4 Down Territory: Non-Conference Feast Is Largely Over--October Separates Pretenders from Contenders


First Down: Right out of the Gates: The weekend starts fast with a Friday night match-up and some early Saturday action. #15 Washington at UCLA Friday 10:30 p.m. ESPN: UCLA is 4-0. How good are the Bruins? We’ll know after their next three games against #15 Washington, #12 Utah and #13 Oregon. Chip Kelly’s offense is averaging over 40 points per game. As for the Huskies, QB Michael Penix is the straw that stirs the drink. Both teams’ defenses have been solid so far, but for both this will be their biggest challenges of the season so far……#4 Michigan at Iowa 12:00 Fox: This is the first road test for the Wolverines after playing at home all month. The UM defense has given up just 44 points, while Iowa’s defense has yielded just 23. Keep in mind that Iowa’s defense has scored 18 points on 2 safeties, a pick-6 and a scoop and score. While the UM offense has been red hot, this will be the best defense they've faced. Iowa’s time-tested plan is to stop the run while keeping 2 safeties back and force you to throw into coverage. That is where the turnovers happen. Watch to see how well UM runs the ball…..#7 Kentucky at #14 Ole Miss 12:00 ESPN: A funny thing happened on the way to the top 10 for Kentucky. QB Will Levis has made them more pass-happy than Coach Mark Stoops is used to. But with last year's 1,379 yard rusher RB Chris Rodriguez returning this week, expect Kentucky to have a more balanced approach. Now that Ole Miss has decided on QB Jaxson Dart, the Wildcat defense knows who has the bullseye on his chest. Problem is, Dart has been sacked just once all year so that may not be easy……Purdue at #21 Minnesota 12:00 ESPN 2: Maybe the best-kept secret in the Big 10; since 2018 Minnesota has the 4th-best record in the Big Ten behind only OSU, Michigan and Iowa. Is this the year they break out and win the West? With super-veteran QB Tanner Morgan at the helm of this balanced offense they look to row the boat to a 5-0 start……Texas Tech at #25 Kansas State 12;00 Big 12/ESPN+: This game got far more intriguing after last weekend. Nebraska transfer QB Adrian Martinez made play after play in the KSU win at Oklahoma. And Texas Tech QB Donovan Smith has thrown 5 INTs on the year, but did not throw one in the upset of Texas. Watch both of these guys on Saturday, as the QBs go, so goes the game.


Second Down: TV Window #2: Oregon State at #12 Utah 2:00 Pac 12: Oregon State’s defense played an incredible game last week, holding USC to 17 points and just 357 yards and doing all that despite the Beavers being -4 in turnover margin. That’s right, USC got 4 turnovers and still needed a last-minute TD pass to win. Utah’s offense presents another big test in QB Cameron Rising who can beat you passing, make plays running and is careful with the football. OSU will have to clean up their turnover problems to upset Utah…..#2 Alabama at #20 Arkansas 3:30 CBS: After a September without a ranked opponent, October changes all that for Alabama. Prior to the Hogs’ loss to A&M some people thought if there is a place for Alabama to slip up, it might be against the Hogs. Arkansas can run then ball, has an elusive QB and is physical on defense. They will need all of that. Texas nearly upset Alabama by limiting the big plays and forcing the Tide to settle for field goals to end drives rather than touchdowns. Arkansas likes to get after the QB as well with a 20 sacks-- tops in the country. Expect Arkansas to try that same approach and rely on their LBs Bumper Pool and Alabama transfer Drew Sanders who has 5.5 sacks already this year…..Rutgers at #3 Ohio State 3:30 BTN: Rutgers has improved on defense. For Ohio State, the emergence of Tight End Cade Stover as a serious receiving threat makes them the most complete offense the Big Ten has seen in several years……#9 Oklahoma State at #16 Baylor 3:30 FOX: This is a rematch of last year’s epic Big 12 Title game. The Cowboys and QB Spencer Sanders have had an off-week to get ready for this one. Last year, in two games against Baylor he threw for 1 TD and 7 INTs (he threw 12 all year). If Oklahoma State can figure out the jigsaw puzzle of varied looks that Baylor likes they’ll emerge as the Big 12 favorite……Northwestern at #11 Penn State 3:30 ESPN: The Auburn win gave PSU a boost but last week Central Michigan hung with Penn State for 3 quarters before falling 33-14. Turnovers are the name of the game for Penn State, they’ve gotten 4 in each of the past 2 weeks. For the season PSU has coughed up the ball just once. Meanwhile Northwestern would likely be 4-0 if not for 7 lost fumbles. The Wildcats are executing well, but miscues have killed them.


Third Down: ACC Action: #22 Wake Forest at #23 Florida State 3:30 ABC: Wake QB Sam Hartman lit up a heretofore very good Clemson defense in an OT loss. FSU is facing their first ranked opponent of the season and will have their hands full trying to stop Wake Forest. The biggest question will be if the Seminoles can be consistent enough for four quarters if this gets to be a shootout….#10 NC State at #5 Clemson 7:30 ABC: Clemson’s defense was riddled last week by Wake Forest, but the day was saved by QB DJ Uiagalelei’s career day. After a narrow 21-20 escape at East Carolina to start the season, the Wolfpack defense has been very strong. The 27-14 win over Texas Tech looks really good now on their resume. Coming off a 2021 season in which he threw 35 TDs against only 5 INTs, NCSU QB Devin Leary will surely be evaluating the Wake Forest film closely. He’s had 2 starts against Clemson a 27-21 OT win last year and a 55-10 loss in 2019. In those 2 starts he’s averaged just 8.8 yards per completion and has been sacked 5 times. That may change this year as the Tigers’ pass rush has netted just 8 sacks in 4 games. BUT weather could be a real factor in this one if the remnants of Ian come roaring through.....Georgia Tech at #24 Pitt 8:00 ACC Network: Pitt has the band back together now that Kedon Slovis came back in a light workout against Rhode Island. After firing their Coach the Rambling Wreck is just that—a wreck. Pitt’s defense likes to rush the passer and get their hands on passes. For the year Pitt’s defense has broken up or intercepted one out of every 5 passes thrown.


Fourth Down: The Nightcap: #1 Georgia at Missouri 7:30 SEC Network: Kent State caught the Dawgs a little flat-footed last week before UGA hit the gas. That is bad news for Mizzou because UGA Coach Kirby Smart will have their full attention this week. Mizzou was a missed field goal from a win at Auburn last week. One suspects this will be a different story this week…..West Virginia at Texas 7:30 FS1: Both of these teams need this win. West Virginia has found a strong 1-2 punch on offense and is coming off a 33-10 romp at Virginia Tech last Thursday. The Texas defense was unable to hold the lead against Texas Tech. Texas RB Bijan Robinson will be the challenge for a WVU defense that has been good against the traditional pro-style offenses they’ve played. Texas will need to slow down JT Daniels and force some turnovers…….Arizona State at #6 USC 10:30 ESPN: The Sun Devils fired Coach herm Edwards seemingly before he even left the field last week. USC may have left Corvallis with more questions than answers. Four Oregon State turnovers were the difference in a game that came down to a TD pass with 1:13 to go. The question will be motivation in this one. How motivated are the Sun Devils to play and how motivated is USC to make a statement after a close call……Stanford at #13 Oregon 11:00 FS1: The Ducks went to WSU and made a big comeback. After a rough week one, Ducks’ QB Bo Nix has played well. Auburn fans may be feeling a slight twinge of regret for having lost him. Stanford has played a pretty rugged slate so far with this being a third-straight game against a ranked opponent after games against USC and Washington. They have put some pieces together but will need a complete game devoid of costly turnovers to get it done Saturday night.

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