4-Down Territory: November Football: Where History is Made to Inspire the Generations
The old adage in college football is that they will always remember what you do in November. Up north and across the plains the colder days have arrived, leaves have fallen, days grow shorter and snow has made its first strike. The specters of November losses rise from their resting places in the dark recesses of our mind. And while our hopes for the future remain, ‘tis human nature to think to what might have been. Across time, the drama of November football has inspired scribes of the written word.
First Down: Quoth The Raven “Nevermore”: It is said Edgar Allan Poe was mourning the loss of a woman he lost as he wrote the Raven. But Princeton’s Edgar Allen Poe may have been mourning the 1899 loss at Cornell which was the lone loss in a 12-1 season for the Tigers. This week several one-loss playoff contenders will have to stay sharp or their playoff hopes will live “Nevermore”: Texas A&M (5-3) at #10 Ole Miss (7-1) Noon ESPN: Ole Miss still needs help to make the SEC Title game. Texas A&M continues to play well on defense leading the country in sacks and tackles for loss. They will need a big time performance to slow down the Ole Miss offense…..#9 Oklahoma (7-1) at #22 Oklahoma State (6-2) 3:30 ABC: Edgar Allan Poe would’ve loved a game they call “Bedlam.” Oklahoma can score points, but this game will turn on the OU defense. They face a veteran QB in 6th-year player Alan Bowman and the hottest RB in the country. In a season devoid of household names/Heisman candidates at running back Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon could join the conversation with a big game against OU. Gordon started the season gaining 108 yards on 19 carries in his first three games combined. Since then he’s rushed for 121, 136, 168, 282 and 271 and leads the nation in rushing. He can catch too—and had a 6 catch 116 yard receiving day in their win over Kansas….#11 Penn State (7-1) at Maryland (5-3) 3:30 FOX: Maryland has really good talent at the skill positions on offense. Their top 3 wide receivers, tight end and running back all rank among the top 20 in catches in the Big Ten. Veteran QB Taulia Tagovailoa knows how to spread the ball around. After a 5-0 start the Terps have lost three straight. Penn State’s offense will be facing a solid Maryland defense that ranks among the Top 30 in the country in 3rd down defense, yards per play, yards per rush and sacks. They are also very good in the red zone allowing TDs less than half the time. A fast start may be the key for PSU……Virginia Tech (4-4) at #13 Louisville (7-1) 3:30 ACC Network: Behind FSU there are two teams with just one ACC loss. Louisville is one and Virgina Tech is the other. After losing to Marshall the Hokies were 1-3 but have gone 3-1 since. Beating Pitt, Wake and Syracuse is one thing, but winning at Louisville is another level…….Cal at #6 Oregon (7-1) 5:30 PAC 12 Network: After missing a two-point attempt that would’ve beaten USC, Cal heads to Eugene. The Ducks have hit another gear since the close loss to Washington and are playing physical football. The Ducks may be the most dangerous team in the country right now. Cal’s offense will find the Ducks’ defense to be far less forgiving than USC……#24 Tulane (7-1) at East Carolina (1-7) 3:30 ESPNU: Given the #24 ranking and the lack of ranked teams on the schedule, Tulane’s playoff hopes are a long, long shot but their plans to make another New Year’s Six Bowl are very much alive. ECU is slightly better than their record indicates and going to ECU has never been a picnic. Tulane is 2-2 in their last four trips to play the Pirates.
Second Down: Jack Kerouac from “On The Road”: The following fall I did the same thing again to see the Notre Dame-California game in South Bend, Indiana—trouble none this time and, Sal, I had just the money for the ticket and not an extra cent and didn’t eat anything all up and back except for what I could panhandle from all kinds of crazy cats I met on the road….” That’s the beauty of college football. If You’ve got a ticket to the game, you can always find some tailgaters who will feed you: #15 Notre Dame (7-2) at Clemson (4-4) 12:00 ABC: Clemson finds themselves in danger of falling under .500 for the first time this late in the year since the end of the 2010 season when they lost a bowl to USF to finish 6-7. Notre Dame’s defense will be a big hurdle for the Tigers’ inconsistent offense. Clemson's defense will make it equally tough on an up and down Notre Dame offense……UConn (1-7) at #17 Tennessee (6-2) 12:00 SEC Network: Some Vol fans tailgate on the Tennessee River and they should be able to comfortably get back on board their boats by the end of the third quarter. But UConn is coming off two close calls against USF and BC and we’ve already seen some crazy games this year….. Arizona State (2-6) at #18 Utah (6-2) 2:00 PAC 12: While ASU is just 2-6 on the year, they just beat Washington State by 11 and have put the fear of God into Washington, Colorado, Cal and hung with USC. Eventually they may find that one spark that gets them over the hump. Utah’s defense, despite a tough outing against Oregon last week, remains formidable. Utah QB Bryson Barnes will be a key here. ASU forced Washington and Michael Penix into multiple turnovers. If they can do that again this could be an upset……#16 Oregon State (6-2) at Colorado (4-4) 10:00 ESPN: Kerouac’s classic "On The Road" included a lot of time in Denver, and given Colorado’s permissive cannabis laws, one suspects he may never have left Denver if those laws existed back then. Kerouac probably would’ve loved Coach Prime’s style too. Speaking of permissive, the CU defense has been rather welcoming to opponents. However, they have done a great job getting turnovers and are third-best in the country with a +10 turnover margin. To have a chance against a veteran Oregon State offensive line they will need some turnovers to get stops…..#19 UCLA (6-2) at Arizona (5-3) 10:30 FS1: If there is one unranked team that you don’t want to face right now, it may be Arizona. UCLA’s defense is tackling well and that will be vital against an Arizona pass attack that likes to throw underneath and get yards after the catch……#21 Kansas (6-2) at Iowa State (5-3) 7:00 ESPN: Both of these teams are alive in the Big 12 chase. Can Kansas handle success after a win over Oklahoma? The Iowa State defense will have to handle a group of talented skill players that Kansas can throw at them. Offensively Iowa State has been consistently scoring right around 30 points in every Big 12 game. They may need all of that to beat the Jayhawks.
3rd Down: The Birthplace of College Football Is Alive Again: “A cold wind skittered across College Field that frosty November 6th in 1869. It failed to chill the enthusiasm of 50 assorted Princeton and Rutgers students who had come together for a special occasion. A crotchety old Rutgers professor pedaled up to the scene on his bicycle. After a moment of viewing the proceedings he brandished his umbrella and stalked away shouting, “You men will come to no Christian end.” --From the Book “Oh, How they Played The Game.”: #1 Ohio State (8-0) at Rutgers (6-2) 12:00 CBS: Almost 154 years after that first college football game at Rutgers the #1 OSU Buckeyes come to town. Here’s what you probably don’t know about Rutgers. Both as a team and individually Rutgers and their RB Kyle Monongai are 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing. Rutgers is 9th nationally in total defense, 9th in yards allowed per play and 13th in scoring defense. Ohio State’s defense is 4th in the country, 1st in yards per play (3.94) and has yet to allow a play of more than 36 yards all year. Rutgers is one-dimensional offensively and will need some turnovers or a special teams play to win this one…..Army (2-6) at #25 Air Force (8-0) 2:30 CBS Sports Network: This game will be the one that most resembles that first college football game before the forward pass was invented. These teams have combined to run the ball 835 times for over 4000 yards in eight games. Air Force’s defense is probably the difference in this one….#12 Missouri (7-1) at #2 Georgia (8-0) 3:30 CBS: Georgia QB Carson Beck has caught fire the past four weeks hitting 73% of his passes and averaging just under 320 yards per game. Missouri is solid but not spectacular defensively. For Georgia’s defense they face one of their biggest challenges yet. Missouri can threaten you on the ground with RB Cody Schrader (15th nationally in rushing). QB Brady Cook is 11th in pass efficiency partly because he has a big-time target in WR Luther Burden III who averages 113 yards per game (5th best nationally)……#4 Florida State (8-0) at Pitt (2-6) 3:30 ESPN: After winning at Clemson in OT, Florida State has rolled in their last four games by a combined score of 159-56. FSU QB Jordan Travis has 18 touchdowns passing and 6 rushing and dual-threat QBs pose problems for Pitt’s defensive scheme. Pitt’s five turnovers were fatal last week.
Fourth Down: Essential and Beautiful: “For at Princeton, as at Yale, football became, back in the nineties, a sort of symbol. Symbol of what? Of the eternal violence of American life? Of the eternal immaturity of the race? The failure of a culture within the walls? Who knows? It became something at first satisfactory, then essential and beautiful. It became the most intense and dramatic spectacle since the Olympic games.”—F Scott Fitzgerald 1927: Princeton (4-3) at Dartmouth (3-4) Friday 7:00 ESPNU: Princeton, the Alma Mater of F Scott Fitzgerald is atop the Ivy League. They travel to Dartmouth in a key match-up. Princeton lost the first ever college football game 6-4. Given the low-scoring offenses of these two teams, the first team to 10 may win this one…..Purdue (2-6) at #3 Michigan (8-0) 7:30 NBC: All signs point to a Michigan victory. JJ McCarthy is 2nd nationally in completion percentage and passing efficiency. Look for Michigan to roll before heading to Penn State next week……#5 Washington (8-0) at #20 USC (7-2) 7:30 ABC: Of all the Pac 12 contenders, Washington and USC are the most defense-deficient of them all. Washington is 95th in defense while USC is 111th. Has there ever been a football Over/Under that hit triple digits? Given the talent at quarterback and the explosive talent at WR for both teams this could be a wild one. In games like these, getting a turnover or a big kicking game play often turns it…..#14 LSU (6-2) at #8 Alabama (7-1) 7:45 CBS: LSU wants to play fast and score a lot of points. Alabama wants a more controlled pace. In this battle of wills, the team that sets the pace will probably be the winner. Jayden Daniels’ mobility forces defenses to stay away from certain types of coverages. The pace of LSU’s offense also reduces the ability to substitute and call more complex schemes. Alabama will look to be more consistent running the ball to control the game….#23 Kansas State (6-2) at #7 Texas (7-1) 12:00 FOX: With Texas QB Quinn Ewers still out, Maalik Murphy will need to protect the football and get the ball to RB Jonathan Brooks (923 yards on the year). While the UT WRs have been really good, look for them to get the ball to TE Ja’Tavion Sanders who is averaging 17.9 yards per catch. For KSU, RB DJ Giddens has caried the running game. Red zone TDs will be critical for both teams. Texas was turned away twice inside the ten by BYU last week and was stopped at the one in the loss to Oklahoma.......
Southern (5-3) at Alcorn State (5-3) 3:00 ESPN+: Southern and Alcorn State are both 4-1 and tied atop the SWAC West. The winner has the inside track to win the division. Both teams are reliant on their defenses. Southern has thrived on turnovers getting 16 on the season including 11 fumble recoveries. DT Ckelby Givens has been particularly disruptive forcing 4 fumbles and logging 4.5 sacks for Southern. Not to be outdone, Alcorn State's defense has grabbed 16 turnovers of their own, most via interceptions (10).