Twenty-eight of the nation’s FBS teams are idle this week, but that still leaves us enough for 51 games. All of our predictions can be seen here but let’s start with a look at the PAC-12.
UCLA (3-2) gave up nine yards per play last week against Arizona State and added 89 more via penalties. As we said in the preseason, the Bruins are not yet ready to win the PAC-12 South, although their path to a bowl game is still pretty straightforward. The journey resumes this week as UCLA is a modest 34-24 favorite over Arizona, a team that has used three quarterbacks to throw 6% of their passes to the wrong team.
Stanford (3-2) travels to Arizona State (4-1) for a Friday night matchup of programs that have yet to lose in their respective divisions. This game will be a battle of ASU’s splash offense against the Cardinal’s discipline and patience.
ASU has the better talent, and less discipline as the Sun Devils give away nearly 100 yards in penalties per game and rank 93rd for giving up turnovers.
Stanford’s offense is the nation’s third in fewest turnovers led by freshman quarterback Tanner McGee who has yet to throw an interception. The Cardinal have one of their best rush attacks in years, but it won’t be enough in a 34-24 loss.
Utah (2-2) meets with USC (3-2) to ponder the question: “Why are neither of us ranked anymore?” Regardless of who wins this game, neither will be ranked next week, although the winner will still be undefeated in the PAC-12 South. USC interim head coach Donte Williams seems to have figured some things out as he said this week that he doesn’t really like penalties or turnovers very much. That sounds like a magnificent understatement once you see the Trojans ranked 119th in the nation for both.
Utah has been struggling with difficult personnel issues this season with the accidental death of a running back, the murder of a defensive back, the transfer-out of quarterback Charley Brewer, and this week’s arrest of a murder suspect.
Although expert analysts and our Savvy system all predict USC will win, I personally think Utah will pound the ball on the ground behind a stellar offensive line. The rush attack of Oregon State took down the mighty Trojans in Los Angeles, and I think Utah will follow the same script with the same results.
League-leading Oregon State (4-1) is a narrow three-point favorite in our Savvy system against Washington State (2-3). The Beavers are on a four-game winning streak that has been propelled by a top 20 rushing attack. However, the OSU offensive line ranks in the bottom 15 for giving up the most tackles for loss as well as the most sacks per game. The sack problem of the offensive line is further compounded by OSU’s greater-than-average tendency to throw long.
Washington State protects its quarterbacks, but that only increases bewilderment of why Cougar quarterbacks throw so many interceptions.
California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington lost last week and don’t get to play this week.
Around the nation . . .
Fans who love to hear the caterwaul from tons of scoring will hear only a sad trombone because neither the #6 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0) nor #3 Iowa (5-0) have defenses that give up an average of 12 or more points. While it’s true that last year’s outlier game totaled 62 points, we have to keep in mind that PSU was not its own self the previous year and seemed more like the Knitting Lions as they lost their first five games.
Betting lines show #4 Oklahoma (5-0) as a three-point favorite on the road against #15 Texas, but our system favors the Longhorns 33-31. Oklahoma still hasn’t beaten an FBS opponent by more than one score.
Second-ranked Georgia (5-0) will have no problem with #19 Auburn (4-1) in a win likely to vault the Bulldogs past Alabama and into the top spot in our weekly rankings.
Current #1 Alabama (5-0) will cruise past #23 Texas A&M (3-2) points and continue to have smooth sailing because four of the red elephant’s final six games are at home, and none are against teams currently ranked on the Index.
I’ve been watching the trend lines and see a significant whirlwind developing in Columbia, Missouri, as the spiraling Missouri Tigers (2-3) host North Texas (1-3). On the surface, this looks like an impossible situation for UNT, but the acute convergence of several trend lines points to an upset in the making.
Just about everyone expects Troy (2-3) to take down Georgia Southern (2-3). I think it will go the other way. Why? Because Georgia Southern fired its head football coach last month, and the team has since posted fabulous metrics. Troy has been stagnant and struggling. Georgia Southern is lightning in a bottle. That combination triggers the upset alarm every time.
Why was GSU head coach Chad Lunsford fired? Partially because the best performance of his players didn’t happen on the field but rather on top of the team bus. An offensive lineman surfed atop the bus and drank beer just before the Eagles’ loss to Louisiana. Coaches love it when they see videos of their players having so much fun. And yes, that was part of the athletic director’s decision to send Lunsford packing, to which one fan posted, “To hold him accountable for the actions of a student’s inappropriate actions is also wrong.”
Although the pickings were slim last week, our Index did have a few favorable predictions, such as:
BYU over Utah State 35-20 (final was 34-20)
Texas over TCU 38-27 (final was 32-27)
SMU over USF 43-17 (final was 41-17)
Oregon State over Washington 28-27 (final was 27-24)
Despite horrendous prognostic carnage, the Savvy Index is still above 78% in predicting winners this season compared to 73% by the oddsmakers. We’re working on a calibration enhancement in the spread module, but Savvy was 15 games better in predicting total points (over/under) than the betting lines and is 33 games better in just the past three weeks.