Four (Three)-Down Territory: Irish get Badgered, Surprising Match-ups & All The Big Games
Welcome to the SEC-sponsored edition of Four-Down Territory, where officials go directly from 2nd down to 4th down and even the replay booth can’t catch it……And since there is a relative dearth of big games this weekend, we only need three downs to cover it all….
First Down: Intriguing Match-Ups: West Virginia at #4 Oklahoma: With WVU’s upset of #15 Virginia Tech and Oklahoma’s lackluster win over Nebraska this is one to watch. After racing to a 27-7 lead, WVU played great Red Zone defense to preserve last week’s win. OU’s offense was largely held in check by the Husker defense. The question is what level will the WVU secondary play at—the one that was riddled by Maryland in week one or the one that stymied Virginia Tech in week 3……#21 UNC at Georgia Tech: Did Georgia Tech’s defense get that much better or is Clemson’s offense that bad? UNC has been sort of written off after losing their season opener, but everyone in the ACC looks vulnerable and the door is still wide open……#24 UCLA at Stanford: The Cardinal made a change at QB after a season-opening loss and they responded by ripping USC and Vanderbilt. In typical Pac 12/ UCLA fashion, the Bruins flopped against Fresno State. Will UCLA return to the physical style that dominated LSU?
Second Down: Big Ten Intrigue: Rutgers at #19 Michigan: Both of these teams are 3-0 to start the season. While neither has faced a ranked opponent, both have relied on sound fundamentals, hard nose defense and eliminating turnovers. And when we say eliminating them—neither team has turned the ball over yet. Rutgers is +9 in turnover margin while Michigan is +2. The Wolverines would make Bo Schembechler proud averaging over 350 yards per game on the ground…Nebraska at #20 Michigan State: The Spartans are the surprise team of the early season after an impressive win at Miami. Meanwhile, Nebraska went from an embarrassing loss to Illinois to a very respectable loss at Oklahoma. But the Husker faithful are not interested in respectability. The Spartans’ triple threat of QB Payton Thorne (726 yards/9 TDs/0 INTs), RB Kenneth Walker (493 yards/5 TDs/8.6 yards per carry) and a talented WR group create tough match-ups…..Villanova at #6 Penn State: PSU was short changed a down last week by the officials so we’re giving them a down back and then moving this whole blog right to fourth down. Penn State looks to get their running game going against FCS-opponent Villanova. Quick note: Penn State leads the all-time series 5-3-1 but Villanova has a three game win streak against Penn State winning contests in 1936, 1949 and 1951.
Fourth Down: Ranked Match-Ups-Finally: #7 Texas A&M vs #16 Arkansas in Arlington, Texas: The Razorbacks got everyone’s attention with their 19-point win over Texas. Does that mean they’re good or that Texas was overrated? Texas A&M has played great defense, but offensive inconsistency almost cost them a loss against Colorado in week two. This annual game at the home of the Dallas Cowboys has been dubbed the Southwest Classic. Until Arkansas can get over the hump and win one of these, the classic remains an Aggie affair. ………#12 Notre Dame vs #16 Wisconsin in Chicago: Notre Dame QB Jack Coan will play his former team. Meanwhile Badger QB Graham Mertz has not looked very sharp particularly with multiple turnovers in the season-opening loss to Penn State. The question is whether Wisconsin has a great back, the kind that has made their offense go in years past. For the Irish, they have been underwhelming. They've struggled to run the football and given the Badgers stout run defense expect the Irish troubles to continue.
The SEC versus The Alliance: All season long we will watch the SEC match-ups versus “The Alliance”. The SEC holds a slim 5-4 lead in games against The Alliance after Auburn lost at Penn State and Vanderbilt lost at home to Stanford. This week: Missouri at Boston College: BC has a chance to pull the SEC/Alliance battle to a tie with a win here.