Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 10:30 AM
It's safe to say that UL-Monroe, Oregon State and - yes - the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rank among the top "feel-good" stories of this still-young 2012 NCAA Football Season but you know us media folks:
We like to accentuate the negative (not really all the time!) ... and so let's trot out the season's "Biggest Losers" so far through the first four weeks of this gridiron year:
ARKANSAS (1-3) - Who else but these here-and-now Hogs as the country's "biggest loser" with a reminder that this SEC West crew began the year ranked #10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and now couldn't bribe their way to even getting a single top 25 vote! No doubt that the stunning early-season overtime loss to aforementioned UL-Monroe started to spin this season in a downward spiral plus the head injury suffered by outspoken QB Tyler Wilson didn't help matters but keep in mind the Razorbacks rank 107th in the land in rushing offense and 111th in passing defense and that's no way to win games. Hard to believe that Arkansas is allowing 36.3 points a game thus far and we can only wonder if that would have been the same had one-time head coach Bobby Petrino not decided to take his motorbike (and his mistress) out for a country ride. Now, Arkansas heads to Texas A&M this Saturday and we gather you've already noticed the Hogs are two-TD underdogs ... gulp!
HOUSTON (0-3) - Wasn't it just a year ago that the Cougars were torching opponents left-and-right en route to a scintillating 13-1 SU (straight-up) season?
Now here's what Houston fans have been "privileged" to watch in Year One of the Tony Levine Era: The Coogs have fallen to the likes of five-touchdown underdog Texas State, Louisiana Tech and UCLA right out of the proverbial starting gate and they've been outscored 123-to-68 in these three games. Don't look now but city rival Rice is the next challenge this Saturday at Reliant Stadium and if the Coogs lose here than the whole program could be up in flames. Keep in mind that Houston's been to a post-season bowl game in six of the last seven seasons but when you sport the country's 107th-best rush defense (allowing 247 yards per game) and 107th-best pass defense (yielding 290 yards per game) than it's tough to get into that win column.
IOWA (2-2) - What exactly has happened to this once-proud program that's been to nine bowls in the past 10 years? Kirk Ferentz's squad already has lost to 3 ½-point dog Iowa State and 14 ½-point pup Central Michigan and no need to inform handicappers that the Hawkeyes enter this Saturday's Homecoming Game against new-and-improved Minnesota with four spread setbacks in as many tries this year. Burn, baby, burn! Among Iowa's woes include offensive ineptitude as the 'Eyes rank 89th in the FBS in both passing offense and overall offense and note QB James Vanderberg - who we thought would have a big-time season in Iowa City this year - instead has been a major flop and note he completed just 7-of-16 passes after a perfect 9-for-9 start in last weekend's 32-31 last-second loss to the CMU Chippewas. Check out the Iowa sked and you'll notice the Hawkeyes must play Big 10 road games at Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan ... might this be a sub-.500 team when all the dust finally settles in late November?
Now, let's spend a moment on the Friday Nite TV Preview ...
HAWAII (1-2) at BYU (2-2) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, we don't want to say that the BYU Cougars need to play on prime-time TV every week but they're on the tube more than the Kardashians!
In fact, this is the fourth time this year that BYU finds itself on the "ESPN family of networks" but even we can't admit that this is "must-see TV" considering the Coogs are a healthy four-TD betting favorite against the gang from the 50th state.
If you want to track something of interest here, than let's see if BYU quarterback Riley Nelson - benched in last Thursday's 7-6 loss-but-cover at Boise State -- stays in the lineup here after he was picked off three times (and fumbled once) against the Broncos.
Spread Notes - BYU has split its first four out-of-the-chute pointspread results this year but the Cougars do own a solid 18-11 ATS (against the spread) log since the start of the 2010 season and that includes last year's 41-20 at 8-point home dog Hawaii. Note that the visiting Warriors, meanwhile, enter this clash at 4-10-1 spreadwise overall while tracing back to the start of last year but Hawaii is a respectable 6-5-1 spreadwise in its past dozen games as underdogs.
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS/NOTES
The Northwestern Wildcats (4-0) are nowhere to be found inside the AP Top 25 right now but that's okay with seventh-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
The under-the-radar 'Cats already have beaten three BCS teams (see Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College) and now Northwestern is a double-digit betting favorite this weekend at home against enigmatic Indiana in the team's Big 10 opener.
Northwestern's defense has been the major scene-stealer so far as the Evanston gang has allowed just 33 points in its last three games following that wild season-opening 42-41 win at 'Cuse and keep a close eye this weekend and beyond on DE Tyler Scott who has three sacks already ...
Are the Georgia Bulldogs the "forgotten team" among the college football elite this year?
No doubt the 4-and-oh Dawgs have plenty of bite with the nation's 13th-best overall offense and what can you say so far about junior QB Aaron Murray who sports some dazzling numbers including 1,092 yards passing with 10 TDs and 2 INTs while Georgia has won its first four games by a per-game average of 31 points!
The Bulldogs host two-TD dog Tennessee this Saturday (kickoff's at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS) and Murray would love to get the country's fifth-ranked team some more "love" but the real key for Mark Richt's team is offensive balance and how about the fact Georgia rushes for 242 yards a game and throws it for 287 yards a game?
The next "real" test for Georgia is Oct. 6th at South Carolina - that's the inside-track game if you want to be the champ of the SEC East
Finally, let's show a little "love" to the little guy here and what about 4-0 Texas-San Antonio? The UTSA Roadrunners - one of the new teams in the now 124-team FBS - is a national unknown but we're here to tell you QB Eric Soza (695 yards passing with 7 TDs and 1 INT) is the real deal and that San Ant defense ranks 8th overall in the land and is allowing a meager 63 rushing yards a game (also good for 8th-best in the country).
Next up for the Roadrunners: Back-to-back road games at New Mexico State this weekend and than - following a bye - an Oct. 13th road game at Rice. Keep any eye on this Lone Star State team that may be a real national gem in a couple of years ahead.
NOTE: Get our NCAA Football Saturday Key Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.