4-Down Territory: From The White Out to The West Coast a Wonderful Weekend of Pigskin
First Down: The Appetizers: Iowa (3-3) at #2 Ohio State (6-0) Noon FOX: The immovable object meets the irresistible force. For Iowa to have a chance in this one, they will need defense and turnovers. Given their improved defense, offensive line and run game, many think Ohio State is the most complete team in the country this year. Iowa has struggled on offense but they have stayed in games by playing sound defense and getting turnovers. That may not be enough to beat the Buckeyes……UT-Martin at #3 Tennessee Noon SEC Network: One could make a case that based strictly on this year’s performance and their strength of schedule, Tennessee should be #1 in the country right now. The Skyhawks played one FBS team already, a 30-7 loss to Boise State. This one doesn’t figure to be that close……#21 Cincinnati (5-1) at SMU (3-3) Noon ESPN: As the highest-ranked non-Power-5 team, Cincinnati can make another New Year’s-6 Bowl Game by winning their conference. But this year they figure to have more threats than usual from teams like…….Memphis (4-3) at #25 Tulane 3:30 ESPN2: Tulane has one loss, but they are playing good defense and handed #17 Kansas State their lone loss on the season……#17 Kansas State at #8 TCU 8:00 FS1: The only two teams that remain unbeaten in Big 12 play meet up in Fort Worth. TCU QB Max Duggan and K-State QB Adrian Martinez are exciting runners. But Duggan has thus far presented a much better passing threat. But conversely K-State is playing better defense. In games like this a turnover or two that gains an extra possession or changes field position could make a big difference for a road team.
Second Down: Mid-Afternoon Snacks: Boston College (2-4) at #13 Wake Forest (5-1) 3:30 ABC: What Wake Forest has been able to do with the current string of sustained success at one of the smallest FBS schools is one of the best-kept secrets in college football. They’ve done some very innovative things with the RPO and zone read concepts that make them difficult to get ready for in just one week….#20 Texas (5-2) at #11 Oklahoma State (5-1) 3:30 ABC: Both of these teams have just one loss in the Big 12 and are both still in the hunt to get to the title game. Texas is just 2 plays from being 7-0. Oklahoma State had a big lead last week and saw it disappear in an OT loss. Those types of losses can often linger and lead to more trouble. Don’t expect Coach Gundy to let the Cowboys mope around. For Texas, this is a show-me game. Can the Longhorns become and upper-echelon Big 12 team? They have to win games like this one……..#7 Ole Miss (7-0) at LSU (5-2) 3:30 CBS: Ole Miss had 3 players rush for over 100 yards last week against Auburn including QB Jaxson Dart. A dominant running game travels well to hostile road environments. LSU’s top 3 tacklers are all linebackers and that will need to be the case to keep Ole Miss ball carriers from getting into the secondary. The wildcard in this one is LSU QB Jayden Daniels who has been a workhorse, carrying the ball roughly 13 times a game while also passing for 1500 yards.
Third Down: ACC + Big Ten: #14 Syracuse (6-0) at #5 Clemson (7-0) Noon ABC: Syracuse is 6-0 for the first time since 1987 when Coach Dick MacPherson had an offense led by QB Don McPherson. That team finished 11-0-1 with a Sugar Bowl tie against Auburn. The Orange have thrived because they’ve dramatically improved on defense holding four of their opponents to 14 points or less. The Clemson offense will provide them a stern test. Syracuse WR Oronde Gadsen is a 6-5 216-pound match-up problem as well. This game is in Death Valley and Clemson is playing with the kind of confidence that was missing last year……Pitt (4-2) at Louisville (3-3) ACC Network: Louisville has a dynamic QB in Malik Cunnigham. But 11 turnovers and trouble netting red zone TDs has hurt them. Pitt RB Israel Abanikanda has 830 yards and against a defense that struggles to stop the run he may eclipse the 1,000-yard mark by evening’s end…….Minnesota (4-2) at #16 Penn State (5-1) 7:30 ABC: The WHITE OUT lost some shine as both Penn State and Minnesota suffered setbacks last week. Penn State coaches pointed to a size disparity on defense as a factor for Michigan’s 400+ rushing day last week. Minnesota’s o-line is bigger, and they like to run the ball. With uncertainty at QB, Minnesota will lean heavily on the run game to stay on schedule. Gopher RB Mo Ibrahim is for real and packs power at the point of contact. Minnesota ranks #1 in the country on 3rd down conversions. But the Gophers play well on defense as well ranking in the Top 10 nationally in total defense and #1 in 3rd-down defense. For Penn State they will need to get better LB play and find some explosive plays from their WRs in the pass game. And for those scoring at home follow this math; Minnesota’s offensive coordinator is still getting paid from his previous contract with Penn State, while Penn State’s OC is still getting paid by Texas and their defensive coordinator is still getting paid by Miami.
Fourth Down: The Big Games: #24 Mississippi State (5-2) at #6 Alabama (6-1) ESPN: This was probably not a pleasant week to be a DB at Alabama after Tennessee torched the Tide through the air last week. And here comes Mississippi State and the Air Raid offense with QB Will Rogers. Rogers already holds a bunch of SEC passing records. But the problems posed by this offense are different. Rogers is not a runner like Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker. But Rogers tends to get the ball thrown more quickly which negates the Tide’s pass rush. At times it seemed that Alabama may have gotten away from the run game and that may be something we see them lean on some more this week. When you play the Air Raid the premium is on getting to receivers and making tackles. Nick Saban was not happy with his team's tackling last week, but expect that to be a point of emphasis on Saturday…….#9 UCLA (6-0) at #10 Oregon (5-1) 3:30 FOX: After committing turnovers against Georgia in the season opener, Oregon QB Bo Nix has been really solid as the Ducks have reeled off 5 straight wins to become a Pac 12 and playoff contender. Oregon’s defense is stout against the run but is facing the 1-2 running game threat of UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and RB Zach Charbonnet. What makes this even tougher for the Ducks is that Thompson-Robinson is hitting just under 75% of his passes, has thrown for 15 TDs with just 2 INTs. When Oregon has the ball, they’re equally threatening both through the air and on the ground. One reason for that success has been the way they’ve protected QB Bo Nix. But they will be facing one of the Pac 12’s best pass rushers in Laiatu Latu who has racked up 6.5 sacks this season.