Welcome to Upset Alerts, where each week our three intrepid Eye on College Football writers and special guest BCS/bowl projections expert Jerry Palm each pick an upset they believe will shock (or at least mildly amuse) the college football world.
This week's lines are here. The picks:
JERRY PALM: Kansas State (+5.5) over Texas: This almost seems too easy. The horns have come off the steer the past couple of weeks for Texas. First, BYU runs roughshod over the Horns in Provo, then the Ole Miss offense goes all Hotty Toddy on them at home. The solutions to the defensive problems seem to be lacking, as is the confidence Longhorns fans have in Mack Brown's ability to find them.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats have righted the ship, especially offensively, following an opening week loss to FBS-killer North Dakota State. Kansas State has also owned Texas, winning the past five in the series.
Last week: Hit on UCLA over Nebraska. Season-to-date: 1 for 1
TOM FORNELLI: Utah (+6.5) over BYU: Three of the past four meetings between these two teams have come down to the very end, and I'm expecting another close contest this week. While I'm confident the Utes will cover, I'm also confident they'll actually win the game outright. Through three games this season the Utah run defense is allowing 2.64 yards per carry, and they've done that against teams like Utah State and Oregon State. So we can't just discount the number.
On the flip side of that there's BYU. Do you know which passing attack is ranked last in the country in passing efficiency? That would be BYU, which has an efficiency rating of 69.91 and is completing 32.8 percent of its passes. That's less than a third. In other words, a good run defense won't even have to worry about stopping the pass Saturday night, and that tends to make life a whole lot easier.
Last week: Missed on Illinois over Washington. Season-to-date: 0 for 2
JERRY HINNEN: Michigan State (+5) over Notre Dame: They say that the only real harm in making a mistake is not learning from it. Of course, it's easy for them to say when they didn't pick Boston College to upset Southern California last week. But I am trying to learn, all the same; the reason that BC pick failed (well, the biggest one of many) is that Lane Kiffin finally settled on Cody Kessler as his undisputed No. 1 quarterback, giving the entire Trojans offense a desperately needed jolt of confidence and coherence. Result: The same attack that put up 7 points against Washington State put up 35 against an Eagles defense that nearly everyone would expect to be the much, much better of the two.
Which means I'm not shrugging off Connor Cook taking the reins of a struggling Spartans offense that looked like it wouldn't have hit the four-touchdown plateau playing Boy Scout Troop 527, and suddenly guiding it to 55 points against Youngstown State. Obviously the Irish defense is an order of magnitude stouter than the Penguins', but the Spartans' own lockdown defense should be able to cut Cook and Co. enough slack to make it a tight, one-possession game -- the sort of game in which Notre Dame got all the breaks last season, and can't expect to have the same good fortune this go-round.
CHIP PATTERSON: Arkansas (+2.5) over Rutgers: I realize this wouldn't be a monumental upset, but it could be a very big win for first-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks offense has pushed the team to a 3-0 start thanks to some impressive running from Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Rutgers' defense has allowed just 10 points against Eastern Michigan and Norfolk State combined, but how will the front seven, still breaking in several new starters, perform against the Razorbacks and their bruising 53.3 rushing attempts per game? Even with starting quarterback Brandon Allen nursing a hurt shoulder, I like the Hogs in that matchup.
If Arkansas loses this game, it will be on their own defense. Rutgers has a formidable rushing attack as well, thanks to fast-starting sophomore Paul James. James currently leads the nation with 493 yards on the season, and he told reporters this week that the Arkansas game is his chance to validate statistics like his 8.1 yards-per-carry average.
A win would be huge for Bielema, as the Razorbacks prepare for a murderer's row to kick off SEC play. With all the nonconference action in the rear view, Arkansas' quest for bowl eligibility will take place entirely in league play. The next four opponents after Rutgers? Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama. 4-0 would be much better than 3-1 heading into that month of SEC play.
Last week: Hit on UCF over Penn State. Season-to-date: 2 for 2.