Top Five States of Matter (Oct 2 - Oct 6)

October 2, 2014 by SbS Football Staff | with 0 comments

The weekly “Top Five States of Matter” is a preview of the upcoming football weekend that highlights the key games for teams from five states (e.g. big national games, local rivalries, in-state matchups, etc.).

In arguably the best weekend for football games so far this season, our top five states of matter are: Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona and Utah.
1. Texas
With two big in-state matchups (one FBS and one NFL) and all five of its major FBS teams playing in high-profiled games, the state of Texas is our number one “State of Matter” this week.
On Saturday, there are four top 25 games involving teams from the state of Texas, including a big in-state matchup between the 7th ranked Baylor Bears and the Texas Longhorns. The Bears travel to Austin to take on Texas in a rivalry game that has historically been dominated by the Longhorns, but has been more competitive in recent years. Texas won twelve straight games in the series from 1998 to 2009, but Baylor has won three of the last four. Earlier this year we ranked the most competitive in-state rivalries since 2000, and the Baylor-Texas rivalry ranked as the least competitive of the 34 rivalries we analyzed (complete analysis here: Best FBS In-State Rivalries Since 2000). While Baylor is looking to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive with a win on Saturday, the Longhorns are just looking for a win that will provide some momentum for the rest of the season.
There are two other games on Saturday with College Football Playoff implications involving teams from Texas. Number four Oklahoma will travel to the state to take on 25th ranked TCU in a key Big 12 matchup, and number six Texas A&M heads to Starkville, Mississippi to play a Mississippi State team currently ranked 12th and one of the country's most surprising teams this year (more on this game down below). All four teams in these two games are currently undefeated, and both games will go a long way in deciding who is playing football in early January. Also relevant to the state this week, although neither team is a playoff contender, Texas Tech plays at 23rd ranked Kansas State in a Big 12 game on Saturday night.
After a huge Saturday of college football action, all eyes in the state will be on a rare in-state NFL matchup when the Texans play at the Cowboys on Sunday. The teams play one another every four years, and with both teams starting the season at 3-1, this may be the most anticipated game in the history of this young rivalry. The Cowboys have won two of the previous three games, and are favored to win after looking very impressive against the Saints last week. Meanwhile, this will be the first real test for the Texans as none of their first four opponents currently have a winning record (Redskins, Raiders, Giants and Bills).

Key Games
FBS: No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Miss State (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, Line: Miss St by 3)
FBS: No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Line: OU by 6)
FBS: No. 7 Baylor at Texas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Line: Baylor by 15)
FBS: Texas Tech at No. 23 Kansas State (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, Line: KSU by 13)
NFL: Texans at Cowboys (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, Line: Cowboys by 6)
2. Mississippi
Ole Miss and Mississippi State are both ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 1999, and with both teams hosting marquee matchups this Saturday, football weekends in the Magnolia State don’t get much bigger than this.
Mississippi State may be the best story in all of college football so far this year. The Bulldogs are currently ranked 12th in the nation after upsetting LSU in Baton Rouge a couple of weeks ago, and they will host sixth ranked Texas A&M who needed a late rally to beat Arkansas in overtime last weekend. It should be a high scoring game that will feature two of the best Quarterbacks in the nation (Dak Prescott and Kenny Hill), and both teams are looking to keep pace in the ridiculously strong SEC West.
Around the time the game in Starkville is wrapping up, the state’s other big SEC West showdown this weekend will be kicking off 90 miles away in Oxford, Mississippi. Ole Miss (11th in the nation) takes on third ranked Alabama in one of the most anticipated FBS game this season. The 4-0 Rebels were picked by many to contend in the SEC West, but have not looked overly impressive this year against some weak opponents. The Rebels will get a chance to prove they belong with the elite teams of the conference when they face a Crimson Tide team that appears to be getting better each game. Ole Miss hasn't defeated Alabama since 2003, and the Crimson Tide come in as six point favorites.

Key Games
FBS: No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Miss State (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, Line: Miss St by 3)
FBS: No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Line: Bama by 6)
3. Alabama
The state of Alabama once again cracks our top five “States of Matter” as both of its two major football schools play in big SEC West games this Saturday. As noted above, the Crimson Tide travel across the state border to take on an Ole Miss team they have defeated ten consecutive years. Will the trend continue, and is Alabama once again the team to beat in the SEC, or will Ole Miss rise to the occasion and show they are finally ready to contend in the conference?
On Saturday night, the fifth ranked Auburn Tigers will welcome LSU to town in a rematch of the only game Auburn lost during the regular season last year. LSU is ranked 15th in the nation, but has struggled against tougher competition this year, including a rare home loss to Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Auburn also struggled in its last big game (a six point win over Kansas State two weeks ago) and has yet to prove they are as good as they were last year. The game with LSU will be the first of six games Auburn has remaining against teams currently ranked in the top 25.

Key Games
FBS: No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Line: Bama by 6)
FBS: No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, Line: Auburn by 7.5)

4.  Arizona
Football teams from the state of Arizona have had a lot of early season success, as the Arizona Cardinals and the state’s two FBS teams (Arizona and Arizona State) are a combined 10-1. Each of these three teams will go on the road this weekend to see how they stack up against some very elite teams.
On Saturday, Arizona State heads to Los Angeles to play the 16th ranked USC Trojans, and Arizona travels up to Eugene to face the nation’s second ranked team, the Oregon Ducks. The 3-1 Sun Devils are looking to rebound after being destroyed by UCLA last week and will need a win over USC to avoid falling into a big hole in the very competitive Pac-12 South. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are 4-0 and will try to build off of their miracle comeback two weeks ago against California. Arizona has won each of its past three games by less than seven points and will need to play at their absolute best to stay close to the Ducks.
One of the best NFL games of the weekend will be in Denver on Sunday as the 2-1 Broncos host the 3-0 Cardinals. Even though Arizona is undefeated this year, and won ten games last season, they continue to be the most underrated team in the league. Both teams are coming off a bye week, and the Broncos are favored by a touchdown. With Peyton Manning in Denver, and with the Cardinals playing as consistent as they have, it is not a stretch to say that Sunday’s game is a potential Super Bowl preview.
Key Games
FBS: Arizona State at No. 16 USC (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, Line: USC by 12)
FBS: Arizona at No. 2 Oregon (Thursday, 10:30 PM ET, Line: Oregon by 23)
NFL: Cardinals at Broncos (Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, Line: Broncos by 7)
5. Utah
The best in-state matchup of the weekend will be in Provo, Utah on Friday night as Utah State takes on 18th ranked BYU. In a year with no Holy War rivalry game (BYU vs. Utah), this matchup is the next big thing for football fans in the Beehive State. Utah State has been one of the best teams in the Mountain West over the past few years, but the Aggies will be without star Quarterback Chuckie Keeton and will need a huge game from Darrell Garretson if they want to compete with the Cougars. BYU is the highest ranked team in FBS from outside one of the Power 5 Conferences (including Notre Dame) and is led by Taysom Hill, one of the best dual threat Quarterbacks in the nation.
The Utah Utes play UCLA in the other significant game for the state this weekend. The 3-1 Utes will try to rebound from a heartbreaking loss to Washington State last weekend, and they may have their best team since joining the Pac-12 a few years ago. They will need to play a flawless game in order to pull off the upset over the 8th ranked Bruins, who finally looked like the National Title contender may people predicted in their blowout win over Arizona State last week.
Key Games
FBS: Utah State at No. 18 BYU (Friday, 10:15 PM ET, Line: BYU by 21)
FBS: Utah at No. 8 UCLA (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET, Line: UCLA by 13)