Upset Alerts, Week 3: Can Huskies take show on the road?
In our second week of Upset Alerts, our four experts warn Washington, Nebraska, Penn State and -- again -- USC.
Welcome to Upset Alerts, where each week our three intrepid Eye on College Football writers and -- new for Week 3 -- BCS/bowl projections expert Jerry Palm will pick an upset they believe will shock (or at least mildly amuse) the college football world.
This week's lines are here. The picks:
TOM FORNELLI: Illinois (+10) over Washington : You might think that I'm showing a bit too much faith in Illinois' performance the last two weeks with this pick, but in reality it's more a lack of faith in the Huskies on the road. Yes, this game is being played in a "neutral" site in Chicago, but Chicago is a few hours from Champaign. Seattle is a just a bit further. For all intents and purposes, this will be an Illini home game.
And as a road team under Steve Sarkisian, the Huskies are 6-16; they're 12-41 on the road in the last 10 seasons. And while I was certainly impressed with Washington's performance against Boise State to open the season, it certainly wouldn't be the first time somebody was impressed with Washington and let down the first time the team left Husky Stadium. (Note: Jerry Hinnen disagreed with this pick. Hear him and Fornelli debate it on this week's Expert Picks Podcast.)
Last week: Missed on Western Kentucky over Tennessee. Season-to-date: 0-for-1.
JERRY PALM: UCLA (+4) over Nebraska : In last year's game, which was played at UCLA, the Bruins ran roughshod over Nebraska's defense for 653 yards in a 36-30 victory. After giving up 34 points to Wyoming in the opener, it doesn't look like the famed Black (and Blue?) shirt defense has fixed its problems. UCLA is coming off a bye week and playing with a heavy heart after the death of Nick Pasquale this week. You never know how something like that will affect a team.
Last week: N/A.
CHIP PATTERSON: UCF (+5.5) over Penn State : First, absolutely with Palm on the Bruins. But in an effort to express my individuality for this exercise I'll take the Knights in an early road test against Penn State. Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg benefits from an experienced group of wide receivers -- Allen Robinson, Brandon Felder, most notably -- but has thrown just three touchdowns to three interceptions in his first two games.
UCF has not faced any competition on Penn State's level, but they have only allowed one touchdown in two games and the defense is holding opponents to just 3.6 yards per play. If Blake Bortles, Storm Johnson and the Knights offense can jump out to an early lead and force Penn State away from the ground game there should be an opportunity to create turnovers.
This is the first "measuring stick" game for George O'Leary's squad in 2013. An upset makes next week's visit from South Carolina, along with the AAC title race, much more intriguing. I'll side with intrigue here.
Last week: Hit on Navy over Indiana. Season-to-date: 1-for-1.
JERRY HINNEN: Boston College (+14) over USC: Sticking with our philosophy of picking underdogs of more than a field goal means it feels like slim pickings this week, even as plenty of quality teams -- Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, the aforementioned Huskies -- go on the road to face BCS competition. So why take a two-touchdown favorite playing at home, one that after last week's embarrassing loss won't even begin to look past the 2-0 Eagles?
Because while the Eagle offense isn't as sharp as Washington State's, first-year coordinator Don Brown's defense is far, far stingier, and exactly the sort of disciplined unit the flailing Trojan offense doesn't want to see. In a game where neither offense can expect to crack the 20-point mark, victory could be decided by simply which quarterback takes better care of the ball -- and B.C.'s Chase Rettig could easily have the upper hand there over Cody Kessler.
Last week: Missed on Central Arkansas over Colorado. Season-to-date: 0-for-1.
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