Of the 20 ranked teams that are in action this weekend, 14 of them play unranked opponents in Week 9. Las Vegas oddsmakers have three of those 14 listed as underdogs to unranked teams, while three other ranked teams are favored by less than seven points in matchups against unranked opponents. What’s the common link between those six teams that Vegas doesn’t believe in?
They’re all on the road this week.
Buckle up because this might be a disastrous weekend for the AP Top 25. Here are the six ranked programs that could lose to an unranked team this weekend.
No. 12 Kentucky at Missouri (-6.5)
The Wildcats have reached their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll since 2007, when they peaked at No. 8. In their last two games, they’ve lost at Texas A&M in overtime and beaten Vanderbilt 14-7 thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown.
Now, the Tigers could emerge as a trendy pick at home.
Kentucky’s passing game has struggled this season, to say the least. Quarterback Terry Wilson was 3-for-9 for 18 yards and one touchdown last week – his third game of the season with less than 100 passing yards.
While Wilson (395 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns) and running back Benny Snell (868 rushing yards, 9 touchdowns) have carried a top-20 rushing offense, Missouri has been fairly stout against the run. The Tiger defense ranks 35th nationally at 131 yards allowed on the ground per game.
Missouri was both competitive in a 43-29 loss to Georgia and the last team to beat Purdue, which has since beaten then-No. 2 Ohio State and then-No. 23 Boston College. Can Kentucky keep up with a balanced Tigers offense that averages 500 yards and 38 points per game?
No. 21 South Florida at Houston (-7.5)
If you’re a diehard college football fan, you’ve certainly heard of Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who was named the No. 1 player in the country by multiple media outlets prior to the season. But what you may not know about the Cougars is that they’re third nationally in total offense per game, only behind Alabama and Ohio State.
They’re seventh nationally in yards per carry (6.16) and 17th in rushing yards per game (234), while also throwing for the country’s ninth-best mark of 321 passing yards per game.
Quarterback D’Eriq King has been proficient while still taking care of the ball with a 23-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s also accounted for a team-high nine touchdowns.
Eight Houston players have rushed for at least 100 yards this season, led by running back Patrick Carr at 65 carries for 407 yards.
Houston’s matchup against USF, who is just one of five remaining undefeated teams, should absolutely be a shootout. The Bulls also have an offense that also averages more than 500 yards per game, and the Cougars haven’t been held to less than 40 points all season.
In a game featuring South Florida’s 121st-ranked rushing defense and Houston’s FBS-worst passing defense (it’s also worth noting that Oliver is questionable for the game), there should be no shortage of scoring in a matchup where the last team with the ball probably wins.
No. 16 Texas A&M at Mississippi State (-2.5)
Mississippi State, who has struggled since the start of SEC play, enters the weekend tied for fifth in the SEC West with a 1-3 conference record. However, the Bulldogs did beat Auburn, then ranked No. 8 in the AP poll, at home three weeks ago.
They’ll have another chance to beat another ranked team in Starkville this weekend.
While Mississippi State’s defense ranks sixth in total yards allowed – 114 rushing yards and 167 passing yards per game – the team’s offense has been held to seven points or less in three of its last four games.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 121 carries for 644 yards and seven touchdowns, but he’s been held to less than 100 passing yards in each of the last three games.
This SEC West game could come down to the matchup of Mississippi State’s rushing offense (16th in the country at 235 yards) against Texas A&M’s rush defense (4th at 81 yards allowed per game).
No. 20 Wisconsin at Northwestern (+6.5)
This weekend’s loaded college football slate includes:
- Three ranked teams in action on Thursday and Friday,
- No. 2 Clemson taking the field for the 12 p.m. ET time slot,
- The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party featuring Georgia and Florida, and
- A ranked Big Ten matchup between Iowa and Penn State.
Keeping that schedule in mind, it’s very easy to see why the Wisconsin-Northwestern matchup might get overlooked. But the game could decide who wins the Big Ten West and earns a chance to play for the conference championship.
Both schools have one loss in Big Ten play – both to Michigan – as well as a head-scratching defeat. Wisconsin lost to BYU at home 24-21 and Akron beat Northwestern 39-34 at Ryan Field.
The Badgers and Wildcats’ offenses are diametrically opposed. Wisconsin is fourth nationally in rushing (282 yards per game) and Northwestern is 128th (78 yards per game). The Wildcats are 20th in passing (296 yards per game) and the Badgers are 109th (179 yards per game).
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is the impact player to watch. Taylor already has 1,109 rushing yards on the season, rushing for at least 100 yards in every game, including two games of at least 220 yards.
Wisconsin has won its last two games against Northwestern, but the Wildcats won the previous two meetings before that, which is why the series is knotted at 6-6 in the last 12 games.
This appears to be a Northwestern team that plays up (or down) to its competition as proven by a 29-19 win at then-No. 20 Michigan State and a 39-34 loss to Akron. You can lump Wisconsin into the same category as Michigan State, which means the Wildcats should come to play.
No. 6 Texas at Oklahoma State (+3)
Despite its 4-3 record, Oklahoma State is ranked No. 22 in Football Outsiders’ S&P+ rankings with an offense that ranks 15th. This may not be the same offense we saw in years past with former quarterback Mason Rudolph, but the Cowboys are still averaging 290 yards through the air and 200 more on the ground.
Quarterback Taylor Cornelius has throw for 2,014 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season, while running back Justice Hill has rushed for 684 yards and seven touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Texas starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger is recovering from a first-degree sprain to his throwing shoulder that he suffered against Baylor on Oct.13, and there’s uncertainty around his status for Saturday.
With the potential for backup quarterback Shane Buechele to play – if not start – against an Oklahoma State team that Texas hasn’t beaten since 2014, there’s serious potential for the showdown with the Cowboys to be a trap game since the Longhorns have a date with No. 13 West Virginia next week.
No. 22 NC State at Syracuse (+2)
How many plays is Syracuse away from being 7-0? Whatever the answer is, it’s not a big number. The Orange (5-2) lost at Clemson 27-23 then followed it up with a 44-37 loss to Pittsburgh in overtime.
Both the Orange and the Wolfpack can clinch bowl eligibility with a win this weekend.
Some questions remain over the Syracuse quarterback situation after senior starter Eric Dungey was benched against North Carolina while backup Tommy DeVito rallied the team to a victory. Dungey was listed first on Syracuse’s depth chart on Monday.
With Dungey attempting 203 passes to DeVito’s 53 this season, Syracuse has a top-40 rushing and passing offense. The senior QB leads the Orange with 477 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
NC State was throttled by Clemson 41-7 last week, so even though there’s no shame in losing to the Tigers, the margin of defeat in the Wolfpack’s only game this season against a ranked opponent makes it fair to wonder just how high their ceiling truly is.
Point spreads courtesy of the Vegas Insider consensus.