4 Down Territory: Football Fights on in the Face of Covid...& Ultimate PSU Season Continues
1st Down: Pac 12 Contenders: UCLA at #11 Oregon: UCLA pulled up a game and a win over Cal on short notice last Sunday. Oregon has the most balanced offense in the country through two games. They've found their quarterback in Tyler Shough who rolled up 393 yards (312 passing, 81 rushing) in the win at Washington State. If they can keep up their balanced attack and keep Shough healthy they are a playoff contender……#20 USC at Utah: This is Utah’s season opener after Covid cancellations of their first two games. USC is 2-0 after sweeping both Arizona teams in margins closer than Biden's win in the Grand Canyon State. USC needed late game magic in both games with late 4th-quarter touchdown drives sealing both wins. Kedon Slovis has performed under pressure both weeks.With 98 passes in two games, has been shouldering the load for the offense. If USC is going to become a playoff contender look for them to get the ground game going.
2nd Down: Bearcats and Bedlam: #7 Cincinnati at UCF: Cincinnati is undefeated at 7-0 and has yet to be challenged. Their average margin of victory is 29.1 points with the closest scrape being a 24-10 win over Army in week 2. If Cincinnati is to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, they will not only need to win, but continue to win convincingly. The defense has been the catalyst as they’ve shut down teams week after week……#14 Oklahoma State at #18 Oklahoma: The Big 12 needs an OSU win here to maintain their slim College Football Playoff hopes. Oklahoma State’s lone loss was to Texas in a game they dominated in most facets. They lost the game with 4 turnovers. If OSU eliminates those types of mistakes they should score on an Oklahoma defense that has shown improvement. But is that improvement merely a reflection of a softer schedule in recent weeks? They’ll find out Saturday night.
3rd Down: Covid Strikes The South But There’s Plenty Left To See: Four top 25 teams have had their games postponed or cancelled this because of Covid-19: Ole Miss at #5 Texas A&M, Georgia Tech at #12 Miami, Charlotte at #15 Marshall and Central Arkansas ar #24 Louisiana...Kentucky at #1 Alabama: The Wildcats defense has created a lot of turnovers with 11 INTs –4th in the nation. That includes 3 Pick-Sixes. They’ll need more of that on Saturday as well as eliminating the fumbles on offense (lost 7 this year). Can Alabama’s offense maintain the momentum after an off week? Given the program’s attention to detail, it’s safe to say they will…Tennessee at #23 Auburn: Speaking of momentum after an off week, Auburn could use a strong performance on Saturday night against Tennessee before next week's "Iron Bowl" against Alabama. With four straight losses and games remaining against Florida and Texas A&M, Tennessee is facing a season on the brink…..#4 Clemson at Florida State: Remember the "Bowden Bowl" days when the ACC hinged on this game’s outcome? Florida State has fallen on hard times. Clemson welcomes back QB Trevor Lawrence and will be playing with some anger after their loss at Notre Dame. After Notre Dame went up and down the field against the Tigers’ defense, look for them to return to fundamentals and play with an edge….#21 Liberty at NC State: With wins over Syracuse and Virginia Tech, a win by Liberty over NC State should earn them a spot in the ACC Title game…….Appalachian State at #15 Coastal Carolina: This is Coastal’s biggest Sun Belt test left. They do have a non -conference match-up versus Liberty left that is suddenly very interesting.
4th Down: Big Ten Semifinals: It may not be premature to crown the winners of these two big games as the division champs, but in 2020 don’t bet on it: #10 Wisconsin at #19 Northwestern: The Wildcat defense will be the sternest test for Wisconsin’s offense and freshman QB Graham Mertz. While Northwestern’s defense is 11th in the nation in total defense, Wisconsin is 1st. The numbers tell you to expect a low-scoring contest, but both of these offenses have shown the ability to make plays when they need them. If the Badgers win this one, they must still play the rest of their games to be eligible for the Big Ten title game……#9 Indiana at #3 Ohio State: How good is Indiana? Wins over Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State have lost their luster. But this is a team that gets turnovers, has a very good group of receivers and a QB in Michael Penix who can make plays and already has produced two clutch drives in the win over Penn State. Ohio State's cancelled game against Maryland would have been a good gauge to measure the development of the Buckeye defense. Indiana will have to find a way to use their blitz schemes to get to OSU QB Justin Fields and hope to have him make a mistake or two……Iowa at Penn State: Since going to an East/West format it has generally been perceived that the East was the stronger division. That was based on the perceptions of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan & Michigan State anchoring a much stronger side on the Big Ten. This year PSU, Michigan and MSU are a combined 2-10 and the teams from the western division are 5-3 against the east (and have won the last 4 straight). Iowa is 2-2 with close losses to Purdue and Northwestern and blowouts over Michigan State and Minnesota. If Iowa can run the ball effectively and control the line of scrimmage it could be a long afternoon for Penn State.
The Ultimate Penn State Season Continues: This project started as the prospect of a season without football loomed. Now with the season unfolding we continue to roll out the best PSU wins in each corresponding week of the season between 1966 and 2019……
November 28, 1981: (9) Penn State 48 (1) Pitt 14: In 1981 and 1982 Penn State played the nation’s toughest schedule. The 1981 slate featured games at Nebraska, at Miami and at home against Notre Dame and Alabama. In this epic match-up Pitt was one game away from going to play for a 2nd National Title in six seasons. For some this was part of the high-water era in the Penn State/ Pitt rivalry. Both Penn State and Pitt were ranked #1 during the 1981 season. Between 1976 and 1986 Penn State (4x) and Pitt (1x) combined to play for the National Championship five times in 11 seasons. Pitt QB Dan Marino and the Pitt offense shot out of the gate to a 14-0 lead that thrilled the home crowd of 60,260 fans in old Pitt Stadium. On the next drive, Pitt was looking to take a 21-0 lead before Penn State’s Roger Jackson intercepted Marino in the end zone.
Penn State QB Todd Blackledge engineered an 80-yard scoring drive to get PSU back in the game. From then on it was a Penn State avalanche as the Nittany Lions rolled off 41 more points including two long TD passes to WR Kenny Jackson. The defense harassed and confused Marino into several interceptions as the rout was on. Penn State would end the season 10-2 and ranked #3 after shutting down #7 USC and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen in the Fiesta Bowl.