College Football: Week Two’s Upset Specials

Oh, they’re coming. Prepare your livers.

With one week (technically two) of college football in the books many fans may be feeling confident. This week’s slate will have you reaching for the Tums. Or Fireball.

Pigskin Grind has five—count ’em, five—games that will have the favorites going down in flames. Let the little guys (and the Big Boys, in some cases) celebrate.

There is redemption for all in college football.

New Mexico (-17) vs Boise State

The New Mexico Lobos are calling for a red out in tonight’s game against Boise State. They may have valid reasons for why they can steal this game from Boise State.

Quarterback Hank Bachmeier look rattled against Oregon State last week. Reserve Taylen Green came in and scored on a long touchdown but the Beavers’ defense was just too good and the Broncos went down 34-17.

New Mexico pitched a 41-0 shutout to Maine. Sure, the Black Bears are an FCS team, but it was still a rout. The Lobos looked good in their season opener and Boise State is 0-1 on the road.

Pittsburgh +6 vs Tennessee

Pitt had a tough time putting West Virginia away in the Backyard Brawl last week, surviving 38-31. Head coach Pat Narduzzi is an underrated coach who will have the team laser focused on the Vols. The Panthers are battle-tested. If quarterback Kedon Slovis can look off his receivers instead of telegraphing his passes, Pitt should upset the Vols.

Tennessee drilled Ball State at home 59-10 and looked good against a mid-tier MAC team. Last year Tennessee lost to Pitt 41-34 at home, despite “Rocky Top” serenades from its fans. This year Heinz Field will be “touching me, touching you” throughout the game.

UNLV +13 at Cal

This is nothing personal against Cal, but the Golden Bears looked terrible in their 34-13 victory against UC Davis. With only eight starters returning, the Bears are in total rebuilding mode and UNLV will be taking advantage of the inexperience and youth.

The Rebels beat Idaho State 52-21 last week. So while both teams played FCS teams, one team did not have a problem routing its opponent and another one did. We’re not betting on UNLV, we’re betting against Cal.

Vanderbilt +13.5 vs Wake Forest

The Commodores (2-10 last year) travelled all day to Hawai’i in week zero and beat the Warriors senseless, 63-10. Last week they beat Elon 42-31. Vanderbilt is currently in first place in the SEC East. How pumped up is Vanderbilt right now?

Meanwhile, Wake Forest has to travel to SEC Country and take on the Commodores, a team it is probably not taking too seriously. Oh yeah, this one is going to be fun to watch.

Baylor +3 at BYU

This could be the Game of the Week. It should be very close (which is why you should take the points) but I like Baylor to eke out a win here. BYU has a veteran team (19 returning starters) and the weather forecast looks perfect for an air show.

Baylor beat No. 19 BYU last year 38-24 (the spread was Baylor-5) so head coach Dave Aranda has the formula to beat BYU. This game will be played in a hostile environment and unlike last year, the Cougars are relatively healthy.

The Hunger Games

There are an additional two games you should consider for all the wrong reasons.

Kentucky +6.5 at Florida is an interesting game just because the Gators are feeling super cocky and Kentucky just loves to rain on everyone’s parade as an underdog.

Appalachian State +19.5 at Texas A&M does not need much explanation here. The Mountaineers almost pulled off a huge upset against North Carolina, losing 63-61. If their defense can figure out how to cut points allowed by 50 percent, they have a shot of humiliating Jimbo Fisher at home.

College Football’s Cindy Teams: Will The Glass Slipper Fit One Of These Six?

Who will make college football’s complicated system of polls more eyebrow-raising? Who will make pundits look ill-informed, cause unsuspecting fans to morph into surrender-cobras and create pandemonium on beautiful, fall Saturdays?

Ahh, the Cinderellas, aka Cindys, of college football. They can trip up a team or rip it to shreds when the final tick of the clock, well… tocks.

courtesy of

Is it possible to predict which teams are the Cindys this year? Sure, anyone can predict, of course, but accuracy still counts.

There are at least six teams that are trending up and should outperform their (expected) preseason projections. Depending on how they finish, I am either spot on in my analysis or have enacted the Kiss of Death.

Let the glass slipper quest begin.

USC Trojans

Yep, they’re baaaaack. Could USC go all the way? Maybe, if the defense makes drastic improvements in all facets of defending an end zone. The fact that USC is even in the Cindy conversation is a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the legendary football program. But hope springs eternal.

Clay Helton (46-24, 2-3 in bowls) is out. Lincoln Riley (55-10, 3 CFB berths) is in. Quarterback Caleb Williams is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and his tosses to receiver Jordan Addison may look like giant beach balls. The defense has been porous and it still may be a year away from its former nasty self. But if SC can throw up 50+ points per game, the defense can camouflage its warts with a bend-don’t-break style and no one will care.

The USC Trojans are expected to rise up after the coaching change and there should be enough angst in the locker room to make up for the last 10 years. Big Ten bound, Arrogant Nation is back.

courtesy of USC Athletics

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

OK, I know, but hear me out here. The Demon Deacons went 11-3 last year. They have one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Sam Hartman. They also have one of the top offensive lines in the ACC, according to Phil Steele.

The scheduling Gods were kind to Wake Forest. They play a non-conference game at Vanderbilt and get Virginia Military Institute and Liberty at home before hosting Clemson on September 24.

They avoid Miami and Pitt—if the Demon Deacons can split the Ws against Clemson and NC State, they’ve got a great shot at returning for a conference championship berth.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

The ACC Atlantic has three or four heavyweights contending for the division title. Beside Wake Forest, NC State is another up-and-comer. The Wolfpack have been sniffing at Clemson’s dominance for awhile but this may be the year they get to be top dog.

NC State has 17 returning starters—including all but one on defense— and that bodes well for a team that went 9-3 last season. Their schedule has a few speedbumps. Playing Texas Tech in week three is a tough out. A date at Clemson after hosting UConn is a potential let down. NC State ends its season with two road trips to Louisville and North Carolina.

It’s a championship schedule… if they want it to be.

courtesy of

U.C.L.A. Bruins

A lot of folks are talking about Utah—and rightly so—but not so fast, my friend. U.C.L.A. has slowly improved to the point where every team on its schedule should take the Bruins more seriously.

Last year, quarterback Damian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) led the Bruins on some exceptional offensive drives. He minimized mental mistakes and took on more of a leadership role. DTR had a 62.2 completion percentage, threw for more than 2,400 yards and had a 21-6 TD-INT ratio. The Bruins’ defense will have to pick up the slack, though, if they want to be called elite.

Last year the Bruins were nationally ranked No. 70 in total defense, albeit they had a Top 25 rush defense. This year the Bruins face a pressing problem with their back seven. They lost their top backers and only return one starter in the secondary. Still, with the fresh air of Big Ten money under their paws, I think this is the year U.C.L.A. finally gets respect from the pollsters.

Miami (FL)

I have been a closet Hurricane fan forever. So yeah, my expectations have lowered a little—OK, a lot—over the past decade. That changed when Oregon Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal fled the cozy, green confines of Eugene and headed back to the expansive, pastel tropics of Miami. Cristobal’s staff is noteworthy and the recruiting has been pedal-to-the-medal. The ‘Canes currently have a Top 15 recruiting class.

One of Miami’s biggest reasons for mediocre football (beside coaching hires) has been quarterback play. Tyler Van Dyke will make fans forget about the last decade. He is the first Miami quarterback since Bernie Kosar to have three 325-plus passing yard games, according to Phil Steele.

Miami’s defense has always been a strength and this year’s defense will be experienced and nasty. Cristobal has banned the Turnover Chain, much to my dismay, but I still expect some sort of innovative reward for some excellent playmaking. Maybe an Orange Bowl berth?

courtesy of N. Fox Jewelers

South Carolina Gamecocks

While everyone fusses over the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs, South Carolina may derail Georgia’s “Repeat” in week three. Remember, Georgia opens the season in Atlanta against the Oregon Ducks. The Bulldogs travel to South Carolina two weeks later. Am I calling for an upset?

Yes, yes I am.

Oklahoma transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler will be under center. Solid and consistent quarterback play has been a missing piece of the Gamecocks’ offense since 2013 (Connor Shaw). Head coach Shane Beamer is an up-and-coming genius who has the defense and special teams humming—the offense is all that needs to be tweaked.

Everything is looking like the perfect (sand) storm.

Honorable mentions:

Tennessee (because, Tennessee… am I right Vol fans?)

Texas (the Longhorns will be listed here until they are officially “back”)

Baylor (I voted them No. 1 on my preseason Big XII poll as did the majority of Big XII media members so they aren’t sneaking up on anyone this year)

Kansas State (RB Deuce Vaughn is my dark horse Heisman contender but the Wildcats need more than a locomotive to get through that dark tunnel. The road schedule is: at OU, at ISU, at TCU, at Baylor and at WVU)