College Football 2011 Week 4: 25 Things to Watch for on Saturday

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2011

College Football 2011 Week 4: 25 Things to Watch for on Saturday

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    College football season is in full swing, and off-the-field talk about conference realignment has received as much press as what's taken place on the field.

    There were a few questions answered in Week 3, but there's still a long way to go until the national championship picture is cleared up.

    Here's 25 things to watch for on Saturday.

Conference Realignment

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    Teams jumping ship have taken the nation by storm and there are still a lot of questions regarding the future of college football.

    It appears we're on our way to four mega conferences, a few more independents and a new way to watch college football. Basically, mega conferences will create a playoff-like atmosphere with 16 teams in four conferences. 

    Who goes where and how those conferences choose to align their conferences will be interesting to see as the year goes on.

Florida State

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    The Seminoles showed that they are a very good football team, even though they ended up losing to top-ranked Oklahoma. They also were relying heavily on their backup quarterback to bring them back, which he did.

    E.J. Manuel struggled with his accuracy throughout the game, but was able to make a number of plays with his legs before leaving injured.

    They have a big conference game against Clemson in Week 4 that they can't afford to lose if they want to get back to the ACC Championship Game.

Is Clemson a Contender?

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    Yes, Clemson defeated Auburn last Saturday to end the nation's longest winning streak, but that was against a team riding last year's strong showing.

    Auburn is the defending national champion, but without most of the players from last year's squad. Clemson struggled against two inferior opponents to start the year, but did have a nice showing against Auburn.

    Saturday's matchup against Florida State should give us a clearer picture regarding Clemson's status as a contender or a pretender.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech

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    Both teams are coming off big wins and both find themselves ranked in the Top 25 of the coaches' poll. Anytime a team accumulates over 700 yards of total offense and over 600 yards on the ground it's impressive, even if it was against Kansas.

    That's what Georgia Tech did on Saturday. That's unlikely to happen against North Carolina, but Georgia Tech is going to put up big numbers on the ground. Will the Tar Heels be able to weather the storm?

Notre Dame Goes for Two in a Row

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    The Fighting Irish finally got in the win column against 15th-ranked Michigan State and they did so in dominating fashion. Minus the turnovers, Notre Dame has looked very good this season.

    Pittsburgh is coming off a huge collapse against Iowa and will look to put that loss behind them. However, Notre Dame is a much stronger team than Iowa, so it could be a long day for the Panthers at home.

Alabama Hosts Arkansas

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    This is a huge game between two rivals early in the season, and it could have big implications moving forward. Both teams are 3-0 and the Crimson Tide have the biggest win of the two coming against Penn State.

    That being said, Penn State survived a huge scare against Temple. Alabama will need A.J. McCarron to step up and have a good game, but more importantly they will need Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy to carry the load on the ground.

    Defensively, the Crimson Tide will need to slow down the nation's eighth-ranked passing offense led by Arkansas' Tyler Wilson.

    Alabama is certainly on upset alert in Week 4. 

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M

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    This is a huge matchup for maybe the last time for a while. The seventh-ranked Cowboys will travel to College Station to take on the Aggies in a huge matchup that could determine the Big 12 champion.

    Ryan Tannehill has looked very good for the Aggies thus far, and the home-field advantage should definitely help A&M in this one.

    That being said, Oklahoma State is the nation's top passing offense, led by senior quarterback Brandon Weeden. 

    Expect some fireworks in this one before the final whistle blows.

Robert Griffin III

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    Baylor's Robert Griffin III continues to put up huge numbers and that should continue this week against Rice. Griffin III is absolutely in the Heisman race at this point as he continues to put up video-game numbers.

    But, Baylor still has a long road in front of them and until they get into conference play, the jury remains undecided on how far Griffin III can take the Bears.

Boomer Sooner

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    Oklahoma has the biggest win of the season to their credit after defeating the fifth-ranked Seminoles on the road. Quarterback Landry Jones is in the Heisman discussion and has a Heisman-esque moment to add to his resume after throwing a touchdown pass late in the game to put the Seminoles away for good.

    Missouri is not the easiest opponent, and Bob Stoops will need to make sure the Sooners aren't still celebrating last week's win on Saturday.

    That being said, Oklahoma should still be ranked at the top of every poll come Sunday.

LSU on the Road

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    LSU continues their stalwart out-of-conference schedule as they go on the road to West Virginia. Geno Smith and Company survived a near collapse against the Terrapins last Saturday, and it's something they can't afford to do against LSU.

    That being said, LSU still has some issues on offense. They won a defensive battle against Mississippi State last Thursday, but the Mountaineers offense is much better than the Bulldogs'.

    Jarrett Lee will have to step up and have a big day for LSU to win, and the LSU defense will also need to hold the West Virginia offense in check.

    Until the LSU offense shows they're for real, they're on upset alert this Saturday.

Can Miami Keep It Going?

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    Miami is coming off a dominating performance against Ohio State where the defense came through big for the Hurricanes.

    Jacory Harris was shaking off the rust against the Buckeyes, but the strong performance by the defense allowed Harris to make a few mistakes along the way.

    Kansas State is 2-0, but have an abysmal passing game and haven't played a defense at Miami's level this season. It should be a long day for the Wildcats as Miami looks to go 2-1 after a tumultuous offseason.

Virginia Tech Offense

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    It's almost go time for the Hokies. Marshall wraps up a weak out-of-conference slate for Virginia Tech before they host Clemson in Week 5.

    The defense has looked good for the Hokies, but the offense has been suspect at best starting with the quarterback play of Logan Thomas.

    Thomas did have a good performance in Week 3, but he's still making a lot of mistakes. The offensive line also struggled with their run blocking, which is going to have to improve as the Hokies head into their conference schedule.

    Marshall should be no problem, but the coaching staff needs the offense to gain some steam heading into October.

Will Boston College Get Their First Win?

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    Boston College has fallen off the proverbial cliff. They're 0-3, coming off a conference loss to Duke—yes, the Blue Devils.

    Boston College is struggling on all cylinders, and will look to get their first win of the season against Massachusetts. If they fail, it's hard to see a win on their remaining schedule.


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    The Badgers will likely be 4-0 after Saturday as they're set to host South Dakota. Russell Wilson is currently one of the favorites for the Heisman and that should continue to grow this week.

    Not that Wisconsin is in any kind of danger this week, but the Badgers need to be sure they're not caught looking ahead to their pending matchup with Nebraska.

    Wisconsin is the front-runner to win the Big 10 as long as Wilson is on the field.


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    Nebraska survived against Washington and have one more game before traveling to Lincoln to take on the Cornhuskers. Once again, as stated on the previous slide, the Cornhuskers have about a one percent chance of losing this week, but they have to make sure they're not looking ahead.

    Taylor Martinez will likely have another big day on the ground, and the Cornhuskers will probably score close to 70 points against Wyoming.

Upset Alert in Columbia

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    Who would have thought Vanderbilt would put South Carolina on upset alert in Week 4 of the college football season? Well, the Commodores are 3-0 after a dominating win over Mississippi.

    South Carolina is coming off a much less impressive 24-21 victory against Navy. The 10th-ranked Gamecocks have been carried by running back Marcus Lattimore on offense, but they're currently ranked 102nd in the nation in passing offense.

    It's going to be tough for the Commodores to come into Columbia and win, but the Midshipmen almost did it. Why not Vandy?

The Buckeyes

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    Ohio State is out of the Top 25 for the first time in what seems like eternity after their loss to Miami. The Buckeyes are coming off one of their worst offensive performances through the air, probably ever.

    Let's put it this way: When your switching quarterbacks throughout the game and your leading passer throws for 22 of the team's 35 yards, it's obvious there's a problem under center.

    Braxton Miller is the more diverse option, but it's obvious that the Buckeyes are now a run-first, pass-if-we-have-to offense.

    Colorado is a currently a train wreck of a program, but the Buckeyes are floundering early in 2011.

The Hoos

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    Mike London seems to have Virginia moving in the right direction. No one expected them to beat North Carolina last week, but the Hoos made it a respectable game with a score of 28-17.

    They host Southern Miss this weekend, who is 2-1 with a loss to Marshall. Virginia is probably good for one upset this year against a conference opponent. They should beat the Golden Eagles and finish out the month of September with a 3-1 record.

Is UCLA Really That Bad?

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    Let's put it this way: Texas isn't that good. If Mark Richt's seat is hot in Athens then you'd have to think that Rick Neuheisel is feeling the heat as well.

    The Bruins are now 1-2 on the season with losses to Texas and Houston and their lone win against San Jose State.

    They travel to Oregon State this weekend who lost in overtime to Sacramento State to open the season. If the Bruins lose this one, you can guarantee you'll see a new head coach on the sidelines in 2012.

Georgia Looks for Second Win

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    Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs took care of business against Coastal Carolina winning 59-0. Georgia fans have obviously grown restless, tired, impatient—whatever you want to call it—with Richt, but he's earned the right to get this program back on track.

    Georgia lost a close one to South Carolina and obviously were dealt with by Boise State. That's not an easy way to open your season.

    However, if Georgia does lose to the struggling Ole Miss Rebels there will likely be a firestorm in Athens. Don't expect that to happen. The Bulldogs are a much better team than Ole Miss and should close out the month of September with a record of 2-2.

Kellen Moore

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    Kellen Moore continues to light up whoever he plays and that will continue in Week 4 against Tulsa. Moore will likely land in New York in December for the Heisman ceremony and will likely be on the outside looking in because of who the Broncos play.

    However, you can't take away from how good of a quarterback Moore actually is. He puts up huge numbers, and will likely be at the top of multiple record lists for NCAA quarterbacks by the time the season ends.

    Now, just an early look at the future. If the Colts don't end up picking first overall in the NFL draft, they could pick up an undersized quarterback in Moore in the second or third round and groom him behind Manning—it's just a thought.

Will Boise State Get a Conference Invite?

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    Yes, the Broncos just joined the Mountain West. Yes, they're stadium is not nearly the size of schools in the Pac-12, Big 10, ACC or SEC. But the Broncos are legit.

    They've proven that they're a national power whenever they get the chance to do so. If it was a fluke it would have ended by now. 

    If Utah can get an invite to the Pac-12, why not Boise State? Let's be honest—it would be fun to see, and then we would know for sure if the Broncos could withstand a regular-season schedule in a big-time conference.

    If the Big 12 stays alive after this season, it wouldn't be surprising to hear Boise State's name brought up a time or two.

South Florida

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    If you haven't already noticed, the USF Bulls may be the team to beat in South Florida. Skip Holtz has this program moving in the right direction and will likely continue that against UTEP on Saturday.

    The Bulls have the bulk of their Big East schedule to go through with the only big threat being West Virginia.

    They also have a non-conference game with Miami to decide who is actually the best team in South Florida in 2011, and potentially beyond.

Thursday Night

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    It's another Big East-ACC battle. There have been multiple non-conference games scheduled and everyone's familiar with the off-the-field battle that has taken place between the two conferences.

    Neither NC State nor Cincinnati look great this year and both are 2-1 heading into this matchup. The Bearcats run the ball better than they throw and NC State is just the opposite.

    Mike Glennon will look to take the next step for the Wolfpack post Russell Wilson era, and lead NC State to victory. However, the offensive line is going to need to show up for Glennon to have a chance.

Friday Night Lights

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    BYU is not what they're accustomed to being. After beating Ole Miss 14-13 in Week 1, the Cougars have lost to Texas by one and then were blown out by Utah last week.

    The Cougars rank 118th in rushing offense, 111th in points scored and 83rd in points against. That's not very impressive.

    UCF, meanwhile, is 2-1, but are coming off a loss to T.Y. Hilton and Florida International, who are 3-0 by the way.

    The Knights have a better offense, score more points and have allowed far fewer points than BYU thus far. Look for the Knights to win their third game of the season as BYU continues to slide.