By Casey Keefe
Can you believe it’s week 4 already? Football season flies by unlike anything in this world. It’s been said a million times, but it always rings true. The good news is we are entering what is by far the best weekend of college football that we’ve had to this point.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the action…
#1 Alabama @ #10 Arkansas: This is without a doubt the best game of the season to this point. We know how good ‘Bama is. They’re the best team in the country by a solid margin in my opinion. Arkansas on the other hand is a very talented team that has the ability to make a legitimate run at the SEC crown. But the only way they make that run is if they knock off the Tide. It’s put up or shut up for Bobby Petrino’s club. They have everything they can ask for…they’re at home, their quarterback is playing at an extremely high level and it’s early enough in the season where they can maybe catch ‘Bama off guard.
The only way they can do that is if they find a way to contain the Tide’s lethal running game which is finally at full strength. To say that both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson are handfuls to deal with would be the understatement of the century. Arkansas’ front seven must find a way to keep those two in check. They also have to find a way to generate pressure on Greg McElroy who is getting better week by week. The Razorbacks aren’t winning this game unless they hold ‘Bama to under 100 total yards rushing and force at least 2 turnovers.
Arkansas is at home, but that won’t be enough. They’ll need big plays and lots of them. The fascinating matchup to watch is Heisman candidate Ryan Mallett against ‘Bama’s defense. Mallett is a top 3 quarterback and can single handily carry a team as we saw last week against Georgia. The Tide’s defense is phenomenal, but overall they are young and have yet to be tested, especially from someone the caliber of Mallett.
In the end, I think the more balanced and experienced team will win… That of course is Alabama. It’s asking too much of Arkansas to contain both the run and pass. ‘Bama will put their fair share of points up on the board. Arkansas on the only hand is very much one-dimensional on offense. They barely run the ball and have been relying on Mallett to get them out of every jam. That may work against 95% of teams in the country, but not ‘Bama. Nick Saban will have a gameplan in place to disguise coverage’s and pressure Mallett into mistakes… Prediction: Alabama
#24 Oregon State @ #3 Boise State: This is the Broncos second and last real test of the season. They’ll put their 16 game home winning streak on the line against a very talented Oregon State team. This game will come down a couple things… First, will Beaver running back Jacquizz Rodgers be effective against Boise’s run defense? It’s a matchup of strength vs. strength. Rodgers is one of the most electrifying rushers in the land, but he’ll be going against a defense that only allows 53 yards per game on the ground, good for #2 overall in the country.
The other big question is not just if OSU can contain quarterback Kellen Moore and star receiver Austin Pettis, but can they contain Boise’s running game as well? Run defense has been the weakness of this Beaver team. They’ve allowed an unreal 222 yards per game on the ground. Yes, we know Boise is a pass first team, but they also average 221 yards of rushing per game as well with their 3-headed backfield. Coaching adjustments will come into play here because Chris Petersen and company can attack OSU from every angle. It will be up to Mike Riley and the Beavers to stay one step ahead and guard against both the run and pass.
The bottom line is Boise State is just too good. I expect them to eat OSU up on offense, contain ‘Quizz on the ground and force quarterback Ryan Katz into errant passes and turnovers. The Broncos will win this game by a good 14 points… Prediction: Boise State
#12 South Carolina @ #17 Auburn: Both are undefeated but one team is winning impressively (South Carolina) and the other is winning sloppy (Auburn). Being at home helps the Tigers big time. They have one of the best home-field advantages in the country, but all in all, I don’t love the way they’re playing. I think the Gamecocks will walk into Jordan-Hare and pick up a huge win. They will do so for two reasons. The first is their ability to hold down dual-threat quarterback Cameron Newton. The second is the offensive line’s ability to win the battle of the trenches and open up running lanes for speedster running back Marcus Lattimore. It won’t be easy to win this game on the road, but I think Steve Spurrier’s boys match up real well… Prediction: South Carolina
#22 West Virginia @ #15 LSU: I think the Mountaineers are poised for a big upset here. You always think of West Virginia as a running team that kills opponents with their speed and slashing. Well, they still have that ability thanks to Noel Devine who seems to be in his 15th year at the school. But now they also have a legitimate aerial attack thanks to Geno Smith who has shown smarts, strength and accuracy from the quarterback position. Even though WV can stumble out of the gates sometimes, I think they’ll get off to a fast start in this one. I expect them to jump on LSU quick and set the tone early. Another reason why I love WV to win is because LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson sucks. The guy is a total joke. All the Mountaineers will have to do on defense is zone in on running back Stevan Ridley. If they take care of him, it’ll be all she wrote… Prediction: West Virginia
#16 Stanford @ Notre Dame: Oh the pain!… That’s what Brian Kelly was shouting last week as he stole a line from Joe Benigno. Some people think Notre Dame is cursed because of the way they’ve been losing games, the latest of which came by way of a fake field which resulted in a game winning touchdown in overtime for Michigan State. But that wasn’t a curse, it was bad defense. That’s something the Irish will have to shore up if they hope to knock off Stanford. In comes Heisman candidate Andrew Luck to South Bend. I’m not a huge luck guy but there’s no disputing his talent. He’s got a cannon for an arm, and has already thrown 10 touchdowns. Notre Dame will have their hands full trying to stop him. Luckily though, I believe Dayne Crist and company will be able to score easily on Stanford’s overrated defense. Expect a high-scoring game which goes down to the final few minutes. In the end, the difference will be that Stanford has Luck and Notre Dame doesn’t… Prediction: Stanford
– Rutgers should be able to take care of the depleted North Carolina Tar Heels. These aren’t the same Heels that entered the season as everybody’s darlings. UNC’s missing their entire starting secondary because of the NCAA suspensions. There’s no excuse for Tom Savage and company not to pick on that unit early and often. They just have to make sure to keep quarterback T.J. Yates in check.
– Let’s see if this is the week John Brantley finally takes a step in the right direction for Florida. I’ve been disappointed with his progress to the point. In comes a solid and undefeated Kentucky team to the swamp. Time for Brantley to step up.
– I actually think that Temple will give Penn State a run for their money. The Nittany Lions will probably win, but Temple is a hard team to prepare for. I think this is a game that will be completely up in the air entering the 4th quarter.
– North Carolina State @ Georgia Tech is actually monstrous game in the ACC. Neither team is ranked but both are conference contenders and will need this game in order to be in position to take the crown. Give the advantage to Josh Nesbitt and the Jackets.
– Pitt continues to let down when the lights are bright. Jacory Harris and company embarrassed the Panthers 31-3 at Pitt last night. The game was as lopsided as the score would indicate. The only certainties in life are death, taxes and a Pittsburgh letdown at home in a big showcase game.
Check back on Monday for my recap of all the weekend action.
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