Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 5, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Here's a thought we've had the last day or so ...
What if this is one of those years in College Football when you have more than two undefeated teams left by the end of regular-season/conference championship games?
Hey, it could happen.
Consider the following very possible scenario:
Let's say #1 Alabama wins out, #2 Oregon runs the table and #3 Florida State doesn't lose a single game.
Again, just for argument's sake, let's say they all win their respective conference championship games by "healthy margins" ... now what?
Maybe you say that's easy 'cause as long as Alabama and Oregon keep winnin' it's not likely they'll be bumped from their two top perches in the polls but this could get real sticky, especially if Florida State wins the ACC Championship Game by 20-plus points and really looks like a proverbial world-beater.
Okay, so maybe we're tossing something out there that's simply not gonna happen but halfway through this 2012 NCAA Football Season it remains a possibility, right?
BTW, if we had a four-team playoff in place for this year - which we don't, of course - the semifinal matchups right this minute would be (get this) Alabama versus LSU and Oregon vs. Florida State.
Okay, so we won't peak into the Jim Sez crystal ball that far down the line anymore here in today's column space but in a few moments we will take a sneak peek at some Saturday games involving ranked road teams and whether or not they have reason to fret but first let's tackle the ESPN twin-bill for this first Friday night in October:
PITTSBURGH (2-2) at SYRACUSE (1-3) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's just say the arrow is pointing up these days for the here-and-now Pittsburgh Panthers ... finally!
Pitt's recent 35-17 win against 10 ½-point favorite Virginia Tech awoke the echoes of a long-lost football program and now first-year boss-man Paul Chryst's team takes its act into the Carrier Dome looking to win its third game in a row and note that hasn't happened in the same year since the middle of 2010 - you remember the Dave Wannstedt Era, right?
In this clash Pittsburgh's born-again QB Tino Sunseri (6 TDs and 1 INT in his last two games) will look to keep up his fine play against the Orange as Sunseri's thrown for 525 yards and two TDs in a pair of wins against the 'Cuse.
If Syracuse is gonna snag this mild home upset - and keep in mind Pittsburgh's won the last seven games in a row SU (straight-up) against the Orange - than slowing down Pitt RB Ray Graham is a big key and keep in mind Syracuse is yielding 176.3 ground yards a game this year (ranks 'em a lowly 81st nationally among 124 FBS schools).
Spread Notes - Pittsburgh has covered seven of its last 10 head-to-head showdowns against Syracuse including the last three in a row. Last year the Panthers - an 8-point home favorite - closed out regular-season action with a stirring 33-20 win/cover against the Orange. Meanwhile, note that the 'Cuse is now 2-10 versus the vig in its last overall dozen games and the lone spread win this year in four tries came in that 42-29 loss-but-cover against 25-point fav USC.
UTAH STATE (4-1) at BYU (3-2) - 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
No doubt about it: This in-state rivalry game is one of the best non-Top 25 games on the whole weekend board and don't you dare sleep on this Utah State team that's won three of its four games by twin-figure margins this year and nearly beat Wisconsin too.
The Aggies rank 15th nationally in pass defense and so whether BYU opts for Riley Nelson (missed last week's 47-0 laugher win against Hawaii with injuries) or freshman star Taysom Hill (143 yards passing to go along with 112 yards passing last Friday night) the road dogs must not allow for field-flipping plays here ... or else.
The main star to watch for U-State is do-it-all RB Kerwynn Williams who brush-stroked UNLV last week to the tune of 113 yards rushing and 147 yards receiving in a 35-13 win/cover. If Williams is able to shake loose in space here, than BYU's LBs/DBs could be in a heap of trouble.
Spread Notes - BYU's failed to cover the last four consecutive showdowns against rival Utah State and that includes last year's 27-24 non-cover win as 8-point home favorites. The Coogs enter this prime-time tilt having covered nine of their last 11 overall games dating back to the middle of last year. Utah State is a perfect 5-0 against the odds this season and the Aggies are an electric 28-13-2 ATS (against the spread) as dogs since the start of the 2007 season (that's a sizzling .683 winning rate)
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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS & NOTES
Let's check in on the ranked road teams that could have problems this Saturday ...
#4 LSU (5-0) - We'll get into more detail with the Bayou Bengals game in Gainesville in our next Jim Sez which will feature a slew of key ranked games on the Saturday card but here's a little appetizer: The Tigers have not exactly appeared to be all that interested in recent wins against Auburn and Towson and now you wonder if 8th-year head coach Les Miles can flick the emotional switch and get his guys to play ferocious ball against Florida in "The Swamp". Can we just say LSU told everyone this past summer that its passing game would be greatly improved and here we are with this SEC West crew averaging just 202 passing yards a game - and that ranks 'em 92nd among FB schools. Ugh!
#17 OKLAHOMA (2-1) - The Sooners did some major soul-searching following that 24-19 loss to 15 ½-point road dog Kansas State two weekends ago and now Bob Stoops' crew flies into another hornet's nest here with born-again Texas Tech (4-0). No doubt that Oklahoma QB Landry Jones is in a something-to-prove mood after two critical turnovers in that loss to K-State and the $64,000 question here is will he now "spit the bit" under pass-rush pressure? Hmmm.
#24 NORTHWESTERN (5-0) - Lots to feel good about here with the 2012 Wildcats who rank 9th in the land in rushing offense (256 yards a game) and 14th nationally in rush defense (90 ypg) but might this high-noon ET tilt at Happy Valley prove to be too tall a task for QB Kain Colter and Company? Note that Northwestern's defense is yielding a mere 15.5 points per game following that season-opening 42-41 win in Syracuse but now Penn State's physical attack will look to wear down the 'Cats come the fourth quarter - is Pat Fitzgerald's team deep enough/strong enough to stay unbeaten here?
NOTE: Get our NCAA Football Saturday Key Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.