With golf winding down the next couple of weeks in the name of the Tour Championship and of course The Ryder Cup – U.S.A. – I figure I should start writing about what I know best: Football. If you missed it, I highly suggest reading The Quarterly Report by our very own and newly added member Tony Kasper. He’s a much better writer than me, so unless you’re a Michigan fan, go check out that article.
Week 4 of college football is upon us, and we have some major matchups, some that mean a little more to teams due to some early season unexpected results *cue Wisconsin*, and others that were Marquee from the jump. Let’s get to it.
First Quarter: Notre Dame (-7.5) @ Wake Forest
I think this game could end in so many ways and makes it extremely enticing. On one hand, Wake Forest is getting there recently suspended quarterback back – pun not intended – in Kendall Hinton, but Freshman Sam Hartman has impressed enough that he will continue to start as the redshirt Junior comes back as the backup. Wake also has 2 additional days of rest for this game, which should never be overlooked, especially after ND played a smash mouth, hard hitting football game against SEC opponent Vanderbilt. Notre Dame ranks 96th in pass defense, as they lost star corner Shaun Crawford pre-season to an ACL injury, and now go against the 43rd ranked passing offense, led by the duo of receivers in Greg Dortch and Sage Surratt.
I think Wake is going to put up points, but they are going to have to, as this defense is about as close to a sieve as you can get. Giving up 146 yards a game on the ground, Wake Forest should be at the mercy of Tony Jones and Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush hasn’t been able to show, well, ANY ability to throw the ball this year, but Wake ranks 120th in pass defense, giving up over 310 yards a game through the air.
While I don’t think Wake will be able to stop ND, I love the extra 2 days of prep Wake has gotten. Hartman is now playing for his job, and he’s only going to get better as the season goes on. ND has no one that can match up with Dortch, and this looks to be a look ahead spot with Stanford on deck for ND. I like Wake Forest and the points, as ND barely escapes out of Carolina with a very close victory.
*UPDATE: I’ve been told by a little birdie that Brian Kelly seems to be starting Ian Book, Sophomore quarterback out of California. He’s small, about 6-1, and not nearly the runner Wimbush is. He did throw a wobbly touchdown last week to tight end Nic Weishar. He is the more accurate of the two and the better thrower, but it is yet to be seen how the locker room will react. If true, I still like Wake +7.5.
Second Quarter: TCU (-3) @ Texas
Let’s battle for the lone star state, shall we? Texas is coming off a win that would have had presses hot in 2005. Today? not so much, as USC is a mess that is looking for someone to turn it around, and Clay Helton is not that man. TCU on the other hand went toe to toe with a consensus top 5 team in the country in Ohio State. Turnovers were the story of that one, as TCU turned it over 3 times, twice getting returned for scores. As Tony so biasedly pointed out, you cannot give free points to anyone, let alone against this Dwayne Haskins led offense. None the less, 12-year starter KaVontae Turpin was electric, and the duo of Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua gives TCU a balanced 1-2 punch attack. But Texas is built to stagger this running game as the 27th ranked team against the run, giving up just over 100 yards a game. It will be interesting to see how Sophomore QB Shawn Robinson handles adversity on the road should Texas find a way to slow down the run game, something Ohio State could not do.
On the other side of the ball, Texas relies on a running back Tre Watson, a senior who is averaging just over 4 yards a pop. Sam Ehlinger has done a good job not turning the ball over, as his 6 touchdowns to 2 interception ratio has given Texas opportunities. While they don’t do anything particularly well, they are fairly sound across the board. That changes when going against a Gary Patterson defense. Ranked 33rd in total defense, this is a squad that has athletes all over the field.
I think this is a low scoring affair. Home dawgs are terrifying, but I like the frogs here to squeak out a win in Austin.
Third Quarter: Wisconsin (-3) @ Iowa
*GULP* Night game at Kinnick. Thoughts and prayers, as we have seen many giants enter and leave with another tick in the L column: just ask Urban Meyer. This is going to be your salt of the earth, up front battle. Wisconsin comes in off one of the worst losses for the program in quite some time, a 23.5-point home favorite facing BYU, who eventually “jumped” out of Madison with straight up win. A team with playoff hopes before the season began, it is now on them to win out the rest of the way to get there. “No one cares, work harder”, was their motto pre-season, and boy does it apply right now. The road does them no favors, and Kinnick awaits, playing home to a defense that ranks 2nd in the FBS. In 3 games, they have given up an average of 8 points, and only 42 yards (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) on the ground. Immovable object, meet unstoppable (minus BYU, you guys) force. Wisconsin averages 285 (!!!!!!!!!) yards on the ground alone, and are scoring just under 34 points a game. Star running back and Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor should be playing with a chip on his shoulder, as he got contained last Saturday. This O-line, touted with 3-4 pre-season all Americans, has looked off. They can’t afford that Saturday Night, and I believe they are up to the task. Something must give.
Offensively, Iowa will be Iowa. They are going to run the ball, run it again, and run it some more until they lull you to sleep and hit you with a play action pass out of nowhere. That’s when Kinnick become ALIVE. Nathan Stanley, another 12-year starter, leads an offense that tries to dictate tempo of the game, as they come in ranking 88th in total offense. Running backs Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent get most of the carries for the Hawkeyes, combining for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns this year. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has secondary questions, and got dominated all game at the point of attack against the Mormons last week. They do rank 10th in total defense, and only give up 13.7 points a game. Let’s see if linebacker and leader T.J Edwards can turn the ship around.
I expect a low scoring, grind it out game. I was on Wisconsin at the beginning of the year, and I am not jumping ship yet. Wisconsin by double figures.
Fourth Quarter: Stanford (-2) @ Oregon
PUT YOUR FOURS UP!! Big matchup in the Pac out West, as two 3-0 team clash. Stanford comes in with wins over SDSU, USC, and California-Davis, but this is their first road test. It is important to note that a handful of starters, including phenom running back Bryce Love, sat last week and should be a little fresher for this game. Oregon is also 3-0, with a schedule that is all but anything to blink at: Bowling Green State, Portland State, and San Jose State. This will be their 4th contest at home.
I don’t know how much stats previous stats will play a role in this one based off the schedule of opponent. Defensively Stanford comes in as the 23rd ranked total defense, and not far behind at 30 is Oregon. Oregon only gives up 83 yards a game on the ground, but this # is thrown off by the type of games they have played in: bad opponent blow outs. Stanford has forced 6 turnovers in 3 games, a good sign for them, as this translate to them being able to dictate pace of play, and keep their unique yet powerful offense on the field.
Speaking of offense, Oregon is gaining a “low” 503 yards a game offensively, while Stanford sits at 358.3 yards. Again, this can be credited to the pace of play both teams play at. The best player on both teams is Bryce Love, as he can absolutely light up a defense on any given night. With K.J. Costello, David Shaw can utilize play action, especially if Oregon decides to load the box with 7-8 guys at a time. Oregon relies on Justin Herbert, who has already thrown for 840 yards in 3 games, and 12 touchdowns. The ball is spread very evenly, as 17 pass catchers have caught a pass for the ducks.
This game is going to come down to tempo. Can Stanford control the time of possession and win the battle up front? Or can Oregon find its high tempo rhythm and put Stanford in an uncomfortable situation? Home dawgs are scary, and I fear this one. I’ll take the Ducks and the points, and I like them to win outright.
Grab a few drinks, some grub, that good spot on the couch, get your bets in, and let’s have a tremendous week 4. Nothing like some football folks, and we are entering the heart of it. As always, best of luck. Cheers!