This is the time of year when even the most casual college fan perks up for their school's big game, hoping to retain or reclaim bragging rights for the next year. Upsets happen throughout the season, but teams in championship hunts who are looking to end the year on a high are prone to the upset during rivalry weekend.
Not all games listed here are diehard rivalries, and if your team's rivalry game isn't listed it's not an intended slight. An Alabama victory over Auburn or Oklahoma victory over Oklahoma State would hardly be considered an upset. The following is merely a listing of six possible upsets to watch out for this weekend in college football. And no, these are not predictions.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
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No. 17 Texas A&M @ Texas
In a unique twist, the Aggies are on upset alert as they host the 5-6 Longhorns Thanksgiving night, who hope to avoid missing the bowl season for the first time since 1997. The Aggies, on the other hand, look to keep their razor-thin Big 12 South hopes alive with a win over the Longhorns (Oklahoma would have to beat Oklahoma State Saturday and the Aggies would have to beat Texas and somehow jump both the Sooners and Cowboys in the BCS rankings), although they'd probably be satisfied with sending Texas home for the bowl season.
For all of Texas' struggles, there's still a lot of talent on the roster. The offense may not be flowing the way it did last year, but the defense, despite plenty of losses to the NFL, still ranks eighth in the nation. The pass defense is 11th, but pass efficiency defense is 47th. They've struggled keeping teams out of the end zone with an average of 23.64 points allowed per game.
Since taking over for Jerrod Johnson on October 23, A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown for 1,306 yards and ten touchdowns compared to three interceptions in five games, including his 36 for 50 for 449 yards (a school record) and four touchdowns performance against Texas Tech in his first career start under center. Cyrus Gray was instrumental in upsetting Nebraska last weekend and should be just as important in leading the Aggies against the Longhorns.
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Friday, November 26, 2010
Colorado @ No. 15 Nebraska
The Cornhuskers need to be careful not to drop another game with the Big 12 North title on the line. Last week's loss to Texas A&M, the reportedly blown-out-of-proportion sideline 'confrontation' between quarterback Taylor Martinez and head coach Bo Pelini and the reportedly false rumors that Martinez had subsequently left the team leave Nebraska vulnerable to a slip-up at the end of what was a very promising season that had some thinking National Championship for the Huskers and Heisman for Martinez.
The Buffs have had a tumultuous season. Actually, a tumultuous couple of seasons would more aptly describe the Colorado football program in recent years. They need a win to become bowl eligible for the first time since their Independence Bowl loss to Alabama in 2007 and they have not finished above .500 since they went 7-6 in 2005. Despite the recent struggles, the Buffs have appeared reenergized since Brian Cabral took over as interim head coach for the fired Dan Hawkins and they've won two straight.
The keys to pulling off the upset will be stopping the running game to force Nebraska to win it through the air, and putting points on the board because despite the six point performance last Saturday, you can bet Nebraska will find the end zone. Buffs running back Rodney Stewart has rushed for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns in the past three games, while quarterback Cody Hawkins, son of former coach Dan Hawkins, has thrown for three touchdowns and at least 200 yards in each of the last three games. He hasn't thrown a pick in either of the last two. It's Stewart, though, who will hold the key for the Buffs against the Huskers' first-class pass defense, but rather suspect rushing defense.
No. 21 Arizona @ No. 1 Oregon
Wide receiver Bug Wright, the fourth leading receiver in Arizona's 10th ranked passing offense and their primary punt returner, has been indefinitely suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules, which is said not to be related to anything criminal or academic. While not having Wright hurts, quarterback Nick Foles has enough weapons at his disposal to produce through the air while Keola Antolin and a now-healthy Nic Grigsby will carry the ball on the ground. The potential to score points is there and they'll have to do a lot of it to win this one.
The real key to an Arizona upset won't be simply outscoring the Ducks, but finding a way to hold them to around 30 points. Not exactly an easy proposition considering that except for their 15-13 win over Cal, Oregon has scored at least 42 points in all of their games and over 50 in seven of their ten wins. Arizona is capable of hanging more than 30 points if they're on top of their game, but the defense must come into this matchup with confidence, not panic if the Ducks score early and match Oregon's offensive energy. If the defense can hold Oregon to around 30 points, they'll have a shot.
No. 4 Boise State @ No. 19 Nevada
Boise State's worthiness for an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game (and by extension, TCU's) has proven the most controversial topic in college football since the mere mention of Tim Tebow's name sent fans into a tizzy.
Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick has garnered national recognition for his ability to expertly run Nevada's pistol offense. He's a threat through the air and with his legs, leading the fourth-ranked rushing offense that also includes Vai Taua, who has now rushed for over 1,200 yards in three consecutive seasons. Kaepernick has amassed 2,412 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air and 1,045 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. By comparison, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has thrown for 2,038 yards and 21 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,297 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Where Boise State has a clear advantage over Nevada is on defense. The Broncos boast the second-ranked total and scoring defense, top-ranked rushing defense and seventh ranked pass defense (sixth in pass efficiency defense). Moving the ball, let alone scoring points, has not come easy against Boise State. Nevada must not only limit Boise State on offense, something Fresno State was able to do for the first quarter last Friday, but they must also consistently move the ball against a stalwart defense that has allowed just 11.5 points per game and has pitched three shutouts this season. This is Nevada's season, though, and if ever a team had a shot at upsetting the Broncos, it's the Wolf Pack this Friday night in Reno.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Michigan @ No. 8 Ohio State
It's quite simple. For Michigan to have any semblance of hope of pulling off the upset, they need to play defense, something they've struggled with all season long. Michigan held just two teams (Connecticut and Purdue) to less than 21 points and has allowed more than 30 points six times. They rank 112th in total defense, 92nd in rushing defense, 92nd in pass efficiency defense and are 111th in pass defense. They may have a top five offense, but injuries and a general inability to stop Big Ten offenses (all conference opponents but Purdue have scored at least 30 points and all but Iowa and Purdue have put up at least 435 yards) have been the downfall of this team.
Oregon State @ No. 6 Stanford
If Oregon State hopes to pull off the upset, they'll need to play the same mistake-free football that earned them a win over USC last weekend. Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rogers surpassed 100 yards rushing for the first time since October, quarterback Ryan Katz continued to produce at a steady pace and did not throw any picks, while the defense allowed just 255 yards and held the Trojans to only a touchdown in the 36-7 win. Obviously, dealing with Andrew Luck, the presumed top pick in next year's draft should he come out early, won't be easy and the Trojans were without quarterback Matt Barkley for the second half, but if the Beavers can play a similar brand of inspired defense they'll give their offense a chance to pull off the upset. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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