4-Down Territory: SEC Wild West & Covid Drama, ACC's Big Three & The Ultimate PSU Season Rolls On
First Down: The SEC “Wild West”: Last week SEC West defenses yielded an average of 487 yards and 39.4 points per game. But to be fair it would only have been 39.0 if the officials hadn’t awarded Auburn the ball after a controversial backwards pass. Nowhere has the shift been as dramatic as Alabama’s transition from its ball-control offense and defense-first philosophy. Alabama is now a high-flying offensive juggernaut, but their defense is allowing a lot more points. In 2016 and 2017 they allowed 13.0 and 11.9 points per game. Those numbers jumped to 18.1 and 18.6 in 2018 and 2019 before jumping to 30.3 this year. The best defense statistically in the SEC West is……Mississippi State yielding just 285.7 yards per game followed by Arkansas at 411.0 yards per game.
Second Down: The ACC’s Big Three: The ACC has three Top-5 teams with the addition of Notre Dame this year. They look to stay on track this week…. #1 Clemson at Georgia Tech: Clemson seems to be the one team that can rack up points on offense and smack you in the mouth with a smothering defense. Barring a sudden case of turnover fever, they just have too much for Georgia Tech……Louisville at #4 Notre Dame: After a Covid-19 break, Notre Dame made some early mistakes before racing past Florida State. Look for them to continue to display their offensive balance led by a dominant run game.…#5 North Carolina at Florida State: If college football was the stock market, UNC would be one of the big gainers while Florida State would be one of the under-performers in the portfolio. Mack Brown’s team is good, but are they really Top-5 good? UNC has been streaky with 21-0 quarters against both Syracuse and Virginia Tech being the differences in those games. To stay in the game Florida State will have to be like BC was against UNC and prevent a Tarheel run.
Third Down: SEC Drama: LSU at #10 Florida: Postponed due to Covid (joining the Vanderbilt and Missouri game postponement and some other notable SEC Covid news). But this does give LSU another week to iron out the problems on defense…..#11 Texas A&M at Mississippi State: The Bulldog defense will have to play well, but the offense must not turn the ball over. Mississippi State's offense has thrown 11 interceptions in just three games. For Texas A&M, they found their running game last week and got the big win over a Top 5 team that their fans have been waiting for. Now can they handle success and do so on the road? For the A&M offense this will be the best defense they’ve played so far this year.
Fourth Down: Will Covid Break The Saban Jinx?: #3 Georgia at #2 Alabama: With Nick Saban testing positive for Covid-19 will this be the week that one of his former assistants breaks the 21-0 Saban jinx? Theoretically Saban could coach from a coaching box on a headset if Alabama finds a way to quarantine him in the stadium. As for the guys on the field? Alabama’s best defense may be their offense. They face one of the best defenses in the country. Georgia has found its run game again and their best defense may be a ball control run game that keeps the Tide offense on the sideline for long stretches. One of the frustrating things for high-scoring offenses is to spend long stretches watching the game. The focus of this game will very much be about the true strength of the Alabama defense. It remains a work in progress as evidenced last week with receivers running free and a largely neutralized Alabama pass rush.
The Ultimate Penn State Season Continues: With the best week 6 win from 1966-2019.... Because we do not allow repeat opponents the 1983 win over Alabama is not the pick this week…which kind of alerts you to the fact that another Alabama win will be coming up later.
October 15, 1994 #3 Penn State 31 at #5 Michigan 24: In Penn State’s second year in the Big Ten, they made their first-ever trip to Michigan and the crowd of 106,832 was treated to a classic. The big question for Penn State was the health of RB Ki-Jana Carter who broke his thumb in the previous game against Temple. He delivered a performance for the ages with 165 yards on 26 carries. In the first half Penn State built a 16-3 lead. The second half momentum swung to Michigan after two Tyrone Wheatley touchdowns gave them a 17-16 lead. Penn State jumped back ahead 24-17 before Michigan tied the game in the 4th. But late in the game PSU QB Kerry Collins led Penn State on a game-winning drive culminating in a third down TD throw to WR Bobby Engram.
If Repeats Were Allowed: October 8, 1983 Penn State 34 #3 Alabama 28: After an 0-3 start Penn State found their footing before a big upset over Alabama. Penn State used big plays to build a 34-7 lead before Alabama closed to within 34-28. The Tide blocked a game-clinching field goal attempt and then drove inside the Penn State five yard line. On fourth and two with one second left Penn State turned the Tide away to preserve the upset. Two weeks later Penn State would beat #5 West Virginia 41-23 building momentum finishing the season with an 8-1-1 run including a a 13-10 win over Washington in the Aloha Bowl and a #17 final ranking.
The Ultimate Penn State Season So Far:
Pre-season 1996 (11) Penn State 24 (7) USC 7 Watch
Week 1 1999 (4) Penn State 41 (3) Arizona 7 Watch
Week 2 1977 (10) Penn State 31 (9) Houston 14 Watch
Week 3 1978 (5) Penn State 19 at (6) Ohio State 0 Watch
Week 4 1982 (8) Penn State 27 (2) Nebraska 24 Watch
Week 5 2002 (21) Penn State 34 at (15) Wisconsin 31 Watch
Week 6 1994 (3) Penn State 31 at (5) Michigan 24 Watch