This exercise every Friday of putting a team on upset alert is always one of my favorite things to do each week. It’s nice to peruse the matchups and the point spreads — even though I don’t gamble on sports — and find the one game that doesn’t add up.
I try to use logic and trends and the occasional gut-feeling that something doesn’t seem quite right. I missed in Week 1 (Iowa vs. Northern Illinois), but I was all over the Arizona State upset of then-No. 15 Michigan State last week.
As I mentioned then, I’m never rooting for the losses to come, because I am a loyal and impartial observer and have been as a reporter for four decades. (But as an Indiana grad, I do smile at the occasional bad loss by Purdue!) In all seriousness, I do like to see all the Big Ten teams do well. Especially in bowl season, I root hard for all of them. I’m all about conference pride.
This week’s upset alert is hard to find, for a couple of reasons. First off, the Big Ten has proven itself to be a bit of a fraud these first two weeks. Bragging about being the best conference in America has quickly fizzled and some teams that we thought would be pretty good — or at least be better — haven’t shown it.
Consequently, a team like Purdue probably would have been favored over Missouri at home this week if it had started 2-0. But they’re 0-2 instead, having lost both games as home favorites. That takes an upset special off the board with Missouri now favored. (Side note: Missouri QB Drew Lock will torch that Purdue secondary on Saturday.)
Even Illinois, oftentimes my whipping boy, is a huge underdog at home. South Florida is a 10.5-point favorite, so they’re out, too. And then there’s Rutgers. How in the heck can ANYONE be an underdog to Kansas? Somehow the Scarlet Knights are.
So I’m running out of choices. Everybody else is a double-digit favorite and only No. 4 Ohio State is playing a quality opponent, meeting up with No. 15 TCU in Arlington, Texas. The Buckeyes are 13-point favorite and I just can’t go there. OSU has looked great so far, albeit against awful competition. Oregon State and Rutgers might be the two worst teams in the Power 5. I can’t see them losing to the Horned Frogs, even without Urban Meyer for one last game.
So that leaves only one choice, and it pains me to say it:
Hey there … alma mater.
My Hoosiers are two-touchdown favorites against Ball State. The line is so high because Indiana has looked pretty decent starting out 2-0, with a win on the road at Florida International and at home in the rain against Virginia.
Why pick my boys to be on upset alert? Well, as I said, it’s slim pickin’s out there. I don’t have a lot of choices. But secondly, here’s the logic coming in. I watched Ball State against No. 8 Notre Dame last week and the Cardinals actually looked pretty good in a narrow 24-16 defeat.
And there’s this: Ball State always comes at Indiana hard. The Hoosiers are just 5-3 all-time against their in-state rivals from Muncie. In three straight games from 2008 through 2012, Ball State actually won all three games!
Could it happen again? Or course it could. Granted, my hands are tied here a little bit, and I really do hope that I’m wrong. But here it is: Ball State 28, Indiana 24.
I have no other second or third choices for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. So let’s leave it at that and hope not too many of my fellow alums see this.
This week, I really do hope I’m wrong.