Surprise performances and unexpected outcomes are anticipated each weekend in the wild world of college football. Even if everyone knows they are coming, guessing when and where they will happen is difficult.
The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Brent Schrotenboer, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus, and Dan Wolken — weigh in with some bold predictions for Week 9 of the season:
Texas is just 11-7 since quarterback Sam Ehlinger declared the Longhorns “back” following an upset win over the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 2019. In hindsight, that victory was clearly less a turning point for the program and more an example of the one thing Tom Herman’s teams have seemingly always been good at: pulling the upset as an underdog. As Texas heads to Stillwater on Saturday, No. 6 Oklahoma State stands as a slight favorite with everything to lose; The Cowboys currently have the inside track to a spot in the College Football Playoff as the Big 12’s only undefeated team. As we’ve seen him do in the past in similar circumstances, I think Herman gets his off-the-radar squad up for this contest against a top-10 team that is still a bit of a mystery. Texas will win, crippling the conference’s playoff hopes and creating more angst for perplexed fans who can’t figure out why the Longhorns seem to find more success as the underdog when they should be the bully on the block as one of the most resource-rich programs in college football.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett struggles in the first half against Kentucky and forces Kirby Smart into a midgame change back to D’Wan Mathis, who began the season as the Bulldogs’ starter. That move sparks a win but creates more drama leading into a winner-take-all game against Florida to decide the East division.
In light of what happened last week, how do we know that Indiana’s game at Rutgers isn’t the better B1G game this week than Ohio State at Penn State? The Hoosiers and Scarlet Knights clash after improbable wins last week, setting up a surprising scenario: Rutgers might be 2-0 after this game, part of a possible second rising under its old-new coach Greg Schiano. This is where one win in a row qualifies as momentum to help make it two for Rutgers, especially with Indiana ripe for a reality-check on the road.
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Week 1 observations are often the worst observations about how a team will fare. Yes, Michigan State flopped in Mel Tucker’s debut against Rutgers, but seven turnovers contributed to the loss.
Going to Michigan will give them some inspiration and impetus to change things. The loss also could have the Wolverines overconfident after their impressive showing at Minnesota. That’s human nature, especially being favored by more than three touchdowns. This, however, is a rivalry and it is never easy, especially if the Spartans can get off to a fast start. This would should stay close throughout and a shocking upset isn’t out of the question.
Trying to predict the Big 12 is a fool’s errand, as this fool amply demonstrated last week. Nevertheless, we press on.
It’s still difficult to envision a team running the table in this league. Though my prognostication of Oklahoma State taking its first ‘L’ last week didn’t pan out, I continue to believe it will happen eventually. The Cowboys’ opponent this week is Texas, which is coming off arguably its most complete performance of the season in a win against Baylor.
So I’ll tell you what, Oklahoma State fans, I’ll give you a twofer. I’m going to go with the Longhorns to pull off the upset in Stillwater this week. But, if the Cowboys prove me wrong once again and come up with the victory, I’ll become a convert and take them to win the rest of the way. Yes, even Bedlam.
Oklahoma State has risen to the top of the Big 12’s board of College Football Playoff hopefuls because the record is a clean 4-0, which is more than anyone else in the league can say right now. But it also isn’t a 4-0 that would blow you away. The Cowboys have been pretty solid on defense, but the offense is still a work in progress with 16 points against Tulsa, 27 against West Virginia, and 24 against Iowa State. Sophomore quarterback Spencer Sanders, who came back last week off a high ankle sprain, still needs quality reps for things to really start clicking. So this might be a good week to catch Oklahoma State, and Texas got its act together a little bit last week on defense in a 27-16 win over Baylor. Tom Herman is usually good for one or two of these upsets a year, and it feels like the kind of spoiler game that would be fitting for a year of chaos in the Big 12.