Wednesdays during the college football season are purgatory for college football fanatics like me, at least until Week 11 when the MAC starts playing games on Wednesday nights. We’ve still got the Thursday night games but there just isn’t anything to keep us occupied, college football wise, until the weekend. This week there are some teams venturing away from the friendly confines of their home stadium for the first time this season and that leaves us with some questions. Here are some things to remember heading into Week 4:
1. First true test for Florida State – When most Seminole fans looked at the 2014 season, most of them figured that the Clemson Tigers would be the first true test for Florida State. None of them figured they would be without Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston on suspension for the first half over a poor choice of words in the Student Union. The Tigers were held under 300 yards against Georgia in their opener and even though the Seminoles have beaten Clemson twice in a row, no one in the Florida State program has forgotten how much of a thorn in the side the Tigers have been in the past 15 years. Regardless of quarterback experience or last year’s outcome, the Seminoles truly have their first test this Saturday night in Doak Campbell Stadium.
2. Auburn Tigers – We have yet to see the Auburn Tigers really rev up their warp speed no-huddle offense with Nick Marshall behind center. He was suspended for the first half against Arkansas in Week 1 and even though the Razorbacks and Tigers were tied at 21-21 at halftime, the Tigers never really got going good under Marshall in that game. Then they rolled over San Jose State 59-13 in a game where they were in cruise control most of the game. So here we are in Week 4 after Auburn has had 12 days to prepare for the rare regular season non-conference true road opener against a good Kansas State team who also has a pretty good dual threat quarterback in Jake Waters. And for the record, Auburn has lost their last five regular season non-conference road openers.
3. Oregon Ducks – Not many people can point out Pullman, Washington, on a map and I’m sure that Oregon’s players don’t have this one circled as a future vacation destination. The Ducks have won the last seven games against Washington State by at least 32 points and Washington State hasn’t necessarily looked great thus far in 2014. Washington State was able to lure former longtime Oregon Athletic Director and Wazzu alum out of retirement to build the Cougars into a Pac-12 contender. The Ducks gave up over 300 yards passing to a run-first Michigan State team and I’m sure Washington State head coach Mike Leach is just licking his chops with senior quarterback Connor Halliday as the trigger man.
4. Florida Gators – The Gators didn’t get to play their first game until Week 2 because of the weather and the going joke this past week was that the Gators played three overtimes to help make up for that canceled game. This week Florida gets to make the trip up to Tuscaloosa where they haven’t won in 16 years and committed 4 turnovers the last time they were there. The offense looks more efficient so far in 2014 and Alabama’s defense hasn’t necessarily been world beaters up to this point but Florida was 1-4 last season in true road games. Last week the Gators had great production and learned who their next offensive star will be in sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson who caught 15 balls for 216 yards and two touchdowns.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks – The Ole Ball Coach refused to be counted out of the SEC East division race as well as the SEC Title hunt and it looks like his team hit it’s stride last Saturday but this week they have to leave Williams-Brice Stadium to travel to Nashville to play lowly Vanderbilt who has had massive struggles so far in this young season. This game has been surprisingly close the last two seasons (10 point SC win in 2013 and a 4 point win in 2012) and South Carolina stepped up and played extremely well in the secondary last week against Georgia. The Gamecocks are a big favorite in this game but we all know that crazier things have happened in Nashville.
6. Virginia Cavaliers – Mike London’s bunch has been a fun one to watch in the first three weeks of the season as they exposed the UCLA Bruins and upset ACC newcomer Louisville. Defensively they have been one of the pleasant surprises but on offense, the Cavs remind me of a Chinese fire drill. Three turnovers in each of the aforementioned games and only 285 total yards against the Cardinals. This week, they travel cross country to take on BYU, a team that has drawn the eye of national voters after their quarterback Tayson Hill is getting some early Heisman buzz. The Cavaliers have fed off of their home stadium in their two biggest games this season but that won’t be there for them this Saturday in Provo so Virginia will have to find some offense somewhere.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels – Before the season began all the talk was about how the Tar Heels could contend for the ACC Coastal division title and how head coach Larry Fedora had nice abs. Two narrow wins over Liberty and San Diego State later, no one is talking about Fedora’s abs but about why his team gave up a ton of yards to Liberty and San Diego State. This week North Carolina will travel two hours away to Greenville, North Carolina, to play the high-riding East Carolina Pirates. East Carolina is fresh off of a two game stretch where they played South Carolina tough and beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. If the Tar Heels allow Shane Carden (1031 yards, 7 touchdowns) to pick them apart like he did Virginia Tech (427 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions), that two hour bus ride is going to seem a lot longer.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes – Barely winning against in-state foe Northern Iowa, a last second win over Ball State and a last second loss to bitter rival Iowa State: this is not how Iowa expected to begin the 2014 season. The Hawkeyes returned eight starters from last season including junior quarterback Jake Rudock but there has been zero production offensively so far this season. Against Northern Iowa and Ball State, the Hawkeyes were able to rack up offensive yards but not enough points to put those two teams away while Iowa State held Iowa to 275 total yards. This week Iowa travels to Pittsburgh to play a Panther team who has looked good against it’s three opponents so far.
9. Top Ten Teams Getting Beat – Right out of the gate, in the first college football game on Thursday evening, a top ten team went down when Texas A&M defeated 9th ranked South Carolina 52-28. In week 2, 7th ranked Michigan State lost on the road to 2nd ranked Oregon and 8th ranked Ohio State lost at home to unranked Virginia Tech. In week 3, 6th ranked Georgia lost on the road to 24th ranked South Carolina. Here we are in Week 4 and all eyes are on the Top 10 as we wonder who will be the team to fall this week. Who will it be?
10. First true test for Alabama – The Crimson Tide carried their quarterback battle into the regular season and it appears that, for now, Blake Sims has won the job. The opener against West Virginia was a little dicey but the Tide never got out of 3rd gear against Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss these past two weeks. A healthy Florida Gator squad is coming to Tuscaloosa this Saturday in Bama’s conference opener, which they have won 22 straight. I’m sure Gator head coach Will Muschamp will try and force the quarterback to beat his team but something tells me that may be a bad gameplan.
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