As college football season is now underway so is upset watch. The first regular season rankings are out, which means it’s time to pick spoilers, heartbreakers, head-deskers, any game that could make certain fans scream to the heavens and ask just why their team was dealt such a cruel twist of fate.
That’s right, dear readers. I’m talking about upset watch, or cases where select teams SHOULD win, but also need to be wary of any surprise bumps in the road that could cause victory to be snatched away.
That said, let’s get right to it!
No. 5: Clemson
Clemson enters this weekend at No. 12 in the rankings, having opened its 2015 season and star quarterback Deshaun Watson’s return with a big 49-10 win at home over the Southern Conference’s Wofford Terriers, and all signs point to coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers having another excellent season in the ACC.
That is, if history doesn’t repeat itself.
Clemson’s next test comes against the Sun Belt’s Appalachian State Mountaineers, a team that is no stranger to playing spoiler to top programs. Back in 2007, when the program was still on the FCS level, the Mountaineers actually opened their season with a stunning upset over No. 5 Michigan thanks to a blocked field goal in the final seconds, and the college football world was shocked accordingly.
Granted, Clemson is an incredibly strong team and Appalachian State is still working to adjust to the FBS level, and Bovada currently lists the Tigers as 19-point favorites. But the truth of the matter is that in Week 2 of college football season, anything can happen, and Appalachian State’s past history in the upset department cannot be ignored.
The Sooners found themselves the victors in a 41-3 tuneup win against the MAC’s Akron Zips last weekend, but Week 2 brings a horse of a different color. This time around, No. 19 Oklahoma must take a trip to Knoxville to take on Butch Jones’ No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers.
The Vols are coming off a season-opening win of their own, having blown Bowling Green out of the water 59-30. Moreover, the team lost to the Sooners 34-10 in Week 3 of last season, Jones’ second with Tennessee.
Since then, Tennessee has gotten hungrier, going 6-5 and working hard to make some noise in the ever-competitive SEC. By scoring a win over a well-established Big 12 squad at home, Tennessee would immediately make a huge jump in the rankings.
3. Boise State
The Broncos are a team that have become known for scoring a great amount of points game after game in recent years, so last year’s 16-14 win against former coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies was definitely something of an anomaly. Needless to say, No. 20 Boise State had better hope that its performance in Week 1 was a fluke, as the team’s next opponent is the one that quite possibly scored the biggest upset of last weekend.
That team is BYU, who defeated Nebraska on a Hail Mary pass last weekend to win 33-28, and that was after star quarterback Taysom Hill exited early and was evenutally ruled out for the season with a Lisfranc injury. With this game set to take place in Provo, BYU is in a prime position to prove that last weekend’s win was more than dumb luck and that the Cougars are a force to be reckoned with.
Long story short, BYU proved last weekend that it could hang with the big boys, so Boise State had better prepare accordingly.
2. Michigan State
No. 5 Michigan State is coached by Mark Dantonio, easily one of the best defensive minds in all of college football. In 2014, the Spartans ranked seventh in the nation in total defense.
Thus, when the team receives a visit from No. 7 Oregon, an offensive powerhouse, there should be plenty of fireworks just primed to go off.
Look at it this way. Michigan State is currently a four-point favorite just a day away from kickoff in a game that pits, arguably, the nation’s best offense against the nation’s best defense. And yet, these two teams looked relatively rusty in their respective season openers. Michigan State defeated in-state rival Western Michigan, but only by a 37-24 margin. Oregon defeated FCS program Eastern Washington and scored 61 points, but gave up 42.
The fact that this game is set to be played in East Lansing and broadcast on national television only adds pressure to both sides and unless the Spartans’ defense comes out guns blazing from the start, not giving hungry Oregon an inch, this could quickly turn into a shootout that sees Michigan State come out on the losing end. Considering how the team already lost to Oregon at Autzen Stadium 46-27 last season, Dantonio would like to avoid a similar result.
LSU’s situation is, quite possibly, the most interesting heading into Week 2. Why? Well, the No. 14 Tigers are opening their season while most other teams have already played a game. This can be attributed to LSU’s originally scheduled season opener against McNeese State being canceled due to inclement weather, making the Tigers’ season opener instead come against No. 25 Mississippi State in Starkville.
Now, simply put, this game is a borderline must-win for LSU. The Bulldogs came to Baton Rouge last season and won 34-29, and have already won this season in defeating Southern Miss last weekend. LSU, on the other hand, is getting a late start and the question thus presents itself: will the Tigers enter the game fresh and ready to go, or will the extra week of rest do more harm than good?
Well, it’s hard to say. Despite the circumstances, LSU is currently a four-point favorite as the road team, a testament to how strong and focused coach Les Miles’ teams are. Moreover, a supposedly elite SEC program in Mississippi State only defeated lowly Southern Miss 34-16 last weekend in a game that should have been a blowout, even if it was Week 1 and the final wrinkles were being ironed out.
Throw in that LSU is starting its season with an in-conference matchup and the pressure being on after getting an extra week off, and the upset watch on this game is sky high.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports