Every favored team in the AP top 25 won last week, so credit to our panel for still picking up some underdog wins. Missouri ultimately ended the Dan Mullen at Florida with a 24-23 upset and capped it with some next-level Star Wars trolling. That also catapulted Zac Al-Khateed into the lead as we head into our final week here at the Underdog Challenge.
Zac earned 9.5 points with his pick of Missouri, since Florida was favored by 9.5 points. Every week, each expert picks three games and can earn points if their underdog comes through. Our hit rate of 35 percent would likely win you money betting on the moneyline at FanDuel.com
Rivalry week tends to lend itself to some upsets as added emotion can lead to wacky results (the throw-out-the-records thing). Here are our standings as we wrap up the contest.
On to the upsets.
Odds courtesy FanDuel.com
Bill Bender, Lead college football writer
This line has dropped a point, a sign that bettors know the Tar Heels have won the last two meetings in blowout fashion. This might be Sam Howell’s last game, and North Carolina has a chance to sweep Duke, Wake Forest and NC State. Even in football, that’s a thing.
This matchup used to be top-10 must-see TV. Now, it’s to see who will be bowl eligible. Dan Mullen was fired this week, and the Seminoles have shown steady improvement since a disastrous start. This will be a fun game, but the Seminoles push through with a last-minute victory.
Neither team is ranked, but the Gamecocks are 5-1 at home this season and have built momentum under first-year coach Shane Beamer with late-season victories against Florida and Auburn. Clemson is the better team and is looking for a seventh straight victory in this heated in-state series. It will be closer than the spread.
Mike DeCourcy, Senior writer
I have mentioned previously, in other venues, that my best friend is a dentist I trust more on football matters than a lot of people – maybe most people – who earn their livings in the sport. He is enamored of BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec. Saw him play in high school in the Pittsburgh area, can’t figure out why Brian Kelly preferred Ian Book to him at Notre Dame, now believes the Steelers should do whatever they can to get Jurkovec, presumably in the 2023 draft. He’s obviously not back to himself after the injury that was supposed to end his season (but did not). But he’s shown flashes, and Wake’s defense has looked mighty pliable of late.
Maybe all Tulsa does here is cover. Because playing well against the best opposition – and then losing – seems to be what the Golden Hurricane do best this season. They trailed CF(I) No. 2 Ohio State just 13-6 and 20-10 in a third quarter of what became a 41-20 defeat. They were down 14-12 at halftime and lost just 28-20 against No. 4 Cincinnati after the Bearcats put up multiple goalline stands in the final minute. So that could be what happens here, another impressive effort, another empty afternoon. But SMU could be shattered after what the Bearcats did to them last weekend. The Mustangs might have no kick left after that.
It has to end sometime, right? I mean, if we’re going to keep calling this a rivalry, “The Game”, all of that, then Michigan has to win sometime, doesn’t it? The Buckeyes have won eight in a row, 15 of the past 16 and 17 of the past 19. At what point does this cease even to be in the conversation for the most significant rivalries in college football, let alone all of sports, if one side treats the other like a throw carpet? Playing at home, with its best team in probably a decade, Michigan must make a stand here. Oh, and did I mention that Bender can’t catch me in wins in the Underdog Challenge standings? I should borrow Desmond Howard’s Heisman pose to celebrate.
Bill Trocchi, Senior editor
I have not been a big believer in Liberty this year, and last week’s 42-14 loss to Louisiana backed me up. Army has won three straight after that wild 70-56 loss to Wake Forest and still has Navy on the horizon. The Knights are focused and ready to douse the Flames.
NC State has a chance to win the Atlantic, but here’s where the weird rivalry thing comes in. UNC has had a disappointing season, but it can salvage things with an upset against its rival. Quarterback Sam Howell healed his bruised body last week while the Heels beat up Wofford. Heels win their third in a row over State.
Florida State is rallying a bit, but three-point wins over Miami and BC hardly inspire. This is a pick against the train wreck that the Gators have turned into the last few weeks. Hard to see them regrouping against a team that is still together and moving forward.
Zac Al-Khateeb, Content producer
The Rebels are a win away from reaching their first 10-win season since 2015, needing only to beat the Bulldogs to reach that threshold. Lane Kiffin’s offense hasn’t put up the blistering numbers it did in the first half of the season, but the defense has picked up the slack during the Rebels’ three-game win streak, giving up an average of 16.7 points per game in wins over Liberty, No. 11 Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Mike Leach’s offense will throw a lot more at Ole Miss, but expect the Rebels to put together an overall complete performance in a win.
Oklahoma State is playing arguably the best ball in the Big 12, and has already secured its Big 12 championship game ticket. In that sense, the Cowboys have no pressure in this game whatsoever … other than to beat the Sooners for the first time since 2014. It’ll be on Caleb Williams and Co. to overcome Jim Knowles’ defense, but it’s worth knowing the Sooners haven’t scored fewer than 33 points in Bedlam since 2012. If Lincoln Riley can get this offense going, it could turn into a shootout. And it’s hard to pick against the Sooners in a shootout.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has done a tremendous job with this Wildcats team, putting his team in contention for 10 wins a year after going 5-6. The first obstacle to overcome is a Louisville team that has lost this game in each of the last two meetings. Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham, who has 12 total touchdowns and zero interceptions over the last two games, may be the best player on the field. The Wildcats have given up lots of points to potent offenses this season, but look for this group to step up in the rivalry matchup.