The biggest stages can sometimes provide the biggest upsets. That's what happened when Oklahoma went on the road and beat Ohio State 31-16 last week. It wasn't a traditional upset in that both teams were ranked in the top five, but few gave the Sooners a legitimate chance to win. Now, the college football landscape has changed dramatically at the top.
Upsets like that are great. Like we always say, people are imperfect by nature. College football players between the ages of 18 and 22 (or so) are even more prone to mistakes. It's what makes this sport so fun.
With all of that in mind, we're here to give you the top five upset alert games each week of the 2017 season based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. As a general rule, we try to avoid games whose lines are well within a touchdown with exceptions being made for cases that warrant them.
No. 9 Oklahoma State at Pitt
When: Saturday, noon ET | Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Opening Line: Oklahoma State -10
Why it's listed: I love a good home dog and we haven't featured many of them through the first couple of weeks. Pitt took Oklahoma State down to the final minutes in Stillwater a year ago and this is the first real test for the Cowboys in 2017 -- and it's on the road, no less. Coupled with an early kickoff -- it would be 11 a.m. in Oklahoma -- and a sleepy start wouldn't be all that surprising for the Pokes. On to the matchup: This one should be fun because Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy are tremendous defensive and offensive minds, respectively. It should be a chess match back and forth and second-half adjustments will be key.
Pitt wins if: It can take Oklahoma State receiver James Washington out of the game. No one's done it yet. Overall, the Panthers did a decent job of keep Penn State running back Saquon Barkley contained in Week 2. As he tends to do, though, Barkley eventually broke a few big plays. Washington is that same caliber of playmaker in Oklahoma State's offense and while quarterback Mason Rudolph has a number of capable receivers to whom he can throw, none with the over-the-top, game-breaking ability that Washington possesses. It's a big task, but Narduzzi will want to take away Oklahoma State's best weapon while testing the balance of its running game.
Oklahoma State wins if: It can get to the quarterback. The Pokes had four sacks against South Alabama, and plays like this should worry Pitt. Oh, and the Panthers gave up five sacks to Penn State. Narduzzi is still backing Max Browne, but Ben DiNucci provided a spark against Penn State with his scrambling ability. He might be a better option against Oklahoma State's front four even if he's sprinkled in to keep the defense on its toes.
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Fort Worth, Texas| Opening Line: TCU -20
Why it's listed: You don't just walk into a battle for the Iron Skillet and expect to come out with an easy win, folks. This is a huge game for SMU and coach Chad Morris as they continue to build this program. Morris already has one big win under his belt (over then No. 11 Houston in 2016) and a win over the rival Horned Frogs would be further validation that this team is on its way to contending for a AAC West title. This is a battle of which side of the ball holds up better. The Mustangs are averaging 56 points per game, which ranks fifth nationally, but have played Stephen F. Austin and North Texas. TCU ranks first in the Big 12 in pass defense at 4.8 yards per attempt allowed, but have gone up against Jackson State and Arkansas.
SMU wins if: It capitalizes on takeaways. A glaring weakness for the Frogs is they don't take particularly good care of the ball. TCU has lost a turnover in 13 of its last 15 games. In multiple turnover games, they are 3-4 with two of those wins coming against Kansas and South Dakota State. As you'll read below, TCU's defense is good enough to counter mistakes -- it happened last week against Arkansas -- so SMU must finish the job if they get stops off of takeaways.
TCU wins if: Its defense is up to the challenge. The Frogs have a tremendous 95.7 stop rate percentage, the second-highest in the FBS, according to Max Olson of The Athletic. This is an experienced group as well since most of its starters have been contributors for the past two seasons. Few Big 12 teams build defenses like coach Gary Patterson and this unit looks like its the best in the conference.
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET | Where: Columbia, Missouri | Opening Line: MIssouri -5.5
Why it's listed: The spread is up to a touchdown, but the Tigers need to be careful. This isn't the same ol' Purdue like we've come to know it in recent years. First-year coach Jeff Brohm has already injected signs of life into the Boilermakers, particularly on offense. And after two games, Mizzou has the worst scoring defense in the SEC. Coach Barry Odom has already fired defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross for "philosophical differences." (As in, Missouri wanted to philosophically give up fewer points.)
Purdue wins if: Quarterback David Blough plays smart. He was an efficient passer against Ohio (11-of-13, 235 yards, 3 touchdowns) and took much better care of the ball. That marks a huge improvement over last season and in the opener against Louisville. Blough is long-term the best option for this offense if he continues to limit his mistakes and Purdue should be able to move the ball, it just can't shoot itself in the foot doing it.
Missouri wins if: It can keep Purdue from finishing drives. The Boilermakers have a perfect 100 percent red zone conversion rate with six touchdowns and three field goals. That won't keep up forever, but Purdue has obviously done a great job at finishing drives with points. That's due in part to the fact that they win first and second downs frequently. Purdue's 25 third-down attempts are among the lowest in the Big Ten.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET | Where: Laramie, Wyoming | Opening Line: Oregon -14
Why it's listed: The Ducks are coming off a huge win against Nebraska and things already appear to be turning around under first-year coach Willie Taggart. However, that victory was a tale of two halves. The Ducks scored all 42 of their points in the first half and held off a furious Nebraska comeback. The point being, Oregon is a long ways away from being "back." Going on the road and facing one of the more physically gifted quarterbacks they'll face all year (Josh Allen) is reason for pause.
Wyoming wins if: Allen rights himself against a Power Five defense. You don't want to put too much on the quarterback, but in Allen's last two games against Power Five opponents (Iowa and Nebraska), he has one touchdown pass to a whopping seven interceptions at about 5.2 yards per attempt. Not every interception was his fault and he was usually playing from behind, but he can't have those numbers against better competition and expect to win. The good news for him? Oregon's defense is still a work in progress.
Oregon wins if: The explosive plays against Nebraska carry over. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in chunk yardage plays of 20 yards or more. Quarterback Justin Herbert can certainly spin it; he just has to take some heat off the ball sometimes. Wyoming's defense is improved from a year ago, but Oregon should be able to pick up big plays. It just has to finish with points.
No. 12 LSU at Mississippi State
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET | Where: Starkville, Mississippi | Opening Line: LSU -6.5
Why it's listed: Neither side has been particularly tested thus far, so this is a good early-season litmus test to see where the Tigers and Bulldogs really stand. In particular, Mississippi State has a chance to make a little noise in the West Division race by landing an upset. For as good as coach Dan Mullen is, his record against ranked opponents (6-30) could use some work. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald should test LSU's defense early.
Mississippi State wins if: It can flip the field on LSU. The Tigers do a good job of avoiding bad field position partially because of special teams and partially because of its defense doing its job. LSU has just four drives (out of 21) this year that have started inside its own 20-yard line, and one was a one-play, half-ending run against BYU. Shortening your own field while forcing LSU -- which has an improved, but still average explosive play rating -- to work the field is to the Bulldogs' benefit.
LSU wins if: Guice gets stronger as the game goes on. Little known fact: Guice hasn't carried the ball in the fourth quarter of a game this year -- yet. That will likely change against Mississippi State. However, Guice's best rushing average has come in third quarters where he averages 6.46 yards per touch. If he can take over the game in the second half, LSU can pull away.