It’s hard to believe we are already into Week 4 of the college football season! Thankfully, we have another huge slate of games to keep the momentum going after three straight weeks of mega match-ups across the college football landscape.
No. 2 Clemson flexed their defending champion muscle last Saturday at Louisville with a decisive 47-21 win over the Cardinals. No. 5 USC got their revenge, though not in the prettiest fashion, when walk-on freshman kicker, Chase McGrath, hit a 43-yard field goal to give the Trojans a 27-24 double overtime win over the Texas Longhorns.
The SEC gave us an exciting finish in Gainesville, an upset in Nashville, and a rout in Starkville. Quarterback Feleipe Franks threw a 63-yard touchdown to wide receiver, Tyrie Cleveland, as time expired to give the Gators a 26-20 victory over their rival, the Tennessee Volunteers, and a leg up in the SEC East race. The 3-0 Vanderbilt Commodores got their first win against a ranked, non-conference opponent since 1946, with a 14-7 victory over the 18th ranked Kansas State Wildcats. Coach Derek Mason has done a great job turning the Vanderbilt program around and their prize for the big win is a date with top-ranked Alabama at home this upcoming Saturday. Last but not least, the Mississippi State Bulldogs pulled off a huge win, 37-7 over the 12th-ranked LSU Tigers. Junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald led the offensive onslaught with four touchdowns in that one.
Now let’s see what’s on tap for this weekend.
No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Georgia, 7 p.m. (ESPN); UGA -5.0
Prediction: The Bulldogs will win on Saturday.
After a four touchdown performance in last weeks’ 37-7 win over LSU, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leads Mississippi State into the Battle of the Bulldogs when they visit Athens Saturday night. Last weekend, the then-unranked Mississippi State squad won convincingly in Starkville over the 12th-ranked Tigers and will look to win back to back games against ranked conference foes.
The Mississippi State defense will be tested by Georgia’s run game but last week showed they were up to the test in limiting LSU running back Derrius Guice. The offense has been the real story thus far as Fitzgerald has totaled 783 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns through 3 games. Mississippi State has outscored its opponents 143-28 and will look to continue that trend in Athens.
For Georgia, freshman quarterback Jake Fromm continues to evolve into the starting role even as former starter Jacob Eason returned to practice this past week. Fromm’s progression has been eased by the senior tailback duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Michel is expected back this week after sitting out the Samford game with an ankle injury. The Georgia defense will be called on early and often in stopping Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs offense. The defense has let up 14.3 points/game and not allowed a team to rush for more than 100 yards this season. That will be tested by the Mississippi State offense.
Expect a defensive battle Saturday in the Battle of the Bulldogs. Georgia’s offense will do just enough led by their running back duo and then rely on the likes of defensive tackle Trenton Thompson and linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith to finish the job as Georgia looks to supplant itself in the SEC title race.
No. 16 TCU at No. 6 Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN); OKST -13.5
Question: Will Rudolph finally play the fourth quarter?
The Oklahoma State Cowboys offense has had an impressive and prolific start to the 2017 season. Saturday, they will face their toughest opponent to date when the Horned Frogs visit Stillwater.
Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph has put up video game numbers while not playing in a 4th quarter yet this year. He ranks fourth nationally in passing yards per game (387.3) and second in touchdown passes (11). Rudolph is surrounded by a plethora of talent and that was very apparent last week in their win over Pittsburgh, 59-21. Four of his wide receivers topped the 100-yard receiving mark and he’ll once again look to those targets against the Horned Frogs.
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill was looking to have a bounce back year and through three games, he’s done just that, leading the Horned Frogs to a 3-0 start with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. With running back Kyle Hicks next to him in the backfield, the Horned Frogs offense will need to control the tempo Saturday night and more importantly keep the Oklahoma State offense on the sideline.
Don’t expect to see a low scoring game between these two squads. Both quarterbacks have big time arms and the weapons to throw to so expect points and lots of them. The Cowboys offense has too many weapons and their defense is probably a step above the Horned Frogs so a 14 point win is probably more than likely in this one.
No. 1 Alabama at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m. (CBS); BAMA -18.5
Question: Are the Commodores for real?
In this battle of 3-0 SEC foes, one of these was expected and one, not as much. The Vanderbilt Commodores are 3-0 and after a big win over the 18th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats last week, and Coach Derek Mason is getting his team ready for their biggest test of the season - the big bad bullies of the SEC.
The Tide will be making the trip to Nashville as these teams match up for the first time since 2011. Commodores quarterback, Kyle Shurmur, has enjoyed a great start to 2017 with 703 yards passing and eight touchdowns through three games. The defense is where the Commodores will try and limit Alabama and it’s many weapons. Vanderbilt is allowing 4.3 points per game and under 200 yards total per game.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts is leading an Alabama offense trying to find it’s rhythm. Wide receiver, Calvin Ridley and running back, Bo Scarbrough continue to be leaders at their respective positions but the SEC will test the depth of their position groups and games like this will allow them to tap into that depth. Alabama’s defense has taken a few blows this season especially at the linebacker position. After losing two starters Week 1 versus Florida State, Rashaan Evans, Dylan Moses and Anferenee Jennings have all missed game time but returned to practice this week and hope to be ready for the matchup Saturday.
I expect to see a close game for a half before the Crimson Tide’s offense and defense begin to make plays and take a big lead before the Commodores score late to cut it to 1-2 scores. Vanderbilt’s turn around has been impressive and they are going to put together a very good season, I just can’t see it happening against Alabama.
No. 4 Penn State at Iowa, 7:30 p.m. (ABC); PSU -12.5
Storyline: It’s time to see how good this Iowa team really is.
Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley has led the Hawkeyes to a 3-0 start and a big showdown with the Nittany Lions, led by Heisman favorite, running back Saquon Barkley.
The Penn State offense has a ton of talent led by Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley and future NFL tight end, Mike Gesicki. The defense will be tested by the likes of Stanley and running back Akrum Wadley, after only allowing one touchdown through three games but they’ve also racked up nine takeaways and scored 49 points off those turnovers.
Penn State will be trying not to look ahead Saturday night and Barkley and his 218.3 all purpose yards per game should be key in the running back battle between him and the Hawkeye’s Wadley. Penn State will end up taking this one with a strong second half and a 10 point win in Iowa City led by McSorley, Barkley and company.
Enjoy another exciting week!
Other Saturday games of note:
North Carolina State at No. 12 Florida State, Noon (ABC/ESPN2); FSU 12.5
No. 5 USC at California, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); USC -16.5
No. 22 San Diego State at Air Force, 7 p.m. (CBSSN); SDSU -3.0
No. 7 Washington at Colorado, 10 p.m. (FS1); UDub -10.0