Week 4 in college football looks like an exciting one, featuring top 25 matchups in the Big 12 and SEC, as well as a number of other intriguing contests. We should get an idea of whether some early contenders are for real. One Heisman Trophy candidate could boost his candidacy considerably with a good performance in the national spotlight against a top defense. And what are we to make of USC and Michigan?
Here is our weekly Friday collection of thoughts, observations and things worth paying attention to this weekend in college football.
** TCU-Oklahoma State is the top matchup of week four. Expect a shootout in this contest, as both teams rank in the top 20 in both scoring and total offense.
The battle between the Horned Frogs defense and the Oklahoma State offense is definitely worth the price of admission. Once again, the TCU D is one of the top units in the country, allowing just 265 yards per game. Yet the Frogs will have their hands full this weekend with Mason Rudolph, who ranks in the top 12 nationally in completion percentage (12th), yards per attempt (3rd), touchdown passes (2nd), and yards per game (4th).
Another individual matchup to watch is the TCU running game against the Oklahoma State front seven. The Horned Frogs have done a great job of pounding the rock in their first three games, rushing for no less than 196 yards in every contest. Yet the Cowboys have excelled against the run, allowing just 3.21 yards per carry.
In a battle of explosive offenses, the team that comes up with the most stops usually wins the contest. This would tend to favor TCU – but not because it has the better defense. The Horned Frog offense leads the nation in third down efficiency, converting at a 65.79% clip. In addition, Oklahoma State is one of the worst in the country (94th out of 128), allowing its foes to convert 43.14% of the time.
On the other hand, the Cowboys D has produced six turnovers in the first three games, including two picks against Pittsburgh last week.
** Is Mississippi State as good as its win against LSU suggests? We’ll find out this weekend, when the Bulldogs travel to No. 11 Georgia.
This contest features two of the top defenses in the nation, as both MSU (4th) and UGA (16th) rank in the top 20 in total defense, allowing fewer than 270 yards per game.
For Dan Mullen’s squad to get a “W,” it must establish the run. That hasn’t been a problem this season, as Mississippi State’s ground game is averaging 6.47 yards per carry and 297.67 yards per game. However, Georgia ranks fifth in the nation against the run, limiting its opponents to a pedestrian 71 yards per game.
The key to a Georgia victory is for the offense to make a few plays in the passing game to set up the run. Whether it’s freshman Jake Fromm or Jacob Eason – who returned to practice this week – under center, the Dawgs need to stretch the field. That will be a tough task against an MSU D that ranks sixth nationally in completion percentage (43.3).
** Will the real USC finally show up this weekend? It better, if the team is going to beat Cal. Yes, the Bears D ranks 115th nationally in passing defense, but it is also ninth in the country with five interceptions. That total is just one less than the number of picks that Sam Darnold has thrown this year (six).
** Another matchup that’s tough to figure out is Michigan-Purdue. Don’t get me wrong: the Wolverines belong in the top 10. However, UM has scored only one touchdown in 10 red zone trips this year. That number has to improve against a Boilermaker squad that is 13-for-13 inside the red zone this season.
** Don’t expect the Washington-Colorado game to be as lopsided as it was last year, when the Huskies won 41-10 in the Pac-12 championship game. The Buffalo D is one of the better units in the country allowing just 4.47 yards per play. It also held Colorado State – which scored 23 against Alabama last weekend – to three points. They’ll present a stiff challenge to an explosive Husky offense that has completed a whopping 76.7% of its passes for an average of 10.5 yards per game.
** The last time Kentucky beat Florida was in 1986. In that contest, Wildcats QB Bill Ransdell completed 20 of 23 passes for 161 yards, yet only won 10-3. UK will need a similar type of error-free performance against a Gator secondary that has picked off five passes this season, with three of them resulting in touchdowns.
Sorry, Wildcat fans, that contest is not this week’s upset special. Look for Florida to stretch the streak to 31 this year.
** This week’s upset special: Louisiana Tech over South Carolina. Bulldog quarterback J’Mar Smith played well in his lone road start versus an SEC opponent, completing 19 of 31 passes in a 21-20 loss to Arkansas last year. With Deebo Samuel out of the lineup, I have my doubts about how effective the Gamecock offense will be.
Of course, I’m 0-2 in upset specials this season, so Garnet and Black fans can rest easy.