4 Down Territory: Bama/Texas, ABC Tripleheader & Big SEC East Game Highlight Week 2
First Down: ABC Triple-Header: Ohio U at Penn State (12:00 ABC): The last time these two teams met, Ohio U won in the debut game for Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. This is a much-improved team from last year. Penn State is trying to establish the run game, and that should be easier given the permissive Ohio U run defense. Some dropped passes were also a concern last week. On defense PSU is looking at an improved Ohio U pass game. The key will be containing the Ohio U wide receivers who hauled in 25 of the 27 completions last week. Ohio QB Kurtis Rourke is a run threat as well.....Tennessee at (15) Pitt (3:30 ABC): Pitt won The Backyard Brawl, but Coach Pat Narduzzi wasn't happy with a game that left some questions. Pitt’s o-line gave up 5 sacks and had trouble establishing the run game. Pitt’s defense was vulnerable to the run and Tennessee has settled on dual-threat QB Hendon Hooker as their guy. Last year Tennessee QBs ran for over 100 yards against Pitt. To win this one, Pitt will need to make the UT QBs beat them throwing the ball, while harassing them with their pass rush. If they can do that, the stadium formerly known as Heinz Field (I refuse to call it otherwise) will be rocking once again……(12) USC at Stanford (7:30 ABC): Will this annual match-up eventually become a Big Ten conference game or will it fade into oblivion? USC and Lincoln Riley have embraced the “Show Me The Money” aspect of NIL. Stanford RB E.J. Smith debuted with 118 yards on just 11 carries, but that was against Colgate. This week will be a bigger test. For USC, their offense benefitted immensely from offseason free agency. How quickly it all gels will tell the tale of whether USC becomes a playoff contender this year. The Pac 12 sure could use a playoff team…..even if they’re only here for another year or two.
Second Down: This Might Get Interesting: Appalachian State at (6) Texas A&M (3:30 ESPN2): The Mountaineers’ offense shredded UNC’s defense. And over the years they have played well in big spots. The good news for A&M is that the film of that near-upset will get every Aggie player’s attention…. Kansas at West Virginia (6:00 Big 12/ESPN+): WVU went to-to-toe with Pitt last weekend and QB JT Daniel looked good. The big surprise of the night was the creative ways WVU found to get a lot of people involved in a run game that racked up 190 yards on the ground at an average of 5.6 yards per carry. For the WVU defense, they racked up 5 sacks against a strong Pitt o-line and really shut down the run game. If they can duplicate that effort and intensity, WVU should roll.…..Arizona State at (10) Oklahoma State (7:30 ESPN 2): After Utah and Oregon lost last week, the Pac 12 needs a big win versus a ranked team somewhere. For the Sun Devils, a win here would be a big step in a journey to revitalize this program.
Third Down: Ranked Match-Ups: (20) Kentucky at (19) Florida (7:00 ESPN): Kentucky QB Will Levis known for his ability to run and pass was sacked 4 times last week by Miami (OH). To win in The Swamp, Kentucky will need to get more from its run game. Their running backs combined for just 68 yards on the ground. For Florida, after a season-ending collapse down the stretch last year, they are a newly confident bunch after an upset win over #7 Utah. But a closer look reveals a Gator defense that was vulnerable to the run and pass, particularly Utah’s QB run game. Look for the Cats to get Levis going in that department. Focused on mostly shorter routes, Florida QB Anthony Richardson was steady throwing the ball. The difference in this game was his 100+ yards and 3 TDs on the ground. If Florida’s defense can get another timely turnover or two that may be the difference…… (8) Baylor at (25) BYU (10:15 ESPN): This is one worth staying up late to see. Over the years, strange things have happened to visiting teams in Provo. How well did Baylor rebuild their skill player corps on offense from last year’s Big 12-title team? It was hard to gauge in the season-opening win over Albany. On both sides of the ball the Bears return the “bulk” of the guys in the trenches. BYU racked up 50 points on the road at USF last week. Look for them to test the Bear defense.
Fourth Down: The Big Game: (1) Alabama at (22) Texas (12:00 FOX): Texas fans hope QB Quinn Ewers' glorious mullet and beard are gifted with Sampson-like biblical powers—which he may need to beat the Tide. Alabama has a veteran secondary, all of which is likely to end up playing on Sundays in the near future. Texas RB Bijan Robinson is a real threat running and receiving. Watch for the different ways Coach Steve Sarkisian tries to get him the ball. He will also need to be creative with formations, moving the pocket and perhaps running some tempo no-huddle offense to prevent the situational substitutions that Alabama likes so much. But…this is a veteran Alabama secondary. For the Texas defense, eliminating the big play will be vital. The Tide’s offense at times is like a great basketball team that can go on runs of scoring that blow open games. Returning Heisman winner Bryce Bishop will need to bring his "A"-game from Dr Pepper’s Fansville and the Heisman House. His ability to run creates extra problems for the UT defense if they want to play man coverage schemes. Alabama will get their points, but the key is to make them earn them and get the game into the 4th quarter. Another special teams play like the blocked punt last week would be a major help for Texas. If Ewers pulls this one out, mullets and beards will be all the rage in Austin.