Clear Your Schedule 2016 | Week 4

By Brian Wilmer -

Last week was…let’s just call it unconventional. A top-ten boat race, two upsets and two ranked teams essentially losing a shot at playing for a title in Week 3. Things played out thusly:

#10 Louisville 63, #2 Florida State 20
Jackson (U of L): 17 carries, 146 yards, 4 TD; 13-20, 216 yards, TD, INT

Nebraska 35, #22 Oregon 32
Armstrong Jr. (NEB): 17-33, 200 yards, 3 TD; 16 carries, 95 yards, TD; Benoit (UO): 6 carries, 100 yards, TD

#1 Alabama 48, #19 Ole Miss 43
Hurts (Bama): 19-31, 158 yards; 18 carries, 146 yards; Harris (Bama): 16 carries, 144 yards, TD; Kelly (Miss.): 26-41, 421 yards, 3 TD, INT; Engram (Miss.): 9 catches, 138 yards, TD

#3 Ohio State 45, #14 Oklahoma 24
Barrett (OSU): 14-20, 152 yards, 4 TD; 17 carries, 74 yards; Brown (OSU): 5 catches, 72 yards, 4 TD; Mayfield (OU): 17-32, 226 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT

(12) Michigan State 36, (18) Notre Dame 27
O’Connor (MSU): 19-26, 241 yards, 2 TD, INT; Holmes (MSU): 19 carries, 100 yards, 2 TD; Kizer (ND): 20-37, 344 yards, 2 TD, INT

California 50, (11) Texas 43
D. Foreman (TEX): 21 carries, 157 yards, 2 TD; Warren (TEX): 18 carries, 118 yards, TD; Webb (CAL): 27-40, 396 yards, 4 TD; Enwere (CAL): 18 carries, 110 yards, 2 TD; Hansen (CAL): 12 catches, 196 yards, 2 TD

We have an interesting slate of games this week, including our first totally non-P5 game of the year! You can test your skill by picking the six games this week at this link.

Without further ado, let’s get on to this week’s games…right after we ask our trivia question!

Trivia, Week 4 (answer at the end of the column): Who was the last Tennessee quarterback to defeat Florida?

#11 Wisconsin (3-0) at #8 Michigan State (2-0)
Noon | BTN

  • Long time, no see: These two teams have a history of taking “breaks” against one another, and we’re coming off the most recent. The Badgers and Spartans have gone three full seasons without playing each other, and Wisconsin last visited East Lansing five years ago. Michigan State has won 30 of the 52 games the schools have played, and the universities have split the last 10 contests between them.
  • Curious coincidences: Wisconsin last started the season with three consecutive wins five years ago. That same season was the season we just referenced in which Wisconsin last visited East Lansing — a season in which the Spartans took down the Badgers on a Kirk Cousins-to-Keith Nichol Hail Mary, 37-31, to break their six-game unbeaten string that began the year.
  • Taking down the Top 25: Michigan State has just one loss in its last seven tries against ranked teams, a 38-0 loss to Alabama in last year’s College Football Playoff semifinal. Aside from last week’s victory over Notre Dame, each victory in that string has come against a top-12 squad. Coach Mark Dantonio has two wins over ranked Wisconsin teams (fourth in 2011, 11th in 2010).

Print that, tweet that, whatever: The last seven games between these two were decided by an average of fewer than five points. Look for that trend to continue Saturday.

#19 Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at #14 Tennessee (3-0)
3:30pm | CBS

  • Happy birthday:  Tennessee’s sports information department notes that Saturday is Neyland Stadium’s 95th birthday. That first game was a 27-0 victory over Emory & Henry (Va.). The stadium then contained a now-laughable 3,200 seats, and only 17 rows of seating.
  • There’s no place like the neighborhood: Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio will miss the game, following an injury suffered against North Texas. This will place Austin Appleby in the proverbial saddle against the Vols, marking the first start against Tennessee for the senior Gator passer. He’s hardly inexperienced, though, having been a starter at Purdue. Appleby completed 268-of-485 passes as a Boilermaker, throwing for 2,777 yards and an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions (19 apiece).
  • Next man up: Florida will be without a key member of its squad on Saturday, but Tennessee will also be without its full complement on defense. Senior cornerback Cam Sutton (112 tackles, 7 INT career) will miss the game with a fractured right ankle, while linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. is also hampered by an ankle injury. Kirkland and teammate Micah Abernathy (16 tackles apiece) rank third on the Vols, behind linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (18) and defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. (17).

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Butch Jones has been lauded for his rebuilding job at Tennessee, but he has to beat Florida eventually to keep it going, doesn’t he?

Georgia Southern (3-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) at Western Michigan (3-0)
7:00pm | ESPN3

  • The “P” is not for “Phenom”: Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck has become the hottest young name in coaching, and it’s not hard to see why. His Broncos won just once in his first season, but have turned in back-to-back 8-5 seasons and bowl trips. Fleck also won the 2014 MAC Coach of the Year award. Counting this year’s 3-0 start, Fleck is 20-21 in three-plus seasons at Western Michigan, a number that looks all the more impressive when taking the 1-11 first season in context.
  • It’s good to have options: Georgia Southern is notorious for being an option team, and that trend has continued under head coach Tyson Summers. Summers’ Eagles are ranked third in the FBS in rushing, averaging 356-plus rushing yards per game. GSU tallied 71 carries in last week’s 23-21 victory over UL Monroe, rushing for 345 yards and two scores. GSU’s two senior quarterbacks, Flavian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison, have combined to attempt just 42 passes, completing 24, for 393 yards and two touchdowns versus one interception. Upshaw and Ellison have also combined to rush 68 times for 397 yards and five scores.
  • Planes, trains and automobiles: This is the second game of a home-and-home series that Kevin reported here in 2013, and the Eagles handily won in the 2015 game in Statesboro. Upshaw passed just four times — completing one — in a 43-17 victory in which Georgia Southern carried 52 times for 413 yards and five touchdowns. GSU running back Matt Breida rushed 11 times for 176 yards and four scores. Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell completed 24-of-36 passes for 227 yards and two scores, but also threw three interceptions.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Georgia Southern’s plans A, B and C involve running the ball. Can WMU’s 11th-ranked rush defense (77.33 ypg) stop them?

Oklahoma State (2-1) at #16 Baylor (3-0)
7:30pm | FOX

  • Take the over (for entertainment purposes only): To say this series has been blessed with lots of points is quite the understatement. The last 17 games of this series have featured at least one team scoring 34 points or greater. The Cowboys are 13-4 in those contests, despite two of the losses coming over the last two seasons. Three of the four overall losses have occurred in Waco, the site of this week’s game.
  • Not-so-hospitable hosts: Baylor’s McLane Stadium has become quite the house of horrors for visiting foes since opening prior to the 2014 season. Just two road opponents have left Waco with victories in 14 tries — both last year. Oklahoma took down the Bears 44-34, while Texas was on the winning side of a 23-17 decision. Baylor defeated Oklahoma State, 49-28, on November 22, 2014, in just their third Big 12 game in the new facility. The Bears average over 613 yards per game and just shy of 51 points a contest in games played at McLane.
  • To throw or not to throw: Oklahoma State has enjoyed considerable success under junior signal-caller Mason Rudolph. The Cowboys are ninth in the FBS in passing yards, averaging 360.3 per outing. The Bears, conversely, tote the nation’s third-best pass defense, surrendering just 97 yards per game through the air. Rudolph has thrown for fewer than 200 yards just twice in his Oklahoma State career (except for the game against Oklahoma, in which he attempted only three throws). Interestingly, both of those games have come in his last four (179 against Ole Miss in last season’s bowl outing, and 191 to start the season against Northwestern State).

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Oklahoma State needed a late stop to hold off Pitt last week. They’ll need the same — or more — to turn away the Bears.

#7 Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at UCLA (2-1)
8:00pm | ABC

  • Shaw’s success: One of the great friends of this humble column (and columnist) points out that Stanford coach David Shaw has taken care of business against rival schools. Shaw’s Cardinal teams fell to USC in back-to-back seasons (20-17 at USC on November 16, 2013 and at home 13-10 on September 6, 2014), but only after taking down the second-ranked Trojans, 21-14, on September 15, 2012. That was Stanford’s fourth-straight win against USC, a feat that had not been accomplished in the 100-plus years of the rivalry. The Bruins, meanwhile, have not claimed a victory over Stanford since a 23-20 decision on October 18, 2008, a span of eight games that includes the 2012 Pac-12 championship.
  • Capable McCaffrey: Star Stanford rusher Christian McCaffrey is off to yet another sizzling start. Just one season removed from all-time FBS (3,496 all-purpose yards) and school (2,019 rushing yards) records, the junior ranks third in the nation in rushing yards per game through two contests. McCaffrey has carried 53 times for 298 yards and three scores thus far, and will look to best yet another school record he set last year when he rushed for 243 yards against the Bruins. On the other hand…
  • Bearing down against the run: UCLA enters this contest off a hard-fought, 17-14 win over BYU, in which the Cougars ran for just 23 yards in 25 attempts. No opponent had rushed for that few yards against a UCLA defense since Arizona State’s 21-yard total in 2008. Rushing attempts and yard totals against the Bruins have decreased in each outing since Texas A&M carried 41 times for 203 yards and three scores in the season-opener. To be sure, senior linebacker Jayon Brown (23 tackles, 17 solo) will play a key role in bottling Stanford’s ground attack, along with monstrous defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (8 tackles, 4 solo).

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Stanford’s average margin of victory in their eight-game streak against UCLA is 18.2 points. This one should be much, much closer.

#17 Arkansas (3-0) vs. #10 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC) | Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, TX)
9:00pm | ESPN

  • I can see for Myles: Arkansas has allowed six sacks of its quarterbacks through three games, and the Razorbacks now face a whole new dilemma. A&M junior pass rusher Myles Garrett already has three sacks and five quarterback hurries through three contests. Garrett recorded 12.5 sacks in his sophomore season, including one against Arkansas in a 28-21 victory.
  • Can’t you tell? This is Austin: Junior Razorback signal-caller Austin Allen has gotten his team off to a tremendous start. Allen is 53-for-79 through three starts, throwing for 655 yards and seven touchdowns against just two picks (160.1 QB rating). Allen had attempted just 19 throws in the two seasons prior to taking over under center for Arkansas, and he will need to take advantage of an A&M pass defense that ranks 71st in the nation thus far this season. The Aggies’ two FBS opponents have completed 48-of-82 throws this season, but have only recorded one touchdown to accompany three picks.
  • Mister Christian: We’ve talked in this space before about Oklahoma transfer quarterback Trevor Knight’s adjustment to Texas A&M, and that adjustment has certainly been aided by star sophomore wideout Christian Kirk. Two grabs in Kirk’s 17th career game as an Aggie would allow him to become — hey, it’s numbers synergy again! — the 17th Aggie receiver with 100 career catches. Kirk notched a career-high in receiving yards in last year’s outing against the Razorbacks, hauling in eight throws for 173 yards and two scores.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: A&M has four straight wins against Arkansas, but Bret Bielema’s club has won nine of its last ten games. This one should be outstanding.

Trivia answer: We asked earlier: Who was the last Tennessee quarterback to defeat Florida?

Erik Ainge completed 16-of-24 passes for 192 yards, notching three touchdowns and a pick in a 30-28 victory over Floriday on September 18, 2004. Former Volunteer James Wilhoit missed the extra point that would have tied the game following an Ainge-to-Jayson Swain touchdown with 3:25 remaining, then drained a 50-yarder with six seconds remaining to win the game.

Comments (3)

Georgia Southern at Western Michigan is a fascinating game. One team on the rise (Western) and another (GA Southern) that has been playing at a high level at its level of football for years.

Georgia Southern is the underdog in this one but should come away with the win. GS has the more talented team but they haven’t played up to their potential so that’s concerning. I think the Eagles clean up the penalties and break open a few big plays, GS 35 WM 31.