4-Down Territory: 4 Un-Beatens Square Off, Clemson Gets No Respect and Amazing 19th-Century Team Pho
1st Down: High Noon Showdowns: #4 Penn State at #17 Minnesota: This game may be a noon kickoff in the east but in Minneapolis the ball goes up just after 11 a.m. The secret to Penn State’s unbeaten run? It’s been their kicker, punter and turnover margin. Against Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State, Penn State put their opponents on long fields and got critical game-winning points after turnovers. The PSU 4-man RB by committee has just 2 TDs in the last four games and for the season averages just 19 combined carries per game. So it is hard to evaluate their production. Minnesota’s offensive line will be a key to this game. If they can run the ball and stay on schedule the Gophers will have a chance to control the tempo of the game and keep Penn State’s offense off the field. Keep an eye out for Minnesota to throw the ball downfield as well. 1 of every 6 completions have been for more than 20 yards……#12 Baylor at TCU: If Minnesota isn’t the biggest surprise 8-0 team in the country then it's Baylor. Coach Matt Rhule’s attention to detail has paid off late in close games (4 one-score wins). .
2nd Down: Mid-Afternoon Swing: #16 Kansas State at Texas: Before the season most people probably expected one of these two teams to be unranked coming into this game…..but they thought it would be K-State. The last 5 weeks the UT defense has yielded 180 points while going 3-2 in that span. Though K-State’s offense has been inconsistent across the season they’ve starred in three straight wins. QB Skylar Thompson has been the difference those three weeks racking up 748 yards passing and running and accounting for 10 TDs (8 rushing). Don’t count K-State out of the Big 12 chase. If they keep winning they hold a tiebreaker over Oklahoma should the Sooners stumble down the stretch……#18 Iowa at #13 Wisconsin: This is an elimination game for the Big Ten West. The loser is out. The winner stays alive. Both of these teams play great defense and conservative offense. The difference is that Wisconsin has the best offensive player on the field in RB Jonathan Taylor. In Wisconsin’s loss to Illinois big turnovers killed them. Same goes for Iowa’s loss to Penn State. In a game where points may be at a premium that could once again be the difference.
3rd Down: Tigers Get No Respect: #5 Clemson at NC State: Clemson’s surprise demotion to #5 in the playoff rankings doesn’t matter. The four teams ahead of them will all play each other. If the Tigers win out, they’re in. End of story. So the focus will be fully on dismantling the Wolfpack on Saturday night. For all the downgrading of Clemson, the lone blip has been a close win at UNC. They have won the other 8 games by an average of over 35 points. Through 9 games the Clemson offense has a 2000 yard passer and 1000 yard rusher and scores in bunches. This should be no different Saturday night. A win puts the Tigers on a collision course to win their division against #19 Wake Forest next week.
4th Down: Not Quite The Game of The Century: #3 LSU at #2 Alabama: The Playoff committee took away the #1 vs #2 billing but there’s still a whole lot of sideshows going on here. From College Gameday, the Heisman Hype to a Reality Show star attending the game this is a true circus as it can only be done in the South. But what really matters here? For all the talk about the QBs in this game, the wildcard may be Alabama RB Najee Harris. The Tide offense has gotten back to some two-tight end power run game sets to grind yardage and control the line of scrimmage. The explosive Tide WRs are a big enough headache. But if you get caught up defending them, Harris is a pass-game threat as well with 4 receiving TDs out of the backfield. As for LSU Joe Burrow will have opportunities to work the underneath pass game against Alabama’s linebackers. The run after the catch yards will have to be big against the Tide’s defense. Alabama’s pass rush will need a big day as well.
College Football Relics 150: 1971 Book “Oh How They Played The Game” by Allison Danzig: This is a history of college football’s early days and features a collection of great 19th and early 20th century pictures. Check out the gallery for some amazing old team photos covering teams from….1879 through 1922 including Yale, Princeton, Army, Michigan, Notre Dame, Pitt and California as well as a great stadium shot of the 1893 Princeton-Yale game played in New York City.