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Clemson’s Offense, Jake Waters, and Other Things To Watch For in Week 4

Here’s a list of things to pay attention to on the gridiron this weekend:

  • Believe it or not, the key to the Clemson – Florida State game has nothing to do with Jameis Winston: it’s the Tiger offense. In order to pull out a “W,” Dabo Swinney’s team must keep the sticks moving early on in the contest, if it plans to stay in the game. Otherwise, the Seminoles will wear them down just like Georgia did in the season opener, when the Dawgs rumbled for 321 second-half yards against the Tigers.

  • On the other hand, this same Clemson defense limited Florida State to just 121 rushing yards last year – the ‘Noles second-worst total of the season.

  • I’m curious to see how Fisher uses backup Sean Maguire in this contest. Does he let his backup run the entire playbook or does he run some plays in the first half to set up things for the second half?

  • Don’t count Kansas State out against Auburn tonight. Sure, the Tigers have a decided advantage in the running game, but Wildcat quarterback Jake Waters has played well in tight contests, completing 64 percent of his passes with a respectable 11-4 TD-INT ratio when the game was within one score either way last year.

  • On the other hand, K-State is 0-5 over the last two seasons when allowing more than 200 yards on the ground. Auburn has eclipsed that total in 16 of its 17 contests under the leadership of Gus Malzahn.

  • Even though people are talking about Trevor Knight, the Oklahoma ground game is the key to victory against West Virginia. The Sooners ran for 316 yards against the Mountaineers last year, and return a whopping 102 career starts from that offensive squad. Such a reality doesn’t bode well for a WVU defensive front that’s currently 95th nationally in yards per carry (4.9).

  • However, the real X-factor in this contest is the West Virginia offense. Clint Trickett has played like a completely different quarterback this year, completing 75.4 percent of his passes, while shredding Alabama for 365 yards through the air. His ability to come up with big plays will keep the Mountaineer offense on the field longer, something it could not do last season when it went just 3-for-13 on third down conversions against the Sooners.

  • In other words: this game should be more like the 50-49 game in 2012, rather than the 16-7 defensive struggle we witnessed last season.

  • Mississippi State – LSU will be one of the most underrated games of the weekend. While many experts will point to Dan Mullen’s less-than-stellar record against the heavyweights of the SEC – including an 0-5 mark against the Bayou Bengals – it’s worth noting that Bulldog quarterback Dak Prescott led the team to scores on three of his first five drives against LSU last year (a fourth drive resulted in a missed field goal).

  • Another intruiging factor in this matchup: it pits the nation’s 11th best run defense (MSU) against one of the deepest running back groups in the country (LSU). It’ll be interesting to see whether State’s defense is for real or if it’s just a paper tiger against the Tigers.

  • In another “contender or pretender” clash, Utah travels to Michigan. How the Ute offense performs against the Wolverine defense – which ranks seventh nationally in total defense – will speak volumes about how new coordinator Dave Christensen’s offense will fare in the Pac-12 this year.

  • Of course, this game actually means more to Michigan and the Big Ten, which is in need of a ‘W’ against a power conference. The Big Ten is just 1-10 against the Big 5 (plus Notre Dame), with league newcomer Rutgers posting a win over Washington State.

  • Does Taysom Hill belong in the Heisman Trophy discussion? We’ll know the answer after the Cougars’ battle with Virginia this weekend. If he has a big game against the ‘Hoos defense – which is currently 19th nationally against the run – he should be in everyone’s top five.

  • Keep an eye on Georgia Tech – Virginia Tech. Sure, the matchup lost a little bit of its luster after the Hokies lost to East Carolina last week. However, the winner of this contest has played in the ACC’s conference title game in eight of the last ten seasons.

  • I’m disappointed that many in the media have written off the Utah State – Arkansas State game because of the injury to Chuckie Keeton. Sure, his absence doesn’t make the Aggies any better. However, Darell Garretson did an admirable job filling in for an injured Keeton last year, guiding USU to a 6-1 record, while completing 60.4 percent of his passes. The duel between Garretson and Fredi Knighten will be fun to watch.

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.