4-Down Territory: Mobile QBs Drive 2022 Surprise Teams
There have been some real surprises through the first month and a half of college football and many of them have been fueled by mobile QBs who've created massive headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. At schools like UCLA, Kansas, Kansas State and Tennessee the elevated QB play has given birth to conference title contenders. If nothing else, the 2022 surprise teams make watching college football fun. So let's jump into it........
Friday Night: Nebraska (2-3) at Rutgers (3-2) 7:00 FS1: This is an important game for Rutgers if they hope to get bowl eligible. With a defense that ranks 18th nationally in both total defense and run defense they just need help from the offense and to avoid turnovers……Memphis (4-1) vs Houston (2-3) 7:30 ESPN 2: Memphis has just one loss this season and that was in week 1 to Mississippi State. The AAC is already starting to look like another two-team race between Memphis and Cincinnati.
First Down: High Noon Showdowns: #4 Michigan (5-0) at Indiana (3-2) Noon FOX: Fox has covered Michigan so many times this year, they’ve almost become the de facto Wolverine Football Network. Indiana has put up some good numbers but has double-digit losses to Cincinnati and Nebraska. IU is one of those places where UM just seems to play down a level. While Michigan is 3-1 in its last 4 trips to IU, two of those were OT wins. Michigan's offense is balanced with weapons at every skill position. That should be too much for IU and set the Wolverines on a collision course with Penn State next week……#8 Tennessee (4-0) at #25 LSU (4-1) Noon ESPN: The scheduling gods did Tennessee a favor with an off week last Saturday and an 11 a.m. local time kickoff in Baton Rouge. But beer sales in the stadium at LSU will start at 9 a.m. Tennessee has put up incredible offensive numbers, but they’ve had trouble stopping the pass. Lucky for Tennessee, LSU’s pass attack has been up and down this year……Texas (3-2) vs Oklahoma (3-2) in Dallas Noon ABC: This game lost a ton of luster after OU got knocked out the past two weeks. This is a must win for both teams who are desperate to get into the Big 12 race. Texas QB Hudson Card has done a nice job taking over for the injured Quinn Ewers with 8 TD passes and just 1 INT. Texas hopes they can get more overall run game production against a very permissive OU defense…Arkansas (3-2) at #23 Mississippi State (4-1) Noon SEC Network: It’s nice to see Mississippi State ranked again which provides more opportunities for Mike Leach's soundbites of wisdom. Arkansas has struggled to stop the pass, Mississippi State QB Will Rogers never met a pass he didn’t like and has already thrown for 19 TDs.
Second Down: Surprise, Surprise: #17 TCU (4-0) at #19 Kansas (5-0) Noon FS1: Anyone who said they predicted that ESPN College Game Day would be in Lawrence, Kansas for week 6 rather than in Tuscaloosa is lying. But Kansas QB Jalon Daniels is the guy to watch this week. He’s racked up 983 passing yards and 11 TDs while adding another 329 yards rushing and 5 TDs on the ground. But don’t miss TCU QB Max Duggan either. He can throw it and run it too. The unexpected is one of the great draws to college football, and this big match-up was surely unexpected.……#20 Kansas State (4-1) at Iowa State (3-2) 7:30 ESPN U: Speaking of the unexpected, no one in Lincoln, Nebraska foresaw the rebirth of QB Adrian Martinez when he transferred to K-State. He is shredding defenses with elusive and explosive run plays. He’s racked up 469 yards rushing and 9 TDs. These are good days in the Sunflower State……..#11 Utah (4-1) at #18 UCLA (5-0) 3:30 pm FOX: Staying with the mobile quarterbacks and surprising teams theme, we look at UCLA. The rest of the country that did not know about Utah QB Cameron Rising certainly knew all about him after last year’s Rose Bowl game. Meanwhile UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been doing great things far from the spotlight of the national college football media. This guy jukes, jumps and hurdles defenders and is hard to catch. But this year he’s hitting 74% of his passes –a jump of 12 percentage points from a year ago. This is a pivotal Pac 12 game……Purdue (3-2) at Maryland (4-1) Noon BTN: Maryland is a slightly surprising 4-1 with an offense that is very good. Their lone loss was a seven-point setback at Michigan. For all the attention that Purdue’s gotten for their offense, they are actually playing solid defense. For the Terps to make some noise in the Big Ten East they need to avoid an upset at home.
Third Downs: You Can’t Take Anyone For Granted: Auburn (3-2) at #2 Georgia (5-0) 3:30 CBS: Is Georgia good enough at WR to force defenses to take some of the combination coverages off the Dawgs’ dangerous tight end group? Missouri nearly pulled off the upset last week, which was bad news for an Auburn team headed into a murderous stretch of games. Auburn has settled on a quarterback but still found a way to lose a 17-pont lead at home against LSU last week……Texas Tech (3-2) at #7 Oklahoma State (4-0) 3:30 FS1: Oklahoma State and QB Spencer Sanders got over the Baylor hump (they may need to do it again later this year). Now they get Texas Tech at home. This will be a test of their ability to refocus for another under-the-radar but dangerous opponent……Virginia Tech (2-3) at Pitt (3-2) 3:30 ACC Network: Pitt needs to start fast and finish strong and get their mojo back. Last week’s loss to Georgia Tech was a stunner that really took some of the air out of the program’s momentum. A big win here would get them back on track…#3 Ohio State (5-0) at Michigan State (2-3) 4:00 ABC: The Buckeyes are roaring while the Spartans are reeling. The Spartan defense is having trouble stopping the pass, particularly the one-on-one match-ups on the outside. The Buckeye’s talented WR group is not exactly what the doctor ordered to cure those ills……#9 Ole Miss (5-0) at Vanderbilt (3-2) 4:00 SEC: The Ole Miss defense was like a hot NHL goalie in the playoffs standing on their heads to make stop after stop against Kentucky. Vanderbilt does not have the firepower of Kentucky’s offense. If Ole Miss is locked in, the Rebels should roll through Nashville.
Fourth Down: Primetime: #5 Clemson at Boston College (2-3) 7:30 ABC: Clemson rolled to a big win over NC State last week. To avoid that fate, BC will need to get some turnovers from a Clemson offense that has made some great strides from a year ago…..#16 BYU (4-1) vs Notre Dame (2-2) in Las Vegas 7:30 NBC Peacock: Sin City seems an odd choice for these two religious-affiliated schools to meet. The Notre Dame fans will be the ones at the bars on Friday night. Notre Dame really needs this win and if they can follow-up and build on their offensive performance against UNC they can get this win……Washington State (4-1) at #6 USC 7:30 FOX: This is the strongest of the primetime games. USC’s offense has had some inconsistencies at times this year. The WSU defense has played very well for 19 of their 20 quarters, with the lone exception being a 4th-quarter implosion against Oregon. That 3-point loss is their lone stumble. USC leads the nation in Turnover margin and has already picked off 12 passes. WSU's QBs have been sacked 14 times and thrown 7 INTS. That trend will have to change dramatically for the Cougars to have a chance…..Texas A&M at (1) Alabama 8:00 CBS: The high hopes in Aggieland have certainly faded. The health of Alabama QB Bryce Young is certainly a consideration but given the strength of the Tide’s defense it may not matter.
Overtime: Time to take Notice: James Madison (4-0) at Arkansas State (2-3) 7:00 NFL Network: JMU is 5-0 with a massive come from behind win over App State (who beat A&M) and a 44-7 rout of Middle Tennessee State (who beat Miami). In their first year in FBS they may be the surprise team of the year…..East Carolina (3-2) at Tulane (4-1) 3:30 ESPNU: ECU nearly derailed NC State in week one. Tulane pulled a surprise win over Houston last week….USF (1-4) at #24 Cincinnati (4-1) 2:30 ESPN+: After a season-opening loss to Arkansas, Cincinnati has reeled off 4 straight including a 21-point rout of Indiana. The Bearcats should roll again…..Iowa (3-2) at Illinois (4-1) 7:30 BTN: Illinois opened with a 3-point loss to Indiana and has literally rolled over everyone since. Illini RB Chase Brown leads the nation in rushing.