The battle of 10 unbeatens
Saturday’s slate features five games of 10 undefeated teams looking to keep the momentum going on their unblemished seasons. Each program knows what’s at stake and look to seize control of the rare opportunity. Some teams have everything to gain while others have everything to lose. The regular season of college football is so significant because every game matters and each week presents a new challenge. The teams that are left standing after the smoke clears late Saturday night will have a statement win on their resume. Some will even be mentioned in the same conversation as college football’s upper-echelon. Should be an exciting week four.
Oregon vs. Stanford:
This game features two-ranked teams anxious to get towards the top of the Pac-12 North Division. Stanford has looked solid so far with home wins over a talented San Diego State squad and USC. However, this will be the Cardinal’s first game on the road and the Autzen Zoo is one of the toughest stadiums in the Pac-12 to play in for opposing teams. Stanford won’t be intimidated though, having won two of its last three trips to Eugene. Heisman hopeful running back Bryce Love didn’t play in last week’s win over UC Davis, but will be unleashed on Oregon. Junior wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside has been a terror in Stanford’s passing game, with five touchdown catches and will require double coverage on each play from Oregon’s secondary. This will be the Ducks fourth consecutive home contest and the team is playing with extreme confidence, leading the league with 51.2 points per game and are 3-0 for a second straight year. A healthy Justin Herbert has been a vital part in the team’s success. The 6-foot-6 junior signal-caller leads the conference in total touchdowns. Oregon’s defense has played better than expected thus far, thanks to defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt deciding to stick around through two coaching changes. The unit has 11 sacks and surrendering 20 points per game. The Ducks are stingy against the run and leads the conference in rush defense, allowing only 77 yards per game. Something gotta give with Stanford’s rushing attack and Oregon’s rush defense, but whoever controls that battle will most likely win the game.
NC State at Marshall:
Hurricane Florence cancelled both of these teams games last week. NC State was supposed to square off against West Virginia and now plays the little brother of the state in Marshall. However, Marshall is no pushover, returning 17 total starters from an 8-5 team last season and averaging 33.5 points per game in 2018. True sophomore signal-caller Isaiah Green has played well thus far, passing for 550 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. His favorite target senior wideout Tyre Brady, has caught 15 passes for 182 yards and three scores. The Thundering Herd will try to exploit the Wolfpack’s secondary. NC State has a talented quarterback in senior Ryan Finley. The signal-caller has passed for 670 yards and four touchdowns in two games and have weapons to spread the ball around to. With two quarterbacks that can light up the scoreboard through the air, this game has a recipe for an offensive shootout. Both teams are well rested and ready to get back to action. NC State won 37-20 in Raleigh last season, but this game will be in Huntington. The Thundering Herd would love to hand a Power 5 team its first loss of the year. NC State can’t afford to overlook Marshall and will be prepared to take care of business. Should be a fun game.
Georgia at Missouri:
This game could very well be the most entertaining out of the bunch. Both teams pack offensive firepower and have great quarterbacks. Georgia’s true sophomore signal-caller Jake Fromm has played extremely well so far with six touchdown passes and one interception. His go-to receiver Mecole Hardman has three touchdown catches. The boys up front have done a great job protecting Fromm, allowing only two sacks. The Bulldogs defense hasn’t been as dominant as the unit was in 2017, which was expected with only five returning starters. Georgia has only one sack through three games this season and will need to generate more to have any success against one of the best offenses in the league. Missouri leads the SEC in pass yards per game and senior quarterback Drew Lock is No. 1 in the league in pass yards and pass touchdowns. He’s only been intercepted and sacked once so far. The Tigers potent offense will be a tough test for the Bulldogs young defense on the road. The Bulldogs are the reigning SEC champs and have national title aspirations. Missouri is a team on the rise with an offense that can score on any defense. This game will be a great measuring stick for both teams, with the winner having an inside track on the SEC East. One thing is for sure, Columbia will be rocking in time for kickoff.
LSU vs. Louisiana Tech:
It’ll be interesting to see if the Bayou Bengals have any type of hangover from their road win at Auburn last week. Regardless, LSU shouldn’t be overlooking in-state foe Louisiana Tech, especially since the Bayou Bengals lost at home to Troy last season. The Bulldogs are undefeated and have everything to gain by beating a top-10 Power 5 team. Junior quarterback J’Mar Smith looked great in the win over Southern, with 380 yards through the air and two pass touchdowns. He wasn’t as impressive against FBS competition and had two touchdown passes and three interceptions against Miami (Ohio). Bulldogs wide receiver Adrian Hardy has nine catches for 184 yards and a score on the season. The Bayou Bengals defense will make life tough for Smith and Hardy, by pressing the receivers at the line of scrimmage and attacking the offensive line with their ferocious pass rush. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow should be able to do some damage through the air against the Bulldogs secondary. The Bayou Bengals could very well start slow out of the gates and look sluggish during the first half of this game. Once the second half hits, LSU will wake up from their sleep walk and enforce its will on the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech won’t be able to match the physicality of LSU through four quarters, so expect the Bayou Bengals to start off sluggish, but prevail in the second half against a scrappy in-state Conference-USA team.
Kentucky vs. Mississippi State:
Another matchup of undefeated SEC teams. Kentucky is 3-0 for the first time under Mark Stoops, including the program’s first win over Florida since Ronald Reagan was president. Kentucky will try to ride the momentum wave into this game. The Wildcats are averaging 36.6 points per contest and No. 3 in the conference in rush yards per game, led by Benny Snell Jr. The junior running back is second in the SEC with 375 yards on the ground and has three rushing scores. Having won eight of the last nine meetings, it’s easy for the Bulldogs to overlook the Wildcats, but with Kentucky’s recent success, Mississippi State will have its full attention on this game. Bulldog signal-caller Nick Fitzgerald has been Tim Tebow-like in the two games he started with game-changing plays with his arm and legs and eight total touchdowns. The Bulldogs defensive line is arguably one of the best in the league and tied for first in sacks. Trust and believe Mississippi State’s front seven will wreak havoc in the trenches and make life hard for Kentucky’s offensive line and young quarterback. This is a different Kentucky team that will take the field and will play with plenty of fire at home. This will likely be a dog fight that could potentially be the Wildcats coming out party or another statement win for the Bulldogs on the road. Both teams will play their hearts out and this should be another SEC classic when it’s all said and done.