Four Down Territory: A Tribute to A State College Giant and All The Big Games This Weekend
First things first…..This past week a true Penn State and State College community legend died suddenly. Pat Daugherty has owned the landmark restaurant “The Tavern” for decades. During that time he was much more than an owner, “The Tavern: was a passion project, a daily labor of love. To the hundreds and hundreds of people who worked for him he was not only a beloved boss, but also a mentor to generations of college students.
He was a man who created bonds among people for so many years. And in a college football connection his uncle was the great Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty. For seventeen years we were fortunate to have him open The Tavern for official recruiting visits to serve Saturday afternoon lunch. Our recruits met with professors at the Tavern to understand the academic programs they were interested in at Penn State. It was simply the perfect place for those important meetings. And Pat was always there to make sure everything was perfect and to meet the families and make them feel special. And he was that way with nearly every person who walked through The Tavern's doors for so many years. Above all Pat was respected by one and all and was a stalwart in downtown State College who will be missed. It will be a strange thing indeed to walk through those doors and not see him walking around the Tavern or seated talking to an out of town customer or engaging the legions of locals who were regulars. Thanks for the memories Pat…..
First Down: Going Undefeated Ain’t Easy: Last week Wake Forest and Michigan State both found out how hard it to run the table. This week a few more teams have hurdles to clear. Friday Night #5 Cincinnati at USF: The playoff committee may not have a rooting interest, but a Cincinnati loss would make their lives a lot easier. But I don’t think this would be the week for an upset. The tussles Cincinnati has found themselves in are a weekly reminder that they need to bring their “A game” every week. And for those underestimating Cincinnati for wins over Tulane and Tulsa those same teams gave playoff-contenders Oklahoma and Ohio State fits as well. And on a related note, Oklahoma has not beaten a team that is currently ranked, while Cincinnati has a win at #9 Notre Dame. Among one-loss teams Alabama has a win over #15 Ole Miss, while Oregon has a win at #4 Ohio State and Ohio State does not have a win over a team that is currently ranked………#1 Georgia at Tennessee: Tennessee is coming off a win over Kentucky but continues to yield a lot of points defensively. As the Vols offense takes on Georgia’s defense they cannot afford to give up much. The Vols are scoring a lot of points, but that unit will be hard pressed to dent the Dawgs dominant defense (fine alliteration there if I do say so myself)……..#8 Oklahoma at #13 Baylor: Given this crazy season don’t be surprised if the Bears pull this one off. Oklahoma has allowed teams like Tulane, WVU and Kansas to throw real scares into them. Baylor is far better than all of those teams and will have a great home field atmosphere raring to test OU’s freshman QB Caleb Williams in what will be his first road start against a ranked team.....#23 UTSA at Southern Miss: Unless the ghost of Brett Favre emerges at QB for the Golden Eagles, one suspects that UTSA has the easiest path to remaining among the unbeaten.
Second Down: Around the ACC: The ACC is most likely out of the playoff in one of the most jumbled seasons that league has seen in a while……#16 NC State at #12 Wake Forest: Wake Forest is still undefeated in the ACC because their wild loss to fellow ACC team UNC was not scheduled as a “league game”. To that end NC State needs to beat Wake Forest to take over first place in their division. NC State plays solid defense and they will need it against a Wake Forest offense that scored 55 points in their lone loss last week. Ball control may be key for the Wolfpack to keep their own defense fresh…….#9 Notre Dame at Virginia: UVA is coming off a bye week and will need to regroup defensively if they are going to make a division title run. Notre Dame may not be flashy, but they've found a running game of late and they will test UVA’s defense. Defending UVA’s offense has been no fun for opponents. Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong can give you fits throwing and running and for the home team to have a chance he’s going to have to hold up and play a great game….Miami at Florida State: When the ACC expanded to divisions most expected this game to be a nearly-annual meeting in the conference championship game. It never happened nor will it happen this year. Give Miami some credit after their 2-4 start they’ve found a QB and have won three straight.
Third Down: Across the Southland: New Mexico State at #2 Alabama: The Tide had a bye week before LSU and this feels like a scrimmage before the Tide closes the season with Arkansas and Auburn.……#11 Texas A&M at #15 Ole Miss: The Aggies defense is playing some of their best football of the year which looks like trouble for Ole Miss. The explosive Ole Miss offense has not been putting up the kinds of numbers they were earlier this year and they will find some tough sledding here. But one suspects that Lane Kiffin will have something in his bag of tricks……Mississippi State at #17 Auburn: Auburn still has an outside shot at the division title but they now need help. But as they say “The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves.” Auburn must help themselves with a win at home. Mississippi State missed 3 field goals in a 31-28 loss at Arkansas. The always-entertaining coach Mike Leach announced a campus-wide open tryout for kickers. No word on whether that yielded any finds…….TCU at #10 Oklahoma State: Often overshadowed by in-state rival Oklahoma, Oklahoma State has quietly found itself in the Top 10 and by winning out could make themselves a playoff contender. TCU knocked Baylor from the contender list last week with new interim head coach Jerry Kill. This ain’t Jerry Kill’s first rodeo, but can he make it two in a row?
Fourth Down: Around the Big Ten: The Big Ten West can be viewed as either wide-open or a complete log jam with 4 teams tied atop the division. While the Big Ten East is always regarded as the stronger of the two divisions Purdue (over MSU) and Iowa (over PSU) have certainly made a stand for the West. Maryland at #7 Michigan State: MSU’s coverage woes continued against Purdue and cost them the game. Maryland was able to throw the ball and move it against Penn State but lost out with two red zone turnovers. The Terps should provide a good test and maybe even put an upset scare into Sparty, but only if they avoid turnovers and costly penalties…...#19 Purdue at #4 Ohio State: If you’re Ohio State this is the one team you don’t want to see, but at least you get them at home. Purdue has upset the #2 team in the country and the #3 team in the country already this year. They are aggressive throwing the football and that has proven problematic for the Buckeye’s LBs and secondary. OSU will need to establish the run game to take some of the pressure off their freshman QB and keep their defense off the field…..Minnesota at #20 Iowa: Minnesota had everything under control until they lost to Illinois at home. Now this is a battle between two division co-leaders. Iowa’s defense remains very good at grabbing turnovers with a whopping 19 INTs this year. To win this one the Gophers will need to run the ball, and that will not be easy. Expect points to be scarcer than toilet paper in the height of the pandemic…..Northwestern at #18 Wisconsin: The Badgers have found their way again on this 5-game winning streak. The Badgers already have wins over division co-leaders Iowa and Purdue so they are in the driver’s seat if they don’t trip up before the season-ending game versus Minnesota…..#6 Michigan at Penn State: Eye-popping stat of the day: Michigan’s top two backs have amassed over 1600 yards on the ground and in all 295 carries you can count on one hand the number of times they been tackled for a loss (only 8 yards lost all year). This is a vintage Michigan offense of run-first, ball control and a diverse passing attack incorporating all players. Over 48% of all completions have gone to the running backs and tight ends. Penn State continues to dominate the red zone keeping teams out of the end zone over 70% of the time. Michigan’s offense is #2 in the Big Ten in yards and #3 in scoring and #2 in the Red Zone. BUT……they score TDs only 55.6% of the time inside the Red Zone. They’ve made an astounding 45 trips into the Red Zone with only 1 turnover all year. But they feel like they’re settling for field goals far too often, but when they do their kicker Jacob Moody has been anything but moodily inconsistent hitting 21 of 23 field goals attempts. Penn State will be facing a re-vamped Michigan defense that plays more zone coverage than in the past. But explosive WR Jahan Dotson has proven more effective getting big downfield plays more against zones this year. Having said that, would Michigan trust their corners to play him man-to-man? If PSU struggles to run the ball and protect the quarterback against Michigan’s 2 D-Ends Aidan Hutchison (7 sacks—2nd in the Big Ten) and Davis Ojabo (8 sacks leads the Big Ten) they will need some big plays from Dotson to win.