Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where a quarterback who eats sushi off a nude model on a yacht for a reality show should probably be a Heisman candidate—but his team is winless and his stats are terrible:
FOURTH QUARTER: EIGHT UNBEATENS LAY IT ON THE LINE
There are nine undefeated teams left in the sport. One of them, Notre Dame, has been bubble-wrapped by the Atlantic Coast Conference for safe passage to the league championship showdown against Clemson. The other eight are in action this week, trying to get to the regular-season finish line unscathed. Can they do it?
The Dash appraises each game and ranks them in likelihood of losing, from most likely to least:
USC (33), to UCLA. The line: Trojans by 3 1/2. Clay Helton’s Good Luck Tour finally runs into an obstacle. USC (4–0) will not play the only other Pac-12 unbeaten, Colorado, due to a COVID cancelation, and the Trojans are playing well, coming off a pair of convincing victories. But the Bruins may have turned a corner (finally) under Chip Kelly: At 3–2, they have a winning record for the first time in Kelly’s tenure and the first time since Oct. 21, 2017. (If that sounds a bit sad, well, it is.) Dash pick: Rivalry upset special. UCLA 28, USC 27.
Colorado (34), to Utah. The line: Colorado by one. The Buffaloes (4–0) have been one of the better success stories of the season, even if few people have paid attention. This matchup will be strength vs. strength: the Pac-12’s best rushing attack (Colorado checks in at 245.5 yards per game) against the Pac-12’s best rushing defense (Utah allows only 104.7). Worth tuning into what could be a snow game Friday night in Boulder. Dash pick: Colorado 23, Utah 21.
San Jose State (35), to Nevada, in Las Vegas. The line: Spartans by 2 1/2. With a few more games and some more national attention, San Jose State could be the Coastal Carolina of the West Coast. The Spartans are 5–0 for the first time since the initial weeks of World War II, in 1939. And there remains nothing flukey about it, with every victory by double digits. But Nevada is no slouch either at 6–1; this game will have Mountain West championship implications. It is being played Friday night in Las Vegas, due to COVID restrictions rendering the Spartans nomads. Spending multiple weeks on the road may leave them susceptible to an upset, but The Dash is rolling with SJSU. Dash pick: San Jose State 34, Nevada 27.
Coastal Carolina (36), to Troy. The line: Chanticleers by 12 1/2. On paper, this shouldn’t be close. But paper doesn’t reflect the fact that the Proud Roosters (9–0) are set up for a flat performance coming off the euphoria of College GameDay and the dramatic upset win over BYU. Troy is 5–5 and capable of some proficiency in the passing game, which could be enough to at least cover the spread but not win. Dash pick: Coastal Carolina 36, Troy 28.
Cincinnati (37), to Tulsa. The line: Bearcats by 12. This game is for the regular-season American Athletic Conference marbles, and will also serve as the opening half of a Cincy-Tulsa doubleheader since they’ll run it back next week in the league title game. The Golden Hurricane (6–1) are a great story, but their charmed existence is overdue to end against an 8–0 Cincinnati team that is still striving for playoff respect. The Bearcats will be primed to dominate against a ranked opponent. Dash pick: Cincinnati 28, Tulsa 9.
Ohio State, to Michigan. The line: Buckeyes by 29 1/2. That spread says everything about the sad state of a great rivalry, with the Wolverines having manifestly let down their end of the bargain. The average margin of Ohio State victory in the past two meetings is 26 points—and if you thought Don Brown’s defense struggled to cover Ohio State’s elite receivers in recent seasons, this could be really ugly given the state of the Michigan secondary. (Don’t forget, too, that the Buckeyes may feel compelled to go for style points—and that Ryan Day was fuming at Jim Harbaugh after an August conference call and reportedly told his team it would “hang 100” on the Wolverines.) Dash pick: Not 100, but how about 60? Ohio State 61, Michigan 28.
Alabama, to Arkansas. The line: Off the books as of Monday night. Even an improved Arkansas team stands no chance of pulling what would be the biggest upset of a Nick Saban–coached Crimson Tide team. ‘Bama is becoming a complete team as its defense has evolved. Average points allowed in the first four games: 28.8. Bama’s average points allowed in the last five games: 10. Dash pick: Alabama 41, Arkansas 14.
Buffalo (38), to Akron. The line: Bulls by 32. Salute the Zips, who broke a 21-game losing streak Saturday against Bowling Green. But don’t go expecting a winning streak. Buffalo and its dominant rushing game will overwhelm a defense that gave up 390 yards on the ground to Kent State. Watch for Jaret Patterson to run wild again. Dash pick: Buffalo 58, Akron 17.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Mike Bloomgren (39), Rice. In August, there were a lot of rumors that the Owls wouldn’t even play this season, joining fellow Conference USA member Old Dominion in sitting out 2020. Their first game wasn’t played until Oct. 24, which they lost to Middle Tennessee on a preposterous, quadruple-doink field goal miss. But give second-year coach Bloomgren credit for persevering, and getting a big payoff Saturday with the upset romp over Marshall. There aren’t many times when an underdog of 20 or more points wins by 20 or more, but Rice did it in dumping the Thundering Herd from the unbeaten ranks. It was Rice's first win over a ranked team in 23 years, first road win over a ranked team in 29, and first shutout of a ranked team in an even half a century.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Mario Cristobal (40), Oregon. The Ducks (3–2) suffered their second straight upset loss, Oregon State followed by California. Cristobal’s team is a minus-five turnover margin in those two games and has forced just four turnovers all season—all against UCLA. They have zero takeaways in their other four games.
Working a little overtime with two additional points here: When hungry and thirsty in the great college town of Bloomington, Ind., The Dash recommends the wings at Buffalouie’s (41). If you’re lucky you might see Tom Allen or another Indiana athletic luminary in the place.
And while you’re in B-Town, check out another great product from Upland Brewing: Viking Slang IPA (42). It’s a fine winter beer that provides a uniquely tasty twist on the standard IPA.
Try both and thank The Dash later.