach triple digits in points and quadruple in total yards, something’s wrong. Tulsa led the nation in offense in 2008, and Houston did so last season, opening the door for what could be the most dizzying game of the upcoming season.
Defensive purists will vomit. Scoreboards will crash. And when it’s all said and done, Tulsa will walk away having captured a landmark win over a ranked opponent on the road, while the Cougars will lament a crushing blow to hopes of winning Conference USA and locking down a first-ever BCS bid.
Runner-up: Auburn loses at home to Georgia
The Victim: USC
The Culprit: Oregon State
The Reason: Because it’s an even-numbered year.
For whatever reason, the Trojans have looked human in Corvallis, losing each of their past two trips to Reser Stadium. In 2006, one of USC’s two losses came to the Beavers on the road. After their mandatory whipping of OSU in Los Angeles the following season, the Trojans made 5’7”, 175-pound Jacquizz Rodgers look like O.J. Simpson, surrendering 186 yards to the diminutive back in an appalling 27-21 loss to wipe out national title hopes in 2008.
Now, the year is once again divisible by two, which means another trip to the damp abyss that is central western Oregon. As well as another inexplicable defeat at the hands of the seemingly outmanned Beavers.
Runner-up: Virginia Tech loses at Miami (Fl.)
The Victim: Nevada
The Culprit: Boise State
The Reason: Because Nevada can’t possibly run the table, can it?
If you recall, the Wolf Pack were one of my prime candidates for achieving perfection in 2010. Save for a home game against Cal, the non-conference schedule is a joke, but not nearly as laughable as the weak sauce that is the WAC. Nevada’s lone threatening conference road game is at BYU, which is followed by seven snoozers.
That is until Nov. 26, when the one-loss Broncos (recall the loss to Virginia Tech) roll into Reno and leave town having not only put the clamps on yet another undisputed WAC title, but completely demolished Nevada's bid at perfection and a first-ever BCS appearance.
Runner(s)-up: West Virginia loses at Pittsburgh (Fri., Nov. 26); Florida loses at Florida State