This week, we’re sticking to the Power 5 in Upset Watch, covering all kinds of territory—from the most boring reaches of the Big Ten to the most frustrating corner of the SEC and finally to what should be a delightful game in the Pac-12. There’s not a ton on the line for the best teams in college football this weekend; only two games feature two top-25 teams, and I’m not quite ready (read: there’s nothing at all that would convince me) to predict a Texas A&M win over Alabama. So in the absence of many must-watch matchups, let’s turn to the potential upsets.
Illinois over Iowa: The Illini disappointed most upset-watchers last week when they failed to beat a flailing Nebraska at home, but I still haven’t given up on Lovie Smith’s team, which will switch to Jeff George Jr. this week to try and invigorate one of college football’s worst offenses.
Now, I realize that isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Illinois, which is an 18-point underdog on Saturday. However, Iowa isn’t exactly a juggernaut, and it’s lost its first two conference games. The first such defeat came by two points to Penn State—that’s impressive, no question—but last week the Hawkeyes lost by a touchdown to Michigan State. The middle and bottom of the Big Ten are an unpredictable place, and it’s possible to imagine Illinois’s defense stifling the Hawkeyes come Saturday.
LSU over Florida: A lot is on the line for LSU Saturday after it lost last week to Troy—at home, on homecoming. It wasn’t a good look for the Tigers, a team that was supposed to finally be able to capitalize on its loaded roster under new coach Ed Orgeron this season. Say what you will about how LSU has played so far, but last week’s loss was at least in part due to a handful of injuries, most notably star running back Derrius Guice. Guice is questionable against Florida, and should he play, I think this upset looks even more likely. Even without him, the Tigers will still get nose tackle Ed Alexander back, and word this week is that linebacker Arden Key, one of the best in the SEC, is getting close to game shape after offseason surgery.
Apologies; this story isn’t a run-down of the LSU injury report. But the Tigers are hurt, as are the Gators—and the latter’s injuries have longer-term consequences. Luke Del Rio, Florida’s new (old) quarterback, hurt himself last week in his team’s win over Vanderbilt, and now it’s back to Feleipe Franks under center. Franks was inconsistent early on—although he’s apparently still shown more than the year’s highest-profile graduate transfer, Malik Zaire, who continues to ride the bench—and with so many questions continuing to plague the Gators’ offense, LSU has a real chance to top the No. 21 team this week.
Oregon over Washington State: The Cougars are coming off their biggest win this century, last Friday’s victory over USC. Before that, it had been 25 years since Washington State beat a top-5 team in the regular season, and the win also added a needed boost to Mike Leach’s record against ranked teams since arriving at Washington State, which now sits at a still-poor 5-15. That said, Oregon is 4-1, and its only loss came by two points to Arizona State? Are the Ducks a top-25 team? Maybe, and this game will go a long way in answering that question.
The two meet Saturday in Eugene, and thanks to that home-field advantage, Oregon is actually a 1.5-point favorite. Even so, to beat a ranked team—Washington State is No. 11 going into the weekend—constitutes an upset, and if the Ducks’ two star backs, Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit, are at full strength, they should be able to run all over the Cougars and potentially pull off an upset.