The start of critical conference games, teams flying under the radar, and teams who look eerily similar and vastly different than in 2007 were the storylines in the fourth week of the college football season.
The Auburn LSU game was a classic SEC game
Big SEC conference games will look a lot like the LSU Auburn game. Relentless defenses, struggling offenses, explosive speed on both sides of the ball, gutrenching tackles, and close scores is what you will see in the major SEC conference games. It was only fitting that the first major game of the season between two highly ranked SEC teams represented what SEC football is all about.
The Florida Gators do not care about style points
Before the season, experts predicted that Florida's offense would be unstoppable and that the defense was the weak link of the team. Through three games, the offense has sputtered and the defense has looked anything but weak. Florida's defense swarmed Tennessee's offense on Saturday and resembled the 2006 Florida defense which led that team to a national title. The Florida defense has given up a total of sixteen points through three games and has looked fast and relentless chasing the ball. On the other hand, the offense has looked to control the ball and eat up clock instead of score at will. Tim Tebow has managed the offense and has not put up Heisman like stats. However, with the defense playing well, the offense does not have to score as many points as they did last year. Urban Mayer and the Florida Gators do not care about style points, the only stat that matters is the the number of wins the Gators have at the end of the season.
Vanderbilt and Northwestern are 4 and 0
Outside of Commodore and Wildcat fans, fans around the nation probably didn't realize that these two elite academic institutions are playing good football this year. Northwestern has not played the stiffest competition yet beating Syracuse, one of the worst Division I teams, Duke, Southern Illinois, and Ohio University, but the Wildcats are playing great defense and more importantly are still undefeated. Vanderbilt, however, has beaten tough teams in South Carolina and Ole Miss. Vanderbilt, who lost its two best offensive players, Earl Bennett and Chris Williams, and its best defensive player, Johnathan Goff, to the NFL Draft, are playing smart football and are finding a way to win. Vanderbilt may have the most underrated defense in the nation and the defense has led Vanderbilt to a 4 and 0 start and possibly a bowl berth for the first time in twenty three years.
Florida State and Notre Dame look familiar
FSU and Notre Dame are who we thought they were. Both these teams are mirror images of the teams of 2007. FSU still does not have a quarterback. Both Devonte Richardson and Christian Ponder played in the Wake Forest game and both were unproductive and turned the ball over. FSU has a great defense but its offense resembles last year's offense. FSU will continue to struggle as long as it does not play Division II teams because its offense cannot hold on to the ball when the Seminoles play decent competition. Along with FSU, Notre Dame looks similar to last year in that the offense continues to shoot itself in the foot by turning the ball over. FSU and Notre Dame should have better records this year because their schedules are easier than last year, then again, both teams may find a way to lose the games they should win.
Brandon James is the best punt returner in the country
Brandon James is the spark plug for the Gators. Whenever the Gators need a boost, James always seems to make a play. For the second straight year, Brandon James returned a punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee. On Saturday, James punt return touchdown put the dagger in the heart of the Volunteers as Tennessee looked lifeless from that point on.
Georgia found another playmaker
We all know about Knowshown Moreno and Matthew Stafford, but freshman wide receiver AJ Green is phenomenal and a crucial part of Georgia's offense. AJ Green showed against Arizona State why he was one of the most sought after recruits coming out of high school. AJ Green caught eight passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns and proved he is Matthew Stafford's go to receiver.
Andre Smith for Heisman
Missouri's Chase Daniel and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford are probably the two leading candidates to win the Heisman with their gaudy video game like numbers. However, the best player in college football maybe Andre Smith, offensive lineman for Alabama. Andre Smith is the strength of the Crimson Tide offensive line and is the reason why Alabama has had so much success running the ball this year. Against Arkansas, Bama ran for a total of 329 yards running mostly behind the left side of the offensive line anchored by Andre Smith. To show how valuable Andre Smith is, the only game Alabama has played poorly in was Tulane where the Crimson Tide ran the ball for 98 yards and Andre Smith sat out that game with an injury. The other three games, Alabama has averaged 282 yards rushing. Andre Smith will not win the Heisman trophy because he is an offensive lineman, but he is the best player in college football and should be the Number 1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.