College Football Predictions: Michigan vs. UConn and Week 1 Upsets
The oddsmaker is a curious bedfellow; but when he is correct in establishing the all important “line” he is indeed a friend of the football fan.
This is not a discussion about gambling or potential financial windfalls gained from the predicting of college football games. No, this instead is about a great and passionate devotee who looks to the “line” to gauge his or hers’ confidence in the upcoming matchup between their beloved team and the next opponent.
This is more important than cash; this is about being a real college football fan.
The “line” in your favor gives you, as the enthusiast, a certain level of assurance, a degree of certainty, or, if nothing else it acts as a sleeping aid to get you through the week until game day.
However, this stated, your team being favored via the “line” paints a target on your back and adds a certain level of stress and is a cause to wonder; if your team does not win the game they are expected to win, well this is truly the worst case scenario.
The wider the spread, the more confidence is delicately intertwined with dread and the more faith is tainted with the looming sensation that something very bad could happen.
Of course, alternatively the fan of the team on the other side of the crucial odds makers “line” has the opposite set of concerns. He or she has less initial confidence, more early dreading and trepidation but underlying all of these emotions this devotee has a certain level of hope, a heady dream and just maybe a chip on their shoulder; yes, something to prove.
If it comes off poorly, as expected, this fan can brush the loss off as “predictable.” But, if it instead the result somehow unexpectedly becomes a victory, proving the oddsmaker incorrect, this aficionado has the best seven days of their year; those spent in the warm glow of the aftermath of an upset.
It is difficult to determine who has the upper hand in this historic struggle between those who toil above the oddsmakers’ line and those who live beneath it.
Regardless, we know it will happen; week in and week out, a team or teams will astonish the football world by being on either the giving or receiving end of the “upset.”
Indeed, if the oddsmakers were infallible then why would teams even take the field and play the game?
Who could forget NC State knocking off No. 2 ranked Florida State in 1998 or Stanford’s 2007 triumph over then No. 2 USC? And, of course there is the infamous 2007 season opener where Appalachian State marched into the Big House and demoralized an entire football program by beating No. 5 Michigan 34-32. Nobody saw that coming.
And when the shake-up does occur, fans on both sides anguish and celebrate respectively; representing the apex and the rock bottom experiences of a precious season of football.
Meanwhile, the rest of college football looks on with great curiosity, staring and wildly rubbernecking as if passing by a horrific wreck on the interstate. Slowing down even the most critical of tasks to look wide eyed at the aftermath of a terrible misfortune pooled with an unforeseen triumph. It is titillating.
The first week of the college football season features an absolute mass of opportunities for upsets.
FBS teams often face FCS teams as do the perennial powerhouses of BCS conferences often meet those of the smaller FBS schools and conferences for the all important “warm up game” (that could backfire).
Of course, there are also those games (where kudos should be given) where “somebody actually plays somebody” and two great programs full of hope and confidence clash in Week 1 giving the entire nation something to cheer for.
Upsets are difficult to predict and though the predictor will more than likely be wrong and branded a fool it is an entertaining process to attempt to forecast who will lose a game that they should win.
The following slideshow attempts to do just that, identify the potential upsets of Week 1 of the 2010 college football campaign.
These potential bombshells are listed in an order indicating the confidence of the pick; No. 8 representing the prediction with the least assurance and No. 1 being the most confident or the weekly “lock.”
8. Stephen F. Austin over Texas A&M
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OK, that just sounds absolutely nuts; how in the world could the Aggies of Texas A&M drop the opener, in College Station to the little FCS school from Nacogdoches Texas?
Is it probable? Absolutely Not.
Is it possible? Yes.
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are the 2009 co-champions of the Southland conference but at first glance they seem like healthy fodder for an Aggie fan base hungry for a big bowl of wins.
However, these are not the 0-11 Lumberjacks of three years ago; SFA takes the field behind capable offensive leader quarterback Jeremy Moses who in two years has racked up 8,150 yards and 81 touchdowns. Though there is turnover at receiver and running back the line is strong, it will be interesting to see how an Aggie defense, that ranked 106th nationally against the pass, handles the junior Moses who has the potential for another 4,000 yard season.
On the other side of the ball the Aggies are definitely a prolific offensive squad led by quarterback Jerrod Johnson and company. The Lumberjacks will face the fifth-ranked A&M offense from 2009 with a defense that returns eight starters from 2009 including two-time All-American linebacker Jabara Williams and Southland Newcomer of the Year Andre Banks at cornerback.
Overall, SFA returns 40 lettermen from 2009’s 10-3 squad.
The Bottom Line
Texas A&M is truly the more talented team and will be playing at home in front of an enthusiastic Kyle Field crowd. The Aggies should not lose this game.
Nevertheless, this matchup just screams with potential for an upset that would rival the Appalachian State at Michigan opening weekend triumph of 2007.
This is not to say that Lumberjack fans should run out and buy the celebratory beer just yet, but it never hurts to put together a bit of an emergency kit and to have a solid beverage replenishment plan in place just in case.
7. Richmond over Virginia
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Virginia’s incoming coach Mike London is Richmond’s outgoing coach. Richmond’s new head coach, Scott Latrell (who served on the Richmond staff as well as those at Tennessee and Virginia) has never been a coordinator but is now the youngest head coach in Division One at the tender age of 34.
The Richmond Spiders finished the 2009 season 11-2, have been to the FCS playoffs the past three years and captured a FCS national championship in 2008.
Virginia comes off a third losing season in four years and hopes to rebuild under London who is 24-5 as a head coach.
Richmond’s chances of knocking off the Cavaliers have a lot more to do with successful offensive migration than the emotional factor of beating their old coach in his first game at a FBS school (though that certainly couldn’t hurt).
The Spiders have enjoyed an excellent running game during their successful run but will need to replace a big portion of its offensive line, its quarterback and running back for 2010. On paper the replacements in Richmond look talented and capable; possibly able to pick up where the 2009 squad left off.
Richmond’s transformed offense will face a Virginia defense that ranked 52nd overall in 2009. The Spider’s rush focused attack should match up well with a Cavalier defense that ranked 95th overall against the run.
The Spiders defense should return as strong or even better than the 2009 squad featuring strength at linebacker, end and cornerback. They will face a Virginia squad that has suffered through one of the most unproductive offensive runs in the country (105th in scoring, 112th in rushing, 105th in passing and 118th overall).
The Bottom Line
It may be hard if not impossible to imagine that Mike London will let his old Spiders come into Charlottesville and beat the Cavaliers in his first ever game as their head coach.
That said, the teams match up (on paper at least) interestingly enough to warrant at least the mention of a possible upset.
If the Spiders offense can manage minimal production (most importantly points) against a Cavalier defense that has struggled against the run then it would seem that their defense could finish the job against an anemic Virginia offense.
6. Colorado State over Colorado
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Colorado is 54-20 all time against its in-state rival Colorado State (the series started back in 1902). However, the Buffs are only 6-4 since 2000 and 5-4 overall when the game is played in a neutral location.
2010’s annual early season grudge match is in Denver and features two teams who are searching for an identity.
Colorado has a strong front on both sides of a ball, talented receivers but has big question marks at quarterback, linebacker, secondary, and well let’s be honest, coaching.
Colorado State has strength at running back, linebacker, and defensive line but lots of offensive questions including quarterback, wide receiver, and offensive line.
Colorado certainly has more talent overall which must account for them being favored by almost two touchdowns over the rival Rams. The Buffs though have had talent for several years as fans have waited for Dan Hawkins to turn promises into wins.
Will 2010 finally be the year that the Buffaloes turn the corner, right the ship and put Colorado back into contention (at least for a bowl game)?
This question may well be answered during Week 1.
The Bottom Line
If the Rams can be successful running the ball on the Buffs and if the CSU defense can shut down the Colorado passing attack the Rams could record back to back wins over the Buffs for the first time since 1999-2000.
Of course, it is definitely possible that if Colorado does not improve in turnovers, penalties, and special teams then one of these three essential elements might spell the Buffs demise in Denver regardless of how the teams match up on paper.
5. Oregon State over TCU
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The TCU vs. Oregon State game is officially listed as having a “neutral site” venue. But, in reality the glimmering and shimmering Cowboy Stadium in Arlington Texas is only a mere 26 miles from the TCU campus in Fort Worth.
The Horned Frog vs. Beaver matchup is more than just another way for Jerry Jones to line his hot tub with cold hard cash, it has to be considered one of the most anticipated games in Week 1 of the 2010 season.
No. 6 TCU is favored by a couple of touchdowns (give or take a point or two) over No. 24 Oregon State and it would seem at first glance that this is a reasonable application of the oddsmakers “spread” formula.
But, let’s not be too hasty and forget to gently point out that there exist some delicate intricacies in this matchup that deserve mentioning.
First, the Horned Frogs have a potent offense stacked with returning starters and they have the statistical edge in every offensive category. But, Oregon State returns seven starters to a defense that ranked 46th overall in 2009, and they achieved this mark by playing the 30th hardest schedule in college football (vs. TCU’s 89th hardest schedule).
Secondly, TCU has said adios to two-time All American defensive end Jerry Hughes, linebacker Daryl Washington, and two of its four-year starters at cornerback. This certainly puts holes in a defense that statically lead the nation in 2009.
TCU’s new defense will face an Oregon State offense that is contending with a transition at quarterback but have a solid offensive line, solid receivers and the double threat of the Rodgers brothers (Jacquizz and James) at running back and flanker. These guys won’t be easy to stop regardless of how talented the opposing defense may be.
The Bottom Line
If the Beaver defense can hold off the TCU offensive attack just long enough to allow the Oregon State offense to take advantage of the transitions on the Horned Frog defense then the Beavers shock the nation and beat TCU in Arlington.
Oregon State simply may be a better team than it looks on paper while TCU (though a formidable squad in their own right) might not be as good as advertised (at least in Week 1).
4. Pittsburgh over Utah
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Ah, the joy and excitement of two 10-3 teams meeting in Week 1 of the 2010 season. Amidst the long list of David vs. Goliath’s slated for the opening weekend of college football, Pittsburgh at Utah is a welcome relief and should be a great contest.
The two programs have met only once before when Utah knocked off the Panthers 35-7 in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe.
Utah is a field goal favorite going into this year’s game which seems reasonable due to the obvious advantage of playing the game in Salt Lake City.
But, taking a closer look at how the teams matchup indicates that Utah’s home field advantage might be one of the few factors in their favor in the season opener vs. the Panthers.
The Utes return a fair amount of talent on offense (especially at quarterback and the offensive line) but do have questions regarding the wide receiving corps. Utah’s running attack led by senior RB Eddie Wise will face a formidable Pitt defense which ranked 17th in 2009 against the run.
The real concerns for Utah are on the other side of the ball where their top 20 ranked 2009 defense returns only three starters in 2010. The defensive Utes will face the best offense Pitt has fielded in years which includes a strong running game and a solid receiving corps. Yes, the Panthers have a new quarterback but the passing game still should improve for Pitt in 2010.
The Bottom Line
Pitt and Utah are both well-coached squads who will see success in 2010.
That said, Pitt has a definite edge in this game with their experienced offense pitted against the revamped Utah defense. Again, on the other side of the ball Pitt’s defense should be able to handle the Utah offense, especially against the run.
Pitt’s potential pitfalls (new quarterback, thin offensive line) may take longer to materialize, inconveniently popping up later in the season.
3. Middle Tennessee over Minnesota
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The Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders have never met in a football contest. The 2010 season opener in Murfreesboro, TN marks the very first meeting of two programs that are at very different places in the lives of their program.
Minnesota, after a one-win season in 2007 managed to just become bowl eligible in 2008 and 2009 and is looking to take its game to the next level (eight wins and a climb up the Big 10 ladder).
Middle Tennessee, on the other hand is trying to sustain its recent successes (a ten-win 2009 season culminating in a bowl bid and victory) and vie for a Sun Belt conference title.
Oddsmakers surprisingly have given Minnesota a three-point advantage going into its road matchup game vs. Middle Tennessee.
Is this because the Golden Gophers play in the Big Ten while the Blue Raiders hail from the Sun Belt? Or perhaps it because Middle Tennessee’s success in 2009 was but an aberration and the Golden Gophers are finally ready to rise from obscurity?
It’s impossible to tell, but it would seem that Middle Tennessee has all the pieces in place to defeat Minnesota in Week 1.
The Golden Gophers return nine starters on an offense that ranked 109th in 2009; they have their third offensive coordinator in three years and though they have expressed a desire to run the ball there are more questions than answers at running back.
The stagnant Gopher offense will square off with a Blue Raider defense that returns six starters and ranked 50th overall in 2009. Though there are certainly questions on the defensive line (four new starters) it would seem that the Golden Gophers might be a good team for the Blue Raiders defense to cut their teeth on.
On the other side of the ball, the Minnesota defensive unit (which ranked a respectable 63rd nationally in 2009) returns only two starters from 2009. The defense for 2010 is young, talented and very inexperienced.
This unit will be matched up with a Middle Tennessee offensive unit that ranked 23rd in 2009 and returns seven starters. The Blue Raider “O” is explosive and features a great running game. Though depth at wide receiver and offensive line are questionable, the overall experience of Middle Tennessee’s offense should have an edge on the very youthful Golden Gopher defense.
The Bottom Line
Unless Minnesota can perform an early offensive revival of staggering proportions the Middle Tennessee defense should be able to shut the door on the Golden Gophers offensively.
If the Blue Raider offense can then manage to score even a minimal number of points on the Minnesota defense you have to believe that Middle Tennessee has a clear advantage in this game.
When you say it that way, it doesn’t seem like Middle Tennessee over Minnesota is really an upset at all.
That is until you put it all in perspective by stating the fact that the Sun Belt conference is 1-12 all time against the Big Ten.
That is a 7.7 winning percentage.
And a 92.3 losing percentage.
If Middle Tennessee beats Minnesota on September 2 in Murfreesboro it will mark only the second time in history that a Sun Belt team has beaten a team from the Big Ten.
Now that’s an upset.
2. Northern Illinois over Iowa State
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The Northern Illinois Huskies have never won a football game in Ames Iowa. In fact, the two schools that are only 300 miles apart didn’t even meet on a football field until 1993.
Iowa State won that first meeting in Ames 54-10 and the two teams didn’t meet again until 10 years later in DeKalb, Illinois when the Huskies downed the Cyclones 24-16.
The two teams last met in Ames in 2004 where the Cyclones outlasted the Huskies 48-41.
The 2010 edition of Northern Illinois vs. Iowa State will be played in front of a Cyclone crowd that has high expectations for a team with a daunting schedule.
It would be easy to understand why the Big 12 Iowa State Cyclones may look past the MAC’s Huskies with a trip to in-state rival No. 9 Iowa in Week 2 followed by what Phil Steele has declared the toughest schedule in college football.
However, the reason that the Cyclones might just get knocked off by Northern Illinois in the season opener has more to do with the on-field matchup than one team simply overlooking another.
Though the Cyclones return eight starters on offense to its 2010 squad this is a unit that ranked 73rd nationally in 2009. Furthermore, Iowa State ranked 94th in passing and 103rd in scoring. The only bright spot was a rushing game that ranked 35th nationally.
Though you have to account for experience and maturity (and a great running back in Alexander Robinson) the Cyclones will face a Huskie defense returns nine starters and ranked 30th nationally in 2009, including 35th in rushing defense.
On the other side of the ball the Huskies return running back Chad Spann who ran for over 1000 yards in 2009 leading Northern Illinois to a 19th overall ranking in rushing. Facing this venerable running attack is an Iowa State defense that allowed an average of 165.7 yards rushing per game in 2009 netting a ranking of 86th nationally against the run.
Regardless of whom Northern Illinois starts at quarterback both the Huskies offense and the Cyclones defense struggled in the passing game in 2009 (ranking 109th and 102nd respectively).
The Bottom Line
The Huskie defense has an excellent chance to stop an Iowa State Cyclone offense that never really got going in 2009 and may not have jelled in the 2010 opener.
The Northern Illinois running game may just dominate the Cyclone defense. If the Huskies’ young offensive line can come together and dominate the Cyclone’s young defensive line therefore allowing Chad Spann to do his thing it may be that the opener marks the beginning of a very long season in Ames, Iowa.
1.Connecticut over Michigan
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Even though UConn finished 2009 at 8-5 (including a 20-7 spanking of South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl) and returns eight starters on both sides of the ball Michigan is favored by a field goal coming into their September 4th meeting in the Big House.
The Huskies played each of their 2009 opponents closely and suffered their five losses by a total of 15 points. Nobody whipped up on UConn in 2009.
The Huskies solid rushing game (bolstered by the return of four starters on the offensive line) led by Jordan Todman will face a Wolverine unit that ranked 91st against the run in 2009. Coming into 2010 Michigan is replacing their three best defenders and has significant holes in the middle.
Though Michigan had a lot of success running the ball in 2009 (ranked 25th overall) they will face a Huskie defense that was successful against the run last season and looks to improve in 2010 with the return of much of its firepower.
The two teams match up fairly evenly in the passing game but UConn was far better at hanging onto the ball in 2009.
The Bottom Line
The Connecticut Huskies have only been in the FBS since 2002, therefore it is easy to see why they might be underrated and flying under the radar, especially playing on the road against a storied program such as Michigan.
But, UConn had the 27th best scoring offense in 2009 and is playing a program with the 77th ranked defense.
Though Michigan should have an improved offense (and a better defense to a lesser degree) and the home opener looms as a “must win” for Rich Rodriguez it is hard to argue against the Huskies having a very realistic chance of knocking off the Wolverines in the Big House.
Regardless, this one will be fun to watch.