Last Saturday they all celebrated huge wins and added more excitement to their seasons.
There’s nowhere to hide once a program emerges from the darkness and is suddenly under everyone’s radar. All five of these teams are looking to make a statement in pivotal matchups this weekend that should set the tone for the rest of the year. Still, too much celebration turns into lack of focus.
Now that the spotlight is shining bright on these teams, they are no long the hunters and instead are the hunted.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks ended a 20-game SEC losing streak last Saturday when they pulled off the upset over Mississippi State. It was the program’s first conference win since 2017. That’s a big deal, considering the Razorbacks’ last win over a ranked team came in September of 2016, plus it was the first victory of the Sam Pittman era. However, the Razorbacks’ celebration may very well be short lived. Having to travel to Jordan-Haire to face a ticked off Auburn team will be a tall mountain to climb for Arkansas. It doesn’t help Arkansas’ cause that Auburn wants to prove last week’s blowout loss was a fluke. Pittman is also showing promise, which means the Razorbacks won’t be sneaking up on anyone now. Still, if the Razorbacks upset the Tigers on the Plains this Saturday, it would be back-to-back wins over ranked teams for the program since 2015. Arkansas is trying to climb out of the cellar of the SEC and wants to show it belongs. Auburn is out for blood after last week’s embarrassing loss, so something has to give.
Iowa State: The Cyclones have been one of the Big 12’s hottest teams in the month of October under Matt Campbell. Iowa State made history last Saturday and beat Oklahoma at Jack Trice Stadium for the first time since 1960. It was basically a signature win for Campbell. The city of Ames was on fire and the Cyclones showed the rest of the league that they are serious contenders. Iowa State even resurfaced back in the AP Poll. However, Campbell’s team have a history of performing better under the radar instead of in the spotlight. Despite all of the celebration, Iowa State is trying to avoid a letdown at all costs. Texas Tech is still searching for its’ first Big 12 win of the season and has nothing to lose. Texas Tech took Texas into overtime and was down by three points entering the fourth quarter against Kansas State. Now Matt Wells needs his team to finish the job against the Cyclones in a game that’ll likely be a shootout. Iowa State should be expecting Texas Tech’s best and can’t afford a slow start. After all, the Red Raider are trying to snap a five-game Big 12 losing streak.
NC State: The Wolfpack are coming off a win against a top-25 team for the first time since 2017. The big reason for the Wolfpack’s resurgence is the play of quarterback Devin Leary. The sophomore signal caller has been impressive the last two games, with 501 yards through the air, five touchdown passes and no interceptions. Not to mention NC State has scored 30 or more points in two of its’ first three games. There’s reasons for Dave Doeren to be optimistic for the remainder season. However, Virginia just clashed with the reigning ACC champs and put up 417 yards of total offense and had 450 in the win over Duke. That’s not a good sign for NC State’s defense, which allowed 495 yards to Virginia Tech and 503 to Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers have won nine-straight games at home and haven’t lost in Scott Stadium since November of 2018. This will be the Wolfpack’s third-straight road game. NC State is 1-5 in its’ last six trips to Charlottesville. However the Wolfpack won their last trip to Scott Stadium, which was in 2011. Since NC State has an explosive offense, it’ll have Virginia’s full attention.
TCU: Last week the Horned Frogs pulled off the biggest upset of the early season and snapped a six-game losing streak to top-10 teams. True sophomore Max Duggan is beginning to look like the best quarterback in the Big 12. TCU’s offense has scored 33 or more points in its’ first two games. With Duggan operating behind center full time again, the Horned Frogs can compete with any team in the league. Everyone is starting to jump on TCU’s bandwagon. However, Kansas State is no pushover and been taking care of business the past couple of weeks. The Wildcats have scored at least 31 points in all of their games thus far and been improving each week. It’s a head-scratcher that Kansas State is a two-score underdog, but beat TCU by a touchdown last season and lost by a point in Amon G. Carter Stadium in 2018. Both teams are scrappy and it will be a hard-fought game. The Wildcats are a scrappy bunch and been successful when they don’t get the respect they deserve. So expect Kansas State to enter the game with a chip on its’ shoulder. Regardless, everyone will be waiting to see what Duggan can do for an encore.
Tennessee: Beating a rebuilding Missouri team is nothing to brag about, but last Saturday’s victory was the Volunteers’ eighth-straight win. Tennessee currently has the longest winning streak in the SEC, which speaks volumes of the job Jeremy Pruitt has done in Knoxville. Senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has looked solid and the Volunteers are playing with extreme confidence. People around campus hope the sleeping giant program has finally woke up. However, no one outside of Rocky Top believes the Volunteers are true SEC contenders because they’ve only beat two teams with a winning record during their last eight games. Now Tennessee is about to square off with a top-three Georgia team and all eyes will be on the matchup. The Bulldogs know what the Volunteers are capable of and will be ready. After all, Georgia’s defense has played lights out thus far. No team has scored over 14 points on the Bulldogs over the last three games and the Volunteers will need to light up the scoreboard to have a chance at pulling off the upset this time around. Tennessee’s last win ‘Between the Hedges’ came in 2016 on a hail mary catch. It’s going to be put up or shut up time Saturday and both teams want to make a statement.