College Football Teams on Upset Alert in Week 12
Week 11 of college football was one of the most exciting weeks so far. Oregon was beaten by Stanford for the second straight year on a Thursday night game, Virginia Tech beat the Miami Hurricanes which puts them back in contention for ACC Coastal, and the Vanderbilt Commodores may have personally put Florida head coach Will Muschamp on the hot seat. There has been at least one big upset every week for the past several weeks, but will a top ranked team fall this week?
#4 Stanford at USC
Stanford did the impossible and knocked off Oregon, and a flawless defense finally figured out how to shut down the Ducks' offense. Now Stanford faces USC who is playing exceptionally well under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. Does last week's win mean that the Cardinal will not play their best football against the Trojans? Kirk Herbstreit and the rest of the Gameday crew will make their way to Los Angeles for this game so apparently someone is expecting Stanford to be in for a fight. An upset loss would be catastrophic but can easily be avoided by continuing the success of quarterback Kevin Hogan and running back Tyler Gaffney along with defense. This is not a game that Stanford should overlook just because they feel relieved after beating Oregon.
Stanford fans are hoping that their team plays to their full potential for this game while USC fans are hoping that the Trojans play every down with perfection and pull the big upset. This team struggled early and fired their head coach mid season, but USC players have played so well under Orgeron that there are even rumors circulating that he has a chance to become the head coach. His team has developed dramatically over the course of the season winning its last three games by an average of 22 points and ranking 2nd in total defense in the PAC-12. Quarterback Cody Kessler and his team's continued improvement will be key to notching a win that will rejuvenate a program that was once considered a lost cause.
On one side you have a team that is trying to keep its national title hopes alive and on the other side you have a team trying to regain its elite status. Every game has importance even if fans do not realize it, but this has national and PAC-12 title hopes on the line. If there is one thing you can expect from this matchup, it's that this game will be much closer than people think.
Florida at #10 South Carolina
Similar to last week's Alabama-LSU game, the coaching history between South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Florida makes this game intriguing. No one is giving the 4-5 Gators a chance over South Carolina, especially with the Gamecocks coming off a bye week. Quarterback Connor Shaw, who has become the unsung hero in Columbia, and running Mike Davis have been overlooked because of the Jadeveon Clowney hype, but the offense has carried this team for most of the season. A win over the ailing Gators may seem easy but as crazy as it may sound, a loss is not out of the question.
The Gators have struggled all year and the season officially went up in flames when Vanderbilt took out Florida in 'The Swamp'. When was the last time the Commodores beat Florida in the Swamp? 1945. The loss of 10 players (six starters) to injury has not helped their cause. Despite these recent struggles, Florida is still number one in total defense in the SEC, and a win over South Carolina would really boost morale in Gainesville. With such a talented defense, the Gators have a chance, but avoiding offensive turnovers will be vital for the team as a whole. Does Florida have enough motivation to take out the Gamecocks?
Earlier in the season, Texas beat Oklahoma and eased the talks of head coach Mack Brown getting fired, and a win over South Carolina may do the same thing for Muschamp. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what will be the difference in this game, but the term 'upset' is now hard to use when referring to teams in the SEC East.
Oregon State at #19 Arizona State
Arizona State stayed at the top of the PAC-12 standings after edging a 20-19 over Utah last week. Was last week's performance a fluke or a something of concern for the Sun Devil's PAC-12 title hopes? Their spot at the top will be challenged again as the Sun Devils look to avoid a loss at home to Oregon State. Squeaking out a win over 4-5 Utah is far from impressive, even if the Utes did beat Stanford, but Arizona State does have the number one passing defense in the PAC-12. That will be critical in this matchup as the Beavers have the conference's top passing attack. If the pass defense fails to do its job, running back Marion Grice will have to carry the load in order to own time of possession and keep Oregon State off the field.
Oregon State is going into this game hoping to catch the Sun Devils off-guard. In all reality the Beavers are talented enough to beat almost any team in the PAC-12 when they are on top of their game. Quarterback Sean Mannion leads the country in passing and has 31 touchdown passes to just six interceptions. The passing game has obviously been the bread and butter for this team, but with Arizona State having such a phenomenal pass defense, the Beavers may have to rely more on running backs Terron Ward and Storm Woods. Both players only average about 3 yards per carry so there's no guarantee they'll be able to move the ball. The Beavers won six straight after losing the opener to Eastern Washington, but will they end their losing streak against a ranked PAC-12 opponent?
Statistically these two teams are almost identical. When looking at rankings it would seem as if the Sun Devils are a much stronger team, but this is actually a perfect matchup with conference championship implications.
Houston at #20 Louisville
Louisville returned one of the most experienced teams in the country this season, and to some analysts (Tim Brando) the Cardinals were a national title contender. A mid-season loss to UCF ruined their chances of making it to the national championship, and the Cardinals will host a tough two-loss Houston team. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country and should continue his success on a weak Houston defense. The problem with Louisville lies in having to slow down Houston's offense. Having the top ranked defense in the AAC should help, but if this game turns into a shootout there could be trouble for the 8-1 Cardinals.
The Cougars are actually one of the most underrated teams in the country this season having only lost two games by a combined total of six points. Their success is even more remarkable considering the fact that they have a freshman quarterback in John O'Korn, who is 3rd in the conference in passing yards. Defensive struggles have troubled them all season, but if this team can slow down Bridgewater they have a great chance. Even if they do not stop Bridgewater they have the ability to win in a shootout, but can the the Cougars find offensive production against a solid Louisville defense?
Both Louisville and Houston need UCF to lose in order to be back in contention for the AAC. Louisville is the favorite to win it, but they were also favored over UCF on a Thursday night game. Houston will be one of the toughest conference opponents the Cardinals have faced. This matchup should be a fight from start to finish.