Thoughts, Observations, and Things to Watch For in Week 4

Although there are only two matchups between top-25 opponents, week four looks like it will be an exciting one.

Here are some thoughts, observations, and things to watch out for on the gridiron this weekend.

  • Despite the fact that both teams are plagued by injuries, UCLA-Arizona will be the most important game on the schedule this weekend. After all, the winner of this contest moves to 4-0 overall and into first place in the Pac-12 South.
  • This game pits strength against strength. The Wildcat offense is one of the most explosive offenses in the country with 23 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or longer. However, the Bruin defense has allowed only 7 plays longer than 20 yards — the 12th best total in the country.
  • It’s also strength against strength on the other side of the ball. UCLA’s ground game — led by Paul Perkins, who ranks eighth nationally in rushing yards yards per game (143.0)  — is one of the most dangerous in the country, averaging 6.06 yards per carry. Similarly, the Arizona defense done a great job of stuffing the run this year, allowing just 3.23 yards per attempt.
  • That matchup could get a whole lot more interesting if All-American Scooby Wright — listed as questionable for this contest — returns from injury. With 168 tackles and 6 forced fumbles last year, his addition to the lineup would make the Wildcat defense even better.
  • Although both coaches refused to say who is going to start at quarterback this weekend, Utah – Oregon is a key game in the Pac-12 race. While a Ute win would likely move them into the College Football Playoff discussion, it would also likely eliminate the Ducks from the national championship race. Conversely, an Oregon win would enable the Ducks to breathe more easily entering October, and it would also reduce Utah’s margin for error in a crowded Pac-12 South.
  • Regardless of who’s under center, expect the offenses to dominate this contest. The Ducks rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring, rushing, and total offense, while the Utes are 4th in completion percentage and 18th in third down conversions.
  • With that said, both defenses are among the nation’s best at forcing turnovers, with Utah (10th) and Oregon (18th) ranking in the top 20 in that category.
  • Either USC or Arizona State — picked to finish first and second in the Pac-12 South in the preseason media poll — will end up with a second loss after this weekend’s contest. While the Trojans are the favorite, it’s worth noting that the Sun Devils have won three of the last four in this series, including the last two meetings in Tempe.
  • On the other hand, Cody Kessler has been virtually unstoppable this year, completing 70 of 89 passes for 922 yards with an amazing 10-0 TD-to-INT ratio. He’s been especially dangerous on first down, going 41-for-46 for 546 yards and six touchdowns.
  • Who’s going to win the ACC Coastal Division this year? We should find on Saturday when Georgia Tech visits Duke. With both teams coming off disappointing non-conference losses last week, it’ll be interesting to see which team bounces back with a victory.
  • The key matchup in that contest is the Yellow Jacket offense versus the Blue Devil defense. How well the Tech option attack — which is second in the country in rushing yards per game with 377 — fares against a Duke front seven that’s allowing just 93.33 yards per game and 2.69 yards per attempt, will determine who walks away with a crucial victory.
  • Forget the Ohio State quarterback situation; I’m looking forward to seeing the Buckeyes’ defense in action this week. It’ll be interesting to see how the Buckeye D does against Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell, who’s 11th nationally in passing yards per game, including a 365-yard effort against Michigan State in the season opener. If the OSU defense turns in another dominant performance as it did last weekend against Northern Illinois — traditionally one of the more explosive offensive teams in the MAC — I like the Buckeyes’ chances to make it back to the College Football Playoff, regardless of who’s under center.
  • The same holds true for TCU. Sure, we know the Horned Frogs can score points (49.7 ppg), but giving up over 508 yards against SMU caused more than a few people to question how good the defense is. TCU can silence these critics with a victory over Texas Tech. The Red Raiders debunked the myth that the spread won’t work against the physical defenses of the SEC — they racked up 486 yards and 35 points against Arkansas last weekend.
  • While all eyes are on Auburn quarterback Sean White, it’s the Tiger run defense that will determine whether it beats Mississippi State. After all, the Bulldog ground game has run for over 200 yards against everyone not named LSU, and went for 223 yards versus Auburn last year.
  • This weekend’s upset special is Florida over Tennessee. Yes, it doesn’t exactly seem like a true upset because the Gators have won 10 straight in this series. However, the Volunteers have the best team they’ve had since the end of Phillip Fulmer era, which is why many people think they’ll win this game. However, Florida’s “D” is one of the best in the nation, ranking in the top 20 in scoring defense (20th), total defense (11th), run defense (7th), and sacks (6th). In a close, low-scoring game, the team with the better defense always prevails. Look for the Gators to win a close one, and move to 4-0.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.