The Ten Closest Matchups of Week 7
- USC at Notre Dame – The projections see this game as dead even, but there’s enough extra baggage on both sidelines (coaching turmoil on one, injuries on the other) to throw it off. I’m not sure what the heck to expect from this game. A blowout in either direction wouldn’t even be all that stunning. The myriad possibilities makes this one of the most interesting games of the weekend.
- Iowa at Northwestern – The Northwestern bandwagon emptied out pretty fast thanks to Michigan’s defense, but Iowa might be a little more their speed. The Hawkeyes are undefeated with wins over some pretty good teams, and if you follow OFR’s rankings, you’re taking them seriously. With a win on the road this weekend, the rest of the country may have to as well.
- Charlotte at Old Dominion – Two mid-majors with offense and no defense. Fun!
USF at Connecticut – UConn last week was the latest team to blow out an apparently neglected Central Florida, and the Huskies are a 3 point home favorite. My calculations, on the other hand, like USF, who have played better since their September 26 bye week. The Bulls played Memphis pretty close and then whipped Syracuse 45-24 last weekend. I’ve been waiting for Willie Taggert’s program to turn a corner, and while it’s far too early to really say either way, things are encouraging. If USF is on its way, it needs to win games like this.
- Virginia Tech at Miami – The Coastal division isn’t the NCAA’s most glamorous so far, but it does seemingly always present an opportunity for fun: a 7 way tie at 4-4. Is it still possible? The current standings:
It can still happen! Seriously, all 7 teams could conceivably win this division. It’s been a disappointing year for both Virginia Tech and Miami, but both can begin to right the ship and get back into the Coastal race. The loser is probably focusing on bowl eligibility.
- Syracuse at Virginia – I can’t think of a less interesting ACC matchup. This one should be close, sure, but not in a fun way. At the very least, maybe this can serve our goal for 4-4.
- Vanderbilt at South Carolina – Derek Mason is 0-10 in SEC play, and I don’t know of a better chance for a first win than against a bad South Carolina defense whose head coach just quit. Alternatively, maybe an obviously burned-out Steve Spurrier was holding the Gamecocks back a bit. It’s a big opportunity for both schools, for very different reasons.
- Hawaii at New Mexico – Norm Chow vs. Bob Davie, which in 2005 were words I never would have expected to be writing 10 years in the future.
- Florida at LSU – The Vegas line moved drastically in LSU’s favor after Will Grier’s steroid suspension earlier this week, but I think that’s a bit of an overreaction. I think Florida will run into some problems this year because of this, and it could certainly cause problems Saturday, but there’s just far too much focus on the Gator offense. The Florida defense is the first this season that seems capable of slowing down Leonard Fournette and forcing LSU to throw the ball. Florida’s offense doesn’t have to play all that well to keep this game close. It’s a night game in Death Valley, so I expect LSU to win, but I don’t necessarily expect the Tigers to cruise to victory.
- San Diego State at San Jose State – Loser should have to shorten their name by a word.
Some quick thoughts on the coaching jobs that have opened up this year:
Illinois – Tim Beckman, fired prior to the beginning of the season due to allegations of player mistreatment, may not have been fired due to performance, but it’s looking like he maybe should have been. Interim HC Bill Cubit had a 36-27 conference record at Western Michigan from 2005-2012, and he has Illinois playing at their highest level since the Ron Zook era (+12.4% in the F/+ rankings). Given the administrative turmoil going on at Illinois (several programs accused of mistreatment, the chancellor just quit), taking the interim label off Cubit might be a good idea for the short term. I can’t imagine this would be a very attractive job for anyone other than a coordinator looking for a first shot.
Maryland – “Oregon of the East”. We’ve heard what Maryland wants to be, but we just haven’t seen any evidence of them doing it. Kevin Plank of Under Armour is often discussed as Maryland’s Phil Knight, so there’s definite potential for money to come into that program in a big way. The school recently committed well over $100M to some renovations to improve the facilities. Maryland is geographically close to some big talent pools, and all it’s going to take is the right guy. The recruiting will be a battleground with Virginia Tech, Penn State, Ohio State, and others in the region, but Maryland should be as much a player as the others. Firing Randy Edsall seems to have been the right call, and the Terps have a potentially big chance at a hire by getting into the game early.
North Texas – That team is a mess, and I’m not sure why. Compared to most in the Conference USA, North Texas has money and spends it. Nice, recently built facilities are there to impress recruits, and Denton (which I had to look up) is in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area. They’re not going to be a first choice for top recruits, but they’ll have geographic access to plenty of really good ones. I’m not saying North Texas should be great, but the Mean Green should be well above losing 66-7 to an FCS team, which is what happened Saturday. Dan McCarney seems like a good enough guy, but you just can’t expect to keep your job after that.
South Carolina – Since peaking in 2012, the Gamecocks have been trending downward, each year a little worse than the one before. I think everyone knew it was time. I’m just glad he hung around long enough for to see 50+ points on the scoreboard at Sanford Stadium one last time. As for the job, it’ll be one of the biggest to come open. SC is hungry for bigger things, can compete in recruiting, and can pay as well as most of the SEC.
USC – Steve Sarkisian’s drinking problem aside (I hope the guy makes a full recovery), everything about his USC tenure has just been a little odd. This year’s team is probably the best the Trojans have fielded since the Pete Carroll era, but they’re still inexplicably losing games they shouldn’t. I’m really interested to see what USC does here, because they haven’t made a smart hire since Carroll left. Lane Kiffin made little sense, although it was admittedly late in the hiring cycle. Sarkisian was pretty mediocre at Washington, which made his hire puzzling to an extent. Of course, we know why they were hired – they called plays for Mark Sanchez, and coached for Pete Carroll. Will USC move on from the Pete Carroll coaching tree? If they’re willing to, they could get a top-notch HC. If they’re not, expect more inexplicable losses until they finally realize that hiring Pete Carroll’s employees isn’t the same as hiring Pete Carroll.
Hour by Hour Viewing Guide
7:00 – Auburn at Kentucky, ESPN. Interesting, for a Thursday night game. Nice warm-up for the 8:25 Falcons game.
7:30 – WKU at North Texas, CBS SN. Just a backup game for commercial breaks for the hour or so you’re waiting for the NFL to begin.
***8:25 – Not college, but if you’re not rooting on the Falcons at this time, I don’t like you. Keep Auburn/Kentucky as the backup.
10:30 – When the NFL is done, ESPN has a great late night Thursday game: UCLA at Stanford. Two top 20 teams battling in a major conference game. This is the kind of game that might get overshadowed on Saturday, but late on Thursday night gives us a great opportunity to check out some contenders.
8:00 – Cincinnati at BYU, ESPN. I think BYU wins by a couple of scores, but it’s some not completely irrelevant teams playing on Friday, which is good.
9:00 – Houston’s a good team if you haven’t seen them, and they’re playing Tulane on ESPN U. However, Tulane probably won’t offer much resistance, so I’d opt for Boise State at Utah State on CBS SN. I like the MW game over the 8:00 game, actually.
10:30 – UNLV at Fresno State is, technically speaking, a football game.
12:00 – Hello, noon games! Where have you been all year? West Virginia at Baylor (FOX) will be great. ABC & ESPN 2 will be splitting Iowa/Northwestern and Ole Miss/Memphis, both of which should be very fun. A pretty good Louisiana Tech team travels to Mississippi State for a pretty decent matchup on the SEC Network. Louisville/FSU on ESPN, Pitt/Georgia Tech on ESPN 3. It’s too much. If I had to pick, I think I’d go with 2 of these 3: WVU/Baylor, Iowa/Northwestern, and Louisville/FSU. But keep your eye on all that I just mentioned. It’s a very full noon slate.
3:30 – Alabama visits Texas A&M on CBS, and that’s your game of the hour, and probably the game of the day as well. There are plenty of good secondary choices. Michigan State/Michigan on ESPN should be an excellent game. Oklahoma at Kansas State features two good teams playing on ABC. Even Nebraska/Minnesota (ESPN 2) and Virginia Tech/Miami (ESPN U) have some potential. Again, a lot to keep keep track of.
7:00 – Florida at LSU on ESPN gives us undefeated rivals that are top 10 teams right now. The game has a Heisman frontrunner and a steroid scandal. All eyes on this game. As for a backup, while TCU/Iowa State (ESPN 2) is tempting, Boston College at Clemson (ESPN U) is my pick.
7:30 – USC at Notre Dame on NBC is an instant backup game for football fans everywhere. I suppose Missouri/Georgia isn’t bad, but I’m a Georgia fan, and I’ll probably be giving equal attention to the other games.
8:00 – As if things weren’t complicated enough, Penn State visits Ohio State on ABC. I’d stick with Florida/LSU and USC/ND, but it’s something else to keep an eye on.
10:00 – Now the Pac-12 gets involved, sending Arizona State to Utah on ESPN. Don’t sleep on this one. The Sun Devils are well coached and beat UCLA by 15 points. They could ruin another undefeated record on Saturday.
10:30 – When the other games end, Washington/Oregon on ESPN 2 gives you a nice backup for the Utah game.
It’s a hectic Saturday. This weekend, more than any before, the Thuuz app will be your friend.
The Full Slate
A quick explanation of a couple of columns:
F/+: F/+ is Football Outsiders’ method of ranking team strength. It’s presented as a percentage and all set against an average FBS team. So, if Team X has a F/+ rating of 12.3%, that means that, by this metric, they’re 12.3% better than the average FBS squad. It encompasses many things that make teams successful, like drive success, explosiveness, and efficiency, all weighted for quality of opponent, but it isn’t an end-all, be-all metric. There’s no such thing. It’s just a far more helpful metric than the collected votes of a bunch of middle-aged beat writers. For the first 4 weeks of the season, they mesh 2015 results with the preseason projections.
FPI: Provided by ESPN, FPI bases everything around Expected Points Added, which measures how much each play contributes to scoring points. A touchdown isn’t just the product of the scoring play, but rather all the plays that led to it. By awarding expected points based on what the average team does at the same field position and down/distance, a point value can be placed on each individual play based on the changes from the old ball spot to the new. FPI is opponent-adjusted, and focuses on predicting outcomes, which it did better than Vegas handicappers last year.
Unadjusted Spread: This is my calculation of the point spread without an adjustment for home field advantage. Just listing it so we can have a look back at it later.
|Visitor||ESPN FPI||F/+||Home||ESPN FPI||F/+||Favorite||Time||TV||Unadj. Spread|
|Arkansas State||-3.3 (82nd)||-21.3% (98th)||South Alabama||-17.6 (117th)||-43.4% (122nd)||Ark St (-4.5)||Tuesday - 8:00||ESPN 2||Ark St (-12.5)|
|Auburn||10.3 (35th)||7.7% (53rd)||Kentucky||5.7 (55th)||-6.2% (75th)||Auburn (-1.5)||Thursday - 7:00||ESPN||Auburn (-5.5)|
|WKU||10.6 (33rd)||25.4% (29th)||North Texas||-25.6 (128th)||-57.7% (127th)||WKU (-32.5)||Thursday - 7:30||CBS SN||WKU (-38.5)|
|UCLA||17.1 (18th)||33.3% (16th)||Stanford||18.9 (14th)||41.6% (5th)||Stan (-6.5)||Thursday - 10:30||ESPN||Stan (-2.5)|
|Cincinnati||3.4 (63rd)||-4.3% (70th)||BYU||7.2 (50th)||24.5% (30th)||Friday - 8:00||ESPN||BYU (-9.5)|
|Houston||5.1 (57th)||10.8% (50th)||Tulane||-12.0 (109th)||-34.4% (109th)||Hou (-17.5)||Friday - 9:00||ESPN U||Hou (-19.5)|
|Boise State||17.3 (17th)||26.0% (28th)||Utah State||3.2 (64th)||4.1% (61st)||BSU (-9.5)||Friday - 9:00||CBS SN||BSU (-12.5)|
|UNLV||-8.2 (100th)||-19.7% (96th)||Fresno State||-17.7 (118th)||-41.7% (119th)||UNLV (-5.5)||Friday - 10:30||ESPN 2||UNLV (-10.5)|
|Western Michigan||-2.5 (81st)||-17.1% (91st)||Ohio||0.3 (71st)||6.9% (54th)||Ohio (-3.5)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN 3||Ohio (-7.5)|
|Eastern Michigan||-17.7 (119th)||-35.0% (110th)||Toledo||7.8 (46th)||21.5% (35th)||Tol (-29.0)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN 3||Tol (-26.5)|
|USF||-3.4 (83rd)||-12.0% (84th)||Connecticut||-7.2 (96th)||-12.2% (85th)||Conn (-3.0)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN U||USF (+1.5)|
|Tulsa||-4.1 (87th)||-6.2% (74th)||East Carolina||0.9 (69th)||4.2% (59th)||ECU (-10.5)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN News||ECU (-5.5)|
|Purdue||-4.0 (86th)||-14.8% (87th)||Wisconsin||12.0 (30th)||17.1% (42nd)||Wis (-19.5)||Saturday - 12:00||Big Ten Network||Wis (-15.5)|
|Marshall||-0.2 (73rd)||1.2% (63rd)||Florida Atlantic||-10.5 (105th)||-19.6% (95th)||Marsh (-6.0)||Saturday - 12:00||Marsh (-10.5)|
|FIU||-5.3 (90th)||-24.5% (102nd)||Middle Tennessee||2.1 (66th)||-11.0% (83rd)||MTSU (-8.5)||Saturday - 12:00||MTSU (-7.5)|
|Texas Tech||13.1 (28th)||19.1% (37th)||Kansas||-17.1 (116th)||-45.1% (124th)||TTU (-31.0)||Saturday - 12:00||Fox Sports 1||TTU (-31.5)|
|Bucknell||n/a||n/a||Army||-13.4 (113th)||-20.3% (97th)||Saturday - 12:00||CBS SN|
|West Virginia||14.6 (22nd)||26.4% (25th)||Baylor||29.2 (1st)||37.6% (13th)||Bay (-21.0)||Saturday - 12:00||FOX||Bay (-10.5)|
|Iowa||9.4 (41st)||26.5% (24th)||Northwestern||7.9 (45th)||32.4% (18th)||Iowa (-1.0)||Saturday - 12:00||ABC/ESPN 2||NW (-0.5)|
|Ole Miss||22.9 (4th)||33.3% (17th)||Memphis||6.0 (54th)||5.7% (56th)||Miss (-10.5)||Saturday - 12:00||ABC/ESPN 2||Miss (-15.5)|
|Louisiana Tech||6.8 (52nd)||14.8% (45th)||Mississippi State||13.5 (26th)||17.8% (39th)||MSU (-13.5)||Saturday - 12:00||SEC Network||MSU (-4.5)|
|Louisville||10.2 (37th)||23.8% (32nd)||Florida State||16.3 (19th)||39.2% (10th)||FSU (-7.0)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN||FSU (-6.5)|
|Pittsburgh||7.8 (47th)||19.5% (36th)||Georgia Tech||14.2 (23rd)||17.3% (40th)||GT (-2.5)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN 3||GT (-2.5)|
|Buffalo||-8.5 (101st)||-15.7% (88th)||Central Michigan||-4.9 (89th)||-10.9% (82nd)||CMU (-7.5)||Saturday - 1:00||ESPN 3||CMU (-3.0)|
|Northern Illinois||-1.3 (76th)||2.0% (62nd)||Miami OH||-18.7 (124th)||-42.1% (121st)||NIU (-15.5)||Saturday - 2:30||ESPN 3||NIU (-19.5)|
|Akron||-6.4 (95th)||-9.5% (79th)||Bowling Green||0.1 (72nd)||4.2% (60th)||BGSU (-12.0)||Saturday - 3:00||ESPN 3||BGSU (-6.5)|
|Georgia State||-20.2 (126th)||-44.8% (123rd)||Ball State||-5.4 (92nd)||-21.9% (99th)||Ball (-16.5)||Saturday - 3:00||ESPN 3||Ball State (-13.5)|
|Kent State||-13.2 (111th)||-29.0% (106th)||Massachusetts||-10.3 (104th)||-17.4% (92nd)||UMass (-7.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN 3||UMass (-4.5)|
|Air Force||-2.5 (80th)||-8.4% (78th)||Colorado State||-7.5 (98th)||-16.1% (89th)||AFA (-1.5)||Saturday - 3:30||CBS SN||AF (-4.5)|
|Idaho||-19.3 (125th)||-40.6% (116th)||Troy||-14.3 (115th)||-40.7% (117th)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN 3||Troy (-2.5)|
|Virginia Tech||11.0 (32nd)||16.2% (43rd)||Miami||10.0 (39th)||12.6% (47th)||Miami (-6.0)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN U||VT (-1.5)|
|Alabama||23.7 (2nd)||61.1% (2nd)||Texas A&M||21.4 (6th)||39.1% (11th)||Alabama (-4.0)||Saturday - 3:30||CBS||Bama (-6.5)|
|Syracuse||-1.3 (77th)||-10.1% (81st)||Virginia||-0.7 (74th)||-6.1% (73rd)||UVA (-7.0)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN 3||UVa (-1.5)|
|Oklahoma||19.6 (11th)||37.9% (12th)||Kansas State||11.6 (31st)||30.0% (19th)||OU (-4.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ABC||OU (-5.5)|
|Rutgers||-2.4 (79th)||-16.4% (90th)||Indiana||0.8 (70th)||9.9% (52nd)||Saturday - 3:30||Big Ten Network||Indy (-8.5)|
|Michigan State||12.8 (29th)||27.4% (23rd)||Michigan||18.5 (15th)||48.5% (3rd)||Mich (-7.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN||Mich (-8.5)|
|Nebraska||7.5 (49th)||17.2% (41st)||Minnesota||3.6 (62nd)||11.5% (49th)||Minn (-1.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN 2||Neb (-3.5)|
|Charlotte||-18.0 (121st)||-45.6% (126th)||Old Dominion||-18.4 (122nd)||-41.6% (118th)||ODU (-8.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ODU (-0.5)|
|Vanderbilt||3.8 (61st)||0.8% (64th)||South Carolina||4.1 (59th)||-5.9% (72nd)||SC (-3.5)||Saturday - 4:00||SEC Network||Vandy (-1.5)|
|Oregon State||-5.5 (93rd)||-18.3% (94th)||Washington State||1.5 (67th)||-2.8% (69th)||WSU (-8.0)||Saturday - 4:00||Pac 12 Network||WSU (-7.5)|
|Nevada||-7.4 (97th)||-13.2% (86th)||Wyoming||-18.5 (123rd)||-40.3% (115th)||Nev (-7.0)||Saturday - 4:00||ESPN 3||Nev (-12.5)|
|New Mexico State||-17.9 (120th)||-35.3% (111th)||Georgia Southern||2.4 (65th)||-5.7% (71st)||GSU (-28.5)||Saturday - 6:00||ESPN 3||GSU (-17.5)|
|Appalachian State||4.4 (58th)||-1.8% (66th)||ULM||-10.1 (103rd)||-32.5% (108th)||App (-10.5)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN 3||App (-14.5)|
|Hawaii||-13.4 (114th)||-38.5% (114th)||New Mexico||-11.2 (106th)||-37.2% (113th)||NM (-5.5)||Saturday - 7:00||NM (-1.5)|
|Florida||19.2 (13th)||39.9% (8th)||LSU||20.7 (7th)||41.1% (6th)||LSU (-7.5)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN||LSU (-1.5)|
|Wake Forest||-3.7 (84th)||-6.9% (77th)||North Carolina||13.2 (27th)||10.1% (51st)||UNC (-17.0)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN 3||UNC (-12.5)|
|Boston College||1.5 (68th)||4.6% (58th)||Clemson||19.6 (10th)||63.0% (1st)||Clem (-15.5)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN U||Clem (-23.5)|
|UTSA||-13.4 (112th)||-17.6% (93rd)||Southern Miss||-5.4 (91st)||-24.0% (101st)||USM (-8.0)||Saturday - 7:00||USM (-2.5)|
|TCU||24.4 (2nd)||37.5% (14th)||Iowa State||-1.0 (75th)||-6.7% (76th)||TCU (-20.5)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN 2||TCU (-23.5)|
|UCF||-12.0 (108th)||-37.0% (112th)||Temple||8.7 (43rd)||14.8% (46th)||Temple (-21.5)||Saturday - 7:30||CBS SN||Tem (-23.5)|
|USC||22.8 (5th)||40.6% (7th)||Notre Dame||20.5 (8th)||44.3% (4th)||ND (-7.0)||Saturday - 7:30||NBC||Pk|
|Missouri||6.5 (53rd)||0.5% (65th)||Georgia||19.2 (12th)||21.6% (34th)||UGA (-16.0)||Saturday - 7:30||SEC Network||UGA (-11.5)|
|Penn State||7.6 (48th)||15.0% (44th)||Ohio State||20.5 (9th)||34.2% (15th)||OSU (-17.0)||Saturday - 8:00||ABC||OSU (-11.5)|
|Arizona||8.7 (44th)||-1.9% (68th)||Colorado||-1.9 (78th)||-28.0% (105th)||Ariz (-8.0)||Saturday - 9:00||Fox Sports 1||Ariz (-11.5)|
|Arizona State||10.6 (34th)||26.3% (26th)||Utah||16.0 (20th)||39.6% (9th)||Utah (-7.0)||Saturday - 10:00||ESPN||Utah (-6.5)|
|Oregon||9.0 (42nd)||6.3% (55th)||Washington||10.2 (38th)||24.0% (31st)||Wash (-1.5)||Saturday - 10:30||ESPN 2||Wash (-5.0)|
|San Diego State||-5.8 (94th)||-24.5% (103rd)||San Jose State||-4.3 (88th)||-22.8% (100th)||SJSU (-2.5)||Saturday - 10:30||ESPN U||SJSU (-1.5)|