This week’s upset watch is governed by one guiding principle: regression to the mean. At this point in the season, it’s remarkable to be undefeated (or winless)—unless you’re Alabama. Now, that’s not to say we should all go around predicting losses willy-billy—you don’t see Wisconsin-Illinois on this list—but it does mean it’s time to start looking for patterns and nuances. It’s time to look beyond records, too; a 4–3 team against an undefeated one means, well, very little. So with that, here are this week’s picks, which involve two undefeated teams and one winless squad.
Baylor over Texas: Baylor has to win sometime, doesn’t it? The Bears have been in big games this season, losing by two to West Virginia last week and by eight to Oklahoma in September, and they face a Texas team that’ll limp into Waco on Saturday. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, the main reason I contend this Longhorns team, began concussion protocol on Sunday. Worst-case scenario, he’s out against Baylor. Best case, he plays after missing most of the week of practice. With a team that’s not quite as bad as its winless record, Texas this week seems like a prime opportunity for Baylor to get the monkey off its back.
Iowa State over TCU: Earlier in the week, TCU coach Gary Patterson compared Iowa State to a basketball team thanks to its pack of 6-foot receivers—which will give the Horned Frogs’ largely undersized secondary trouble. The Cyclones have played spoiler once before, beating Oklahoma early this month, so this might seem like too formulaic of a pick. But since then, they’re 3–0, with additional wins over Kansas (whatever) and Texas Tech (O.K., meaningful). I’m defaulting again to my logic that at this point in the season, a zero in either win-loss category is pretty outlandish, and No. 4 TCU, though a very good team, looks primed to regress just a bit to the mean.
Houston over USF: No. 17 USF is coming off a game against Tulane in which it gave up 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points, which brought what at one point looked like a blowout into something with upset potential. The Bulls still won, but their strength of schedule hasn’t exactly been impressive, and they too seem poised for a dose of regression. Enter Houston, which at 4–3 doesn’t grab much attention with its record—but which has been in a lot of close games this season. The Cougars don’t seem to quite know who they are yet in the post-Tom Herman era, but they seem like prime candidates to play spoiler. After all, they came within a touchdown of Memphis last week and lost to Texas Tech by three points, making their only inexplicable loss a blowout at the hands of Tulsa.