An early glance at Week 4
Three weeks of the new college football season are in the books, and two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama has passed its toughest test up to this point. Let's take a quick look at what could be in store for the best contests of Week 4.
Thursday, September 19
Clemson at NC State: The Tigers will try not to match Florida State's performance last year when the Seminoles arrived at Carter-Finley Stadium as the No. 3 team in the country and lost 17-16 after holding a 13-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Two years ago when Dabo Swinney's team played NC State on the road, the Tigers lost 37-13. Can Dave Doeren deliver a big upset in his first season in Raleigh? If the 'Pack have any chance, Pete Thomas needs to play turnover-free. He has three interceptions against zero touchdowns after stepping in for Brandon Mitchell, who was hurt in the opener.
Friday, September 20
US PRESSWIREMatt Miller has 21 receptions for 188 yards and one touchdown on the year.
Boise State at Fresno State: The Bulldogs' secondary will face a tough challenge against big Bronco receivers Matt Miller and Geraldo Boldewijn. Tim DeRuyter's squad allowed Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman to catch nine passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the opener. Miller has 21 receptions for 188 yards and one touchdown while Boldewijn has 11 catches for 113 yards on the year. Kirby Moore and Aaron Burks will also test the Bulldogs' secondary in an intriguing Friday contest.
Saturday, September 21
North Carolina at Georgia Tech: Expect plenty of fireworks when the Tar Heels and the Yellow Jackets meet in Atlanta. Paul Johnson's squad scored 68 points and recorded 588 total yards last year in the highest-scoring game in ACC history, a 68-50 victory over Larry Fedora's bunch. GT ranks third in the nation in rushing, averaging 356 yards on the ground, while UNC ranks 92nd against the run. Plus, the Jackets are improved defensively under coordinator Ted Roof.
Tennessee at Florida: Vols head coach Butch Jones has opened up a quarterback competition in Knoxville as he searches for an increase of offensive "splash plays" that go for big gains after the team's 59-14 loss at Oregon in which the Vols' offense struggled. Jones will decide between junior Justin Worley, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman and true freshmen Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs for the team's game at Florida this week. Keep an eye on Dobbs as a read-option threat for an extra offensive wrinkle. Meanwhile, the Gators will try to beat Tennessee for the ninth consecutive time and put behind a disastrous offensive showing in a loss to Miami (FL) two weeks ago. Even if UF struggles on offense, the Vols don't have a lot of material on defense.
Michigan State at Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have not quite looked as dominant defensively as they did last season, but they may not get challenged too much this week against a Spartans offense that has not displayed too much firepower. However, Connor Cook did throw four touchdown passes without being intercepted last week. The Spartans are No. 1 in the country in total defense, and the unit has also scored four times. So Tommy Rees and the Irish will need to protect the football.
US PRESSWIREChuckie Keeton leads one of the best scoring offenses in the nation.
Utah State at USC: Head coach Matt Wells and the Aggies have perhaps the most overlooked quarterback in the country in Chuckie Keeton, who leads the No. 8 scoring offense in the nation at 49.3 points per game. Clancy Pendergast has his Trojans defense led by lineman George Uko and safety Dion Bailey playing at a high level, but will the 'SC offense be able to keep up if this turns into a bit of a track meet? Tailback Tre Madden has three 100-yard games to start the season, but Lane Kiffin needs to make more of an effort to get receiver Marqise Lee involved.
Arkansas at Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights rode Gary Nova's career-best 397 yards and five touchdowns to victory last year in a road win over the Hogs. But his status for this rematch is uncertain after suffering a concussion during the first quarter of the team's game last week. Meanwhile, Bret Bielema Ball is working in Fayetteville, as true freshman tailback Alex Collins this past week became the first freshman in SEC history to top the 100-yard mark in his first three games and the first player overall since Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson in 2004.
Arizona State at Stanford: Coordinator Derek Mason and the Cardinal defense will be tested by a Sun Devils offense led by Taylor Kelly and Marion Grice. The Devils begin a grueling stretch against a Stanford team that is riding a 10-game winning streak that dates back to last season. This is a key early season test for two teams that have division crown aspirations.
Auburn at LSU: Gus Malzahn has his team believing that it can beat LSU in Death Valley after its emotional last-second win over Mississippi State, but LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger leads the SEC in passing efficiency and has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions through the first three games. On the flip side, Auburn signal-caller Nick Marshall delivered big time on the last-minute, game-winning drive against the Bulldogs. The biggest concern for Auburn is whether it can stop the LSU rushing attack.
Kansas State at Texas: The pressure on Longhorns head coach Mack Brown increased even more this past weekend with the team's second consecutive loss. Expect Kansas State to run the ball until the 'Horns prove that they can stop it. If the Wildcats are successful, they will have a chance to extend their winning streak over the 'Horns to six games.
Utah at BYU: The Utes have won three straight over the Cougars, including a 24-21 win last year in Salt Lake City that ended in wild fashion. Kyle Whittingham's squad lost a heartbreaker last week in overtime to Oregon State, as the Utes allowed Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion to record a career-high 443 passing yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions in the loss. Taysom Hill won't put up similar numbers through the air, but will the Utes be able to stop him on the ground?
Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.