4-Down Territory: SEC Twin-Bill Headlines November's First Weekend
First Down: Friday into Noon: #23 Oregon State (6-2) at Washington (6-2) Friday 10:30 ESPN2: The winner stays alive in the Pac 12 race and the loser is out. Washington QB Michael Pennix already has 2934 yards and has been the driving force for Washington. He could be the key to this one….#2 Ohio State (8-0) at Northwestern (1-7) Noon ABC: This is the first of 3 “check the box” games between The Buckeyes and the season-ending game against Michigan. With Northwestern struggling to make plays on offense, the Buckeyes should have this one in hand….Texas Tech (4-4) at #7 TCU (8-0) Noon Fox: If there is a vulnerability for TCU it is definitely on defense. But having said that, it does not look like Texas Tech will be able to exploit that enough to keep pace with TCU…..#17 UNC (7-1) at Virginia (3-5) 12:00 ACC: A tale of two quarterbacks here with Virginia’s dynamic Brennan Armstrong taking a massive step backwards this year. A year ago he was a 4,400+ yard passer with 31 TDs, a year later his numbers are way off. For UNC, QB Drake Maye has racked up 2,671 yards, 29 TDs and just 3 interceptions to go with 439 rushing yards and 3 TDs. He may be the best QB that most of the country has not yet seen…..#19 Tulane (7-1) at Tulsa (3-5) Noon ESPNU: In a game that should be “The Weather Channel Bowl” the green wave rolls in to play the golden Hurricanes of Tulsa. Tulane has a win over Kansas State and has two big conference games left. Of note: if the 12-team playoff were held now, Tulane would be the 12th seed. These games will have much bigger meaning in a few years.
Second Down: Mid-Afternoon Specials: #8 Oregon (7-1) at Colorado (1-7) 3:30 ESPN: The Ducks need to get started fast and get the starters rested. Colorado continues to struggle…#18 Oklahoma State (6-2) at Kansas (5-3) 3:30 FS1: Which Oklahoma State team will show up? While OSU is still in the Big 12 hunt, any time you lose 48-0 you have to take a hard look at everything you’re doing……Michigan State (3-5) at #16 Illinois (7-1) 3:30 Big Ten Network: The Illini continue to be the surprise of the Big Ten and with a win here and next week against Purdue they clinch the West. Sparty has a boatload of off-field distractions, and the Illini are laser focused. That spells big trouble for a Spartan defense that had trouble stopping the run against Michigan. On defense the Illini have picked off 15 passes—which leads the country. One area of concern for Illinois, despite a +8 turnover margin, they’ve lost 10 fumbles…..Arizona (3-5) at #14 Utah 6:30 (3:30 pacific) PAC 12 Network: Arizona’s offense will be a challenge for the Utah defense—but can they keep up? Salt Lake City has proven a tough place to play and that should continue on Saturday…..#22 Syracuse (6-2) at Pitt (4-4) 3:30 ACC Network: Pitt struggled with field position last week andpunting has been a problem all season in flipping the field. UNC ran over half of their 2nd-half plays in Pitt territory. Pitt needs to keep the Orange on a long field and match-up with some tall Syracuse WRs to win this one…..#15 Penn State (6-2) at Indiana (3-5) 3:30 ABC: Indiana has always been a stadium that lulls teams to sleep. In Penn State’s last 5 trips to Bloomington, they are 3-2 and just 4 total points separate the two teams. Indiana will be pass-heavy. They like to throw to the RBs who've made 46 receptions. The underneath coverage has been a problem for a PSU team that ranks 89th in passing yards allowed. Also, QB intrigue is all around. After a bye week IU has hinted at changing QBs. Penn State has also hinted at more playing time for freshman QB Drew Allar. Could make for an interesting game.
Third Down: Prime Time: Texas (5-3) at #13 Kansas State (6-2) 7:00 FS1: The expectations for Texas were certainly higher at the season’s start. While they will need help to make the Big 12 title game, it all starts with their own performance. For several years now, Texas has been a team of expectations. If they want to make their move, the time is now. As for Kansas State, they thrived under new QB Will Howard last week. He gave them the pass game they’ve been lacking….#5 Michigan (8-0) at Rutgers (4-4) 7:30 Big Ten Network: These teams are both ranked among the top 20 defenses in the country. The biggest difference is that Michigan is settled at quarterback with JJ McCarthy. Rutgers has played a number of quarterbacks and that uncertainty may play right into the hands of the UM defense……#4 Clemson (8-0) at Notre Dame (5-3) 7:30 NBC: This game has playoff implications all over it for Clemson. For Notre Dame this is one that changes the course of the season. Notre Dame’s defense shut down Syracuse, while their offense piled up the run yardage. Strange things have been known to occur in South Bend when top 10 teams come-a-calling on the Irish…..#21 Wake Forest (6-2) at #22 NC State (6-2) 8:00 ACC network: Wake Forest and NC State were flying high earlier tis year. Both of them need this win to regain momentum…..#12 UCLA (7-1) at Arizona State (3-5) 10:30 FS1: Arizona State is giving up almost 33 points per game in Pac 12 play. Expect UCLA to eclipse that number and get the win…..Cal (3-5) at #9 USC (7-1) 10:30 ESPN2: USC needs some confidence on defense and with Cal struggling this could be a confidence booster. USC leads the nation in turnover margin and if that continues this could become a romp.
Fourth Down: The Main Events: #6 Alabama (7-1) at #10 LSU (6-2) 7:00 ESPN: Alabama heads to Baton Rouge for a must-win game. This will be another mobile and accurate QB for the Crimson Tide to face in LSU QB Jayden Daniels. Daniels is hitting just under 70% of his passes and has thrown just 1 INT. He’s also logged 524 rushing yards and 9 TDs. An upset here puts LSU in the SEC West driver’s seat with no ranked teams left on their slate. If Alabama can make him hold then ball, it will allow their pass rush to get to Daniels. As for Alabama’s offense, QB Bryce Young is like the forgotten man on the national scene. Expect him to have a great game, especially if the Tide’s run game can get cranking early…..#1 Tennessee (8-0) at #3 Georgia (8-0) 3:30 CBS: Tennessee started the season unranked and now they find themselves at #1. For them, this is the game. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker continues his Heisman-worthy campaign, but this will be the best defense he will face all year. Georgia is a national top-5 defense in just about every category. For Tennessee’s defense they face an offense that everyone always under-estimates. Run game and tight end pass game with a drop back quarterback just doesn’t get people that fired up any more. But it works for Georgia. This being a road game, makes this a steep mountain to climb, but if they can reach the summit the path to Atlanta and the SEC Title game looks all but assured.