Ohio State vs. Michigan, Plus Seven Upset Predictions

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We have much to be thankful for during this holiday week, but please be patient with any game predictors in your life. This is that crazy time known as “rivalry week” and predicting games can be very frustrating for them. If their smiles seem fake, forced, or cemented, please show compassion.

Rivalries stir up player emotions to uncommon levels. Uncommon emotions produce uncommon results that lead to uncommon upsets. That’s why you’ll see players gritting whatever teeth they have left, steeling their eyes on their wretched arch-rivals, and dreaming of stomping and grinding and crushing and humiliating.

Ah yes—it’s all become a part of America’s Thanksgiving.

And, it’s also become a part of why it’s so hard to accurately predict games.

But . . .

It’s still a lotta fun to try.  And, that is what our system has done this week as it has delivered seven upset predictions—or more than twice the number of an ordinary week.

Before we do that, let’s get to the big game at the Big House.

Top-ranked Ohio State (11-0) travels to #9 Michigan (9-2) and is favored 35-24 by our Index.  That prediction should hold up well because the Buckeyes are, as many experts have observed, the most complete and dominant team in FBS.

However . . .

We have been commenting throughout November about Ohio State’s defensive performance lines in our system metrics.  Those lines have been inconsistent, with erratic angles, and not usually found in top-ranked teams. Those trends are not lethal, but they suggest risk and they are worth watching as we approach the playoff.

Usually, we see the Buckeye defense wreak havoc, but then for short spells, we’ve also seen it reek rancid.

Last week’s game against Penn State is a good example.  Ohio State held the elite Nittany Lions scoreless for three entire quarters but gave up 17 in just the last half of the second quarter, despite the return of dominating defensive end Chase Young.

Another concern for OSU is its recent tendency to turn over the ball.

Those negatives open the door enough to think Michigan could win but not nearly enough to predict it.

In other games matching ranked teams, the Index favors #4 Alabama (10-1) over #21 Auburn (8-3) by 12 despite oddsmakers favoring the Tide by less than a touchdown.

Memphis (10-1) is a 33-24 favorite to build on its 16th ranking over #18 Cincinnati while #17 Wisconsin (9-2) is favored by two over 13th-ranked Minnesota in an upset so minor that we haven’t included it in our upset section below. 

In a match of teams near the bottom of the rankings, Virginia Tech is a 33-21 favorite despite Vegas showing just -2.5 (as of November 25th).

And, what Thanksgiving would be complete without us joining the mirth and joy of our fellow Americans who live in College Station, Texas and are so wealthy that they are paying more than one million dollars for each of their seven wins this season!  They have no idea the thimble with which we measure our envy. 

And now, to the fun part—the upset predictions.

Upset #1:  Texas Tech (4-7) over Texas (6-5)

In a surprising pick, our system is projecting that Texas Tech will beat Texas. Tech has noticeably stronger performance lines, should exceed Texas’ ability to bring pressure, and will benefit from 13 Longhorns being injured against Baylor last week.

Upset 2:   Army (5-6) over Hawai’i (8-4)

Since this is a matchup of low-ranked teams, it would not ordinarily be shown this high in the list of predicted upsets.  But, the differential between these two teams is so great and the prediction so unexpected that it deserves prominent mention.  So far, I haven’t been able to find the data influencers that are causing our system to make this prediction.

Upset #3:   Boston College (5-6) over Pittsburgh (7-4)

Oddsmakers say Pitt is 10 points better but our Index is as firmly attached to Boston College as it can be for a three-point prediction.  Pitt has been highly predictable for the past six games while Boston College has been up one week and down the next. BC is predicted to win 30-27.  Apparently, a down week for turkeys is an up week for Eagles.

Upset #4:   Tulane (6-5) over SMU (9-2)

We mentioned five weeks ago that SMU would decline in November.  The Index then predicted Navy’s upset of the Mustangs last week and for five weeks, SMU has posted negative trends.  Tulane has played stronger opposition and either met or exceeded expectations all but once in those five weeks.

Upsets #5 – #7:

Three minor upsets are being forecast.

Fifth:  Fresno State (4-7) is favored by oddsmakers over San Jose State (4-7) but the Index is projecting SJSU by one.

Sixth:  Analysts favor Kentucky (6-5) over Louisville (7-4) but our metrics point solidly to a 24-21 win by the Cardinals.

Seventh:   While few might notice Kent State’s (5-6) minor upset of Eastern Michigan (6-5), we will because it flies in the face of EMU being favored with sizable spreads by other oddsmakers.  

Last week, our system was 49-15 in predicting games and now stands 592-180 (77%) for the season. 

The Index’s biggest miss was Colorado’s upset of Washington, but its best four were as follows: Cal over Stanford 24-20; we predicted 27-24.    Kentucky over Tennessee-Martin 50-7; we predicted 51-7. Alabama over Western Carolina 66-3; we predicted 64-7, and Kansas State over Texas Tech 30-27;  we predicted 28-27. 

In the PAC-12 . . .

After relishing a main course of Duck last week, Arizona State (6-5) will put a sweet topping on its Thanksgiving feast with a sweet 37-24 creaming of the Arizona Wildcats (4-7).  The Wildcat defense is one of FOUR PAC-12 defenses in the bottom twenty of the FBS.

Stanford (4-7) will be a wonderful holiday host for #8 Notre Dame (9-2) as the Cardinal let the Irish do just about anything they want in a 39-21 Cardinal loss.  Hard to believe but Stanford is another of those four PAC-12 teams in the nation’s worst twenty.

(Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some of the causes of Stanford’s steadily eroding football program in recent years.)

Last week, we predicted Cal (6-5) would beat Stanford 27-24 and our Index is using that same score to predict a win at UCLA (4-7).

Colorado will cap a 5-7 season with a 39-10 loss at #6 Utah (10-1).  Colorado won’t be able to run the ball because Utah leads the nation in defending the rush and Colorado won’t be able to pass the ball because quarterback Steve Montez is once again throwing 4% interceptions.

Oregon State (5-6) still leads the nation in taking care of the football and is near the top in capturing the admiration of America, but the Beavers have not been able to compete with nationally-ranked teams.  Oregon is 9-2 and enters the game ranked twelfth. 

Oregon State lists three receivers as injured (11/25/19) while Oregon is concerned about the availability of top running back C.J. Verdell.

If the Beavers have healthy receivers, look for them to follow ASU’s example by double-moving some go routes and beating the Duck secondary long.  That might not be enough to win, but it should be enough to produce an exciting game.

Oregon is favored 39-21.

To see all 64 or our game predictions for this week, please visit us here.

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