Four Down Territory: All You Need To Know--Quick Hits From The Weekend's Big Games
First Down: Is Michigan Really Back? #6 Michigan at #24 Michigan State: The Wolverines got a vote of confidence from the former President of Iran (the tweet is real). One has to assume that as a Persian he would loathe the Spartans. MSU has been an injury-plagued team but they won at #8 Penn State last week. They'll need another big game from WR Felton Davis. Their defense looked good defending the pass last week and will need to tackle well again this week. Michigan must avoid turnovers and play the same swarming defense that helped them handle #15 Wisconsin. We’ll know if the Wolverines are for real on Saturday if they can upend the Spartans who are 8-3 against Michigan under Mark Dantonio.
Second Down: Game Day Comes to Wazzu: #12 Oregon at #25 Washington State: For years someone in the crowd has waved a WSU flag at every ESPN College Football Game Day. This week the show's set has landed at Washington State. The ESPN Game Day crew gets WSU Coach Mike Leach—a legendary philosopher who is never shy sharing his thoughts. If Oregon continues to throw the ball and run it as effectively with QB Justin Herbert they can keep WSU QB Gardner Minshew off the field. Minshew and the Cougars are averaging 413 yards through the air. But the surprising number for WSU is on defense—they are #10 nationally in pass defense and #14 in total defense. Will Oregon’s balance be too much for them?
Third Down: Battle of ACC Unbeatens: #16 NC State at #3 Clemson: The Wolfpack is off to a better start than anyone expected…partly because their game with WVU was cancelled by Hurricane Florence. No one expected that in this game NC State would have the more veteran QB either. NC State’s senior QB Ryan Finley has made big improvements this season by avoiding sacks and cutting down on his interceptions. If he can keep his elevated level of play the Wolfpack may pull the upset over a Clemson team that at times has looked shaky as the #3 team in the country.
Fourth Down: Grab Bag: Maryland at #19 Iowa -Both of these teams are having surprising seasons but can Maryland find enough of a pass game to score on Iowa’s stout defense? Virginia (4-2) at Duke (5-1) -Both of these teams have also played above expectations. Can Virginia follow up their upset of Miami with a road win? UVA QB Bryce Perkins will have to eliminate the interceptions (7 in 6 games) if they are to pull the win in Durham. #1 Alabama at Tennessee -The Vols surprised everyone with a win at Auburn last week. They will have to play their best defense of the year to get it done versus the Tide. #22 Mississippi State at #5 LSU -This is the 3rd straight game (and 5th in 8 games) where LSU has faced a ranked opponent. LSU needs to avoid a letdown to get over their last hurdle before an off week and the anticipated battle against #1 Alabama.
Penalty on the Play Repeat Fourth Down: #2 Ohio State at Purdue: OSU fans repeat after me: Purdue is a dangerous team. After starting out 0-3 Purdue has beaten #23 BC won at Nebraska and at Illinois by an average of 23.3 points. This team is 3 plays from being 6-0. WR Rondale Moore may be the most electric player in the Big Ten and ranks #4 Nationally in all-purpose yardage with 139 on the ground, 558 receiving, 41 on punt returns and 269…all told he has 73 plays for 1007 yards and average of 13.8 yards per play. QB David Blough has also been very productive as well. The question is this: Can Purdue keep up with the Buckeyes’ offense and aerial assault?