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|College Football 2019: Week 4 Preview||Friday, 2019 September 20 - 2:08 pm|
|Michigan has a big game at Wisconsin; N.C. State will try to bounce back from its loss to WVU against not-very-good Ball State; Penn State squeaked by Pitt and now gets a week off.|
Next week: Michigan at Wisconsin, Noon on Fox
After a bye week to recover from Army and a pile of injuries, Michigan will face a stiff challenge at Camp Randall Stadium to take on #13 Wisconsin. Wisconsin is 2-0 having shut out their first two opponents; they might be slightly overrated, though, given that those opponents are USF and CMU.
Wisconsin's defensive line situation is a bit weird this year; they lack any sort of true defensive tackles, so they frequently put two defensive ends in the middle of the line and two outside linebackers on the edge, and back them up with three more linebackers. This 2-5-4 alignment is more like an undersized 4-3 over, though it should be noted that the DEs are 279 and 293 pounds and are almost DT-sized. But the OLBs are 221 and 235 pounds, and might have a hard time dealing with a straight-ahead attack by Michigan's offensive tackles.
Wisconsin hopes to mitigate that matchup deficiency with speed; the linebackers will fast-flow to the playside action on running plays. So there'll be a chess match to watch here; will Gattis be able to punish that with RPOs and counter plays? Signs point to yes, especially since there's some weakness in the Wisconsin secondary too.
On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor is an absolute terror, and he's running behind a prototypically huge Wisconsin OL. He won't have a lot of help from the passing attack, though. Don't be fooled by QB Jack Coan's gaudy numbers against USF and CMU; those opponents were physically overmatched, and Michigan's defense is an order of magnitude more athletic and talented.
But a lot will depend on the return of DTs Michael Dwumfour and Donovan Jeter from injury. Michigan can't afford to futz around with Ben Mason on the interior of the line.
It's hard to say how this game will go. Michigan is overrated after that close win over a very good Army squad, and Wisconsin is overrated after blowout wins over two not-very-good teams. So now Wisconsin is a three point favorite, though that can almost be entirely attributed to the game being played in Madison.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Wisconsin 27. I'll try the ol' reverse jinx here and try not to get my hopes up.
N.C. State 27, West Virginia 44
N.C. State imploded against WVU, and a lot of the Wolfpack's weaknesses were exposed here. Somehow WVU quadrupled their season rushing totals. Matthew McKay's arm-punt throwing resulted in just a total of 4.3 yards per attempt.
State's rushing attack held up okay, and Zonovan Knight continues to be a bright spot. But that won't be enough to carry N.C. State through the season; McKay is going to have to get better.
Next week: N.C. State vs. Ball State, 7:00 PM ESPNU
State gets a bit of a breather against Ball State, who's giving up almost 35 points a game on defense. It's an experienced but unathletic squad, especially up front; they'll have trouble dealing with N.C. State's running game. They'll likely load up the box and take chances, which may open up the passing attack for some big plays.
Prediction: N.C. State 44, Ball State 20.
Penn State 17, Pitt 10
So first of all, be sure to check out the excellent PSU analysis from my good friend (and possible only reader) Dan, in the comments from last week's post. He's very right about the Penn State strengths and weaknesses: Sean Clifford is going to need to make some better decisions (which will happen with time) and will need to become a more accurate passer (which might not). And blocking mistakes from the offensive line and running backs are starting to take a toll. Penn State had 167 yards rushing, but if you exclude the big 85-yard run from Journey Brown, you only get 82 yards on 31 carries. Admittedly, the Pitt defense is decent, but PSU will face much more difficult defenses in the Big Ten. Clifford is going to need to grow up fast.
PSU got a gift from Pitt when Pat Narduzzi elected to attempt a field goal from the PSU 1 yard line, when Pitt was down 7 with just under five minutes left in the game... and clanked the attempt off the left upright. There's no logic to that decision. Even with a make, Pitt still needs to score a touchdown; what better odds of a touchdown will come compared to being on your opponent's 1 yard line, especially when you've only scored one other touchdown the entire game?
But a win is a win, as any Michigan fan will tell you.
Next week: Bye
Last Week's Big Surprises
So of course I have to point out Michigan State's crazy loss to Arizona State, where they pulled defeat out from the jaws of victory by having 12 men on the field for what would have been their last-minute game-tying field goal. Oh Sparty.
It wasn't a great day for the Big Ten and ACC in general, with embarrassing losses by Maryland, Illinois, and Georgia Tech, on top of the loss by NCSU.
Games to Watch on TV
There's an interesting Friday night game as #10 Utah plays USC, at 9:00 PM on FS1.
The Michigan game kicks off Saturday at noon on Fox. That would have been the Game of the Week if not for the top-ten night game that's happening. Michigan State plays Northwestern on ABC; that could be competitive.
At 3:30, #8 Auburn plays #17 Texas A&M on CBS. There's also #22 Washington at BYU on ABC/ESPN2, and a potential trap game for UNC as they take on App State on the ACC network.
At 7:00 PM, #16 Oregon plays Stanford on ESPN. The N.C. State game is on ESPU at the same time. At 7:30, Oklahoma State plays #12 Texas on ABC. The Game of the Week is #7 Notre Dame at #3 Georgia on CBS.
Posted by Ken in: sports
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