Projecting Biggest Upset for Each Week of 2016 College Football Season

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2016

Projecting Biggest Upset for Each Week of 2016 College Football Season

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Upsets are a key storyline during the college football season, and the 2016 campaign assuredly will bring unexpected results.

    But when and where will the shockers occur?

    Each week, an underdog will rise and knock off the favorite. We're giving it our best shot to project the timing. Most memorable upsets impact conference races, cause a shake-up in the polls or crush a program's championship dreams.

    The list is composed of primarily power-conference tilts, though a couple of "Group of Five" matchups made the cut. Just remember, we don't hate your team, but we love Team Chaos.

Week 1: Georgia vs. North Carolina

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    Mitch Trubisky
    Mitch TrubiskyGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    In 2015, North Carolina opened the regular season with a frustrating loss to South Carolina. The Tar Heels have a chance to kick off 2016 in better fashion against Georgia.

    According to early odds released by 5Dimes, the Bulldogs are a 4.5-point favorite for the neutral-site clash.

    Though Marquise Williams is gone, Mitch Trubisky isn't an ordinary backup. He finished 40-of-47 passing for 555 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions last season.

    North Carolina's bounty of skill-position talent—Elijah Hood, Ryan Switzer, Mack Hollins and Bug Howard—will spoil Georgia head coach Kirby Smart's debut.

Week 2: Northern Illinois at South Florida

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    Quinton Flowers
    Quinton FlowersLogan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 2 is riddled with bold choices because most power-conference teams scheduled what they believed to be a winnable game. But there's an underrated Group of Five tilt on Sept. 10.

    South Florida hosts Northern Illinois, a perennial MAC contender. The Huskies have appeared in six straight conference championships.

    On the other hand, the Bulls are trying to start contending in the AAC. They started 1-3 last season before winning seven of nine—only falling to 11-2 Navy and 12-2 Western Kentucky.

    Dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack are a dangerous backfield tandem, and NIU's run defense will be suspect. The MAC powerhouse won't be able to handle USF, which should have the chance to stun Houston for the AAC title.

Week 3: North Dakota State at Iowa

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    MIKE STONE/Associated Press

    General guideline: Stop scheduling North Dakota State.

    The Bison have compiled a 5-0 record against Football Bowl Subdivision schools since 2010, upending Iowa State, Kansas State, Colorado State, Minnesota and Kansas.

    By now, you probably know the name Carson Wentz. The other guy in the picture? That's Easton Stick, and he guided NDSU to eight victories as a freshman last year while Wentz was injured, helping the program win its fifth straight national title.

    Iowa put together a tremendous campaign in 2015 and deserves all the credit for going undefeated in the regular season. But the Hawkeyes brought this on themselves.

Week 4: Georgia at Ole Miss

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    Jacob Eason
    Jacob EasonJohn Bazemore/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Depending on the outcome against Alabama, Ole Miss could find itself in the same position for the third straight year. Head coach Hugh Freeze's team might control its path to the SEC Championship Game.

    In both 2014 and 2015, though, the Rebels eventually suffered a bad loss at home.

    Consider this day Jacob Eason's breakout performance. The true-freshman quarterback will understand the big environment after falling to North Carolina in a sold-out Georgia Dome. Eason will have survived an SEC road game against Missouri the week prior.

    The Bulldogs will leave Oxford celebrating a close victory as well as the emergence of their young gunslinger.

Week 5: Oregon at Washington State

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    Luke Falk
    Luke FalkRyan Kang/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Last year, Washington State entered Autzen Stadium, edged short-handed Oregon and ended an eight-game losing skid in the series.

    Luke Falk amassed 505 yards and five touchdowns during Wazzu's 45-38 overtime triumph. The defense couldn't stop Royce Freeman, but Falk and Co. simply out-offensed the Ducks.

    And now, the Cougars will start a winning streak.

    Oregon lost nearly its entire front seven, so pressuring Falk will be a problem. Washington State will open Pac-12 action with a victory and officially announce itself as a contender for the conference title.

Week 6: UCLA at Arizona State

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    Kalen Ballage (9)
    Kalen Ballage (9)Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    Whether due to head-scratching officiating or unexpected results, #Pac12AfterDark is an entertaining place during the regular season. Well, for one team, at least.

    Arizona State must replace Mike Bercovici, a couple of top receivers, four offensive linemen and a majority of its defensive production. In other words, ASU is not going to be very good.

    Yet it seems UCLA cannot avoid a bad loss.

    Despite a 6-7 record in 2015, the Sun Devils went 5-2 at home. Arizona State is the perfect nonsensical choice to shock the Bruins and stun East Coasters who didn't stay up after dark.

Week 7: Stanford at Notre Dame

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    Christian McCaffrey
    Christian McCaffreyGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    In terms of a "shocking" result, Stanford clipping Notre Dame doesn't fit the mold. But in the sense of "biggest," this outcome will affect college football on a national scale.

    Unless the Irish drop the earlier contest to Michigan State, they'll own a 6-0 mark when Christian McCaffrey and Co. travel to South Bend. Notre Dame should be favored at home.

    Besides, Stanford will have just navigated a brutal opening stretch of Kansas State, USC, UCLA, Washington and Washington State. It's highly doubtful the reloading Cardinal emerge unblemished.

    A victory here, however, keeps Stanford in the College Football Playoff mix, while the Irish will need a few losses from higher-ranked teams to remain a contender.

Week 8: Ole Miss at LSU

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    Chad Kelly
    Chad KellyStacy Revere/Getty Images

    As long as the Rebels knock off Alabama, a loss to Georgia doesn't shatter any SEC dreams. Head-to-head tiebreakers matter most in conference play.

    But with a loss to the Tide, Ole Miss cannot afford another SEC shortcomingespecially within the West division. Meanwhile, LSU should enter this showdown at 7-0.

    The Rebels' desperation will help them quiet Death Valley, so head coach Les Miles and the Tigers will face a must-win game two weeks later when they host Alabama.

    Avoiding another SEC loss down the stretch will determine whether either Ole Miss or LSU reaches a New Year's Six bowl.

Week 9: Texas Tech at TCU

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    Patrick Mahomes
    Patrick MahomesJohn Weast/Getty Images

    The marquee upsets finally arrive in the Big 12, where points are not a premium.

    Although Texas Tech doesn't have much of a defense, Patrick Mahomes guides an explosive offense that finished No. 2 nationally with 45.1 points per game in 2015.

    But last season against TCU, he could hardly run because of an injury. Mahomes was a diving catch off a deflected pass away from upsetting the Horned Frogs.

    The Red Raiders will finish the job this time and end the fleeting hopes TCU had at a conference title and CFP berth.

Week 10: Oregon at USC

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    Royce Freeman
    Royce FreemanDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Similar to Stanford-Notre Dame, the implications of Oregon defeating USC override a minor stunner elsewhere.

    Thanks to Arizona State's upset of UCLA, the Trojans will control the Pac-12 South heading into November. One loss would create a potential winner-take-all matchup with the Bruins two weeks later.

    Additionally, the Ducks side-stepping a second conference loss would also present a must-win contest—except they'll have a faster turnaround. Stanford heads to Autzen Stadium the next Saturday, and Washington State will linger near the division lead.

    Oregon stealing a victory at the Coliseum means Team Chaos controls the Pac-12 down the stretch.

Week 11: San Diego State at Nevada

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    James Butler (20) and Tyler Stewart
    James Butler (20) and Tyler StewartCathleen Allison/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Taking a brief break from power-conference meetings, the Mountain West makes an appearance.

    San Diego State is the defending champion and returns Donnel Pumphrey, one of college football's most productive running backs. The Aztecs should be favored to win the division again.

    Week 11 will throw a wrench in those plans. Led by Tyler Stewart and James Butler, Nevada could be the MWC's breakout team in 2016. The Wolf Pack will be unfriendly hosts and beat San Diego State.

    Although a victory wouldn't seal Nevada's place in the conference championship, it'll set up a tight finish.

Week 12: Ohio State at Michigan State

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    Mark Dantonio
    Mark DantonioAl Goldis/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Michigan State's offense won't be as productive without quarterback Connor Cook, but its defense will improve. That should be a disconcerting thought for Ohio State.

    The Buckeyes essentially saw the sans-Cook version of the Spartans offense in 2015 and lost in Columbus.

    After losses to Notre Dame and Michigan, MSU will need a victory here. Behind the home crowd, the Spartans will once again contain quarterback J.T. Barrett and shake up the rankings.

    Fortunately for Ohio State, the following week against the Wolverines is a chance at redemption—with a Big Ten Championship Game berth on the line.

Week 13: Nebraska at Iowa

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    Tommy Armstrong Jr.
    Tommy Armstrong Jr.Nati Harnik/Associated Press/Associated Press

    An early-season loss to North Dakota State won't affect Iowa's pursuit of the Big Ten crown. The Hawkeyes can even fall to Michigan and remain atop the West division.

    Nebraska is poised to knock the Hawkeyes off their perch.

    Wisconsin likely won't be a factor since it has a brutal schedule. Even if the Cornhuskers lose in Madison and Columbus, a head-to-head victory over Iowa—assuming it lost to head coach Jim Harbaugh's clubwould clinch their trip to Indianapolis.

    Following a season full of late-game misfortune, the Blackshirts will claim the West division on Black Friday.

Week 14: Big 12 Upset Watch

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    Skyler Howard
    Skyler HowardKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Conference championship week only has eight regular-season games, including five from the Sun Belt. Otherwise, there's Kansas State at TCU, Oklahoma State at Oklahoma and Baylor at West Virginia.

    The matchup between the Wildcats and Horned Frogs only has bowl-selection order implications. Bedlam is important, but I'm on record of picking the Sooners to win the Big 12. The Mountaineers could spring the biggest upset of the regular-season tilts.

    It's not an exciting way to end the piece, but honesty is the best policy. TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor are the favorites and likely winners.

    Knowing college football, however, the conference title games will offer a shocker. Do your thing, Team Chaos.