Keys to Saturday's Upsets



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

We've had a knack the past few weeks for previewing showcase games here in the NOTEBOOK that are destined to see an upset.

Two weeks ago, we focused on Michigan State/Michigan and Florida State/Miami, and the road underdogs won those games outright in surprisingly comfortable fashion. This past week, Texas did the same thing as a road underdog at Nebraska (not allowing an offensive TD to the Huskers)...followed by Wisconsin's huge upset of Ohio State as a home underdog.

This doesn't mean that a NOTEBOOK entry will curse a favorite. But, it does mean that underdogs often get sky high for big TV games against top competition. And, favorites have a knack for bringing too much overconfidence to the table at just the wrong time.

Last week at this time we studied the key stats in the Michigan State and Florida State upsets. This week, we'll do the same thing with the surprising TV results. And, we'll throw in South Carolina/Kentucky too as the vanquisher of Alabama unsurprisingly got vanquished themselves in the obvious letdown spot.

We'll ignore rotation order this week and go in order of importance. Let's start with Wisconsin's derailment of Ohio State's run at the national championship...

Total Yardage: Ohio State 311, Wisconsin 336
Rushing Yardage: Ohio State 155, Wisconsin 184
Passing Stats: Ohio State 14-28-1-156, Wisconsin 13-16-1-152
Turnovers: Ohio State 1, Wisconsin 1
Third Downs: Ohio State 6/13, Wisconsin 4/8
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 4.5, total of 48
NOTEBOOK: We mentioned in our preview that Wisconsin was really going to have to lift its game to match up with the Buckeyes. They hadn't been playing high quality football vs. anyone that mattered. They were lucky to beat Arizona State at home. They were outplayed badly by Michigan State on the road. There's just no way you beat Ohio State with that level of performance. Obviously Wisconsin kicked things up a notch with their best outing of the year. This was actually the level everyone was expecting of Wisconsin at the beginning of the season. They were supposed to be top 10-15 caliber entering 2010. They certainly were here.

*Special teams struck early with a kickoff return TD in the opening seconds of the game.

*Rushing yardage went to Wisconsin, which is a tall task when you're facing the offense and defense of Ohio State.

*Turnovers weren't an issue, and you have to play mistake-free ball if you want to score an upset of a championship contender.

*Wisconsin's defense was in control of the game most of the night, owning the first half and keeping Terrell Pryor from busting lose for a large number of big plays. You're not going to shut down somebody like Ohio State completely. The stats above reflect a high level of performance...MUCH better than what we saw in the early disappointing outings for the Badgers.

So, this was a clean win. This wasn't Ohio State self-destructing with turnovers because they were flat or distracted. This wasn't a lucky play here or there turning the game around. Wisconsin won stats clean (a close stat win, but a clean one). The special teams TD helped blow up the score a little bit. The Badgers weren't two touchdowns better than Ohio State in terms of moving the ball up and down the field. They were the better team on this night on their home field.

Total Yardage: Texas 271, Nebraska 202
Rushing Yardage: Texas 209, Nebraska 125
Passing Stats: Texas 4-16-0-62, Nebraska 8-21-0-77
Turnovers: Texas 0, Nebraska 1
Third Downs: Texas 7/16, Nebraska 5/16
Vegas Line: Nebraska by 9.5, total of 45
NOTEBOOK: Where was this defense against UCLA and Oklahoma? It's not like UCLA has some special weaponry that Nebraska just doesn't possess. Clearly Texas refocused on that side of the ball during their bye week. As we mentioned earlier, the defense didn't allow an offensive TD. Nebraska's only trip to paydirt came on a 95-yard punt return off a pooch kick relatively late in the game. You can see that the Huskers are STILL overmatched with a relatively primitive offense when they face a top caliber defense. The names may have changed this year. The schematics still need an upgrade if Nebraska is going to make it all the way back to superpower prominence.

Texas also finally figured out how to run the ball during their bye week. The answer? Letting the quarterback scramble for yardage! That's not actually figuring out something new. That's going back to something old. Vince Young was a lethal weapon as a runner. Colt McCoy did a lot of damage too before cutting back his senior year to protect his body for the next level. Garrett Gilbert was unaccounted for by the Nebraska defense as a running threat. Some draws and scrambles did real damage.

In terms of production (or the lack of production), this game was fairly similar to the nailbiter in the Big 12 title tilt last year. Neither offense scared you. Texas found a way to grind out a win.

Total Yardage: South Carolina 472, Kentucky 401
Rushing Yardage: South Carolina 90, Kentucky 52
Passing Stats: South Carolina 20-32-2-382, Kentucky 32-42-0-349
Turnovers: South Carolina 4, Kentucky 0
Third Downs: South Carolina 5/10, Kentucky 9/19
Vegas Line: South Carolina by 5, total of 54
NOTEBOOK: Turnovers were the key here. South Carolina's offense is still multi-faceted and lethal (though you can't ask a stud running back to thrive every week in the brutal SEC). You see letdown numbers for the Gamecocks on defense (Kentucky was ridiculously efficient in the air with that 32-42-0-349 passing pressure on the QB and tons of yards), and with the giveaways. SC still almost won anyway. They jumped out to a big lead early on, then ran out of emotional and physical gas on defense. With Florida's loss to Mississippi State, and the generally ragged play of Georgia, Vandy, and Tennessee, South Carolina is still the favorite in the SEC East right now even with this setback. What a year in the SEC!

That wraps up our look at the key stats from this past Saturday's upsets. Tomorrow we'll review the key stats in Sunday's NFL, with an eye toward picking winners in this coming week's games. Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's really happening in the world of sports!

Playoff baseball winners from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK are available daily right here at the website. Log in a few hours before first pitch. Football action resumes Thursday with UCLA at Oregon, as the newest #1 team tries to avoid the upset bug. It's been a great season already, and a huge weekend is on tap across the board.

What games will we be talking about this weekend and next week? Maybe:

*Wisconsin at the Badgers try to avoid a letdown on the road against the new favorite to win the Big Ten conference.

*LSU at Auburn...which is suddenly a meeting of BCS powers because these guys keep winning while others can't avoid any potholes. How did Auburn become a top five team under Gene Chizik...the guy who couldn't win at Iowa State?!

*Oklahoma at Missouri...which is now a potential preview of the Big 12 Championship game because Missouri has caught fire...and Oklahoma actually sits atop the BCS rankings despite less than explosive victories over teams like Utah State, Air Force, and Cincinnati.

Nebraska/Oklahoma State and North Carolina/Miami of Florida could also get interesting. Great to see the schedule picking up with traditional powers and surprise entries still trying to figure out how 2010 is going to shake out.

There's still a long way to go in both the college and pro seasons. That means THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


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