The first three weeks of the 2012 college football season may not have been chock-full of excitement, but don’t fret because as you will notice below in the first installment of my weekly college football rankings for the 2012 season, as well as Danny V’s new Top 25, there will be four Top 25 matchups in Week 4.
- Alabama (3-0)
- LSU (3-0)
- Oregon (3-0)
- Florida State (3-0)
- Georgia (3-0)
- West Virginia (2-0)
- South Carolina (3-0)
- Stanford (3-0)
- Oklahoma (2-0)
- Clemson (3-0)
- Notre Dame (3-0)
- USC (2-1)
- Kansas State (3-0)
- Florida (3-0)
- Ohio State (3-0)
- Mississippi State (3-0)
- UCLA (3-0)
- Michigan (2-1)
- Texas (3-0)
- TCU (2-0)
- Michigan State (2-1)
- Arizona (3-0)
- Nebraska (2-1)
- Louisville (3-0)
- Northwestern (3-0)
Just Missed Cut: Ohio (3-0), Tennessee (2-1), BYU (2-1), Boise State (1-1), Virginia Tech (2-1)
Note: Boise State improves to 2-1; Brigham Young falls to 2-2, as the Broncos beat BYU 7-6 on Thursday night. These weekly rankings will be revealed early in the week starting after this Saturday’s slate of great games.
Last Week: 5-5 (16-14 Overall)
Here are my picks for the Top 10 games for Week 4 in no particular order.
Photo Via ISportsWeb.com
No. 18 Michigan (2-1) at No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0) – 7:30 p.m. ET
The Big Ten conference is one of the biggest disappointments in college football right now. Notre Dame has held its first three opponents to a total of 30 points and the last two teams were from the Big Ten (Michigan State and Purdue).
Michigan leads the series between these two teams, 23-15-1 and has come up with the win in the closing 30 seconds in each of the last three meetings. Quarterback Denard Robinson will be the key to a Wolverines victory at Notre Dame Stadium. The star signal-caller connected for a 16-yard score with wide receiver Roy Roundtree to win the game 35-31 with two seconds left last season.
The Irish’s D has since improved by leaps and bounds and has yet to allow a rushing touchdown in 2012. Look for fewer points than usual for these two teams, but Denard Robinson and Michigan put an end to the Irish’s winning streak. Prediction: Michigan 24, Notre Dame 20
Missouri (2-1) at No. 7 South Carolina (3-0) – 3:30 p.m.
This conference collision features two of the best defensive lines in the SEC, as the two teams have combined for 21 sacks through the first three weeks of the season.
Missouri leads the series, 2-0. Both wins were bowl games — the 1979 Hall of Fame Bowl and the 2005 Independence Bowl.
South Carolina has started slow out of the gate in each of its first three tests this season, while Missouri has played its best early. This goes contrary to last season when the Tigers outscoring opponents 143-59 in the game’s final 15 minutes. The team has been outscored 37-0 in the fourth quarter in its last two tests against Georgia and Arizona State.
There’s plenty of quarterback controversy with the level of uncertainty of how healthy each starting signal-caller is entering this marquee matchup. Prediction: South Carolina 31, Missouri 21
No. 2 LSU (3-0) at Auburn (1-2) – 7:00 p.m.
LSU leads the series against Auburn, 25-20-1. This cat fight is a clear mismatch on paper, as Auburn ranks last in the conference, averaging 20.0 points per game, while LSU leads the SEC with 48.3 PPG.
However, there’s one way Auburn may stand a chance to pull off an upset. In 12 of the past 13 games, the home team has won in this series. In addition, Auburn has won 14 of 15 meetings between these two teams in front of its home crowd.
In order for the 1-2 Tigers to have a chance at the upset, they must run the ball very well, which will be easier said than done, as LSU surrenders an SEC-low 47 rushing yards per game at 1.7 yards a pop. The home-field advantage will help, but LSU’s too stout on the offensive line with a staple of solid running backs and features a fearsome front four, including DEs Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery that will create constant havoc for Kiehl Frazier and company. Prediction: LSU 37, Auburn 16
Vanderbilt (1-2) at No. 5 Georgia (3-0) – 7:45 p.m.
The Bulldogs have beat the Commodores in 16 of the last 17 meetings between these two teams. Georgia leads the series, 52-18-2. Vanderbilt has a couple of weapons on offense that can do some damage in wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who has chalked up 18 receptions for 176 yards in the first three weeks and running back Zac Stacy, who has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his career.
Georgia needs to get back to taking better care of the football following last week’s 56-20 win against Florida Atlantic, where the Bulldogs turned it over four times. A repeat performance on Saturday would almost guarantee a Vanderbilt victory.
Last year’s get-together went right down to the final play, as Georgia got the win, 33-28 in an instant classic. Each team threw some cheap shots and at the end of the game Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin got into a bit of a screaming match. This one should be fun, but the Bulldogs take care of business in the second half. Prediction: Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 17
Miami (FL) (2-1) at Georgia Tech (3-0) – 3:00 p.m.
Georgia Tech has lost three consecutive contests against Miami (FL) by a combined score of 92-34.
The Yellow Jackets come into the weekend steaming however after scoring 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1936 and looks to put an end to the losing skid against Miami (FL) with a big statement on Saturday in ACC play.
This team has amassed more yards than any other FBS team on the ground since 2008 and currently ranks third this year in rushing, averaging 374.0 yards per game. ’Tech will rock this game like a hurricane. Prediction: Georgia Tech 44, Miami (FL) 21
No. 10 Clemson (3-0) at No. 4 Florida State (3-0) – 8:00 p.m.
This is the Game of the Week. It’s also the first ACC battle between two foes ranked in the Top 10 since 2007.
In each of the last three years, the winner of this affair has won the ACC Atlantic Division. And the last two times these teams have clashed, the contest has been decided by a total of eight points.
Florida State has a 17-8 advantage in the series against Clemson, but the Tigers won last year’s thriller, 35-31. Through three games, the Seminoles actually lead the country in all four major defensive categories.
Though the team has only faced cupcake competition, pitching a pair of shutouts and allowing just three points through its first three tests could help fuel motivation and confidence to prove themselves against tougher teams, like the Tigers. However, holding Clemson to single digits would be nothing more than a pipe dream here.
Interestingly enough, each of these team’s starting signal-callers hail from the talent-rich Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Although Tajh Boyd and E.J. Manuel never competed against each other in high school, they’ve known one another “since middle school,” according to Manuel. He ranks first in the ACC in passing efficiency (176.1 rating), while Tajh Boyd is second in the conference (166.9) and both passers have found the end zone six times through the air with only one interception so far this season.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America
Finding the end zone on offense won’t be an issue for Florida State. The ‘Noles are averaging 279 yards per game in the ground game (No. 11 in the country) and 264 yards through the air (No. 41 in the nation). Clemson has also proven to be very suspect at best against the run, as the defense currently ranks No. 84 in the country in that category.
What will cause problems for the Seminoles will be QB Tajh Boyd, a well-rested Andre Ellington and two of the fastest and all-around top targets at wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
Watkins, who grew up in Fort Myers, was disappointed that he wasn’t recruited by Florida State and he made this increasingly evident when his strong showing in last season’s 35-31 thrilling victory.
He returned to the field last weekend from his suspension and he was nothing short of stellar and should head into this matchup more motivated with family and friends in the stands on Saturday in Tallahassee.
In the end, the home-field advantage, strengthened secondary and a great game from Manuel and a true renaissance in senior running back Chris Thompson tips the win to the fourth-ranked team in the country in a close contest. Prediction: Florida State 34, Clemson 31
No. 13 Kansas State (3-0) at No. 9 Oklahoma (2-0) – 7:50 p.m.
Playing keep away with quarterback Collin Klein will be pivotal to K-State’s chances at an upset on the road against Oklahoma. The Sooners lead the longtime series against Kansas State, 71-17-4 with a 35-6-3 record in Norman.
Last year, the Sooners came from behind to beat Kansas State to smithereens in one of their best games, 58-17.
While it’s safe to say the Sooners’ secondary likely won’t be pressed very much this weekend, OU’s run defense will have its preparation and recognition put to the test from every single angle against Kansas State.
The Wildcats will also try to focus on forcing miscues by the Oklahoma offense, so it will be important for quarterback Landry Jones and co. to take great care of the football and not make any big mistakes. The Wildcats will make things interesting, but come away empty-handed in a tough test. Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Kansas State 31
Oregon State (1-0) at No. 17 UCLA (3-0) – 3:30 p.m.
Oregon State missed its season opener against Nicholls State due to Hurricane Isaac and the game has been rescheduled for Dec. 1 on the Pac-12 Networks. The two teams will not play if the Beavers qualify for the conference championship or if Nicholls State qualifies for the NCAA FCS playoffs. Wait a minute, “playoffs?!”
Coach Jim Mora has his program unbeaten and ranked in the Top 25 entering its first test on the season against a conference rival. Changing the Pistol scheme to a passing spread offense has helped to rejuvenate the Bruins’ attack on offense, while the defense is using a 3-4 as its base.
Coming off an early bye week, the Beavers will present more physicality than UCLA saw last weekend with Houston. Oregon State only allowed 35 yards on the ground against Wisconsin, so the Bruins probably won’t be able to overpower the Beavers here.
However, a solid balance between spreading the ball around in the receiving game and finding space for running back Jonathan Franklin, who leads the nation with 180.3 rushing yards per game will lead to a strong 4-0 start for the Bruins. Prediction: UCLA 27, Oregon State 17
Utah (2-1) at Arizona State (2-1) – 10:00 p.m.
Arizona State is becoming the college football version of the New York Jets. Sun Devils starting signal-caller Todd Kelly receives the majority of the snap and is the clear No. 1 QB, but coaches are also enamored with the size and running ability of redshirt freshman Michael Eubank, who is often used in short yardage and goal-line situations.
Sure, the schemes aren’t the same and Tim Tebow is utilized more in gadget calls, but there’s still a slight connection between these two teams. Utah’s stout defense will present plenty of physicality to this contest.
The Trojans are still the favorite to win the division after their loss at Stanford, but the race in the Pac-12 South seems to be more wide open following USC’s stumble against the Cardinal. The winner here looks to emerge to the second spot in the South. QArizona State might have a tough time trying to contain the Utes’ standout running back John White IV, who was out with an injury against BYU, but is back and racked up 1,519 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Prediction: Arizona State 28, Utah 21
Photo Via OregonDuckFootballNews.com
No. 22 Arizona (3-0) at No. 3 Oregon (3-0) – 10:30 p.m.
Oregon has a 23-14 advantage in the series between these two teams and won last year’s get-together, 56-31. The Ducks host the Wildcats in a Week 4 marquee matchup featuring two of the top offenses in the country.
Arizona has lost four consecutive contests against Oregon and 11 of the last 13 in the series. This is the second consecutive season that Oregon opens Pac-12 play against Arizona.
Though the Ducks are much more experienced in their spread attack under fourth-year coach Chip Kelly, whose offense has led the Quack Attack to three consecutive conference championships, Rich Rodriguez, who led the West Virginia Mountaineers to four Big East titles between 2003-07, has his Wildcats team up to speed in the spread offense during his first season.
Each of these team’s coaches have risen to the top of their profession with a spread attack and met more than a decade ago to study the system and it will be fun to see whose team executes its spread offense the best. Prediction: Oregon 41, Arizona 27