There is no rhyme or reason to upset watch; with seven weeks of picking these games behind me, I now know as much. Still, due to insanity or the overwhelming nature of trying to predict anything right, I’ve decided to embrace a pattern: undefeated Group of Five teams losing. Don’t get me wrong; I want one of these candidates to stay unbeaten and earn a New Year’s Six bowl berth. I love a good underdog. But predicting the demise of such teams (in the right circumstances) seems like a pretty good bet—or at least it was a week ago.
My victim this week is UCF, and in addition to the Knights, I’m focusing on a Big 12 matchup and a Sun Belt-SEC contest—the latter of which might also help build a case for my insanity.
Navy over UCF: Please don’t take this personally, UCF. You’re a very good football team. But last week, I nailed San Diego State’s loss to Boise State, and this week, I’m zeroed in the country’s No. 20 team. UCF is on the road Saturday at Navy, which fell from the AP poll after losing to a very good Memphis team last weekend. Still, that game did nothing to my belief that the Midshipmen are a fringe top-25 opponent—as is UCF. For it to be favored by eight points on the road seems insane to me, especially considering the Knights have never faced Navy and its triple-option attack, which can throw off even the best teams. UCF’s rushing defense is No. 2 in the American Athletic Conference, but even that might not be enough to stop the Midshipmen’s confusing and aggressive run game.
Texas over Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State is coming off a throttling of winless Baylor and ranked No. 10 in most recent AP poll. Texas, meanwhile, remains unranked; it fell from the poll after losing to Maryland in Week 1. The Longhorns are 3-3, but I saw enough from them against Oklahoma last week, when they nearly beat the Sooners at the Cotton Bowl on the back of play from freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who looked nearly as impressive as Baker Mayfield. The Cowboys travel to Austin this weekend and are 7.5-point favorites, but if Texas plays like it did last Saturday, it has a real chance. To win, the Longhorns will need to keep Mason Rudolph in check—the quarterback is completing 66.7% of his passes and averaging almost 400 yards per game this year—but they should be able to score somewhat at will against Oklahoma State’s mediocre defense.
Idaho over Missouri: At first, this might look like a reverse jinx of my alma mater, but I swear, it’s not. It’s actually a jinx of my story this week, where I devoted 2,500 words to Idaho’s rebuild. I’m torn here. Maybe I’m too down on Missouri. Maybe I’m too high on the Vandals, a 2-4 Sun Belt team. What I do know is that the Tigers are a disaster, and the Vandals have been pretty darn good on the road this year. They have a talented quarterback in Matt Linehan who’s underperformed so far this season, but they’re also a late-blooming team; at this point last season, en route to 9-4, Idaho was just 3-3. If the Vandals offense can play like it did last year, this one has a chance to be a shootout, and one Idaho can win, especially now that its defense has stepped up a notch from a year ago.