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NCAA Football Week 4 Preview

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BC Tailgate is the official home on Blogcritics for college football news, rants, and riffs. Every conference is covered — we don't play favorites to the big boys.

ACC by Geeves
Big East by Dan McGowan
Big Ten by Geeves
Big XII by Ben Miraski
Conference USA by Matt Sussman
Independents by Benjamin Cossel
MAC by Zach Baker
Mountain West by Matt Sussman
Pac 10 by Steve
SEC by Josh Hathaway
Sun Belt by Jerkwheat
WAC by Matt Sussman

What a weekend. The only good game in the conference…well, wasn't. Boston College dominated Georgia Tech, and they have to be the odds on favorite at this point. Let's look at our pre-season favorite list:

  • Miami (FL) got spanked by Oklahoma (51-13) and then came out flat last week with a 23-9 win over middling Florida International. Their offense scored on the first drive, and then kept stalling out (three drives stalled at or inside the 10 yard line), scoring only one more TD all game. They turned it around on Thursday night against Texas A&M, but it's really difficult to say which team told us more with their performance.

  • Virginia Tech was about the same. They were murdered manhandled by LSU last week, then came out this week and managed a measly 28-7 win against Ohio University. The Bobcats, not the Buckeyes. Hopefully they'll be okay this week against William & Mary, but the Hokies are sadly not in a position to assume a win.
  • Georgia Tech will be alright. Their pass defense was a mess against BC, but that isn't a huge surprise. Their schedule isn't terribly difficult, they won't see BC again until the championship, and none of the other teams in the Coastal are a genuine threat yet, so the Wreck will feel better after playing a noticeably lesser Virginia team this week.

That leaves the BC Eagles, who get a chance to get another ego boost this week with a (theoretically) easy win against Army. Though, the way the first three weeks have gone, who knows? Everything else is good team vs bad team.

Winners: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, William and Mary. That's right, William and Mary, because VT's offense is bush league, and because I can.

—Geeves

Louisville’s loss last weekend means the Big East now has just two teams with realistic National Championship hopes. With Rutgers off, No. 5 West Virginia will continue its pursuit tomorrow when it hosts East Carolina and a run defense that has allowed an average of just 86 yards per game this season. Of course, the Mountaineers’ running game might be the best in the country and should present all kinds of problems for the 1-2 Pirates. Expect them to coast into conference play unbeaten.

No. 23 South Florida entered the Top 25 for the first time in school history this week and will host North Carolina tomorrow. The Bulls, who were off last weekend following their stunning overtime victory at Auburn, should have no problem with a Tar Heels team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005.

In the only other game of note, UConn travels to Heinz Field to play Pittsburgh in the conference opener for both teams. The Huskies have a chance to be 4-0 for the first time since moving to Division 1-A, but the Panthers should present more problems than Duke, Maine, or Temple did through the first three weeks of the season.

—Dan McGowan

Thank God, conference play has finally arrived. Now we can stop having to sit through these repeated ass-kickings by of smaller, defenseless teams.

Well, except for Michigan State, who is very likely to enjoy their ride on the mule known as Notre Dame this weekend. The Irish proved beyond a shadow of a doubt last week that the running game is not their friend (on either side) and Michigan State is very capable of abusing that weakness.

Otherwise, we'll see what happens.

Illinois and Indiana square off, and the two teams are 5-1 overall, but 0-1 against teams that are worth a crap. These teams are pretty similar (except that one team isn't mourning the loss of a coach), so this will be close. I like the Illini mascot better, so I'll say Illinois on their last possession.

Michigan can't handle a spread offense, and if Chad Henne doesn't return (game-time decision), the Wolverine offense doesn't have a prayer. Penn State doesn't run the spread, but they have a ton of weapons that can be shifted like three-card monte, which is just as dangerous. Penn State stays in the rankings – it won't be easy, but it won't be ugly.

Wisconsin almost got some wicked lactose intolerance from The Citadel last week, and it's worrisome that they didn't find their offensive stride until the second half, but Iowa is still looking for their offensive stride after three weeks, so the Badgers probably have a slight edge.

After last week, the Ohio State offense seems to be very slowly heating up, so I'd like to think they can handle a Northwestern team that struggled and lost against Duke, of all teams. This one probably won't be close.

Last but not least, I'll make this really simple. Purdue is averaging 737 yards per game on offense. Minnesota is giving up 547 yards per game on defense. you do the math. This is the Unstoppable Force against the Very Movable Object.

Winners: Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin. We knew things would be bad, since Minnesota is rebuilding, but this is just brutal.

—Geeves

Let’s start with a quick look back at last week. Week 3’s prediction came true bringing me to 3-2 on the season. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there is a lot of the Big XII that I can’t even begin to understand.

Thursday night continued the trend of mind benders in the league this season. Texas A&M traveled to play a Miami squad that was just humiliated by Oklahoma just two weeks ago.

Miami paid the favor right back.

This one was out of hand (31-0) before the Aggies even had any semblance of an offense on the field. A few late scores made the game look close, but this one wasn’t anything like a real contest. Miami closed it out, 34-17. I shudder to think what Oklahoma will do to A&M if this is what Miami could do to them.

Texas Tech (-6) at Oklahoma State: Everyone was high on Oklahoma State’s explosive offense coming into the season. Instead of impressive, they have been inconsistent and have a quarterback controversy brewing.

They were supposed to have a decent defense too, at least enough to let their offense win games for them. But they are ranked 93rd in the nation against the pass — Not a good stat to see before you face pass happy Texas Tech.

Saturday is a chance for everyone in the nation to remind themselves how good Graham Harrell is. Texas Tech takes this one and covers.

Bonus thoughts: I hope Texas’s staff had some time to prepare for their game against Rice this week, since the team hasn’t looked prepared for any team this season. In response to the arrest of James Henry this week, an assistant coach mentioned that they have been monitoring the MySpace and Facebook pages of their players. Perhaps then they saw their team highlighting their dancing skills last week against Central Florida. Maybe this week, they can do the Macarena on the sidelines after they fumble two or three times in the 4th quarter.

Likely Winners: Colorado (Miami Ohio), Kansas (Florida Int’l), Missouri (Illinois State), Nebraska (Ball State), Baylor (Buffalo), Oklahoma (Tulsa), Texas, Texas Tech

Likely Losers: Iowa State (Toledo), Oklahoma State

Upset potential: None

—Ben Miraski

Well, congratulations, Tulsa. You're the proud owners of the last remaining undefeated team in the conference. They also hold the lone vote all of CUSA possesses in the Associated Press poll, making them 37th in the country, tied with Kansas and Michigan State.

The vote may dissipate after tonight, because Tulsa hosts in-state brethren Oklahoma. Ranked fourth and also undefeated, OU shouldn't have a problem. Right? … Right? After all, the last Oklahoma team who went on the road to a mid-major and got clocked on a prime-time non-Saturday event was last week's unfortunate Oklahoma State Cowboys, who fell to Troy. But the problem is, while Tulsa's no-huddle spread offense may put up tons of points, they can't keep the OU offense off the field for the entire game. But the Golden Hurricanes have nothing to lose. An upset isn't out of the question.

Upsets are immediately ruled out as East Carolina goes to No. 5 West Virginia and Rice heads over to No. 7 Texas.

And look! A conference game! Memphis scoots down to Central Florida. UCF is immediately a threat to make noise in the CUSA East after almost branding Texas with an upset last week. Hopefully this week the stadium doesn't run dry.

SMU heads to TCU, and the loser has to no longer use their catchy three-letter abbreviation. Houston hosts a well-rested Colorado State, perhaps one of the nation's best winless teams (they only lost to Colorado and California, barely each time), whatever that's worth.

Southern Miss is just going to sit this week out. They're happy being 1-0 in the CUSA East. I'd be too.

—Matt Sussman

Michigan State @ Notre Dame

Boy oh boy, I knew going into the season there would be some quarterback controversy, but who saw this one coming? Demetrius Jones, who opened training camp with the Irish, is now practicing with Northern Illinois. He apparently felt he was given false hope by head coach Charlie Weis during pre-season that he had a shot as the starting quarterback. After starting the Georgia Tech game, he was quickly benched in lieu of Jimmy Clausen. Add to the mess, Notre Dame isn’t going to release him from his scholarship. I’m sure on some level, Weis is glad for the distraction the way his team is playing. Weis’ offensives woes will be front and center once again when the Irish host the Spartans of Michigan State. Look for Notre Dame to get blown out of this one as well. Three games into the season and Notre Dame has lost all by a combined 102-13.

Western Kentucky @ Middle Tennessee

Western Kentucky heads to Murfreesboro to face the winless Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. Don’t expect this to be the Blue Raiders first win on the season, WKU takes this one easy.

Army @ Boston College

Army will drop to 1-3 when they enter Alumni Stadium to face Boston College. Nothing is firing for the Black Knights right now and any course correction made during the week isn’t going to stand up to the number 14 (AP)/number 12 (coaches) team in the nation.

Duke @ Navy

The Midshipmen look to pull even on the season hosting the Duke Blue Devils. While they’re still plenty of issues for Navy that need addressing, Duke will put up no challenge whatsoever.

—Benjamin Cossel

One would assume that after the somewhat less than thrilling results, many in the Mid-American Conference can't wait to put the non-conference schedule behind them.

Well, that's probably not true. But from a pure wins and losses standpoint, the conference has not performed all that well.

This week, there are a pair of conference games, but also a few games that will probably be somewhat one-sided (Nebraska-Ball State).

Overall, there are nine games with MAC teams, but only two conference games. Let's focus on those.

Bowling Green hosts Temple. This game might be the most crucial in the Falcons season. The Owls aren't any good, but they did end a long losing streak last year against BG. If the Falcons want to convince everyone they are better, are on the right track, then they need to win this game. Tyler Sheehan, BG's quarterback, ought to provide the offense. The question is whether the Falcons' defense can do better than it did a year ago.

Temple is 0-3, but is coming off a tough loss to Connecticut. Running back Jason Harper was a workhorse for the Owls, taking the ball 22 times for 122 yards. Basically, BG can't afford to take the Owls lightly.

In the other MAC game, Kent State takes on Akron. Neither team has played a conference game.

The Golden Flashes have shown an ability to put up points, scoring 38 last week in a win over Deleware State. KSU's Eugene Jarvis rolled for 136 yards in the win, scoring a touchdown, while quarterback Julian Edelman threw for 267 yards and three TDs. Trying to keep that offense in check will be an Akron squad that gave up 41 points a week ago in a loss to Indiana. A bright spot for the Zips offensively was Jabari Arthur, who had 118 yards receiving. But if Akron gives up 520 yards again, it won't mean much.

In other games, one of the league's best teams – Central Michigan – hosts North Dakota State. The Chippewas' 1-2 record has less to do with their talent and more to do with a tough schedule. Miami will likely be beat up by Colorado, while Northern Illinois (0-3) will play at Idaho.

In other non-conference games, Central Connecticut state to Western Michigan, while Buffalo hosts Baylor and Toledo (0-3) has another tough game against Iowa State. Toledo needs that game in the worst way.

Oh, and Eastern Michigan hosts Howard.

—Zach Baker

With an overtime win over TCU, Air Force has flown right into the foreground of the Mountain West Conference picture. The Horned Frogs, ranked in the preseason, now have 0 Associated Press poll votes to their claim, now that they're 1-2. But the undefeated Falcons are suddenly 2-0 in the conference, and could put this race to bed in September if senior quarterback Shaun Carney — Cleveland native! — can lead his team to a win on the road in BYU.

After a silly game in which BYU scored 47 points, threw for 534 yards and lost to Tulsa (they had 55), the Cougars suddenly have question marks all over their defense. In fact, maybe that should be their new pride sticker. AFA is by no means known for their offense, so if Max Hall's numbers this Saturday can even resemble last week's, the Falcons may not be able to keep up on the scoreboard.

Two more winless teams remain in the MWC. Colorado State travels to 1-1 Houston, and San Diego State hosts FCS team Portland State. Think that's a gimme win? Remember, last year Portland State beat fellow MWC team New Mexico. But last week, Portland State lost to Sacramento State, who this week plays — here comes the elusive double segue! — New Mexico.

TCU tries to find some kind of success against SMU, while Utah tries to repeat last week's monstrous UCLA upset with a win over piddly UNLV. Oh, and, um, Wyoming goes to play Ohio University. Ya know, if you care about that sort of thing.

—Matt Sussman

So let's recap last week. Cal and USC won big as expected. Oregon continued to put up big numbers and improved their ranking to #13. And UCLA managed to get steamrolled and drop out of the top 25. This week is all conference games, and no particularly compelling match-ups at that.

Washington St at #1 USC (6:00pm EST)
Washington State looked impressive in their first quarter against Wisconsin during the first week, and has had a couple high scoring games since then. Don't expect them to win this game, but look for them to at least make it a bit interesting since we know they can score.

Arizona at #6 California (8:00pm EST)
Arizona has struggled this year, and the Bears should be able to take advantage of that and score a good chunk of points on them. Maybe this is the week we see DeSean Jackson put up some Heisman-esque numbers. Also, Justin Forsett is averaging well over 122 yards per game rushing and could very well put up similar numbers this week.

#13 Oregon at Stanford (10:00pm EST)
So lately Oregon has looked like a team that can trounce almost anybody. This week they get the Stanford Cardinal, who is most likely going to finish at the bottom of the Pac-10. Expect Oakland native Dennis Dixon to put up some big numbers when he returns to the Bay Area.

Other Games
Oregon St at Arizona St (10:00pm EST)
Washington at #999999* UCLA (10:15pm EST)

* Approximate ranking

—Steve

It's rare that one would be wrong and feel vindicated at the same time. I told you Alabama couldn't stop the amazing Darren McFadden and I was right. I witnessed the comeback firsthand at Bryant-Denny Stadium and I don't believe I saw it. The Heisman Trophy race is over.

The big game in the SEC this week pits that same Crimson Tide (#16) team against the Georgia Bulldogs (#22). This is a much better matchup for Alabama even though the Bulldogs are probably a better team than Arkansas. Georgia is fast and athletic but seemed to be missing something in their loss to S. Carolina. Alabama found out a lot about itself in that shootout with the Razorbacks and most of it is good. The bad news – that they can't stop a power running game – isn't likely to haunt them against Georgia. The Bulldogs are good enough to win, but expect Alabama to survive the curse of Lee Corso and pick up the win.

Rich Brooks and Houston Nutt might get more points scored in their matchup than their former basketball counterparts Rick Pitino and Nolan Richardson did when Arkansas and Kentucky team up. Two of the SEC's marquee players will be front and center (McFadden and UK quarterback Andre Woodson) and defense might only be a rumor. Arena football fans will love this one.

The other game of interest in the conference matches #2 LSU (who really should be #1 and #2) against Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks. The 'Cocks have a very good defense but their offense is going to do nothing against the impossibly fast and physical Tiger defense. South Carolina might give them a better fight than Virginia Tech, but this will be another big win for LSU en route to their showdown with Florida.

—Josh Hathaway

Last week found the Sun Belt pulling off a couple of nice OOC wins. This week, however, already finds MTSU having lost to Western Kentucky. What of the rest of our heroes? Arkansas State travels to Tennessee with hopes of pulling off an upset. They kept Texas close in Austin, and they won't likely be afraid in Knoxville either. UT has something to prove after last week though, and I expect them to take it out on ASU. FIU travels to Kansas this week in the other OOC game for the Sun Belt. Expect Mangino to eat Ned's crutches and win in a rout. North Texas is hosting FAU and Troy travels to ULL to complete the weeks action. I'll take Troy and North Texas in a minor upset.

Jerkwheat

[Editor's Note: Jerkwheat sent in his Sun Belt recap via BlackBerry, in honor of Stephen A. Smith. Now THAT'S dedication.]

I wasn't aware an entire conference could take a bye week. But that's what seems to be going on in the WAC, as four of the nine teams are resting their toesies for next week: Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, and Louisiana Tech.

One conference game is in play, as San Jose State and Utah State will determine which team falls to 0-4. Northern Illinois and Idaho should be interesting for all the wrong reasons. New Mexico State will travel to an extremely irritated Auburn team (NMSU is no Mississippi State, believe me) and Hawaii will see if they can hit the 70-point mark before halftime against Charleston Southern.

—Matt Sussman

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  • http://www.deadonblog.com Jerkwheat

    MY RECAP IS VERY IMPORTANT AND I NEED CHEEZE DOODLES

    –sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Device

  • http://www.theidandi.blogspot.com Chris McVetta

    (Shudder) I watched the first quarter of the Kent State-Akron “football game” on ABC this afternoon.

    I sure hope the MAC produces better writers than they

  • http://www.theidandi.blogspot.com Chris McVetta

    I watched the first quarter of the Kent State-Akron “football game” on ABC this afternoon (shudder).

    With all due respect to Joshua Cribbs (but not Charlie Frye), I’m sure glad the MAC produces better writers than they do football players – or we’d all be in a whole heap of trouble here!

    Sincerely,
    It’s Always Sunny In The Horizon League