4-Down Territory: Nothing Better Than Saturdays In October
"I wish every day was Saturday and every month was October." --Poet Charmaine Forde.
You only get four Saturdays in October this year so you better make them count. For fans of 6 Top 25 teams (#6 PSU, #7 Washington, #8 Oregon #18 Utah, #19 Duke and #22 Tennessee) your teams have bye weeks. Might be a good day to reacquaint yourself with your family or do yard work. Who are we kidding? There are 4 Top 25 matchups and some other great games to watch. And in Kentucky 2023 is all about the first Saturday in....OCTOBER?
1st Down: The Showdowns Start at NOON: Maryland (5-0) at #4 Ohio State (5-0) FOX: This will be a good test for the Buckeyes. Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa has the Terps offense humming, and the Maryland defense has improved from a year ago. The Terps are +9 in turnover margin (2nd nationally) and have snared 8 interceptions. Ohio State’s defense has been very good, but facing a mobile threat at QB can give their scheme some problems. OSU LBs Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg will need to have big games and the Buckeye pass rush will have to be a factor……..#23 LSU (3-2) at Missouri (5-0) ESPN: The LSU offense was impressive in a wild loss to Ole Miss. The LSU defense got shredded. Missouri does not pose the same offensive threat as Ole Miss, but they play defense at a high level. The Missouri defense will need to show up in the "Show Me" state to pull this one off…..#12 Oklahoma (5-0) vs #3 Texas (5-0) in Dallas ABC: This is a matchup of efficient QBs who are careful with the football. Texas has explosive skill players at WR and TE, but their biggest edge may be running back Jonathon Brooks who has exploded for 488 yards the past 3 weeks. Certainly the OU players will remember the 49-0 loss last year to Texas. OU QB Dillon Gabriel is playing well and the OU O-line has kept him protected. They'll face a relentless Texas pass rush. OU has used three tailbacks, but none of them has yet shown the explosive big-play ability they may need on Saturday. Two guys to keep an eye on: OU LB Danny Stutsman, their most productive player and Texas TE Ja’Tavion Sanders who was dinged up against Kansas.
2nd Down: More October Saturday Fun: #13 Washington State (4-0) at UCLA (3-1) 3:00 PAC 12 Network: Four of the top 9 rated Quarterbacks in the country are in the Pac 12. Most people could guess three of them. WSU QB Cameron Ward is the other. After throwing 19 INTs the past two years, his completion percentage has jumped ten points to 74.6% and he has yet to throw an INT this year. If he keeps that pace it should be a good day for WSU. But keep in mind that UCLA’s defense is stingy. They yield just 11 points per game, get after the QB (15 sacks in 4 games) and generate 2.5 turnovers per game…….Virginia Tech (2-3) at #5 Florida State (4-0) 3:30 ABC: After near misses against BC and Clemson the Seminoles had a well-deserved week off. Virginia Tech played well against an aggressive Pitt defense last week, but the talent level up front for FSU is at a different level. And to make things worse for the Hokies, the FSU QB play will be much stronger than anything they’ve faced this year…..#11 Alabama (4-1) at Texas A&M (4-1) CBS: Every team in the SEC West has at least one loss this year which makes every game that much bigger. Alabama Coach Saban keeps stressing the growth that he wants to see with execution and timing. It has been a while since we’ve seen Alabama in this kind of a building mode on offense. A&M QB Max Johnson gave the Aggies a big lift against Arkansas both throwing and running. This will be a tougher test for him. Keep an eye on how well Alabama protects QB Jalen Milroe against a very active A&M pass rush (20 sacks in 5 games)…….Syracuse (4-1) at #14 UNC (4-0) ESPN: Last year Syracuse started 6-0 but finished 7-6 when they got into the meat of the schedule. This year they started 4-0 before losing to Clemson with UNC and FSU on deck. Orange QB Garrett Shrader is a dual threat with big WRs to get the ball to. But he can beat you running the ball (just ask Purdue). UNC will need to force him to pass. UNC’s defense has improved steadily this year. The Syracuse defense has played well, but the UNC offense is the most balanced and talented unit they’ve faced so far……
3rd Down: October Saturdays are Primetime--Part 1: Colorado (3-2) at Arizona State (1-4) 6:30 PAC 12 Network: Yes Colorado is not ranked, but they are hard to ignore. They found a running game of sorts last week and made a great closing sprint to nearly catch USC. Clock management and timeout usage were fatal flaws in that comeback effort. That probably won’t matter against ASU….. Arkansas (2-3) at #16 Ole Miss (4-1) 7:30 SEC: If you were wondering about the Ole Miss offense after a tough loss to Alabama, the explosive skill guys and the running threat of QB Jaxson Dart were back against LSU. A solid Arkansas defense will need to come up with some key stops to have a chance to keep pace with Ole Miss…..Georgia Tech (2-3) at #17 Miami (4-0) 8:00 ACC: The Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech is nearly a total wreck after allowing Bowling Green to score 38 straight points in a 38-27 loss. Tech made staff changes after the game and that is never a good sign when it happens in-season. Those changes to the Tech defensive staff will need to bear fruit this week against an explosive Miami offense…..#24 Fresno State (5-0) at Wyoming (4-1) 8:00 FOX: Over his career Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford has had a rep as an offense-minded guy. This year the Bulldogs have played well on offense but they’re also very good on defense. That has been a driving force on their current 14-game win streak. Wyoming's only loss came at Texas. They won't be awed by the moment……#15 Oregon State (4-1) at Cal (3-2) 10:00 PAC 12: Oregon State’s defense did a great job against Utah last week and controlled the ball enough to grab a 21-7 win over a Top-10 team. For Cal they have 2 losses, but this game is anything but a gimme against Cal. The Cal secondary gets to the ball a lot making interceptions and breaking up passes. Both offenses are balanced. Oregon State and Cal are two of just 12 Power-5 offenses averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and through the air.
4th-Downs: The First Saturday in October is Big in Kentucky: The first Saturday in May is HUGE in Kentucky, but this year the First Saturday in October is a pretty close second. Two teams from the state of Kentucky enter the weekend a combined 10-0 playing playoff contenders in Primetime.....But first……#2 Michigan (5-0) at Minnesota (3-2) 7:30 NBC: Michigan QB JJ McCarthy continues to lead the country in completion percentage. Michigan is methodical and efficient on offense with sneaky under-the-radar WRs in Roman Wilson (8 TDs) and Cornelius Johnson. That offense really excelled the past two weeks against good defensive teams. The Michigan defense has been outstanding, but this will be the best run game they’ve faced all year…..Arizona (3-2) at #19 USC (5-0) 10:30 ESPN: Arizona is a good offensive football team and should give USC some problems. The Wildcat defense played well enough against Washington to keep them in the game, but can they do it two weeks in a row? One thing Arizona cannot do is throw interceptions, which has been a problem so far. The last thing you can afford to do is give USC extra possessions on offense. How USC responds to an emotional game last week will be critical…..#10 Notre Dame (5-1) at #25 Louisville 7:30 ABC: And speaking of emotional games, the Irish have played two tight last-second games in a row. This is the third-straight ND game against a ranked opponent. And for the second straight week it is a battle between two veteran QBs in ND’s Sam Hartman and Louisville’s Jack Plummer (Only Faber College's John Blutarsky spent more time in college than these guys). Louisville QB Jack Plummer has been reunited with his former coach at Purdue Jeff Brohm after Plummer spent last year passing for 3,000+ yards at Cal. The edge probably goes to Notre Dame because of their defense…….#20 Kentucky (5-0) at #1 Georgia (5-0) 7:00 ESPN: Only a last second drive and some impressive plays by UGA Tight End Brock Bowers kept the Dawgs from overtime against Auburn and their one-dimensional offense. Kentucky found their running game last week with RB Ray Davis shredding Florida’s defense. The Wildcats will need that balance to pull the upset between the hedges. Don’t expect a ton of scoring as these are two of the Top 20 defenses in the country. Is this the year the SEC East catches Georgia? Saturday night will be a great test.