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NCAAF Upset Alert: Can Western Michigan Tame the Panthers for the Second Year in a Row?

If the first two weeks of the college football season have proven anything, it’s that we don’t know what we don’t know as conference play is close to starting.

Ranked teams have been stumbling, and even No. 1 Alabama barely escaped an upset bid by Texas. Thankfully, the arrival of the conference season should limit the Michigan-UConn, Wisconsin-New Mexico State games.

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More upsets are sure to follow in the coming week. Here is a look at five games that could get interesting. Rather than looking at losing teams covering against absurd point spreads listed by the sportsbook, the focus is on what should be some of the more competitive games on the schedule.

Brigham Young vs Oregon

When: Saturday, September 17th, 3:30 p.m.

Line: Oregon by 3½ (FOX)

BYU hasn’t shied away from playing and beating teams from Power-5 Conferences. The Cougars already own a win this season against Baylor, one of the contenders in the Big 12. A year ago, the Cougars topped eventual Pac-12 champion Utah. Both of those games were at home, so it will be worth keeping tabs on how talented quarterback Jaren Hall and the Cougars fare against an Oregon team with the new head coach (Dan Lanning) and starting quarterback (Bo Nix).

This is a very dangerous game for an Oregon team that was overmatched by Georgia in the season opener and then rolled past an FCS team (Eastern Washington) in Week 2.

Both teams are ranked, so there won’t be a stunning result in this one, but BYU could easily take down the Ducks.

Penn State vs Auburn

When: Saturday, September 17th, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

Line: Penn State by 3

Penn State is just 8-7 in its last 15 true road games, and while this is not one of the best Auburn teams, playing a game on the road against an SEC team is no easy task.

Auburn has given some ranked teams fits in recent years, so seeing the Tigers as the underdog at home makes this a game worthy of being on the upset watch list. The quarterback play at Auburn has been so-so, but this game is where it all comes together. Penn State’s Sean Clifford has been fine but is not putting up numbers expected from a player the college football lines believe could be in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Kansas vs Houston

When: Saturday, September 17th, 4 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Line: Houston by 8½

There’s no way this game would have been on the list of potential upsets a year ago or two. However, Houston needed three overtimes to edge UTSA in the opener before falling to Texas Tech in overtime in Week 2.

Kansas owns a win over West Virginia and looks more competitive than it has in a long time.

Houston playing at home is a favorite for a good reason, but the 8½-point spread seems a little bit on the high side. Both of these teams have struggled at times on defense, so whether or not there is an upset, this has the potential of being a highly entertaining game.

Michigan State vs Washington

When: Saturday, September 17th, 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Line: Washington by 3.5 points

Michigan State team is ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll and ninth in the American Football Coaches Association poll. Yet, the Spartans are underdogs by more than a field goal against unranked Washington.

Neither team has faced an opponent that could challenge them, so there is plenty of mystery to this matchup of 2-0 teams.

Until proven otherwise, we’ll go with the Big Ten team against the Pac-12 squad in a close matchup.

Pittsburgh vs Western Michigan

When: Saturday, September 17th, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Line: Pittsburgh by 11

This is not the same Pittsburgh team that won the ACC title in 2021. Kenny Pickett is now a member of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, while All-American receiver Jordan Addison transferred to Southern California.

Pittsburgh topped West Virginia by seven points and lost to Tennessee by the same margin, so the Panthers have been tested. The defense has some work to do as North Carolina is the only other ACC team to allow more yards per game than the 410 surrendered by Pittsburgh.

Western Michigan won an offensive shootout when the teams met in 2021, and now the Broncos get Pittsburgh at home. The Panthers’ top two quarterbacks (USC transfer Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti) were hurt against Tennessee.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said there is a chance Slovis could play on Saturday. If he can’t, either Dartmouth transfer Derek Kyler or freshman Nate Yarnell could line up at quarterback.

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