Almost halfway into the college football season, some things are starting to become quite clear — namely that every single team is vulnerable in some way, shape or form. Last weekend was a case study of this as previously unbeaten teams Ole Miss, Georgia, Notre Dame, and UCLA all lost.

Cal is undefeated, Florida is on top in the SEC-East and Sark is a coach at USC. What year is it again —2003? With a show of hands, how many of you thought Cal and Utah would be playing in one of the top matchups of this weekend? Anyone besides the Cal fans? Yeah, that’s what we thought too.

For those of us accustomed to the traditional power programs of college football leading the pack at this point in the season, fear not — this week’s unusual matchups are still likely to give us exciting, down-to-the-wire games. That’s certainly been the theme of this season thus far. And there will no doubt be even more upsets and craziness this weekend as every conference, save the Big Ten, looks up for grabs.

You may be wondering — why I’m not talking about the results of the model last week? Well, in case you were too busy studying for midterms last weekend and didn’t watch any football, there were quite a few upsets and our model took quite a hit. Hearts were broken, tears were shed, but USC is off its bye week so we’ve still got something to cheer about. Alright, let’s get to the games!

Day Time Home Team Away Team Spread
Thu 05:00 PM Houston Southern Methodist -20.5
Thu 06:00 PM Southern California Washington -20.5
Fri 04:00 PM Marshall Southern Mississippi 11
Fri 05:00 PM Virginia Tech North Carolina State -6.5
Sat 01:00 PM Arizona Oregon State 4.5
Sat 01:00 PM Mississippi State Troy -15
Sat 03:00 PM Oregon Washington State -15.5
Sat 03:00 PM Tulsa Louisiana-Monroe -16
Sat 04:00 PM Alabama Arkansas -18
Sat 04:00 PM Colorado State Boise State 18.5
Sat 04:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette Texas State 6.5
Sat 04:00 PM Nevada New Mexico -10
Sat 04:00 PM Texas-San Antonio Louisiana Tech 13
Sat 04:30 PM Brigham Young East Carolina -16.5
Sat 04:30 PM Kansas State Texas Christian 8.5
Sat 04:30 PM Missouri Florida 1.5
Sat 05:00 PM Florida State Miami (Florida) -7.5
Sat 05:00 PM Rutgers Michigan State 19
Sat 06:00 PM Nevada-Las Vegas San Jose State -12
Sat 07:00 PM Arizona State Colorado -17
Sat 07:00 PM Utah California -2.5
Sat 07:15 PM Air Force Wyoming -13.5
Sat 07:30 PM Fresno State Utah State 14.5
Sat 09:00 AM Florida International Texas-El Paso -8.5
Sat 09:00 AM Iowa Illinois -13.5
Sat 09:00 AM Kansas Baylor 17.5
Sat 09:00 AM Mississippi New Mexico State -20
Sat 09:00 AM Ohio State Maryland -20.5
Sat 09:00 AM Penn State Indiana -5
Sat 09:00 AM South Carolina Louisiana State 15
Sat 09:00 AM Temple Tulane -9
Sat 09:00 AM Texas Oklahoma 9.5
Sat 09:00 AM Western Michigan Central Michigan 15
Sat 09:30 AM Pittsburgh Virginia -16
Sat 11:00 AM Bowling Green State Massachusetts -20.5
Sat 11:00 AM Ohio Miami (Ohio) -18
Sat 12:00 PM Boston College Wake Forest -20.5
Sat 12:00 PM Eastern Michigan Akron 18.5
Sat 12:00 PM Toledo Kent State -15.5
Sat 12:30 PM Clemson Georgia Tech -13.5
Sat 12:30 PM Georgia State Appalachian State 17.5
Sat 12:30 PM Michigan Northwestern -3.5
Sat 12:30 PM Nebraska Wisconsin 1.5
Sat 12:30 PM Northern Illinois Ball State -2.5
Sat 12:30 PM Notre Dame Navy -18
Sat 12:30 PM Purdue Minnesota 4
Sat 12:30 PM South Florida Syracuse 8.5
Sat 12:30 PM Tennessee Georgia 2.5
Sat 12:30 PM Texas Tech Iowa State -6.5
Sat 12:45 PM Central Florida Connecticut 5.5
Sat 9:00 PM Hawaii San Diego State 15

No. 23 California at No. 5 Utah (Spread: )
One of the biggest questions going into this game is how Jared Goff will fare versus Utah’s front seven. Goff has thrown for 1630 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season, but hasn’t yet faced a defense of the same caliber as Utah. Cal’s undefeated record and Goff’s four interceptions on the season mask the fact that he has struggled making throws under pressure, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs against Utah’s tough defensive line.

In a rout of Oregon last weekend, running back Devontae Booker had a quiet night compared to past weeks. Expect things to be quite different as Booker and the rest of Utah’s offense go up against a Cal defense which gave up 44 points to Texas (the same Texas team that really struggles with all things special teams).

Our model favors California in this matchup, but Cal is going to have to bring their A game in order to beat a tough Utah team.

No. 19 Georgia at Tennessee (Spread: )
While it always seems as if every college football coach is in the hot seat, Tennessee’s coach is truly in a must-win scenario to keep his job. Tennessee has lost three of its last four games and has blown a two-touchdown lead in each of those losses. The Vols have also allowed 172 rushing yards per game, so don’t expect them to stop Georgia’s running back, Nick Chubb, who has rushed for 745 yards on the season and racked up seven touchdowns or quarterback Greyson Lambert who’s also managed to throw for seven touchdowns. To stay in this one, Tennessee is going to need to keep up offensively, as their defense hasn’t been particularly strong and Georgia will be out for blood after their win-streak was snapped at home by Alabama.

Tennessee is in for a tough matchup this week and our model has Georgia slightly favored, but this game could easily be a blowout.

No. 13 Northwestern at No. 18 Michigan
Oh boy, a tale of two defenses. Both teams shut out their opponents last week. Funnily enough, one of the biggest obstacles in the way of Michigan and their continued shutout streak is their quarterback. Michigan’s quarterback, Jake Rudock has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season and he’ll need to make smart decisions this weekend because every offensive possession is going to count against Northwestern. Despite Michigan’s quarterback issues, Michigan does have its home field advantage going for it at “The Big House” this Saturday.

Washington at No. 17 USC
Well, hopefully the Trojans are well-rested after their bye week and ready to take on a familiar opponent here at home. With UCLA and Arizona both going through losses last week, our Trojans are still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South race and should be looking to use this game as another tuneup before our series of tough matchups to close out the season.

The Huskies are also coming off a bye and their last game was a loss to Cal. Washington has a very young offense and true freshman quarterback Jake Browning hasn’t thrown a touchdown against a Power Five conference team. This young offense is going up against a USC secondary that’s only allowed three passing touchdowns all season. Despite their offensive struggles, Washington has lost by a less than a touchdown in both of its losses, despite being outgained offensively 818 yards to 438 yards. This shows that Washington’s defense should not be taken lightly. Furthermore running backs Myles Gaskin and Dwyane Washington lead the Huskies’ running attack with 347 yards and six touchdowns, combined. With Washington’s quarterback struggles, expect coach Chris Petersen to try to get their running game started early in the game.

Questions raised about Justin Wilcox’s defense were quieted after the game against the Sun Devils where the Trojan defense came up with four key turnovers. Regardless, USC’s run defense will have to step up against the Huskies. Our rushing defense has allowed 164 yards per game and they’re going up against a team that’s going to be relying primarily on their rush offense for most, if not all of their offensive production. If the Trojans can limit the run and put pressure on Jake Browning, the Trojans should be in the clear.
But USC’s defense isn’t the only group that needs to make some adjustments for this Thursday’s game. USC’s offensive tempo is significantly lower this year at 66 plays per game. Look for Sark to up the tempo and focus on improving third down conversions to keep our offense on the field for as long as possible.

Our model has USC as the favorite for this game but when it comes to USC football the adage “one step (game) at a time” is key.

Data provided by cfbstats.com
Team logos courtesy of sportslogos.net

Patrick Vossler is a senior majoring in economics. His column, “College Football Pick’em,” runs every week.