College Football Week 13: 5 teams on upset alert
These five teams are on upset alert heading into Week 13 of the college football season against pesky opponents.
The 2016 college football season has not disappointed. If you look at the preseason poll compared to the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, you’ll realize that the year didn’t go nearly as planned for some elite programs.
For example, LSU began the season ranked No. 5 in the country and now finds itself out of the top 25. The same goes for Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon, TCU, Miami and UCLA. Some teams have been major disappointments, falling victim to upsets time after time, but others have exceeded expectations.
Others have had a rollercoaster of a season. Look at Texas, for instance. The Longhorns opened the year with a nice home win over then-No. 10 Notre Dame but have since fallen off, going just 4-6 since. Head coach Charlie Strong has reportedly been fired after losing to Kansas last weekend. Talk about a tale of two seasons.
Texas isn’t the only program that has suffered multiple upsets and has seen its head coach get canned — look no further than Les Miles and LSU.
With two weeks left in the regular season and conference championship week, it’s time for those upsets to stir things up yet again. This week could be a big one when it comes to shuffling playoff outlooks. Let’s take a look at the five teams on upset alert for Week 13.
Boise State Broncos
10-1, at Air Force
Boise State has the opportunity of a lifetime this weekend against Air Force. OK, maybe not of a lifetime since the Broncos experienced a ton of success under former head coach Chris Petersen, even winning the Fiesta Bowl over a heavily-favored Oklahoma team, but the Broncos could make a New Year’s Six bowl appearance.
The Broncos are one win away from finishing the regular season 11-1 and potentially win the Mountain West Mountain division. However, the Broncos will need a couple of things to go their way.
First, they will have to hit the road to play a severely underrated Air Force team that is currently 8-3 and had an impressive 28-14 win over Navy earlier in the year. Next, they will need Wyoming to lose to New Mexico on the road, giving them the division title. Will that pressure get to the Broncos?
Air Force has one of the best rushing offenses in the country this season, averaging over 300 yards per game and the Falcons’ only two losses at home this year were by five and seven points. They’ve been in every game.
Boise State has a chance to finish as the top-ranked Group of Five team and play in a New Year’s Six bowl, but that pressure can crush a team in a tough road game like this.
9-2, at Iowa
If you think Iowa is OK with finishing the regular season 7-5 and heading to a mediocre bowl game, you’re wrong. The Hawkeyes are not happy with the way the season has gone thus far and they’ve pulled off an upset already this year against No. 3 Michigan two weeks ago.
Despite the mediocre home record this season, Kinnick Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the Big Ten. The fans will be out in full force as well as the Hawkeyes have a chance to ruin the conference title hopes of Nebraska. These two teams don’t like each other and you will find that out on Friday afternoon.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. is also recovering from an injury so it’s unclear whether he will have an impact on this game. Nebraska has shown flashes of being a solid team this season, but it has also faltered against top opponents.
In fact, the Cornhuskers’ best win of the year might be against either Minnesota or Oregon. Both teams are mediocre and that goes to show that the 9-2 record might be slightly misleading. Also, the only tough games they played, they lost. Wisconsin beat Nebraska in overtime and Ohio State wiped the floor with the Cornhuskers, 62-3.
Could Iowa expose Nebraska in the final game of the year?
9-2, vs. (22) Utah
Colorado is one of those teams that is on the verge of making the College Football Playoff despite the odds stacked against it in the preseason. No one was even giving the Buffaloes a glance before the season began, but now they are one of the nation’s top teams.
Coming in at No. 9 in the latest playoff rankings, there’s added pressure that is added to each contest. The final regular season game against No. 22 Utah at home might provide a toughest test than people may realize. The Utes are no easy opponent and the Buffaloes are going to find that out.
There’s something to be said about a matchup in which one team has nothing to lose with an opportunity to ruin the season of a conference foe and another with almost everything on the line. Although Sefo Liufau has been working toward this moment for years, the senior quarterback might let the pressure get to him.
If Colorado wins this game, it will win the Pac-12 South. If the Buffaloes lose and USC wins its finale, the Trojans come away with the division crown and a shot at the Pac-12 title. The pressure is most definitely on.
10-1, at (23) Washington State
Man, oh man. The Washington Huskies are having one heck of a season and have the best chance in the Pac-12 to make the College Football Playoff. After getting shut out of the playoff a season ago, the conference is secretly wishing the Huskies would win and Colorado comes out of the other division so that a true final four contender can emerge.
The Huskies look to be that, but there is one team standing in the way before the season concludes. That team happens to be in-state foe Washington State and what better and more fitting way to end the season than a rivalry game for all the marbles.
When was the last time this matchup was considered must-see TV? It probably hasn’t happened in the lifetime of any of these players and if it has, they weren’t old enough to care. The Cougars have never won a division title and haven’t won the Pac-12 since 2002, but Mike Leach has turned the program around.
Washington, on the other hand, is considered a top-five team in the country and Chris Petersen is turning a good program into an elite one. Traveling to Washington State won’t be easy, especially with the division on the line.
This could be upset city.
Penn State Nittany Lions
9-2, vs. Michigan State
Penn State is right there. The Nittany Lions have a chance to take home a Big Ten East title and head to the first conference championship game in school history. Granted, the title game has only been around for five years, but James Franklin and the Nittany Lions have been dying to have a shot.
For the past few years, Penn State has been one of the medial teams in the conference. All of the talent on the team seemed to be wasted with 7-5 seasons, but this year has a much different feel.
This is the season in which Franklin’s players are finally reaching their potential. Penn State is 9-2 with a shot to win the division if they take down Michigan State on Saturday and as long as Ohio State wins.
Wins over Michigan State don’t come easy these days, though. Although the Spartans are 3-8 on the season, they have held a lead in each of their games and they have played their best against top-ranked opponents not named Wisconsin.
Just last week, No. 2 Ohio State came to town as a 22-point favorite and the Spartans held their own and came within a single point of beating the Buckeyes. However, a costly decision to go for two and the win haunted Mark Dantonio in the end.
Michigan State does not want to finish the year 3-9 after making the College Football Playoff last season and you better believe Dantonio will have his kids ready.
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