Four Down Territory: First Place Battles in SEC East & Pac 12 North plus PSU-Iowa & Other Ke
First Down: The SEC Still Open For Business This Week: Unless you've been living under a rock you know that #1 Alabama and #4 LSU are off this weekend…but #9 Florida and #7 Georgia are playing in Jacksonville in a game with huge SEC East implications. With just 3 conference games left, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky are all 4-1 in the SEC with Kentucky owning the head to head tie-breaker over Florida. Florida's defense is 3rd in the country with 18 turnovers and that was crucial in the big win against LSU. In Georgia's loss to LSU, they were -4 in turnovers and struggled to run the football. Saturday if the Bulldogs hold onto the football they could finish the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party in good spirits.
Second Down: #14 Washington State at #24 Stanford: The Cardinal are best described as inconsistent. They have beaten Oregon and USC yet looked outclassed by Notre Dame and Utah. They will have their hands full with what has become a very, very good Washington State defense. The Cougars have some creative blitz schemes, play fast and really hustle to the ball. Defense travels well in college football and if the Cougars can bring that performance from Pullman to Palo Alto they will remain a front runner in the suddenly log-jammed Pac 12 North. And speaking of the Pac 12…..#23 Utah plays at UCLA who with a 2-5 overall record and a 2-2 Pac 12 record can find itself in a first place tie in their division with a win.
Third Down: #18 Iowa at #17 Penn State: Penn State bounced back last week with a hard-earned win at Indiana. This week Iowa comes to town playing their best offense of the year scoring 113 points in the last 3 weeks. Despite starting the year with an inexperienced linebacker corps, Iowa has been a stout defense ranking #1 in the Big Ten in scoring (14.1 points per game) and #2 in total defense (258.1 yards per game). But this week they face their sternest test in the running threat posed by Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley. He's been even more dangerous of late rushing 72 times for 411 yards the last four games. As for Penn State’s defense the targeting penalty carryover suspension for the first half of safety Garrett Taylor puts a lot of pressure on the linebackers to help cover Iowa’s tight ends. NFL prospects TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant have combined for 51 catches for 736 yards and 9 TDs.
Fourth Down: Quick Hits: #20 Wisconsin at Northwestern—don’t look now but the Wildcats are in first place in the West at 4-1 leading Wisconsin and Iowa both at 3-1. If the Badgers are to win the West they will need continued improved play from QB Alex Hornibrook after he bottomed out against Michigan two weeks ago. #21 South Florida at Houston—USF remains undefeated with a series of close calls and one score games (Tulsa, Illinois, UConn, ECU). Houston (6-1) has been rolling teams by lopsided scores with a 25-point average margin of victory in their 6 wins. That could spell the end of one of the last 5 undefeated teams left. #12 Kentucky at Missouri—The Wildcats look to keep their surprising season on track with a win on the road before next week’s showdown with Georgia. Kentucky’s defense has been key allowing just 54 points in 5 SEC games (10.8 ppg). #6 Texas at Oklahoma State—This one has danger written all over it. Like Ohio State going to Purdue last week, this is a road night game against a team that at times has played well and at other times has struggled. The status of Texas QB Sam Ehlinger’s shoulder is also a concern.