Four Down Territory: Detailed Look at The Main Event (PSU v Iowa) & Quick Hits on All The Big Games
Note: For the second straight week, the SEC plays no games this week against “The Alliance” and the season series remains tied 5-5. So on with the rest of the show…..
First Down: Icarus Warning: Some teams are flying higher than they normally have in recent times. Will they be like Icarus and his wax wings flying too close to the sun? Temple at #5 Cincinnati –Friday Night: UC Coach Luke Fickell was very business-like after the Notre Dame win. No doubt his reputation for being very focused should serve this team well…….Stanford at #22 Arizona State—Friday Night: Stanford and Arizona State are soaring after wins Oregon and UCLA last weekend. Stanford QB Tanner McKee will have a short week to rest those sore ribs. Arizona State is 4-1 and alone in First place in the Pac 12 south. Note: BYU would be in first with their 3-0 record versus the Pac 12 this year. And speaking of BYU…….Boise State at #10 BYU: Had the Pac 12 invited BYU years ago they’d still have an undefeated team left. While everyone is talking about Cincinnati for the playoff, what if BYU closes the season unmarred? They’ll play 7 games against Power-5 Teams ( 5 Pac 12 games as well as Baylor and UVA).…..LSU at #16 Kentucky: The wildcats are surging and have a $250K fine for storming the field after beating Florida to prove it. LSU is going through a second straight disappointing season after the 2019 National Title. The Cats can’t afford a letdown this week……#11 Michigan State at Rutgers: Coach Mel Tucker has the Spartans knocking on the door of the Top 10 a lot sooner than expected. They continue to show a balanced offensive attack with legitimate weapons all over the field. Rutgers had a strong showing against Michigan but fell behind early against Ohio State. For MSU like all the other newly-lofty ranked, focus will be vital.
Second Down: Playoff Contenders: #1 Alabama at Texas A&M: Before the season this was a marquee match-up. But while the Tide is surging the Aggies are slumping. The Aggie defense has remained steady but this a much better offense than they’ve played so far…..Maryland at #7 Ohio State: The Terps turned the ball over and over and over again handing Iowa a huge first-half lead last week. The Terps have speed at the skill positions and will test the OSU secondary. But OSU’s explosive offense should be too much for the Terps…..#2 Georgia at #18 Auburn: Georgia has two straight shutouts in the SEC with their tremendous defensive football team. Auburn squeaked out a win over Georgia State. resulting in QB Bo Nix being benched. Then he brought the Tigers back to win at LSU. He is a different player at home in big games and he will need his A+ game to beat Georgia. The Bulldogs DT #99 Jordan Davis may not make a ton of tackles but that 6-6 340 pound man is a disruptive force that changes everything you do with blocking schemes.
Third Downs: Surprisingly Strong Matchups: #6 Oklahoma vs. #21 Texas in Dallas: In one of the great college football rivalry games this is a real test for both teams. Oklahoma has looked vulnerable at times this year, but every year when it looks like the Big 12 has caught up, they seem to find another gear. Will this year be more of the same? Texas RB Bijan Robinson will be the focal point for the OU defense. The Texas RB has been a threat as a receiver as well. One thing you can be guaranteed in this match-up? The average daily caloric intake for fans attending this game in the heart of the State Fair of Texas is 6,179......#9 Michigan at Nebraska: The Huskers had been left for dead after a slow start, but a 56-7 win over Northwestern has the confidence rising. For Michigan last week the run game was challenged at Wisconsin. QB Cade McNamara raised his level of play significantly. The Wolverines finally turned the ball over this season with a late INT thrown by their 3rd string quarterback. Both of these teams have stout defenses that pride themselves on stopping the run. QB play for both teams will be key. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez has shown dramatic improvement this season and will be a handful for the Wolverine defense….#13 Arkansas at #17 Ole Miss: These two teams were boasting high-flying offenses until they ran into Georgia and Alabama respectively last week. Odds are both will return to the offensive form they displayed until last weekend.
Fourth Down: The Main Event: #4 Penn State at #3 Iowa: For all the focus on wide-open spread offense the past few years, Georgia, Alabama, Penn State and Iowa certainly make a strong case that defense is back. Penn State has won nine straight games and Iowa has won eleven in a row and five straight against ranked opponents. But the question lingers… how good are these two teams really? Penn State still has questions marks on the offensive line. While they did not give up a sack last week, QB Sean Clifford scrambled on nearly 40%of called pass plays throwing 6 passes away to avoid a sack. His success on some of the other escape plays was critical. Those plays accounted for almost 25% of their total offense, for 4 of the 6 successful 3rd down conversions and 2 of the team's 3 TDs. Iowa will need to pressure him but stay in their rush lanes. With WR screens and short passes WR Jahan Dotson's per-catch average is down over 25%. If Iowa can contain Dotson and Clifford’s scrambling it will be up to Penn State’s run game to win this one. Iowa’s whole defensive scheme is designed to force teams to make the toughest throws. Teams forcing the ball end up making costly mistakes (throwing 12 INTs to the Hawkeyes already). When Iowa has the ball, they thrive on protecting the football and playing the field position game. Their young o-line had trouble running the ball earlier this year, but they found some footing the past two weeks. The PSU defense they face has had trouble generating pass rush without blitzing. In two key games, Indiana and Auburn both picked up many of those blitzes but could not make the reads and throws to make PSU’s defense pay. If Iowa QB Spencer Petras gets a hot hand against the PSU blitz it could be trouble. In a game where both teams have played well defensively, and both have outstanding punters, turnovers will be vital. 75 of Iowa’s 166 points have come after turnovers. But keep in mind turnovers are more than interceptions and fumbles. Penalties that extend drives and failed 4th-down attempts are just like turnovers.