Most Important College Football Injuries That Could Impact Week 4 Games
Just because we're only four weeks into the 2012 college football season doesn't mean we haven't already seen some crushing injuries.
While season-ending injuries can affect a team's entire season, even missing one game can derail hopes of a conference title run.
Injuries are a part of the game, and coaches have to make adjustments where possible. Still, those adjustments will affect that game, and here's our take on which injuries will have the biggest impact on Week 4 of the 2012 college football season.
BYU Cougars at Boise State Broncos
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When the 2012 college football season got underway, Boise State and BYU were the two leading contenders to represent the ranks of the non-automatic qualifying teams in the BCS in January.
With each team suffering an early loss, it's pretty obvious that the loser of this Week 4 bout will be all but eliminated from BCS consideration.
Boise State lost safety Taylor Loffler to a season-ending knee injury before things really got underway, but the Broncos have since avoided the bite of the injury bug.
BYU linebacker Zac Stout, a 6'1" 220-pound middle linebacker, continues to struggle with an Achilles injury and has since been declared doubtful for this Thursday's matchup in Boise. Any defensive loss can hurt a team, but against a typically offensively proficient Boise State, fielding a team with a man down at linebacker can be problematic at best.
BYU will be painfully thin in the middle linebacking position with the loss of Stout.
Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles
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This game will most likely determine the eventual champion of the ACC's Atlantic Division. It will have major BCS and national championship implications.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that one team can knock off the other, but injuries won't be part of the pregame run-up.
Clemson is still healthy and appears to be in top form heading into its ACC opener against Florida State.
The Seminoles have lost no fewer than six players to injury since spring ball. Luckily, there haven't been any major losses, like E.J. Manuel's unfortunate AC joint injury last season.
In fact, every preseason or Week 1 starter is still healthy for this pivotal ACC showdown.
In the end, the only thing either team has lost with the few injuries that have occurred is depth—and both these teams are so deep, we're betting no one even notices on Saturday.
Nothing like a monster game decided by the best players on each roster gutting it out for 60 minutes.
Virginia Cavaliers at TCU Horned Frogs
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When TCU began the 2012 season as one of the newest members of the Big 12, it was “all hands on deck” if the Horned Frogs were to have any hope of challenging for a conference title and (finally) an automatic BCS berth.
The Horned Frogs have performed admirably so far this year, but Saturday will easily be their toughest test so far in this young college football season as Virginia comes to Fort Worth.
Despite the muster call from the TCU coaches, the Horned Frogs will have to do without four key contributors.
Linebacker Danny Heiss and defensive end Ross Forrest could both miss the remainder of the season. Heiss's injury remains undisclosed, but he is listed out “indefinitely.” Forrest, on the other hand, suffered a serious knee injury, and his status for the rest of the season is more solid: out.
In addition to Heiss and Forrest, TCU will be without the ball-carrying services of Waymon James as he recovers from a knee injury. James had been averaging 9.9 yards per carry thus far in 2012, and his 84 rushing yards per game will certainly be missed against Virginia.
Safety Trenton Thomas is also listed as questionable for Saturday with an undisclosed injury.
The Virginia Cavaliers will have a pair of offensive starters not making the trip to Fort Worth on Saturday, as both Tim Smith and Cody Wallace recover from unspecified leg injuries.
UPDATE: TCU's Waymon James is now listed as being out for the rest of the 2012 season.
Cal Bears at USC Trojans
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Both Cal and USC are facing more than their fair share of injuries heading into Week 4.
USC is down to its third center of the 2012 season, with both Abe Markowitz and Khaled Holmes questionable for Saturday's game with arm and leg injuries, respectively.
Neither played against Stanford, and it looks like neither will play against Cal.
Tight end Christian Thomas is also questionable for Saturday after missing the first three games of the season with a hip injury.
On defense, the Trojans may also be without the services of corner Brian Baucham, as he continues to deal with a concussion. As of yet, there's been no word on whether or not Baucham has been cleared to play against Cal.
But Cal isn't doing much better.
Tight end Richard Rodgers will likely miss the game at USC with a lingering ankle injury (he also missed the game at Ohio State last week).
Matt Summers-Gavin hasn't played on the offensive line since Week 1, and he will likely miss Week 4 as well with a knee injury.
And finally, Cal will still be awaiting the return of Khairi Fortt, who is recovering from knee surgery. While he was clearly out of action when the season started, his status has been changed to questionable for Saturday at USC.
Cal could certainly use Fortt against an offensively-minded USC but will have to make due in a game that will feature far more twos and threes than either coach had been hoping to see just four weeks into the season.
Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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There are few rivalries in college football as rich with tradition as Michigan-Notre Dame.
Michigan is closing in on 900 wins, the most of any college football program of all time, with Notre Dame not far behind. The two schools are Nos. 1 and 2 in win percentage (Michigan at .736 and Notre Dame at .731 after the 2011 season) and share an intertwined football history—it was a group of students from Michigan that first taught a group of students from Notre Dame the game.
The game carries major implication for both programs, as Notre Dame looks to secure a top-10 spot in the polls after coming in at No. 13 since knocking off then-No. 9 Michigan State last week.
So what are the Fighting Irish's chances to improve to 4-0?
Pretty good, at least when it comes to the team's injuries—or lack thereof.
All of Notre Dame's usual starters should be ready for action Saturday in South Bend when the Michigan Wolverines come calling.
Michigan's injury report, on the other hand, is a little weightier and contains names such as Richard Ash, Brennen Beyer, Desmond Morgan, Stephen Hopkins and Brandon Moore.
Okay, so not all of these guys are big-time contributors under the best of circumstances, but against a team like Notre Dame, Michigan is going to need contributions in depth at every position to knock off the Fighting Irish at home.
Morgan is easily the biggest loss for the Wolverines. The sophomore linebacker already has 15 tackles (and 1.5 TFL) this season but did not play against Massachusetts with an undisclosed head injury.
Michigan's linebackers will be put under serious pressure on Saturday, and Morgan's absence could be a signal to the Notre Dame coaches to attack the middle of Michigan's defense early and often.
Oregon State Beavers at UCLA Bruins
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Who would have thought that this Week 4 Pac-12 meeting between UCLA and Oregon State would be a battle between a couple of undefeated teams?
Granted, Oregon State has played just one game thus far, but it's hard to argue that the Beavers would have lost to FCS Nicholls State in Week 1 had the game not been postponed.
But with UCLA at 3-0, and a Top 25 ranking in hand, this Pac-12 opener suddenly takes on a new aura of importance.
With quarterback Brett Hundley seemingly recovered from an ankle injury he suffered against Nebraska (he threw for 320 yards and 2 TDs against Houston), the Bruins look to be ready to defend their home turf against the Beavers.
Oregon State, however, will have a couple of notable absences when it rolls into the Rose Bowl on Saturday to take on the Bruins.
Senior fullback Clayton York is still dealing with an undisclosed injury and has yet to see action this season. He remains questionable to play this week as well.
Much in the same boat as York is senior safety Anthony Watkins.
Watkins is nursing a hip injury suffered during fall camp, and he did not play against Wisconsin in Week 2. Even after Oregon State's Week 3 bye, Watkins remains questionable to make the trip to Los Angeles.
LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers
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The Auburn Tigers look to be a shadow of their former selves, as they are off to a painfully slow 1-2 start in 2012.
The good news heading into their SEC West showdown with LSU is that every eligible player is healthy—as far as we know—and should be available to take on a heavily favored LSU team.
LSU, on the other hand, does have a few injuries that might impact the Bayou Bengals' start to their 2012 SEC campaign.
We know that defensive end Jordan Allen and wide receiver Travin Dural are done for the year with knee injuries, but the big concern now for LSU has to be the loss of junior running back Alfred Blue.
Blue had been averaging 112 rushing yards per game coming into the Week 3 meeting with Idaho when he left the game against the Vandals with a knee injury after scoring one touchdown on 10 carries with 46 yards.
How long Blue will be out has yet to be determined, but one thing is certain: He will not play against Auburn.
Will his absence be enough of an opening for Auburn to spoil LSU's conference opener?