Boy, you know it’s a slow week in college football when College GameDay is at James Madison instead of an FBS school. But predicting games can make any mundane week of matchups fun. Besides, after last weekend I think everyone’s hearts could use a break, especially Michigan fans. But oh man, what a time to be alive. The Associated Press Top 25 now has four non-power conference schools (Memphis, Toledo, Houston and Temple), along with teams such as Pittsburgh and Duke that are known more for their basketball teams than anything else. Even with just a handful of ranked matchups this week, there’s still plenty of mystery games for us to talk about.
|Day||Time||Home Team||Away Team||Spread|
|Thu||04:00 PM||East Carolina||Temple||-4|
|Thu||04:30 PM||Appalachian State||Georgia Southern||-11|
|Fri||07:30 PM||San Diego State||Utah State||6.5|
|Sat||01:00 PM||Arizona||Washington State||-12|
|Sat||01:00 PM||South Florida||Southern Methodist||-12.5|
|Sat||03:00 PM||Florida International||Old Dominion||-17.5|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Georgia Tech||Florida State||3|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Louisiana State||Western Kentucky||-15.5|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Mississippi||Texas A&M||-17|
|Sat||04:00 PM||San Jose State||New Mexico||-5.5|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Texas State||South Alabama||1|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Texas-El Paso||Florida Atlantic||12.5|
|Sat||04:30 PM||Mississippi State||Kentucky||-10.5|
|Sat||04:30 PM||Southern California||Utah||-11|
|Sat||05:00 PM||New Mexico State||Troy||-9|
|Sat||05:00 PM||Rutgers||Ohio State||9|
|Sat||07:15 PM||Boise State||Wyoming||-20.5|
|Sat||07:30 PM||Oregon State||Colorado||-3.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Baylor||Iowa State||-20.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Central Florida||Houston||19.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Charlotte||Southern Mississippi||13|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Miami (Florida)||Clemson||-14|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Texas||Kansas State||-10.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Wake Forest||North Carolina State||10|
|Sat||09:30 AM||Louisville||Boston College||-4|
|Sat||10:00 AM||Air Force||Fresno State||-17|
|Sat||10:00 AM||Kent State||Bowling Green State||12|
|Sat||11:00 AM||Western Michigan||Miami (Ohio)||-18|
|Sat||12:00 PM||Ball State||Central Michigan||-2.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Louisiana Tech||Middle Tennessee State||-3|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Marshall||North Texas||-17.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Michigan State||Indiana||-13.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||North Carolina||Virginia||-16.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Northern Illinois||Eastern Michigan||-20|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Oklahoma||Texas Tech||-15|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Oklahoma State||Kansas||-20.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Virginia Tech||Duke||-2.5|
|Tue||05:00 PM||Arkansas State||Louisiana-Lafayette||-11.5|
No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 24 Mississippi (Spread: -17)
This matchup should be known as the “regroup” game. Last weekend, Ole Miss had a surprising loss against Memphis, while Texas A&M was on the receiving end of a ’Bama beatdown.
The Rebels will get back their excellent left tackle, Laremy Tunsil, who has missed the first seven weeks of the season due to an NCAA investigation. Despite this, the Rebels will have other defensive holes with defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche out due to concussion protocol and center Robert Conyers out with a torn ACL.
While the Rebels’ defense is looking rather thin, Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen’s three pick-sixes against the Tide last week show that Texas A&M’s quarterback situation isn’t looking too hot either. Our model has Mississippi as 17-point favorite but the personnel issues for both teams means this game could easily be much closer.
Tennessee at No. 8 Alabama (Spread: -18.5)
While the rivalry between these two teams isn’t what it has been, Tennessee is looking to keep the momentum going after their upset of Georgia before their bye week. Alabama has won the past eight meetings with Tennessee quite handily. Last year, however, was a different story. Tennessee cut an early 27-0 deficit to to 27-17. The Vols still eventually lost 34-20 but with Quarterback Joshua Dobbs back at the helm, Tennessee will be looking to keep this game close. For this to happen, Dobbs will need to have another good game and lead the Vols defense against a tough ’Bama defense.
No. 6 Clemson at Miami (Florida) (Spread: -17)
This matchup is the first of two straight road games for Clemson before a possible showdown of undefeated teams against Florida State. But focusing on this weekend, Clemson at Miami features one of the best quarterback matchups of the week and possibly the season. Quarterbacks Deshaun Watson (Clemson) and Brad Kaaya (Miami) both started as freshmen last season and have steadily improved since then. This season Watson has thrown 235 yards per game, 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. While impressive, the number of interceptions is a potential source of concern for Clemson fans, especially against a Miami offense led by Kaaya. Kaaya has proven that he will be a top choice in the 2016 NFL draft with 300 yards per game, 10 touchdowns and only one interception on the season. The main problem for Miami is that Watson, unlike Kaaya, has the backing of a well-rounded team that, according to S&P+ ratings, has a top-25 run offense, a top-10 pass defense, a top-five pass offense and the best run defense in the league.
Now this is where things get weird. Our model has Miami as a two-touchdown favorite. I know what you’re thinking and trust me, we’re quite confused too. The best explanation is that our model overemphasizes turnover margins. Miami’s 2.17 per game turnover margin compared to Clemson’s -0.17 per game turnover margin causes our model to favor Miami, despite the wealth of evidence suggesting otherwise.
Texas Tech at No. 17 Oklahoma (Spread: -15)
Man, this will be an interesting one. Yes, I say that a lot, but this matchup, in particular, is going to be interesting because of the varied performances of both teams each week. The same Texas Tech team that nearly upset Texas Christian struggled to beat Kansas 30-20 last week. Meanwhile, the Sooners put up 55 points in their shutout of Kansas State after getting rocked by Texas.
Both of these teams performances’ have varied from week to week but what’s clear is both teams have high-powered offenses and the scoreboard operator better be ready for an eventful Saturday.
No. 3 Utah at Southern California (Spread: -11)
I know what you’re thinking, “USC is favored?!” You know what’s crazier? Vegas has us as a favorite (OK, only three points, but better than nothing). And it should go without saying — the folks in Vegas usually know what they’re doing when it comes to college football.
So what’s the deal then? First, we’ve had quite a few close losses (the Stanford, Washington, and Notre Dame scoring margins were all within 10 points). As surprising as this may sound, scoring margin is a pretty good predictor of future performance, sometimes even better than a team’s win-loss record. USC and Utah have the same scoring margin (+17 points per game). True, the Trojans have an interim coach, but we also have a lot of talent on offense. The deciding factor will be whether or not USC’s offense will be able to stay on the field and make enough big plays against Utah’s tough defense.
Utah has proven itself on the road twice against Fresno State and Oregon. And the Utes have beaten Michigan and Cal. So there’s no doubt that Utah has a great defense and an impressive resume of wins this season. And it’s quite possible that USC simply looks better on paper, but trying to guess the outcome is what makes college football so much fun.
And if we do lose, at least we know the experts in Vegas still believe in us.
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.