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Saturday, 24 September 2016

#BetweenTheHashMark:  Week #4 Preview
The battle for conference supremacy begins


NORTH DAKOTA STATE!  Those three words sum up last weekend.  The five-time FCS champion Bisons collected a win many thought could happen but few that would happen.  Quick shameless plug here though, #TwineTime did pull the trigger on calling this upset and sure enough...BANG!  The Bison are undefeated against FBS opponents but this was their first win against a ranked team...and a team with conference championship aspirations.  North Dakota State fully deserves some FBS rankings love.

But the Bisons aren't the only one's to steal the headlines last weekend.  Louisville destroyed previously #2 ranked Florida State (another correct call by #TwineTime btw).  Ohio State beat up Oklahoma.  Michigan State knocked off Notre Dame.  And Clemson finally looked like a complete team...beating a minnow.  The season officially got exciting as results poured in over the day on Saturday.  How can week four live up to the hype?  With the start of conference play of course!

With the results noted above and many other top ranked teams looking strong last weekend, let's check out the updated #PowerRankings:

NCAA

1. Louisville (LW: NR)
2. Alabama (1)
3. Ohio State (4)
4. Houston (3)
5. Clemson (5)
6. North Dakota State (NR)

Congrats Cardinals...you have finally reached the coveted #1 position.  Isn't it kind of exciting to see a new team at the top of the rankings?  One not named Alabama or Ohio State or Florida State.  Louisville is quite capable of running the table if they continue to play the type of game plan they executed against the Seminoles for the rest of their schedule.  Alabama, Ohio State, Houston and Clemson remain in the #CFBPlayoff hunt of course as well, with Clemson still on the outside looking in.  Look at those playoff match up's though if these rankings held until the end of the season:  Louisville vs. Houston and Alabama vs. Ohio State.  Wow!  Oh and you probably noticed the special #6 spot going to our friends from North Dakota State.  Yes, I know the Bisons are not eligible to win the FBS national championship but, for this week anyway, let's give them some mad love for the outstanding program they have put together over the past few years.  Time to bring them up to FBS don't you think?

As for the gridiron north of the border, last weekend saw some exciting results.  Calgary survived a tough road game vs. rival Saskatchewan.  Both Quebec conference top dogs Montreal and Laval continued to steam roll the competition.  Ontario is starting to see some separation in the standings with Ottawa, Laurier, McMaster and Western looking to be the cream of the crop and Carleton trying to stay with them.  And Atlantic sees an early front runner in St. FX.  Here are the updated CIS #PowerRankings:

CIS

1. Calgary (LW: 1)
2. Montreal (2)
3. Ottawa (5)
4. Laurier (NR)
5. Laval (4)
6. McMaster (NR)

The Dino's remain at the top of the mountain after defeating a Top 10 ranked Huskies team in Saskatoon.  The Dino's will be tested again this week though as they stay in Saskatchewan to battle the Rams, a surprise team in Canada West so far this year.  As stated above, Montreal and Laval continue just rolling through their scheduled waiting to play one another yet again in the regular season and, more than likely, again in the Quebec final.  Laurier remained undefeated last week knocking off Ontario giant-killer Carleton while Ottawa continued their winning ways to stay atop the conference.  McMaster (and Western) also continue to win in a push to try and take top spot away from the Gee Gee's and Golden Hawks.  It will be tough for an Atlantic school to crack the rankings but with St. FX starting the season 2-0 and facing Quebec conference foe Concordia this week in the inter-conference game, they could slowly move up the rankings should they continue to win.  Time will tell though if that happens.

Last week's #TwineTimePredictions were pretty successful.  For NCAA, #TwineTime remained consistent in accurately predicting the winner in 84% of the games last week, slightly up from the 82% the previous week.  Overall, the winning percentage squeaked up one percentage point to 82% from 81%.  Not too bad if I can ride out an entire season in the low to mid-80% range for accuracy I say...although I am shooting for an 85%-88% winning percentage still!  Go Big or Go Home right kids?  In CIS action, #TwineTime went 10-3 on the week (including calling the Laurier win over Carleton and Calgary over Saskatchewan), upping the season winning percentage to 72%.  That opening week is still tough to overcome mind you but the winning percentage is slowly getting more and more respectable.

Here are the Week 4 predictions:

NCAA


Last Week:  53 - 10 (84%)
Overall Record:  166 - 36 (82%)

GAME of the Week:  (8) Michigan State def. (11) Wisconsin - Both teams undefeated.  Both teams aiming for a B1G championship.  Both teams have #CFBPlayoff aspirations.  One of them will see those dreams die on the field this Saturday!  Michigan State looked great last week knocking off Notre Dame.  Wisconsin struggled to beat a good, but not great, Georgia Southern.  MSU is at home and has won the past 4 meetings in East Lansing.  Expect that winning streak to continue.

UPSET of the Week:  Wake Forest def. Indiana - Quick, how many of you saw this game on the calendar in Week 4 and thought "Here is a battle of two undefeated teams going at it from two Power 5 conferences"?  Yup...crickets...but alas here we are.  This may be the biggest shocker of the season right here....Wake Forest leaves Bloomington 4-0!  Yup, I'd call that a major upset.

(4) Michigan def. Penn State

Oregon def. Colorado - #GoDucks

(1) Alabama def. Kent State

(23) Ole Miss def. (12) Georgia - HUGE SEC game to kick off the day.  Ole Miss already has two losses on the season and is pretty much out of the running for the SEC title....unless they defeat Georgia and maybe run the table (and get some luck)?  Georgia needs to re-establish their running game and Nick Chubb needs to start running like he wants the Heisman again.  Ole Miss is playing at home and have been playing great football this season despite the 1-2 record.  I smell a mild upset here.

Nevada def. Purdue

Iowa State def. San Jose State - If this game wasn't being played in Ames, I might have gone with the upset here.

Temple def. Charlotte

Iowa def. Rutgers - Time for Iowa to rebound after the big loss to FCS North Dakota State last week.

(13) Florida State def. South Florida - This game should be closer than many expect.  South Florida is undefeated and has been playing great football while FSU enters the game after being totally humiliated on national TV by Louisville last weekend.

Minnesota def. Colorado State - The Gophers are going to be 3-0?

Virginia Tech def. East Carolina - I am always a sucker for the Hokies...I just like them every year.

Central Michigan def. Virginia - Another MAC win vs. the Power 5.

UCONN def. Syracuse - The Huskies go to 3-1 with this win...dark horse team of the year?

Boston College def. Wagner

Ohio def. Gardner Webb

Cincinnati def. Miami (OH)

Northern Illinois def. Western Illinois - The Huskies finally pick up their first win of the season...against a strong (and undefeated) FCS Western Illinois.  Maybe I should re-think this pick....

Appalachian State def. Akron - Ok App St. let's get on the same page here.  I pick you to win, you win!

Boise State def. Oregon State

West Virginia def. BYU - This is a tough game to call.  I like BYU.  I like West Virginia.  Both look like strong football programs this year.  Sure neither are national championship contenders but still playing strong ball this season.

Notre Dame def. Duke - Wow have things changed.  ND is now 1-2 and basically out of the playoff.  Duke lost to Wake Forest and Northwestern after their opening season win.  This game had potential to feature possibly two 3-0 teams...now we get two 1-2 teams.

Mississippi State def. UMASS

(14) Tennessee def. (19) Florida - Ok I may not be a huge SEC fan but this is a game I enjoy watching every season.  These two schools truly hate one another and the rivalry of this game is tough to beat.  With both schools ranked and looking strong early on in the SEC, both would love to eliminate the other from SEC title consideration.  The Vols already have a loss on the season so a second would be tough to overcome.  The Gators are undefeated but are on the road for this one.

Pittsburgh def. North Carolina - Everyone bought into UNC as a dark horse team to watch this season...maybe we should have all been focusing on Pitt though.  Time to tell which of these teams is for real.

Old Dominion def. UTSA

Missouri def. Delaware State

Western Kentucky def. Vanderbilt

Tulsa def. Fresno State

(18) LSU def. Auburn

Ball State def. Florida Atlantic

Rice def. North Texas

(6) Houston def. Texas State

Arkansas State def. Central Arkansas

Troy def. New Mexico State

Nicholls def. South Alabama - Chalk up a W for the FCS over FBS once again!

Western Michigan def. Georgia Southern - Tough call here as both teams are 3-0 and looking strong.  Western Michigan is at home though so I give them the slight advantage.  But let's hope for a close game...perhaps 2OT?

UCF def. Florida International

Middle Tennessee def. Louisiana Tech

Kansas State def. Missouri State

(20) Nebraska def. Northwestern

(16) Baylor def. Oklahoma State - Time to see if the Bears are for real this season or not!

South Carolina def. Kentucky

(7) Stanford def. UCLA

(3) Louisville def. Marshall

Memphis def. Bowling Green - The Tigers go to 3-0 on the season?

Louisiana Lafayette def. Tulane

Southern Mississippi def. UTEP

UNLV def. Idaho

(10) Texas A&M def. (17) Arkansas - Two undefeated teams looking to take an early advantage in a very competitive SEC title hunt.  For these two teams, this is almost an elimination game as neither probably runs the table after this game.  But for the team that does lose this one, that means more than likely at least two losses on the table...which is tough to overcome for an SEC title.

California def. Arizona State

Air Force def. Utah State

Arizona def. (9) Washington - The desert.  At night.  With #Pac12AfterDark in full effect.  A Top 10 ranked team playing on the road.  Hmmm....as a Ducks fan...this sounds eerily familiar...and not in a good way.  Watch out Huskies...this is the perfect time and game for the upset.  Two years ago the #Pac12AfterDark phenomena took shape when Arizona used a hail mary TD completion with no time on the clock to beat Cal.  Could we see a little bit of history repeating this week?

CIS

Last Week:  10 - 3 (77%)
Overall Record:  26 - 10 (72%)

GAME of the Week:  (2) Calgary def. (9) Regina - Could this be a trap game for the hottest team in the nation?  The Dino's escaped rival Saskatchewan last week on the road and now complete the Saskatchewan road trip against the Rams in Regina.  Regina is rolling!  After the OT escape trick they pulled on Manitoba a few weeks back, last weekend the Rams went on the road and defeated the defending Vanier Cup champions UBC.  The Rams sit 2-1 and, if they knock off the Dino's, would be tied for the conference lead and own an important tiebreaker.  Expect LOTS of offence in this game.  The Rams have scored 100 points in 3 games (the most in Canada West) but have also allowed 89 (second worst in Canada West).  Heading into the season Calgary probably circled the games vs. the Huskies as a big match up and might have overlooked the Rams the following week.  This has trap game written all over it....but I still think the Dino's prevail in OT.

UPSET of the Week:  Alberta def. UBC - I'm completely in sell mode with the defending champs.  After the loss at home to Regina last week, all hope is lost for this team right now.  Yes they are 1-2 and are still in the playoff hunt but, given how they have played this season, they are barely hanging on.  Perfect time for the Golden Bears to attack!  Alberta has struggled this season, only scoring 53 points in 3 games and allowing 110.  However UBC is just an inept on offence and struggling on defence.  Alberta will be playing in front of their home fans as well and this could be their best chance at picking up a win this season.  Who knows, if Alberta wins and Manitoba lose, the Golden Bears could find themselves tied for the final playoff spot in the conference.  As for UBC, from Vanier Cup champions to last place in Canada West....oh how the mighty have fallen!  And it couldn't happen to a better coach....

(1) Montreal def. Acadia - Oh yay, the exciting inter-conference match up's between Atlantic and Quebec.  Those usually go well.....ugh....

(4) Western def. Guelph

Queen's def. Toronto - Ok, props to you Toronto on picking up a huge W last week vs. York!  But I highly doubt you celebrate a two game winning streak, sorry.  I think Queen's picks up their first win of the season this weekend.

(6) Ottawa def. Windsor - Expect a blow out in this one....or every game Windsor plays.  #NoDefence

(10) Carleton def. York - Wow York...really?  You were destroyed last week by Toronto...Toronto??!!!  The Ravens dream season hit the wall of reality last week in losing to Laurier but they get the perfect rebound game/team.

(5) Laurier def. Waterloo

(3) Laval def. Mount Allison

McGill def. Sherbrooke

Saint Mary's def. Bishop's

St. FX def. Concordia

(8) Saskatchewan def. Manitoba - Huge game for the Bisons here.  With the Huskies losing to Calgary last week and Regina playing the Dino's this week, the Bisons could jump from 4th to a tie for second if the results go their way.  This is a team many, myself included, thought to be a strong Vanier Cup contender.  Lose this week and all hope could be lost.  As for the Huskies, they need to put the disappointment of last week behind them quickly as they hit the road for this game.  This is a perfect opportunity to stay at the top of the standings close to Calgary and give some breathing room beneath them.