Four Down Territory: Old Rivalries Return, Clemson the 15th SEC Team? And Big Week for Big 10 and PA
First Down: A Rivalry Returns Part 1: This weekend #13 Penn State travels to Pitt for the 99th meeting between the two schools. In the 1970s through the 1990s this rivalry ran as hot as any in the country. From 1976 through 1986 these teams combined to play for 5 National Titles in 11 years (PSU won 2 and Pitt 1). In 2016 the rivalry returned after a 16-year break as Pitt beat Penn State. Last year Penn State won 33-14 as Pitt moved the ball but struggled to put points on the board. By week 12 with a 4-7 record, Pitt turned to Freshman QB Kenny Pickett and in his first start he led the team to a win over #2 Miami. If he plays to that level he could be the key factor for Pitt to make a run at #13 Penn State.
Second Down: A Rivalry Returns Part 2: The other rivalry that returns is Nebraska-Colorado. When Bill McCartney took over a struggling CU program he made Nebraska his Red-Letter foe—putting the Huskers in the program’s sights as its prime target. In 1990 a big win over Nebraska propelled the Buffs to a share of the National Championship. After Nebraska joined the Big Ten these two teams parted ways before the 2011 season. This is the season opener for Nebraska after last week’s game against Akron was cancelled for weather. Colorado has one advantage in that they’ve already played a game. However, without a game CU’s staff has no films of new Nebraska coach Scott Frost and his staff’s schemes. That presents a big challenge for Colorado’s game preparation as they head into Lincoln for the 70th meeting in this series.
Third Down: Is Clemson the 15th SEC Team?: #2 Clemson heads to Texas A&M for a night game with an SEC opponent. This will be the 9th time in 11 years that Clemson has scheduled 2 SEC teams—with their season-ending rivalry game against SEC foe South Carolina being the annual staple. Over the last decade (including bowl games) Clemson has played 23 games vs the SEC—almost 3 full seasons worth of conference games making them a nearly 30% member. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey should award the Tigers a frequent scheduling card good for free food at Krispy Kreme or Waffle House. As for the coaches, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher may have left Florida State and the ACC, but in Aggieland he meets Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney for the 9th time. The two coaches have split the previous 8 meetings but Swinney has won the last three.
Fourth Down: Big Week For The Big Ten and Pac 12: This is a big week for the Big 10 with 6 of the 12 non-conference match-ups being played against Power-5 opponents. Northwestern plays Duke, Indiana plays Virginia, Nebraska plays Colorado, Iowa plays Iowa State, Penn State plays Pitt and Michigan State plays Arizona State. No Big Ten team has ever beaten Arizona State in Sun Devil Stadium—although before joining the Big Ten Penn State did beat ASU there in the 1977 Fiesta Bowl. Sweeping these six match-ups is a real possibility and would make a strong statement about Big Ten depth a week after Michigan’s loss and close calls by PSU and MSU last week. As for the PAC 12 a win by Colorado coupled with a major upset of Oklahoma by UCLA and an ASU win over MSU could do a lot to help regain some luster to the conference.