4-Down Territory: Intensity Saturday for Top Teams Facing Potential Threats
INTENSITY TEST WEEK: This week lacks the big firepower of last week’s blockbuster lineup, but for a number of Top 25 teams coming off big wins this is an Intensity Test Week. The challenge is to realize that there are still teams who are better than their record may indicate. For college football fans the intensity level will have to be up from Friday night through late night Saturday. When asked about the noon start in Lexington for his game against Florida, Kentucky Coach Coach Mark Stoops had the quote of the week “I have great confidence in the people of Kentucky that can get up very early and pound some beers. Why would you disrespect this great state and people?”
FIRST DOWN: Getting an Early Start: From Friday night into that noon eastern time slot (11 a.m. at Northwestern and 10 a.m. in Boulder) this weekend gets started early: #10 Utah (4-0) at #19 Oregon State (3-1) FRIDAY 9:00 p.m. FS1: Quietly the Utah staff might be doing the best job of any staff in the country thus far. They’ve beaten Florida and UCLA without their starting quarterback and have done it with a smothering defense. Cam Rising may return for the Utes this week. Oregon State QB DJ Uiagalelei leads a more balanced offensive attack, than Utah has seen all year. And the Beavers’ o-line might be the best in the West…….#6 Penn State (4-0) at Northwestern (2-2) 12:00 BTN: The Wildcat offense is Top 10 nationally getting TDs in the red zone and excels on third downs. Penn State’s success has been driven by a defense that ranks #1 in total defense and turnover margin (37 of PSU’s last 61 points came off of turnovers). With only 4 plays of 20+ yards the past three games, Penn State’s offense has made a living playing small ball stringing together singles and doubles…..#8 USC (4-0) at Colorado (3-1) 12:00 FOX: USC brings an explosive offense and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in QB Caleb Williams. He'll need to set an early alarm at the Heisman House to make kickoff. But USC’s defense is not in the league of Oregon’s defense. If Colorado can find a run game and some pass protection they should be able to score against USC. The CU defense will need turnovers to keep pace……#22 Florida (3-1) at Kentucky (4-0) 12:00 ESPN: Statistically these two teams are mirror images of each other in a number of categories. The biggest differentiator has been Florida’s stauncher strength of schedule.
SECOND DOWN: Mid-Afternoon is No Time For a Nap: #1 Georgia (4-0) at Auburn (3-1) 3:30 CBS: Georgia started the season at #1 and has done little to impress against a softer schedule. The Bulldogs continue to play great defense, but are their numbers inflated because of the competition they’ve played? They’re also more pass dependent than they’ve been under Kirby Smart. For Auburn, last Saturday’s 3-quarterback/7 sack/ 17-point loss to Texas A&M has shaken the belief of the Tiger faithful. For UGA QB Carson Beck this marks his first road start……#2 Michigan (4-0) at Nebraska (2-2) 3:30 FOX: This could be a dangerous spot for Michigan. Nebraska is a very good defense (20th in yards per play/ 23rd in Total defense). Turnovers cost them against Minnesota and Colorado. Nebraska’s defense may slow the Wolverines, but playing a turnover-free game will be vital. Michigan is one of only 4 Top 15 teams with a veteran starting QB (15 or more starts) and a top 30 defense (they rank 3rd)…..#23 Missouri (4-0) at Vanderbilt (2-3) 4:00 SEC Network: Vanderbilt has struggled with turnovers the past few weeks. Missouri starting QB Brady Cook has put up big numbers and has yet to throw an INT. If those trends continue Mizzou leaves Nashville with a big win…….#9 Oregon (4-0) at Stanford (1-3) 6:30 PAC 12 Network: Ten million people tuned in to see Coach Prime and Colorado came away realizing that Oregon has an outstanding football team. They have a couple of RBs that scare you, and they have a veteran QB in Bo Nix that has talent and the wisdom that comes from starting 50+ games. They tackle well in open space. And the defense features some really fast edge rushers and corners that can cover. It all looks like it will be too much for Stanford.
THIRD DOWN: Moving Into The Evening & Working Late: #13 LSU (3-1) at #20 Ole Miss (3-1) 6:00 ESPN: Two of the most experienced SEC QBs square off in this one. LSU QB Jayden Daniels has been lights out since the season-opening loss to FSU. LSU RB Logan Diggs emerged last week against Arkansas to take some of the pressure off Daniels to carry the run game as well as playing QB. For the Ole Miss offense they face an LSU defense that has not lived up to some of the past teams……Iowa State (2-2) at #14 Oklahoma (4-0) 7:00 FS1: Oklahoma’s offense is back to racking up big statistics again. But they’re also playing solid defense right now. After bad losses to Iowa and Ohio U where they totaled 20 points combined, Iowa State got back on track with a 34-27 win over Oklahoma State. The difference was ISU’s ability to get the ball downfield. That will be critical for them to have a chance on Saturday against a Sooner defense that wants to stop the run……South Carolina (2-2) at #21 Tennessee (3-1) 7:30 SEC Network: South Carolina's offense has been reliant on the pass with almost 82% of their yardage coming through the air. Being so one-dimensional means that Saturday night QB Spencer Rattler will be shouldering the pressure of the game. Last year he was able to do just that in season-ending wins over Tennessee and at Clemson. On the other side of the ball the Gamecocks’ defense needs to improve, particularly as they face a very balanced offensive attack……Nevada (0-4) at #25 Fresno State (4-0) 10:30 FS1: After starting 1-4 last year Fresno State has won 13 games in a row and have entered the top 25. This year they won at Purdue and shutout Arizona State 29-0. Nevada is 0-4 and all signs point to Fresno State winning and remaining among the Top 25
FOURTH DOWN: The Games of The Week & Late Night: #24 Kansas (4-0) at #3 Texas (4-0) 7:30 ABC: Kansas is a lot better than you may think. They’re dangerous running and throwing the ball. Kansas Quarterback Jalon Daniels took KU into Austin and won two years ago. The Jayhawk offense will face a Texas defense that is playing better than recent Longhorn defenses. The Jayhawk defense places a premium on getting to the QB and 9 of their 12 sacks have come from their d-line and d-ends. Texas has shown a vulnerability upfront allowing 3 sacks both against Rice and Baylor. For Kansas to win they'll have to harass Texas QB Quinn Ewers into some mistakes……#11 Notre Dame (3-1) at #17 Duke (4-0) 7:30 ABC: ESPN’s College Game Day makes its first ever football visit to Duke. For The Blue Devils, they’ve followed up that 21-point win over Clemson with routs over Lafayette, Northwestern and UConn. Notre Dame has an outstanding defense that faced and contained a talented Ohio State offense. Notre Dame has an experienced QB and a really good running game. But don’t underestimate Duke’s defense, a unit that held Clemson to just 7 points. At the end of the night one of these teams will emerge as a serious playoff contender…….#12 Alabama (3-1) at Mississippi State (2-2) 9:00 ESPN: Alabama and QB Jalen Milroe got back on track at home against Ole Miss. They're not the same explosive play Alabama that we’re used to seeing. Part of that has been an offensive line that is not opening the big holes for the run game and has allowed an un-Saban-like 16 sacks in just four games. Alabama’s defense will be a big test for Miss State and QB Will Rogers…..#7 Washington (4-0) at Arizona (3-1) 10:00 PAC 12: Washington has one of the very best offenses in the country. As you look at the Pac 12 and the threats to teams like USC and Washington it may be on the defensive side of the ball. Arizona is a play away from being 4-0 right now and their offense can create problems for the Huskies’ defense. We’ll see if they’re good enough to keep up with Washington.