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  • The Cyclones made the top 15 of the College Football Playoff rankings, but everyone keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe they're just really good?
By Joan Niesen
November 02, 2017

Welcome to Week 10’s Upset Watch, where I might get exposed for my undying (read: month-old) loyalty to Iowa State. The Cyclones are my favorite team to consider in this column each week, and I will fight for them until they are favored on the road—which better happen in two weeks, when they head to Baylor. For now, I’ll combat the injustice that is the 2.5 points they’re getting at West Virginia according to most outlets.

In other corners of the Upset Watch, we’ll travel to the ACC, where we’ll consider the two teams widely regarded as the conference’s best back in September. I’m picking against both of them, for very different reasons. Read on.

Iowa State over West Virginia: At this point, I can’t bring myself to pick against the Cyclones, and I’m riding out their hot streak until it crashes and burns—which I don’t think will be this week. Iowa State has proven itself plenty capable of winning on the road this season; in fact, it’s won all three of its road games, over Akron, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. West Virginia has struggled to run the ball and struggled to stop anyone, and they have not played well against physical teams. Iowa State will need to show the same mettle that it did last week against TCU, especially on defense, where it was close to perfect, keeping the Horned Frogs out of the end zone outside of a 94-yard kick return.

NC State over Clemson: I don’t think we’ve heard the last of NC State. Sure, with two losses, the Wolfpack are no longer a playoff contender, but that doesn’t mean they won’t play spoiler. They hung with Notre Dame for half of last week’s game, which isn’t so much impressive as it is evidence that Dave Doeren’s team does have what it takes to play with the best teams in the country. If NC State can put together that kind of performance over the course of four quarters, it has the capability to beat a team like Clemson, especially if its stout defense is playing up to its standard. Limit the Tigers’ offense, and this becomes about two defenses that can be as good as any. With a riled-up Carter-Finley Stadium at their backs, I think the Wolfpack have at least a solid chance to pull off the upset here.

Syracuse over Florida State: Syracuse has shown it can play well enough to beat Clemson—albeit on an off night for the Tigers—which means it certainly has the stuff to take on a reeling Florida State team. The Seminoles reached peak panic mode this week when word got out that they were considering rescheduling a previously canceled game against Louisiana-Monroe for Dec. 2. That game, should it happen, would be an added opportunity for Florida State, now 2–5, to become bowl eligible. As it stands now, the Seminoles have to win out (beating Syracuse, Clemson, Delaware State and Florida) to get postseason consideration.

But enough about the big picture. Against Syracuse, Florida State gets an opponent that defeated Clemson and has hung with NC State and Miami so far this year. Are the Orange a behemoth? Certainly not, but they’re the better team here, even on the road, even against a group desperate not to break a bowl streak nearly twice the age of the team’s youngest players.

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