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College Football Week 3 Preview

   by Larry Ness - 09/14/2012

CFB Preview (Sep 14)

There were no top-25 showdowns last weekend in CFB but this Saturday, we get treated to No. 2 USC (minus-8 1/2) at No. 21 Stanford, No. Michigan St (minus-5 1/2) hosting No. 20 Notre Dame and No. 18 Florida (plus-3) visiting No. 23 Tennessee. USC has lost the last three years to the Cardinal, including back-to-back heartbreakers in the last two season, 37-35 at Stanford in 2010 and 56-48 in three OTs last year in LA. The Spartans have won 10 of the last 15 meetings against the Irish, as Notre Dame looks to open 3-0 for the first time since 2002. Notre Dame hasn’t beaten a top-10 team in seven years plus has lost SIX straight road games vs ranked opponents, with the average margin of defeat being 16.7 PPG. The Gators have beaten the Vols in SEVEN straight meetings (Tennessee has failed to score more than 23 points in any game). The two rivals are both ranked for this meeting for the first time since 2007 and speaking of rankings, Derek Dooley is 0-10 vs ranked opponents in his career (three years at LA Tech and in his third at Tennessee), while Will Muschamp (in his 2nd year at Florida) is 0-5 vs ranked opponents.

As I’ve been noting in my Random Thoughts column, ranked teams vs unranked opponents are 40-4 SU (.910) but just 17-26 ATS (that’s 40% ) after two full weekends. With three games featuring ranked opponents accounting for six teams and No. 5 Oklahoma being idle (Sooners & Seminoles are tied for 5th in the AP poll), that leaves 19 ranked teams playing unranked opponents. The most vulnerable to lose SU could be No. 13 Va Tech (minus-10) at Pittsburgh, No. 14 Texas (minus-10) at Ole Mis and No. 25 BYU (minus-3 1/2) at Utah. We’ll do the math next Monday, after the ‘dust’ has settled.

Streakers: No team finished unbeaten in 2012, so there is no real winning streak worth mentioning. However, the nation’s two-longest active home winning streaks are on the line this weekend, as No. 3 LSU (minus-42 1/2) hosts Idaho and Wisconsin (minus-14) hosts Utah State. LSU (19 straight home wins) is a virtual lock to win SU and let’s note that LSU has won 39 straight against non-conference opponents in the regular season, tying a Football Bowl Subdivision record first set by Kansas State. However, Wisconsin is another story.

Wisconsin has won 10, 11 and 11 games the last three seasons, averaging 41.5 PPG (on 455 YPG) plus 44.1 PPG (on 470 YPG) the last two. After two games in 2012, the Badgers are averaging a mind-boggling 16.5 PPG on an equally hard to accept 297.0 YPG. Montee Ball had his Heisman hopes all but extinguished last week, gaining just 61 yards on 15 carries plus seeing his streak of at least one TD end at 21 consecutive games. The Badgers were held to an unfathomable 35 yards rushing (1.5 YPC) at Oregon St and after just two games, the team's new OL coach was fired. The school’s 33-game non-conference winning streak in regular season games came to an end with the loss at Oregon St but the Badgers have won 17 straight at Camp Randall and under the direction of head coach Bret Bielema, have gone 40-3 at home, the best home mark of any team in the FBS since 2006. The nation’s longest-active road winning streak belongs to Va Tech (13 in a row) and the Hokies will try to extend that mark at Pittsburgh. Here’s one that’s hard to believe. The second-longest active road winning streak belongs to Houston, at six in a row. Yes, the same Houston team which has opened the season by losing back-to-back home games to Texas State 30-13 (as a five-TD favorite!) and La Tech (56-49). Raise you hand if you like Houston plus-17 at UCLA on Saturday).

Tulane owns the nation’s longest-active losing streak at 12 in a row but the Green Wave are idle this weekend. Akron has lost 10 straight but the Zips just may end that streak Saturday, when they host Morgan St (they had better, or Jerry Faust is coming back!). Tulane also owns the nation’s longest-active home losing streak (six in a row), as well as the second-longest active road losing streak (21 in a row). The nation’s longest current road losing streak belongs to New Mexico (23 straight) and that will likely continue on Saturday, as the Lobos visit Texas Tech, where they are 32 1/2-point underdogs.

How quickly one can fall! Was it really just two years ago when Cam Newrton came out of nowhere to win a Heisman and lead Auburn to a perfect 13-0 season and a BCS championship? It seems like longer. The Tigers have opened the 2012 season with a 26-19 loss to Clemson and a 28-10 loss to Mis St. The team's lone offensive TD this season came in the first quarter against Clemson, which gave them a 7-3 lead. Nothing has gone right, since. Auburn’s only other TD this season came on a 100-yard KO return. The Tigers host UL-Monroe, which just won 34-31 at then-No. 8 Arkansas, as Warhawks QB Kolton Browning passed for 412 yards (three TDs) and ran for 69 (scored game-winner on a 16-yard run in OT). The Tigers are favored by 16 1/2 points, as they look to avoid starting a season 0-3 for the first time since 1950.

Join me for my NFL Week 2 preview Saturday at 2:00 ET.

Good luck...Larry

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