Two will be upset, maybe more. But two for sure in this (possible) Armageddon Weekend. So says the almighty statistical trends churned out by the NCAA.
Since 1966, the association has kept track of home-field advantage. The home team wins about 60 percent of the time. Last year marked the third-highest home-field ratio in history (63.6 percent winners). The number is back to about 60 percent this season. If form holds, at least two of the six unbeaten teams playing on the road this weekend will lose because ... at least four of the six home teams (66.6 percent) will win.
All the calculations kind of take the Armageddon feel out of it, don't they? There is every possibility that form will fold this weekend. The season is beginning to resemble 2007's Year of the Upset. With the six unbeaten BCS-contending brutes (Utah, TCU, Missouri,Auburn, Michigan State and Oregon) playing roadies, a complete re-shuffling of the top of college football looms. WWL is rooting for chaos over stats.
Oregon at USC: The fastest team in the country goes to L.A. for what might be the Trojans' last hurrah before they go NCAA hibernation. WWL has a feeling the Trojans are going to pull one out of their nether regions and keep this one competitive. If USC's defense isn't dragging by the fourth quarter, then Matt Barkley's arm and Monte Kiffin's brain could make it another No. 1 upset.
Auburn at Ole Miss: Psst, Houston. Suggestion: Put eight in the box and make Cam Newton beat you with his arm. Someone will stop Cammo, eventually. Sure, it might not happen until he gets to the NFL, but there is hope for the Rebels, who haven't stopped much of anything this season. Auburn's defense isn't great itself (49th nationally), and Jeremiah Masoli can make plays. Maybe he and Newton can talk MacBook Pros. This wouldn't be nearly as big a game had Newton and Masoli not each had an (alleged) desire for other folks' laptops.
Michigan State at Iowa: The Spartans have to realize by now they are this year's Iowa -- a team touched by a magic wand. When your most valuable player is the punter (Aaron Bates) because of his arm, well, there is something special going on. The feeling here is that Iowa is done emotionally after time (clock mismanagement) and space (too much given to the Badgers) problems against Wisconsin. It's wacky enough picturing Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, but how about in the BCS title game?
Missouri at Nebraska: Twitter lit up Wednesday after the suspension of Nebraska linebacker Eric Martin for a head (or near head) shot in Oklahoma State game. Why did the conference office wait until Wednesday? What about all the other head shots? Why do you care about a backup linebacker, Nebraska Fan? Better question: Which Nebraska quarterback will show up, Good T-Magic or Bad T-Magic?
TCU at UNLV: The Frogs' season will be decided next week at Utah, if they can concentrate for a couple of quarters against the Rebels, 1-6. One concern: TCU quarterback Andy Dalton has three touchdown passes to four interceptions on the road or a neutral site. The ratio is 11/1 at home. TCU finishes with three out of four on the road.
Utah at Air Force: Since 2003, Utah is 6-1 against Air Force, but the average margin of victory is less than a touchdown. "I always thought 'close' is synonymous with false deceit," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. Any coach who sidesteps clichés for a "false deceit" blast knows more than football. Upset, Falcons.
Scouting the Nation
Didn't you used to be Florida-Georgia? We sure had some good times together.
The traffic, the taunts, the humidity. The crowded restaurants Friday nights. Stare into the face of desperation: Waiting to get into a Chili's at midnight. It was all worth it. The game was the thing. The only neutral-field annual that compared to it was Texas-Oklahoma.
Jacksonville has been more Cocktail Party than big game over the past 20 years, usually with (insert Florida offensive star here) torching Georgia's (insert segment of defense here). You knew the result before the first freshman vomited in the Jacksonville Municipal Stadium parking lot. Florida was going to win. Now, we're not sure. We're also not sure if that's a good thing. The Cocktail Party remains. The significance of the game, though, has dimmed.
It's a weird lose/win for Florida. The Gators have lost too many (4-3), but can win out and claim the SEC East again. As for Georgia, the Mark Richt Watch has been downgraded to a tropical depression. A 4-4 record stinks. A three-game winning streak is reason for hope.
The East may have become the Least, but the division title still matters, even if Gators-Dawgs matters a little less.
Death to the BCS, among others: It was good week for death penalty supporters. Not so much for Oklahoma, which lost to Missouri but got a timely pick-me-up from this guy.
OU Part Deaux: There's no doubt Oklahoma (hosting Colorado) has enjoyed its share of BCS fortune. (See 2003, when it lost to Kansas State by four touchdowns in the Big 12 title game and still played in the BCS championship game. Also see 2008, when it lost to Texas and still won a three-way Big 12 South tiebreaker.) But WWL never thought he'd see a) Bob Stoops bow to the BCS with his coaching strategy and b) admit it in public.
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Late in Saturday's loss at Missouri, Stoops punted deep in his own territory, in essence to keep the margin at nine points rather than turn the ball over to the Tigers for an easy score.
"It's a long year," Stoops said this week. "Who knows how poll people look at scores?"
Better question: Who are these "poll people"?
Texas (lack of) Fight: Bravo to Mack Brown for calling out his players and assistants as the season circles the drain. Bravo even if Brown is indicting himself a little as Baylor comes to town.
"I told them if one of your guys is playing bad, I can change them," Brown said of his assistants. "If three of your guys are playing bad, I change you. I am ready to play each week."
Texas has been so successful that it's almost as if a championship isn't on the line, the passion isn't there. The Bears lead the Big 12 South. We'll see how the Horns respond with their manhood being challenged. Baylor's season is made after becoming bowl eligible. If Texas doesn't win by 20, WWL will be surprised.
If the coaching thing doesn't work out, Derek Dooley could lead a Panzer division: "Right now we're like the Germans in World War II." No, D, you're, like, the only team in the SEC without a conference win heading into the South Carolina game.
Golden Hurricane warning: In another so-so Notre Dame season who knew it would come down to this: Worrying whether the Irish can beat Tulsa. A middle-of-the-road Conference USA team will face a Notre Dame that is ranked above 37th nationally in only one of the 18 team categories tracked by the NCAA. In 11 categories, ND is 62nd or worse, including 81st in total defense.
Conference USA showdown: Life above the BCS Mendoza Line can't dim East Carolina at Central Florida. The teams have combined to win the last three CUSA titles. Each has won nine consecutive conference games, tied for fourth-best in the country. Pay attention to East Carolina's Dominique Davis (18 touchdown passes) and Central Florida's true freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey.
WWL Brain Teaser: What team has the toughest schedule remaining (according to the NCAA's stats based on combined records of future opposition)? Answer below.
The quote of the week from the Ol' Turkey Inseminator
"I'd like to be able to tell you we're going to run the wishbone, but they're [players] a young, very fragile bunch. What they've got I'd like to keep in their heads."
--Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell explaining why he changed offensive coordinators this week from Jimmy Kiser to running backs coach Des Kitchings.
WWL Brain Teaser answer: Alabama, off this week before traveling to LSU on Nov. 6. Its remaining opponents have a combined 19-3 record against I-A competition, a .864 winning percentage (LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia State, Auburn). The NCAA does not count I-AA Georgia State in its statistics. However, if it did, 'Bama would still be No. 1 with an .800 winning percentage by its opponents. Georgia State is 5-3 in its first season.
Finally ... Thoughts and prayers to Notre Dame and the family of student Declan Sullivan.