Four Down Territory: Friday Night Lights, Saturday Showdown, Rivalry Games and PSU Faces NAFTA.....
First Down: Friday Night Lights Twin-Bill: #6 Oklahoma at #13 West Virginia 8:00 p.m. ESPN—For both teams--win and you’re in the Big 12 Title game against Texas (if they win at lowly Kansas at noon Friday). While Kyler Murray is the most dynamic quarterback in college football (3300+ pass yards AND 750+ rushing) West Virginia QB Will Grier can light up a scoreboard too. With WVU and OU both shooting off guns when their teams score or kickoff this game will sound like a gun range at an NRA convention. Playing at home WVU's defense has the best chance to make the stop or two that can be the difference in a shootout. The Apple Cup: #16 Washington at #8 Washington State 8:30 p.m. FOX: Pullman will be rocking with the Pac 12 North title there for the taking. UW's season has been disappointing but a Pac 12 title run would help ease the sting of unrealized playoff hopes. Potential Heisman Finalist WSU QB Gardner Minshew is “The Mustachioed Marauder” on Mike Leach’s Pirate Ship and may be the difference here.
Second Down: Saturday High Noon Showdown #4 Michigan at #10 Ohio State 12:00 FOX: How big is the Ohio State-Michigan Rivalry? Look at the 1974 Broadcast booth—Keith Jackson on play-by-play with Joe Paterno taking an off-week Saturday to be an analyst. Because it is a once a year, winner-take-all Midwestern final rite of autumn this is three hours of Red Sox-Yankees or UNC-Duke on steroids. Michigan needs this win more. The Wolverines haven’t won a Big Ten Title since 2004—the longest drought in school history. In that span Michigan is 1-13 against the Buckeyes and haven’t beaten Ohio State since Urban Meyer arrived in 2012. Michigan's 2018 "Revenge Tour" has led to lopsided paybacks against 3 teams but it will be all for naught should they fail to beat OSU. Michigan's defense faces the most dangerous skill position group they'll see all year. The sheer number of speedy WRs will test the depth of Michigan's secondary—if OSU’s line can protect QB Dwayne Haskins. On the other side, OSU's defense is set up schematically to defend the type of power run offense Michigan plays. Schemes are one thing, but given the added element of UM QB Shea Patterson as a runner can OSU's LBs can handle the run game?
Third Down: Other Rivalry Games: The Iron Bowl: Auburn at #1 Alabama 3:30 p.m. CBS: For all the greatness of Alabama, one of the teams that has marred the pursuit of perfection is Auburn with 3 wins over Alabama in the last 8 games (including last year). This year an Auburn win would be a major upset but rivalry games often produce surprises with underdogs taking on the spoiler role. #3 Notre Dame at USC 8:00 ABC: Notre Dame can probably secure the first ticket to the College Football Playoff...win and the Irish are in......lose and they could be out in the cold.
Fourth Down: Maryland NAFTA: Maryland at #12 Penn State 3:30 ABC: Motivation is a key factor in this game. For Maryland its is a NAFTA question--Do the Terp players want a deal with Canada--as in Interim Coach Matt Canada? They certainly played like they want him to be the permanent Head Coach last week in a near miss against Ohio State. A win over PSU would not only make the Terps Bowl eligible but also make a strong case that Matt Canada should be the head coach next year. He deserves serious consideration and would provide much-needed continuity and stability for Maryland. While PSU is clearly the better team keep in mind that the Terps lead the nation in grabbing 18 INTs. On offense they have the fastest set of skill players PSU has played since Ohio State--and that includes Michigan. The good news for PSU is their defense thrives against teams that play one handed and with Maryland getting 64% of their offense on the ground they fit that description.