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9 upset picks for college football’s Week 1, ranked by plausibility

How many of these do you think will happen?

NCAA Football: Wyoming at UNLV
Wyoming QB Josh Allen.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Someone’s going to lose to someone it really shouldn’t lose to.

We probably won’t get an Appalachian State-Michigan this year — that’s why it was Appalachian State-Michigan — but the first week of the college football season is ripe for the shock upset. Teams aren’t finished products yet, and they’re susceptible to coming out flat and falling in embarrassing fashion. Let’s examine some candidates and rank them by how likely they are to be that team that starts a hilarious 0-1.

Here’s a broader Week 1 picks column by my colleague Bud Elliott, and here’s what the computers say, by Bill Connelly. Now, to some upset possibilities:

Absolutely could happen and wouldn’t be surprising

1. South Alabama over Ole Miss (Vegas spread: -24)

But shouldn’t the Rebels’ drastic talent advantage make this a slam dunk against an overwhelmed Sun Belt opponent playing on the road?

The Jaguars beat Mississippi State and San Diego State on the road last year, and LSU was so scared of them that it canceled its game and ran off to play Florida instead. (Just trust me.)

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU, at Ole Miss

2. Wyoming over Iowa (-11.5)

You’ll read a lot of words this year about Wyoming QB Josh Allen, who could be coach Craig Bohl’s second top-two pick from the position. (His first was Carson Wentz, from when Bohl coached at FCS power North Dakota State.)

Iowa lost last year at home to the FCS team that Bohl left for Wyoming, which is in the level above FCS.

Saturday, noon ET, BTN, at Iowa

3. BYU over LSU (-14.5)

LSU is far more talented, but LSU is also LSU.

This will be a gory display of power football, and if BYU has eaten its Wheaties, the Cougars will have a chance in a low-scoring affair. I do think the game’s move to New Orleans from Houston will make things harder on BYU. The line has moved a couple of points toward LSU in the last few days.

Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, in New Orleans

Possible if a few things go right

4. Middle Tennessee over Vanderbilt (-3.5)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, CBSSN, at Middle Tennessee

5. James Madison over East Carolina (no Vegas line)

JMU beat NDSU in last year’s FCS playoffs, ending the Bison’s five-year national title run. Then the Dukes won the title themselves. This is barely an upset pick, because JMU was probably better than ECU last year. But I want an FCS pick, so I’m making it.

Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, WatchESPN, at ECU

6. Troy over Boise State (-11)

Troy won 10 games last year. Boise State remains Boise State, and winning on the Broncos’ blue turf is a Herculean task. Buuttttttt, Neal Brown’s Trojans have a lot going for them, and they can play in any climate.

Saturday, 3:45 p.m. ET, ESPNU, at Boise State

7. Arkansas State over Nebraska (-17)

The Red Wolves traditionally haven’t peaked until the end of the year. Maybe they’ll take some time to get into hyperdrive, and maybe they’ll get routed in Lincoln.

But A-State is the Sun Belt’s most consistent winning bet for a reason, and Nebraska has a lot working against it in 2017.

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, BTN, at Nebraska

Stretching it, but not inconceivable

8. Maryland over Texas (-18.5)

This Texas roster just lost to Kansas.

Saturday, noon ET, FS1, at Texas

9. Appalachian State over Georgia (-14.5)

The program that did this 10 years ago ...

... now has a full FBS roster.

Saturday, 6:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, at Georgia