College Football Predictions Week 4: Three Potential Ranking-Busting Upsets
Going into Week 4 of the college football season, three schools out to fast starts have given themselves the opportunities to change the NCAA rankings in a big way. All three matchups have implications on the top 15 rankings in the nation, including the top three overall.
Two of the three teams that will be mentioned are considered surprises thus far, with one expected to have a successful year. All three schools have very good shots at upsetting their opponents and finally busting up the rankings in 2011.
Each team is also about to play what is undoubtedly the most important games of their season so far, and a win could have large implications come the end of the season when it's time to pick participants in the various big bowl games.
Vanderbilt Commodores @ 12 South Carolina Gamecocks
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The Vanderbilt Commodores are potentially the most surprising team in the SEC so far in 2011. The Commodores have already surpassed their win mark from 2010 in their first three games of 2011, winning all three to get off to a 3-0 start. Although their most notable opponent thus far was the struggling Ole Miss Rebels, the Commodores have not won more than three games in a season since 2008, so this is a rare feat.
Vandy enters their game against 12th ranked South Carolina with the 48th scoring offense in the nation, averaging 33 points per game and are averaging a whopping 177 yards on the ground through the early action this season.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks scoring defense is a lowly 100th in the country and are averaging 33 points allowed per game, giving the Commodores an advantage when they have the ball. South Carolina is also ranked 90th in rush defense allowing over 180 yards a game on the year. Vandy running back duo Zac Stacy and Jerron Seymour should look forward to a big game tearing up the turf in Columbia on Saturday night.
For the Commodores on defense, they are ranked an astounding 20th in the nation in scoring defense allowing just 14 points per game, and are allowing just 250 total yards a game through the first three matchups of the season.
For the Gamecocks' offense, this is not a good sign. Despite averaging 242 rushing yards a game with Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore, the 'Cocks have a horrendous passing game, and a one-dimensional offensive look could kill them against Vandy.
Led by Casey Heyward and Trey Wilson, the Commodores lead the nation with 10 interceptions, are averaging eight tackles for a loss per game and have eight sacks on the year. So far this season, Vandy linemen and linebackers including Rob Lohr and Chris Marve haven't had many issues getting into the backfield, and if South Carolina sticks to just running the ball, Lattimore can be stopped.
Although many may look at Vanderbilt defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks as a long shot, the Commodores should not be underestimated entering their game on Saturday evening, and have all the chances in the world to upset the 12th ranked team in the nation.
14 Arkansas Razorbacks @ 3 Alabama Crimson Tide
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Coming into Saturday's all-SEC battle between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Arkansas Razorbacks, the Tide face their biggest test to date in a deadly Arkansas offense. In their previous 21 meetings, the Tide lead the overall series 14 wins to seven.
The Razorbacks scoring offense is eighth in the nation, and their defense isn't far behind putting them in 17th in the country in scoring defense. Though they have yet to face an SEC opponent, the Pig Sooie have impressed thus far in 2011 as they were expected to do.
The Hogs will clearly be facing their toughest test on the year when they go into Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon trying to redeem themselves from an embarrassing collapse one year ago that saw the Razorbacks blow a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter allowing the Crimson Tide to come back and win 24-20. With Tyler Wilson at quarterback, however, the 'Backs are a whole new team, and have a very good shot at knocking 'Bama out of the ranks of the undefeated this weekend.
Wilson and the Arkansas offense comes into Saturday's matchup with Alabama ranked 11th in the nation in total offense averaging 512 yards a game including 346 yards through the air, while averaging 47 points a game.
Although 'Bama is ranked 3rd in the nation in yards allowed a game with just 170 a game, it is unlikely that they can limit the lethal passing game of the Hogs to under 250 yards. Led by Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton and Jarius Wright, the receiving corps of the Razorbacks is so deep and talented that it ranks among the top core groups of receivers in the nation.
'Bama has allowed just one touchdown pass this season, but they don't have the talent to cover all four of the Hogs top receivers at any one time, and there should always be one man open for Wilson to zip the ball into.
On defense, the Razorbacks are underrated going into the game and are expected to get torn apart by AJ McCarron and Trent Richardson of Alabama. The Crimson Tide come into the game averaging 38 points a game, but will be facing a defense that has allowed an average of just 13 points through the first three games of the season.
One especially impressive stat about the Hogs coming into the game is that they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown on the year, and average just 88 yards allowed on the ground per game, much thanks to defensive lineman Chris Smith and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith.
Defending the pass will be more difficult for the Razorbacks, who are ranked 68th in the nation in that category so far this season, but if they can slow Trent Richardson down, they should be in good shape with their offense to take out the Crimson Tide.
Missouri Tigers @ 1 Oklahoma Sooners
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This is the most unexpected potential upset on the list and rightfully so, but it is still very much possible. In the 96th meeting in the storied rivalry between the Missouri Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners in the battle for the Tiger-Sooner Peace Pipe anything is possible.
Oklahoma is coming off a victory in which they barely beat an ACC team in Florida State, while Mizzou is coming off a massive bounceback victory over Western Illinois 69-0. Despite both teams’ differences, previous records in the given season never seem to matter when these two teams come together in battle. Oklahoma leads the rivalry 65-25-5, but Mizzou won the most recent matchup in 2010 by a score of 36-27.
Oklahoma may be the No. 1 team in the nation, but they are by no means unbeatable, even if they are playing at home. The Missouri offense led by running back Henry Josey is ranked 12th in the nation averaging just over 510 yards a game and 38 points per game.
Josey is fourth among running backs in the nation, posting 400 yards and three touchdowns so far this season and is first in the Big-12. Oklahoma is ranked 20th in rushing defense and is not allowing more than 80 yards on the ground per game this season, but Josey could be too much for the Sooner defense to handle with his ability to turn what should be a short gain into a big play at any moment.
The Sooner offense will be a lot for the Mizzou defense to handle, but don't put it past the Tigers' defense to steal the game for the team. The Tigers are averaging just 14 points against on the year, and the Sooners passing game led by Landry Jones has just two touchdowns on the season, although the running game of the Sooners led by Dominique Whaley and Brennan Clay has put up six TDs in just two games this year.
It may seem like a mismatch, but the Mizzou rushing defense is allowing just 68 yards on the ground a game and 200 yards through the air. Led by E.J. Gaines and Brad Madison, an underrated Mizzou defense could be the difference maker in this game.
The Tigers may not have any standout names or top recruits like the powerhouse Sooners, but their play as a total team is what wins them games, and if they can find a total team game on Saturday, they could just knock of the No. 1 team in the nation and continue to hold the Tiger-Sooner Peace Pipe in 2011.