On to Week 4, and it’s tough to believe that we’re already a quarter of the way through the season. Time flies.
There’s a fun slate of games this Saturday, although none that have serious Playoff implications.
NC State at Florida State (-11), Noon ET
This will be our first chance to see FSU play since their Week 1 loss (24-7) against Alabama. Hurricanes postponed their Week 2 game (against ULM) and the Seminoles had a bye in Week 3. So all those questions about how Florida State will react to losing Deondre Francois, about the mystery that is freshman QB James Blackman, have gone unanswered. Clemson’s run away as the ACC title favorite, and the conversation has left FSU behind. Seems a little rough for all that to follow a Week 1 loss to Alabama, no?
This weekend we get to see Florida State back in action against the NC State Wolfpack. NC State is a tough team with an aggressive front seven that will be targeting the freshman starter. If FSU leaves Blackman alone in the backfield the way they left Francois alone against Alabama, he’s liable to get hit just as hard and just as often. While Florida State are the heavy favorites in this game (right now the line is sitting at -11), it’s not difficult to imagine their return going poorly.
O/U NC State sacks: 2.5
TCU at Oklahoma State (-11.5), 3:30pm ET
Oklahoma State’s had a charming run through its out-of-conference schedule, but now it’s time to get down to business. Their first Big 12 opponent is TCU, who have quietly been very good in 2017, even reminding some of their glory days in 2014. The Horned Frogs are efficient on defense, explosive on offense, and going to give OSU a bigger test than they’ve faced so far.
The most fun form of this game is an absolute shootout, with Kenny Hill and Mason Rudolph trading huge touchdown passes all afternoon. The best form of this game involves one or both teams being able to impose their defense. The over/under on this game is huge (68.5), and rightly so, but there might be some value in the under. Both these teams have defenses that are overshadowed by their highlight-reel offenses.
O/U combined touchdowns for Mason Rudolph and Kenny Hill: 7.5
Michigan (-10) at Purdue, 4:00pm ET
Purdue’s been seriously impressive in 2017, particularly on defense. They kept Louisville honest in Week 1, handled their business against Ohio in Week 2, and trashed Missouri on the road in Week 3. Before the season started, the Boilermakers were supposed to lose to Missouri by two touchdowns, and were 5.5-point road dogs at kickoff. They covered that spread by nearly 30 points. They did it with an efficient offense and a suffocating defense, the latter of which doesn’t bode well for Michigan.
Michigan’s struggled a bit on offense all season, including last week, when they went 5-14 on third down against Air Force. Wilton Speight looked thoroughly mortal in that game, completing only 14 of 23 pass attempts for a QBR of 41.1. Against Purdue, this offense will be forced to figure something out, or we could be looking at another dumb Michigan upset that derails an otherwise stellar team.
O/U Wilton Speight touchdown passes: 0.5
Mississippi State at Georgia (-5), 7:00pm ET
Nobody’s quite sure how Mississippi State handled LSU the way they did — you’re not supposed to be able to push around the Tigers like that — but now Dan Mullen’s team is on the road in Georgia to decide which team is actually the Bulldogs.*
Georgia’s season has mostly gone to plan so far; getting a tight win over Notre Dame on the road was a nice touch that would have been historic in any other year. Nick Chubb is still healthy, and running the ball the best he’s been able to since 2015, and true freshman Jake Fromm has outperformed expectations since Jacob Eason got hurt. If Eason is healthy enough to come back, he’ll face the toughest defense Georgia’s seen this season.
The test here is to see if Mississippi State’s actually as good as the LSU game would suggest, and how Georgia will stack up in SEC play. If Mississippi State’s the real deal, you have to look forward to that Alabama game at home on Veterans Day. If Georgia can hold their own against an SEC West contender, their campaign for the East looks a lot more promising
*Georgia beat Samford 42-14 in Week 3, and Mississippi State beat LA Tech 57-21 in Week 2, making this the title game.
Odds one of these teams wins their division: 7/3
Odds both of these teams win their division: 30/1
Notre Dame (-4) at Michigan State, 8:00pm ET
Battle of the 4-8 teams struggling to return to past glory. Also, another great “which of these coaches is going to get fired” game, a la Texas A&M/UCLA.
Michigan State has been promising in 2017, making their roster work with a handful of freshmen and some spare parts. They’re reasonably efficient on both sides of the ball, and are outperforming expectations. Notre Dame has struggled at quarterback and let a very flawed Boston College team stick around until the third quarter. Michigan State’s biggest weakness is in pass defense, and fortunately for them, the Irish aren’t exactly slinging it around the field.
Odds Brian Kelly or Mark Dantonio is fired by the end of the year: 3/2
Odds that coach takes the Ole Miss job: 9/1