The Oklahoman

College football prediction­s

- Erick Smith USA TODAY

A full slate of college football games are on tap this week, and some of our staff members predict who will win,

The adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply in college football. Throughout this season, there will be prominent Power Five schools paying hundreds of thousands – and sometimes millions – of dollars to smaller opponents coming to their home stadium.

These guarantee games seem to offer a simple trade-off: We pay you to show up and we cruise to a comfortabl­e win.

But it doesn’t always work out that way. Upsets are the norm in college football and that is sure to continue this season.

So where could some of these surprises occur? Here are six of the best possibilit­ies.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas

Date: Saturday Payout: $1,500,000 When the Longhorns agreed to this game in 2019, they wouldn’t have believed the Ragin’ Cajuns would enter as a ranked opponent.

That might actually be to their benefit, however, as Texas won’t be overlookin­g them in Steve Sarkisian’s first game as coach. Louisiana-Lafayette, which returns 20 starters from last year’s team that went 10-1, won’t be overwhelme­d by the environmen­t in Austin.

The Cajuns knocked off Iowa State on the road last year in their season opener and face a team with an inexperien­ced quarterbac­k in Hudson Card. Seems like an almost perfect situation.

Buffalo at Nebraska

Date: Sept. 11 Payout: $1,320,000 This isn’t just a reaction to the Cornhusker­s falling to Illinois in their opener. The Bulls were always going to be a dangerous opponent given their recent success – two Mid-American Conference championsh­ip games and three bowl appearance­s in three seasons.

Nebraska still seems mired in mediocrity and losing to a Group of Five conference opponent at home would not be unpreceden­ted. Troy and Northern Illinois have won in Lincoln in the past four seasons.

Fresno State at UCLA

Date: Sept. 18 Payout: $1,100,000 Both the Bulldogs and Bruins had impressive wins in Week Zero and each will face difficult games Saturday against Oregon and LSU, respective­ly. Their matchup against each other the following week is tricky for UCLA. Should they beat the Tigers, the Bruins face the possibilit­y of a letdown. A loss could also result in them being down. Fresno State is the kind of team that is easy to overlook.

But the Bulldogs have the capability of pulling off a surprise with quarterbac­k Jake Haener, a Washington transfer, leading the offense.

Nevada at Kansas State

Date: Sept. 18 Payout: $1,000,000

This might not qualify as an upset with the Wolf Pack looking like one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference.

The optimism around the team starts with Carson Strong at quarterbac­k. Regarded as a top prospect for next year’s NFL draft, Strong is going to put up big numbers this season. The Wildcats have their own talented quarterbac­k in Skylar Thompson, portending a possible shootout that could go either way.

Army at Wisconsin

Date: Oct. 16 Payout: $1,200,000 There aren’t many challenges more difficult than preparing for the Black Knights’ option offense. Add the wrinkle of playing the game in the middle of the Big Ten season and you can see why this matchup would concern the Bad

gers. Army, which has averaged almost nine wins during the past five seasons, has given Oklahoma and Michigan scares recently. Don’t be shocked if this one is another nail-biter.

Liberty at Mississipp­i

Date: Nov. 6 Payout: $1,500,000 The storyline for this game is surely to focus on the return of former Rebels coach Hugh Freeze, though it is worth noting that the schools agreed to the game years before Freeze was hired by the Flames. This clash might be one of the more entertaini­ng games of the season with quarterbac­ks Matt Corral and Malik Willis among the leaders in total offense in 2020. Liberty won at Virginia Tech last year and narrowly fell at North Carolina State, so a win in Oxford isn’t far-fetched.

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 ?? TIM HEITMAN/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah Mitchell (15) runs the ball in the fourth quarter against UTSA on Dec. 26, 2020, at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
TIM HEITMAN/USA TODAY SPORTS Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah Mitchell (15) runs the ball in the fourth quarter against UTSA on Dec. 26, 2020, at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

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